What is your name?


The last time someone called you a name

I'm going to take a different spin on this writing prompt and share about the last time someone called me by the wrong name...

Cuz, guess what?! It happens ALL. THE. TIME.

It mostly happens at work, but it has happened in other places too.

The funny part? Everyone calls me by the same wrong name...


I must look like a Stephanie because there is no part of Stephanie in my name. I am not related to a Stephanie. I can't even think of anyone I see on a daily basis whose name is Stephanie. 

Just the other day, I had someone call me at work and say, "Hey, Stephanie this is...."

I didn't even correct her. It wasn't worth the trouble because the next time she called me, my name would be Stephanie again. 

I blame my mother. She apparently named me wrong.

Dear mother,

If you're reading this I'm sending you my therapy bill

Your daughter 
Stephanie Jennifer

The Faces of Hope Outreach Part One

At first I didn't see him standing there. Things were so busy that day and there were people everywhere. One of the volunteers stopped me and said, "Jennifer, there's a man standing over there looking for some food."

As I walked over to him, I noticed his eyes were glassy. He looked sad, defeated, tired. He looked down at the ground and said, "Do you have any food? I'm living in my truck and I don't have any way of cooking it. I'm also diabetic." 

My heart sank. We had been offering the clothing closet for maybe just a couple months and really hadn't started collecting food to keep on hand. I told him to wait and minute and let me see what I could round up. I found what I could in the pantry and told him to come back during the week and I would make sure to have some food.

He didn't come back that next week and I often thought about him and wondered how he was doing. 

And then, about a month later he walked into my office. The man who stood before me looked like a different person. He was more upbeat. He smiled and said, "I just came in to say thank you for helping me. I'm doing much better now."

I was dumbstruck for a moment. All we did was give him a small bag of food.

But as I minister to people through Manchester Hope Outreach, I'm learning what we're doing means so much more. We aren't just giving physical items to people in need, we are showing them that we love them and we care. We are showing them that they aren't just a statistic or a project.

We are getting the opportunity to build relationships and walk life with people who may feel abandoned or rejected by others. 

After just a few months, this man is now someone very special to me.  After giving me a hug not too long ago, he was asked by someone he knows, "Are you related to her too?" 

His response was, "No, she's a good friend."

How to be successful as a single parent

Before I dive into my personal opinions on how to be successful as a single parent, let me give some stats:

63 percent of suicides nationwide are individuals from single-parent families.

75 percent of children in chemical dependency hospitals are from single-parent families.

More than half of all youths incarcerated in the U.S. lived in one-parent families as a child.

That's pretty depressing. It's depressing to know that my child is faced with some pretty big odds.

The good news? We are and will continue to beat those odds. If you're a single parent and you care about the future of your child then you can beat those odds too.

It will take dedication. It will take work. It will take sacrifice. It will be filled with days when you just want to throw your hands in the air and give up. It will require countless hours of you being on your face asking God to intervene in a situation. 

Here are some suggestions I have based on personal experience and 15 years of being a single parent:

1) Your children should be one of your main priorities. I learned this the hard way. For years I tried to put other things in front of my son, most of those things being relationships. No relationship is worth sabotaging your relationship with your kids. This might mean that dating takes a back seat or just becomes a smaller part of your life for a while.

2) Surround yourself and your family with positive, supportive people. I can't stress this enough. I don't know what I would do without my church family. They are encouraging, supportive, and love Brenn and me so much. They have babysat, picked up, dropped off, prayed for, and loved on my child. 

3) Spend as much time with your children and get to know each one as an individual. This is really hard to do as a single parent. We are pulled in so many difference directions, but spending quality time with our children is important. When you know each child as an individual, you will know when something is wrong. You will pick up on behavior that's out of the ordinary and you will know when you need to intervene in a situation.

4) Take time for yourself. This is why it's so important to be surrounded with people you can trust. You need people you can count on to take you children for a while so you can have some "you" time. Don't feel guilty for doing this. You need a break. You need adult time. 

5) With every decision and with every action, ask yourself, "How will this affect my children?" or "How will this affect my relationship with my children?" I think when we stop and really think about how our actions affect our kids, we'll think twice before making a bad decision.

6) Let your home be a safe place. Your children need a stable place where they feel secure and loved. Make your home that place. Let your children know that they can talk to you about anything and you will not jump to conclusions or judge them. 

7) Watch your speech. This is so very hard sometimes. Watch the negative talk around your children, whether it be about something they did or even about the other parent. Remember your actions toward the other parent just puts your children in the middle. It affects them more than anyone.

8) Set rules stick to them. Your children thrive when there are boundaries in place. You might not feel this way at times, but know that many children will test those boundaries just to see if you're serious. Be consistent...it makes you children feel safe and loved.

There's so much more to say, but these are the biggest nuggets of advice I can give. 

Just remember that your children won't be little forever. You have a great responsibility of helping to create the foundation in which they will stand on as adults. Let that foundation be filled with love, acceptance, and guidance.

