Sunday, January 14, 2018

Men of Valor

Hello, my dear friends. I have had something burning inside of me for weeks, and today - on this cold and snowy Sunday evening in January - I'd like to share my heart with you regarding a topic that seems all but dead:  chivalry.
Chivalry - men behaving courteously toward women.
While today we may not expect men to truly lay down their coats over mud puddles to protect the feet of lovely ladies, there is still a place for courtesy, respect, and gentlemanly kindness in 2018.
Thoughtful gestures such as opening doors for women back in yesteryear are still appreciated today.
Chivalry:  Men being brave and honest; having courage, enforcing justice, having a devotion to God; being generous, polite, kind; having a readiness to help the weak; being courteous and respectful toward women.
But chivalry goes far beyond just how men treat women. It's the way men treat everyone. Gentlemen never knowingly insult, demean or disrespect anyone, including women, and they live their lives with honor.
Chivalry is simply a choice - the choice to do the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways, at the right times. Gentlemen should experience the internal joy and satisfaction of knowing that they have stood behind the right causes and embraced right principles not because anyone has told them to do so, but simply because they have chosen that path. Chivalry and gentlemanly behavior is a good thing, and it goes far beyond simply opening doors for women - it's an internal code of valor.
Valor:  Having boldness and determination when facing great danger; heroic courage; having the strength of mind and spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness; having personal bravery and strength. Valor is honor plus dignity - traits fit for a hero.
Let's bring back chivalry, decency, gentlemanly courtesy, and respect in 2018!
The year 2017 was turned upside down as the eyes of the world were transfixed on the online campaign of the #MeToo movement. Courageous women by the thousands came out of the woodwork and told their stories of sexual assault and harassment. Every day new stories were exposed. So many stories, in fact, that it seemed like every woman alive had somehow been affected - either directly or indirectly. It was hard to take. Nevertheless - keep telling your stories. While there may be some women who are embellishing the truth of their experience (and trust me, God is watching), by and large women are telling their stories because they want to know that they have a voice, that it matters, that they were hurt, and that they now want to be treated with respect. It's hard to admit, but almost every woman has a #MeToo story, including me (which will be told in a future post), and I want you to know that YOU matter. I'm sorry for the pain you endured, and I want you to know that God sees you and wants to heal you. The heartache that you suffered can be transformed into a beautiful testimony of grace.
And so today, in spite of the pain of the tragic stories of abuse that were being told in 2017, I'd like to offer a new campaign for 2018 . . . #MenOfValor. In a day when the reputations of men are suffering tremendously, we all know Men of Valor. In spite of the reckless behavior of some men who have acted inappropriately, there are thousands of men who are gentlemen - not perfect, but true Men Of Valor.
Men Of Valor are men who:
Love and honor God first and foremost.
Live their lives, privately and publicly, with honesty, integrity, and self-respect.
Honor, respect, and protect all women - starting in their own home.
Guard their eyes and control their hands with regard to the opposite sex.
Look at women's eyes when they talk, not their breasts.
Commit to loving their wife for a lifetime.
Love, protect and defend their daughters.
Teach their sons to live honorably, and encourage their male friends to live with respect.
Protect the innocence of children.
Are honest, humble, kind, brave, hard-working, responsible, and respectful.
Face challenges with integrity, humility, courage, and determination.
Are generous and help the needy.
Enforce justice and stand up for what is right, no matter what the cost.
Defend those who have been victims of abuse, and listen intently to their stories.
Do the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways, at the right times.
Simply put, Men Of Valor have honor plus dignity.
I am well aware that this blog is read mostly by women. So here is my challenge to women of all ages and backgrounds:  Tell the stories of Men Of Valor that you know. Use #MenOfValor, and share/tweet your stories and pictures. This will give honor to men where honor is due and will inspire us all to do better! With all the ugliness going on in our world today, we need to recognize and talk about men of courage and dignity.
If you are a young girl, teenager, college-age, or woman of any age who has a tremendous father, grandfather, brother, uncle, or cousin who has loved and protected you for as long as you can remember . . . tell the story!
If you have a friend, or a boyfriend or fiancĂ© who loves and protects you, encourages you, and treats you with dignity and respect . . . tell the story!
If you are a married woman, newly married or in your golden years, and you have a wonderful husband who has loved, cherished, and protected you for as long as you've been together . . . tell the story!
If you have a supervisor/employer who is a man that honors, respects, and encourages you . . . tell the story!
If you are a single mama and have received help and protection from men who have also served as incredible role models for your children . . . tell the story!
If you are a mama of any age, or a grandmama who has sons and grandsons who are incredible men of honor, absolutely . . . tell the story!
My 4 sons:  Jason, Danny, Chris, and David. #MenOfValor
This is the future - Train them while they're young. #MenOfValor
Last but not least, and probably most importantly,
If you are a #MeToo survivor, have healed from the unfair abuses you suffered, and are now in a healthy relationship with a chivalrous gentleman who understands you and your past hurts, and stands by you in love and encouragement, by all means . . . tell the story!
I am also well aware that there are many men who read this blog, and many of you are humble, God-fearing gentlemen who are living your lives to the best of your ability as Men Of Valor. So here is my challenge to you:  Use #MenOfValor, and share/tweet your story! Please, don't feel like you're bragging - we need to hear from you! Your lives, and your stories, are encouraging and redeeming in a world that seems to be spiraling out of control and is anything but chivalrous.
If you are a man who lives as honorably as you can to respect and protect women of all ages, living in your home or not - whether it be your mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, daughter, granddaughter, co-worker, neighbor, friend, please . . . tell your story!
If you are a man who at one time had a less-than-stellar reputation in how you treated people, including women - and maybe can see yourself as the abuser in a #MeToo story, but you have since turned your life around and now live with dignity, honor and respect, please . . . tell your story!
And maybe,
You know that you are currently not living an honorable life that you can be proud of, but today you would like to change direction and take the Men Of Valor challenge, that's awesome! Please . . . tell your story!
My deep desire in writing this blog is to bring encouragement and to be a light in a very dark and troubled world. We are a nation on a very slippery slope of ungodlike attitudes and behaviors - we need to change direction and return to old-fashioned morals and values. But how do we turn this ship around? One man, one woman, one family, one church, one community, one city, one state at a time. One choice at a time. We decide to live honorably, and then we do it. We need to repent and ask God to help us live our lives as an honor to Him and each other. Men and women need to equally respect each other. Women should enjoy being a woman and allow men to be gentlemen. Chivalry is still in high demand, and we should celebrate it every chance we get!
Men Of Valor, we applaud you! Thank you for the gracious way you live and how honored you make others feel. You are respected and appreciated.
Thank you so much for reading and for your support - I am forever grateful for your encouragement. As I have been telling the "pearl" stories of our family - including sons who are facing life's challenges and struggles and who are endeavoring to be Men Of Valor - I am excited to see and hear #MenOfValor stories from all over the world. Because chivalry is not dead! 2018 will be the year of mighty Men of Valor. We need you!
All my love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

