thisunreallife

Wife, mommy and domestic genious in training!

Keep walking! March 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 3:12 pm

A super sweet video popped up on my Facebook feed from two years ago. It was of Leah unsteadily walking…on her own….finally….at 22 months. It brought back a flood of emotions.

I remember ugly crying in the pediatrician’s office because I was worried she would never walk, I remember countless physical therapy appointments to strengthen her muscles and teach her to walk, I remember a lot of fear and frustration….I also remember the moment she decided to walk on her own, I remember the joy she had in her freedom, I remember breathing a sigh of relief.

This same sweet baby now runs freely, balances on 2x4s, climbs and plays. You would never know she didn’t walk until 22 months!

Being a mama isn’t for the faint of heart. Neither is being a kid. There are new struggles everyday. There are new victories everyday!

Mamas- if your heart is hurting for your kid…in two years, that kid may just be soaring! ❤️

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Defender….love….glory January 30, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 10:18 pm

*I am going to preface this with this is not a very cohesive blog, but…it’s from my heart. Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged, but I want to do a better job of it. If you haven’t read my blog, know this is meant to be a journal of sorts for our girls. I’m going to share my heart and beliefs. It isn’t meant for anything but for them to know their mama’s heart a little better when they grow up. I’m excited you’re reading it too!*

We have walked a road over the last 6 months we would have never chosen. But the things we have learned in that time are so valuable and we are grateful for the journey we have traveled!

When you get married and take those vows: better or worse, sickness and health, richer and poorer… you say them. And you mean them…sort of. In that moment, we all think our lives will only be sunshine and roses…even when you’re old like I was when we got married. I should have known better, but I didn’t. I meant every word of my wedding vows and took them very seriously. But, if I’m honest, I only pictured happiness, joy, the babies to come, successes in jobs, all the good things we dreamed about and prayed for.

And we have had those. Lots of those!! Tom and I constantly are amazed how much we like each other. Haha! We both love to be together, we love to laugh together and dream together. We have been blessed with three beautiful baby girls who are growing up entirely too quickly. Healthy pregnancies, deliveries and kiddos…all the things you want. We’ve enjoyed job successes, small and large victories. We bought the home we hope to raise our girls in. Man, life is so good.

Until it isn’t. Until we lost our job. Ok, he lost his job…actually just didn’t get his contract renewed…but it felt like we, not just he. And then, things weren’t sunshine and roses.

I want so desperately to type all the injustices around it, to type all the things he did amazing, all the truths…but…I am not going to.

Because God is my defender. And Tom’s. And yours.

If God is my defender, I don’t need to defend myself or Tom. Man, this is a hard lesson to learn – especially when you are a fiercely protective Mama Bear. When somebody hurts my family, I want to fight for them! I wanted desperately to defend Tom and fight for him and tell everybody how horrible certain people were and …. But God. God, in His goodness, walked me thru that grief and anger and showed me so well how much more he loves Tom than I ever could…how much better He can and will and does fight for him. I mean, we serve a big God. We knew that before. But what has resonated with me so much is how our big God loves Tom and me so big. I tend to view God as the mean man on the throne….but He gave me this amazing husband who is the absolute best father to our kids and has helped me learn so much more about His love for me by watching Tom with our girls. He’s teaching me how much He loves us and how that works into every aspect of our lives.

We have learned at an entirely new level, one of which we would never have reached if we’d not walked thru this, of God’s goodness, His grace, the love of our community….that He is our defender and we don’t have to defend ourselves.

For 6 months, we walked, we praised and we trusted. We held hands and clung together. We prayed. We cried. We were scared. But, we did it together. And all along we just knew that God had a story He was writing. He had something more amazing than we could imagine. It took 6 months for us to actually open the door for that plan …but that’s another story…but when we did, we realized that God answered every single prayer we had.

Tom started his new job. They love him and value him. He will be doing the things he loves. He will be able to be home when he needs to. He will be providing well for our family. We didn’t have to move. NSR is so excited to have Tom on their team and we are so excited to be on their team!

And, so much more than a job…We know, especially now, that all that happened is to bring glory to God and what a privilege to be used by God to bring Him glory!

