Dugouts and Diapers

Jessica Starr Nichols

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Isn’t She Lovely

Grandmothers are very special people, and this weekend, we were able to celebrate the most beautiful 80-year-old woman on the planet….my Granny.

granny and weston2Wilma Jean Story was born on October 23, 1935, in Charlotte, TN. She met and married my ‘Ol Dad, Jerry Gilliam, on October 25, 1953. I wish with all of my heart that he could have been at her birthday party this weekend, and on Sunday, they could have celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary! This picture of my Granny and Weston was taken this past Christmas Eve, and we didn’t realize it until we uploaded the pictures, but ‘Ol Dad made it into the picture too!!! A portrait of him in his Colonial Bread uniform is hanging on the wall behind them. Just like ‘Ol Dad, Granny loves her grandchildren and great-grandchildren more than anything. She worked for years as a nurse, for a short time at a nursing home, but later making a home for herself at Dothan Pediatric Clinic. Just as her occupation suggests, she cares for people, and she is always willing to help anyone in need. I love to hear the stories she tells of the trouble she and her sisters got into, and the timeless stories of how much she loved ‘Ol Dad and all the years of their marriage. The trials that they overcame, and how their love stood the test of time. Nicholas Sparks doesn’t have anything on Jerry and Jean’s love story!

gilliam family 3In 80 years, she has cared for three children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Each and every one of us know that if we need anything, we can always go to Granny. She loves with her whole heart, unconditionally. We, as her family, love her more than any number of words in a blog could ever say. Her friends adore her. Her sisters are her best friends. Weston says it best, “I wuv Granny!” For me, personally, she was there for me in my darkest hour. I was 20 years old, the same age as she was when she had her first child, and had just given birth to a little baby boy named Banks, and she spent the night with me at the hospital, not because I needed help, but so I wouldn’t be alone. I can always count on her. I know that during the cold winter months, she will call for me to come pick up a warm pot of her amazing vegetable soup. Valentine’s Day we will be required to make room in our freezer for a heart-shaped ice cream cake. Every summer she asks me to make a scrapbook for her outgoing officers in the Pilot Club. In December, she will take me and my mom to lunch to celebrate our birthdays, and then we will go Christmas shopping together. There are three things you can count on at  her house every Christmas Eve…1.) We won’t open gifts until it’s dark, 2.) There will be Momma Story Punch in a real crystal bowl that only she and I will drink, and 3.) Everyone will gets socks and an orange in their stocking! I giggled as I typed that last sentence, because for all of us, Christmas Eve is our favorite! It wouldn’t mean as much without Granny. You can’t  help but smile when you think about her.

gilliam girlsI hope that my children and grandchildren will look up to me and adore me as I do my Granny. The photograph above features all of us girls and baby Weston. It’s one of my favorites, because you can truly see the resemblances among my granny, my mom, and myself. My sister looks much more like my dad’s family, and Weston is certainly a replica of Adam, but for me to be able to have a glimpse of what I will look like at both 59 and 80 by just looking at my mom and granny is a treasure to me. Granny will never fully know how much she means to me and my family, because no blog could ever be enough to share my feelings, but to put it simply, she’s lovely, amazing, inspiring, caring, absolutely beautiful, sassy, funny, wise, and most importantly, loving. So, HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY to the most beautiful Granny in the world!!!!! I love you forever and always!


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School Dances and Birthday Parties

There comes a moment when a mother spends all of her free time, the week of the school dance, making sure her thirteen year old has his hair cut, outfit purchased and tailored, tickets to the dinner and dance purchased, and then it’s time for pictures, and she stands behind the lens with tears in her eyes wondering where her baby boy went. I love that he still asks for Adam’s and my input on which tie will look best with the shirt he has picked out, and he asks to wear his dad’s expensive cologne. I’m beyond thankful that he’s confident enough to ask a girl to dance, and he knows to compliment her while they’re dancing. It brings my heart joy that he has grown into the young man that he is. I’m going to give Adam and myself a pat on the back, because his actions reflect on our parenting, and I know we’ve done a tremendous job thus far. Most importantly, his actions are a reflection of Who lives in his heart.

