Looking back on this year, it is safe to say, it was, by far, the most difficult, yet most rewarding year of my life. The beginning of 2013 was consumed with the attempt to juggle my family, my job, nursing and pumping enough milk for an infant, coaching cheerleading, and a home renovation. I didn’t have time to shower on some days much less think. As a perfectionist, I tried to give 100% to each and every aspect of my life, but looking back, I failed miserably! Most of my failure was at home as a wife and mother. I wouldn’t trade my time with my cheerleaders for ANYTHING in the world, but I could have done a better job of paying attention to my husband and children on my off days.
As we eased into Spring, Adam was still working with Cox Pools, I was teaching and working on organizing cheer tryouts, summer camp and all that it entails, Banks was eating, sleeping, and breathing baseball, and Weston was finally sleeping through the night and exploring the wonderful world of puréed fruits and veggies. Mmmmmmm!
Our biggest blessing, at this point, was moving into our first house that we renovated with the help of a dear family friend and my parents. Previously, our family of four was residing in an 1100 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment, and it didn’t take us long to realize that we would not be able to stay there much longer. My grandmother was experiencing declining health, and needed twenty-four hour care. In an effort to help not only her and make things a bit less stressful for my precious daddy but also attend to our need for more space, we renovated and moved into her house. It was exhausting but completely worth it! There was wallpaper everywhere! My catch phrase for her house was “flowery wallpaper, wood paneling, and gold fixtures….OH MY!” We felt so proud and accomplished when we finished. We renovated 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. We still need to replace flooring, paint the playroom, and fix the yard, but hey, there’s always 2014! HA!
Finally, the day that all children and teachers dream of…..the beginning of summer vacation! Two and a half months of bliss….or so I thought. It was May 28, first day of summer vacation and my two year wedding anniversary. All I had was a short meeting scheduled for that morning then my day was dedicated to the most wonderful man in the world…my husband. I went in, for what I thought would be a quick end of the year meeting, but 3 minutes later, I was leaving the school that my siblings and I were alumni of, the school that my mother taught and coached at, the school that my child attended, and the school that I had given my everything to for the past two years with no teaching job, no coaching job, and a broken heart. Summer was bad. I’m an extremely optimistic person and a person with the spiritual gift of encouragement, and here I was needing not only encouragement but prayer, LOTS of prayer. I was clinically depressed. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and if I didn’t have 2 kids who needed to eat, I probably wouldn’t have. My husband was working out of town and only home on the weekends. I cried every single day, sometimes 4 and 5 times each day. I was broken, hurt, angry, and innocent. As a person who loves logic, I couldn’t understand why people who professed to be Christians and my friends would make this decision, especially when it was not in the best interest of the students. I couldn’t understand, but I did what I needed to do. I applied for 182 jobs between May and August. I only got called for 4 interviews. I was panicking. We needed money. My husband had humbled himself for over a year to dig swimming pools so that we could pay the bills. I had to hit the pavement and find something, anything. I went to McDonald’s and applied as a cashier to work weekends when Adam was home to watch the boys, and the manager ripped the application up in front of my face and said “I would never hire someone with more education than my own boss. What are you doing here? This is ridiculous.” I cried for 15 minutes in the parking lot, and although this was my low point, it was also the beginning of my turning point. It was the middle of August, and Banks was about to begin a new journey at a new school. The best school in town actually. I never dreamed that we could afford this school, but because they offer amazing financial aid and Banks’ awesome entrance exam score, he got in, and better than that, my parents only had to pay $500 more than they did for tuition at the school I taught at with half-priced tuition. It can only be explained as God. He did it. I hadn’t given Him the glory yet because I couldn’t see through my own mud….YET. After spending the entire Summer inside except to go to Banks’ baseball games, church, or a job interview, I woke up one morning and did something I had not done. I prayed! I had cried out, but it was just to be rescued. I never once thought to thank God for losing my job or thought to ask Him what His plan was for me. That day, my precious mother said to me, “Jessi, have you ever thought that maybe you’re just supposed to stay home?” I didn’t give it much thought because all I could see was that I made $20/week ironing shirts, and my husband was working at a job making only $30,000/year. There was no way being a stay at home mom was part of His plan. Later that afternoon, I was at my friend’s house, and she said, ” Jessica, have you ever thought that maybe God wants you to stay at home.” Ok, I was listening. I prayed for what seemed like hours that night. I cried and told The Lord that whatever He wanted me to do, I would do it! I was ready, but He had to make it perfectly clear to me. At that moment, it was like He said, “haven’t I?” My mind was blown! I’ve always worked, and staying home was never in MY plan. Even though the finances didn’t make sense, we never went hungry, thirsty, without electricity, nor did one bill go unpaid. Again, it could only be explained as God.
