Hey Stepmom, You Are Not Alone!

SOS blog post

We all need people. That need for fellowship with another has been placed there by the Creator since our beginning. For me, that has always been true. In fact, after my second divorce (yes you read that right), I remember praying in earnest and begging God to please take that desire away from me.

It wasn’t that I just wanted to be IN a relationship, I craved relationship. I felt so lonely. I wanted companionship and friendship, and to be able to connect and talk with others who understood. And satan was there to remind me constantly of how unworthy I was, of how I had failed miserably in not one but two marriages, and how I had dragged two children through the whole gauntlet of my messed up life. One day I confided in a church leader and he reminded me that “It’s not good for man to be alone.”  He told me to stop asking for something that God Himself had placed in my heart.

It helped me realize that it was okay for me to long for relationship and companionship but to seek only those that would bring me closer to Him, not farther away. And I have been blessed to have a husband who does just that. But I have continued to long for friendship and connection with other moms like me that are trying to navigate the difficulties of a blended family.

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The SOS retreat I attended was held at the beautiful Winshape Retreat center.

Recently, God gave me the opportunity to connect and begin lasting friendships with many wonderful ladies who all share a common bond. We are all stepmoms. I did so by attending a Sisterhood of Stepmoms weekend retreat. I honestly was worried at first that I would not find others who were in the same situation but I could not have been more wrong. There were moms of all situations such as blendermoms, childless stepmoms, stepmoms because they had married a widower, etc… We spent the weekend being ministered to, prayed over, and listening to messages of hope, encouragement and wisdom.

If loneliness and yearning for fellowship is something that you have struggled with or are currently struggling with, you are not alone! There is a sisterhood out there. Sisters that know what stepfamily daily life is like. Sisters who are riding the roller coaster of hills and valleys. Sisters who understand the sheer joy from a stepchild’s smile and the deep hurt of being unappreciated or misunderstood.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

I encourage you to check out the links to the Sisterhood of Stepmoms and sign up for their upcoming SOS retreat this fall!

 

 

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Hands Are For Holding

hands photo

Our hands are never empty if we are holding on to each other.

One year ago yesterday my son’s life changed after having decompression brain surgery for Chiari malformation. Well that is not exactly true. My life changed as well with so many blessings sprinkled with set backs and difficulties. One year ago hardly seems real. It feels like it really was just yesterday.

Just yesterday that I sat by his bed, holding his boyish hand in mine, while a heaviness of

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Holding my son’s hand after brain surgery a year ago.

worry and the faith that God the Father would take care of him wrestled for first place in my heart.  Thinking over how God had given me the honor of being his mom and the privilege of being there for so many moments in his life from the very first time he wrapped his tiny hand around my finger.

Then there really was yesterday. Yesterday I was actually sitting next to a hospital bed with the heaviness of worry once again wrestling with my faith. This time, it was my sweet dad. And I found myself holding his hand in mine thinking over how God blessed me with the privilege of being his daughter and how he has been there for me since

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Holding my dad’s yesterday before surgery.

the very first time I wrapped my tiny hand around his finger.

And it made me realize that in my family our hands are never empty because we hold onto each other. And in them I have learned how to encourage, support, and walk beside those that I love so much. Most importantly of all, I learned to place my whole life in the hand of the Lord Jesus.

It doesn’t matter what your family looks like or whether it’s considered normal, whether it’s blended or not, whether you have the word “step” in front of mom or not. What matters is holding onto each other. Making memories every chance you get and deciding that no matter what you’ll never let go.

Thank you daddy for teaching me how to hold on to the gift of family with one hand and our Heavenly Father with the other.

A Mom’s Prayer For The New Year

2 Kings 25:29-30

29 “So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.”

Last year we celebrated the rolling in of a new year with our children. We laughed. We drank sparkling grape juice (both red and white). We did sparklers and fireworks in our back yard. And when midnight came, we knelt in our family room and prayed together. And God blessed us so much this past year. It was not without many difficult times. It was not without many happy overflowing moments either.new blog picOur celebration was much the same and completely different! It was just my husband and I together. We got delicious take out from Outback. Snuggled and watched a movie. Made a few fireworks of our own. But when midnight came, we knelt in our family room and prayed together. We prayed for each other. We prayed for our three wonderful children, calling each by name. And we prayed and claimed the verses that I shared, for God to give us just what we need each and every day. Simple. Powerful. Believing.

