Heather’s college graduation!

Never stop dreaming

Do you have a big dream in your heart? If you’ve heard me speak or write, you know one of my mottos is, “Dream big because we serve a big God!”

Our oldest daughter Heather had a big dream in her heart—to get her college Associate’s degree in Business Administration. And she did it, while working full-time and taking care of her two little girls, Annabelle and Violet!

heather-collegegrad
Our daughter Heather is a college graduate! We are so proud of her!

Heather wanted to quit many times. I encouraged her she would reach the finish line and to keep going. And she did. Ray and I and our family are so proud of her! 

Heather's pretty degree holder
Heather’s pretty degree holder

 

Heather's college degree
Heather’s college degree

Below she is walking across the stage to get her degree. Of course, our family, her girls, her boyfriend Matt, and her friend Lindsey cheered loudly as she did!

Heather in procession
Heather in procession

 

Heather crossing stage to get her degree
Heather crossing stage to get her degree

Below is a great headshot pic of Heather. She looked so beautiful in her cap, tassel, and gown!

Heather in her cap, tassel, and gown
Heather in her cap, tassel, and gown

Heather needed me to come get her phone and purse before the ceremony. I snapped a couple of pics of her and me before she graduated. I’m so excited and happy for her!

Me with my daughter Heather before her college graduation ceremony
Me with my daughter Heather before her college graduation ceremony

 

Heather & me before her graduation ceremony
Heather & me before her graduation ceremony

 

During the graduation ceremony, the speaker asked all  veterans who had served in the military and those serving now to stand up, for us to honor them. Ray served in the U.S. Navy for over 14 years as a combat medic.

Ray honored as a veteran
Ray honored as a veteran

Below is a great pic of our family with Heather: Ray, our daughter Leah, Heather, and me. We’re just missing our middle daughter, Eden, who is in OKlahoma and couldn’t come for the ceremony.

Our family with Heather at her college graduation: Ray, Leah, Heather & me
Our family with Heather at her college graduation: Ray, Leah, Heather & me

Below is a pic of Heather after the ceremony with her two precious girls,Violet and Annabelle.

Heather after her graduation with her 2 girls, Violet & Annabelle
Heather after her graduation with her 2 girls, Violet & Annabelle

Before the ceremony, I took a pic of Violet and Annabelle in their pink dresses by an ice cream freezer at a coffee shop at the church, where the graduation was held. It made such a cute pic!

Violet & Annabelle in their pink dresses
Violet & Annabelle in their pink dresses

Below is a pic of Heather after graduation with her boyfriend, Matt Franklin. They’ve been dating two years now and he was very proud of her, too. 

Heather & her boyfriend Matt after her graduation
Heather & her boyfriend Matt after her graduation

Below is Heather with her friend Lindsey, who has been a great friend to her.

Heather & her friend Lindsey after her graduation
Heather & her friend Lindsey after her graduation

I thought it was funny when my husband Ray told me that Heather had taken a picture with her “friends” at graduation. I said, “What friends? All her classes were online!”

Heather is a social butterfly. She had just met these people at her graduation ceremony and took pics and funny videos with them. I thought it was hilarious. Welcome to the social media world! You can see the long line of graduates in back of them. 

Heather at graduation with peers
Heather at graduation with peers

I gave Heather a little party at her house with family and a couple of friends to celebrate this huge accomplishment.

I ordered a cake from Hy-Vee, which was a white cake with white frosting and inscribed with blue frosting, “You did it, Heather!” It also had a cute little cap and scroll on it for the degree. They did a beautiful job on the cake and it was delicious!

Heather's college graduation cake
Heather’s college graduation cake

I found these adorable, teal-blue “sprinkle” plates and napkins and heart cup decorations to match the cake for the party at the dollar store.

sprinkle-plates
Sprinkle, teal-blue plates and napkins for party

 

Heart cups
Heart cups for party

We had a few tasty snacks like little smokies with BBQ sauce, potato chips, pickles, olives, broccoli with ranch, and Matt’s mom Kay brought yummy salted pretzels, drizzled with caramel. 

Little smokies with bbq sauce
Little smokies with bbq sauce

 

snacks for party
snacks for party

 

Salted pretzels drizzled with caramel
Salted pretzels drizzled with caramel

 

Since Heather loves the ocean like I do, I bought her a silver necklace with a clam pendant and a white stone and a silver bracelet as a gift.

