Parenting: My Personal Struggle with Fear

sister shirtWhen my daughter, my oldest child, was in preschool through elementary school, she was so spunky and smart with just enough stubbornness to call it determination mixed in. I truly felt she would conquer the world, a neatly packaged redheaded blue-eyed force to be reckoned with. When the middle school years hit, she changed. The bullying started and she became fearful and worried more and more.

Many nights I’ve knelt by their bed and prayed over both my son and my daughter, but I’ve spent a lot of time worried for my sweet sensitive girl. Her dad and I divorced when she was three. I remarried when she was five and he left me two years later. When she was sixteen, my youngest son at age ten was diagnosed with an incurable brain abnormality and underwent brain surgery to help restore flow between his brain and spine. To say our whole world flipped upside down that year would be an understatement.

I have been remarried now for nearly ten years to a good Christian man and stepfather. I’m a stepmom to a very determined handsome high school freshman. My son, now thirteen is doing very well and surgery, although scary, has been an answered prayer. We have worked very hard to blend our family and move forward.

My daughter is a sophomore in college now. She is still spunky and very smart but her struggle is real. She wrestles with who she is versus who she thinks she should be. She worries that she is not good enough to succeed.

why i didn't rebel 2I have been reading a book by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach called Why I Didn’t Rebel. In it Rebecca shares her own personal encouraging story of how she made it through the difficult teen years while staying true to her values, faith, and family.

The other day I was reading her chapter on Expectations where she wrote: “Looking at all these stories, I saw a pattern emerging:  families who expected their kids to rebel were scared, and families who didn’t expect their kids to rebel had a lot of faith in their children.” It was like gaining admittance into a secret room where parents are typically not allowed and God used her words to illuminate some shadowed corners of my soul.Why I Didn't Rebel

It revealed to me that unconsciously I’ve been parenting from a place of fear rooted in guilt. The more she struggles the more fearful I become because in the innermost part of my heart, I worry that my failures will cause her to rebel and ultimately fail. I know this is not what God wants for my family or my daughter.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 2:7

Parenting is hard and divorce and remarriage is messy. Blending a family only makes it more complicated. Why I Didn’t Rebel is like a breath of fresh air. Drawing me out, helping to replace my pessimism with perspective straight from the proverbial green grass on the other side. It tackles issues parents face today while giving candid insight on balancing them with healthy boundaries and expectations that actually work.

Why I Didn't RebelFor 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. Jeremiah 29:11

Thank you Rebecca for allowing God to use you to write this book to rekindle hope in parents who may be struggling with discouragement. My girl may just conquer the world after all.

 

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Guest Post: A Golden Rule for Divorced Parents

meter-106419_640I first heard about Tim Lemire and his efforts a few months ago when he contacted me about an article about divorced dads I had published on The Huffington Post. You can read that here.

For the past year, Tim has been working to push legislators and the General Assembly in his home state of Rhode Island to adopt an initiative to require divorce and coparenting education for divorcing parents in the family court system. This, no doubt, is a steep uphill battle and I applaud his brave efforts to bring about precious positive change for the sake of the children.

He has written a very thoughtful piece about coparenting and I wanted to share it!

Here is what Tim has to say….

We grown-ups are aware that from time to time, we imitate our parents — and not always voluntarily.

If we are also parents, we want our own children to imitate us … but only in good ways. We do our best, therefore, to model good behavior for them.

If we are divorced parents, we can do this by repeating to ourselves the following: The way I treat my former spouse is how I want my children to treat me.

That doesn’t mean that on your ex’s next birthday, you need to send flowers or a candygram. It doesn’t mean you need to erase your mind’s every negative thought about your ex because that’s what you want your kids to do with you.

Here’s what it does mean:

  • When you badmouth your ex, you teach your children, “It’s OK to call a parent names and to talk about them critically and negatively.”
  • When your children hear you assigning bad motives to your ex, you teach your children to be cynical and suspicious of a parent.
  • When you use Family Court not to resolve disagreements constructively but rather to bully, intimidate, and bankrupt your ex, you are teaching your children that lawsuits are how to resolve disagreements with a parent.
  • When you shut your ex out of your children’s lives — not because your ex poses any threat to your children’s safety, but because you wish to punish your ex — you are teaching your kids, “It’s perfectly OK to cut a parent out of your life.

    If you do any or all of the above, don’t be surprised one day at how critical, cold of heart, or distant your children have become toward you.”

    You are the one who taught them.

    Children learn from both parents, which is why it’s important for both members of a divorced couple to be civil, respectful, fair, and cooperative.

    This golden rule may be the one thing you and your ex can agree on.

    It may not be easy. It may, in fact, be quite hard. But how you handle challenging situations is also something your children are to looking to you, to your example, to learn from.

    If your children become adults who are compassionate and kind, cooperative and collaborative, patient and understanding, would you like them to say they learned all that from you — or from anyone but you?

    Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” — James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes from a Native Son (1961)

    TIM LEMIRE is a writer and visual artist based in Providence, Rhode Island. He is currently working to reform family law in his home state. You can hear more from him on This I Believe.

 

4 Things to Curb Worry When the Kids are With the Other Parent

I remember years ago, sitting in my car at a neutral location, waiting for the visitation exchange with my daughter. I came to realize with time that we were not the only ones to use this particular parking lot. I saw others waiting in their cars. Oh we never acknowledged each other but still I felt connected to them. It was as if we were all proverbial ghosts drifting along at the same place but in our own little world, seeing yet not seeing each other.

Some of you reading this will know exactly what I’m talking about. Still other parents go and pick up their kids for their parenting time and drop them back off when it’s over like my husband does with my stepson. Or maybe you are the parent who gets your son or daughter ready and packed up to go when the other parent arrives like I do with my son.

No matter how you do it, this time, this situation seems to stir up worry. We sometimes worry about issues that may come back with our child. Or we worry if they will have a good time? Will they be upset? How long will it take for them to decompress and settle?

Let’s face it, honestly it is natural to worry when your children aren’t with you. Don’t beat yourself up. For me, the worrying went to another level after my son’s brain surgery, and even now my anxiety creeps up because of it. However, several months ago, during my prayer time, God spoke to me on 4 simple things that have helped me in overcoming my worry and anxiety when my children aren’t with me.

1. Remember the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal should be to make sure the children in the middle get time to cultivate a lasting healthy loving relationship by spending quality time with their other parent. When you keep your eyes focused on that end goal it makes it a little easier to not sweat the small stuff such as how they don’t do the same things you do in your home the way you think they should be done.

2. Focus on the positives and focus on you. Instead of letting your mind obsess over what might be going wrong, try to focus on memories they are making with their dad or mom. Also, this is a time you can be completely selfish. This is a time to go shopping and buy something just for you, or put your feet up and enjoy an UNINTERRUPTED movie (cause you know that don’t happen when the kids are there). If you are dipping your toes back in the dating pool, this time is a great time to go out on a date and get to know someone new.

3. Pray. It is simple but “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”. We pray over so many things in our lives. Why not pray for our children and their dad that God will bless that relationship, give their mom wisdom, and a hedge of protection around them. Prayer is a wonderful thing because it isn’t a menial task or list of wishes. The attitude shouldn’t be well all I can do is pray. It should be an attitude of gratefulness that we have such a powerful tool, to go before the Creator of the universe on behalf of our children in the face of our worry.

4. Remember that they are never alone. This one truth is the most important and has brought so much comfort to me when I just could not shake the worry. God is always there and goes where you cannot! You never send them to the other house alone. There is nothing going on over there that God doesn’t know about.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

And let’s just go there for a minute. You may be reading this and saying how he or she treats the kids when they are there or how they bad mouth you or all the bad stuff that I honestly know goes on in some homes sometimes. GOD. SEES. THAT. TOO.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Psalm 139:7-12 (MSG)

Being divorced with kids is very hard and yes we are going to worry like crazy sometimes. But it’s important to remember that just because you are no longer together you still have the same end in mind as when you first had children and that is they grow up to be happy, healthy, productive individuals. So do what you can and let God handle the rest.

A Special Place-Teen Room Makeovers For Our Kids

When my husband and I got married back in 2008, we were living in the house I had been in since 1998. It was a small 1000 sq ft home with one bathroom and when we combined our families, the five of us were a bit crowded. We both wanted to move and start fresh and after a lot of hard work and nearly a year of searching and trying to sell my house, we moved into what we hope will be our forever home in July of 2010.

I love our house! Growing up as a preacher’s kid, we moved a lot to plant or rebuild churches. I never got to put down roots, so it was my dream to give my children what I didn’t have, raising them in a nice suburban country neighborhood where they could ride their bikes and have other kids to play with and we have been so blessed. In fact, our yard has typically become the gathering place for the neighborhood boys.

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We have slowly made our house a home. Over the summer, we decided to surprise and redo all of our children’s bedrooms while they were gone on summer vacation with their other parent! Keep in mind, I am not one of those brilliant decorating bloggers whose home looks like the completed project at the end of a HGTV episode. However, I wanted to share what we did.

merediths-room

Our daughter, Meredith, was the first to go on vacation with her dad and his family. She is starting her senior year and is also duel enrolled in college. She spends a lot of time doing homework and studying in her room. Her walls were already a pale aqua and comforter set was yellow and gray.

I got my inspiration and ideas for the canopy from Cottage Instincts. We took the bed that I had since childhood and painted it black to match her tall dresser. I found a black TV stand on Craigslist for $10 and made a cushion for it. We turned her desk in to a dressing table (she never used it, preferring to study on her bed), added a little wall art and a lamp and we were done (at least for now).