This is my prayer for you and me in this new year. May it be Simple. May it be Powerful. May it be filled with Believing. Believing that the Lord Jesus gives us just what we need for each new day!

 

 

Are You Having A Moment?

This Christmas was filled with lots of moments for our blended family, wonderful boring moments and I couldn’t be happier with that. Yes you read that right. I did say boring and I did say happy. This Christmas was very mellow. We carried out our yearly traditions. Made memories and visited a few new places together to make new ones. We even managed to sneak in a “pajama day” at the request of my sweet stepson just a few days before Christmas. We celebrated with family and shared lots of laughter. The darkness, the worry cloud that sat on my shoulder last year was gone. So like I said, boring, and grateful for it.

Luke ChristmasLast year, as many know, just before Christmas, we learned that our youngest son was going to have brain surgery for Chiari Malformation at the first of the year. So the holidays were consumed with big moments, such as staying strong and not letting him see how utterly scared I was. Moments like hiding how worried I was that this might, just might, be our last Christmas with Luke. Lost in thought of how there is no cure and what if something goes wrong during the surgery and he isn’t the same. Moments while among all the holiday gift shopping, I was searching for pajamas to fit a ten year old that buttoned down the front. And when finally finding some complete with a star wars theme, a moment when I could barely see my way to the cashier for the tears as I imagined when he would have to wear them while having to deal with doctors, nurses, medications, pain, and anxiety.  However, in those moments surrounded by all three kids, wonderful family, our amazing church and supportive friends and community God chose last Christmas to be one of the best we have ever had!

And from last Christmas to this Christmas God has felt so close. His perfect peace was truly a key to surviving all the moments we faced. Life has been rapid, busy for me this year. Writing, homeschooling, volunteering and Bible study classes have consumed me. In fact I’ve realized that the only thing I haven’t done much of is take a moment for me. blog post 3

It got me to thinking how moms like me give so much to every one else. A few months ago I had the privilege of writing a book endorsement for a fellow “blendermom”, Kristie Carpenter, and it was published in her latest devotional book Blended Mom Moments.

It is filled with weekly scriptural devotions interspersed with stories and nuggets of wisdom. I am really looking forward to diving into this book and spending some time with God. He really wants to spend time with you, minister to you, shepherd you and speak to your heart. I’m reminded of the words of the song What Do I Know Of Holy, by Addison Road, “I tried to hear from Heaven but I talked the whole time…” Sometimes we just need to stop talking in order to hear God speak to us.

Psalm 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

This new year I encourage you to stop. Put your feet up, savor a nice cup of coffee and have a moment. Have a moment of quiet, a moment of prayer, a moment of renewal. It will strengthen you during life’s big moments!

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!”

blog post 2*You can purchase a copy of “Blended Mom Moments” Signed Copy Here and Amazon here. I have also had the privilege of getting to know Tara Furman, founder of Knowing God Ministries. I purchased her “Intimacy with God” which truly changed my prayer time years ago. Click the link and go to resources to learn more.

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Stepfamilies and The Dad

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I have written numerous posts about stepfamilies, stepmoms, and biomoms. However recently, I have been thinking about the dads and how they feel in this whole blended/stepfamily thing. When I was a new stepmom, I scoured the internet for posts, articles, etc on stepfamilies and being a stepmom. During that time, I saw comments and posts from stepmoms who complained about how their stepchildren created so much conflict in their marriage. Some shared how they felt alone and isolated while their husband seemed oblivious. Some shared that their husband’s children could do no wrong in his eyes. Does any of this sound familiar?

I know that as a mom in a blended family, it can be filled with emotion. You can feel alone and invisible which is why I wrote about Hagar, in this post Dear Discouraged Stepmom and her role in the story of Abraham and his dysfunctional blended family.

But have you ever stopped and wondered, how does the dad really feel in all of this? Genesis 21:10-11,”and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’  The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son.” Abraham was in agony because he was caught in the middle over his son. His heart was burdened. His wife wanted no part in sharing with a son that he fathered with another woman, whom nowadays would be considered his ex. He wanted his wife happy but he also felt, naturally, a strong loving and loyal bond towards his other son.

I know when we are hurt and frustrated it is hard to see past our own emotions, but are we truly treating our husbands with kindness? OR do you harbor resentment and allow it to bubble up and spill over in the relationship you have with his children?

