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Sunday, February 17, 2019

20/20 Vision


So . . . I went for a little walk last month. On the first Saturday of 2019, I arose as usual, laced up my tennis shoes and decided that it was a beautiful day to walk a half-marathon. No hoopla. No cheering crowds. No medal to commemorate this achievement. Nope. Just a simple walk by myself up and down the hills of my neighborhood that took just a little over 4 hours to complete. But why?

Because I have a goal - a lofty goal! Before I venture forward and talk about my dreams for the future, please allow me to share some of the highlights of our family from last year. 2018 was an incredible year with memories to last a lifetime!

In the spring, after 5 long years of discipline and training, David was selected to compete on American Ninja Warrior, Season 10! We traveled to Indianapolis, IN in April to cheer him on. Our whole family was so proud of him as he advanced to the city finals and we were able to watch him when it aired on national TV in the summer. Ninja Pastor D-Wom was incredible, and we were amazed that God gave him opportunity to shine in front of all America! We're thrilled to be on Team D-Wom!


Then in the summer, after being together for 5 years and growing in their love for one another, Tim and Heidi were married in August (just shy of 6 years as a couple). It was a beautiful, fairytale wedding in the most perfect setting imaginable! What incredible joy I had as a mom as I witnessed my only daughter commit her life to the man of her dreams. The joy was multiplied as Jason walked Heidi down the aisle wearing his dress blues, David performed the ceremony, and Danny and Chris escorted me to my front-row seat. Words cannot describe the emotions of that day for me! I treasured every beautiful moment!

 



 
A few months later, in December, after 5 years of being together, Jason and Cortnie welcomed sweet little Felix Alexander into their family. Evan became a big brother, and Olivia now has 2 baby brothers to play with in the California sun! They became a family of 5, and I am now a blessed GrandMama with 6 precious grandkids. Life is grand!


 
Over the course of nearly 5 years adjusting to life post-Marine Corps, Chris is now excelling in a more than challenging and stressful profession. He has been OTR driving for the past year and a half. I have so much respect for him and the behind-the-scenes sacrifices he made for his family in 2018. We are truly grateful!
 
And most recently, after more than 5 years of planning, preparing, studying, working and praying, David and Brittanica just launched a new church plant, The Grid Church, Chicago a few weeks ago. I was thrilled to witness their grand opening!
 
And then there's me! After more than 5 years of struggling mentally, emotionally and physically through the changes that occur mid-life, I am finally better. There's so much more to the story, but simply put I feel happy and whole again. Thank goodness!
Which brings me back to the focus of this post. Most often when I am quiet, it's because I'm hiding. I don't want people to worry about me, especially when I know that I'll eventually be ok with God's help. But this time was different. Quietly, over the past year when I was silent on this blog (and I apologize for that!), I was laboring hard in secret to regain control of my life. And it worked! 
 
Did you notice a recurring theme above that ran through the events of our family in 2018? A timeframe?
 
5 years! 5 years training to become a Ninja. 5 years of relationship before committing for a lifetime. 5 years of relationship and marriage as children are added to the family. 5 years struggling professionally and adjusting to career changes. 5+ years of grueling labor to birth a new church in one of the hardest cities in America. And for me personally, 5 years of walking through one of the hardest seasons of my life and the emptiness it held - midlife.
 
5 is the number of God's grace. Whether it's 5 days, 5 weeks, 5 years - or for me, 5 children - I've learned that we are all weak, no matter how strong we think we might be, and we all go through seemingly unmanageable seasons. We all need God's help, His favor, to see us through the changes every season of life brings. We need faith. Vision.
 
We need 20/20 vision.  As I look back over my lifetime, I can see the hand of God and His grace in absolutely every detail of my life and that of my children. It helps me now and gives me confidence that the God who helped me before will help me again. Looking back helps us as we look forward
 
In 2 months, I will celebrate my 60th birthday!  And I am actually quite excited about it! It may seem silly, but as I have reflected on my life over the past year, it seems that my "seasons" can pretty well be summed up in 20-year increments.
 
