Meeting My Husband For The Second Time

By now, I’ve written about how I met Nathan, how I had a dream about my future husband, and what happened in the years between the dream and reuniting with him.

When I learned that Nathan was single, I was thrilled, but tried to act normal as I spoke with his cousin. I’m sure the pitch of my voice jumped into first soprano register as I said, “Oh, really?”

As I tried to figure out how to get reunited with Nathan—because I thought I could and should be in control of making this important thing happen—I heard my friend inviting me to family dinner on Saturday . . . where Nathan would be in attendance.

What to wear?

We all know that’s one of the main things to obsess over when meeting the man of, literally, your dreams. That, and wondering what’s the best liquid diet to abuse for the next week to drop some pounds before the Big Meeting.

But relax, I didn’t throw my physical health into jeopardy. My self-confidence was in place. I didn’t even buy anything new to wear. What I did do was pray. In fact, I came closer to adhering to the biblical instruction of “pray continuously” than any other time in my life! Reuniting with Nathan again and having a dream tucked in my heart was a large burden to bear. I told my coworkers, “I feel like I know something about him that no one else knows.” It was a strange feeling.

Finally, the day of the family meal arrived. When I pulled up in my 10-year-old, paint-peeling-off-of-it, no-wheel-covers, PAID-FOR Sentra, I scanned the cars in the driveway and tried to ascertain which one he might drive. The only car that even looked remotely his teenage-style (because surely he still wore steel-toed boots and baseball caps) was an SUV. But it was a wimpy SUV so that caused me to question who he might’ve become—all of this based on a car that maybe he drove. I walked to the door, rang the bell, was greeted by his cousin, walked in and . . . he wasn’t there yet.

For an introvert, this is great. This way, I could establish comfort with my surroundings without his witness. I could catch up with everyone and establish security so that it would be easier and faster to establish stability and security with him when he arrived.

And then he arrived. Nathan the man, not the kid, and not the teenager I last saw. This was Nathan, the bearded, tall, broad, handsome, strong, talented (he brought baked nachos to the meal) man. Whew! The first sighting was over. The “Hi’s” exchanged. The awkward side hug—oh, but I fit just perfect there! And the bobbing and nodding of heads as “How are yous” and “Goods” were exchanged.

And then I moved away from him. Because nerves. And catch my breath. And calm down!

Then he sat next to me with his plate of food, and though I can’t remember now what he said, he clearly, and cleverly zinged me. And it began, flirting by way of poking fun at each other. The only seventh-grade thing we didn’t do was hit each other.

We talked for a good while, even after most of his family had gone. His cousin, obviously aware of how I felt about Nathan when we were teens and now seeing our interaction, did her best to persuade Nathan to go to the movies with her, her husband and me. He was unable to, due to prior commitments.

I was disappointed. After all, I’d had a very vivid, precise dream. He was supposed to fall for me today. Our romance was supposed to just . . . start. I write those last couple of sentences tongue-in-cheek. I wasn’t forward-thinking enough at the time to truly set expectations for myself and for our first meeting in 15 years. I didn’t think I had any, but, based on my disappointment and my nervousness over how to make this love affair a reality, I did. It would’ve saved me some worry and wrestling with God if I had written down my expectations for that first meeting and for pretty much all the interactions I had with him for nearly the next year.

Coming up in future posts: How we break up before we were even dating; A year of silence between us; how we were truly just friends for years; how I gave up on us; and more!

Weight Loss Won’t Solve the Problem That Plagues You

Weight Loss Won't Solve the Problem That Plagues You

In 2008, I weighed 100 pounds more than what my BMI said I should. Disruptive and difficult things were happening in late 2007 and into 2008, and I slowly began losing weight.

After losing about 15 pounds, I plateaued for about a year. Plateaued is a nice word for stopped-trying-and-luckily-didn’t-gain-weight. But in 2008, I knew I had to change if I was going to have the future I always envisioned.

So, I flipped the switch in my brain and wanted health more than I wanted anything else. Without saying it audibly, I told myself, This, That, and The Other will all be solved when I lose the weight.

It’s taken six years for me to lose 70 pounds and maintain it. That’s a turtle-race kind of timeframe—that’s not even 12 pounds a year.

In reality, it’s a good thing it took that long. For one, research says that taking weight off slowly means you’ll actually keep it off. And that’s been true—except for the first year of marriage when I put on the newlywed 15. But I digress.

Additionally, taking the weight off slowly allowed me to manage expectations over time, and the struggle to maintain consistency matured me and taught me how to manage my thoughts and perspectives. Did I want to lose 70 pounds in six months? Absolutely. I see it as a blessing that I didn’t. I probably would’ve crashed and burned, and would’ve gained it back the following six months.

