Please welcome Jennifer as our Woman of the Week this week. She is a long time friend and confidant and someone who though she has had many trials and sadness, has moved her way through those spaces to a happy, loving place in her life. She is a grandmother to two, soon to be three grandchildren, made a major move back to her hometown after 30 years away and is blazing her trail in a reinvented life for herself. Below are her interview answers.
1: If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why? My favorite quote:
Only God can turn a MESS into a Message, a TEST into a Testimony, a TRIAL into a Triumph and a VICTIM into a Victory.
2: In the last five years what have you become better at saying no to?
Negativity! As women we tend to be our own worse enemies and seem to allow the negative thoughts from the outside to define ourselves. I'm now able, through much growth, hurt and just plain tired of judgmental and negative people, to allow myself to say "NO" to that reflection of who I am.
3: What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the "real world"?
Work hard and don't EXPECT the world to give you what you want! Go into the world with kindness but firmness, grace but not weakness, strength without judgment and compassion to not "save the world" yet give through your abilities in your community.
4: What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you've ever made? (it doesn't need be financial in nature)
My greatest investment have been my children! People have criticized me for being my children's "friends". Yet through that relationship of mutual respect and really getting to know my children "as a friend" we were able to share many good and often trying times together with honesty, understanding and non-judgmental attitudes. But, also as being their friend, I demanded those qualities that I gave and set boundaries for which they knew they could not cross. All 4 kids are happy, healthy and well adjusted adults...so it worked for us and most importantly they always knew they had a safe place to come, and still do.
5: In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
Oh boy, well the last 5 years my life has pretty much been a transformation of every belief, behavior and habit that ever existed prior. March 15 will be exactly 5 years I said goodbye to the love of my life of 30 years. Of course, #1 is my Christian faith that has "improved"? Not sure that's the right word...STRENGTHENED is better. I suppose "behavior and habit" has been my grieving. My "new normal" became a daily struggle and until I sought a way to grasp my grief did I IMPROVE. I became a certified grief recovery specialist and was able to not only heal my grief but can share with the world...hope, healing and recovery, from the horrible burden grief takes from us daily....THAT has improved my life completely!
6: How has a failure, or apparent failure set you up for later success? Do you have a favorite failure of yours?
Oh gosh, I feel I fail daily. Am I a good person, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, partner? I try really hard not to focus on failures because it creates a vision we see in ourselves that is almost always untrue. And I live my life with NO REGRETS! Again, that just creates a bitterness in our minds and hearts that we often can't recover from. I find too, that if we focus on all the things we didn't do right it might keep us from all the things we are meant to do and be.
7: What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months or in recent memory?
When Bud was sick he couldn't work much and our business was barely hanging on. So the first Christmas after his diagnosis I remember telling the children that I didn't have any money to buy them gifts. But to keep it light hearted, I told them they could each have $5.00 and I'd take them to the Dollar Store and they'd get FIVE things! Half joking/half serious...we really didn't even have five dollars for each of them. So a few days later I decided that even though we wouldn't have gifts I could at least decorate the house for Christmas. As I was hanging garland around the front door, I hear a car door shut. I look out and it's our pastor from church. We chatted a few minutes and he hands me an envelope. I open it and there is a check for $2,000. I broke down into tears and explained the "dollar store" story to him and replies, well now you can buy them something more than that. So maybe it wasn't a purchase of $100 or less as your question states but the story is PRICELESS! How faith in things yet seen and how just cherishing your family, matters more than $5.00 or even $2,000.
8: When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
PRAY! My faith has sustained me through life's most difficult times. It is in those times that I have seen first hand, when I am on my knees asking for clarity and answers that I feel the grace of God covering me. Faith is not always about getting the answers we desire, yet finding the blessings in each new day that require all the answers we need.
9: What is the book (or books) you've given most as a gift and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influence your life?
The bible has given me the "road map" of life. The words and scripture help me navigate this world. If it is about being more "Christ-like" or finding the assurance in His word to bring me comfort, love and my eternity in heaven.
10: What is one piece of advice you would give to a woman that you wish you knew earlier in life?
Oh by all means...Cherish those around you! Start each day with a thankful heart for the blessings you have. Be it family, pets, job, home or just by being given another day to breath. And don't sweat the small stuff. I know we are human and we all get irritated with life and maybe those people in our lives. But take it from me, the small things don't mean crap! What matters is the life you have, the people in them and the day you get to live with it all. And lastly, forgive and forgive and forgive...often!! Don't hold on to hate and disappointments in your life. It will eat you alive. For in the end, all that really matters is your heart full of love, your mind full of joy and your soul full of peace.
11: What do you think about the theory of "the love of your life", what does that phrase me to you?
Well having had "the love of my life" it means everything to me. I even wrote a poem that I read at Bud's funeral entitled "Once in a lifetime". He was and always will be the love of my life. Yet as I sit today, I have been blessed with another love, in my life. But perhaps, as I see it, pertaining to a human/man love, that might not mean the same to everyone. I think we can have many different kinds of "loves" in our life that would be defined as "the love of your life". People often told me after Bud passed away how lucky I was to have had that love in my life for 30 years, that some people don't EVER experiences that. It gave me pause a minute to firstly, yes, be thankful for it, but secondly, I think we can define love with other things in our life. Finding and acknowledging "the love of your life" can be different for some.
12: What is something that you would find most helpful in your life right now? (what would be the best problem solved for you)
My life is very content. I have lived a thousand lives in the past 5 years. I've said goodbye to the greatest man I've ever known, I've been able to find the courage to walk away from people that were judging me, I've moved back home, I've been blessed with 4 amazing children, 2 in-law children and 2 (with one on the way) grandchildren and found love again. But most importantly, I've healed from my grief. I learned that forgiving the past, letting go of the future that will never be (with Bud) has brought me to living solely in the PRESENT MOMENT. My peace is my refuge, my journey is my lesson and my message is my purpose...someday for the world to read in my book.
Thanks Jen for your thought and care in your answers. I so appreciate your friendship, honesty, open heart and willingness to share parts of you life. Your big heart will continue to draw love to you every single day.