Silver necklace with clam and white stone
Silver necklace with clam and white stone

 

Silver bracelet
Silver bracelet

Matt’s mom Kay bought her a beautiful, sunflower recipe book as a graduation gift. It was very cool!

Heather's sunflower recipe book gift from Kay
Heather’s sunflower recipe book gift from Kay

 

Recipe book gift
Recipe book gift

Here’s a pretty pic of Heather wearing the necklace and bracelet I bought her.

Heather wearing necklace & bracelet I gave her
Heather wearing necklace & bracelet I gave her

Here’s a great pic of Heather, Violet, and our daughter Leah at the little party. I love Heather’s picture of the ocean and stairs in the background. 

Heather, Violet, & Leah at little party
Heather, Violet, & Leah at little party

 

Heather's party with Matt and his mom Kay and our family
Heather’s party with Matt and his mom Kay and our family

 

Heather’s pregnant friend Tiffany came to the party. Her due date is in July. I think pregnant women are beautiful. She looked so cute in her hat. They’ve been friends since they were teens.

Heather & her friend Tiffany
Heather & her friend Tiffany

Her girls enjoyed the snacks. Here’s Annabelle acting silly, eating cake! Her girls were very proud of Heather, too!

Annabelle being silly
Annabelle being silly

 

Violet with cake
Violet with cake

I drew a little sign with a heart (I love hearts!) on the girls’ white board for the party to congratulate Heather.

Congrats sign
Congrats sign

What big dream or goal is in your heart? Whatever it is, you can do it!

God helped Heather to accomplish this amazing dream and goal, even while working full time and taking care of her girls, and He can help you, too! Nothing is impossible with God!

Ray and I are so very proud of Heather! If you would like to bless Heather with a gift for her college graduation (money is always good!), please feel free to do so!

“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.”–Ephesians 3:20, The Message

Heather did it! We're so proud of you!
Heather did it!
We’re so proud of you!
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Punch the voices of fear and doubt in the face

Leah
Leah

Our youngest daughter Leah graduated from our homeschool over two years ago, and she still isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. I’m like the racehorse Secretariat, rarin’ to go out of the starting gate. As people say, opposites attract, so my husband Ray is more like a turtle. He never makes fast decisions. Usually he needs several weeks’ time (or longer) to “think about it” and a 100 confirmations that this is what God really wants him to do.

PYATIGORSK, RUSSIA  - JULY 18: The race for the prize of the "Asuan";The jockey Hatkov and Smirnov. July 18; 2010 in Pyatigorsk; Caucasus; Russia.
Pyatigorksk, Russia horse race- Asuan

I, on the other hand, make snap decisions. I know exactly what I want and I go for the jugular and just do it. (This occasionally results in disasters, but as my anointed, fast-action friend Diane Cunningham says, “If you fail faster, you can get back up faster.”)

Not Ray. One time I gave Ray a present when he was taking forever to make an important decision. I wrote him a note that read, “This little gift is a true symbol of how you & God are moving right now (y’all’s pace.) You are God are both driving me up the wall! I will NEVER forget this time in our lives! Love, Beth.” Below is a picture of what I bought him ~ a ceramic turtle. He laughed.

Ray's ceramic turtle
Ray’s ceramic turtle

Leah is like Ray. She doesn’t make fast decisions. She’s very methodical and logical in her thinking. She likes some kind of plan ahead of time (although she can be spontaneous and flexible). She answers many questions, including, “Where do you want to go out to eat?”, “What’s something fun you want to do?”, and “What do you want to do with your life?” with, “I don’t know.” This drives me crazy.

Since Leah graduated, she still hasn’t enrolled in college and doesn’t have a job yet.  This is actually not uncommon today for 20 somethings, according to the New York Times on an article about “emerging adulthood” and “late bloomers.”

Many 20-somethings feel ambivalent and uncertain about the future due to seeing adults with dreary, dead-end jobs, the bitter marriages and/or divorces of their parents, their disappointing and disrespectful children, etc.

Who would want that for a future? They are thinking about their lives and what they really want much more carefully.

One in five people 18 to 24 years old are living in poverty because they are living on their own and can’t make it financially. So they are not as fast to “grow up,” move out, marry, go to college, etc.

I believe there’s several reasons for Leah constantly saying, “I don’t know.”