So, when I arrived at the 70-pound loss, I realized that This, That, and The Other didn’t get solved for a while. And it was frustrating. Weren’t girls this new-to-me size supposed to have boyfriends, better attitudes, be happier, have better cars, nicer clothes and less worries?

After grumbling through this in my brain for a while, I had to change my perspective—to accept that not all of my problems would disappear with the weight. Rather, I’d need to unravel what I thought about myself, my worth and my appearance. And fortunately, this time—I attribute this to age—I didn’t navel gaze. I accepted that what I thought was going to happen didn’t happen, and I determined how to move forward and to get out of life what I wanted.

I’ve heard of others who were not as fortunate to bounce back from the disappointment of unsolved problems that weight loss was supposed to solve. They lost significant amounts of weight in short amounts of time and lost themselves. What they thought weight loss was going to solve, didn’t get solved, and they were wrecked to learn that they had internal work to do.

I didn’t lose weight slowly on purpose. But in hindsight, I’m glad it happened that way. Weight loss didn’t solve the problems that plagued me. But the struggle, the renewal of my mind, the persistence and the gradual results appropriately paced a total transformation. And suddenly those plaguing problems didn’t bother me anymore.

Has there been anything in your life you’ve changed because you thought it would solve all your problems? What happened? What did you learn?

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and Vulnerability

Running Lessons in Self-Esteem and VulnerabilityYou could say I’m into social media. I have accounts on all of the main share-my-life portals and even on some of the not-so-main ones. Based on my social media presence, you might think that my life is an open book. And that’s what many on social media like for others to think. Many of us, however, are very precise about what of our lives we share and what we guard. Mostly, for me, I guard stuff of which I’m self-conscious.

For instance, you may have seen that I post about running. Though you could probably dig into my online profiles a little bit to find out how fast of a runner I am, or how far I’m able to run, I try not to publish that information directly to social media. I’m still a running-work-in-progress. So, when I hit the goal I’m seeking, then I’ll post it to all of social media!

One of the not-so-main social media apps I use is called Strava. It maps my runs, and tells me what my times are for various distances, what the elevations are, and what my pace is. It also keeps track of the races I run. I can save running routes and track my pace progress as I run those routes.

People who have the app can follow other users of the app. Currently, I follow only two or three people. And typically on these apps, I keep my profile private so that others can’t follow me unless I approve their follow request. With Strava, I decided to be somewhat bold and keep my profile public for other registered users of the app. I didn’t know of any friends who used the app, so I thought that my public profile would be somewhat private since only registered users could access profiles.

A few months ago, I was faced with the reality of this running insecurity when a friend started following me on Strava. This is someone who I am inspired by, who I’ve always held in high regard—she was now going to be able to see a vulnerable part of me. At my age, you’d think insecurities would be a thing of the past—in a lot of ways, they are. But my current running achievements are not something I’m proud of. For instance, I feel like I’m lying if I tell someone I ran a half-marathon. In truth, I completed a half-marathon by walking approximately three of the thirteen miles. So, I didn’t run it completely—I’ve bought into the lie that it’s less of an achievement if I didn’t run the whole thing.

It’s a small thing, right? My contribution to running as a sport won’t likely be consequential. This realization makes me wonder: Is that what I’m doing it for? To make some sort of mark?

In short, no, I’m not looking to make a mark.

Having a friend follow me on Strava has challenged my insecurities and has helped me realize that it’s not running I’m trying to conquer. Rather, I use running as a tool to conquer things within me. I’m slow, yes. Sometimes I have to walk. Often, I want to quit. Lately, I haven’t run at all. But when I run, I say things to myself that I don’t say enough to myself: “I’ve got this;” “Keep going;” “I’m strong;” “I’m in charge of my body;” and other self-affirming mantras. And when I meet whatever daily or weekly running goal, there isn’t another feeling like it—because somewhere in the middle of that run or that training schedule, I thought I wasn’t going to make it. But I did.

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

A Letter to a Teenage Niece

A Letter to a Teenage NieceMy nieces are growing up faster than I’d like to realize. One minute they’re six, the next minute they’re driving and dating and rolling their eyes—in a bad way.

My oldest niece turned 14 last month. She’s beautiful, tall, innocent, sweet and thoughtful. It’s a beautiful time to watch her grow. It’s also probably a nerve-wracking time for her parents. As I wonder what she’ll experience as she grows and matures, there are a few things I’d like to tell her. . . .

Madison, I am so proud of who you are—your effort in school, your compassion, your musical talent, and the development of your friendships.

