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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Recent Reading

The house cleared out and quieted down so quickly as all our children went to their other parents' to continue their celebrations.  In the quiet mess that remains, I'm grateful for sweet memories.  I've enjoy reading and catching my breath after the fun.  Here are some great reads I've enjoyed:

I'm so glad I'm not the only mother who still serves hot dogs!  This author shares my perspective of not aiming for perfect, but real motherhood.  Love it!  The Mom Confession

I love remembering that It's Supposed to be Hard.  Usually that's when we're doing something right!

I don't think everyone can or should stay married, but this has a lot of important information: We Are That Family

If you are in a relationship, review these traits in full honesty.  I wish I had the courage to face the truth decades ago: Red Flags

As we end this year, may 2013 didn't turn out the way you expected - I understand that and this post speaks right to it: If 2013 Wasn't What You Expected

Don't forget that holidays will come and go but the memories are what will last forever.  This mom is doing it right!  A Single Mom Christmas

Such important reminders about setting boundaries and owning your feelings - I love this! 
Simple Solutions for the Most Complicated Time of Year

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!



I hope this week finds you feeling settled and joyful.  Even if things aren't the way you imagined, look for the joy and the memories you will have of Christmas 2013.  I'm sharing just a few things from previous years.  I hope you will comment or reach out!  I'll be soaking up time with family for the next few days and then some time alone to nourish my own heart and think about hopes for 2014.

The Christmas Magic is YOU!
The Christmas Magic is Christ

Home Alone at Christmas

Holidays Without Your Children

It's Better This Year

He Came for this, He came for me

Merry Christmas!



Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Closet Has Been Overcome with Christmas (There will be a lot of gifts this year!)

colors 2
Image Source - Isn't this a lovely room?!?

While I was getting ready for work this morning, I realized that I've officially come crossed the line into being conquered by my Christmas Spirit.  I have gifts stashed under the bed an in my closet...and the closet has become almost non-functional!  I have to lift bags to get to my shoes, boxes block my jackets, there are various items tucked behind my hanging garments and the floor space has disappeared!  I have started wrapping and there are some things under the tree already ... but with seven people at home and a dog, there is a lot of stuff!

Having a lot of stuff at Christmastime has become kind of unpopular in the blogging world.  Simplify, Purge, Less is More are themes when I read my ongoing list.  But his is a year of extravagance for me.  I've spent years being frugal, one-gift-per-child, paring down, letting go, purging.  My heart along with the ornaments got divided. For several years, there was deep sadness in the background of my merriment.  Not so this year.  My heart is overflowing.  My budget is no longer bone-tight and I plan to spoil my people.

I'm all for keeping it simple.  We are extremely careful to keep the true meaning of Christmas on Christ and His coming to save us.  I don't even tell the children that Santa is real.  I have decorated, but there is a lot still in boxes because laundry, dinner and dishes are a priority.  Our family is on the front-lines of real.

We have spent years keeping it simple.  This year will be BIG!  And I'm not going to feel badly about it.  It's our first Christmas as a blended family and I want each person in the house to sense the special-ness of where we are in life.  The healing, the bonding.  We are going to celebrate!

Check back after Christmas for a recap and ideas for boys and girls.  I was pleased to find much that isn't digital had so much fun!  Mr. Wonderful is going to be a bit overwhelmed, I think.  What fun I'm having!



Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Faves

I really enjoy movies!  And I so many memories surround them during Christmastime.  I watched several this weekend and felt inspired to share my favorites...and I would love to know yours!

My sister and I watched Holiday Inn together every year. We had to search for when it would "air" on cable in a time before DVR and Blue Rays.  Now I rarely find it on the showing schedules.

It's A Wonderful Life always reminds me of my mother.  It was her Christmas classic and the timeless tale always draws me in...haven't we all felt like the world would be better off if we disappeared?  I love the story-line and the approachable acting.

My grandmother gave me this movie years ago...and I fell in love with it.  The costumes are just divine and I've always adored a musical.  Judy Garland is charming and the settings just captivate me.





White Christmas is another timeless classic.  This movie was based on the earlier show, Holiday Inn.  But the sister dynamic and the vivid pageantry along with music with which we all connect. 




I laughed so hard the first time I saw Home Alone!  I remains a carefree way to pass the time throughout the holiday season and with children now, it is even more comical!


Our family spent evenings laughing around the with Griswold's in Christmas Vacation.  The slapstick comedy and family humor makes us appreciate our family even more. 


I also enjoy all the variation of A Christmas Carol.  The power of generosity to 
change a heart is a true and timeless message. 

What is your favorite holiday-themed movie?  Do you watch them alone or with others?  children?

Note: All images acquired through free sources via search and remain the copyright property of licensed owners.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

"The Christian Divorce Advocate"

I am the pastor's daughter who filed for divorce and have happily remarried the most wonderful husband this world has to offer.  I enjoy a good relationship with my bonus daughters.  My children are well-adjusted and happy.  My former spouse and I co-parent and cooperate well much of the time.  Because of this, some people may assume that I am pro-divorce.  Some might think I would encourage women in difficult relationships to take this way out and sign up for a better life.

I want to alleviate any chance that I promote divorce as solution or quick-fix.  I can only describe experiencing divorce like trading one set of trouble for a different set of trouble.  Afterall, the Bible did say we would have trouble in this world, there is no avoiding it.  Learning to accept discomfort, trouble and hardship part of maturity.  Divorce is not an escape from that.

As a follower of Christ and His word as set out in the Bible, I understand the acceptable reasons for divorce as 1) adultery and 2) abandonment including when 3) an unbelieving spouse wants out of the relationship and finally 4) breaking of marriage vows including abuse.  There are many variations of these which must be interpreted.  Does emotional abandonment count?  What if the adulterer is repentant?  How do we handle cases of mental illness where abuse may be unintentional?  At what point does adultery take place, since Jesus said to lust is to commit adultery?  It's all so very complicated and I've included some verses below if you are interested in these.  However, I want to share from a human, personal perspective why I would say to any friend that if at all possible, stay married.  Fight for your marriage, fight for the history you share and for the future you dreamed when you took your vows. 