 

Oh, I have a blog?!? I forgot…for like 3 years!  August 13, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 6:03 pm

So, I started this blog with such great intentions when Sarah was a baby. You know, the same intentions that would always have a clean house, never yell at my kids, not be a yoga pants, no make-up wearing, hair in a bun stay at home mom….well those intentions became reality: I’m a hot mess! And, it’s ok. 

I’m ready to have a creative outlet again for my thoughts. I’m ready to record some thoughts and prayers for my marriage, my girls, my friends, etc. 

Feel free to read along or not. My desire is really to use this as a place to write so my girls can read this stuff later. I’m not a writer, theologian or expert, just a girl trying to find her way and leave a legacy for her kids 💖

 

Our marriage March 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 4:07 pm

Dearest Sarah,

My heart is heavy and I want, no need, to write this letter to you.  You won’t be able to read it or really understand it for a long time, but I have to get these thoughts down on paper for you.  I am so saddened by the sheer number of couples we know who are currently walking thru divorce.  Daddy and I talk a lot about this and talked a lot about it before we got married.  We are adamant that we will not get divorced ever…so much so that we don’t even speak the word.  We truly believe that the Lord brought us together and we believe our vows are sacred.

Now, let me stop right here because other people are reading this too – please know that this is in no way meant as a judgment against anybody else.  I know first-hand that nobody knows what goes on in a house except the people who live there.  I also know that most people don’t enter into marriage with divorce as an option.  I just want to share my heart (and Daddy’s too) on how we view our marriage.  Just the fact that so many people we know are currently walking thru this has stirred up my heart to write to you.

Daddy and I have foundations for our marriage.  We have the obvious ones that everybody goes into marriage with: fidelity, love, trust.  We also have others that I believe are as important, or maybe even more important.  The core of who we are as people, spouses, and parents – we are Jesus followers.  We are FAR from perfect, but we live in the grace that Jesus provides for us.  Our desire to serve Him and look like Him drives us as individuals and a couple.  We believe that Jesus is our main foundation of our marriage.  We pray for each other, we pray together and we pray for you.  We go to church together and study the Bible together.  We pray that we instill this faith in you and demonstrate it for you so that you will choose Jesus too.  We also pray for your husband.  We pray that his parents are bringing him up to love the Lord and to protect his heart for you someday…you know, in like 30 years!

We also have a foundation of friendship.  There is nobody we would rather spend time with then each other!  Daddy always laughs at me because I tell him I like him.  But I do.  I love him. But I also like him.  He is my favorite person and I am his favorite person.  Now, we are still what most people consider newlyweds, so we are still in ga-ga love with each other.  But we are also old enough to know that feeling can fade away and there better be more to a marriage.  So, we work hard to grow our friendship as well as our marriage.  We learn about things the other person likes.  You know, like how I have learned ALL about softball and baseball when all I ever thought before were that baseball players were cute.  (See that’s one of the reasons I think Daddy is cute – he played baseball…anyway…) And how Daddy has learned ALL about jewelry because I love it and have a jewelry business.  We play cards together and watch sports together and do other stuff that fosters our friendship so that we will always have that in common.

We value each other and our relationship more than any other relationship (except with Jesus- He always comes first).  Because of the value that we place on each other, we do things to protect our marriage from allowing Satan a foothold.  We don’t spend individual time with people of the opposite gender alone.  We know each other’s passwords and share our phones with each other openly too.  We aren’t friends with any ex’s in person or on Facebook.  We don’t take separate vacations.  We take an active role in protecting our marriage and not even allowing openings for other people to swoop in.  As somebody once told me, nobody gets married with the goal of getting divorced and nobody starts a friendship with the idea that they are going to have an affair.  We know that we have to actively protect our marriage so that we don’t become passive.  We also look for friends who place the same priority on their marriage so that we are surrounded by other healthy relationships.  We have friends who have been married longer than us as role models.