You should know, above all things, that you have a heavenly Father who made you, who loves you and who wants to be your friend forever. You can know Him and communicate with Him personally. He will not fail you. There will be many times when you’ll wonder what He’s doing in your life, or why something did or didn’t happen. Trust that He is good, and He fulfills His promises. Remember the times in your life when His power, goodness, grace, mercy and love were evident to you—you’ll need to remember those times when your world gets rocked. Until that time, be grateful, abounding in joy—He is constantly moving to be closer to you. Let Him in to every part of your life—school, dating, family, health, finances, all of it. Read the Bible cover to cover, and read books about Him. Ask that He will reveal Himself to you. He will! Ask Him to speak to you and He will! Ask Him for wisdom, discernment and mercy. He will give them! And learn to wait on Him well. Wait on Him with an attitude of positivity, not one of a petulant, pouting child as I have often done. Resist temptation; and when you don’t know how, call His name. There is power in the name of Jesus.

Know your worth. You are a child of the most-high God. You were chosen, hand-picked to be who you are. Your name is written on the palms of His hands; you are His. You are worthy of love, respect and honor. Resist those who knowingly or unknowingly try to bring you down, to make you less than you are. Create boundaries physically and emotionally of what you will allow in your life and what you will keep out of your life. Any pressure you feel from others to be less than you are or want to be is only that—a feeling. It is not real. What’s real is what God says about you. Ask Him what He thinks of you. He will tell you!

Remember that you are in charge of the way you think. You can choose things that bring life—hope, love, faith, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, etc.—or you can choose things that bring despair, like anger, doubt, insecurity, and greed. You have the ability to train your mind to think good thoughts, to dwell on good things. Practice now to think on good things.

Do not follow your heart willy-nilly. You’ll hear the “follow your heart” mantra again and again. Instead, follow your heart when you’re sure that there are good things in your heart that are leading you. These good things get into your heart when you put them there. Read Scripture, talk to God, worship, share with others, and practice serving, giving, and loving in the context of community.

Scripture says that the heart of man is deceitful. Time and again the Bible talks about guarding your heart or putting the right things in your heart. When your heart pulls you one way, examine it, even if for only a moment. Check the pull of your heart against what the Holy Spirit says about the situation. Then follow, or don’t. Don’t rely solely on emotions in any situation. Make it a practice to incorporate your brain. You’ll miss experiencing a lot of craziness if you balance yourself.

Be spontaneous and grasp opportunities! Now is the time to think about what you want your life to be about—even though you’re only 14. If you start thinking about it in college or even after you’ve graduated from college, then you may have missed some things. I’m not talking about being some super-focused brainiac who racks up scholastic achievements (though that’s not a bad thing). I’m simply talking about deciding whether you want to take time off from college and travel, or study abroad or start your own business. Decide if you want to be a daredevil and pursue kayaking, sky diving, scuba diving, rock climbing or hang gliding. If you have some things in mind that you want to do before you die, I suggest writing them down and trying to do them before you get married, or before you have kids, or before your kids graduate from college. Get some fun life events under your belt early and often—they will develop your personality and interests.

And finally, your family and I love you more than you’ll ever fully grasp—and that’s how it’s supposed to be. When you crash and burn or get in trouble or make a bad choice, we’ll all be there to pick you up, comfort you and move you back to functioning. It’s what families do. Don’t feel guilty about it or uncomfortable. Lean on us when you’re in need. We are your support and your resources. What we have, you have. There is no end to our love and our belief in you.

With all peace, love and hope, your aunt,

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

6 Tips for Family History Interviews

6 Tips for Family History InterviewsOnly recently am I coming to understand and recognize my passion for family history. Growing up, it was not uncommon for unofficial family reunions of 100 Dortches to descend upon a central homestead several times a year. We love a good gathering. As the older generations have passed on, it’s hard not to notice that our gatherings are sometimes smaller and less frequent. Realizing that times are changing has pressed me toward taking action on some of the family-centric projects I’ve delayed for years.

Since I first watched my grandmother draw out a beautiful tree on a piece of notebook paper—to which she labeled (from memory) six generations of our family—I’ve known that having roots is important. From the slide shows my grandfather conducted on most Friday nights, I learned that recording memories made connections between others.

I’m only now slowing down enough to realize that my projects of recording my family history, tracing my family tree, and establishing my own family traditions, are passions that have lain dormant for too long.

Several months ago, I set out to video a series of interviews with my dad. His thoughts on life and his memories provide treasured insights for me and future generations of my family. In a previous post, I listed the questions I compiled from my online research that I used as a guideline to spark my father’s memories.