The 20 "GROWING" years (ages 0-20). A little girl who loved dolls, jump rope, jacks, hopscotch, books, school, friends, my mom, and . . . more than anything else . . . ballet!
The 20 "QUIET" years (ages 20-40). A young woman hiding a lot of pain whose main focus was to love, nurture and protect these 5 precious babies entrusted to my care: Danny, Jason, David, Chris and Heidi. Be still my heart.
The 20 "VOCAL" years (ages 40-60). A mature woman who watched babies grow into incredible teenagers and young adults. I am so proud of each one of them! God did an amazing work of healing and restoring my heart from the pain of past hurts. I found my voice and gained confidence in speaking the truth.
I watched these 5 . . .
grow into these wonderful adults!
So now, the question for me is, "WHAT'S NEXT?" What is the theme for my future?
 
I want the next 20 years to be the "GIVING" years (ages 60-80+). May the steps I begin (quite literally!) in 2019 blossom and grow by the year 2020!
 
I'd love to travel, and talk, and share about the grace and faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. I'd love to write more and spend quality time with family and friends. I'd love to birth Hearts and Pearls Ministries and help as many mamas as I can mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I'd love to have the resources to financially meet the needs of as many people as possible. I'd love to have the ability to travel from coast to coast and spend time with my kids and grandkids. I'd like to restore hope to the hopeless, peace to the restless, compassion to the hurting, and healing to the wounded. I'd love to be the voice of encouragement and inspiration in a world that is weary and disillusioned. I want to tell the world that Jesus cares!


"How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!" Romans 10:15
And, with that in mind, I'm starting by going for a walk. A walk that celebrates LIFE!
 
I will share more details in my next post, but simply put, what happened to me last year - 2018 - was really quite remarkable! In the midst of my mid-life struggle that had been going on far too long, I came home from church one beautiful Sunday afternoon last April and felt compelled to go for a walk. I strapped on my tennis shoes and went on a one-mile walk. I breathed in the warm spring air, and I felt better! The next night after work, I went out again and walked for 2 miles. The next night, 3 miles. And lo and behold, I could think again. It seemed impossible that after years of sadness, depression and questioning what the rest of my life was going to look like that all of a sudden the questions were gone! Over the course of the next month, I came back to life! There's more to the story, but for now I'd like to tell you how I plan to celebrate my 60th birthday.
 
I'm going to walk/run a marathon! In my neighborhood, with as many or as few as would like to celebrate with me. You all are invited! Once again, you might be wondering WHY?
 
Because it's symbolic. We all go through seasons of life as we walk from birth to death. Life is a marathon that can be exuberant at times as well as excruciatingly painful at others. Sometimes it seems impossible, just like walking a marathon! We need God's help through it all.
 
And I have asked God to help me as I've been preparing to walk/jog this marathon. As I mentioned before, the training actually began last May. After I was comfortable walking 3 miles, I added a mile each month until I was walking between 9-10 miles/5 times a week by November, 2018. At that point, I wanted to walk a half-marathon the beginning of January, 2019, which I did as shown in the opening photo. Believe me, I couldn't believe that I actually did it! The plan now is to add 1 mile every 3 weeks with hopes of reaching 16 miles by the end of March. Then hopefully, 26.2 miles in mid-April!
 
This happened last Saturday!
Woo-hoo! 14.5 miles in 4 hours and 10 minutes (about a 17-minute mile). Not super fast, but I did it! (In case you're wondering, the app on my phone interprets the hills I walk as flights of stairs.) Not too shabby for an almost 60-year-old gramma! Next goal: 15.5 miles the beginning of March. I can only do this with God's help!
 
And so my dear friends, there's the update on what's been going on in my life in 2018. Crazy, right?! Thank you for your enduring love, encouragement, and friendship through the years. In times of my nonstop chattering, thank you for listening. In times of my quietness, thank you for caring and understanding. In times of my joy, thank you for sharing it with me. In times of my sadness, thank you for carrying the burden with me. In times of sharing my dreams, thank you for supporting me. And in times of crazy goals like this one, thank you for encouraging me!
 