 

Our youngest son was next to go on summer vacation with his dad. I have written about Luke often and his brain condition, Chiari Malformation. Because of his condition as well as the fact that I homeschool him, he spends a lot of time in his room. He is really into college basketball and his favorite team is NC State, so we decided to give him a red, black and white Wolfpack room.

lukes-room-2

I want to give a BIG shout out to my amazing husband. He made the trophy case, painted Luke’s old desk, and the stripes on the walls. The inspiration for the trophy case came from Shanty 2 Chic. We changed out the antique brass handles for modern ones on his long dresser and framed his posters and certificates/awards.

lukes-room

Our oldest son was the last to go on vacation with his mom. He will be turning 14 soon and loves duck camo. The boys once shared a room and we hung their beds from the ceiling to give them more floor space and he wanted to keep his bed that way. We painted three of his walls a camo khaki color and the 4th wall, a deep burnt orange.

We took my old dresser that went with the bed frame from Meredith’s room, gave it a fresh coat of black paint and added new drawer pulls. We covered his bed and corner shelf with duck blind netting. We framed some awards and photos that were special to him. I found this poem, tweaked it and took one of his favorite photos from our trip to the mountains, had it printed and framed.

 

ethans-room

lb-graphicsHowever, the biggest highlight of his room was totally inspired by this awesome blog post on Make Them Wonder. Our wonderful neighbors, Brande and Lee, have a fantastic vinyl decal business L & B Graphic and can make anything! (In fact they made this scripture Joshua 24:15 that has been on the wall in our family room since 2010.) I sent her a picture of the shadow duck hunter and they turned out perfectly. We added reed fencing and LED lights.

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I have read so much about making room in your heart and life for your blended family but I believe it is equally important to make a special place for them in the home. A place, inspired by who they are, where they can relax and be themselves. My husband and I felt that there have been some major changes going on in each of their lives for the past couple of years. We wanted to make a space for them that was stable, comfortable no matter what was going on outside of our home in their lives, a true haven.

It doesn’t have to be a complete makeover like we did. Not everyone has enough space to give each of their kids their own room but you can make a special area for them with pillows, special bedding, pictures, etc… The most special, most wonderful part was the look on their precious faces when they got back and walked into their new rooms for the first time. PRICELESS!!

What I Can and Can’t Imagine about Melissa Graves, The Mom Who Lost Her Toddler Son, Lane

As I am packing and preparing for our family to go on vacation in a few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about Melissa Graves, the mom whose little boy was snatched by an alligator while vacationing at Disney. I can imagine she was preparing much the same as I am now for her family’s vacation last week.

I can just imagine her, excited with anticipation of the fun, memories and adventures that were coming, as she washed and lovingly folded size 2T socks, pajamas, and everything in between. Moving so methodically, casually from room to room, drawer to drawer.

I can imagine her checking to make sure her little guy had his special blankie or stuffed toy, knowing as mommies do that no one would sleep if it were left behind.

I can imagine her packing sippy cups, Cheerios, and Gold Fish into a smaller bag that would be close at hand in case little Lane let his mommy know he was hungry for a snack. I can imagine her adding a few beeping, button-laden toys to the front pouch of that bag to try and keep him busy or still for about thirty seconds, knowing that her toddler had boundless energy and never seemed to stop moving.

I can imagine her posting on Facebook and social media about her family’s upcoming trip to Florida, maybe even counting down the days or “sleeps” until Disney.

I can imagine her taking one last glance around the house, making sure nothing was forgotten, checking the thermostat to make sure it was set just right and reminding her husband to make sure all the doors were locked and their home was secured.

I can imagine the pleasant exhaustion that she felt as she tucked her children in at the end of each fun-filled, miles of walking, stroller pushing days they had so far.

I can imagine her watching Lane happily splashing in the water, finally occupied for a few moments and in those few moments feeling peace, happiness, and contentment.

Bubbles

Photo credit: StephanieByrdPhotography.com

What I can’t imagine is the sheer heart-stopping, horrifying fear she felt when realizing he was there one minute and gone the next, like being caught in a nightmare where everything is in slow motion and you can’t run fast enough.

I can’t imagine the agony that she must feel, not being able to scream because it’s so deep inside her with its choking grip making it hard for her to even breathe, much less utter a sound.

I can’t imagine the sickening nausea as she packs away the sippy cups, snacks and toys knowing the round chubby little hands of their owner will never again reach for them. Can’t imagine her folding and packing away soft little pajamas with their sweet baby smell that she had dressed him in the night before.

There are many facets of this unspeakable tragedy that I cannot possibly imagine but sadly it doesn’t make this any less real. The reality is the unimaginable happened and this mom is going home with aching empty arms and a gaping bleeding hole cut through her chest that nothing or no one on earth can fix.

However, although we can’t imagine ever being in the living nightmare that she is going through, we can honor the memory of her son by hugging our children a little more tightly and drinking up every precious moment we have with them whether they are adventure-filled or ordinary. We can honor him by sending our prayers and sincerity, instead of blame and judgement about something we cannot possibly imagine.

As for me, I will be continuing to think and pray for Melissa and her family, thoughts and prayers that she probably never imagined she would desperately need.

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.