Finally I was out of this pit and could see clearly again. My heart breaks for people who are depressed. It is the worst place I’ve ever been, and I hope I never ever have to revisit it again. My heart also goes out to my husband and my children as I wasn’t the best for them because I was so incredibly low. I couldn’t help myself, how was I supposed to help them! As Banks was flourishing both scholastically and socially at his new school, he was also maturing physically and spiritually. He was, for the first time in his life, having to choose right from wrong in the people he talked to at school and the choices he made concerning the amount of schoolwork he was being given. Changing schools was the best decision we had made in a very long time. I was so proud of Banks, and I knew that this also was God’s plan. Just as things were starting to look up everywhere else, my marriage was struggling. My husband was never home, working a job he was miserable at, and was carrying around a daily sin that he had been enslaved to since he was a teenager. I found out about it, and confronted him head on. I knew that things for us would never change as long as he wasn’t being the spiritual head of our household that he vowed and promised to be. When I confronted him,I gave him a choice…..break the chains or get gone, because I wouldn’t have him being this influence in our children’s lives or my life. I told him that I prayed 8 years for him, and I knew he was the one God had made specifically for me and Banks, but the choice was his. Thanks to wonderful, true friends that weren’t afraid to get real with him and had also been slave to this same sin, he repented, asked forgiveness from God and from me! He has henceforth lived a life that is solely devoted to his Savior and his family. Two weeks following his repentance, a company called Pepi Foods called him to interview for a cafe manager position. It wasn’t his passion, but it certainly wasn’t digging swimming pools. At the initial interview, the man told him that he would need to go through a second interview. So he went to the second interview which was followed by a third interview with the CEO of the company. They offered him a position, not the cafe manager position but a position that they created for him, which happened to be nearly the exact same job he did in Auburn before we were married. Not only was he offered this job, the CEO asked him what he needed to be paid in order to provide for his family. Ummmmm, who does that??? I will tell you who, God! Again, it could only be attributed to God. Praise Him! Two weeks following the interview, Adam began a job that he loved and was good at for a Christian company with a Christian boss making several thousand dollars more a year than we made when we both worked. Summer was ending. Darkness was behind us, and we were being blessed, and for no other reason than for merely trusting Him.
It was now Autumn. We are a family living for and loving God and each other. Banks decided not to play fall travel ball because of the school workload he was encountering daily. Adam was at a job he loved, I was being a DYNAMITE wife and mommy, and Weston was walking, jabbering, and about to turn one. Everything was great! Be warned, when everything is great, God likes to throw in a “plot twist” to test your faithfulness. As we were getting ready to celebrate a time of Thanksgiving, my go-to person for sound wisdom and advice died. Adam’s grandmother was an amazing woman who understood my attitude, jokes, and sarcasm. Although I miss her daily, I know how elated she must be in heaven with her husband and Father! Through her death, our family was given the greatest gift we could ever imagine, which I will get to in a little bit. Thanksgiving was a wonderful time spent with both of our families. Family may be extremely annoying at times, but my gosh, they’re great! They’re there when it seems that everyone else has forgotten you.
As the holidays approached, I was able to fulfill a life-long dream, to cover my house in Christmas lights and yard decorations. It may seem trivial and silly to some, but to those that know and understand my love for all things Christmas, this was a dream come true. December brings with it singing, laughter, christmas trees, my birthday, my mom’s birthday, and the celebration of my Savior’s birth. It also brings a time of gift giving and receiving. If you would have asked me 6 months ago, I would have told you that our children would have to be on the angel tree in the mall in order to be able to get Christmas gifts, but God had different plans. Because of Him and His provision, we were able to provide our children with their best Christmas yet, and didn’t use one single credit card or take out a loan. Again, it’s just God. One very very special gift was given to us from Adam’s parents. Banks has begged for Adam to adopt him since before we were married, and it’s something that Adam has desired as well, but if you know anything about adoption, you know it isn’t cheap. We had not had the extra money to accomplish this, but as we sat around our Christmas tree, tears filled our eyes as we opened a card from his parents with a check inside the card to pay for the adoption. This is everything I had prayed for as a single mother for 8 LOOOOOONG years. This not only signified outwardly that Banks would officially be a “Nichols”, but it also signified their inward acceptance and love for not only Banks as their grandchild but me as his mother and their daughter-in-law, which is something no amount of money can buy. I will be forever grateful for their selflessness and generosity. They will never know how deeply this gift impacted and changed our lives. We will meet with an adoption attorney on Thursday morning to begin this process. Again, it’s God!