I recently did an interview The Stepmom Series with Our Blended Home about being a stepmom. I shared that I made the commitment to love my stepson when I made the commitment to love and marry my husband. God has richly blessed us and just as I feel for my own children, I miss him when he is at his other home. Just as my own, I talk about him with my husband and we laugh about the cute funny things he says and does. I worry about him. I pray for him.

We work so hard as moms and stepmoms to love and care for every one around us but sometimes we fall short in extending grace to the closest person here on earth that we have:  our husbands. I know that I have the power to hurt my husband very deeply through not only, of course, how I treat him but how I treat his son.

Proverbs 31:12, “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”   That means loving him and loving his family!

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Guest Post: Chiari’s Plan God’s Plan

To end Chiari awareness month, I have a few devotional thoughts on Chiari from some of my fellow moms. This was written by Jani. Not very long after Luke’s surgery, I was introduced to her at our church. Her daughter had just got the diagnosis. This is how she explains:

September is Chiari Malformation awareness month. Last September I would have not been able to tell you what that meant or why it was important. I saw no Facebook friends lit up with purple, no posts, no ribbons. This year, the word awareness takes on a whole new meaning for myself and my family. My 7 year old daughter Willow has been suffering from horrible headaches for years, headaches we were told were migraines. She has suffered from horrible insomnia, trouble swallowing, and random dizzy spells. When the constant calls from school got to be overwhelming, we finally demanded more answers about her headaches.
IMG_2905What followed was a whirlwind of experiences we never thought we’d have. Earlier this year we were told that she has Chiari Malformation. Huh? What in the world is that? Probably not anything to worry about we were told, but we need to have another MRI. That MRI turned into a consult with a surgeon, which turned into an appointment for my baby girl to have brain surgery. What you should know about me is that I am a planner. I like things to be predictable, orderly, and solution-focused. Suddenly I was tossed into the realm of the unknown; fearful, scared, and wondering how in the world we had gotten here. I would like to tell you that my first instinct was to rely on God, but it wasn’t. I went to the dark side pretty quickly, focused on the fear and worried for my girl. I am blessed to belong to a church where I serve with wonderful people, one of whom happened to have a son going through this very thing. We were put in contact with each other, and to say I probably annoyed the heck out of her with my questions was probably an understatement. It was that first point of connection, one of the more clear moments where I heard God say, “I’ve got you.”
I have learned that God made Willow a fighter, a fighter who had absolute trust that God would make her better. What I have learned is that all my planning means nothing compared to His plans. His points of connection are miraculous. The way He put me in touch with the people I needed, the way my daughter was a zombie in the hospital until her big brother showed up and she lit up with the biggest smile, the only smile, I’d seen in days. The way that He orchestrated us to live here, with the best medical attention we could get. I was slow in getting there, but this journey has shown me that I have to rely fully on God, because it really is all in His hands. In Jeremiah 29:11 it says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When facing a silent disorder with no cure, plans for a hope and a future are the most comforting thing to have. I cannot wait to live out the way He has worked in our family, because I see the seeds of it sprouting even now.
Today she is 9 weeks post-surgery, with only one headache to speak of since then, no numbness in her limbs, and a Willow chiari 3happiness I wish I could put adequately to words. How blessed we are to see her discover life without the pain she had been dealing with for so long. What does purple mean for me? Sure it means Chiari and this thing we will always be aware of. But it also means hope and a future, and connections that only God can make. It means power and renewed faith. Purple is the color of royalty, so I suppose it’s a good thing I have a direct line to the King.

Why Purple Sometimes Makes Me Cry

My Son Chiari WarriorSeptember is Chiari Malformation awareness month. To be honest, I didn’t know there was such a month until my social media began to fill up with purple. So I began to look up quotes and things that I could post on my sites in order to bring awareness and as I was pondering this issue a flood of emotion began to squeeze my throat as I really reflected on just what Chiari has taught me.

Chiari Malformation is what my then ten year old son, Luke was diagnosed with just one year ago. Chiari turned our world upside down. Chiari was a game changer. Chiari taught me just how strong a mother I really am. Chiari taught me about the warrior heart my little boy has inside of him. Chiari has shown me just how much the Lord Jesus loves not only my son but how much He loves me.

The color purple typically stands for invisible illnesses and conditions that can be debilitating or even fatal with no cure. Invisible illness meaning a person painfully hears the words often uttered “he/she/you don’t look sick” or show outward signs of the battle raging inside their body.