Still, I have first-hand knowledge that even when you've done everything you know to do, things unravel. 
  • Divorce will diminish your standard of living and may catapult you into poverty.
  • Grieving happens at a deep and guttural level.
  • You will analyze your relationship history for clues and wonder what was real? when did it get so bad?
  • Insecurity will wrap around your confidence making decision making a challenge. 
  • You will doubt yourself.
  • The ability to trust is damaged and a cynical note takes up residence in your heart.  Disappointment is the new expectation.
  • You will face decisions without a partner who has a vested interest in the outcome.
  • You will experience change and stress. The complete implosion of the life you had and imagined for your future will create a void that you will need to fill.
  • If you have children, you will spend less time with them because of additional work and time with the other parent.
  • The time you do have with your children may be more stressful because of the demanding and repetitive nature of parenting without a partner.
  • In most cases, you have less say in the lives of your children as you no longer hold influence over the other parent. 
  • Loneliness is real.
  • Your understanding of God will shift.
I do not regret the decision I made to file for divorce.  I could no longer survive emotionally in the situation.  Yet I understand that it wasn't a quick fix or an easy solution.  When I count the Christmas mornings I have yet to experience with my children, I have to cut them half...because half of those mornings will be spent in another home.  I do not yet know what wounds they will carry because mom and dad couldn't live in the same home together. 

Often I feel like a great deal of my personal history is just lost, or disappeared because the person with whom I shared that is no longer in my life.  There are moments when I interact with the father of my children that I catch a glimpse of the normal that could-have-been and it causes grief.  It completely catches me off guard, and makes me uncomfortable, so I avoid it.

There are so many layers to grieve when marriage-ties are broken. 

I am happier now than at any time in my life.  There is peace.  There is joy!  I have never been so loved.  Still, I tell any person that divorce is not the way to get their joy and love.  Divorce is one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I'm thankful for today yet would fight for the marriage I had the first time again and again. 

Other words on the subject here and here.  And I firmly believe that part of the mystery and wonder of God is how he uses sinful disobedience to accomplish great good...making all things work for good. (Rom 8:28).  Have you experience positive results from a negative situation?  Has your view of divorce changed if you experienced one? 

Academic Study on Divorce & Christians: What God Has Joined





  • Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
  • Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
  • Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)
  • Monday, December 9, 2013

    Christmas Traditions

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    Every family has Christmas traditions.  Some are set in stone and held onto with clenched fists.  Others are more fluid and can evolve through the years of children growing up, families relocating and changing times.  I remember during my teen years, it became somewhat of a tradition to go to the movies on the evening of Christmas Day!  That was a new tradition for us, but we wouldn't dream of abandoning our stockings ... even if we didn't technically believe that Santa was coming.

    We are having our first Christmas as a blended family and in doing so, we are bringing together many years of traditions and history.  So, we're talking a lot about what is important to everyone and working out ways to be sure each person is included and the important traditions honored.


    We will have two Christmas trees.  This year, our family ornaments will remain distinct on separate trees.  So far, we are loving this!  My three little ones enjoy seeing their Toy Story, Thomas the Train and Barbie ornaments on a tree they remember and have decorated for years.  My bonus daughters will do the same on the ginormous tree they have enjoyed for years.  We'll get some new ornaments this year and put them on the larger tree, but truthfully, we may have two trees from here on - our house is large enough and we like the added festive atmosphere.  We have a tree in the family/great room and one in the dining room which is has been converted to a play area. 

    We brought our Advent Calendar and I asked Mr. Wonderful if he thought his girls would want to be included.  I didn't know if it would be considered too childish?  He said they would and it has been a source of fun and laughter each day.  We're building memories together.


    We'll all hang stockings and attend the Christmas Eve service at church.  Instead of a big Christmas dinner, we'll have a Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas morning brunch.  That's new for my part of the family.  Other traditions we will be sure to do are: making a gingerbread house and Christmas cookies, attending a nativity pageant, ice skating downtown, gifting family members, touring Christmas lights.

    Traditions are important.  Recipes, memories, locations, they all create the fabric of family.  Working with your spouse, especially in a blended family is crucial to make sure the that important things aren't overlooked.  What traditions are most important to you?  Have any changed through the years?  Do you have a blended family?  Do your children have traditions in another home of which you are not a part? 
     
    This post is sponsored by Betty Crocker and Blogher. Thank you for reading, commenting and supporting Far From Flawless!

    Moody Monday

    It's rainy and cold outside as we begin another week.  After a very busy Saturday, I was a bit of a grump with a head cold on Sunday.  But I took a nap and we had a Christmas event at church last night so the day ended well.  My children were in a Christmas parade on Saturday with the Boy Scouts!  They were so adorable! 

    I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping and have loved doing so much online this year.  I get just giddy when packages arrive!

    This week is one is a calm one.  I plan to enjoy some baking and Christmas crafts.  I hope to get together with a friend and complete a weather project with my fourth grader. 

    I'm so thankful for the abundance in our home - we are blessed

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    We've started the decorating!

    I waited until after Thanksgiving to pull out the Christmas décor - but it is full swing at our house, now.  I'm improvising since it's the first year to decorate in our new home and we're working on combining traditions and decorations.  I'll share more soon!
     



    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Reminder to be Thankful!


    20 Little Attitudes of Gratitude

    1. Mind your manners. Say please, thank you and excuse me.
    2. Smile when you see your family. Turn your frown upside down.
    3. Pick up after yourself.
    4. Notice when others do kind things for you, show gratitude by action or words.
    5. Say I love you before going to bed.
    6. Give hugs daily.
    7. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Focus on what you are happy about today.
    8. Create gratitude journals to keep track of daily blessings.
    9. Show thankfulness for even the little things others do for you.
    10. Leave love notes in unexpected places like lunch boxes and under pillows.
    11. Encourage someone with a compliment.
    12. Verbalize what you are grateful for when you feel like complaining.
    13. Keep a basket of small slips of paper on the table. Write notes of thankfulness during the week and read them to each other during a family meal.
    14. Remember to thank God for blessings each day.
    15. Surprise your family (or friends) with little gifts or treats to show you thought of them.
    16. No grumbling about minor annoyances around the house.
    17. Do special things to cherish time with your family. You never know what tomorrow will bring.
    18. Reflect on happy memories regularly. Make inspiration boards of special times.
    19. Help someone out without them having to ask you. Watch for someone in need.
    20. When you are doing household chores, be grateful you have a home to clean.

