Sixteen Years and Counting....

Sixteen.

We celebrate sixteen years of marriage today.  It seems only fitting to write out some of my fondest memories of our beginnings.

January 2000

On the eve of our wedding day, the groomsmen and Sergio traveled to Tulsa, OK to pick up their tuxedos.  Tulsa was about a 2 hour drive from Tyro, KS, where our wedding was held.  The groomsmen arrived, Sergio did not.  It was the time before cell phones and we were all clueless as to what happened to him.  I sat in the sanctuary waiting for him to show up.

To be honest, I thought he had changed his mind and I was a bit mortified in front of everyone in attendance.  The minister, Dave Bycroft, asked if we should go ahead and eat, but I couldn't and didn't want to begin without Sergio.  So, we all waited for over 2 hours for him to show up.

It came as no surprise that Sergio picked up a homeless man and gave him a ride.  He didn't know the Tulsa area and didn't realize how long out of the way it would take him.  I was relieved to see him.  Although I was a bit upset over his actions, I knew this was who he was.  He loves others well, and this draws my heart to love him deeper.
Taken the night of our rehearsal.  I am smiling while expressing my frustration over his tardiness.  
We were married the next day, March 3rd, 2001.   It was a simple and lovely wedding.  Sergio paid for the entire wedding, even my dress.  Out of respect for others, I will not share online the conditions surrounding this decision.  It was out of Sergio's love, generosity, and protective spirit that he took on this responsibility.  This is who he is.  This is what he still does.

And our wedding turned out beautifully.

I  knew I was marrying the right man.
March 3, 2001
March 3, 2003
The day after our wedding, we were to fly out to Colorado from Tulsa.  Instead of staying in Tulsa, we decided to stay together in our new home located in Joplin, MO.  The next morning, we woke up late which caused a mad rush of trying to get to our flight in time.  While in the shower, I realized that I had not packed for our honeymoon.  I hollered out to Sergio if he wouldn't mind throwing clothes in the suitcase for me.  He told me that he would "handle it" and not to worry.  So, I didn't.

It wasn't until we arrived to our hotel in Denver, CO that I realized what he had done.  My 20 year old husband did NOT pack any outdoor, appropriate clothes for me.  Instead, he emptied the one drawer in our bedroom that only consisted of undergarments.  Nothing else!  I had to wear the same pair of jeans for a week and we took turns wearing his hoodies.  I have no cute pictures from our honeymoon, but we have a ton of fun memories from our first week of marriage.  This is probably my favorite memory of our first year together.
One of our only honeymoon pictures.  2001
We were married in our youth, not knowing what the following years would hold.  I assume our story is like most.  We have experienced great joy, great sadness and grief, great depths of forgiveness, and our love remained present through it all.

We have hurts.

We have pain.

We have hope.  

And we have each other.

Today I am grateful for the man I married.  I have watched him grow into the good man he is today.
Sergio graduated with his MBA from Lipscomb University in December 2015.

Sergio was awarded the 2014 YMCA Volunteer of the Year in Nashville, TN.
Side note: He was working full-time, being a good dad and husband, and also working on his MBA during this time.  

November 2015

Through the thick and thin, it has been an honor to stand by his side.  I have enjoyed our story, especially the fun moments.
Church of the City Rockstar Night.  2016
80s Prom Murder Mystery Party.  October 2016

Who knows.  Sometime in 2014

1920s Murder Mystery Party.  October 2010
Our Family.  2016
Happy 16th Anniversary, Sergio.

My heart still belongs to you.

2016










Love Written Once

December.  It has taken me several years to pause, to remember, and to celebrate this time of year.

December 2007 forever changed the way that I experienced the Christmas season.  It has been hard to rejoice in life and the goodness December brings when grief shows up uninvited while washing dishes, putting on my makeup, folding laundry, or mopping the floors.  Grief loves company, but rarely receives an invitation.  I believe this to be the reason it has become an expert at showing up unexpectedly.

At the time of 2007, I was 9 months pregnant with our daughter.  We were living in Joplin, MO and had just experienced the worst ice storm in Joplin’s history.  For seven days, we were without electricity and as an emotional pregnant woman, I wanted to nest and be comfortable.  I called the electric company every day, several times a day to get someone out to restore our power.  I even threw out the  “I have a 3yr old and I’m 9 months pregnant” card.  It didn’t work.  It seemed that they could care less if I cried or how strongly I believed that my daughter was going to be born frozen.

It seemed like an eternity before our electricity was restored.   I remember that December morning like it was yesterday.  I looked straight into my husband’s eyes and said, “Today can not get any worse than what we have already experienced.”

He gently kissed my forehead and left for work.  It wasn’t until a few hours later that the power came on & I was overwhelmed with joy.

But, my joy only lasted an hour.

The phone rang.

