A Work In Progress

A Work In Progress

Sunday, December 25, 2011

5 Reasons Why This Was My Best Christmas Ever!

  1. It was my 1st Christmas married to Jonathan.   Thanks to Mom and Don for our "1st Christmas" ornament!  We have been married for 170 days today! We love being married, but most importantly we love being married to each other! We each had many lonely Christmases in the past.  We weren't lonely this year and for that we are both very thankful!  Jonathan's Dad told us yesterday that we are a "Match Made in Heaven". He's right! This kind of match could be nothing other than something orchestrated by the Creator of Love, God Himself.                                               
  2. We have started our own Family Christmas traditions.  We love our families of origin and our extended family and we love to celebrate with them, but what was extra special about this year is that we started our own family traditions.  It's hard to start your own Christmas traditions as a single person, because your family of origin is your only family. We may not have children, but we do have our little family. We both agreed it was important to starts those traditions for our 1st married Christmas, because they get harder to change as the years pass.  It is important to us to see family, so this year we saw family on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day was just us.  Our tradition is that we will spend 1 day with family and 1 day with just us.  I will touch on why this is important for me this time of year when I get to reason # 5.
  3. We both put a lot of thought and effort into purchasing gifts for each other.  Last year we both asked each other what we wanted for Christmas, but we didn't really know, and neither of us ended up purchasing gifts for the other.  I didn't realize that "Gifts" was one of my top love languages until I didn't get anything from Jonathan.  This year, we both put a lof of effort into it, and the effort paid off.  It's not about the money spent, but rather about the effort put into making the other person feel special.  We were both successful at that this year!  It's fun to be someone's top priority when it comes to gift giving!
  4. We have been blessed and therefore were able to bless others this Christmas.  Last year we started a tradition of helping those in need. and sponsored a family at the local homeless shelter.  This year my Small Group sponsored a family where a set of Grandparents are raising their 8 Grandchildren.  I got tired just reading their ages.  Jonathan and I contributed to making this family's Christmas more special. That's a good feeling!  We were also able to bless our nieces/nephews, parents, etc with gifts. For many years as a single person money was tight and on top of that I wasn't managing my money as well as we are now. I was often unable to give presents to family.  It feels good to be a blessing to others and we are thankful for how blessed we are!  We have no wedding to pay for and we have 1 rent instead of 2.  We are also down to 1 student loan and 1 car payment! All of these things sure make a huge difference!
  5. My SAD is much more controlled this year.  December has been a hard month for me for as long as I can remember but especially since 12/8/1999 when my Dad passed away.  SAD is Seasonal Affective Disorder which is also known as Winter Depression.  The symptoms start in early Fall and end when Spring begins. Some of the symptoms include a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks, and withdrawal from friends, family, social activities, and lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy during the spring/summer months.  For these reasons, Christmas isn't one of my favorite Holidays.  I am thankful to God for sending us our most important Gift of His Son Jesus!  However, Easter is my favorite Holiday because of the comfort of the Resurrection.  This Christmas has been my best Christmas Ever, and here are the  reasons why:  This year I have the stability/security of being married, I have been walking, I am on medicine that is controlling the depression/anxiety quite well.  Typically I cry a lot this time of year and withdraw from social activities because I just want to hibernate and be alone.  I'm happy to say I haven't really cried at all this year. I wish Christmas was in July, because then I would spend more time with my family of origin/extended family.  I still get stressed easily and this is another reason why Jonathan and I decided to start our tradition of spending either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day alone. Many love all of the hustle and bustle of seeing so many family members in a 2 day time frame.  In the Summer, I wouldn't give it a 2nd thought. I love spending time with friend's and family!   However, in the winter, I often lack the energy to do so and it's hard to be around groups of people when I'm not feeling very well. 
I want to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year! 


Jen (& Jonathan)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Gift

     In 9 days I will celebrate my first married Christmas with my husband Jonathan!  Today at work I heard the most AMAZING song on the radio!  It is by Collin Raye and Susan Ashton and it's called "The Gift"!  I've coined this as our Christmas love song! You can watch the video and lyrics belowif you'd like, or you can go here to view the lyrics. Thankfully Jonathan approves and agrees that it is a beautiful song! We are blessed beyond belief!  Obviously our most important Christmas gift is the birth of our Savior. He is the Reason for the Season!  