    Thanks to The Inspired Room For This List!

    Tuesday, November 26, 2013

    I'm so Thankful...But the table will be empty this year.

    Last year was my year to have Thanksgiving with the children and this year they will spend the holiday with their Dad.  The same is true for my step daughters, they will be with their mom and that part of their family.  It leaves Mr. Wonderful and me alone feast by ourselves.  We're going out. Last Thanksgiving was the first holiday we spent as a someday family together.  It was fun to make memories and think of future holidays together.  We had a great day! 
    And this year feels a little empty.  I miss my family, I will miss the children and preparing a meal.
     
    My Thanksgiving won't look like the Norman Rockwell painting and it won't be what I consider "perfect."  Yet I've got plenty to be thankful for!

    It's the ever-constant downside of divorce, the part you don't ever recover, but do learn to live with - sharing your dearest people (children) with another home.  So this week, my grocery list is smaller than usual and I'm planning to enjoy some sweet time alone with my love.  Depending on the weather, we may go for a hike or stay snuggled at home.  I'm going to plot ways to decorate for the holidays in my first season at this home and prepare for the annual Advent Calendar which now includes FIVE children!

    I'm certain I will have moments of longing, perhaps even sadness.  I'm going to embrace them, and know it's only because I love my littles so dearly and that this isn't the way I imagined my holidays would be spent.  Then I'm going to embrace the many blessing I have and look forward to their return. 
     
    How are you spending your Thanksgiving?  Will you travel?  Do you co-parent?  How early did you make your plans?
     
     
    PS - I do have fond memories of this day which is the first holiday I ever spent with Mr. Wonderful.  It's the day he met my parents and the first time I ever made him a pie (pecan and French silk).  We're so sad that the place which holds this special memory burned just two weeks ago!
     
     
     

    Friday, November 22, 2013

    How to Enjoy Your Children More

    Do you want to enjoy your children more today and every day?  Then learn the best way to care for yourself.  I have noticed that when I'm most easily frustrated with my children is when I'm exhausted, stretched too thin, possessed with unrealistic demand or life is generally chaotic.  Sometimes I'm just hungry or hormonal.  I round the paragraph below to be very insightful:

    "Often times, I am the problem, not my kids.
    The break-up line, "It's not you, it's me" rings uncomfortably true when learning not to yell. I quickly realized that oftentimes I wanted to yell because I had a fight with my husband, I was overwhelmed by my to-do list, I was tired or it was that time of the month, not because the kids were behaving "badly." I also quickly realized that acknowledging my personal triggers by saying out loud: "Orange Rhino, you have wicked PMS and need chocolate, you aren't mad at the kids, don't yell" works really well to keep yells at bay." ~ from The Orange Rhino @ Huffington Post.

    I used to think that by putting myself last, I was best serving my family.  The past 10 years have demonstrated that establishing the basics of self-care are essential to the overall health of my family and especially my children.  Taking care of YOU will look different than taking care of ME, but these are the things I need:
    1. Worship.  Remember the Source of all good things.  Practice gratefulness and be involved with at lest someone else who shares your convictions.  Read and meditate on scripture.  Pray. Go to church!
    2. Sleep.  I consistently need seven or more hours nightly.  I can sacrifice this every now and then, but if my sleep patterns are disturbed for several days...my entire personality become anxious and tense.  It's just the way I'm made.  So, I can fight this or embrace it. 
    3. Order. I do not function well in chaos, I just can't seem to tune it out!  So for my sanity's sake, I keep clutter and piles to a minimum.  I crave clear counters.  We put toys away and straighten the pillows on the sofa each evening before bedtime.
    4. Routine.  Some people find routines boring, predictable or mundane.  I find them comforting, reassuring and calming.  I like knowing the toilets will be scrubbed every Thursday and we will eat at Chick Fil A on Wednesday.  These predictable touch points in our lives provide structure and camaraderie among our family.  Plus, it's fun for everyone when we shake up the routine for whatever reason.
    5. Nature.  When I take the time to notice the weather, the trees, the sky - my perspective shifts from the small to the great.  I love taking a walk, hiking or just driving through the mountains.  We don't have curtains or blinds and the sunshine and forest view fuel my spirit!
    6. Exercise.  Often, it feel like one more thing I have to do in my day, and sometimes I just don't want to do it!  But when I skip physical activity, I notice that I do not sleep as soundly, I have less energy and feel worse about myself.  My job is at a desk and so I need to supplement my level of physical activity. 
    We all need to take part in self care so we can be our best selves to those who live in our homes and see us day in and day out.  As mothers, it's easy to push these things aside and think we are sacrificing for our children.  Sometimes, that may be necessary.  However, if you are trying to provide the best for your children at your own expense, it become codependent and unhealthy.  We can model these attributes for our children and begin teaching them their own life skill that will empower them through adulthood and in their own families one day.

    What is at the top of your self care needs?  What is habit is the most challenging to maintain?


    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Forgiveness For Real

    Just like "Soul Mates," the concept of forgiveness carries a lot of preconceived ideas.  Some think that forgiveness magically makes an offense disappear, as if it never offended in the first place.  We often hear the phrase, "Forgive and forget" tossed about ... which I find to be a very unhealthy adage.  Forgetting is not what God calls us to do - we learn from our past and to forget is to abandon or waste the experience.  He may choose to forget, but I don't see where I'm asked to do that.

