Saturday, February 22, 2014

What 40 Years Has Taught Me

First of all… YES, I am a TWIN.  Secondly… YES, we are IDENTICAL.  Just thought I would answer the two questions I have constantly been asked my entire life.  Today is our 40th Birthday.  I tell you that with some sadness and also with some excitement.  The sad part is that these last 40 years have gone by faster than I ever imagined they would.  But, I have also been blessed more that I had ever imagined, too!  I've spent my last 20 years with my complete soul-mate and best friend.  Jason totally gets everything about and loves me still!  Those last 20 years have also brought moves to Texas, back to Oklahoma, and then to Arkansas.  We have three amazing kids who perfectly fit in this family.  We've also served in ministry for most of my last 20 years.  We've traveled, laughed a lot, cried a lot, had friends that love us like family, and weathered some difficulties.

The best part about being 40 is that I really like who I am now.  In my 20's and early 30's, I cared deeply about others opinions of me.  Being in ministry and having a husband in leadership is hard.  There is always someone who thinks he should be doing something differently or have expectations of him and/or me and our family.  When I was younger, if I knew someone didn't like me, I would go to great lengths to show love to them or trying to make constant contact and even trying to do what THEY thought I should do.  I would spend countless hours worrying about what I did or what I could do differently.  I've learned over the years that acting on others expectations only leads to heartache and frustration.  I still love people and relationships are incredibly important to me, but I don't jump through hoops to be friends with others now.  I don't worry if others don't like me.  People are quirky.  Usually their opinion of me has to do with insecurities within themselves.  I do firmly believe in reconciliation and have tried to reconcile any relationships that have needed mending.  The hard part of that is that sometimes the other party doesn't want to reconcile.  The wisdom in aging is knowing that God is growing all of us, so I can't expect someone else to come along where I have already been and I have to be okay with that.  I have also become more accepting of others.  When I was younger everything seemed black or white, right or wrong, lies or truth.  Now, I see a wider view and I'm not as quick to jump to conclusions.  I pass less judgement on others and make fewer assumptions.  I am not as easily offended and I let go of things that used to take up room in my thoughts.

In my younger years, I constantly thought about my outward appearance.  Now, I am female, so that hasn't completely gone away, but I am more comfortable with how God has created my body.  If I had the money, sure, I would definitely take advantage of some cosmetic surgery! :)  But since that probably won't ever be an option for me, I will take care of my body by eating healthy and exercising, but I won't expect my 40 year old body to look like it did when I was 20.

Ministry and relationships…  I used to try to be close friends with everyone that I had a connection with.  Now, I invest in the relationships that will have lasting impact.  Life is short and I don't have time to be friends with everyone, but there are those who hold special places in my heart.  I've learned a lot about ministry, too.  My husband gets paid to do ministry and as his wife, I absolutely LOVE serving with him.  We are a great team and God has given us great vision and we are very like-minded when it comes to reaching out to others.  My younger self tried to go to every Christmas Sunday School Party and every women's ministry event and every outreach event that was planned in our church.  I have learned that my time with my family is short and now I completely seek the Lord about which events I need to give my time.  If it is an event that takes time away from my family or does not allow me to have some kind of investment in someone else's life, than I will usually choose not to participate.  Even though I serve in ministry with my husband, I don't like "churchy" programs.  I like realness and transparency.  I like for people to be who they are and for it to be okay.  We are all a work in process.  We are all messed up in some way and I just want others to know that its okay to be vulnerable and real.  See…my younger self would have never put that in writing for fear of backlash.  :)

Financially, I am different too.   In our younger years, we never had enough money.  I was a stay-at-home mom and things were so tight.  I now work full time and am thankful for a job that allows me to help provide for my family.  Some of that income is still paying off debt that we accumulated when I stayed at home and we only had one income.  But now, both Jason and I make better financial decisions and the best part is that we are finally at a place where we are able to give.  I am sure a lot of people would tell us that we should be saving, but it has brought so much joy to give to others.  I have learned a lot from a very special friend the last three years about what it means to sometimes sacrifice small things for yourself to bless others.  There are always opportunities to love and help others if you are looking past yourself.  I have learned that I shouldn't depend or look for others to meet needs if I can do it myself.

