God Sees The Heart

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I have been going through some difficult times lately. The decisions I am facing do not just impact myself but deeply impact my family. Sometimes, when I am overwhelmed with such trials, I find it hard to write. The emotions are too strong and as I fight to stay in control of them, I clamp down. I’m left with all the struggles, worry, and stress trapped in my head but not allowing them to show. This only increases this weight of the burdens I am carrying.

Adding to it is I can be my own worst critic. Because I am overwhelmed and worried, I beat myself up for being,well, overwhelmed and worried. This leaves me feeling weak and even inferior comparing myself to others that either seem so confident and strong or supremely happy.

A few weeks ago, as I was having my morning coffee and prayer time, I came across some verses and a prayer I had written back in January and it really spoke to my heart. I felt God nudging me to share it, however I have been reluctant to do so.

Sharing that I am struggling requires me to feel vulnerable and although I have a wonderful supportive husband and family, sadly no matter how hard I try to give, share, and love others, there are still those that glory in my struggle. But, maybe I am not alone. My prayer is that in sharing, that it will encourage someone who needs it.

January 5, 2016

  • James 1:5 Ask God for His wisdom and He will give it to you.
  • James 1:16-18 God does not change like a shifting shadow-He gives the good stuff!
  • James 1:22-24 Follow through with what God’s word tells you to do. Don’t forget the new creation you are in Christ. Don’t forget who you are!

Heavenly Father,

I’m asking for Your wisdom to see the situation through Your eyes, so that my heart and my will are aligned with Yours. You do not change. You give the good stuff. I know that with acceptance of Your will, I will find peace. Help me to realize the creation I am in Your image. Father, help me realize my place in Your kingdom. Bind satan from the oppression and inferiority placed in my heart that I seem to wrestle with daily.

It never ceases to amaze me the goodness of God and the perfection of His timing. When I finally decided to share this post, I went back to my prayer journal and found these two verses at the bottom of my entry for that January day.

Proverbs 16:2 The Lord sees your motives. 1Thessalonians 2:4Seek to please God not people for God judges the heart.

Reminding me that it does not matter what others think and even if some revel in my pain, there is nothing He does not see. God sees the heart!

 

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How a Coke Revealed to Me What Was Important in my Marriage

Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; I held on to him and would not let him go. ~Song of Solomon 3:4a

My husband and I just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. I found a clean white envelope on the kitchen counter simply addressed to my angel. Later, as I placed the sweet card on my desk that he had given me, I noticed a Coke can sitting there. I remembered the day he gave that to me as well.

It had been one of those days. I had come home from work unusually stressed and tired. Trying to scramble to get dinner ready while snapping at my husband who was trying to help me, as he often did. As I was getting the plates and silverware, he gingerly came up to me holding a can of soda. I looked up and it was one of the new “share a Coke” cans and on the side it had the word Soulmate. Eagerly he said, “I want to share this with you over dinner.” Immediately I felt all the tension of the day leave my spirit. Isn’t it amazing how one act, one word can change everything?
Later, my heart felt heavy with guilt as I lovingly rinsed out that soda can and placed it among my special treasures on my desk. How often does my husband get the back seat in our life or after our children for that matter? How often does he get my leftovers? I would never treat others, such as my boss with such disrespect. I know the answer is because at home, I am most comfortable. I feel safe among my precious loved ones enough to let my guard down. But does that make it more excusable?

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Scarcely had I left them when I found him whom my soul loves; i held on to him and would not let him go. ~Song of Solomon 3:4a

It has been a long and difficult journey thru heartbreak and divorce to finding my way to my husband and the same for him. Our dynamic is different because we each have children that we must prioritize. We may not have the luxury for just the two of us to go off on an exotic getaway. The children’s medical bills, braces, college and family vacations come first. However, I can show him he means so much to me, not in the elaborate but in the every day. I can give him my best, my encouragement and support. Set aside a small part of my day just for him.

I want to be my husband’s true mate, a real partner in life and I was reminded of that by a soda can. I pray that I will always be continually reminded. Reminded that showing my husband everyday in some small way that he truly is the one that my soul loves.