Purple. Invisible illness. What no one sees.  Like when my son was diagnosed and suddenly reality got very real. Invisible illness. Purple. As my spirit began to fill with fear as I read all the possible neurological problems that can come with this monster. Night time was the worst for me. Purple. Invisible illness as in no one knowing how I would tuck Luke in, hug him tight and every time I turned out the light and walked out of his room I felt I was leaving a dark presence hovering over him named Chiari. Invisible illness and purple as in no one seeing from the time he was diagnosed until his surgery, night after night I would set my alarm every few hours to get up to check on him because Chiari can block the CSF flow and not send the signal to tell my sweet little boy to breath or not tell his heart to beat. Words can’t describe how my feet, so burdened with fear, would walk me up to his bed heart pounding for what I might find.

IMG_20150203_055813668But here is the twist…Luke, after the initial fearful reaction to learning of his diagnosis and impending brain surgery slept with a peace that I had never seen before. (You can read my post here: How to tell your son he’s going to have brain surgery without exploding into a million pieces.) 

Because for him what I saw as purple, invisible illness, a monster named Chiari; he saw God. God turned our world upside down. God was a game changer. God showed him just how strong a mother he has. God showed him the warrior heart he has inside of him. God has shown him just how much He loves him and how much He loves me and has done it all through Chiari.

Now the color purple has taken on a whole new meaning to me and yes it causes me to cry. Not because he has Chiari but because it reminds me of the warrior spirit of faith and the power of prayer that has grown from Chiari; grown in my family, in my son, in me. Purple reminds me of the absolute power, the incomprehensible grace and God’s perfect plan that although is not always understandable but will always make us all the better for it.

Psalm 138:3 and 138:8 “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

blog chiariMy son Luke feels better than he has ever felt since his surgery. It breaks my heart how he must have suffered before being diagnosed, when we were told he was just dehydrated. Please help share and spread awareness about Arnold Chiari Malformation. Someone you may know and love could be suffering with this and not know. For more information on Chiari and how to help:

http://asap.org/index.php/disorders/chiari-malformation/

http://www.conquerchiari.org/index.html

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chiari/detail_chiari.htm

Disclaimer: These images and links are used for the sole purpose of awareness and information. I am not receiving any monetary gain.

Having A Hard Time Because Of Someone’s Actions?

Letting goDuring the service last Sunday, I was reminded of the story of Joseph and how his brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous. But it wasn’t what they did that gripped my heart. It was his reaction when he was reunited with them years later!

Genesis 45:4-8 “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.  But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt.

Have you been going through a really hard time because of someone’s actions? Having trouble trying to see the good in something painful? I have had trouble, especially in the past, of forgiving and letting go. I’ve wanted them to know what it’s like to hurt as they had hurt me or mistreated my family.

I’ve had conversations in my head that went a little like this:

Me: “But Lord, they hurt me so deeply and those I care most about! They can’t get away with that!”

God whispers: “Forgive them.”

Me: “But why Lord? They don’t deserve it! If I forgive they will think I’m ok with what they did.”

God whispers: “Extend grace to them.”

Me: “But why Father when they have not shown it to me; to my loved ones.”

Again He whispers: “They hurt Me when they hurt you, but you must forgive them as I have forgiven you. You must extend grace to them as I have extended grace to you. With their actions and in the pain you may have lost little but as My child, you have and will be given much.”Letting go

Joseph had every right and opportunity to have his revenge but he saw through the pain and instead extended grace and forgiveness because he knew that God had a plan for his life and God most certainly has a plan for us. Lamentations 3:37 “Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission?”

If I am holding onto the pain and anger placed there by others then my hands are too full to take hold of the beautiful blessings that God is trying to give me. Sometimes, He allows things to happen to empty our hands of all that mess, all that pain, all that bitterness so that he can fill them to overflowing with His goodness!

Ephesians 3:20 “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
I encourage you to let go of the mess placed there by the ex. Let go of the mess placed there by a family member. Let go of the mess placed there by a friend. Drop it and embrace all the good things God has planned for you.