Spiritually, I used to think that God loved me and blessed me based on what I did for him.  I have grown to serve God and spend time with Him because I love Him and not because I fear losing his blessing or even my own salvation.  I have learned to accept His grace and in return offer that same grace freely to others.  I've learned that my family can do hard things and that with dependence on the Lord, we can make it through trials.

So, all this to say, while I don't like how growing older changes my outside appearance, I do like how it has changed my inside.  If my next 40 years are anything like my last 40, I will be more than blessed!

Lastly, I am so thankful for my sisters!  I have learned that no matter what, my sisters will be there for me.  Family relationships can be hard, but in the end, family is what matters. My sisters and I don't see each other very often, but I know that they would be there for me in a heartbeat.  I am blessed that every year of my life that I actually get to celebrate my life along with my twin sister, Gina.  We have a close bond that is hard to understand unless you are a twin yourself.  We are alike in so many ways, yet so different.  Yes, we sometimes buy the same dress or like the same songs or even desire the same things for our birthday.  She is not only my sister, but also my life long friend.
Happy 40th Birthday, Gina!  Love you, tons!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Easter 2011

I love Easter!  Really, it is one of my favorite holidays.  I always look forward to going to my twin sister, Gina's house, for her church's annual Easter egg hunt.  It's one of our traditions in which we as sisters are able to get together and celebrate with our children.  This year, however, I was dreading celebrating Easter.  When I tell you why, you are gonna see the very selfish and worldly part of me.

It's April, which means that our federal and state taxes are due for the previous year as well as our current quarterly federal and state taxes.  Yeah, it's also time to pay for both car tags and our property taxes.  Praise the Lord that we had enough money to pay for everything that was due without using credit.  We didn't, however, have ANY extra spending money.  No extra cash to celebrate our 17th anniversary or to buy Easter clothes.  Did you hear me???  I couldn't buy Easter clothes for me or the kids!  I know you are probably thinking "so what?"  This is the first year since I have had children that I did not purchase me or the kids brand new "church clothes" to wear on Easter Sunday.  Not only new clothes, but clothes in which we all matched or coordinated!  I kept telling myself that we were being good stewards of our money by not going into debt and by teaching our children that sometimes we have to make sacrifices.  I completely believed that with all my heart.  But my head, now that's another story!  On Saturday before Easter, I was driving the four hours back from my twin sisters house and had a lot of time in the car to think.  As I was talking to the Lord, I was having a huge pity party.  For the first time in 14 years, my family would not be wearing new clothes to church on Easter Sunday.  What would people think?  They've already seen all the clothes we would be wearing to church that day. I am, after all, a Minister's wife!  Me of all people should have a brand new dress to wear on Easter Sunday!  When I got home, I drudgingly laid out mine and the kids clothes and continued on with my pity party.  Even as I reminded myself that all of our bills were paid and we were being obedient to the Lord by not putting our family in debt for new clothes.  I also reminded myself that it's just a couple of weeks until Jason would get paid again.  A short time for sacrifice, right?  But Easter would be over in two weeks and then what good would the new clothes do me?  I was bummed and depressed.  I climbed into bed and started reading a book when I got a text from my husband's Associate Student Pastor that they were at the hospital and his wife was in labor with their first baby.  I hurriedly got dressed, made some calls, picked up a couple of friends and headed to the hospital in a torrential downpour of rain.  My friends and I spent the night at the hospital waiting for that sweet baby to be born.  Well, by 10:10 the next morning, she was not here yet and her mom was dilated to a 9.  Oh no, the baby could come at any minute.  I REALLY wanted to be there to celebrate with my friends, but my own baby girl was going to be baptized at our church by my husband in less than an hour on Easter Sunday!  I hopped in the car and rushed to the church.  I ran into the church just in time to see my husband and my daughter Jensen, walking into the water.  I was there to witness such a sweet sight in which my daughter was baptized by her daddy.