DSC_7243Friday night was Houston Academy’s homecoming dance for the 7th and 8th graders. I’ve never seen Banks look quite so handsome. He looked so grown up. Simultaneously, I felt proud yet sorrowful. I’m proud of the young man he’s become, and I wonder how in the world the last 13 years seemed to fly by. Adam and I wanted to do something special for him before the dance, so we took him to a local haberdashery and purchased him a new shirt, tie, and dress pants. My parents asked Banks what he would like for making such great grades, and he mentioned that he would like to have a blazer. They blessed him with a handsome navy, wool blazer. Adam does email marketing in his spare time for a few local businesses, and one of those businesses is S. Brannon Clothing. You won’t find a finer men’s clothing store anywhere. Steve and his wife Patty truly devote all of their passion to their business. I’m not sure if it’s the atmosphere of antiques and smiling faces, or if it’s the combination of those two characteristics along with the fine quality of clothing available at S. Brannon, but one thing is for sure, when you are dressed well, you carry yourself in a manner that exudes confidence and quality. Banks’ confidence was apparent Friday night as he was dressed in his fine accoutrements from S. Brannon Clothing.

DSC_7225When we picked Banks up from the dance, he was eager to let us know how great of a time he had. He got to dance with his crush, which, to a 13 year old boy, means the entire night was a success. As his mom, I would say, “She is a lucky young lady to get to dance with you!” He let us know that he felt bad for his peers that didn’t get asked to dance or got turned down, but then told us that he encouraged them by saying, “Don’t worry about it, because God has the perfect person for you.” Some of our friends wonder why we would allow our 13 year old to go to a school dance. Well, that’s why! He’s an amazing kid, and we trust him to do what’s right. We’ve taught him how to treat others, and we couldn’t be more proud of him!

DSC_7294Weston turned 3 on Friday morning at 12:18 am. We spent the day by eating birthday pancakes, and after we dropped his bubba off at the Homecoming dinner, Adam, Weston, and myself went to Chuck E Cheese’s! It brought back wonderful memories of my childhood, and it was a first for both Adam and Weston. He was on sensory overload!!!!! The flashing lights, sounds emitted by the games, and an 8 foot tall dancing mouse was right up Weston’s alley. He used all 15 of his tokens and won 35 tickets. He had a variety of prizes he could trade in his tickets for, and he picked a whistle and a Tootsie Roll. Wise choice, I think. It was such a lovely time for the three of us.

DSC_7299Saturday morning we headed to the park for Weston’s birthday party. As each of his friends ran up the sidewalk, he embraced them with a hug and was so overjoyed to see them. He and his friends played, climbed, went down the slide, and then Weston says, “Mommy, please me have cake now.” No problem, buddy! Anything you want!!!!! He told me he wanted a soccer ball cake back in July, and none of the local bakeries had a cake that looked like an actual soccer ball, so I found instructions on Pinterest and did it myself. They snacked on apple slices, Lay’s chips, and Gatorade before eating the soccer ball cake.

DSC_7390He was so excited to hear all of his friends singing, “Happy Birthday, Dear Weston….” He asked me everyday last week to sing it to him, and his little face lit up as all of his buddies sang in unison. He blew out his 3 candles, and looked over at me as he was eating his cake and said, “Dis cake is dewicious, mommy.” Perfect, my love! He just melts my heart. He has played, nonstop, with all of his new toys, footballs, and soccer ball. As the time drew close for his friends to leave, he hugged each one and told them thank you for coming to his party. He has so much love in his heart, and just like his brother, he treats people well. Again, props to Adam and myself for the parenting win with our boys and props that both boys exude the love of Jesus.


No matter their age or where these boys go in life, they will always be my babies, and I will always be here for them and available to help them whenever they need me. They are the perfect combinations of Adam and myself, and we couldn’t love any two children any more than we love Banks and Weston. They make us proud, and I’m thankful that they love us enough to talk to us about their school dance and to tell us that they had the best birthday party ever. Life is just better with my man clan! Thanks for reading and join me next week for a tribute to my sweet 80 year old Granny, whom we will be celebrating this weekend.

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Worth Far More Than Rubies

” A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” – Proverbs 31:10

Per karat, rubies are the most expensive colored  stone. Corundum, the mineral which rubies are made from, is one of the hardest substances known to man. It is second in hardness only to diamonds. Natural-occurring rubies are extremely rare, hence their value. Now, why would the worth of a wife of noble character be compared to the worth of a ruby? Well, she’s rare. She’s not easily found, just like a ruby in it’s natural state. She tough and strong, comparable to the mineral Corundum. Her strength, rarity, work ethic, servant’s heart, love for her family, and her love for God make her breathtakingly beautiful, reflecting the same brilliance as a freshly polished ruby.

ruby” Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” – Proverbs 31:11, 12

These two verses pretty much speak for themselves. Her husband is sure of her and trusts her,  and everything that he values, he does not lack. Verse twelve simply means that she makes him a better man by challenging him, encouraging him, being submissive, not in a controlling way but out of respect for his place as her husband and the head of their household, and loving him.

