Are you proud of the mom you are?
How have you changed since becoming a mom?
What got you through that time?
Lauren. Happiest time of your life? “There have been a couple of weekends, where I took trips with just my husband, that have been perfect. It was just us and we got time to do the things we love together— riding our bikes, going to museums, going to the zoo and just not really worrying about anything. Those were really wonderful times. Then, a couple of the hiking and camping trips that we’ve taken, all three of us. Really, just any time that I’ve spent away in an interesting place with my family, whether it be when I was kid, with my parents, or now that I’m grown and have kids. Those times that you get to spend and kind of get away from everything and explore someplace new.”
Toughest time of your life?
“There was one summer when I kind of unexpectedly lost a job. Then, the man who became my husband, toward the end of the summer decided we should take a break. I felt like I hit bottom and kind of lost everything. I wasn’t sure where to go and felt like I had to make some really difficult decisions. Everything started turning around after that, but that was probably the toughest time.”
“Support from my family, from my parents really helped me through…knowing that I had them to fall back on. The advice of friends was very helpful. Being able to just sit sometimes and be quiet…and not be talking, but be receptive.”
“Everything. Everything has changed. It was really difficult for a while. In the first several months of his life, I felt like I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I felt like I had to totally rebuild it. But, now that I see that I can still be a lot of the things that I was before, but now with so many new things that I’m learning…that’s just amazing to me. I’ve had to learn how to not be a kid myself sometimes…which is hard. So, I think that’s the biggest change is learning that waht really defines adulthood is learning how to selflessly care for another being. That can be hard for some people. And, it is still hard. It’s always hard, but it’s a challenge that you want to take on.”
“Not always. Not always. I tend to be pretty controlling. I like to make sure everything is going the way that I need it to go…it’s just kind of my personality type. I always feel like I’m the best version of mom when I am just letting go and letting things roll…and being attentive, instead of thinking everything needs to go the structured way that I want it to go.”
Advice for my boys? “You’ll get to some really hard decisions. But, the decisions are very seldom as weighty as you think they are. And, whatever you decide, it’s probably going to be ok. And, whatever happens, it’s probably going to be ok. Being able to laugh about things is one of the most important things that I know. And then making sure you’re always giving to the people around you, so that whenever you get to a place where you can’t handle stuff, you’ve got people around you who know that they can rely on you, so that you can rely on them. Really put effort into cultivating those relationships.”
Are you proud of the dad you are?
Becoming a dad?
Toughest time of your life?
What other ways?
Adam. Happiest time of your life? “Wow. Good grief, I’m 31, so that’s a lot of life to go over. Pretty happy right now. I’ve got everything I need. I’m just happy to be with my family and don’t require a whole lot.” (looking at his two little girls running around)
How did you change when you became a dad?
“Goodness. I learned how selfish I was.”
“Well, when you have to take care of other people, you realize how much you were only taking care of yourself beforehand.”
“Lots of ways. As far as being selfish goes, how you use your time, your use of resources.”
“Well, to be honest with you, probably the same time.”
“Being a father and a husband—it’s the best time, but it’s the hardest.”
“Learning to give up yourself and do what other people need you to do.”
“Not particularly….I just am the dad I am. I do the best I can.”
Advice for my boys? “Submit to the Lord and submit to your parents.”
An incredible update from my wife:
Had an emotional encounter this evening as we ran into one of Justin’s past strangers at Market Square in Knoxville. For those of you who remember Terry’s story, we met him selling the Amplifier (Knoxville’s homeless paper). In his interview for the stranger project, he explained that he and his wife had been on a waiting list for several months for an apartment with the housing authority. He was trying to come up with the final $25 for the deposit. That Saturday, Justin gave him $35 in good faith hoping he and his wife would be able to put it to good use. Fast forward several months later and we ran into him tonight selling papers on the same corner. He immediately recognized us and our first question was, “Were you able to get the apartment?” Terry explained that the following Monday, he and his wife took the money and paid the deposit, got their apartment, and they’ve been able keep it all this time! Truly a happy ending…a testament to hard work and being able to turn things around for the better…and perhaps most importantly a lesson in how an act of kindness that was so seemingly small can make such a huge impact in someone’s life.— Rachel
I couldn’t be prouder of Terry. We’re now 140-something deep in this project and I’ve met just he most incredible people…and true over-comers. There are good people and there are bad people. But, when you help, you just have to do it with the best intentions and then it’s up to them how they receive it or what they do with the gift. I just knew Terry was the exception and he’s proved that over and over. I pray God will continue to bless Terry and that he can also be an example to those who are trying to get back on track as well. What an AMAZING day! Made my whole project! — Justin
That diagnosis had to be hard to even wrap your mind around. How did you do that and deal with it?
Cheryl. Happiest time of your life? “I went to medical school in the Carribean. One of the happiest times was renting a boat with my friends and going out in the ocean and we went to this deserted island and had barbeque. It was one of the happiest times.”
Toughest time of your life?
“Being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
(pauses) I don’t know why I’m getting tearful right now.” How long ago was that? “I’ll be three years relapse free in March.”
“How did I? I think I’m still dealing with it…trying to come to grips with the fact. I think the biggest problem is that I have no physical manifestations at this time, so it’s pretty much a secret at work. That’s kind of tough to deal with it silently, but my husband is a great support and reminds me that really there’s no reason for me to be thinking about it everyday if I don’t really have any symptoms right now.”