We believe that we are on the same team and we are each other’s greatest cheerleaders…no, don’t worry, Daddy isn’t putting on a skirt and picking up pom-poms…neither am I for that matter!  With our words and actions, we are to lift each other up more than anybody else other than the Lord.  We have learned each other’s love languages and we strive to love each other in the way that makes them feel most loved.  You will witness this throughout your life, so I won’t give away all the details here, but I will address some of it.  Daddy’s love language is words of affirmation, so I tell him I love him a lot.  I need acts of service to feel loved, so Daddy always takes the trash out.  These things are little, but make us feel loved.  We also ALWAYS speak positively about each other in public.  This is a big one for me.  I want to lift up Daddy and make him feel loved and valued and so I refuse to speak negatively about him in public. This is sort of a soap box for me, so I will step down now.  Just know that we take our role to lift each other up very seriously.

This one is so cliché, but we don’t go to bed mad.  Now, I have to be honest…I definitely have a faster and hotter temper than Daddy and, (don’t tell him this) I usually pick/start our arguments and am usually the slowest one to get over it too.  Now, I am going to go with that is because I am a girl and that I am more emotional and definitely more hormonal and that is how God made me…ok, maybe I should leave that last one out, but anyway… We firmly believe that each day should start and end with I love you and with everything resolved.  So far, we don’t argue much – thank the Lord!  Hopefully, that won’t change over time.  We really work to understand the other person and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Remember the grace that we live in from Jesus? Well, we believe that if he can love us enough to die for us and cover all our sins with His grace, we should work to offer that same grace to the people that we love the most.  This is where Daddy is much better than Mommy!  I can honestly admit that to you and the rest of the world – he is much more grace giving than I am.  I am working on that though.  With all that said, because we love each other, value each other and don’t want to allow anger to settle in and turn into resentment, we resolve our issues before bed.

My prayer for you is that you grow up in a home that is happy more times than not, filled with love and laughter and that you witness what a Godly, healthy marriage should look like.  I pray every day that you will grow into the woman God has made you to be.  Selfishly, I pray that means that you will one day be a wife and a Mommy and that you will believe that you had a good role model in both of those in me.  I am so far from perfect and know that I will make many mistakes, but that’s ok.  I want you to learn how to kindly speak your heart and mind and know that you can disagree.  I want you to learn to stop and think about the other person’s perspective.  I want you to realize God’s abundant grace and learn to be a grace giver.  I want you to be such a better person than I am and know that the only way that is possible is if I work to be the woman God created me to be and teach you to be the woman God created you to be and we both allow God to love us, mold us and grow us!  Daddy and I long for you to grow up feeling secure and loved.  We long for you to look for your value in Christ first.  We pray you will protect your heart and your body for your husband.  I pray you marry a man who loves you as much as Daddy loves me.

Girly, this life is hard.  Marriage isn’t always easy.  Parenthood isn’t always easy; you aren’t even one yet and I have already made mistakes.  We just pray that we instill the values in you that you learn to navigate them all.  The Opdenbrouw house is going to be filled with lots of love, laughter, mistakes and grace!

 

Sweet Sadie Belle January 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 11:15 pm

As I sit and reflect over the last twelve years, one constant has remained – Sadie.  I got Sadie when she was seven weeks old and a ball of fur.  She had a lack of gracefulness that drew me to her immediately.  She was so excited to play and run she was tripping over her own feet.  That excitement never left her.

Sadie was the perfect pet.  She was always happy to see you, I mean ecstatic!  She loved going for car rides and walks.  In fact, the word walk has been spelled in my home for the last 12 years unless I was taking her on one because she would be at the door ready to go.

She has been at my side from day one; a faithful and loving companion thru thick and thin.  Sadie loved me through moves, jobs, broken hearts, meeting the love of my life, even thru the birth of our first baby.  She immediately assumed the role of protector when Sarah was born.  She would sleep in her room in front of her swing and crib many nap times.  She was the first to push open Sarah’s door and “check” on her when she was crying in her crib.  Never once was she jealous or territorial of me.  She just loved more, like I did.

I am forced to reflect on the times when I wasn’t so faithful to her.  When I traveled for a living and left her alone too often.  Or when I was single and would go and go and go and just not be home enough.  Yet, her love never waned.  She was always excited when I did come home and would love on me like I was her hero.