20130630-224357.jpg” She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.” – Proverbs 31:13-19

These six verses deal directly with the work ethic of the wife of noble character. She enjoys the work she does, whether it’s gardening, cooking, cleaning, spinning wool, or selling the things she has grown and made. Now, some of you may be thinking this is outdated and does not apply to today, but that’s not correct. We should work hard, cook, clean, make sure our family has what they need. Some people think these tasks are only attainable if you are housewife, but that’s not true. The wife described in these Scriptures had a job. The earnings were described as “hers.” She didn’t, however, allow her job to get in the way of providing for her family. She also didn’t procrastinate. Even if she was tired from a long day at work, she still completed the work that needed to be done. As we mentioned before, she is strong, just like the mineral Corundum. You have to be strong to be a wife. Marriage isn’t for the weak!!!!!

strongwoman” She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.” – Proverbs 31: 20-22

She’s gives to those in need without a thought of, “when will they pay me back?” or “I will do this for you, but I need you to this for me.” To give selflessly without expecting anything in return, especially today, is a gift. My parents taught me long ago that giving and expecting nothing in return is one of the greatest attributes a person can possess. People today are always more worried about what’s in it for them, and for this reason, they miss the blessing. By describing her family as being clothed in scarlet simply means that the color “scarlet” retains heat, so when it is cold, she makes certain that they are warm. The wife being clothed in fine linen and purple draws attention to the fact that she dressed respectably. She was not concerned with dressing in clothes that she could not afford, nor did she wear clothes that were tattered and torn. There is absolutely nothing wrong with owning or admiring fine things, but if you can’t afford them or your family is suffering because of your uncontrollable desires to  attain these things, it is a problem.

giving“Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes fine linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” Proverbs 31:23, 24

Finally, we get a look at the husband. He’s a respectable man who was clearly good at his occupation as well as powerful, but despite his place in life, he didn’t look down on her for making her own money. He, in turn, encouraged her. Yes, he still had rule over her as the head of the household, but he had great respect and admiration for his wife and how hard she worked, because a wife’s work doesn’t end when she clocks out. There’s always more to be done.

respect“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”- Proverbs 31:25-31

This last stretch of the chapter is my favorite. It’s like the closing paragraph of a paper. It summarizes her, and we get a closer look at what her family and friends think of her. We see that word, “strength” again. This time we are looking at her inward strength rather than her physical, muscular strength. She is not worried about the future. She trusts God fully, and she’s not oblivious to the fact that there will indeed be difficult days ahead. Rather than worrying about them, she chooses laughter. She’s wise. Wisdom is not being familiar with a bunch of facts. Wisdom is being able to make the right decisions during difficult times. Wisdom is being an encouragement when your husband loses his job. Wisdom is choosing to take as long as it requires to remodel your home, because that’s what is best for your budget and your family. Wisdom is being real with your children and allowing them to learn from your mistakes and being a listening ear for them in their time of need. Wisdom is choosing to say nothing when you’re being attacked, falsely accused, lied about, gossiped about, or misunderstood. Giving faithful instruction is knowing that what is being said is true. Again, we get a glimpse at the fact that she doesn’t just lie around at home. If there is something to be done, she is quick to accomplish it. Her children and husband adore her. Have you ever asked your husband and children what they think of you? You should. Her husband compliments her, with what is, in my opinion, the greatest compliment ever. He tells her that she’s better than any woman in the entire world. He values her. We also see that if a man chooses a woman based solely on her beauty, he’s mistaken. That outward beauty passes away. Inward beauty lasts a lifetime, and woman that loves God is certainly filled with inward beauty. The last verse is a command to the husbands that possess wives of noble character. They are told to honor her for her work. Tell her, “thank you.” Make a big deal about your wife, because she certainly deserves it. The chapter ends with a look at how her friends respect her for how hard she works and the person that she is. What a great way to be thought of.