  • She’s a phlegmatic type personality.
  • She really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Most people in their 20’s and 30’s don’t, the Y generation, constantly asking “Why?” Why work? Why go to college? Why get  a car and go anywhere, when you can just text friends or connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Many of us don’t figure out what we really want to do until the 40’s, 50’s, or later. (Only about 27% of college graduates get jobs related to their major.) Some people never figure out what they want to do, going from job to job, place to place, relationship to relationship, living a spiritual gypsy-like life.
  • Leah is battling perfectionism and fear. She doesn’t want to get a job, screw up, and then get fired. Guess where she gets the perfectionism from? (Ray and me both! As my friend Shelley Valasek says, I’m a recovering perfectionist.) Also, I’ve battled fear my whole life, so I’m encouraging Leah to push past it by taking “baby steps” of action. Fear and perfectionism will trip you up and keep you from living an intentional, fulfilling life. God doesn’t want you to be afraid, but to “be strong and of good courage.” (Joshua 1:9) It is the enemy Satan who wants to make us fear.

Leah is still taking Suzuki violin lessons from her amazing instructor Emily. Leah plays classical music, hymns, Irish jigs, Christmas songs, and much more.

Leah with violin
Leah with violin

This past week Leah went with her sister Heather to see Lindsey Stirling in concert in Kansas City, whose hip hop violin music inspired Leah to begin playing the violin. They said it was amazing. Leah is now learning to play one of Lindsey’s songs. So cool!

Emily is encouraging Leah to listen to Itzhak Perlman, who played the theme song for the movie Schindler’s List. The conductor is John Williams.) Emily also encouraged her to listen to Joshua Bell.

Leah's violin instructor & Leah
Leah’s violin instructor Emily & Leah

Leah works daily on her graphic art. This year she started playing with watercolor paint. I’m trying to encourage her to sell her art on Etsy. This is another area where she needs to punch fear and doubt in the face. I see greatness in her and want to draw it out of her.

She drew the picture on the right of the moon with her graphic art tablet. I hung the picture in her bedroom.

Leah's moon
Leah’s moon

Leah is also babysitting her sister Heather’s daughters part-time this summer, Annabelle and Violet, while Heather works. She’s providing Leah’s food, giving her gas money, and paying her some to do this.

This will save Heather on expensive summer camp costs and teach Leah more responsibility, so I think it’s a good idea (although Ray and I are still strongly encouraging Leah to enroll in college art classes in fall 2015).

Violet and Annabelle
Leah’s nieces, Violet and Annabelle

Leah is also taking Ray’s EMT class that he’s teaching this summer at his work. Ray believes this course will give Leah a useful, practical skill she can add to her resume, be beneficially socially to make new friends, and will prepare her for college tests if she decides to enroll in college.

I just ordered Dave Ramsey’s Graduate’s Survival Guide. The book included was Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work that Matters by Jon Acuff. Leah and I are reading through this each day to encourage and motivate her to take the next step.

Counselor Al Andrews asked Jon what his inner voices told him – voices inside our heads that we think are our friends, but are really our enemy. Things like we’re not pretty enough, skinny enough, you’re stupid, ugly, a failure, you have to be perfect, etc. They are the voices of fear and doubt.

fear

Doubt and fear are like muscles, getting stronger and louder over time. He writes that if you don’t kill your voices, they will kill you. Jon gives 2 wise tips to beat these voices:

1. Write them down in a notebook. Lies hate the light of day and this exposes them. Jon says not to ask, “Is this a voice?” before you write them down, but just do it.

Scribble them down and them refute them with truth. I encourage you to find a Bible verse that addresses the topic.

For example, if you are struggling with thinking, “I’ll never get that job,” remember Philippians 4:13 NLV, “I can do all things because Christ gives me the strength” or Psalm 5:12, ESV, “For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield.”

2. Talk to other people. Fear wants to isolate you and put you on an island. As long as you keep fear to yourself, no one can tell you the truth. Share your doubts and fears with family, a friend, or a counselor.

You don’t have to do this alone. And remember that God is always with you and will never leave you. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

compass
compass

Fear is actually a compass, Jon writes. As Steven Pressfield says, it can “point to true North…that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing.” Just start. Take the next step of action in faith, trusting God. 

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Today is Leah’s 20th birthday

Leah with violin
Leah with violin

Today is our youngest daughter Leah’s 20th birthday. So hard to believe ~ where did the years go? It seems like yesterday she was a baby in a pink gown. You can read the story about the pink gown here.