However, having a comprehensive list of questions and barreling through them is not going to make for a good interview. Recording memories is a marathon, not a sprint.

Provided below are six guidelines I used while interviewing my dad. I implore you to make these ideas your own, print the questions from my previous post, and learn about yourself and your family through this process.

1)   No pressure; be conversational! Your father or grandmother may feel nervous to be on camera. Therefore, it’s a good idea to establish a no pressure attitude. Reassure them, that this is not a one-way street—they will not be expected to recite their life story from beginning to end without stopping. Rather, this is a time of conversation, to learn more about family and to document unique memories. As the interviewer, and as the person in relationship to the subject, you have the ability to discern what questions to skip and which questions to reword. Use your knowledge of the subject to banter and engage during the question-answer process. This will make the event a conversation instead of a documentary.

2)   Ask them to tell the stories you’ve heard but can’t quite remember. There will be some stories that you remember hearing from your subject that aren’t related to the list of questions you’ve compiled. Ask for permission to talk about various stories and ask them to fill in the details you’ve forgotten.

3)   Be in a good space. You want everyone involved to be comfortable. I’ve found it best to place the camera to the side and not directly in front of the subject. It usually provides a more complimentary viewing angle, and it’s less intimidating than a straight-on shot. Make sure the subject is in a comfy chair, has water accessible to them, is comfortable with the temperature and feels at home. Also, be sure the lighting is not glaring into their eyes and isn’t too hot. Indirect lighting, bouncing off of white walls, or even makeshift reflective boards can be used to diffuse light.

4)   Take breaks. This will be a lengthy process. There will be many tangents, and you’ll unearth memories that are emotional. Take a break every hour to stand up, walk around, get a drink, eat a snack, etc. The breaks will help keep the emotions at bay, and will provide the brain a few minutes to rest.

5)   Be spontaneous. Memories often spark memories, so be prepared to be spontaneous. Know that your subject is going to wander after many rabbit trails. And that’s great! You want those stories and memories that you haven’t heard before; you want those insights. Don’t get bent out of shape because you’re not “sticking to the script” of your questions list. Engage your subject with questions about their tangent. This proves your interest and validates the importance of what they’re sharing. Also, be aware that some questions may get answered because of a tangent on a previous question. No worries, skip ahead and adapt. And it’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment—while the camera rolls—to find your place, or make adaptations to your interview plan. This is not a film festival entry . . . unless it is. But, there’s editing.

6)   Roll with the emotions. Things will get emotional. Have a discrete box of tissues within sight of the subject. If tears emerge, he or she can see to grab one if needed. It would be best not to point out the tissues or hand them over. Allow the subject to feel what they are feeling and to reach for a tissue on their timeline. If you’re able to, remain calm and breathe deeply so that you can support your subject through the difficult memory. Once their story or this emotional moment is passed, take a break for a few minutes and regroup.

Have you interviewed a family member? How did it go? What did you learn?


©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

Between the Dream and the Dating

Between the Dream and the Dating

Why would anyone doubt God after they’d asked for and received a vision of their future? Why would anyone return to a pit after they’d seen a vision of the mountaintop?

There is no lack of reasons for why I didn’t trust what God had shown me in a dream about Nathan. But chief among them is that I wasn’t much for standing on my faith back then. In those days, I believed when I saw proof—seeing was believing. And for a long time, the scenery around me didn’t change. I was in direct opposition to what Hebrews 11:1 says: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” (NIV).

To understand the Marianna Trench depth from whence my life has come, I have to tell you a little about the story with my ex-boyfriend—the eight years of on-again-off-again. I don’t care to dredge up details or disclose names, so you’ll find that I skim over a lot. But I want you to have an idea that I was a mess back then, involved with someone just as messy.

He was the first guy to intentionally pursue a relationship with me rather than “fall in” to a relationship with me by default, familiarity or boredom. He was charming and witty and loved by many. From the outset, I was uneasy and felt like I “shouldn’t” date him . . . for reasons ranging from social to spiritual to emotional to factual.

Because I wanted a relationship so badly, and because I thought I knew that he loved me, we started dating. Weeks later, I broke up with him but we kept hanging out as friends.

As in everything, I prayed fervently for clarity. During a prayer retreat in Jacksonville, Fla., God impressed on me very clearly that I should stay away from this man. So, I did. And for a while, I was able to refrain from our friendship. However, eventually, we started hanging out again. Soon, my conflicted feelings returned—until I literally told God to leave me alone about this relationship. Within days of rejecting God’s leading, we returned to dating.