Happy 35th Birthday to Me!

This past Wednesday, I celebrated 35 years of being alive. It was an absolutely wonderful day full of well wishes from my friends and family. I really don't have anything to complain about when I think about getting older. With each year, I learn more about myself and the person God wants me to be.

Last year on my 34th birthday, I listed 34 things I wanted to accomplish before my next birthday. As I look over the list, I am amazed at how much my priorities have changed in just a year. 

Here's the list from last year with updates:

1) Lose 55 pounds
Not even close, but I'm not giving up hope

2) Intentionally spend time with Brenn every week

Brenn and I are in a really good place. I never imagined that as a 15 year old boy, he would be so open with me. I know he doesn't tell me everything, but I know he shares quite a bit especially when something is bothering him. I have made it a point to be intentional with making him a priority.

3) Post on this blog at least twice a week 

I haven't been consistent with this, but I have posted more lately.

4) Write an Examiner article at least twice a week

This isn't even a priority anymore. I have given up my Examiner days.

5) Start my relationship blog (I have A LOT to say in this area)

I decided not to do this and instead just include relationship posts in this blog. It's too hard to keep up with this blog let alone another one.

6) Start writing a book

Nope, but this is still in my plans

7) Run in at least two half marathons

I ran a half in April and will be running another next month.

8) Take at least two trips to see my family in South Carolina 

I spent a weekend with my mom and sister in Gatlinburg last November and then spent time with my family during Christmas. I also got to see them in July. Having a dependable vehicle makes all the difference!

9) Take a trip to New York to see my family

Nope :(

10) Work at growing my wreath business
This is still on my list, but hasn't been a priority lately. 

11) Go to at least one concert

I don't think I got to do this...

12) Declutter my home

My home is completely decluttered, but it is in a much better place. It's a work in progress.

13) Make a plan to get out of debt

I am very slowly working on this...

14) Start HOPE Ministry

Wow, I don't even know where to start on this one. Hope started in January and has grown by leaps and bounds. It's so awesome to see a dream come to life!

15) Be more involved with the Southern Convoy of Hope/One Day Ministry leadership team

I was still involved, but not really any more than I was the last year. More because Hope Outreach is taking up a lot of my time. 

16) Be a part of the Henna Tattoo Ministry at Bonnaroo again

I did one even better this past year. I was able to volunteer with Strings for Hope inside Bonnaroo. It was an AWESOME experience.

17) Work at the Nashville Rescue Mission at least once a month

Yes! This is still one of my favorite things to do!

18) Audition for a play

Nope, and I probably won't ever. I'm not a stage girl. :)

19) Go hiking at least four times

I did do quite a bit of hiking at the end of last year and beginning of this year. Not much recently though...and I miss it.

20) Spend quality time with a friend at least once a month

I have been able to spend time with friends more often. I love my Bible study girls group! And, a good friend and I reunited after months of not talking.

21) Read at least 10 books all the way through

I'm embarrassed to say I don't think I read 10 books all the way through. Another goal to include for this year.

22) Redesign this blog

Nope and I'm not in a big hurry to do it. I'm okay with how it looks right now.

23) Start training for a full marathon

I've decided that I just don't have the time to train for a full marathon right now. I'm going to stick to two half marathons and maybe down the road I'll do a full.

24) Go to at least one conference/meet-up

I got to do this! I was able to go to a missions conference a couple of months ago. It was wonderful!

25) Take a trip to somewhere I've never been

I did get to hike a trail in the Smokey Mountains that I've never been on. I guess that counts.

26) Start teaching Brenn how to drive (WHAT?!)

This child...I really thought as independent as he is that when he turned 15 in April he would immediately want to go get his permit. Nope. He still hasn't picked up the study booklet. He told me he really wasn't in a hurry.

27) Get a new washer and dryer
There's a long story to this one. The moral of the story is that I'm still looking for a washer and dryer.

28) Do some type of exercise every day

This is really been a challenge. Brenn's football schedule in addition to everything else he's involved in plus everything I'm involved in means there's very little down time. I am doing my best to made exercise a priority. I try for at least 4 times a week.

29) Get the windshield fixed on my car

Instead of getting the windshield fixed, I just got a new car. :) 

30) Work at waking up at 5:30 every weekday morning

Nope. I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not a early morning person. I do much better working later in the evening.

31) Work at being in bed by 9:30 every weekday evening

See above :)

32) Log my food every possible day

I really need to work on this one.

33) Pray more

I do pray more but I can always do better

34) Work at learning how to crochet

I haven't done much of this at all. I would like to, so maybe sometime this next year.

Not too shabby! 

