My name is Jennifer Schmidt and I am the “her” of this timeline and the “Mommy” of HomeGrownMommy! It is my job to create most of the content on the site. What you read each day here at HGM is from my heart and my head to your computer screen. In order for you to get to know us a little better, we decided to write our life story, or timeline, for your enjoyment. So, grab a cup and settle in, here comes my side of “The Family Timeline” …
1976 – 1996
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to my wonderful mother and one of my greatest inspirations, Mary. When I was two, she met and married my Dad, Gary. Though he was not my biological father, he treated me as though I were his very own. He loved my mom and me very much and took very good care of us. In 1979, Jessica, my delightful sister and one of my best friends was born closely followed by my handsome brother, Justin, in 1978. We were the Giemza family. We had a normal upbringing in a family that went to church and loved to go camping, among other hobbies. My mom was my Girl Scout leader and my dad was my basketball Coach – how’s that for involved and caring parents? 🙂
Oh, we had our ups and downs and many trials that we went through, but overall I had a very normal, and even privileged, upbringing.
In the early 90’s, we moved from the big city of Milwaukee to the small town of McFarland for bigger and better job opportunities for Dad. As it turned out, his position was cut shortly thereafter and we were left *stuck* in this small town. It was over two years before Dad was able to find a job again. I didn’t realize then how closely this situation would resemble my own life in later years.
Life Changing Moments
I went to a small town high school and graduated in 1994 without much ado or hub bub. One of the greatest learning experiences I have ever been through was watching my mom as she sweetly sacrificed her time, her money, and herself while taking care of my grandmother as she battled cancer. Grandma eventually lost that battle and I learned so much about love and family watching my mom. She traveled from McFarland to Milwaukee two to three times a week at times to take Grandma to doctors appointments, chemo treatments and to make sure she was okay. I attribute my burning desire to care for and intently listen to the elderly to this event in my life.
1997 – 1999
After high school, I decided to attend a Wisconsin University. My heart wasn’t really in it but it just seemed like the most logical “next step” in life, so I went. I know that my parents would have been so thrilled to see me graduate and part of me did it for them, even though they never pushed or demanded. They wanted the best for me no matter what! The three years I spent at the university flew by and I definitely did not learn as much about life or my major as I could have. Looking back, I realize that I was much more focused on other students around me and trying to fit in and not looking stupid. If I could go back (and I sure do NOT want to do that) I would definitely change my focus to the things that mattered instead of what people thought of me. One thing that is interesting to me now is that I wanted to eventually become a teacher! Who could have known at that time I would spend my life involved in teaching children – My Own!!
In 1997, I left the university to deal with an all-time low in my life – an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage. I can remember spending hours in my room just reading fiction books that took me away from what I was dealing with at the time. Though I was not a stranger to death, as I had experienced the death of a close friend at a young age and the death of my grandparents, this evoked a different emotion and I just didn’t know what to do with it. I’m so glad that I had a loving and concerned family that helped me through with hugs and emotional support.
Alone or An Individual?
It was shortly after this event happened that I began to change, to mature inwardly. I had a full time job as a receptionist but my boss felt that I would do a good job as a sales person for his products. He began to train me and sent me to many trade shows across the nation. How I loved the traveling! How afraid I was to be all alone! I had such conflicting emotions inside. It was fun to go see new places and meet new people – I felt like such an adult at 22 years old! But, up to this point in my life, I did very little ALL alone. I was so afraid to look like a “nerd” or be embarrassed in some way I thought that always having a friend or family member with me would prevent that somehow. During these trips, I would stay in my hotel room unless accompanied by another sales person on my team. If no one else came, I became pretty lonely and bored.
