Today marks the beginning of a new series on the blog entitled “Strong Women”. All of these women are real people, in my life, that I know personally. They all have different stories…different triumphs…and different strengths but not all of them have a platform to share their stories. So, consider this blog that platform. Many of the stories you will hear will contain grief…loss…anxiety and fear among other really hard emotions. But most importantly, they are full of hope and that my friends, is what Surviving till Sunday is all about.
Joining us this month is Jenni Powell. Jenni lives in Watertown, Tennessee and is a “jack of all trades”. Her day job involves working closely with Becky Dungy at the Watertown Flower Shop. However, she is also a wedding planner, musician, farmer, wife and mama. She lives on a farm raising sheep with her husband Mark and their three earthly daughters Grace, Anna and Sarah. Please welcome, one strong woman, Jenni Powell…
When Bethany asked me to write a contribution to the blog, I answered “Sure, just give me some guidelines!” Bethany had no guidelines, except that it was a Strong Women Series. All I could think was, I do not know how to be a strong woman! So this will be more of a story, or part of one at least, that tells of how life threw bricks at a couple and how they used those bricks to create a joy filled home.
LIFE IS NOT LIKE THE HALLMARK CHANNEL
My husband Mark and I lived in Florida in our early years of marriage. It was a beautiful place, but we couldn’t wait to move to Tennessee. We were in a tiny apartment surrounded by asphalt. We dreamt of the day when we could hear the birds chirping instead of cars and sirens. We were going to live on Mark’s grandfather’s farm and in the house designed by Mark’s grandmother. We wanted to raise sheep on the rolling green hills and have baby lambs in the pasture each spring. We couldn’t wait to raise our children in the little farm house on the hill. Sounds like a perfect plot to something from the Hallmark channel doesn’t it? Reality and life was far from our Hallmark dreams. While we did move to the farm, the fences wouldn’t hold a sheep. The house was so run down we moved our belonging into the barn, since it was cleaner than the house. Our dreams of raising children weren’t looking much better. We had already miscarried one baby before the move to Tennessee. A year after moving to Tennessee, we miscarried another little one, followed by another, and then another…. you get the picture. We were not so Hallmark anymore.
HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE.
We couldn’t fix what was happening to my body, so we focused on things we could fix. We worked on the house, we worked on the farm, Mark worked at work, and I worked at home. Our dream in part was starting to take shape, but we were no closer to having a child. God had given us both a desire to have children, but we started to think maybe we were to help parent other people’s children. We could be happy without children! It took seven years and eight miscarriages for me to figure out that. We were going to be happy even if we never had a baby. You see nothing can make you happy. You can’t make anyone else happy either! Happiness is a choice – baby or no baby – we all have to make that choice to. Here’s the kicker though. Life is scary, unfair, and out of our control. When life is scary, we worry. Worry doesn’t bring comfort. When life is unfair, we can indulge self-pity. Self-pity doesn’t make things fair. When life is out of control, we can complain. Complaining doesn’t change our circumstances. Worry, self-pity, and complaints are a waste of time and energy. So that is what we did. We tried to choose joy and to focus on what was next.
DO THE NEXT THING
In the fall of 2002, we became pregnant again, the fourth time in that calendar year. I was a hot mess of hormones and emotions. There I sat on the toilet holding a positive pregnancy test, and trying to hold on to joy. I remember telling my husband to find a looney bin in the country, nothing in town. Mark in an effort to comfort me wiped my tears and held a tissue so I could blow my nose. “It is going to be ok, we have made it this far. God will help us handle a little more.” Those words hit me like a brick. He was right. We had already done this eight times, and eight times we had miscarried. We were ok, we had survived! We didn’t have to worry, feel sorry for ourselves, or complain about it. God had a plan, and we were part of it. All we needed to do was the next thing, and that was to choose happiness and joy. I’m not going to lie, it is hard to choose joy, and sometimes it’s a full time job! When we cultivate joy and watch it grow, our view sure does improve. We no longer see the asphalt of life, all we see is green pastures full of sheep!
“When troubles come your way,
Consider it an opportunity for great joy.
For when your faith is tested,
Your endurance has a chance to grow.
So let it grow,
For when your endurance is fully developed,
You will be perfect and complete,
Jenni and Mark went on to have three healthy, beautiful girls all active on their farm. The fences now hold the sheep and the blessings are abundant. However, through all of life’s continued trials, Jenni clings to truth and credits her mother for her strength….
You see I hate the month of March! Even though it was always my mom’s favorite month because the daffodils blooming, and the beginning of spring. For me it is the month of my mother’s birthday and the month of my mother’s death. The dates are one week apart. SHE WAS A STRONG WOMAN! A strong woman in faith, a strong woman in work, a strong woman in her parenting, and a strong woman in her death.
STRONG IN FAITH
I came across one of my mother’s Scripture cards the other day. She memorized scripture by writing them on blank 3×5 cards. She had them on her dresser mirror, in her purse, on the window sill over the kitchen sink, and by the phone (back in the “good old days” phones were attached to the wall with a cord that kept you there too). The card had the passage Psalm 119:10-12. I have worked hard to stay busy, so as not to think about what month the calendar is turned to. So I can put off dealing with life! Mom’s card hit me like a thump on the head – the kind she gave us kids in church when we were acting up. When I stay busy, it is so easy to wander. Instead I need to seek God’s guidance through the difficulties of life, or the “March’s” of the calendar. Look at verse 10.
STRONG IN WORK
Mom worked at the same hospital for over 25 years. She was beloved by the staff, fellow nurses, and doctors. She was a Labor and Delivery as well as Post-Partum nurse. She assisted in the delivery of countless babies. She would hold and quietly pray for each child, and at times get to pray with the parents during delivery. She also prayed for her future grandbabies, but she pass before they were born. She has many grandbabies in heaven to love on and hold!
STRONG IN PARENTING
I have heard my mother’s voice come out of my face lately. It sounds like me, but it is my mother’s words. She would say, “Use kind words to your sister!” or “How would that make you feel to hear those words?”, “Where’s your manners?” and my favorite “Where is your father, and who exactly is your mother!” Those phrases have all popped out, but they have also evolved. “What is your name?” “Are you acting like you belong to that name?” “Have you forgotten that your job is to love your family and show love by obeying, and that my job is to love you and keep you safe?” “Remember I can’t do my job if you don’t obey?” See verse 11.
STRONG IN DEATH
If mom didn’t think something was right or fair, she would find a way to make it right. While working she would often have to cover for other nurses, while they were on a smoking break. While she didn’t mind helping them, the breaks sometimes lasted up to 15 min each hour. She spoke to her superior, but nothing changed (She smoked too). She ran around doing their work, and they were getting paid to smoke. After talking it over with my dad, she figured out a way to make it fair. She started taking a “smoking break” and would sit in the break room doing nothing. That got some attention from HR! When confronted, she reminding them, she was working the same portion of time per hour as everyone else. The only way to give all the patients the same amount of quality care was to have the nurses work the same portion of each hour. Since she was concerned for the patient’s well-being, she offered to work overtime during the smoking breaks. This need for fairness was how she approached her death. Docs discovered she had stage 4 Ovarian Cancer, she was told she would only live 6 months. That wasn’t fair. She wanted to see my brother get his master’s, my sister graduate high school and me get married. So she lived 6 years. Look at verse 12.
I strive to be a strong woman, to raise strong women, to be surrounded by strong women, and to encourage others in their journey to being a STRONG WOMAN OF GOD!
(This post was composed by Jenni and unaltered by me other than an occasional grammatical edit. I pray you are as blessed by her story as I am. XO-B. )