    Still, I wholeheartedly endorse forgiveness.  I believe the Bible describes it as the letting go of what is rightfully mine to require: vengeance, payback, restitution, judgment.  Without God, these things are the right of the offended person, but forgiveness releases me of that burden and reminds me of how much I have been forgiven

    Let me give you a few reminders of what forgiveness might look like.
    • Forgiveness isn't forgetting. 
    • Forgiveness doesn't mean that what happened was okay.
    • Forgiveness doesn't make everything go back to the way it was before.
    • Forgiveness does not mean that we are "letting them off the hook" for the injustice of what they've done.  It's giving "The Hook" to our Lord and trusting Him to heal me. 
    • Forgiveness especially doesn't mean that family members should excuse the wrong behavior because they are “family.”
    • Forgiveness doesn't mean that we should hide, or not talk about the abuse or shy away from conflict by not talking about the abuse.
    • Forgiveness does not mean that if I "truly" forgive, I will "trust." each other implicitly. Trust takes time to build.  Rebuilding broken trust may take a lifetime.
    You know you have forgiven when you don’t want to hurt or see another person hurt anymore.  You know you have grown in grace when you can rejoice that good things happen to the one who has wronged you...that is something only God can do, my friends.

    Ultimately, forgiving is what I do to demonstrate that I truly trust God.  I trust He knew the truth of how I was treated and that He will deal with my offender with more wisdom than I have.  I remember that I need forgiveness, too.  It's letting go of the record-keeping and the concern that I will forget how I have been wounded.  Forgiving allows me to free my focus from what someone else has done and move that focus onto my own healing and growth.  Forgiveness allows the conflict without to become peace within.
    Abandonment to Forgiveness by Michelle Moore with Paige Henderson. http://www.rose-publishing.com/Abandonment-to-Forgiveness-Minibook-Freedom-Series-P1822.aspx $5.99
    source

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Moody Monday

    View photo.JPG in slide show

    I have a beautiful photo from my neighborhood walk on Saturday, but for some reason photos aren't uploading to my blog.  Oh well.

    I'm walking because I have injured my foot and running hurts right now.  It's frustrating.

    My weekends aren't long enough, but I did get some cleaning accomplished.  And for the moment the laundry is under control plus we have clean sheets!

    Our oldest daughter is practicing her driving skills and Mr. Wonderful held his breath on the drive to school this morning.  She is getting a car for Christmas and needs all the practice she can get before then.  Our children always keep us on our toes!

    Our oldest boy is running for class president and the vote is today!  Yes, on our toes!  I'm so proud of him whatever the outcome.

    Soccer conditioning begins this week and I'm so proud of my husband who is the coach - but it's going to take a lot of time and energy for the next six months.  I will need to work on my patience and servanthood.  However, we love the community and the games ... go Rebels!

    We woke up healthy and happy this Monday morning, so I have much for which to be grateful.  Today, I'm especially grateful for Christ.  It's easy to forget how faithful He has been and I want to remember His tender presence in my blessings as much as my days of need.  Without Him, I would feel so very alone.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for where He has brought my life and my family.  God is so, so good!
     
    Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.  (Psalm 106)

    Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    I Didn't Believe in Soul Mates Until I Bared My Soul

    I have always said that I don't believe in a soul mate - and I still don't think a person is destined to find "The One" who will magically connect with every unspoken desire and be available, never needy, always uplifting.  No, that isn't real. 

    What I am realizing is that the more vulnerable I am willing to be, the more known I feel by my husband and then the more connected.  It's such a sweet and amazing phenomenon that I've only experienced in the slightest way so far.  From the start Mr. Wonderful has been such a safe person for me - I have never felt threatened and this security allows me to open up and to be known fully.  I hope I provide the same gentle place for his soul. 

    It is this baring of the souls where I find the connection that I think others describe as being soul mate.  The mating isn't instantaneous or mystical, it is unfolding and methodical but no less intoxicating for its participants.  I think this is the attribute not celebrated in the soul mate discussion - one must actively participate in the back and forth disrobing of self, risking exposure and baring the true self. 

    One must also be the safe place for another.  There will be disappointments, let downs, crossed intentions and moments of weakness, even sin.  These traits lurk in all human and in accepting these of our spouse, love wins.  I always said that I didn't believe in soul mates, but now I do.  I didn't believe in soul mates until I bared my soul and found acceptance, found comfort, affection and love.

    Inspired by These Articles: Why My Husband is My Soul Mate and My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate

    Saturday, October 26, 2013

    Weekend Events and Recent Reads



    I'm so happy for the weekend with no big plans except relaxing and attempting to carve the seven pumpkins currently by my fireplace.  I'm going to nest a bit at home, eat out with Mr. Wonderful and enjoy church with our people.  Then we'll get ready to start the week all over!

    Don't forget to post your child's wisest words with Campbell's! Just click below.

    Here are some other fun things I read this week -

    For Hair Fashion and Fun - Kate @ The Small Things is Retiring

    The New Message for Moms - so true!  It's what I write about here, too.

    Surgeon General Warning for Step Families!

    Why Being Married the Second Time is Better



    This is a sponsored post - thank you for supporting our little/big family!

    Thursday, October 24, 2013

    Stepping in the Mess


    A person will never truly know the person they marry or their children until those vows are taken, the honeymoon ends and routine life starts.  All those things you know about your new family through the dating and courtship process are amplified when living together.

    Not only do you promise to love your new man for the rest of his days, but his children, too...and those children have great power within your new home.  Their mood can affect the tone of the family, their schedules must be honored, their space and preferences are already established. 

    When there are problems with his children, I'm not exactly sure where to fit in, how to assist.  Their bio mother is still active in their life and she has more history and authority than I do.  For me, I find it most helpful, at least for now, to support my Mr. Wonderful in his parenting.  I can be a safe place to express disappointment and fear.  I can be a trusted sounding board for his thoughts.

    Still, it feels like an uncertain place - a new dynamic which I've never experienced before.  Sometimes things seem to be clicking along just as sweetly as possible and then something changes.  I sense it, but I can't say what caused the change nor can I fix it.  It would be easy to allow distance and resentment erode the connections we've created in our blended family, but I'm fighting that!

    As a step-parent, it is easy to think that I am an outsider in the relationships between my bonus daughters and my husband.  I are not an add-on.  I have always been part of God's plan for their lives.  It's one of the ways He makes something good out of what seems bad.  We are truly serving on the front lines!