One particular trip to Washington D.C., I finally ventured out on my own and I will never ever forget the memories I made, all by myself! I toured the monuments, I walked the city, I even hired a taxi to take me to a museum! I saved every brochure and receipt. It was such a milestone as I walked the bridge from childhood to adulthood. Some people are born loners and would rather be alone. I was not and this was a life shaping event for me. I proved to myself that I could take care of myself, that I could have fun alone, that being alone didn’t automatically make you look dumb and so many other life lessons that I’ve drawn from that experience. It seems silly to me as I type this but it truly was a great time for me.
I went home with plans to climb mountains (literally, I wanted to mountain-climb) and to really find my direction, my niche in life. Unfortunately, all that excitement and learning somehow died away as day-to-day life went on. Isn’t it something how we can forget such milestones in our lives? I realize now that humans, by nature, are just forgetful creatures and we have to work hard to remember even the big events in our lives. I delved into a darker side of my life that I am not proud of in any way. So much time was wasted on unhealthy and terrible things. Then, in 1998, I found myself pregnant again.
A Bouncing Baby Boy
On February 1, 1999, I gave birth to my first baby with my mother standing by my side. I had a very good experience in the hospital – the nurses were wonderful and things went very smoothly. As I settled into my new life as a mother, I realized I did not want to pass on the life I had begun to live to my precious and innocent child. Since we were raise in church, that was the first thing I thought to run to in order to change things around. I began to attend services at a church within the same denomination in which I was raised. I am so thankful my parents taught me to believe in God and the Bible. It gave me something strong, steadfast, and never-changing when my life was the complete opposite of all those things.
(Side Note: Speaking of my parents teaching me to believe in God, I can remember a time when I was very very young, as close as I can place I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, that I decided I didn’t believe in God anymore. I think it was around the time I lost two important people in my life and I must have just gotten mad at God. I do remember kneeling during a congregational prayer time and bowing my head to pray as always. Then, I sat back and thought, “Oh that’s right, I don’t believe in God any more, I don’t have to pray now.” Praise the Lord He looked down and saw a small hurting child and cared enough to fix what was broken – her heart! I still have no idea how my Mom found out that I was feeling this way, maybe the Lord just showed her somehow, but she found out and she acted on it. She didn’t just leave me to myself and assume everything would be okay in the end. How grateful I am for that now! I remember my Mom coming to me one day and talking to me – I don’t remember what was said, but I remember tears from both our eyes and a “healed” feeling deep within me.)
Now, back to my time as a mother. Knowing that my life was not as it should have been, I first sought out a church, but something didn’t seem to fit very well. At the same time, I was spending quite a lot of time with the family who would babysit my son while I worked once I ended my maternity leave. They occasionally talked to me about the Bible and visiting their church. The things I was learning from them were so very interesting, I decided to come to church with them. I didn’t have an emotional epiphany in which I supernaturally KNEW I was supposed to stay at this church! I visited once and just kept coming back. I was going to more than a church – I was learning about the Creator of the church, the One in charge of it all and then everything made sense! I gave my heart and life to Jesus Christ sometime during that first year and nothing has been the same since! Praise the Lord!
2000 – 2003
I eventually began to exchange the bad things I was doing for the good works which I knew the Lord wanted to see in my life. I became faithful in church attendance, started singing in the choir, participating in other events and happenings at the church, working with the teen group, and become a speaker on abstinence for a local pro-life organization. I was having a blast! Life wasn’t all rosy all the time, there were still things to work through and trouble that happened. But now there was more meaning to it all, there was Someone in charge of it all and I knew Him personally. How that brightened my overall outlook on life!
Another Influential Family
When I began attending the church, the pastor and his family took me under their wing and took such good care of me. From my own family, to the family that babysat for Justus, to the pastor’s family and many more, the Lord has always seen fit to provide good strong people in my life to lean on and guide me on my way. Pastor and his family just showed such care and concern for my life – they laughed with me (loudly), they cried with me, they counseled me, they encouraged me. There aren’t many things they did not do for me during those first years as I found my footing in this new life. I know they would have scaled mountains and more to help me in any way they could! Oh, I miss them so!