Let's make 2019 a CELEBRATION OF LIFE!
 
And 2020, we're coming for you with CLEAR VISION for all God wants to do! 20/20 vision!
 
With all my love and a heart full of gratitude, my dear friends,
Teresa/MamaT/GrandMama-T

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.
Baby Teresa learning to walk. I'm still holding my Heavenly Father's hand and learning!
Pearls in the making!


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Say Yes

Everyone loves a love story. And while each individual story is unique and special, there is one thing in common - it all starts with a question. Today, just a few days after Valentine's Day, I'd like to share with you the journey of my daughter, Heidi, and her fiancĂ©, Tim, and their love story. And yes, it all started with a question.

September 30, 2012:
Tim: "Meet me for frozen yogurt?"  Heidi:  "Yes."
Columbia, MO - Yogoluv
Boy meets girl. Tim was a sophomore engineering major at Mizzou in Columbia, MO - Heidi a freshman drama major at Stephen's College, also in Columbia. They met on Saturday night, September 29, 2012. He was 20, she was 19 - and yes, they were total opposites. It was magical, unquestionable love at first sight. Wonderful and exciting for them - understandably scary for Mom! Time would tell that it was real. Their first date was the next day, on Sunday afternoon. They met at Yogoluv for frozen yogurt. They were inseparable for the next several months - and the questions kept coming.

October 31, 2012:
Heidi"Will you dress up with me for Halloween?"  Tim:  "Yes."

Tim and Heidi as Tom and Summer from "500 Days of Summer"
Take another look at the photo above and the way Tim is looking at Heidi. Even back then, after only knowing Heidi for a month, it was obvious that he adored her

The weeks, months and years passed as Tim and Heidi faced the challenges of college life as well as their relationship. There were struggles, growing pains, and bumps in the road. But they loved being together and simply enjoyed each other's company. Although they loved one another deeply, they never said, "I love you." That was reserved for the time when a lifelong commitment would be made.

And that day came. It was not yet time for a formal proposal, but Tim was ready to proclaim his love and give his heart and life to Heidi wholly, and to make a promise of forever.

January 23, 2015:
Tim:  "I love you. I want to spend my life with you. Do you love me, too?"
Heidi:  "Yes, absolutely."
Officially, their love for one another was proclaimed.
February 14, 2015 - Tim and Heidi's first Valentine's Day
April, 2015 - Heidi's 22nd birthday
May, 2015 - Heidi's graduation day from Stephen's College

December, 2015 - Tim's graduation day from Mizzou

2015 - life and careers begin for Heidi and Tim in Chicago, IL
2016 - 2017: The young couple grew . . .
closer together:
and more in love.
 

The boy, Tim, had grown into a wonderful, caring, responsible young man. His maturity, gentleness, compassion and strength of character will take him far in this world. God sees him as a giant. He is going to make a difference and change this world for the better as God leads him and as he pursues his dreams and goals. 
 
The girl, Heidi, had grown into a beautiful, charming, mature young woman. She is little but mighty. She is going to change the lives of countless women of all ages as God leads her and as she pursues her dreams and goals. Her life will serve as a role model and mentor to girls and women who are hurting. 
 
This young couple, both the babies of their families, are not babies anymore. They are stronger together than alone. They are a power couple. They have the power of God working on their behalf, going before them - defending them, protecting them and preparing the road ahead of them and their futures.
 
Time for more questions 
November 25, 2017:
Tim:  "May I have your permission to marry your daughter?"  Me:  "Yes."
That was seriously one of the happiest, sweetest days of my life. Tim took me for coffee at Starbucks on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving. He opened up his heart to me that day and honored me as Heidi's mom. He told me of his unending love for her, and of how she makes him a better person. He made promises to me to love her, honor her, cherish her, protect her, provide for her, and encourage her. He promised me that he would never, ever hurt her and that he would never, ever leave her. He promised that he would protect her from alcohol and the devastating effects it has had on our families. He promised me that he would be there for Heidi and their future children until his dying breath. And then he asked for my blessing, which I gave wholeheartedly and without reservation. I had prayed for Heidi's future husband from the time she was in the womb - and now I know that I had been praying for this young man, Tim Merkel, every day of his entire life. God orchestrated the steps of Tim and Heidi to miraculously bring them together in Columbia, MO. I trust Tim completely, this young man of God, with my daughter, Heidi. That was a day I'll never forget.
 