    Did you have a step parent who played a positive role in your upbringing and adulthood?  Are you step-parenting today?  I would love to hear how others are doing in this role.  Have a great week!

    Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    From a Complete Mess (with lots of stress) to a Content Miss (with room to bless!)

    It all seemed to come to a head one July day when I received a call that my 3-month-old was on his way to the hospital in an ambulance, having what seemed to be a seizure. My husband had left the month prior, along with his paycheck and health benefits. I was working a limited 15 hours per week as a newly singled mama with three children age 0, 2 and 3 years.

    Things were bad. I was concerned about my smallest prince in the ambulance ahead, but at the same time I was wondering, “Was it really necessary to call an ambulance?”

    My tiny baby did have a seizure, but he recovered to be just fine (thank you, Lord) and my marriage did fail. But the tools learned in that season are priceless ones that keep working to this day.

    I entered a new season of life as a single mother. I was able to increase my work hours and thereby increase my income, but still remained part time for the sake of my young children. On my limited income, I learned four keys for budgeting:

    1. Eliminate All But the Necessary

    The cable was cut off. The home phone gone and only a limited cell plan put in place.
    We didn’t participate in extra-curricular activities (soccer, gymnastics) and I made no commitments to anything that would incur a monthly bill. None.  I even canceled trash pickup and obtained permission to take our bags to a nearby church dumpster. I was brutal in eliminating bills.

    2. Maximize What You Have

    We made good use of our internet service and PBS for entertainment. We purged and sold items of value. The cash for an unused vehicle was more useful than the vehicle in storage. I adjusted my payroll withholding to make the most of each monthly check.
    I paid all our bills at the first of the month: Tithe, Mortgage, Power, Water, Phone, Insurance. Then I lived on what was left. Often that meant not going places in order to save gas and stretching meals in creative ways.

    3. Get Real and Get Savvy

    I had to be realistic about myself in this season. I wasn’t one who could spend $40 on a manicure or a night out with the girlfriends. Instead, I learned all the “Kid’s Nights” to the local restaurants and it was a real treat for our little family of four to venture out every now and then. 
    I asked for help at our church with AWANA fees and accepted help at Christmastime when it was offered. This was humbling, but I recognized God taking care of us in these practical acts of kindness. 
    I learned that we could have fun and live well with much less than I once thought. Yes, my definition of living well shifted, but it was a relief to not compete to measure up in the ways I once thought were important.

    4. Give A Little, Live A Lot

    You may notice Tithe was at the top of my expense list. It wasn’t always so, but I believe it is essential to demonstrate trust with more than words and so I committed once again to tithing. I have never regretted that decision. 
    I also become aware of so much we didn’t need and donated much to our local Habitat For Humanity Rehome store. The children all learned to love sharing and passing to others the things we no longer needed.
    Our gifts were small, but I hope to instill the joy of giving in my little ones. We all treasure experiences more than our stuff these days.

    In order to make our life work on a small budget, I was forced to account for every dollar in the door. It became a priority for me to not only exist but to begin saving.

    As the children grew and entered into the public school system, our childcare costs ticked slowly downward and I was able to expand our budget to include small vacations and a gifts fund. When we wanted to spend on something extra, I knew right away whether it would be smart.

    The second great lesson was that saying “yes” to one thing always meant saying “no” to something else. Knowing my limitations forced me to be clear about my priorities and taught me deep joy and pride in making it alone.

    I’m so thankful the leanest days are behind me, yet I am daily grateful for the treasures found in the hardship.

    Originally posted on Money Saving Mom (10/22/13).

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    Weekend Fun

    My mother is here to visit and it's our first time to have a houseguest now that we are living as a blended family.  It's sure to be loud and messy and fun.  I'm hoping to visit the pumpkin patch and the Smoky Mountains.  I'm probably hoping for too much!  But we'll enjoy each other and soak up the grandmothering.  We sure miss her!

    Our families likes to watch movies - and lately I just haven't been all that impressed!  So we are looking forward to November when there are some anticipated releases: Catching Fire

    At the end of the month, Monsters U will be released on DVD.  I'm the only one in the family who hasn't seen it yet.  I can't wait!

    I love the weekend, but this one isn't going to feel like much downtime.  The children are on "Fall Break."  We get a four-day weekend.  We never had fall break when I was in school, did you?

    Be sure to take note of the 'wise' things your child says and share with Campbells!

    The tooth fairy has been to our house THREE times this week!  It's crazy!  My oldest boy is growing too fast and the high school girls are busy and gone so very much.  Time is just zooming by! 

    Do you have any fun weekend plans?

    This guy is such a cutie and seems so big right now.

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Family Matters


    I think it is common to imagine our grown-up family will be like our family of origin.  Or perhaps you dream it will be everything your original family was not.  For me, it was natural to assume life would continue in much the way it began: only I would trade the role of daughter and sister for that of wife and mother.  It all seemed so smooth and seamless.

    And I set off on that path, or so I thought.  I checked off the squares for graduating college, getting engaged, married, etc.  The husband-wife relationship was more challenging than I expected.  I was disappointed and hurt, but remained committed and convinced that ours would be a
    happy story.  Then infertility and miscarriages stole the last remnants of my idealized plan

    The Lord eventually blessed me with three of the sweetest miracles and our family seemed to fit the ideal.  I sent a Christmas card each year with photos to prove just how 'perfect' we were.  But the reality was so different.  The family I portrayed was not the family I had and that façade cannot be maintained forever.  The betrayal and failure of my marriage was the end of all I once believed my family would be.

    I was a single mother.  And I learned there were gifts in what I thought would be the end of me.  This style of family suited me more than I expected and I found true contentment.  Yet I still had ideas of what I dreamed for my family.

    So now I'm in a new season of blended family-hood.  Thankfully, I didn't have many expectations which has limited any potential for disappointment.  There are seven very distinct personalities with different histories ways of relating that are working to mesh in one home.  Often I'm not sure whether the teenage girl retreating to her room is just a need to be alone or a statement of how she feels about me.  I can't tell if the whiny acting out of a little boy is due to tiredness or a cry for attention.  I question whether I'm giving too much attention to my husband at the expense of my children or if I'm encroaching on the relationship he has with his daughters.  It's a very different family experience from what I've known and from what I expected. 