Chivalry's not dead in 2018 - #MenOfValor

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It's a Wonderful Life

Happy New Year, my dear friends.
There is something very inspiring about "new." Most of us have spent the first few days of this new year taking a look back at 2017 - the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, successes and mistakes - and are thoughtfully processing in our hearts and minds what we desire 2018 to look like. We want to learn from the past and make the upcoming year better. We're making new resolutions and dreaming new dreams.  
Here's a recap of what 2017 looked like for the Womelsdorf clan. It was quite a year!
Jason reports to Drill Instructor school in San Diego, CA and says goodbye to Cortnie (5 months pregnant) for 13 weeks.
Sacrificial love. Undying support.
GrandMamaT with Johnny and Jovi. We started the year with 2 babies.
Love. Joy of a grandma watching babies grow.

David's first Ninja competition in St. Louis, MO.
Strength. Discipline. Grit.
Jason graduates and is officially a United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor.
Honor. Courage. Commitment.
Love. Respect. Pride.
Evan Gabriel Womelsdorf is born to Jason and Cortnie - their firstborn son.
Dreams fulfilled. Hope for the future.

Baby Evan meeting GrandMamaT, aunts, uncles, and cousins. This family loves you, Evan!
A blog is born - "PEARLS FROM A MOM'S HEART"
Courage. Dreams. Vision.

 A Lifetime of Pearls

Pearls - The product of pain.  Precious, tiny jewels conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.

David is ordained as an Assemblies of God minister.
The Call of God. Humility. Faith.

Jack Michael is born to David and Brittanica - now a family of 5!
Love. Courage. Faith.
Baby Jack meeting GrandMamaT, siblings Jack and Jovi, and cousins - 5 in all! Such love!
Jason and Cortnie make their new home in San Diego, CA.
Love. Faith. Determination.
Thanksgiving/Christmas with family.
Love. Joy. Full hearts.

Heidi and Tim get engaged.
Love. Commitment. Hope for the future.

We started the year with 2 Womelsdorf babies and ended the year with 4 little ones!
What a Wonderful life!