Now onto my list of 35 things:

1) Lose 55 pounds

2) Post on my blog at least twice a week

3) Start writing a book

4) Run at least two half marathons

5) Take a trip to New York to see my family

6) Work on growing my wreath business

7) Continue decluttering my home

8) Continue making a plan to get out of debt

9) Work on getting Hope Outreach's non profit status

10) Work at Bonnaroo again

11) Work at Nashville Rescue Mission once a month

12) Go hiking at least 4 times

13) Go camping at least once

14) Read at least 10 books all the way through

15) Go to at least one conference/meet-up

16) Take a trip to somewhere I've never been

17) Start teaching Brenn to drive

18) Get a new washer & dryer

19) Do some type of exercise at least four times a week

20) Log my food every day

21) Have quiet time every day

22) Journal every day

23) Start working on college stuff with Brenn...this makes me tear up

24) Do at least two craft shows

25) Continue to work on growing Hope Outreach

26) Get a new couch

27) Take Brenn on a Summer mission trip

28) Work on growing my blog

29) Make a prayer closet

30) Establish an emergency fund

31) Clean up my back patio and make it a cool place to hang out

32) Go to the beach

33) Cook one new dish at least once a month (and blog about it)

34) Broadcast on Periscope regularly

35) Spend time with Brenn every day

Cant wait to see what's happening a year from now!

Dating Long Distance

I've always said I wouldn't get involved in a long distance relationship. I felt it was almost impossible to keep the relationship going when you live so far away from your significant other. 

My feelings haven't changed much on this subject, but I am now dating someone who lives about 500 miles away from me. We met in July of this year, so it hasn't been a super long time.  It has been long enough to get an idea of what dating long distance is going to entail. Since July, he's been to Tennessee twice and I'm getting ready head to Florida in November to visit him. 

In some ways I've enjoyed the way we've gotten to know each other. The relationship has not progressed too fast and I haven't felt pressured to push the timeline of the relationship any faster. I also like that we are pretty much forced to have conversations on a regular basis. We text each other maybe once a day and talk to each other on the phone almost every evening. When we do get to see each other, we take advantage of every moment because we know there is a time limit to the visit.

I still have my reservations about dating long distance though. A friend and mentor told me not too long ago that she and her now husband dated long distance. She told me to remember that because we  don't live close to each other, we don't really get to see how the other person acts in everyday life. 

I had told "J" that I'm not interested in being in a long term long distance relationship. He does understand my feelings and is in the precess of relocating to Tennessee. He was planning to do that before we even met. We don't know how long it will be before he can move because there's so many factors to the process. 

In the meantime, I'm learning some things about the success in dating someone long distance:

1) Make sure you speak to your significant other regularly throughout the week. I don't mean text each other, I mean have an actual conversation on the phone or through Skype. 

2) Make plans at see each other regularly (preferably once a month if you're not too far from each other). This is hard, especially for single parents. Thankfully, we are pretty much on the same schedule as far as weekend visitation.

3) Make sure to communicate when you're upset or if something is bothering you. This is good advice even for couples who aren't dating long distance, but especially for those who are. It's already stressful enough being so far away from each other. Allowing feelings of unhappiness to fester will only make things worse. 

4) When the time is right, make goals to close that distance. This is going to take sacrifice from one or both people. Usually one person is sacrificing much more by moving closer to the other. Make sure to be sensitive to each others feelings and talk things out during this process.

5) Learn to trust each other all the time. This is HUGE. If you can't trust the other person then you don't need to be in a relationship with him/her. Really take the time to decide if you can handle not knowing what's going on with your significant other 24/7. 

I'm new at this and I'm still learning. Some days are easier than others. At the end of the day, I feel like pursuing a relationship with "J' is something I want to do. We just have some hurdles to overcome because of the extra distance between each other. 


Last weekend I rented the movie, Wild with Reese Witherspoon. The movie is about a girl who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. 

First of all, FYI...this movie is not to watch with kids around. There's a lot of nudity and profane language. All that aside, I personally enjoyed the movie. I more enjoyed it because I admire any woman who takes the initiative to do something big (like hike the Pacific Crest Trail). 

In some ways, I can very much relate to Cheryl Strayed (the woman Reese played). First of all, the movie showed how Strayed looked for other ways to deal with the sadness and disappointment she had been handed in life.  I've done the same thing in the past. I've looked for other ways to cover up disappointments in life. It's not a healthy way to deal with life and only complicates the issues even more. Going from relationship to relationship won't fix things. Turning to drugs won't fix things. 

This is one of the main reasons Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She needed to do it for herself. She needed the time to deal with life and the loss of her mother. She needed to come to terms with the fact that she cheated on her husband over and over again in an attempt to escape the pain she was feeling. She definitely had a lot of time to think. 94 days to be exact.

I've always had a longing to hike the 2,160 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I've done a lot of hiking and backpacking in the past. Unfortunately, I don't get to as much since I started running half marathons. 

I'm not sure why I'm so fascinated with it. Maybe because it's something that sounds challenging, or because it's something I would accomplish myself...much like my half marathons. I feel like being put in a challenging situation that tests not just your physical strength but also your mental really shows who you are as a person. 

So, maybe one day after Brenn is all grown up, I will have an opportunity to hike the trail. I also have a fascination with climbing Everest, but that's a discussion for another day. :)