    But here is what I know:
    • We are creating memories that will become treasures (it started during our courtship).
    • Each of us being stretched to more patient, less selfish and learn to live with others.
    • It's okay to have different relationships with different people, even within a family.
    • We all enjoy the touchpoints in our week when we connect: dinnertime and Sunday worship are my faves.
    • We all love Disney movies and vintage sci fi.
    • Laughter is so contagious!
    • We can make our spaces work for us - even if one bedroom doesn't have a door and we have to bring extra chairs to the table.
    • Home is a place where your heart feels safe, not an address.
     
    Is your family today anything like what your family of origin?  Is it what you thought you would have?  Can you see the beauty in its imperfection?

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Elisabeth Klein


    When you are experiencing a difficult marriage or going through a divorce, it is a very isolating experience.  But please know you are not alone.  One person I've met* on the journey is Elisabeth Klein.  Elisabeth was married for just under nineteen years and it was a difficult relationship from the start.  As a believer, active in church and sometimes on staff, she experienced the challenges of seeking to be a godly wife while dealing with addiction and abuse in her spouse.  The marriage ended just over a year ago and Elisabeth has shared her experience in the book Unraveling: Holding on to Your Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage

    This day, October 15, 2013, would have been her twentieth anniversary.  Elisabeth freely shared from the questions I asked her.  I hope her story brings comfort to anyone feeling alone today.

    Could you  provide a brief summary of your experience in ministry and then how your church dealt with the difficulties in your marriage, your feelings about their handling of the divorce and their releasing you - what did that mean in your opinion?
      
    My ex-husband and I attended one church for the entirety of our marriage.  I was on staff twice, and held various leadership positions, even starting and leading the women’s ministry for ten years.  I kept our marriage problems largely to myself, which was one of my biggest regrets.  

    When I shared some initial concerns early in our marriage with some church people, though I received some very good advice, I also received advice that should be given to wives in struggling marriages, not to wives in abusive or addiction-fraught marriages.  Taking this advice continued our downward cycle for about a dozen years.

    However, how our reconciliation attempt was handled was nothing short of a miracle.  We had a team of literally ten people around us, praying for us, encouraging us, supporting us, giving us counsel.  It was the best possible situation for where we were at the time, and I will never forget or be able to repay the people who poured their lives into ours during that crazy-hard stretch.

    Do you feel your faith and the evangelical church dynamic impacted your ability to navigate the difficult marriage and divorce process?

    Yes, but in some odd and contradictory ways.  I stayed for so long for a million reasons, but one was that I felt I absolutely could not leave without some kind of spiritual loss that would impact me for the rest of my life.  I was terrified to end my marriage.  Also, given the advice I was given early on perpetuated some faulty thinking on my part, and so I didn’t even consider that abuse was a part of the picture until much too late.  However, on the other hand, towards the end, I felt that I basically had this small community walking me gently toward the end of my marriage, though none of us knew it was going to end that way at the time.  It was really a beautiful thing that I think most people who aren’t involved in the intimacy of  a church would never have been able to experience.

    Can you describe the sense of isolation that you faced in projecting a seemingly 'together' marriage while dealing with hidden turmoil?  

    I blame myself for keeping things in as long as I did.  As I mentioned, I was leading the women’s ministry.  I felt I had to be an example to the other women of my church, and my marriage was not one for anyone to emulate so I kept it hidden.  Also, to be really honest, I loved everything about my life except my marriage, and to expose the truth meant – in my mind – that I would lose everything else that I loved. 

    Keeping everything in for so long was exhausting and it took its toll on me physically.  By the time we began the reconciliation attempt, I was on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication, I was having heart palpitations, eye twitches, migraines, and trouble sleeping.  I was a mess, basically!  I think that goes with anything stressful that you keep in…it will come out one way or another.  Either you work it through in healthy ways or it will leak out, hurting yourself and those around you, which it did.

    How did you find courage to confront and admit the reality and were you able to discern safe people?

    It all started because I went to a new counselor specifically to work on my anger issues.  I told her, “Hey, this is my life.  This is my hard marriage.  My circumstances are not going to change.  So I need you to help me not be so angry all the time.  I don’t want my kids looking back on their childhood and just remembering me as an angry woman.”  That’s when I realized there was abuse that I had been reacting to all along, and that’s when I went to my church for my final plea for help.  So I basically found the courage because I was desperate to change something in me that I finally became sick of living with – my anger.

    I prayed for safe people to come around me, and they did.  On that team of ten – half of whom I barely knew when we started – I respected and trusted every single one of them.  I had been so burned up to that point.  I think, honestly, God just knew I couldn’t take that happening, so he lovingly hand-picked our support team.

    How has facing your difficult marriage and experiencing divorce encouraged you to be more real in everyday living?

    You can hide living in a bad marriage.  No one ever really has to know.  But you can’t really hide that your husband isn’t coming to church anymore or has moved out or that you’re looking for a new place to live, you know?  My circumstances forced me to say, “This is my life now. You may not agree with it…heck, I don’t really even agree with it…but this is me, for better or worse.”  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to start telling people how much of a mess I had actually been all those years, but I have never felt more free in my life.  Having nothing to hide is one of the best feelings in the world.  Now I just say what I’m thinking and I kind of don’t care as much anymore if people agree with me or not.  That’s not my business if someone doesn’t like me.

    Are you surprised by the support or lack of it in the church and from family, friends as you journey this path?

    I’ve had some people trash me online who don’t know me.  Those I can let go pretty easily.  They don’t know me and that’s much more about their issues than mine.  But I have a few people in my life who have made it clear they disapprove of me (even though I wasn’t the divorce-initiator).  That has been one of the largest heartbreaks through this whole thing: truly feeling like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, following God, following wise counsel, and then to still have people disapprove.  I still ruminate on that every once in a while.