I happily answered, “Hello”, ready to tell whoever was calling that I had the heat on high and our house was a flaming furnace.  But, I had no response.  “Hello” I repeated softly.

“Jackie,” I could tell it was my brother’s voice.

“Jackie,” he voice cracked.  “Tell me it’s not true.  Tell me it’s not true.”

I had no clue what he was talking about.  In those few seconds my mind raced to all sorts of tragedies.

“Randy,” I firmly demanded, “what is wrong?  What happened?”

And through his sobs, I hear, “It’s Dad.  He’s dead, Jackie.  Tell me it’s not true.”

I asked how, what, when, why but he couldn’t speak.

Since my parents divorced when I was young, I had to get the information from my grandma.  She’s in her 70’s now and I believe that she walks hand-in-hand with Jesus daily.  She is a noble, gentle woman who allowed my dad to stay in her home.  But on this day, I hear righteous anger coming from her lips.  She loved her son and did everything that she could for him.

When I was 5 years old, my grandma purchased a home for us to live in.  It was a lovely two-story home with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, and a huge yard.  Perfect for our family of six.

It seemed like we were living the good, perfect life for a few years.  My dad was a certified, world renown mechanic for Hyundai.  He had offers to work overseas, but decided to stay near his family.  I have always appreciated that about him.

He and my mom decided to go into business together and open up a family auto repair shop.  He was doing well and needed to hire a few employees.  It was at this time that our family’s downward spiral began.

My dad started spending more time away from our family as he spent more time with his employees.  As he became heavily addicted to drugs, he left no money for us to eat.  And one by one, our  home utilities were shut off.

My mom did her best, but she could not keep the shop running by herself when my dad was sent to jail.  So, she lost the shop.  We would’ve been homeless if it weren’t for my grandma allowing us to live in the home without paying her any rent.

My dad spent a few years in jail.  He missed our birthdays, he never called us, and we never heard “I love you”.  On occasion, my mom would take us to the parking lot across from the downtown jail.   She would make us play in the parking lot so he could watch us from the window in his jail cell.  We would know which window was his by the orange rag waving on the inside of the window.  I use to pretend that it was him saying, “I will see you soon.  I love you.”

For the next few years, we didn’t get to see him much because he was in and out of jail and drug rehab.  During this time, we lived off of what we call “wish sandwiches” which was simply a slice of bread with a packet of ketchup that we stole from McDonald’s.  We would drink rain water as well as use it to flush our toilets.  The local gas station supplied our shower and laundry soap.  We would ask for the bathroom key once a week and quickly clean ourselves and our clothes in the sink for fear that someone would find out what we were doing.

After a couple of years living this way, my mom divorced my dad and went back to school to receive her GED.  She had four kids to take care of and couldn’t wait any longer on him.

I remember the first time that I went to visit his house when I was 14.  He lived in a trailer at the salvage yard where he had also worked.  I spent my entire Saturday afternoon scrubbing his floors, doing his laundry, and washing his dishes until there was no dirt in sight.  I wanted him to know that I loved him and I wanted his affection in return.  I thought that the way I’d have it is if I somehow proved myself and then he’d see that I was capable of living with him.  I was too young to understand that he couldn’t take care of me because in reality he couldn’t take care of himself.

My siblings and I were able to visit on certain weekends.  I enjoyed every moment with him and couldn’t wait to see him.

This only lasted a summer.  For that following Fall, his girlfriend was murdered in his backyard.  My dad was the suspect and it was all over the news.  Being from a small town, everyone knew about my dad.  I was mortified when one of the kids at school talked about my dad as if he were a monster.   Because in my eyes, my dad was everything I “pretended” him to be.

After much investigation, my dad was found innocent due to the confession of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.  This put a damper on our visits with dad.

It wasn’t until he moved in with my grandma that we were able to stay the weekends with him.  Though, rarely did we see him.  If he wasn’t working on cars, he was planted in front of his tv in his room.  We spent most of our time with our grandma.

And as you can imagine, this put a wedge in our relationship.  He never attended games where I cheered nor any of my track and cross country meets.  I was told that he came and went to both my high school & college graduation, but I don’t remember seeing him at all.  I became bitter and no longer went to visit him.

When I married my husband, he spent many hours encouraging me to call my dad and even made me go visit him on occasion.  He obviously saw more to my dad than my hurts would allow me to see.

Our firstborn adored my dad.  He didn't mind that he smoked like a chimney while watching tv in his bedroom.  Our son would just love being with him.  He would jump on his grandpa's bed and sit next to him while watching Macgyver.  He had no reason to be distant from him.  He had no hurts.  This was his grandpa and he loved him.

His love for my dad accompanied with the way my husband saw my dad changed my heart.  I loved him, too.

Even though I never heard my dad say that he loved me, down deep, I knew that he did.

That cold, December day back in 2007 changed me.  It changed us all.