Sadie has always been our gentle giant.  Weighing in around 75 pounds at her heaviest, she was the sweetest dog ever. The Cook kids loved her.  Even when Griffin was going thru his mean spell and would poke her in the eyes, she would just turn her head.  Then he would lay down on the floor with her and tell her he loved her.  The kids always wanted her to sleep with them when they spent the night.  She would lie down on the floor and let them fight over who got to sleep with her.  She never growled or bit or anything.  She just loved.

Sadie is the first family member Sarah looked for in the morning.  When she saw her, she smiled and made a big excited yell!  They had a special bond that only the two of them understood.

I sat and talked with her yesterday all day.  I told her what a good girl she was.  How blessed I have been to be hers.  How we will always love her.  We reminisced over her life – her early years in Illinois playing in the snow.  Then in Knoxville, walking up and down the hills.  Then Nashville, having the Cooks live with us while they rebuilt from the flood, then Tom and I getting married and him moving in and then Sarah.  She and I had a nice long talk and cry, I told her I knew she was tired and it was ok.  She looked me in the eyes with sad, sunken eyes.  I know she understood.

Tom and I said good bye to her today.  We held her, we cried and we let her go.  She went peacefully and in my arms.

I cried out to the Lord – I am not this strong!  But His sweet, still voice said back to me, I am.  I am.  And He reminded me that in my weakness HIS strength is made perfect.  I know that He will provide the strength to get thru the difficult days and weeks and months ahead.  The moments when I walk in the door and realize Sadie isn’t going to greet me.  The moments when I wake up to a storm worried that she is scared and then realize, she is gone.  The moments…when I just miss her friendship.

If you aren’t a “dog person” you probably think I am crazy right about now.  But if you are, you understand the bond you have with your pet.  She has truly been part of our family.

Now I feel as though there is a giant hole in my heart and in our family.  I know the Lord is merciful.  I am so grateful for the life I have.  I know I have a full, very blessed life.  And yet, there is a hole, where Sadie should be.  I can’t imagine life without her.  It hurts to even breathe.  I believe that she will be in heaven.  The Bible is silent on pets, but the Lord loves us and heaven is an amazing place, I know she will be there dancing and wagging her happy tale at me when I get there.  Until then, I will miss you and always love you Sadie Belle!  You are the best girl I could have ever had!

 

Family picture Summer 2012

 

Guest Blogger – Tom January 13, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 8:10 pm

My sweet husband always reads everything I write.  One day he asked if he could do an entry in our blog.  Of course, I said yes.  It is, after all for our kids.  I had no idea what he was planning on writing.  I am so humbled and blessed by him I can’t even tell you.  These are his words…

As 2012 ends and 2013 begins, I felt the urge to write. I, for one, am captivated and intrigued to read every entry that Jenny writes. Tough shoes to fill, but here it goes. I sat in church the other day and listened to the pastor talk about the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, especially as it relates to marriage. All kinds of emotions, memories, and thoughts flooded my mind as I tried my best to focus on the message. As I was holding our daughter, Sarah, in one arm and Jenny’s hand with the other I felt an overwhelming sense of JOY. Jenny absolutely amazes me. I remember sitting in the car after dropping her off from our first date thinking WOW, she is the one! So many people had told me that you will know it when you meet the one but after so many lemons out there I couldn’t believe that I had found my true love. The friendship, partnership, and mutual trust that we have together is simply indescribable, yet amazing! I pray that someday ( a long, long time from now) that our daughter marries a man that makes her an even better, fulfilled person like Jenny does to me. I also pray that our example of love, respect, and admiration of each other allows her to be in the same kind of relationship. I thank those in my life who showed what that looks like. I am reminded of Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” The bottom line is that I am eternally grateful for all of the blessings in my life. With one of the biggest blessings being this wonderful woman in my life, named Jenny!

 

 

What must Mary have thought?!?! December 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jenny O @ 5:55 pm

What must Mary have thought?!? ! I am not even married and I am going to have a baby?!?! And He will save the world?!?!