     I'm very much looking forward to our 1st married Christmas together!  In my many single years, I felt the loneliness of being single much more around the Holidays. We both spent many lonely Christmases in the past, and this makes us appreciate each other all the more!  I'm keenly aware of the fact that we live in a "couple's world".  It's unfortunate, because we are all unique individuals who should be accepted and acknowledged for who we are, not for what our marital status is!  Can I get an AMEN?! :)  I was a complete person before I met Jonathan, and I'm a complete person now, and it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm married!  Am I less lonely, yes! Do I feel a greater sense of peace and contentment, yes! Are there some things I miss about being single, there are a few things I suppose, but remember I had many years of the single life (which I enjoyed for the most part) and now I'm enjoying my married life with the man God sent to me in His perfect timing! :)  Did I doubt God would ever send me my "Mr. Right"?  Yep, sure did!  I didn't know if that was His plan for me or not.  Deep down I knew God had my best interest at heart, but I sure was lonely around the Holidays. 

     This year I'm thankful for the "The Gift" of my husband Jonathan and the love and bond that we share. Some may think this song is corny, but it touches my heart and I'm so thankful that regardless of if God blesses us with 5 married Christmases together on this earth or 50 married Christmase before He decides to call one or both of us home to heaven, what matters is that we get to spend THIS Christmas together. We will never again have a "1st Married Christmas Together". Jonathan is my 2nd most important Christmas gift. He would say the same about me and I'm more than OK with that!  :)

Jonathan, "I'm thankful EVERY day for The Gift"! :) 

Merry Christmas Baby! :)


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Home For Christmas

December 8th, 1999 was a life changing day for me and my family.  That is the day the Lord called my 59 year old Dad (Herbert William Latzke) home to heaven, leaving my Mom a 47 year old widow and my 2 sisters and I ages 25, 24, and 21 without an earthly Father.  Our world hasn't been the same since then.  Yes, life went on, but it has never been the same. Two months after Dad died, Mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Twelve years later, my Mom has been married to Don for 10 years, my Sister Pam has been married to Eddie for 16 & a half years, my Sister Debbie has been married to Scott for 10 & a half years, and I have been married to Jonathan for 5 months! :) Now we have our new normal.  December 8th is never an easy day for me.  I think Dad dying so close to Christmas has made Christmas a not so fun time for me.  However, this year I get to spend Christmas with my husband. My family is strong and I believe God has used our experiences to mold us into stronger people who can be there to comfort others as they grieve losses in their own lives. Everything happens for a reason.  I found this description about grieving the loss of a parent and I see it as being very accurate to the feelings I have experienced, so I wanted to share it with you.

"Remember, you have every reason to grieve. A parent’s death often leaves adult children with a sense of abandonment and even panic that catches us by surprise. But why are we caught off guard when the death of the "ma-ma" or "da-da" whose name we struggled to utter as tiny tots leaves us reeling or depressed or sleepless? We may have lived enough years to be an adult but we will always be a child in relation to our parents. Even if we find ourselves "parenting our parents" before their deaths, it is the parent of our youth and childhood that we bury. And, as author R. Scott Sullender says in Losses in Later Life, "The world is a different place after our parents die." Seldom are we, as adults, ready for a parent’s death. We may be busy building our careers or raising our families; we may be spending our free time traveling or seeking to settle down; we may be living close by or a continent away from our parents. Whatever the circumstances, it is virtually impossible to prepare ourselves emotionally for the loss.Well-meaning friends and others may seek to console us by saying, "Your mother lived a long, full life" or "Your dad was suffering so much- surely it’s a blessing." But those phrases ring hollow when it is our beloved mother or our dear dad who lies in the casket. Even if we experience a strong sense of relief mixed with our grief, the sorrow is very deep and very real."  Judy Ball
Here is a picture of my Dad's grave which was taken sometime after his funeral on December 11th, 1999.  He truly was "Home For Christmas". This will be his 13th Christmas in heaven.  I have also included the poem the Pastor read to the family in the basement of the Church before my Dad's funeral began. 

My First Christmas in Heaven
by Unknown
I've had my first Christmas in Heaven,
A glorious, wonderful day!
I stood with the saints of the ages,
Who found Christ, the truth and the Way.
I sang with the Heavenly choir:
Just think! I who loved to sing!
And, Oh! What celestial music
We brought to our Savior and King!
We sang the glad songs of redemption,
How Jesus to Bethlehem came,
And how they had called His name Jesus,
That all might be saved through His name.
We sang once with the angels,
The song that they spoke that blest morn
When shepherds first heard the glad story
That Jesus, the Savior, was born
O dear ones, I wish you had been here.
No Christmas on earth could compare
With all the rapture and glory
We witnessed in Heaven so fair.
You know how I always loved Christmas;
It seemed such a wonderful day,
With all of my loved ones around me,
The children so happy and gay.
Yes, now I can see why I loved it.
And Oh, what a joy it will be
When you and my loved ones are with me,
To share in the glories I see.
So, dear ones on earth, here’s my greeting,
Look up till the day dawn appears,
And Oh, what a Christmas awaits us
Beyond our parting tears.