"It's a Wonderful Life" is by far one of my favorite movies - I watch it several times every Christmas season. It helps put everything in perspective. George Bailey spent his entire life giving to his family as well as the entire community of Bedford Falls. On Christmas Eve, George's Uncle Billy loses $8,000 on his way to deposit it in the bank. George is so discouraged that he wished he had never been born, and an angel was sent to make George's wish come true. In the end, George realized how many lives he had impacted and how different they all would be had he never been born. "No man is a failure who has friends." A great reminder for us all!
Please take another look at the photos above. I believe that our little (yet growing) family is incredibly rich. We have fierce love, joy, courage, strength, faith, character, integrity, work ethic, responsibility, determination, spunk, grit. We have fun. We talk. We share. We help and support each other. We laugh and cry together. We encourage each other. We are loyal. We're friends. We have a faith in God who has been with us in every season. Our family is far from perfect, and we definitely do not have a fairy tale life. Our story is that in the midst of every struggle and challenge, we support one another. And we trust in the One who has always helped us. As I have reflected on the goodness of God in the Womelsdorf family, I am once again reminded that we indeed have a wonderful life

Everyone has a story to tell that could potentially change another person's life forever!  And influencing other's lives has nothing to do with power, prestige or money. Think back on your own life - how you've grown, how you've struggled and then succeeded, how you've helped others in need, how you've been a loyal friend, how you've grown in your faith and have seen the hand of God at work. Your life is important, and you are needed. It may not be perfect, but God has given you a wonderful life. And He wants to use you! Allow God to give you fresh perspective. As you are facing this new year, ask God to use you in a greater way than you ever dreamed possible to be an encouragement to those who may be lost and suffering.
Tomorrow is January 8, 2018 - a day of new beginnings. As I have looked back over the memories of 2017, I have new anticipation and dreams for 2018. Much of this past year was one of change, struggle, questions and fears in addition to God's amazing blessings. I know that God is working all things together for His good. This is a new day in a new year - I have new dreams, new commitment, and fresh vision. My prayer is that God will continue to open new doors of ministry that will enable me and my family to significantly impact others for eternity. 
Thank you for your love and overwhelming support of me and this blog as I share the "pearls" of our life. In weeks where I am quiet, thank you for reaching out to me in love as you understand that I'm discouraged. Your kindness, compassion and friendship is healing. In weeks where I'm able to write and my transparency is evident, your encouragement and support is heart-mending. I started writing this blog several months ago in hopes to be an encouragement, especially to other mamas, that God is with us - no matter what! I commit to increasing faithfulness this year in reaching out to those who are hurting. Because after all, the life we live is indeed worth sharing. It's a wonderful life!
With much love and gratitude. You are forever my heart!
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many. Everyone has a beautiful story of grace.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Goodness, Mercy and Coming Home

Life is like a puzzle - each piece fitting together perfectly to form a beautiful picture. And when we trust God with our journey through life, He fits each piece of the puzzle together to form something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.
The problem, though, is that each piece of the puzzle in itself does not make sense. Some pieces are blank - just a solid color (representing seasons of emptiness and loneliness - wondering where God is); some pieces are full of beautiful colors (representing seasons of experiencing the blessing of God, joy, and fruitfulness); some pieces are ugly (representing seasons of chaos, questioning, and confusion). But each piece is necessary, though, to make the puzzle complete.
And when it comes to the puzzle of life, we need to have faith that the God who created us will sustain us. He is good, all the time, and His mercy is with us continually - helping us and guiding us through each stage. Even when it's confusing, He can be trusted. 
Today, I'd like to share with you some of the puzzle pieces in my life's journey. Trust me, it has definitely been a faith walk. Hang with me.
For the first 15 years of my adult life, I was a stay-at-home mom. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of loving, caring for, and teaching my 5 children (4 sons and a daughter). Then, 24 years ago, my world crumbled and I found myself as a single mama needing to provide for children ranging in age from 15 years old to a baby girl. I needed a job. 
I knew that I would enjoy retail, so I went to work for Foley's (later to become Macy's) in Arlington, TX. I worked there for 3 years.
This was my first job outside of the home, and I worked for minimum wage. The days were long and exhausting, but I enjoyed it. This is where I learned how to provide exceptional customer service. And even though my heart longed to be home with my children, God helped me. His goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
One day a customer recognized my heart and compassion for people. (God gave her insight into my soul that day, and I believe He sent her into the store to encourage me in my next career steps.) She suggested that I go to nursing school. My heart leapt as that had been a heart desire from childhood. I knew that with 5 children at home, though, going to school for 4 years was impossible. But becoming a medical assistant was not.
So I enrolled in Bryan Institute as a full time student to make the dream come true and continued working at Foley's part time.
I truly loved going to school. And I knew that God could not only use my heart in the medical field, but working a job in the medical field would help provide a better income to take care of my family. I was 38 years old with 5 children at home, and I was in class with 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I asked God to help me graduate as valedictorian, and He honored that request. What a miracle! Between being a mom, working, going to school, and studying, I slept about 2-3 hours a night. But God helped me, and His goodness and mercy sustained me.
This is a picture of what my children looked like when I graduated.

Danny-18; Jason-15; David-12; Chris-6; Heidi-3. Adorable, right?