An Abrupt Ending
Two days before Christmas in 2001, I was sitting in the church pew thoroughly enjoying a candlelight service. It was beautiful and serene, with the glow of the flames flickering on the walls and the special warmth being given off by all the candles. We sang and praised the Lord together for sending Jesus as a babe in the manger. Then, suddenly I felt a quick tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see the usher motion me to come outside. There, I was greeted with the most indescribable look on my mother’s face. She grabbed my shoulders as I grabbed her elbows and looked at me desperately as she said, “He isn’t breathing! He’s not breathing!” “WHO isn’t breathing! Tell me who!” By this time, the hallway around me was spinning and I thought I was near to lose my balance. It seemed as if time was at a stand-still. “It’s Dad Jennifer. He had a heart attack.”
I ran frantically but quietly back into the church service, threw a scared and tearful look at my dear Pastor Weiss in the pulpit hoping to convey what was happening, grabbed my Bible and ran out the door into the snowy night with my Mom. I drove her car with her next to me just as fast as I could through the frozen streets to the small town my Dad lived in. At this point, I understood he had a heart attack but I assumed he was in the hospital still hanging on. I wanted one final goodbye before anything else happened. Just one more hug. Just one more touch.
She was making phone calls to let friends and family know what was going on. The one phone call she could not get through was to my sister. Where was she? Why wasn’t she answering her phone? During one of the conversations Mom was able to have with a friend of the family, she related again what had happened to Dad. The friend must have asked if he was okay or not, and she replied, “He didn’t make it. He’s dead.” I almost lost control of the wheel as it sunk into my heart that there would be no last goodbyes. It was already over. Oh, the pain that flooded my heart on December 22, 2001.
My Dad was only 49 when he had the heart attack the took his life so abruptly from us. As I look back now, I could have easily headed back that dark and lonely road I was on when I became pregnant with Justus. I could have fallen back to my decision to not believe in God as I had when I was small. In the darkest of times, you can sometimes see the clearest. I just knew that God was still in control and still had His hand somewhere in the middle of all of this. The next days were a blur as we “celebrated” Christmas by staring at the turkey that Dad usually carved, as we traveled back to Milwaukee for the funeral, as we cleaned out the apartment that he and my brother shared. (Mom and Dad had separated by this point, but remained very close friends.)
As with all the events in our lives, whether good or bad, we find a way to move on with our lives. My mom, sister, brother and I all have done the best we could to keep on moving as Dad would have wanted us to. We still cry together sometimes, we still cry alone sometimes, but we make it through to the next turn in the road.
Life Is Full Of Change
So much happened in such a short amount of time in my life, it amazes me as I sit down to write this out. In four short years, I had a baby, found a new church, lost a father, went on a missions trip and found a husband. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
In June of 2002, I was able to go on a one-week missions trip to Mexico to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others who have never heard. It stirred a fire in me to care for those around me, to go above and beyond, to do more with my life than just simply make sure I was okay. I wanted to serve the Lord by serving others in whatever way I could. As a single-mom, I felt defeated before I began, but I sure was willing to try anything He wanted.
The first time I saw the town we were to spend most of our time in while we were in Mexico, I got on my knees and just cried. We had stopped on a hill overlooking the town and what I saw just broke my heart in pieces. They had huts with dirt floors to house ten or more family members sometimes. One side of the house was a piece of plywood, one side had a few bricks and other building materials they found along the road, another side was a large metal sign of some kind. There were power lines above but not connected to the houses. Just before we arrived, a man was killed when lightning struck the pole he climbed trying to get to the power lines with a hanger and an electrical cord following behind him in an effort to bring electricity to him dwelling.
If everything else about the town broke my heart and amazed me, I was completely awe-struck by their smiles. They were sweet and happy, not bitter because of where they had been born. I’ll never forget a beautiful little girl with large dancing eyes named America who took a liking to me. She adored my camcorder and loved to laugh with me. We had a language barrier that was broken by love. If she was four or five when I was there, she is about eleven or twelve now and I wonder what her smile looks like.