I love you and miss you Dad! You are never forgotten and always loved!  Looking forward to seeing you again someday!  In fact, I'm really kind of envious of how you get to spend your Christmases! :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

God's Gift To Me!

Most of you know that my Husband's name is Jonathan.  Well, I found out tonight while browsing the internet that the meaning of Jonathan's name is "God has given" or "Gift of God".  Wow! I'm convinced Jonathan is the 2nd most special/important gift God has ever given me, second only to God's gift of His only Son so that I will have eternal life in heaven!   Here is a list of just a few of the many ways Jonathan has blessed my life. He has brought more of each of these things into my life:

J - Joy - God has brought such Joy to my life thru Jonathan.
O - Opportunity - God has given me the opportunity to grow as a person and in my faith thru my relationship with Jonathan.
N - Knowledge- Anyone who knows Jonathan knows that he holds a plethora of knowledge in that head! He shares it with me everyday.
A - Acceptance - God has shown me more of what His acceptance and Grace are like, as Jonathan accepts me just as I am, flaws and all.
T -  Thankfulness -  I am SO thankful God sent me the right person to share my life with in His perfect timing.
H - Humor - Jonathan makes me laugh every single day!  Laughter truly is medicine for the soul.
A -  Appreciation - I appreciate my Husband so much more because of the fact that I was single for so long. I never want to take him for granted, although I am human, so I'm sure I will at some point.
N -  Nourishment - God continues to nourish my heart and soul thru Jonathan. Jonathan has a much better understanding of His unconditional love and teaches me about what unconditional love is on a daily basis.

Here is a picture which so perfectly captures the joy and laughter we share.  It was taken by my awesome Sister-In-Law Sandy of Sandra Ellen Photography at our Wedding Dinner in Clearwater Beach, FL on 7/8/2011.

I love you Jonathan and I couldn't imagine spending my life with anyone else!  I look forward to growing with you and in our relationship with God, individually and as a couple.

You truly are God's gift to me! :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Great Is Our God!!

I am a HUGE fan of Christian Musician Chris Tomlin's music and follow him on Facebook.  A few days ago the following post from Chris Tomlin came across my news feed:

With the upcoming release of How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection on Nov. 15th, some media are looking to highlight a few stories showing what these songs have meant to people.

If God has used any of these songs in your lives and they've meant something special to you, we'd love to hear it.

Send your story to info@sixstepsrecords.com by October 21st. Thanks.

It didn't take long at all before I KNEW I had to email them my story of how and why "How Great Is Our God" is such a special song to me!  I thought I would share that same email with my blog readers.  I didn't include the picture that I included below, although now I wish I would have! We have been married for 100 days today! :)

Here is the email I sent:

