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Friday, December 7, 2018

Why I Love This Wonderful Life! (Blended, Steps & Bios)

Recently I was asked by someone who reads the blog and hears some of what I say about the challenges of blended family life whether I was happy with my choice to remarry and blend our family.  My heart was so sad that my representation left her questioning my satisfaction.  Marrying Mr. Wonderful is one of the very best decisions I have ever made!  I am thankful for our family for so many reasons.

1. We are a living example of how God brings something beautiful out of heartache.

2. Our children have an expanded idea of life - it isn't perfect and that's okay. 

3. Each of us have a larger sense of gratitude.  We have lived through more difficult times and are grateful to come through better.

4. We accept faults with grace. We try to view others with compassion when someone is having a hard day, or week.

5. I see Mr. Wonderful choose us, every single day.  This is such a beautiful gift and one I do not take for granted. 

For these and so many reasons that I cannot even number, I'm thankful every single day for our beautifully imperfect family!  I never want others to wonder whether I think it is worth it - a thousand times, Yes!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

You're Not Too Late

All around I am watching the holiday decorations appear on streets, in stores and even through the windows of many homes.  On social media I see many of my friends already have their Christmas tree shining in their living room.  It's lovely and gets me excited for the season!

I'm still looking at fall foliage - both outside and inside my windows.  A little part of me feels panicked that I'm somehow behind and missing an invisible deadline!

Maybe you feel the same way about something.  It seems like everyone else has beat you to the goal.  Is it even worth the effort when it all feels like a game of catch-up?

Yes!  Enjoy this moment just as it is - for me, that means a harvest themed Thanksgiving with lots of gravy.  I don't know what it means for you, but you know exactly what you need to shift your focus from scarcity to gratefulness.

I've put up a page with articles on holiday issues - we have a lot of them in modern family life.  I hope your season is filled with joy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Frightful Switching Hour

Most mothers recall the "Witching Hour" between dinner and bedtime during those toddler years.  Little ones are tired, but mama doesn't want to wake at 5:00 am, so it's a little early for official bedtime.  Thus begins the witching hour: where we try to entertain, but they are just fussy, easily frustrated and extra tired.  We are also at the end our days, depleted of reserves and often simply worn down.

Ten + years later, I see the same sense of anxiety as we approach the "Switching Hour" in our post-divorce normal life.  My three children don't have the normalcy of having all their possessions in one place or sleeping in the same bed every night.  While they are excited to spend time with dad, it means saying goodbye to mom and their family here.  I'm sure they face emotional conflict when they return to me. 

Eight years after the divorce, I still get weepy.  No longer am I tender for my own sake, the divorce is part of my past.  But it is part of my children's lives everyday.  It will be a part for years to come.  It is a pain that I cannot erase.  Questions like, "Where will I go for college breaks?"  "Who should we spend Thanksgiving with this year?"  "Are we all going to Mom's for Christmas?  Dad's?" 

I am confident that each one is resilient and strong.  They will survive this and as parents we are doing our best to ensure they aren't hindered.  But no wonder those transition days are tough.  I witness the tension, the struggle and the insecurity as they try to anticipate what they might need or want during the days away.  The mental list of things they need to remember to bring is a drain on their brain power.  The emotional drain is a challenge as they say goodbye, hello and are expected to quickly acclimate to a different environment.

It's a downer when your favorite hat is in another car during crazy hat day at school.  It's hard to remember to bring the gear for spirit day from one home to another.  My children don't always know if a parent has signed the permission slip or paid fees.  The reality of children switching between homes is not easy.

If you have someone in your life who lives in this reality, be gentle with him or her.  Try to accommodate for the extra number of goodbyes experienced by the child each week.  When difficulties arise on transition days, respond with calm instead of frustration.   With the current cultural standard for children to move between two homes, this is the norm for so many.  I don't think we fully understand the sacrifices they are making for our shortcomings.

Since it is our reality, I'm doing this:

1) Making sure my children know they have access to mom and dad whenever they need or want.

2) Keeping those transition days low-key.  We try not to plan for big outings or events (although this is more and more challenging as they get older and their schedules are more full).

3) Providing as much as possible in both homes - duplicates when needed.  I don't want them to have to "pack" or remember to bring toiletries, pajamas or other basics.

4) When I get a text or a call asking me to bring something forgotten, I'll do it. 

5) Respond with compassion instead of frustration during those difficult hours of transition.  I will be the stable, consistent and predictable adult regardless of his/her outbursts or anxiety.

These children are such unique individuals.  My heart beats for their success and joy in life.  I want to help each one navigate the difficulties that come with our family dynamic.  I will send them off with a smile and security that they can handle the challenges they are facing. 

Further Reading: The Huge Challenge Faced by Children of Divorce

Friday, September 28, 2018

What I'm Saying to My Son About the Kavanaugh Hearings

You can bet that my bright high school guy is aware of the happenings regarding Supreme Court Justice Candidate, Brett Kavanaugh.  He has opinions.  My job is to help him see the greater implications and how he can apply lessons to his own life.

We can't know the truth of the matter, but "How do you think you can avoid being accused of something you didn't do?"  I asked my son.  "I can't," was his quick reply.  "Even in school, rumors spread so quickly.  If 5,000 people already believe, it really doesn't matter if it's true."

Wow.  He already feels the weight of presumed guilt.  We talked more about living a life of integrity, character being his only true ally.  We identified the importance of guarding against being alone with someone who could lie.  I talked about how essential it is to remain sober - alcohol and drugs can open the door for too many questions.