Well, even after staying at the hospital all night, my friend's baby was born just 20 minutes after I left.  Did I mention that when I left the hospital that I didn't have any time to go home and change or clean up?  That's right...the Youth Pastors wife walked into church on Easter Sunday morning in clothes that she slept in: jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes.  I also did not have on any make-up and my hair was in a pony-tail.  I hadn't even brushed my teeth!  But, I did get to experience one of the most wonderful things that a parent can: my child's baptism.  The symbolic act of showing that her salvation is an outward sign of her inward change.  As we left the church and headed home, I felt great conviction.  I had spent so much time worrying about such meaningless things.  I worried about not being able to purchase clothes that the Lord knew I wouldn't get to wear anyway.  

This turned out to be one of the most beautiful and meaningful Easters for me.  I know it will be one of my favorites and definitely one of the most memorable.  Because on Easter Sunday 2011, I was able to celebrate the resurrected life of Christ, new life in Christ as symbolized through baptism, and the beauty of a brand new human life.  After all, it didn't matter what I was wearing.  Later that day as I spent time with the Lord, I asked for forgiveness for my selfishness and my shallowness and I praised Him and thanked Him for blessing me more than I could have imagined that day.  

By the way, after Easter dinner with my in-laws (who drove all the way to see Jensen's baptism), we headed straight to the hospital to see my friend's brand new sweet baby girl!  Yes, this will be an Easter I never forget.  And next year, I may buy some new Easter clothes, but I won't be more consumed with what I am wearing more than who I am worshipping.

I'm Back!

Wow!  Time gets away so fast.  I can't believe it's been 2 1/2 years since I've updated our blog!  Our kids look so little in our family picture. :-(  I will need to get that changed soon!  The Lord has laid so much on my heart lately and I am looking forward to sharing my heart with you.  I may also share some stuff about my family just for fun!  See you soon!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Christmas Train

Our family had the opportunity to go to Dry Gulch USA in Pryor, Oklahoma and ride The Christmas Train. I had no idea what to expect, except that the train ride had to do with Christmas. I thought we might hear about baby Jesus and probably see Santa Clause. I was pleasantly surprised as the train started out and we began to hear the Christmas story over the speakers. It wasn't just the Christmas story starting from Jesus' birth, but it started in Genesis and throughout the ride we rode past lighted scenes that depicted Jesus birth, life, death on the cross, and scenes from Revelation that depict eternal life. Some of the scenes were lighted art and some of the scenes were live actors. I was overcome with emotion as I watched my children looking out the window when I heard them say "Look Mommy! Baby Jesus!" and then even more tearful as we rode past the scene of Jesus being crucified on the cross as Judd asked "Mommy, why are they doing that?" I heard Jackson try to explain to Judd that Jesus was taking on our sin on the cross. Judd asked more questions on the way home. I am excited to know that the Holy Spirit is already beginning to speak to his young heart. Tonight as we rode home together after the train ride, I thanked God for our real reason for celebrating Christmas. I pray that when my children think of Christmas, the scenes that they saw tonight come to the forefront of their minds instead of Santa and presents. I can't wait to ride the train again next year!!

Jackson, Judson, and Mommy waiting in line to ride The Christmas Train.

Jensen and Daddy waiting in line to ride the Christmas Train.

Dry Gulch USA is absolutely breathtaking at night!

The kids had a great time!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Womack Family Christmas

I was so excited to have my (Julie) sisters and parents come to Siloam Springs to celebrate Christmas. We had a wonderful time together. Below are pics of each of our families.

The Kelly Family
Jason, Julie, Jackson, Judson, and Jensen
The Porter Family
Derek, Gina, and Macy
The Goldston Family
Joe, Christie, Parker, and Carter

My Parents
Jerry and Ginger Womack

Me with my twin sister, Gina

Christmas Parade

A quick family pic before the Parade started.

My son Jackson (on the right) was excited to get to carry the parade banner to start the parade.

Breakfast with Santa

The Siloam Springs Heritage League organizes Breakfast with Santa every year. I asked my (Julie) family if we could celebrate Christmas this weekend so my family could experience the wonderful community in which we live. One of the highlights of the weekend was taking my kids along with their cousins to see Santa Clause. Here they are below with Santa:
Jensen, Parker, Macy, Parker, Judson, and Jackson

Judson and Jensen tell Santa what they want for Christmas.

My twin sister, Gina with her husband Derek and their daughter Macy.

My sister Christie's boy's, Carter and Parker.

The Siloam Springs Heritage League