December 19, 2017:
Justice Jewelers, Springfield, MO:  "Is this the ring?"  Tim:  "Yes."
Tim and Heidi had been looking at rings for several months, and he knew exactly what she wanted. And, he knew exactly where she wanted him to purchase the ring. We have emotional connection and long-standing history with Justice Jewelers here in Springfield, MO. So Tim, being the sweet man that he is and wanting to give Heidi everything she had wished for, knew that he would buy her ring there. He made a secret trip to Springfield and invited me along to be with him when he made the biggest, most important purchase of his life. Again, I will treasure that day in my heart for the rest of my life.
 
December 22, 2017:
Tim:  "Heidi Denise Womelsdorf, will you marry me?"
Tim - Man Of Valor
  Heidi:  "Yes, absolutely!"
Heidi - Woman Of Class
BHLDN, Chicago:  "Is this the dress?"  Heidi:  "Yes!"
The day I had dreamed about forever - the day I would go shopping with my daughter for her wedding dress. What a joy that we were all able to be with Heidi on that special day:  Jason, her brother who has always gone shopping with us, Heidi's 2 sisters-in-law, me, and the 2 youngest babies (they promised they wouldn't tell anyone about her dress!). Again, this was one of the happiest, sweetest days of my life. My little girl, my princess who once played dress up and danced around the house, now a grown woman choosing the dress of her dreams as she marries the man of her dreams. My heart was full. I only get to be "Mother of the Bride" one time, and I am enjoying every minute of it! This was the memory of a lifetime.
 
The Lalumondiere, St. Louis:  "Is this the venue?"  Tim and Heidi:  "Yes!"
Heidi wanted an outdoor wedding full of flowers, trees, greenery, water - a beautiful, peaceful atmosphere where she and Tim could enjoy committing their lives to one another and celebrate together with their family and closest friends. They found the perfect place! And once again, what an honor it was to be there with them. The joy on their faces was priceless.
 
Over the next several months, there will be many more things to say "Yes" to: the groom and groomsmen attire, the save-the-dates and invitations, the ceremony, the flowers, the caterer/food, the photographer, the DJ/music, the honeymoon...and the list goes on. But on their path to the wedding - a one-day event - what Tim and Heidi are really preparing for is a life together. Planning a wedding can be stressful - the way they are learning to lean on one another now and work together in making decisions is actually helping prepare them on how to handle all the stressors that life will hold. Tim and Heidi need all the love, support and encouragement they can get from their family and friends - both now and in the future. 
 
And what Tim and Heidi - and all of us - really need, is God's help...every day, for all our lives
I believe that you can love someone deeply - but you cannot love them fully - until you have experienced the love of Jesus in your heart and His saving grace in your life. Life is hard. How can one truly commit to lifelong love to another person without first experiencing the life-changing love of Jesus personally? Not impossible, but very, very difficult. Jesus paid the ultimate price by laying down His life for us - this is the most beautiful love story ever told. All He wants is for us to love Him in return and live our lives for Him. Jesus wants us to choose to serve Him and to say "Yes" to Him. 
 
Tim and Heidi understand this completely. They are trusting God with their lives, and their marriage. They are both doing their best to love Him most so that they can love each other best. They have said "Yes" to The Lord first and "Yes" to each other always. It's a beautiful love story - one that will continue to unfold.
 
Tim, a Man Of Valor, and Heidi, a Woman of Class, are both Children of Hope. They are writing their story for their family - working together to leave a legacy of Godliness, integrity, humility, honesty, responsibility and compassion for their future children. As they are starting their lives as a united couple - trusting God and looking to Him for wisdom, guidance, and direction - nothing will be impossible for them. Just watch and see how God is going to use Tim and Heidi both together and individually to change this world.  
 