I realize now that our relationship was never fully what I wanted it to be—I was never fully who I wanted to be within that relationship. The way we worked didn’t really work. But I was too insecure and too scared of being alone that I ignored what I wanted and who I was; I made the relationship work as well as I could.

In the last years of our relationship, I was clearly being strung along—I even knew it myself. And I accepted my place on his line because I thought he’d grow up and change and be the man I thought I’d seen glimpses of—restoring our relationship and moving toward marriage.

How dysfunctional is all that, right? Oh, goodness.

Even though I was in counseling this whole time, things were not untangling (that didn’t happen until much later and via a form of counseling called Trauma Resolution Therapy. You can check out a book about it called Stop Treating Symptoms and Start Resolving Trauma.). As I was going through those years of back-and-forth with my ex, I perceived myself as strong, confident and faithful. Those were façades I portrayed, disguising my internal, psychological survival.

So, during the time between the dream (2006) to the time I reconnected with Nathan (2008), I was not dating my ex, but we had a relationship—he was the fisherman, I was the fish on his line. All of this, DESPITE the fact that I asked God for a dream and He gave me one.

For months after the dream, I grieved the lost relationship and denied my desperate urgings to contact my ex-boyfriend who was then living out-of-state. But something must’ve been missing from his new life because he sought me out again. Despite knowing he wasn’t good for me, I grabbed hold of the line and sought to wait out his relational immaturity.

Over the next two years—as I thought we were building a new friendship, as we traveled and visited one another, as we talked for hours on the phone, as we treated one another as significant others—I was hopeful that we’d work things out, get married and finally start a life together.

But every once in a while, I’d hear from other friends that he was seeing someone. When confronted, he denied it and reassured me that he wasn’t ready for a relationship—that he wanted to continue building our relationship. I opened my wallet and bought what he was selling.

Then, in 2008, my relationship with my ex felt like it was on an upward, positive swing. It seemed that we were on a path to reconciliation. So much so, that I planned to travel to spend my birthday with him. I daringly thought that we would reconcile over my birthday weekend.

Two days before my roommate and I were to depart (she was coming with me), my ex called to tell me he was interested in someone.

I told him to get lost, slammed down the phone, canceled my trip and never talked to him again!

No, that’s not what happened. My roommate and I . . . went on the trip anyway. Collective groan here, right? But that trip literally changed my life.

Maybe I was a little psychotic on that trip. Okay, a lot psychotic—I literally snooped all around his house. You wouldn’t believe the evidence I found of exactly how much he cheated on me while we really were dating and when we were pseudo-dating. I confronted him, he couldn’t deny it and he suggested we take a break. He suggested it, and I realized: I was done with breaks. I told him: “All the times before, when we would ‘take a break,’ I never felt like it was truly over between us. I always knew we’d get back together or make something work. But this feels final. It’s over.” Something in him still wanted to keep the hook in me that I was ripping out of my heart, and he asked if we could be friends someday. To which I replied: “I don’t want to talk to you for at least two years, and maybe not even then.”

Bless my roommate. Through this tumultuous trip, she had to scoop up all my feelings and tears and hold me together. Much of my strength during that time was born from her prayers over me and her undying ability to listen to all the crap I had to say about my ex.

Returning home, I was amazed at the lack of sadness. A switch had been flipped and the sub-station of insecurity, fear and faithlessness that kept me in a relationship with him was unplugged.

Sometime in July 2008 was the last time I spoke with my ex—in an argument over his returning something that belonged to me.

The next month, Facebook suggested that I might know a girl who went to the same high school as I did. We had several Facebook friends in common, so I clicked the link. That click revealed the profile of Nathan’s cousin, one of my best friends from high school. It was her house where I first met Nathan as a teenager.

She and I messaged each other and briefly caught up. She told me her older sister wanted me to give her a call and catch up too.

I called the older sister, Nathan’s cousin, on a Saturday morning, as I was driving to my dad’s house. As we chatted and caught up, she asked if I was married. I told her, “Not yet!”

I will forever remember where I was when she replied: “Well, you know, Nathan’s single. . . . ”

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

For Singles: Increasing Your Variables

Several years ago, before marriage and after a particularly poignant conversation with my then-roommate, I realized how tired I was of complaining about there not being anyone in my life to date or hang out with. Stopping the complaining was one action to take, but I wanted more than just the achievement of pushing aside worthless thoughts. I wanted to do something about it.

I remember praying one night: Lord, I know that You could actually lead my future husband to my doorstep, and I could meet him without ever leaving my house. But I don’t think You’re going to do that. Please guide me to the relationships You’d like me to have in my life.

Thus started “Operation: Increase my Variables.”