Our conversation wasn't about whether we believe Kavanaugh or the accusers. We may never know what may or may not have happened.  Perceptions are often more important than reality.  I think it is brave for any woman to stand up and state when she is assaulted.  I think it is sad for any man to be falsely accused.  We have no way to determine the facts and so this is a no-win situation.

To my son, I can only hope that you remember this moment and live far within the boundaries of integrity.  Someday you may run for office or run a store, you may stand on an assembly line or in a pulpit.  I reminded you this morning that how you choose to behave matters, even now.  Your character and reputation are being built today.

I've learned that the truth does eventually come into the light.  We cannot rush the process.  I've witnessed twisted accusations against my father, that were ultimately dismissed as someone with their own agenda.  I know the pain it causes the individual, as well as the family.  I am also a woman who was silent about assault in my own past.  I understand the hesitation to share - we almost wish it would just go away.  I have been accused and I have been assaulted.  

I pray my daughters and my sons are never placed in either position.

Updated to add: I asked my son to read this prior to posting and make sure he was comfortable with me quoting him...he assures me he is not "feeling the weight of presumed guilt."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Flourishing in Fall

We are easing into fall and making plans for family gatherings and time together.  The return to school was dreadful this year because I loved the laid back summer schedule and time to just doesn't happen often when our schedules get too full.  I really grieved the slower pace of our summer days.

Thankfully, I've turned the corner and am catching little moments among the busy times to spend time with my people.  Guess what?  My youngest still loves when I read aloud to him.  I've struggled to get him interested in reading lately, but now he asks almost daily.

My older son played golf for the high school team and it was so fun to witness him as he expanded his experience.  He is thriving in high school - he is maturing so well and I'm deeply proud of him!

My daughter is smack in the middle of Middle School Madness.  We still spend lots of time together and her ambition is inspiring.  It's been kind of amazing to watch her trying so hard to grow up.  It's a season on such changes for her.

My step daughters are also doing well.  Mr. Wonderful just crossed the mountains to visit his youngest at college this weekend.  We marvel at the world of college students, so much has changed from our time at university.

Leading our pack of children is our recent college graduate.  We are enjoying a season of her being home while she determines her next steps following college graduation.  She has high aspirations and I can't wait to see where she will land (we are seriously hoping it is somewhere nearby!).

Mr. Wonderful is fully immersed in work - which isn't always fun.  I'm so thankful for the way he provides for our family, works hard and exerts so much energy into his customers.  We are thankful for our snippets of time throughout the week to squeeze in a meal out or time to crash at home together.

Fall brings all the cozy back to our home and our location in East Tennessee truly shines best this time of year.  We love the leaves, the cooler temperatures and the excuse to enjoy a blanket or two.

If you're still peeking in on us, thank you for reading!  I'm on Instagram, too!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Step Parenting With Grace

Upon considering marriage to my Mr. Wonderful, I also needed consider my role in becoming a stepmom.  Children contribute a significant part of second family dynamics, and the statistics aren't encouraging.  I found helpful information and some what-to-expect type books.  But I didn't see anything that caters to the basic encouragement for stepparents as we do our best to tackle the needs of the new family.  

I'm so excited to introduce a new personal devotion for step parents.  Within the pages you will find understanding and camaraderie from someone who has been in your very position.  Author Gayla Grace speaks with experience and compassion on matters that are only known within the step family dynamic.  Grace shares from a knowing heart without judgement.

Step Parenting With Grace  is a collection of ninety short devotions that pertain to step family life.  Each idea encourages us to expand our hearts and keep our "Eyes off me," (page 8).  Readers will be inspired to take the long perspective of this life with patience, perspective and perseverance.  Step mom and dads alike with be guided in our unique privilege and lifted in prayer.  Grace also includes quote and mantras from all walks of life from the likes of Elisabeth Elliot and AA.  You will find wisdom from Scripture, African proverbs and the NFL.

For the moments that happen everyday to the special holidays, thoughts in Grace's collection will provide focus for the greater purpose you desire as a step parent: Connection.

Let me know if you order and what you think of this new resource!  Comment about your greatest step parenting surprise and be entered for a free book.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Tribute to Shelly and to Friendship

Psalm 116:15
"Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of His faithful servants."

I've shared much about my support system of best friends who are spread out across the United States.  We learned in late May that one of our group had a dear sister who was facing a health crisis.  I am fortunate to have met Shelly Henderson-Mwamakula, but it has been many years since I saw her in person.  She lived in Tanzania and I was able to keep up with her via Facebook and her ministry reports, along with the updates from her sister who is among my dearest friends.

Shelly and Ray Mwamakula (Photo via Facebook)
Shelly was adventurous, full of joy and laughter and she loved Christ with her whole self.  She served women and children in a society that often considers them as property.  She wrote and developed curriculum used to teach scripture.  Her goal was to empower children and thereby change families for the next generation.

It's heartbreaking that she will not be present as her mission goes forward.  There is no doubt that Shelly's influence and legacy will continue among the people for years to come.  My heart aches for the loss that her family will feel, and I especially hurt for my friend.

Shelly's family selflessly shared Shelly with the world and my respect and admiration are great for them all.  I look forward to when we will meet again in heaven one day, Shelly.

Through the grief, we rallied to be with our friend.  She has faced difficult decisions, loss and pain that we haven't had to walk through for ourselves.  I wanted her to know that she is not alone, she is surrounded by love and admiration.  Our friendship has walked through seasons of joy and of difficulty, now through a season of grief and loss.