And so, dear friends, thank you for allowing me to share Tim and Heidi's love story with you today. This is a very special day for me. Exactly 5 years ago tonight, Heidi and I had our first grownup, mother/daughter, woman-to-woman talk. That was the night that Heidi called me, 5 months after she met Tim, and told me that she loved him. We were on the phone most of the night. I told her that I loved her, and that I trusted her. I also told her that we were on a very long road, and that God would work out His perfect will for them. And He did. Tim has grown into a wonderful, caring, compassionate young man who I love and admire immensely. He has earned my respect, and I trust him completely. Heidi has grown into a beautiful, loyal, loving, caring, talented young woman whose funny and charming personality not only lights up the world around her, but will brighten and complete Tim's world. I am a proud mom and am so thankful that Tim and Heidi have said "Yes" to The Lord and to each other for life. I can't wait for their wedding day!
Tim and Heidi - #SayYes. May she always look at him like this.
Have a wonderful week, dear ones - you are my treasured friends. "Say Yes" to The Lord every chance you get in the coming days - be a bright light in a dark world. Love as deeply as possible, as often as possible, to as many as possible.
 
With all my love and a heart full of gratitude,
Teresa/MamaT/GrandMama-T

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.
Say Yes - to life and to love. The makings of beautiful pearls.
 

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Children of Hope

Hello once again, my dear friends. In my last 2 posts, I shared my heart with you regarding Men of Valor and Women of Class. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your overwhelming response and support - it is clear that valor and class are timeless standards that are still embraced in 2018.

Tonight, on this icy/snowy Sunday evening, I'd like to share my heart with you regarding children - Children Of Hope. And this message is not about telling children how they should behave and how they should respect parents and adults (that will be another post for another time); the message today is for adults - Men of Valor and Women of Class - and our attitude toward children, whether they are our own children or not. We are living in a day where children are at times seen as messy little nuisances who ruin our lives and rob us of our joy, freedom, and money. How sad! Because kids actually give us much more than they take - they give us HOPE. Hope for the future.
Hope:  A feeling of expectation and desire for certain things to happen. A feeling of trust. Wanting something to happen; to expect, anticipate. An aspiration, desire, ambition, aim, goal, plan.

As Christians, we know that our hope is solid. It is "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1. Hope that is like faith...a faith that cannot be moved by circumstances or what the eyes see, because an unseen God is seen in His faithfulness. Hope is not just positive thinking - it's trusting God with your todays and your tomorrows. And children are a perfect picture of hope and trust. When we look into the eyes of children, we see the hope of what their futures hold. And the truth is, we're all children no matter our age - and we're all worthy of love and investment.

Let me show you what the journey of Children of Hope has looked like for the Womelsdorf family - our story of hope. Every family has a story of hopeThe faces and stories of individual families across the world look different, but hope looks the same everywhere.

We love to see ourselves in our children - miniature versions of ourselves who grow into adults and carry our hearts and values/hopes and dreams. My mom had high hopes for me as a teenager. She wanted me to go further and do more than she had done (the selfless desire of every parent!). 40 years later, I'm still her child and she is still proud of me. We are both Children of Hope.
Children give us opportunity to engage in a "Divine Do-Over." If you have a rich heritage of faithful, God-fearing parents and grandparents, then you have the privilege of passing that legacy on to your children - a "Do-Over." If your family story is painful and is less than desirable, then you have the opportunity to change the direction of your family and rewrite history - a hope-filled, faith-filled, God-empowering "Do-Over." 

As a young woman, I asked God to change the course of history for my future children and grandchildren - that they would not be bound by the sin tendencies and struggles of generations past. They were my unseen Children Of Hope, and I fully trusted that God would do miracles in their lives and that His grace would be evident in their lives - and for generations to come.