My first round of business was to find events that interested me and, here’s the important part, sign up for them! Bocce Ball league, check. Kickball league, check. Running local races, check. Joining the local track club, check. Softball league, check. Arts classes, check. And drumroll, finally upgrade the dating site profiles from free, no-pictures accounts to yes-pictures, but for a limited time.

I decided that branching out and signing up for events, classes, and sports that interested me was one way to increase my variables—for meeting a prospective husband. With this increase in variables, I met a ton of women who were doing the same thing. Rather than being disappointed in the saturation in the market, I adopted the perspective that my fellow ladies knew men that I didn’t know. They had brothers or friends or accountants who were single men. So, knowing these ladies put me in the proximity of more variables.

For a while, my social calendar was super busy. And I met a lot of new friends. And I went out with a few men. But all along the way, I learned more about what I liked and didn’t like—not just in a life-partner, but in regard to my hobbies, interests and passions. Turns out, I don’t care for kickball or softball, but bocce rocks. Metalsmithing may not come easy, but wire-wrapping did.

Through these adventures, I gained confidence, generosity, hope, joy, memories, new friends and some new hobbies. Did I find Mr. Right in any of these variables? I didn’t. God brought Mr. Right to me through a unique series of events. But who’s to say that getting out of the house, leaving my comfort zone behind and developing myself through these experiences didn’t somehow allow the opportunity for God to reintroduce me to Nathan? Perhaps the openness I gained through those new experiences taught me how to recognize Mr. Right when he did appear.

My single friends: How have you stepped outside of your comfort zone lately? What are you opening yourself up to today?

Have you Prayed a “Dangerous” Prayer Recently?

Have you Prayed a "Dangerous" Prayer Recently?

Many of us have seen the posts, written the posts, or shared the posts on our social networks—bold prayers asking God for renewal, asking for restoration, asking for change, asking for God’s will, asking for growth, asking for patience. Outward cries to a powerful God in front of a faceless collective audience.

Days later, we’ve seen the follow-up posts—recantations of everything that is wrong, or cryptic musings tainted with hopelessness and despair.

When I read these two types of posts within days or weeks of each other, I wonder what the writer expected. Were they paying attention to what they were asking for?

Since I was a teen, I’ve asked God for big things—to make me more like Him; to take away this, that or the other vice; to cleanse my heart; change my heart; renew my mind.

It was only in my late 20s that I became aware of what I was asking God to do—to mess with me in my already-messed-up life. As He worked to unravel my tangled relationships, behaviors, and sins, it looked more and more to me like things were getting worse. I learned, over time and through harsh consequences, that once prayed, God didn’t leave me untouched. And if I would be still, remaining focused on His mercy and grace, I would come through with a better understanding of Him and a little more faith to stand on.

What if, after the bold prayers are prayed, and what seems like greater conflict arises, we were to look for what God was clearing away, uprooting, or renewing? What if we understood and accepted that the prayers for patience would be met with opportunities to practice patience? Prayers for change would be met with something different than what was expected? Prayers for renewal would be met with the cutting away of some things and the growing of other things?

Pray bold prayers without hesitation. Then live the life you’re asking God for with awareness, confidence and faith. The mess that appears to be getting worse, may be becoming clear.

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

How to Capture Your Family History: The Questions

How to Capture Your Family History: The Questions

My family is rich with unique stories about triumphs, hardships, spectacles, debacles, joys and heartbreaks. Though I’ve heard the stories time and again and can recite most of the main points, I know it’s important to record these stories as directly from the source as possible.

Having interviewed my grandparents years before, recording their history on VHS (look it up, kiddos), my family understands the value of capturing our history—what it means to be a Davis, or Dildy or Dortch; where we came from; what we’ve achieved, or even failed at attempting.

Unfortunately, by the time my mother got sick in 2007, her strength would not allow for family history interviews. Some of the details of my story were lost with her passing. As my father ages, I’m reminded that time is moving faster and faster. And if I don’t take action, the time for capturing his perspective on family stories, and his unique memories could soon be restricted by whatever life events occur.

After mulling it around in my head for too long, I’ve finally undertaken a series of interviews with my dad, sitting with him for hours prompting his memories to unfold and be known.

To establish my list, I performed an online search for interview questions to include. Two prominent sites are and From those two sites and a few others, I compiled and organized a list of questions to use when interviewing family members.