Today I baked her a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. I found this arrow in the art section of the store, and bought it as her cake topper decoration.

arrow for direction this year for Leah
arrow for direction this year for Leah

Since Leah isn’t sure yet what she wants to do with her life, Ray and I have been praying for God’s wisdom and direction for Leah since she graduated in 2012.  I believe the arrow is prophetic and symbolic of God giving her direction this year, and of her choosing to go the right way, to follow Jesus.

It’s also cute and can be used as wall art for her bedroom. The arrow is actually a chalkboard – how creative!

The arrow chalkboard reminded me of Leah’s creativity. She is multi-gifted. Leah takes violin lessons and plays the violin beautifully: classical music like Bach, hymns, Irish jigs, and she’s even written a couple of her own songs on the violin. She is teaching herself how to play the mandolin and the guitar.

She is also an amazing, self-taught artist.

She draws by hand and draws daily on the graphic art tablet Ray bought her several years ago. Here’s one sample of her incredible graphic art:

Copyright 2014 Leah Jones
Copyright 2014 Leah Jones

Here’s another sample which is my favorite.

Copyright 2012 Leah Jones
Copyright 2012 Leah Jones

She was embarrassed when we sang happy birthday for her. We always light the candles and have our kids make a wish and blow out the candles on their birthday cake.

Leah was embarrassed when we sang to her
Leah was embarrassed when we sang to her

Ray also bought her and him an ice cream waffle cone today.

Ice cream waffle cone
Ice cream waffle cone

One of her birthday gifts is the Sims 4 video game, which she requested for her present.

Sims 4 video game
Sims 4 video game

Another gift that Ray and I gave her today is a cubic zirconia sterling silver heart necklace. She liked it and said it is pretty. Leah likes “shiny” things.

Leah's sterling silver heart necklace
Leah’s sterling silver heart necklace

 Here is a picture of Leah with me, Ray and Heather last year.

Me, Leah, Ray & Heather
Me, Leah, Ray & Heather

 Here’s a picture of me and Leah together at my Cinderella women’s conference this year.

Me with Leah
Me with Leah

 Here’s Leah with her sister Heather at Leah’s homeschool graduation.

Leah's graduation - her sister Heather and Leah
Leah’s graduation – her sister Heather and Leah

Here’s Leah with her sister Eden.

Leah at her graduation with her sister Eden
Leah at her graduation with her sister Eden

Here are Heather, Eden, and Leah together.

Heather, Eden, and Leah
Heather, Eden, and Leah

Leah is a beautiful, spiritually gifted, musically and artistically gifted, talented, highly intelligent, loving, balanced, funny, young woman. Ray and I are proud of her.

Some people don’t understand Leah because she is so quiet. Ray and I used to be the same way; we were both incredibly shy, but grew out of it. I believe Leah will grow out of her shyness, too, one day. Some friends shared that they believe Leah is like a late-blooming flower. They bloom late in the season, but when they bloom, it’s like they spring up overnight. 

Leah is very shy and finds it hard to talk with people, and has just a few close friends, but she’s a wonderful person to get to know. If you’re not her friend, you are really missing out!

Here is Leah with her friends at the bowling alley.

Leah and friends
Leah and friends

And another pic with friends at the bowling alley. (Annabelle too)

Leah at bowling alley with friends
Leah at bowling alley with friends

These are her friends from small group on Sundays.

Leah & friends
Leah & friends

Leah and her friend David Christian at the bowling alley.

Leah & David Christian at bowling alley
Leah & David Christian at bowling alley

Here’s her friends from small group acting goofy.

Small group
Small group

She loves her friends.

She also loves her iPhone cell phone. She has a piano app on it that she plays all the time and her games. 

Leah loves her iPhone
Leah loves her iPhone

And she loves animals, especially cats.

Leah and cat
Leah and cat

Leah also loves horses. She used to take riding lessons and competed in English horse riding shows. She won a blue ribbon first place prize in her 3rd show! This year she was able to ride on a horse again for the first time in years. I’m praying for us both to be able to ride again soon.

Our daughter Leah on Ace
Our daughter Leah on Ace

God has great plans for  Leah’s life. I can’t wait to see them unfold.

“I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11, CEV

Leah, we love you so much. You are precious to God, others, and many other people.

Your life is a beautiful gift to me, and I’m so thankful for you. Happy 20th. 

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