After graduating, I worked in a family practice clinic with both front and back office responsibilities as well as working part time in an ob/gyn office. During that time, I also learned medical transcription as I thought doing so would help provide additional income working from home. I worked in both clinics for 2 years. Although I loved working in the medical field, I still longed to be with my children, especially my 2 youngest.
So, I birthed a lower elementary school under the umbrella of Gateway Institute, an advanced school of grades 7-12. (It seems that I've been a dreamer and a visionary for quite some time!)

Here, I taught reading, writing and basic skills to children in grades K-3. I had a heart for children and had also desired to be a teacher since childhood. (Yes, I wanted to be both a nurse AND a teacher!)
I was privileged to spend the next 3 years with these babies (especially my 2 youngest children, Chris and Heidi). While teaching at Gateway, I continued doing medical transcription from home every night. (And yes, I still slept only about 2-3 hours a night.) And even though it was hard, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. God's goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
And then the biggest surprise of my life happened.
In August, 2000, I was given the opportunity to work at the Assemblies of God National Offices in an administrative role in the National Youth Department. What an incredible dream come true, even though it was completely unexpected.
So, we packed up and left everything we had ever known as a family to follow after God's plan for us and moved from Dallas, TX to Springfield, MO.
Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC), Springfield, MO
While I had never served in an administrative capacity up to that point, God gave me an incredible supervisor who believed in me and allowed me to learn and grow - professionally, personally and spiritually. I spent 17 years working in 3 different offices. Those years were amazing. I met and served people from all over the world, and my time there was wonderful.
And, because I still needed to provide for the needs of my children, I worked part time at Macy's for 12 years after moving to Springfield.
Once again, even though the days were long and it was hard, God's goodness and mercy helped me.
And then we arrive at my journey of the past 4 months - leaving the safety and security of life as I had known it working in Springfield and moving to Chicago to be near my children and grandchildren - and then the move back to Springfield just a few short weeks later. It all seemed so crazy and confusing, but I was happy to be home. And many of you have asked what I am doing now.
I am happy to tell you that I began working for Mercy Hospital back in August.
What an incredible blessing and gift from God! God has placed me in a clinic where my compassion for people is used fully every day.  
It seems that God has taken me on a 24-year journey and has brought me full-circle. God has taken everything I've learned - customer service skills from working retail at Macy's, medical assisting skills learned from the degree earned as well as working in clinics, teaching skills learned while working at Gateway Institute, and administrative skills learned while working at the Assemblies of God National Offices - and has married those skills with my personality and heart for people into a job, a ministry, for me in this season of life. And to top it off, I've always tried to extend mercy to everyone I meet, and now I'm working for MERCY. How cool is that?
And to top it off, last weekend I shared my vision for Hearts and Pearls Ministries as I entered the contest with Chip Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper." Goodness, Mercy, and Coming Home! 
While I was not selected as a finalist in the competition, I am not discouraged at all. I did the hard part of gathering up my courage, doing the video, writing it down and getting it out there for the world to see. Someone (or "someone's") will catch the vision and potential of this ministry and will latch on to it. I believe that God will provide for the birthing of this dream to become a reality. Many hearts across our world need to be mended, families healed, physical needs met, and freedom and dignity restored. I am the dreamer, the voice of the wounded - God will get the glory. God wants to show his goodness and mercy to all hurting families, especially single mamas and their children - and He wants to turn hearts toward home.
In the same way that God has healed me and my family and has done mighty miracles for us, He can do the same for multiplied hundreds of other families. I would love for you to join me in praying for, investing in, and reaching those hurting families.
In spite of all the questions that were going on in me for the past several months/years, I believe that each experience has been a piece of the puzzle for my life - for a beautiful life full of grace, hope, goodness and mercy. And even though life has zigged and zagged, has been messy and hasn't looked very beautiful, when God fits all the pieces together it looks something like this:
God's plans are to prosper us and not harm us - he wants to give us a hope and a future; to show us His love now until we are home with Him in Heaven.
And so, friends, thank you for letting me share some of the pieces of the puzzle of my life with you today. Whether we are young or old, it's encouraging to know that God truly is fitting every experience - every puzzle piece, no matter how confusing - together to make a beautiful life. I'm so thankful that in each season, God's Goodness and Mercy follows us all the days of our life until He takes us Home. If you also are in a season of confusion, wondering how all the pieces of your life are going to fit together and make sense, just hold on and trust that God who knows you best and loves you most is at work behind the scenes desiring to give you a prosperous life. He is the Master Puzzle Solver.
Thank you for your love, prayers, support and encouragement; your friendship means the world to me. And thank you for continuing to pray for Hearts and Pearls Ministries. The best is yet to come!
With a heart of love and gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

Hearts and Pearls Ministries - Serving families with hope and love.