I would urge you to print this list and use it to film or audio record your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Family history is important because it connects us to one another and to different times. It gives context to what we’re experiencing today. Sometimes it provides an understanding into our own characteristics or coping mechanisms. It gives us examples from our own family of people who’ve triumphed or overcame situations in their life that are unimaginable to us. The knowing we’ll gain from these stories will create a foundation for our own families going forward. Perhaps a story about the entrepreneur grandfather will give a young daughter the courage to open her own lawn care business in her neighborhood.

Your family history is a gold mine that is uniquely yours. I urge you to mine it and be rich!

Click here for a downloadable PDF of these Family History Questions.

Questions for Family Interviews


  1. What’s your full name? Why did your parents give you this name? Did you have a nickname?
  2. When and where were you born?
  3. How did your family come to live there?
  4. Were there other family members in the area? Who?
  5. What was the house (apartment, farm, etc.) like? How many rooms? Bathrooms? Did it have electricity? Indoor plumbing? Telephones?
  6. Were there any special items in the house that you remember?
  7. Describe the personalities of your family members. What were their full names?
  8. What was your father’s occupation? Where did he work?
  9. Did your mother work? Where?

10. Did you have a job as a kid? Doing what?

11. Did anyone in your family ever serve in the military?

12. Did anyone in your family ever hold a public office?

13. Describe a typical family dinner. Did you all eat together as a family? Who did the cooking? What were your favorite foods?

14. How were holidays (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) celebrated in your family? Did your family have special traditions?

15. What is your earliest childhood memory?

16. What was your favorite song?

17. Did anyone in your family play a musical instrument?

18. What kind of organizations did your family belong to (fraternal, charitable, scouting, etc.)?

19. What kind of games did you play growing up?

20. What was your favorite toy and why?

21. What was your favorite thing to do for fun (movies, beach, etc.)?

22. Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?

23. Did you receive an allowance? How much? Did you save your money or spend it?

24. What was school like for you as a child? What were your best and worst subjects? Where did you attend grade school? High school? College?

25. What school activities and sports did you participate in?

26. Who were your childhood heroes?

27. What were your favorite songs and music?

28. Did you have any pets? If so, what kind and what were their names?

29. What was your religion growing up? What church, did you attend?

30. Were you ever mentioned in a newspaper?

31. Who were your friends when you were growing up?

32. What world events had the most impact on you while you were growing up? Did any of them personally affect your family?

33. How is the world today different from what it was like when you were a child?

34. Who was the oldest relative you remember as a child? What do you remember about them?

35. Of all the things you learned from your parents, which do you feel was the most valuable?

36. What do you know about your family surname?

37. Is there a naming tradition in your family, such as always giving the firstborn son the name of his paternal grandfather?

38. What stories have come down to you about your parents? Grandparents? More distant ancestors?

39. Are there any stories about famous or infamous relatives in your family?

40. Have any recipes been passed down to you from family members?

41. Are there any special heirlooms, photos, Bibles or other memorabilia that have been passed down in your family?


42. What is/was the full name of your spouse?

43. When and how did you meet your spouse? What did you do on dates?

44. What qualities drew you to him/her?

45. Did you exchange any special gifts during your courtship?

46. How long did you date before getting engaged?

47. What was it like when you proposed? Where and when did it happen? How did you feel?

48. Where and when did you get married?

49. What memory stands out the most from your wedding day?

50. Who participated in your wedding?

51. Did you have a reception? Was there music? What songs were played?

52. How would you describe your spouse? What did you admire most about them?

53. Do you have any favorite stories from your marriage or about your husband/wife?

54. What do you believe is the key to a successful marriage?


55. Were you in the military?

56. Did you go to war?

57. During your service, can you recall times when you were afraid?

58. What are your strongest memories from your time in the military?

59. What lessons did you learn from this time in your life?


60. How did you find out you were going to be a parent the first time? How did you feel?

61. Why did you choose your children’s names?

62. What was your proudest moment as a parent?

63. What did your family enjoy doing together?

64. Can you describe the moment when you saw your child for the first time?

65. Do you remember when your last child left home for good?

66. Do you have any favorite stories about your kids?

67. Do you remember what was going through your head when you first saw each child?

68. How did you choose each name for your child?

69. What was each child like as a baby? As a young child?

70. Do you remember any of the songs you used to sing to me? Can you sing them now?

71. What were the hardest moments you had when I was growing up?

72. What is your favorite memory of each child?

73. If you could do everything again, would you raise your kids differently?

74. What advice would you give about raising kids?

75. What are your dreams for each child?

76. What are your hopes and dreams for what the future holds for each child?

77. Are you proud of each child?

78. How has being a parent changed you?

Adult Life

79. What was your profession and how did you choose it?

80. What are you proudest of in your life?

81. What inventions or developments changed your life, and how?

82. Who has been the most important person in your life? How and why?

83. What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?

84. Who has been the kindest to you in your life?

85. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

86. If you could hold on to just one memory from your life forever, what would that be?

87. If this were to be our last conversation, what words would you want to pass on to me?

88. How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?

89. How would you like to be remembered?

90. Is there any message you want to give to or anything you want to say to your great-great-great grandchildren when they see or hear this?