adam and jessMany of you know that I prayed for eight years that God would send me a husband. I had to wait quite a while for him. I told myself that I was ready to get married and would be an excellent wife at the age of 22, but I was wrong. I may have been ready for the Nicholas Sparks version of marriage, which, by the way, doesn’t exist. Sorry to burst your bubble for all of you dreamers out there! There is no making out in the rain and making wild, passionate love for 2 days straight! WAKE UP! That only happens in the movies. I once heard it best described as, “a false perception of reality.” God had to prepare me for marriage. He had to show me that I could stand on my own. I had to work, provide for my household, learn to cook, clean, work in the yard, pay bills, make wise choices,etc….. God was preparing me for how much work marriage is! You can’t call in sick or take a day off from marriage. If you do that, it will fail! You must have goals everyday, and you must achieve them, or your family will suffer, and if they suffer, then you have not done your job. Being a wife and mother are the most selfless jobs in the world. There will be days that you do not sit down until you go to bed.  If you are accustomed to everything always going your way or people always being at your beck and call, marriage and motherhood is going to be a rude awakening for you. I strongly suggest that you pray for God to prepare you to be a wife and mother. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. After I heard a sermon on Proverbs 31, I knew that I was being called to be this woman, and although it took a long time to get there, I was finally ready to be a wife of noble character. A Proverbs 31 woman was on my husband’s list of “must haves” in a wife, and tonight after I had come home from church and pressure washed the house, sidewalk, driveway, and cooked a big supper, he said, “What are you going to do tonight?” I replied, “blog,” Adam said, ” about what?” I told him, “A Proverbs 31 woman,” and he said, “well, I’m looking at the greatest of them all.” I’m thankful for 8 years of waiting, and I’m thankful that my husband and my children place my worth as far more than rubies, and I serve a God that values me just the same, and their opinions of me are truly all that matter. Thank you for reading. Next week’s blog will be dedicated entirely to my boys! On the same day that Weston turns 3, Banks will be going to his school’s homecoming dance. I certainly do love my man clan!

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Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

Words…We think them. We speak them. We type them. We sing them. We write them. Sometimes a word stands alone, and sometimes it is combined with a series of other words. Whatever the case, our words have meaning. They can correct. They can encourage. They can belittle. They can destroy. They can praise, but all too often, they can hurt. Now, if you are a Believer, we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians to encourage one another and to build one another up. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command.

encouraging wordsI grew up as the middle child in my family. My sister was the boss. Whatever she told me and my brother to do, we did it. My brother learned sooner than I that in order to make his place, he needed to find his voice. I was very mild-mannered as a young child and have always been a peacemaker and very tender-hearted. In middle school, I knew that if I continued to keep quiet, I would forever get ran over, so I began to speak up! I would take up for myself, for others, support topics vocally that were important to me, and I would also be quite vocal if I felt a situation was unjust or if I didn’t like something. In high school, I had discovered that I was a born leader. I had a voice, and it was being heard. I haven’t always used my voice for good. For so many years, I looked at it as being strong, a leader, that’s just the way God made me, and  if someone didn’t like it, then they just couldn’t handle the truth. Until 18 months ago, it never dawned on me that my attempt at being brutally honest was just merely being brutal. Yes, tough love is sometimes needed, but tough love would include bringing light to someone’s strengths and encouraging them to continue with what they’re good at rather than tearing them down. So why do we feel the need to tear one another down? It’s because we are insecure in ourselves, and it takes the focus away from our own flaws.