“Also something that helps me deal with MS is I’m a part of the National MS Society and I do volunteer work with them and we go and talk to our legislators about policies that affect those with disabilities. And, I’m a physician and see people going through such tough stuff like brain injuries, being paralyzed.” Bet that helps with perspective? “Yes, exactly.”
One piece of life advice for my boys? “Keep calm and carry on!”
Suzanne, whom I spotted sitting on a deck in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee. Happiest time of your life? “Wow. Probably the most carefree was the first time I came to Leiper’s Fork.”
Why so? “Cause it was a group of people and none of us knew each other and we’d all come here for….we’d just come here. You know, we’d all just left our lives and we’d come here. So, we didn’t….”
Kind of a fresh start? “Yeah, yeah. Not only a fresh start, but it was a time when most of us weren’t labeled by what we had done or who we had known or what we had been in our lives. It was when I knew, all of a sudden, that I was no longer a mother, no longer a business owner, you know, no longer the bank president’s wife. I was Suzanne. And that was it. It’s like the whole blackboard erases and you are….this.”
Some people really embrace their identity and need you to know who they are and what they’ve accomplished. Sounds like you liked not having that baggage? “No…it was terrifying. I mean it was good, but it was terrifying. It was like being naked. You had to just get back into yourself and come out again.”
Feel like you were kind of reinventing yourself? “Yeah, totally.”
Toughest time of your life? “Probably the end of my marriage.”
How long were you married? “Fifteen, seventeen years.”
How did you deal with that ending? “Maybe you don’t. Maybe…yeah, maybe you don’t. You just, you do something else. You use it to open up the bottle and see what comes out. It was the beginning of this….it was the beginning of who I was, rather than what I’d made myself into. It was horrible, but it was good.”
Are you at peace now? “With life or with that?”
Either. “I think I’m at peace with that. I don’t know that I’m totally at peace with life.”
What would it take for you to be at peace? “If I knew, I’d probably be doing it. I’m ok with it, it’s just like hills and valleys.”
Advice for my boys? “Build your frame of reference. Just build it. Everything you do builds your frame of reference for life. Every single thing you do every day builds your frame of reference you have to use, to take the next step.”
I found Suzanne absolutely fascinating and appreciate her candor and transparency. I hope she continues to find that peace she seeks.
John, whom I passed on a street corner in downtown Nashville, handing out Gospel tracts…and just had to turn around and meet. Happiest time of your life? “Gosh, right now I’m pretty happy, to tell you the truth.”
Why so? “I’ve found a contentment, I think might be the word. Just a contentment in life’s journey, you might say…not striving to achieve anything particular or not terribly worried or confused.”
A lot of us constantly strive for contentment. Like the Bible verse says ‘I know what it is to have plenty and I know what it is to be in want…and I’ve found contentment in both.’ How and when did you find it? “I think it’s been a little bit of a process, but it’s been like getting to know somebody and then when you really get to know them on a level of intimacy, just like you and I are just acquaintances…but if I got to really know you, have some meals with you, we’d know each other and feel comfortable around each other. I think that’s the way my relationship with Christ Jesus has been. I’ve gotten to know him more. The scripture says that he’s the Prince of Peace and I think I’ve gotten to know that aspect. Even though I can’t see him, the Bible says he’s sent his spirit here. In a strange way, just speaking to you today is kind of an encouragement, to me, and kind of reinforces the peace and contentment that I think he wants us to have.”
So you feel like your spiritual life has really helped you achieve that feeling of contentment? “Absolutely, absolutely. And my contentment is not because I’m doing something good or because I’ve made some achievements, but it’s because I’ve come to understand the gospel message more….and embrace that I’m not good and understand that the world is a terrible and horrible place, in a lot of ways, but when we begin to understand the scripture and understand Christ, it should be really no surprise. He came to redeem the fallen world and he’s going to do that if we’ll give our heart to Him. That’s my message today, standing on this corner for a few minutes.”
How often do you do this and what gave you the guts to do it? “It’s sporadic. Today, I’m going to get a haircut and happened to be down here and had my backpack with me. I’ve got these Gospel tracts in it, which I handed you, and my message is just to tell people that God loves them and I can only hope that seed will take root. Really, it’s his word and I hope it will be an encouragement to somebody who’s passing by….whether I get a chance to have a conversation with them, like yourself, or whether people just need to see a smiling face. A lot of people don’t know that God loves them and I think there’s a lot of resentment and anger in the world…because they just don’t realize the magnitude of God’s love.”
Advice for my boys? “Wow. I would say to trust Jesus. You’re their earthly father and it sounds like you’re trying to raise them according to scripture and faith. That’s exactly what the Bible admonishes you to do, as a parent, because He’s the only one that will always be there for them…and for you and I, for that matter. It’s like a great exchange…it’s like I give God my ugliness and all the things I’ve done wrong and he gives me his righteousness. I like to refer to it as the exchanged life.”
I wish John the best on his journey of meeting strangers, as well. I also apologize for often prejudging and for the assumptions I’ve made of people that stand on corners and distribute material. Yes, sometimes they’re fanatic indeed. But, sometimes it’s just someone, on their own, carrying out what they believe they are meant and called to do. That is respectable…and it takes guts. May God continue to bless John, his family and the people he meets along the way.
Looking over the adventure with my son.