When I returned home, I dove even further into serving anywhere I possibly could. I remember one of the ladies looking at me and asking, “Did you ever think you would become a 25 year old church lady?” with a huge smile on her face. Unbeknown to be, she and many other sweet folks in that church were praying for me before I even knew them. I’m glad I could be a blessing and an answered prayer for them.
The Man of My Dreams
My future husband started attending the church in November of 2002 and I can’t say that I noticed him immediately. I was so busy serving and trying to do my best, that it took me a few weeks to notice the “new guy”. But, once I noticed, I was head-over-heels smitten with him! He was cute and he had an accent!! That was a good start, but of course I wanted to see what the fruit of his Christian living turned out to be. Thankfully, I had made a pact with my pastor, at my prompting. I asked him if he would “interview” any man that I was interested in and make sure there wasn’t anything of concern that I could not see.
2003 – Present
Falko knew of my pact (I had droppedseveral hints!) and one day, he went to talk to the pastor about me! It is quite funny how it all happened! Earlier in the evening, I had gone to our assistant pastor who I considered a good friend and was my age, if he thought anything would ever happen between Falko and I. At this point, I had been interested in Falko for about a year and I was getting tired of waiting to see what God had planned. Thankfully, my friend was very honest and forthcoming with me. “No, Jennifer. I really don’t see anything happening with you guys. In fact, I think I know who he is supposed to be with.”
That was my heart hitting my stomach.
But, I picked up my heart and my emotions and determined to do more and get better. Not to spite anyone, just because I really didn’t want to sit around waiting for life to happen. If it meant a husband or no husband, I wanted to do my best for Jesus! The next morning, my roommate and I were driving in to work and we both were just pumped up and ready to do whatever the Lord had for us. It was very exciting!
That afternoon, I took a late lunch and walked to a nearby mall to grab a bite to eat. A late lunch and walking to the mall were quite odd and out of habit for me, but it had been a long morning and I needed a better break than just skipping lunch or zooming somewhere in the car and eating lunch at my desk. As I walked, my cell phone rang. It was my pastor! Yikes! Why was he calling me at such an odd time? I grabbed the call right away. He asked me if I could meet him at the church that evening before visitation. I said I could and we ended the conversation.
I was SO nervous – I assumed I had done something wrong and that someone had complained about me or that something was wrong in general. All afternoon I fretted!
Once I arrived at the church, pastor asked me to join him at the swings in the church yard. I was really confused and could not possibly figure out what in the world was going on with my pastor. He looked at me and said, “Falko is interested in you!” He had the biggest smile on his face! He knew the whole year that I had a crush on Falko and he really wanted me to be happy! Later, he told me he had met me out at the swings because he thought I would scream and jump up and down when he told me! I didn’t – I pretty much stopped breathing altogether. I didn’t know what to think.
Well, we started talking on the phone and getting together regularly with others in the church that were our age. After six weeks, we were engaged and the wedding was six weeks after that. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend such fast time lines for younger people. I was in my late 20’s, which certainly isn’t old, but I had experienced a little too much life and I knew what I wanted. besides, I had a little boy to think about and didn’t want to confuse him with a long and drawn-out relationship.
We had a beautiful wedding on December 5th, 2003! Before our first anniversary, we had a beautiful baby girl!
Since then, we have had another baby boy and another (naturally delivered breech baby) girl which makes a very even two and two!
We have moved cross country, we have tried several home-based businesses and we have started a few blogs.
**Update: This was last updated July 2009 and we are now in July 2013! We have welcomed two more sweet little baby girls into our family, one in 2010 and one in 2012. We moved back across the country to our home base. We’ve learned more in the last four years that I could have ever imagined – spiritually, economically, relationally … really, in every area of our life! We are blessed beyond measure!**
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