     This is an extra special song for me! It brings me back to my wedding day, which was just this past July 8th, 2011! :-) My Fiance and I wanted our Wedding to be a Worship Service. You see, we were both single for a very long time. I (Jennfer) was 37 and Jonathan turned 36 two days after the wedding. We were both single, never married, with no children. We both knew what it was like to be alone in a "couple's society". Our hearts yearned for someone to share our life with, but that just didn't seem to be happening for either one of us. My Dad was called home to heaven when I was 25 years old. Two months later my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Life alone, with out the support of a significant other was difficult. But our God knew exactly what he was doing and brought us together at just the right time! March of 2007 I was living in Milwaukee, WI where I had lived for 15 years (I went to college there and stayed). I was praying about moving back to South Bend, IN because of how Mom's cancer had progressed. I lost my job the very next day! I had NEVER lost a job before. If that wasn't an answer to prayer, I don't know what is! I moved back to South Bend, IN where I was born and raised 5/1/2007. South Bend is near Elkhart, IN which is the RV Capital of the world. Needless to say, jobs were extremely hard to come by. I was on unemployment for 6 months and then finally got a waitressing job to pay the bills. March 17 of 2008 I finally got a better job at a large insurance company. October of 2009 an acquaintance in my department at work said she had a friend who worked in our building who was interested in me. She set it up a double date for me, Jonathan, and her and her fiance. That date was 10/09/2009. The rest is history! We got engaged 12/10/10. Now December holds a happy memory for me. You see. Dad passed away 12/8/99. Ever since then December has been a very hard month for me. Now it is a month that holds good memories too! :) We planned a beach wedding on Sand Key Beach in Clearwater Beach. FL. His Best Man was also our Pastor. He did an amazing job! There were 18 of us total who traveled down to FL. The wedding was scheduled for 7:15pm. It rained SO hard ALL day the day before the wedding and all day the day of the wedding. We had to get married under a pavilion. But thankfully the weather cleared and afterwards we were blessed to get amazing pictures at sunset on the beach.
Anyways, the reason "How Great Is Our God" is so special to me, is that we sang this song, with the track, at the beginning of the ceremony. The wind was blowing, the spirit was moving, and I was holding back tears. God knew what He was doing all along and I knew my Dad was there in spirit. There aren't words to describe the joy that filled my heart that day and that continues to fill my heart as I watch the wedding video and think back to that day. God doesn't always answer prayer in our timing, but His ways are best. It just took a long time for me to get my "Happily Ever After". I'm blessed Mom could be at the wedding. Her cancer has since spread and is in her bones in addition to her stomach and bladder. She has fought this ugly disease for almost 12 years and is the strongest woman I know. I finally feel like I belong with Jonathan, who is in many ways, God in flesh to me, showing me daily what it's like to be loved unconditionally.
I invite you to visit my blog to learn more about me and see pictures of us! :) I will also post a link to the wedding video below so you can see us sing "How Great is Our God". Thank you Chris Tomlin for making our day even more special. There's nothing sweeter then singing that song in worship to our King, on the beach, with powerful winds, as you are about to marry the one God had planned for you all along! :)
Our Wedding Video: http://vimeo.com/27437017
God Bless You and Your Ministry! :)
Jennifer Stanley
South Bend, IN

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What I've Learned In My 1st 95 Days of Marriage

     As you probably have already guessed after reading the Title of this post, we have been married for 95 days today!  :) Wow!  Time flies! In some ways I feel so comfortable with Jonathan that it feels like we have been together forever.  In other ways, I can't believe we've been married for over 3 months already!  I would be lying if I said this transition has been 100% smooth sailing.  After all, we are 2 human beings who only had to think about ourselves for years.  This isn't to say we were selfish people, it's just that we didn't have anyone else to consider in day to day living.  If I wanted to watch "The Notebook" on a Friday evening, I would watch "The Notebook". If Jonathan wanted to watch "Lord of The Rings", he would watch "Lord of The Rings.  We can still watch those movies, but now there is someone else's opinions/preferences to consider as well.  Jonathan turned 36 two days after the wedding.  I turned 37 in January. (I'm such a "cougar"!) We both had a long time to get "set in our ways".  All in all we are both very happy!  We are beginning our marriage on the foundation of the one who created marriage.  I think I appreciate Jonathan and my marriage to him so much more, simply because I had to wait for him for a very long time.  I know what it's like to be alone, to not be part of a family, to not have someone know if you live or die on your drive home.  Sad, but true.  Now I see clearly that God was preparing me for my "Mr. Right".  I'm learning that His ways are ALWAYS best.  He knows what is best for me.