91. Can you tell me about your religious beliefs/spiritual beliefs? What is your religion?

92. Have you experienced any miracles?

93. What was the most profound spiritual moment of your life?

94. Do you believe in the afterlife? What do you think it will be like?

95. When you meet God, what do you want to say to Him? What do you think He’ll say to you?

Remembering a loved one

(This section is to be used for the family member to reflect on the life of someone who has passed away. Enter this section with respect and gentleness, asking permission to continue.)

  1. What was your relationship to _____?
  2. Tell me about _____.
  3. What is your first memory of _____?
  4. What is your best memory of _____?
  5. What is your most vivid memory of _____?
  6. What did _____ mean to you?
  7. Are you comfortable/can you talk about _____’s death? How did _____ die?
  8. What has been the hardest thing about losing _____?
  9. What would you ask if _____ were here today?

10. What do you miss most about _____?

11. How do you think _____ would want to be remembered?

12. What about _____ makes you smile?

13. What was your relationship like?

14. What did _____ look like?

15. Did you have any favorite jokes or sayings of _____’s?

16. Do you have any stories you want to share about _____?

17. What were _____’s hopes and dreams for the future?

18. Is there something about _____ that you think no one else knows?

19. How are you different now than you were before you lost _____?

20. What is the image of _____ that stays with you?

21. What has helped you the most in your grief?

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.

How to Save Money by Going to Beauty School Clinics

How to Save Money by Going to Beauty School ClinicsEvery job comes with perks—maybe it’s status, money-saving discounts, training in unique skills, or introductions to prominent people in an industry. Some of the most fun perks I received were from a part-time mall job at Aveda.

Along with a substantial discount on as many hair products as I could carry, local Aveda salons offered complimentary haircuts and discounts on hair color services. I once figured that, in haircuts and color alone, I saved close to $1,200 per year. Because of these perks, I religiously got a cut and color every six weeks.

That was four years ago. My, how times have changed.

Due to scheduling and changing full-time jobs, I didn’t have any space in my life for a part time job. So, I left Aveda and the free haircuts behind.

In the past four years, I’ve become a beauty school expert, navigating aesthetics newbies and hair color know-it-alls alike.

I’ve learned a few things about saving money and getting good service for the standard beauty treatments.

  1. Ask how students are ranked. You’ll need to know what you’re talking about, so when you call up an unfamiliar-to-you school, ask how they rank students. Are they level one, two, or three? Or is it juniors and seniors, or even year ones and twos? Once you know how students are ranked, you can ask for what you want. And you want a late level two or a level three. These are students who’ve had some training and have worked on a few clients or fellow students, so you won’t be their first guinea pig.
  2. Call for an appointment at least seven days in advance. Other people want to save money too. So, they’re probably nabbing the appointments you want. Call in advance. For specialized schools, like massage school (especially really good ones), you’ll want to call about two weeks in advance.
  3. Prepare yourself for inexperience. You’re at a school, not the spa at the Ritz Carlton. These are students, so be prepared for services to take twice as long as they take at a salon—you’ll need to factor this in when making an appointment. Also, expect instructors to pop in and observe services. Instructors may even show a technique to the student by using you. You have to be flexible and remember you’re getting a haircut, leg wax or facial for a fraction of what you’d normally pay.
  4. Kissing frogs. There’s no other way to put this: You’re probably going to have to see several different students before you find the one that you want to request each time. Once you find him or her, congratulations! Now, you know you’ll have decent service for the next few months . . . until that student graduates. At that time, you’ll be forced to try a few more students until you find one that fits with you.
  5. Give feedback. One way to give feedback is to tip. Some schools don’t allow gratuities. But some do. Know the policies and plan accordingly by having cash on hand. Take advantage of voicing your opinion through any surveys the school provides. In session, don’t be afraid to speak up for what is or isn’t comfortable for you—students need this feedback so they can go on and be excellent aestheticians, or stylists once they graduate.

It’s not easy handing over a point of physical pride to a young, inexperienced clinician. Staying flexible, managing appropriate expectations and giving in-the-moment feedback will help you and the student to have an enjoyable experience together.

Have you ever gotten a haircut, massage or facial from a student at a beauty school? Why or why not? If you have, how did it go?

©2014 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.