tongueEighteen months ago, I began to study the book of James. I must say, James is the ancient day, male version of myself. He is straight to the point. He doesn’t cut corners. He’s my homeboy! Some of the things I read and studied were tough for me to swallow, because for so long, I had told myself that saying exactly what I was thinking, whether it was on point or misguided, was one of my attributes. I was wrong. I was convicted because for so long, I was tearing people down. Many times I was viewing others through jaded eyes. I was judgmental. I was hurtful. I didn’t really know what that felt like personally, because most of my life, I have not let what other people said or thought of me bother me. I did know that my words were being hurtful, and I prayed and asked God to change me. I wanted to build people up. I wanted to learn to let God fight for me instead of fighting for myself, and in the end, making a huge mess of things. It has been a daily struggle, but people are noticing. My dear friend, Amber, who is the kindest, most laid back person I know other than my husband, tells me now how proud she is of me and how much of a difference she can tell in my attitude and actions. My family has noticed the change. The thing is, once you choose to change how you react to people and how you view people, you also begin to feel for the first time. This summer, I sat through the most brutal, un-merited, completely false tongue lashing of my entire life. It was not tough love. It was not kind. It was hurtful, life-changing, and most of all, it attacked my calling in life which is my role as a wife and a mother. The old Jessica was brewing. Everything inside of me was telling me to let this person have it and to take up for myself, but that still small voice inside was quoting Exodus 14:14, “The Lord is fighting for you! So be still.” I sat there over an hour just listening, sobbing, and for the first time in my life, feeling how absolutely life-changing words can actually be. Today, most of what was said was gibberish, but one sentence that was said cut me to the core, and Satan has used that sentence everyday since to try and get me to believe what was said and to cause me to spiral into one of the darkest, saddest times of my life, but every morning, I call on God for strength, and He reminds me of Truth and who I am in Him. I was told, and I quote, “You are a terrible wife and mother!” Now, although I know that is absolutely a false accusation, it nearly destroyed me, because my sole purpose everyday is to glorify God in my job as a wife and mother. I find my joy in loving my husband and our boys.  I prayed for 8 years for God to prepare me to be an amazing wife, and I prayed specifically that He would mold me into the Proverbs 31 woman, and there is not one attribute described in Proverbs 31, that I do not possess. After this attack, God took me back there, and He showed me that I possessed all of the qualities I had prayed for. He reminded me of all the times when I was a single mother, with absolutely no help, that I cared for a child, worked two jobs, and went to school full-time. He reminded me that any time my boys or my husband needs something, the first person they turn to is me. He reminded me that I had shown growth and character that day when rather than lashing out, I was quiet and said nothing. Now, some may say that because I sobbed that it showed weakness. No, it showed how hurtful words can be. God’s reminders and Words encouraged me, revealed Truth, and lifted me up. That’s exactly how we should treat one another.

mathew 15

Nearly a year after I had begun studying James, I began to notice all the hate that was posted on social media towards: Christians, homosexuals, republicans, democrats, race, etc…. There were very few days that someone I followed wasn’t posting something hateful, whether it was an E-card concerning a certain subject attempting to be funny, a story about boycotting a certain store or brand because their beliefs and standards are different from our own, or someone posting a photo stating that a they are going to continue to fly a flag regardless of the hurt and bondage that flag represents to a certain race. It was all too much, and it hurt me to see it all, especially when it came from Christians, who were doing it in the name of Jesus. I decided it was best to delete my account because it was temptation for me to comment and tell them just exactly what I thought about their post. That wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. I do know that Jesus would never say, “boycott this brand or this store because they support gay marriage.” No, He wouldn’t share their beliefs, but on the contrary, in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is speaking of meat, but it’s the same principle when he tells the Christians in Corinth to continue to eat and drink the food and beverage that was sacrificed to idols, UNLESS it causes his brother to stumble. These people that are being hated against on social media are ALL God’s creation, and spewing hate will NEVER lead the lost to Christ, on the contrary, they will see what we as Christians post, and they will say, “why would I ever want to be like them.” The best way to be a witness is to love them. No, we don’t have to agree, and we shouldn’t, but we also shouldn’t hate. Well, what about the people spewing hate about Christianity, you may ask. They’re lost! They don’t know any better! How do you expect them to act???? Secondly, if you’ve read any of the Bible, you have seen time after time that we are to “count it all joy to be persecuted for Christ.” So quit trying to hold lost people to the same standards as Christians. At the same time, let’s do what we are commanded to do and love one another.

loveTo conclude this vast topic of “Words,” I would just like to remind you of the song that we all learned in preschool. “Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in LOVE, so be careful little mouth what you say.” If someone is giving you the silent treatment, rather than viewing it as them being rude or dismissive, consider that they are choosing to refrain from hurting you with their words, because in some way or another, you have, in turn, hurt them. If we would all just focus more on encouraging one another and building each other up and allowing God to fight our battles for us,  we would be much less likely to hurt others and destroy relationships. Know and believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God didn’t create junk, and find your worth in Him, so that when others use their words to tear you apart and belittle, you will allow Him to fight for you, and your silence can be used as an example of how we are to react. We won’t always get it right, because we are flawed, but we certainly can try, and nothing bad has ever come from people trying to do what’s right. My grandfather’s wise words of advice were, “Do what’s right.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Thank you all for taking the time to read about my own struggles with my words and my daily attempt to do what’s right. Next week, I’m going to share more about my 8 years of praying to be a Proverbs 31 woman and just what exactly that checklist entails. I hope you all have an amazing, ENCOURAGING week!