I’m thinking that there must not have been a complete reveal of God’s plan to use Jesus…well, I know there wasn’t, I have read the story a million times.  I can’t imagine what she felt.  The fear, the excitement, the total and complete trust and obedience….

And, what about Joseph? Umm…you’re going to have a baby, but we haven’t…we aren’t even married…how?!?!  And his love for her to “quietly” put her aside so to not shame her more.  And, then, his total love, trust and obedience to marry her and raise Jesus.

My whole life I have read and heard this story as a church-goer and Christian and have thought about it as the birth of Jesus, my Savior.  This year, I read it differently…as a mom.  I can honestly say I have never given much thought to Joseph and Mary in the story other than the people that God chose to deliver Jesus.  I never thought about the emotions they felt, the issues they no doubt had to work thru…the sheer inconvenience of the matter of having to travel while pregnant and give birth in a stable.

I’m humbled every day that God gave us Sarah.  We have believed since before she was born that He has a plan to use her to change the world.  One of the reasons her life verse is what it is, (Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.), is because we truly believe God is going to use her in a huge way.  We believe God has already used her in her short eight months to bring joy to people – in the last month as we have been in the hospital and rehab facility with my aunt, her easy smile and sweet spirit have brought joy and hope to people who haven’t had much to smile about.  With all that said, I know my child wasn’t sent to be the Savior.  I know she wasn’t sent to die for the world.  I don’t know what God has planned for her or how he plans to use her.

But, I sit today and think, for just a moment, how must Mary have felt?  When she held that precious baby, when he smiled at her, when he cried. What must have gone thru her mind? I pray every day that I will be the mom God wants me to be for Sarah, that Tom and I will direct her in the path He has for her.  I pray we will grow in the Lord and always be an example of His love for her.  What in the world must Mary have felt?  How do you even begin to raise the Savior of the world?!?! I mean, I know he was perfect and God’s Son, but he still needed parents.  She still loved him as any mother would love her child.  She still felt pressure to be the mom God had truly called her to be.

And, I look across at Tom and think how excited we were to find out I was pregnant…and I think, wow, how different it was for Joseph.  And what about the pressures on him to raise a baby, a boy, a man that wasn’t even “his” child!  To love Mary and trust the Lord that she had been faithful to him.  What a different emotion to be raising and loving a child that wasn’t his own, but yet, was.

I sit and think about the end of the story, about Mary watching her son dying on a cross to save the world…the pain is almost too much for me to bear to even think about it.  What must she have felt?  Surely she questioned God in that moment.  The ultimate question – if there is a God, why must bad things happen to good people…why must her son die?  As a believer, I know the end of the story, I know the “plan” for Jesus.  But as His mother, she just knew he was her son and that she loved him.  Imagine if she had turned her back on God…imagine if she had tried to take control of the situation and not trust God’s plan…imagine if she had decided it was all too much and too hard for her…imagine if you were her…

She didn’t do any of that though; she chose to trust in what seemed an impossible situation.  She chose to obey in a situation that made no sense.  Wow, how humbling…I think I should be in control, I think God should show me His plan…I bet Mary was glad she didn’t know the entire plan from the beginning…

As I read the “Christmas Story,” as we call it now, I was struck with an entire new set of emotions this morning.  I was filled with a new sense of awe and wonder, a new sense of love and humbleness.  Motherhood has changed me…changes me every day… but the best change is that I am drawing closer to a Lord who loves me, one who never ceases to amaze me and I am learning about His love for me in an entirely new way.

If you are reading this and you don’t know that Jesus loves you and you don’t know that He chose to die to save you and you want to know more…please ask me.  I’m not really using my blog as a platform for anything, but I can’t imagine knowing this love and not offering to share it.  Jesus came just for us, He lived and died, fought Satan and rose again just because he loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. When I became a Christian, my sister said to me “Jesus died for Jenny.”  Little did that sweet little 8 year old know those words would carry me through many difficult times, but it was the words of a child that drew me to the Lord – Jesus died for Jenny and He died for you too!

Imagine how Mary and Joseph feel now, knowing that their son came to save the world!