Lastly, December is a time for reflection. We have been through a lot this year, but through every trial I have reverted back to Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Even when your plan isn’t working out, rest in knowing that He has a far better plan than you could ever imagine. Although times were tough, we tithed more than we ever have and, in turn, have been richly rewarded for our obedience. We had some VERY tough conversations and decisions to make, but, in turn, some amazing times of making up and watching God work in our own lives and the lives of our children. I lost many people that claimed to be my “friend”, but with the revealing of true character, my true friends are absolutely amazing! The things, knowledge, people, and blessings we have gained this year have far outweighed all the really crappy things we’ve had to endure, and for that, I’m thankful. As this year comes to a close, I would like to individually thank those that have loved me, ministered to me and my family, and given me a reason to get out of bed when all I wanted to do was disappear. First, my Savior! You continually rescue me from the pit and love me despite my faults. I don’t deserve His love, but I’m thankful for that free grace every single day! Right up there with God is my husband. You are an amazing husband, father, provider, lover, singer, and man of God. I have no doubt that He will use you mightily at Pepi Foods and in whatever else you choose to pursue in the future. To my children, you boys are our future, and you both make me extremely proud, and I can’t wait to see how God chooses to use you both in the future. Thank you for making everyday worth living. My parents and Adam’s parents have been and done more than anything we could have ever imagined. A special thanks to my mom for being my voice of reason and sounding board, my daddy for his compassion and generous heart, Mrs. Suzanne for opening my eyes to other ways of doing things than my own way, Mr. Roger for always investing time in Banks’ life and giving so generously from your own gift to allow our family to officially be one. To my sister, Ashley, for being the best aunt in the world. Nothing is ever more important to you than spending time with or calling to check on your nephews. You have no idea how greatly that will impact their future. To my brother, Jud, for always teaching and showing my children to go after their dreams and never to let “life” or “people” stop you. You are an awesome inspiration for everyone. To Adam’s sister and brother for always praying for our family. Your prayers mean more than you will ever know. We love you all very much. My very best friend in the entire world, Miranda, you are my backbone. You give me hope, and you can AlWAYS make me smile no matter how miserable or scared I am. You are a rare and precious gift that was given to me 17 years ago, and when we are old, wearing dentures and diapers, we will still make each other laugh! Our precious, dear friends, Mark, Amber, Randy, and Deeya, thank you for investing in our lives. Thank you, men, for being there for my husband and being real with him. Thank you ladies for drying my tears and reciting Truth to me when all I could hear was the enemy resounding lies in my head. Our friendship is special, and we love you guys. To our church family for being a haven for our dirty, sinful selves and for loving us and ministering to our family throughout this extremely tough year. I would like to thank two very important people to me. These teenagers have given me hope, assurance that I did a good job, friendship, and an unexplainable bond between teacher/coach and student, Courtney and Broxton, you’ve forever changed my life. I may have taught you for two years, but you have taught me more about being genuine, truthful, and courageous in the last six months than I ever could have learned from anyone else. I will always be here for you two, whether day or night, good or bad, or even if you just need a hug. I love you two as my own children. You are both very special, and I know God has a mighty plan for your lives, so don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Lastly, I would like to thank all my former students and cheerleaders and parents that have kept in touch with me over this year. Thank you for reassuring me that I did do an excellent job and that everything would be ok. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to teach and coach your child. They forever changed my life.
So as 2013 comes to a close, I look forward to 2014 and all it’s struggles, blessings, tears, moments of laughter that await us, and most importantly, doing it all as a legal, on paper, family of four with the last name of Nichols!