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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.






Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Five Standout Moments From Our First Five Years


I've been reminiscing as we celebrate our Anniversary. When I close my eyes and consider life with Mr. Wonderful, these are the things that stand out. 

Beach Vacations! Annually we have been able to spend a week at Hilton Head Island.  I am grateful for these times to be all-together and carefree.  Family vacation is part of our family culture.


Holiday Traditions: Christmas brings families together and the season creates a way for blended families to create their own memories and traditions.  Other holidays also make a way to connect and we certainly appreciate the occasions that give us cause to celebrate.


We have our own "couple" traditions, too, for when we are alone and the kids are with their other families.
That Dark Winter of Difficulty: Even though it's not a positive memory, when we had two vehicle accidents, a broken hot water heater and lots of stress, we came together, avoided blame and bonded to get through the hard times.  That's what a family does.




Hiking As family has become way to spend time together and to get back to nature.  It's something almost each of us enjoy and we can do it for a few hours or a full day.  #Adventuremom






Seasons of Change: Five years doesn't seem like a long time, but we have experienced two high school graduations, shifting from elementary to middle and high school, job changes and more.  To be alive is to experience change and this rings true for us, also.  Learning to adapt and shift while remaining committed has been an essential skill.  We cling together when so much around us is changing.
Sending another one off to college!
At the End of the Day we have found our family to be a welcome respite in the world of competition and change. Our home is a landing pad for the comings and goings of life, especially in blended family and co-parenting life.  The relationships we cultivate are safe, reliable and supportive.  We may all exist within a second family dynamic, but we are living out a wonderful success story of remarriage and blending.  I'm so thankful for every single person in our home!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Five Things I've Learned in Five Years of {Re}Marriage


We are celebrating this week - Five years of marriage!  It doesn't sound like a whole lot, but I think we are officially out of the "Newlywed" category.  Thankfully, there were no big surprises when I married Mr. Wonderful.  We took the time to know each other well and that paid off.  Still, I have learned a lot about family (blended and traditional), myself and the ones I love.  I'm confident that there is still a great deal to learn, but today I'm sharing five things from the first five years.

Blending is hard.  Complicated. Most people don't get it, even the close friends and extended family.  Unless you have lived with and experienced the combining of two full households, there is no way to understand the layered complexity. Because it's tough, I've learned to let go of some control and to let the outcomes happen as they will.

I cannot manage the emotions of others. I spent much of my first year of marriage consumed by how everyone else in the house was feeling:  Are my children adjusting alright?  Do they feel conflicted? How are the teenage girls feeling with us in their space?  Can I move that picture on the wall?  Does anyone feel attached to this dish?  Is my new husband getting enough attention?  Am I doing this right?  It was all-consuming and so exhausting.  Slowly I learned to communicate, to connect and to do my best and trust others with their own feelings.  Yes, there are conflicts when bringing two homes together (merging kitchen items of two homes alone is a huge task), but when we do it together, we each have a chance to demonstrate selflessness and resilience.

It's essential to seek the greatest common good and exercise selflessness.  Mr. Wonderful articulated it early that we will both be defensive for our biokids.  The most challenging decisions are the ones that benefit one set while feeling detrimental to the others.  When we acknowledge our intrinsic bias, it helps to take feelings out of the decision-making and be objective about what is truly best for all of us.  Whether it's bedroom capacity, budget limitations, noise and clutter or meal-planning we attempt to aim for the greater common good.

It is essential to live in the moment. The past is part of us and being aware of our stories helps to inform our present.  When I jump to conclusions with Mr. Wonderful based on experience in a prior relationship I am applying a mask over the individual he is.  When he assumes things about me that were true of his previous relationship, he is usually wrong.  Once more, communication has been the key to unlocking our present reality and knowing each other even better. 

I can trust my husband. Time and again I have witnessed that my husband is trustworthy.  I cannot describe the true soul-peace that is found in knowing and resting in his love, protection and care for me and our children.  In him I have a safe place to fall and a partner for times whether good or bad.

Above all, two are better than one when both are first surrendered to the Lord.  It's worth is to work through difficulty and join together for common goals.  Remarriage isn't the road for everyone and we were both enjoying our lives as singles.  Yet I am confident that God brought us together and has blessed our family.  I am so grateful for my step daughters and for my husband.  I wish the same for all who are on the same path.

Are you considering remarriage?  What excites you about the prospect?  What are your fears?  How long have you been married?





Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Fruit of Friendship


God brought us together in this dorm at
Liberty University.
We had our annual college girlfriend gathering this month and it was so refreshing for my soul.  We were just girls when we met nearly 25 years ago!  Now there is so much history among us and we have had front row seats to the major issues of life: marriage, parenthood, loss, infertility, betrayals, divorce, job loss, financial strain, promotions and seasons changing.  One of our group is sending her own son off to college this fall, and we are witnessing yet a new season.  Another is facing serious illness of a close relative.  I am privileged to travel these unknown roads together with my dearest friends.

I never guessed that we would remain close, and it's an even greater surprise that we have not only remained in contact, but grown so much closer through sharing these years intentionally.  It really hasn't happened on accident but by design as we have been willing to share, engage and make time for one another.  We live on opposite sides of the county, separated by time zones, marital status, job requirements, family demands and more.

This year, we were missing one.  Her absence was felt intensely by the rest of us.  Even though she probably will never know, her presence was still with us as we sensed what she might do our say.  Our hearts were with her as she journeys through her own path right now...we continually included her in conversation and spirit.  I like to think it would be the same for any one of us not able to be present in body one year.

The lasting friendships from college are more than worth the tuition that I paid to attend.  If I could guarantee the same kind of friendship for my own daughters and sons, it would be worth loans and more.  Having such history and support is the fruit of putting in years together: time, effort, intention.  It doesn't happen without awkwardness or expense and yet this kind of friendship is worth it all.

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2007

2005


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Togetherness on Vacation


Our annual vacation was especially treasured this year because our whole crew was able to participate.  This entire summer feels like a significant time for our family to enjoy being together as there are unknowns in the coming season.  Our oldest child graduated from college this year and will soon enter the workforce, where schedules and limited vacation days will curtail our travel together.


Like all families, blended families have
seasons of joy and of difficulty.  For that
reason, getting away to celebrate our
"togetherness" is important.  I love these
people will my whole heart.  Living with
each one gives me insight and
understanding that I wouldn't have in any
other way.  Time away from the normal
demands and routines allows us to connect,
laugh and make memories that continue to
mesh our family into a solid unit.
Our week started with Father's Day!  I'm so grateful for Mr. Wonderful and the father is is to his daughters, the father-figure he is to our other three.  It's complicated at times, but I see how he continues to step in as a role model, provider and leader in our home.  We're so lucky!  Yes, we Went to see "The Incredibles 2" - loved it!

The girls rose early for sunrise on the beach.  It's a magical time.

   

Bicycles are a big part of our fun.


In a blended family, we balance combining our family with a little bit of 
honoring the original family, too.

Beach Babe and the Stepmom

The boys and I loved our day in Savannah.

Gymnastics on the Beach

Mini-Golf night is always a fun favorite.

This was his hole-in-one pose!

This was our fifth time to go to Hilton Head as a family. They have grown so much!

2018
Hilton Head Island- June, 2014


 The time on the beach is my favorite!  



Annual Gator Pose - 2018
First Year They went to Hilton Head - 2014, Same Gator!
Pool Fun!