My first child was a son named Danny. The pictures below are of me as a young mom desiring that this baby boy would grow into a Man of God, and my adult son, Danny - a #ManOfValor. My first Child Of Hope
My last child was a daughter named Heidi. I desired with all my heart that she would grow into a woman of God - a #WomanOfClass.
The young mom kissing baby Heidi in the Texas bluebonnets on our birthdays...
Became an older mom kissing newly engaged Heidi, my daughter who has grown into a young Woman Of Class - my Child Of Hope.
And in between, I watched 4 young sons grow into 4 men - my Children Of Hope. With God's help, the dream of watching them become Men Of Valor became a reality.
 
More years passed. 2 sons married and started their families.
I now have the joy of watching my sons as young dads looking into the faces of their baby sons - their Children Of Hope and future Men Of Valor.  
 
And I also have the joy of watching my daughter-in-laws as young moms looking into the faces of their young daughters - their Children Of Hope and future Women Of Class.
 
The mama became a grandmama - kissing the faces of the next generation of Men Of Valor and Women Of Class. Children of Hope having Children of Hope.
Children really are incredible! While we as adults recognize our responsibility to nurture, love, protect and instruct them as they grow, children teach us much more than we would sometimes ever care to admit. In many ways, we should all view the world through a child's eyes and become as a little child. "For such is the kingdom of Heaven."
 
Children are . . . pure and innocent.
They view the world with wonder and delight.
They are honest, loving, trusting, loyal, fiercely protective.



They are funny, curious and wildly imaginative.
Their exuberant joy and boundless energy are contagious.
Mostly, they are just plain sweet and adorable.
And while all of these positive qualities are true, children also need constant supervision and are a lot of hard work. Every parent knows this to be true - children can be mean, exhausting, trying, grumpy, messy, disobedient, and obstinate. They break our precious things and take away our privacy. They get sick and don't sleep for days. They throw fits.
Well, you know what . . . that sounds a lot like us adults, too, doesn't it? 
 
So why is it that we dislike children because of these negative qualities? Sometimes we act the exact same way - and we should know better. It really is quite ugly. But God, our Heavenly Father, loves us anyway. We are His children, and He loves us. Whatever our age, whatever our background, He loves us. 
 
When we are unruly, willful, stubborn and disobedient, He loves us.
When we are mean, uncompassionate and unforgiving, He loves us.
When we are harsh and unkind with our words and actions, He loves us.
When we are critical and judgmental of others, He loves us. 
When we are dishonest and selfish, He loves us.
When we pout, dig in our heels and refuse to budge, He loves us.
When we throw fits and demand our own way, He loves us.
When we make a mess of our lives, He loves us.
 
God not only loves us, He hopes in us. We are His Children Of Hope. God's desire is that we love Him, serve Him, obey Him, and follow His leading in our lives. He wants to use us for good in the same way we that that we desire our children to do good in their lives. No matter how messy our past or present may be, God's desire is that we hope in Him so that our future will be bright. In the same way that we desire to leave a legacy of hope for our children, how much more does the God who knows us best and loves us most desire to give us a hope and a future...no matter how messy, thoughtless, or selfish we can be at times.
 
And so, dear ones, thank you for following along today. As I stated in the beginning of this post, my heart is that we will all view children as God views them and have an attitude of appreciation for the many lessons children teach us. They are our future and our hope. This post is not about having babies - again, this is about our attitude regarding kids of all ages. The decision to have or not have children is very personal for each family, and is not to be taken lightly. I certainly don't believe that everyone should fill their homes with as many children as possible - that was clearly not my intent for this post. It just makes me sad when I hear so much negativity regarding kids and families - whatever the reason. I'm sure glad God doesn't feel that way about us!
 
I pray you have a wonderful week full of blessings and joy - you are my treasured friends. Please allow God to use you to invest in children - of all ages. They are our #ChildrenOfHope and are worth our attention and energy. The rewards are far more numerous than the sacrifices, and will be passed on from generation to generation.
 
With all my love and a heart full of gratitude,
Teresa/MamaT/GrandMama-T

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.
Pearls of the future - #ChildrenOfHope