    But overall, oh my word, my friends and family have blown me away with their steadfast support.  My real friends floated up to the surface through this and they have stood by me through it all.  One even said that I could mess up everything and she wasn’t going anywhere.  That’s love.

    Do you find old patterns of thought challenging to overcome? 

    Absolutely.  I can get an email or text from my ex-husband and it can still sometimes send me into a tailspin and I go back to feeling like I did twenty, ten, even three years ago.  That’s going to take some time.  But even just last night, I got an email that was pretty ridiculous, and because I happened to be in a really great mood, I just wrote back two sentences, deleted it, and determined that I wasn’t going to let that steal my joy.  That was a huge victory for me.

    How will you equip your children to face disappointing realities in their own life?

    My sweet kids have seen more than most teenagers have seen, which breaks my heart.  They’ve seen the police at our house.  They know about addiction.  And I’ve talked to them super clearly about abuse in relationships and the different kinds, and what to do if you think you’re being abused, and how to treat other people.  So, as sad as all that is, they are pretty darn equipped with some important things that I didn’t even know until the past five years.  Plus, as I say to them every time they leave their house, “Who guards your coming and going?” (from Psalm 121) and they reply, “Jesus.”  They know some really good things now that they wouldn’t have otherwise, so I have to take comfort in that.

    As you approach your former wedding anniversary, describe your perspective now versus the day you took your vows.  

    The day I took my vows, I was terrified.  There was a part of me that knew we shouldn’t be getting married, but I pushed passed that.  I had no idea what I was signing on for, because certain behaviors didn’t emerge until after the wedding.  Now, as what would’ve been my twenty year anniversary is today, I just feel compassion for that young, scared girl.  She was looking for security and someone to love her and someone to love.  She wanted a lifelong partner and family.  And she wasn’t trusting God to provide her with what she was dreaming about.  It makes me sad for that naïve version of me.  And yet, I stand here now, on the other side of things.  And I am grateful for what I’ve been through.  I grew so much.  I’ve changed so much.  I don’t take things for granted like I did when I was younger.  My faith is stronger and more real.  And now, even though it does scare me to think I may be alone for the rest of my life, I now intend not to settle for security sake.  If I’m going to remarry, it needs to be a big love that can withstand our humanness. 

    How is this year different from year one? year ten?  the final year you were married?  the first date to pass following the divorce?  Do you sense growth?  change of perspective?  

    Year one, we really were in the honeymoon phase; it was as if all our problems and arguing dissipated.  For about nine months.  Then it was just hard for most of the rest of the time.  

    Year ten, I was coming out denial and seeing some things that were really scary.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the tools to deal with any of it, so I just kept the cycle going.

    Our final married years were horrible.  The abuse and addictions were at their peak.  I was miserable and physically and emotionally exhausted.  I need to add, this entire marriage was no walk in the park for my husband either.  I was very difficult to be married to as well.

    Our divorce date was bittersweet.  I still couldn’t believe this was happening and yet there was a relief that I almost didn’t know what to do with.

    My one-year date post-divorce was just  a regular day, though I did get a massage.  :)  

    Everything in my life has changed since my marriage has ended.  There is peace in my home.  I don’t know the last time I yelled at someone.  I am not hiding anymore.  I am figuring out who I really am.  I am still messing up and hurting other people, but there’s grace for that.  I’ve found a new church that feels like home.  And I’m free.  Not just free of my marriage, but free deep down.  It’s kind of amazing to feel that way after all those years of pain.

    *Note: Elisabeth and I have only *met* online, but I would embrace her as a friend if real life every brings us together.

    Elisabeth Klein is the author of Unraveling: Hanging Onto Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, speaks several times a month to women's groups, and is a member of Redbud Writers' Guild. During her time at Christ Community Church’s Blackberry Creek Campus in Aurora, Illinois she began and led their women's ministry for ten years prior to moving to the city’s Orchard Community Church. She lives with her children in Illinois. Visit her online at http://www.elisabethklein.com/difficult-marriage-divorce/ or https://www.facebook.com/ElisabethKleinCorcoran.  She is the moderator of two private Facebook groups: one for women in difficult Christian marriages, and one for Christian women who are separated or divorced. Email her at elisabethklein@gmail.com if interested in joining.

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    My Idea of Great Weekend

    source
    My weekends usually include a mix of downtime, errands, cleaning, exercising and socializing.  It's true that as a working mom, much of the grunt work of managing a home gets saved for the weekend when I have more extended periods of time for getting into a project. So, I relish the idea of a whole weekend, free to do exactly as I choose while magical fairies perform those must-do tasks that usually require my attention.

    So, without breaking the bank and assuming I'm staying in the area, this is my idea of a great weekend:

    Friday: (After Work) Pampering and a night out - I would love to go for a massage or hair style then dress up for an evening out with Mr. Wonderful.  We could have a gourmet dinner and see a show or just wander downtown.

    Saturday: Sleeping In and a slow, relaxed morning.  Sometimes this actually happens.  I love it
    when we have no schedule and get to meander through our morning routine.

    Getting away to the mountains - The mountains are my happy place, so getting away for a drive or hike is the perfect way to spend a few hours.

    Cuddly night in - I can't think of anything better than a simple meal at home and downtime with my family.  I love hearing Mr. Wonderful play his music, reading with the children, laughing with the bonus girls, just general calm togetherness.

    Sunday: Morning run and worship - I feel great when I exercise before the day gets started and going to church is our standard tradition. 

    Lunch with friends - getting together with others makes life more full and fun.

    Shopping excursion - even just wandering the mall is fun to me!

    Gathering at home - again, returning to our home to connect and prepare for the upcoming week is my idea of a great time.  I'm so glad I love spending time with my family.

    I really wish it worked this way!  Even though I can't have that glorious schedule every weekend, I still look forward to the time to focus on home and family.  This weekend I'll be doing some shopping with my bonus girl, I'm so honored she asked!  I've got the regular house-chores plus painting a hallway and working to organize in our chaotic basement.  I'm getting together with a friend and her little girl (along with my little girlie).  Church will be great and then we'll probably crash at home before starting the week all over. 