Around 2pm, my dad grabbed some tape, a plastic tube, pen, and paper and headed up to a secluded area in the salvage yard where he worked.  With oldies playing in the background, he tapped the tube to the exhaust pipe and pulled it through the passenger side window.  He, then got into car and tapped the air vents, and the crack around the passenger side window.  And while carbon monoxide filled his car, he wrote notes to several people until he forever fell asleep.  The words that I hold close to my heart are these, “please let my kids know that I love them.”

He loved me.  He loved us all.



I may always cry on December 18th.  As the years go by, I have learned to embrace grief as it washes over me and engulfs me to my core.  I can not run from it.  I am not stronger than it.  I must allow to feel it when it comes, step into it in prayer, because I have to believe that in it, I AM NOT ALONE.

My Eternal Father has provided a promise to Joshua that I, too, hold dear and true:

"The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  Deuteronomy 31:8

This is the month that I remember what has been lost, but more importantly, to celebrate in the hope of our Emmanuel.  God is with us.

Our Family Prayer

"Our Father in heaven, we write this prayer that we might live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and knowing that the beginning of wisdom is to Fear You (Proverbs 1:7). In your love and faithfulness please hear this prayer for our family and the generations to come.

Our prayer begins that we might KNOW YOU. (Gen 1:1; John 17:3)

In knowing You, Father, that we might be a family who TREASURES YOUR WORD to us. (Deut. 6:4-9; 2 Tim 3:16,17)

Father. having spent time with You in word and in Your Word, that we would be brought to TRUE WORSHIP. (Lev. 9:23,24; Rev. 19:15, 16)

Learning and knowing Your heart and mind as a servant, we pray that our worship of You would lead us to continual ACTS OF SERVICE to you and our fellow man. (Joshua 24:15; Matt. 20:28)

Knowing that it is difficult here, Father, we pray that we would continually WALK IN YOUR SPIRIT. (Exodus 13:21, 22; Rom 8:1-17)

We also pray that we would REMAIN FAITHFUL in all the tasks that You give us and the faith that we have in Jesus our Savior. (1 Kings 13; 1 Tim. 6:11-16)

Father, You know our temptations and our struggles, please in all things here on earth, help us to PURSUE AND TO BE HOLY. (Lev 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16)

Lastly, Lord, would You help us to be bold and beautiful CARRIERS OF YOUR GOSPEL. (Jeremiah 20:7-12; Romans 10:14-15)

To You be the Glory FOREVER! Amen!

Two weeks in pictures....

It has been a great, two weeks! 

Snuggles before school are our favorite!


Open Play on Fridays with our homeschool buddies
Homeschool Reading Hour

The wig comes out unexpectedly on a weekly basis.  Obviously, it brings us great joy!
Eliah tried declare this day a "no homeschool day" because of the snow.  Nice try, my ninja buddy!
We spent an incredible weekend in Joplin, MO with old and new friends.  

Dear Joplin....

Dear Joplin,

You love well.  Upon our visit, you immediately greeted us with hugs that squeezed our hearts.   You made us feel like we had never left, as if 5 years was more like yesterday.  

You're always good like that.  

In just 3 days, you took the time to invest in our family.  You made sure our kids were cared for, spoken to, and listen to.  You wiped their tears when they had to say another goodbye.  And as I watched you, I remembered, these are not just our kids, they are your kids, too.

Our time with you this weekend was short, but you made it one of my favorites.     

Thank you for reminding us how to love one another well and how to live together missionally.  Joplin is not just some small town in Missouri (but of course, you already knew that).  Joplin is much bigger than the eyes of community can reach. 

Our hearts love yours,
~The Rizos

Samurai Pants

We are in a wonderful season of pushing on doors. And because of this, anxiety likes to creep into my dreams uninvited. At least this time, I awoke with a new perspective to hold onto....

I was walking through a store similar to Walgreens in my dream last night.

I had a long list of items that seemed non-existent in the store and my kids were all pitching Oscar winning fits.

It was a disaster.

I vaguely remember walking up to the cashier, placing my items onto the counter, and then wondering where the tv section was located.  

So, I asked her.  

She answered, "they are on the next aisle".  

I finished clearing out my cart and putting one child on the counter and told her that I would be right back.  

The line behind me grew longer.  

Their patience was running thin.  

I grabbed a tv and sprinted back to finish paying.

The kids continued crying.  

A beautiful couple walked past me and told me that I needed to get a handle on things.  I needed to be more decisive for the kids' sake.

My defenses went up and I was ready to fight.

I replied, "it's ok.  They are homeschooled."  --whatever that meant?!  I sure showed them!

Someone behind me sighed.  

I wanted to put one of the paper bags over my head and just pretend that I was robot.  Why? Because robots have no feelings.  

But, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the most beautiful, early 1900's buffet being rolled out of the store.  I quickly snatched up the bags and hollered at the kids to hurry up.

Mommy needed that buffet.

I dragged the kids to every antique shop in town, but to no avail.  It was gone.  

While exiting our last store, I spotted something red and shiny tucked away in the corner.

Upon touch, I knew that I had to get them.

When I got home, I presented the gift to Sergio.

He opened it and smiled back at me. 

It didn't take him long before he proudly walked back into the living room, hands on his hips, and wearing his new, Samurai pants.

Joy conquered.  Anxiety defeated.  

When I woke up, I had a new perspective on life:

No matter the unknowns that come our way, I am confident of this: Sergio looks GREAT in red, Samurai pants. 


Boldness in K-Mart leads to Prayer



It’s Christmas Eve (2013).

I’m frantically walking the aisles of K-Mart.

I turn down the baking aisle and I see him standing at the end of the aisle.

Call it curiosity, or what have you, but  I was drawn to him.

His dark, long hair, deep eyes, & pale skin.   Who was he?  What is his story?

He must have felt my stare and simply gave me a smile.  With sincerity in my eyes, I smiled back.

We passed by each other and I went back to looking for sugar, secretly harboring jealous thoughts of how he can pull off that amazing dress and blue high heels.

He must have been as curious as I was for he came back around to make conversation with me.

“The choices are slim tonight aren’t they?”  he jokingly asked.

“Yes, they are.  It seems as though I’m out of luck when it comes to finding what I need.”  I replied.

With a 6-pack of Blue Moon and a few cans of soup, he said, “It looks like my items will have to hold me over until after Christmas.”

“Do you not have plans for Christmas Day?”  I genuinely questioned.

“No, I don’t.  I’m in town and am not partial to celebrating holidays.  They’re not really special anyways.”  He said.

By the tone in his voice, I didn’t buy it.  He stood in front of me in despair.  His life seemed to take some dark turns.

“Why don’t you come over to our house?”

As the words slipped from my mouth, my heartbeat soared.  I began to question myself.  I don’t even know this guy.  Some may call me foolish.

But, I don’t really care what the world will call me.

“Oh, no.  I couldn’t do that.  I’m so shy that I would just sit there.  I wouldn’t want to intrude.”  He gratefully explained.

“Oh, but you won’t intrude.  Trust me, all of us need someone to spend Christmas with.  If you change your mind, let me know.  I‘ll be in here for awhile.”

With that, we said our goodbyes.

I walked a few more aisles.  My thoughts were consumed with him.

As I turned down one end of the chips aisle, he turned down the other end.  We faced each other again.

My palms became sweaty & I looked into his sad eyes and smiled again.

“Hey, what’s your name?”  He asked me.

“I’m Jackie.  What is your name?”

“I’m Jayme*.”

We shook hands.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Jayme.  I’d like to give you my phone number.  If you change your mind, our dinner starts at 4pm tomorrow.  Give my husband and I a call.  We’d love to have you over.”

He handed me his Iphone and I plugged my number into his cell.  It wasn’t until I left the store that I realized  I had made a mistake.

I didn’t get his number.

In our brief interactions, I realized that most of us celebrate Christmas as the day of our Savior’s birth.  The day that brought us hope, love, peace, joy….

Joy.

It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, coming just second on the list behind love.
It captivated the focus of Jesus Christ. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, scorned the shame and sat down on the right hand of the throne of God.

Joy.

Joy stakes everything on the truth that death could not hold Jesus Christ in the grave. Any circumstance, past present or future, cannot alter that.

For we will one day be reunited with Him.

But to some, like Jayme, it’s just another holiday without any real significance.

I desire for his phone call.

I desire for Jayme, born a man, but now living as a ‘woman’, to come into our family.

The radical love inside of me wants to share with him the hope that Christ brings.

We don’t just get together on Christmas to celebrate his birth.

No, we celebrate His life, love, & resurrection on a daily basis.  For He is that GOOD!

For Christ can redeem even the worst of sinners, trust me on this.  I once was one of the worst.

I believe without a doubt that Christ can do this for Jayme.

So until I receive his call, I will pray.

Not like a “I’ll pray for you” type of statement, but a bold, begging woman prayer.

A prayer that sends a nagging tug on his heart for something greater.

A prayer that ignites a bush to catch aflame and make his knees tremble.

A prayer that strips away despair  and replaces it with joy.

For it is our Mighty God that can move mountains.

And without a shadow of doubt, I know that He can tap the shoulder of one man.  A tap that turns him
around and into the arms of His grace.

Of His mercy.

Of His forgiveness.

As Jayme left the store, he shouted out to me, “If I see you again, don’t be a stranger, Jackie.”

I smiled and secretly promised, “I’m going to carry you to the feet of Jesus.  You deserve just that.”





*Name changed.