Letting go

 

Real Love And Rainbows

I have seen it all over Facebook and social media along with everyone else; opinions exuberant or angry over the supreme court ruling on marriage yesterday. People practically shouting about God’s judgement while others joyously displaying rainbows shouting back equality with hashtags such as “#lovewins”. DSC_0915

And I believe deeply with every thing in me that love did win, but not in the way you might think. See, for me love won on the cross when Jesus laid down His life for the ones shouting hell and judgement. For the ones shouting equality. For my enemies. For the ones I love most dearly. For all. For me. John 3:16 “For God so LOVED the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. One of the most quoted verses in the Bible does not say “whoever believes unless” it says who. ever. believes.

The gospel of Jesus has not changed. It is the same today as it was yesterday. It is that love, that sacrifice that we need to be sharing with the world as Christians. Leading everyone to the cross. Leading everyone to Jesus. I am a follower of Christ because I believe He died and arose again. I believe He is the picture of unconditional perfect love; a picture of God’s love in the flesh.

I love how the pastor of Newspring Church described it in a post:  “Amidst the protest signs, yelling crowds, and political referendums, the simple message of Jesus’ love for you is often drowned out. Never doubt that Jesus loves you more than you could ever know. Jesus doesn’t just love a future version of you; He loves you exactly as you are right now. Jesus’ love for you has no prerequisites or requirements. Even if you hate Him, Jesus loves you and wants what is best for you. Love is at the core of everything Jesus taught. Unfortunately His message of love has been conveniently left out by many who would rather make a point than make a difference  (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8-10; Romans 5:8; Psalm 86:15).”

As I wrote about in my last post, I did take that step of faith toward a speaking ministry. In my message I shared that sometimes you just have to let go and let God be God. Shouldn’t we be leading others to the Cross and not trying to pick and choose what sin we think someone else needs freedom from? Lead them to Jesus and let Him cleanse their hearts from whatever He deems unclean. It is with deep conviction that I say rather than voicing opinions that we simply lead “all who are thirsty” to the only One who can quench that thirst through grace, love, and mercy.

Social media and all over has been lit up with rainbows. I love a quote I saw posted on Instagram by Jackie Hill Perry written by John MacArthur. “Every time you see a rainbow, listen to me, it represents the victory of grace over judgment. What does this world deserve? Judgment. What does it get? Grace because this is the age when God has hung up His bow. The triumph of mercy over wrath, this is the age for us to go to the ends of the earth and tell them of God and His mercy, God and His grace.DSC_0915

What Are You Doing With Your Little?

Photo taken at Chatlos Memorial Chapel.

Photo taken at Chatlos Memorial Chapel.

We have all gone through seasons of change; seasons of fear; seasons of testing; seasons of forgiveness; seasons of miracles. My emotions have been all over the place since going through so much with my son as well as other things that have popped up in my life. I have had to take a step back from writing and other things, pray, and regroup. I have been feeling God pulling me to venture out of my comfort zone and serve Him in different ways than I have in the past, particularly speaking publicly about some amazing truths and scriptures He has revealed to me.

My husband and I heard Pastor Jimmy Evans speak a few months ago about obedience and serving God. He explained that we go through certain trials in our lives so God can see if He can trust us; to see if we are ready for bigger things. He explained it this way, “God will not give you more than you can rule over. God lets you make big mistakes in a little room before He opens the door to a bigger room.” I have always heard sermons and teachings on placing my trust in God but never really asked myself, “can God trust me?”

Matthew 25:21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “

Luke 16:10 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.

So lately I have been asking myself what kind of a servant am I and how am I growing and learning to better be the woman He created me to be? God has given me a message but am I willing to take that step of faith to share it? After giving it some thought, I called my dad. He pastors a local church and talked with him about speaking on Sunday morning. He was reluctant to do that but offered me Wednesday night. It took me back at first. Thoughts like “Lord, you’ve given me an amazing message and I am bursting to share it! Why not let me share it to a larger audience like Sunday morning? Why not open that door?”

Then I remembered the sermon and the scriptures about God giving you rule over little before He allows you to rule over big. My heart was convicted. I called my dad back and told him how honored I would be to share and speak at the Wednesday night service. So tomorrow night, I am taking that step of faith into what may seem like to some as the little room. I am going to trust Him and if only one person shows up, I will pour out my heart to that one person in obedience to the Father. Praying with each small act of my obedience to go in the direction He is guiding my heart, he will open another door. The more I am faithful;  the more I lean into God, the more He will trust me and give me more opportunities to serve Him.

So my question is what are you doing with your little as you are waiting for your big?Blog little