    What are your weekend plans?  What does your idea of a great weekend include?

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Mine, Yours, Ours - What?

    My children have called my guy Mr. K---- for so long that the name didn't change when we actually married.  I've let them know they can just refer to him as K---- or even Coach (he coaches High School Soccer).  We've tossed around other names like Pop (he calls his own Dad Pop) but so far Mr. K---- it remains.  Sometimes, one of my three will slip and call him Daddy, but they always correct themselves.

    I hope the label softens with time.  We have only been married for two months.

    My husband has two daughters in high school.  Because I am Missy, I request people never use the Ms. (Ms. Missy is too much Misery to me).  So I've always been, "Dad's girlfriend, Missy."  Now I am "My stepmom, Missy."  I still regret the title of Stepmom, but it seems to be the easiest way the girls have of quickly defining my role to their friends. 

    We do refer to the children as "Our children" and do not designate when we talk about them to others.  You're right, most people never need to know the exact nature of the relationship.  We have all five children the vast majority of the time, and yet the age differences create natural lines.  Often we refer the "the children" (my three, age 5, 7, 9) or "the girls" (his two, age 14, 16).  When I talk to others about my family and children, I am talking about all five: I cook dinners for all, shop for all, run schedules for all, etc. 

    We are definitely still adjusting to living as a blended family.  There are so many individuals and emotions to consider and sometimes it's just overwhelming!  But keep reminding yourself that it is worth it!  One things that encourages me is to talk with adult children of blended families and hear the important impact the "Steps" had on their lives.  Two friends in particular had/have sweet, positive role models and influences: one from a Step Dad, one from a Step Mom...and the relationships weren't always smooth. This helps me know the end result is worth the confusion and work now.

    Monday, October 7, 2013

    Moody Monday


    Mr. Wonderful is starting a new job today - I'm excited for him and praying that all goes well. We both woke up feeling more rested than not and ready to face this Monday.

    Sweet Faith lost a big front tooth over the weekend!  It totally changes the way she looks and she was so excited!  We had a big Sunday lunch and I thought I would share what a typical mealtime looks at our table. 

    It's fun to have a big gathering and I can tell each of us likes the anchor of a family dinner each evening.  We're a late-eating-bunch and often after dinner it's time for the little ones to get ready for bed and the older girls work on homework. 

    I'm still working out meal choices that everyone enjoys - this meal was brisket, baked potatoes and green beans with rolls.  It will yield brisket sandwiches, too!

    I hope you had a great weekend and a fantastic week planned ahead.  My main quandary is how to get the children to be responsible for getting themselves ready and out the door.  I don't want to do the 10 minute countdown any longer.  Once they are done with breakfast, I would like them to go ahead and brush teeth, put on shoes and be ready at the door when it's time to go.  Any ideas?  What are your morning challenges? 







    Saturday, October 5, 2013

    Rich Reads

    Recently discovered in my browsing:

    Great article about Bottom Lines and seeking a Healthy Relationship.  MUST READ!

    Why Loving a Narcissist is a Bad Idea by Big Little Wolf

    The Relationship Between Sensitive People and Narcissists in Psychology Today - Holy cow, I saw myself in this one!

    Are you talking to your sons?  Your daughters?  It's important to know how porn affects their brain.  I wish it wasn't necessary, but we cannot avoid this topic.

    And be sure to share Wise Words from you Children here or here! Campbell's wants to hear what your child has to say.

    Friday, October 4, 2013

    "I Love You"

    My former husband said, "I love you" all the time, even after the divorce.  His words did not match his actions and so the words had little value.  I've recently remarried and a similar dynamic was true in his first marriage.  His former wife articulated love, but did not live it.  So, while saying "I love you" is necessary and important in our relationship, demonstrating it or providing more detail is much more meaningful.  I'm looking for ways to do that, everyday.

    Mr. Wonderful tells me he loves me when he makes me the sweetest coffee in the morning.  I hear his love when he calls me after dropping his girls off at school, just to chat and connect.  I feel loved when he takes care of the dishes or insists I sit down instead of folding another load of laundry (knowing he'll tackle it instead).  I am most confident of his love when he ends his day by wrapping his long arms around me and we fall asleep together - seriously, he does this every night.  Touch is one of my primary love languages. 

    Words are his primary love language, so I say the words often.  I also try to find unexpected ways to use words.  Before we married, Mr. Wonderful never bothered to put the roll of T.P. on the actual dispenser, but I've noticed since I moved in that he takes that extra step.  I really appreciate it!  So when I saw the roll was getting low...I put a note on the next roll:

     
    On a morning I knew he would be awake before me, I left a lipstick message on his mirror. 
    Do you think he got the message about the way I feel?

     
    I send text messages.  I speak words.  I make his favorite cookies and I brag on him whenever I can.  I want to communicate my love for my own husband in ways he can 'hear.'  I don't ever want him to wonder how I feel.  I want to be his 'sure thing.'
     
    How do you tell those you love how much you care?  What is something intentional you can do this weekend?

    Thursday, October 3, 2013

    Off They Go

    My daughter has this pillow on her bed - she picked it out herself.
    Thursday evenings mean that my three little ones head out to spend time with their dad.  We tidy up their spaces and the house feels so much less lively without their activity and noise.  I always feel more alone when they are gone, even with my bonus family closeby.  I'm so thankful they are together.  It is one of my fondest thoughts to know they are experiencing their childhood together.  Whether here or there, they will have each other.

    I miss them when they are gone and sometimes I feel guilty for the deep breath and break in responsibility that I get when they go.  I've learned to let go so much more, to trust their little selves to Hands greater than mine.  It hasn't always been easy and still isn't, and I always look forward to their return. 

    So tonight I'm catching up on some housework.  I'm spending time with my Honey.  I'm exercising and might even color my hair.  I'm letting them enjoy time away and getting ready for when they arrive back home with all their noise and mess.  It's a crazy life, but it's our life. 

    Do you share parenting time with a former spouse?  How do you spend those hours?  What would you do with an evening of no responsibility?