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate. ~Barnett R. Brickner

Here are the Top 5 Things I've learned in My 1st 95 Days of Marriage (in no particular order):
  1. I'm thankful for commitment.  The first 2 weeks after we moved into "our" new place were a bit rough.  We were both used to living alone.  We both, especially me, don't like change. There were many times that we butted heads.  It was in those times that I understood why the commitment of a marriage (till death do us part) is so important. God knows that too! :) I'm happy to say things are much better now that we've had more time to adjust!
  2. If I'm focusing on something I think Jonathan needs to work on, I more than likely need to turn the focus back to what I can do to work on improving myself.  I can't control him, nor should I try to, but I should be focusing on how I can become a better person/wife, not focusing on what I "think" he needs to work on.
  3. I'm learning balancing marriage with my social life is easier said than done. All of you singles out there know what I mean when I say singles can feel forgotten because their friends are so busy with their husbands and children.  I still don't fully understand how hectic life with children can be, but I do have more of an understanding of the fact that even in a marriage, there is less time to devote to friends.   Maintaining and growing our friendships with others is very important to both of us.  I'm very thankful for that!  Jonathan has his times with his guy friends, and I have my times with my girlfriends.  We also do things with other couples.  When I lived alone, I was texting/calling friends a lot more than I am now.  I finally feel like I belong.  I belong with Jonathan.  I'm still working at finding balance in time with Jonathan and time with friends.  It may be a little more challenging because we work such different work hours and only have 1 weekend off together a month. 
  4. Sex is not as big of a part of a marriage as we both had made it out to be in our heads before we got married. Don't get me wrong, sex is wonderful and God's plan for marriage is best!  We are far from perfect, but with God's help, we both waited to have sex until after we were married.  Yes, I know this is practically unheard of now a days, but we are both glad we waited. When you feel you "can't have something (due to Christian beliefs"..ie...sex before marriage)"...it makes it that much more appealing.  All thru my 20's and 30's,  I hoped I would get married soon so I could have sex before Jesus came to take me home to heaven, whether at the end of the world, or thru death.  We both have said that we built it up so much in our heads, and gave it far too much importance prior to marriage.  It's an awesome part of marriage, but it's not everything. We are learning together and I'm thankful we don't have baggage to deal with in this area of our life together.
  5. The financial aspect of our lives is SO much easier with 2 incomes and 1 rent.  This is NOT a reason to get married, but once you find the right one, this is a HUGE perk! :) I had NO idea how much easier it would be before I got married.  I had always supported myself and lived alone.  After we got married, I changed my marital status for my taxes.  I did not change the deductions, yet I am getting over $93.00 extra in my checks each month!  We are paying less on auto insurance due to the multi-car discount, we only have 1 rent to pay and we no longer have to save/pay for the wedding!  We just paid off the rings (no interest!) last weekend!  In less than a year we will be debt Free! :)  However, it is also important to note, that we both learned how to handle our finances and get a grip on them before we got married.   We are now tithing faithfully and can't wait to be debt free.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

My 4th Annual Fall Appreciation Day!!

On Sunday, October 2nd, I celebrated my 4th Annual Fall Appreciation Day! This time I got to celebrate it with my husband! :) I usually celebrate it on the 1st Saturday of October, but since I had to work that day, we celebrated on Sunday this year. Due to the fact that I love Summer and dread the dark cold dreary winter days, I'm not a fan of Fall. I started Fall Appreciation Day as a way to put a positive spin on the Season, as well as experience the finer aspects of Fall. We were blessed with an absolutely gorgeous day filled with lots of sunshine! :)  Here are some of the fun things we were fortunate to experience on Sunday:
  1.  Went to the Niles Apple Festival - We had some awesome apple treats and purchased Apple Butter among other things!
  2. Took a drive to South Haven, MI - We got to see some pretty fall colors on the drive up.
  3. While in South Haven, we took a leisurely walk thru Stanley Johnston Memorial Park.
  4. We visited many of the local shops in the downtown area.
  5. We visited a winery where we did some wine tasting and purchased a bottle to take home.
  6. We loved visting The Blueberry Store, where we purchased blueberry coffee and blueberry scones to make at home! 
  7. We took a walk out on the Pier (South Haven is on Lake Michigan for those of you who don't know).
  8. We had dinner at Clementine's before driving back home to South Bend.

My husband was a good sport, and we had a wonderful day! I hope you enjoyed the pictures! :)  If you have any suggestions for the new name of my Fall Appreciation Day, feel free to leave a comment!  I thought of J-La-Sta's 4th Annual Fall Appreciation Day!  Or should I add Jonathan's name to it, so it is OUR Fall Appreciation Day?  I would love to hear your thoughts/suggestions.  Happy Fall everyone! :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

J-La is Now J-La-Sta! :)

You may be asking, "Where has she been the past 2 years?"! :) You may have also noticed that all of the "I'm Single" type of banners are gone from my blog. You see, at just the right time, God sent me my Mr. Right! :) His name is Jonathan and he is the love of my life. Our first date was 10/9/09. We got engaged on 12/10/10 and were married on 7/8/11 in a small intimate ceremony in FL. It's been a busy but awesome past few years. Our destination wedding was amazing and I wouldn't have had it any other way! We had an Open House for friends and family 6 weeks after the wedding. It was so much fun to see everyone and celebrate with them! We are very happy and I feel very blessed to be Jonathan's wife. Here is one of my favorite wedding pics of us. It was taken by my amazingly talented SIL Sandy of Sandra Ellen Photography! You can view our wedding website here, if you would like. Stay tuned for more blogs about my transition from YEARS of singleness to marriage at the age of 37! If you want to be married someday, I am proof, that wonderful things happen for those who wait! :) Don't lose hope! God has a wonderful plan for your life! Marriage is great, but had I not grown as an individual first, I would be having a huge wake-up call right now! It is true, that if you aren't happy with who you are as an individual, you won't be happy in a marriage either!