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post and South Africa’s All4Women

 

What Huffington Post Left Out

Weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when the editor of Huffington Post Divorce contacted me and asked if they could feature our family for their blended family Friday feature story. I had recently had two pieces published on the Huff Post blog, but this was truly an honor. It was a rare chance to share who we really are with so many. I know that it is not a Christian news outlet. However, I am who I am and in the interview I did not hide how much our faith has been the center of our family.

When the email finally landed in my inbox to let me know they were running our feature this past Friday, I could barely sit still for days. All morning on the big day, I kept checking the site, waiting for it to go live. When it did, mouth dry, I nervously clicked on the link. (You can read the feature here.)

As I began to read, confusion began to swirl and then disappointment settled in my spirit. Although it had several elements of what I had said, sadly, every part about our faith, the essence of who we really are as a family and how we deal with stress and difficulties was edited out completely. (Particularly question #5). Also in vowing to spread awareness, the things I shared about my son’s Chiari had been cut as well. But I want others to know us, see God in us, so I am posting my original interview.

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Our family journey has been filled with change, disappointments, victories, worry and joy. Our faith has been there through it all. Divorce and re-marriage is still an issue where we are looked down on and judged by some within the Christian community. I have a passion to reach out and spiritually encourage other moms like me who may feel judged or shamed so I started my blog www.familiesunbroken.com and it’s kind of evolved from there. As a writer, it only takes one moment, one thought, one written idea to change someone’s life. I don’t have all the answers but I share my heart and hope that it resonates with other families like ours.

1. How many family members do you have? Ages? 

My daughter is 17 years old, my son is 12 this month and Daniel’s son is 13 years old. And we have a furbaby named Brady that just turned 5 years old that is the most spoiled in the house.

2. How long have you and your spouse been together?
Daniel and I have been together nearly 9 years and will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary in a few weeks.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges of blended family life?
I think it is the same as in many blended families. It is trying to find balance between home and work while coordinating schedules, parenting time, school and other events.
What’s one specific problem you’ve faced time and time again and how have you sought to address it?
Daniel is the “every other weekend and one night a week” parent so we have to cram family time as well as one on one parenting time into a very limited space. Because of this, he feels he never sees his son enough. What we have found that works is we deliberately set aside one on one quality time with him and we plan it before his parenting weekend. Sometimes it’s going to breakfast on Saturday mornings or mountain biking on Sunday afternoons, etc… As a family, we try to simply do activities to make memories. We do a lot of day trips. I think I have a talent for finding activities to do or places to visit that are out of the ordinary (lol). Daniel tells me all the time how much he loves me for that. His son appreciates that we respect the short time he has with his dad and it has helped us to appreciate the family time we do have together and the memories we are able to make.
4. What’s the best thing about being part of a blended family?
I feel that it’s learning to love each other coming in from the outside. More of an effort goes into learning our children’s individual uniqueness and as we have grown more as a family, the effect is that we love and appreciate each other all the more for that effort.5. How do you deal with stress in your household?
We have a very strong faith that is rooted in grace, acceptance and forgiveness. During times of stress in our home we have tried to teach and practice extending grace to each other. We try to accept each other, that we are not the same and each of us has our own thoughts and feelings, as well as reactions. We are not robots. We then try to forgive each other, learn from it and move forward.
As far as handling the internal and emotional stress that comes with being blended, prayer helps us a lot. Daniel works out at the gym several times a week. He calls it his therapy, and I love to write.

6. What makes you proudest of your family?
What makes me most proud of our family are delicious ordinary moments. It’s those moments when we are not a blended family, we are just family. Moments where we are at the dinner table eating together, laughing hysterically at inside jokes and sharing about our day. Those moments where we are riding together in the car singing and dancing to the radio, playing at the park, or camped out on the living room floor watching a movie. It is those moments where we are not a blended family around the dinner table, we are just a family around the dinner table. We are not a blended family having fun, we are just a family having fun. I really am proud to say over the years we have shared countless moments like that.
7. What advice do you have for other blended families who feel like a peaceful family dynamic is out of reach? The best advice I can give is only what has seemed to work for us with a lot of time and patience. First, throw your preconceived ideas out the window. It will never be what you expect. Accept that there will be tears, yelling, confusion, and adjustment. Second, make your marriage a priority. That doesn’t mean your children are less, but because your children deserve more, and don’t need to go through another divorce. The kids will learn to appreciate the stability of a healthy family home. Finally, learn to be selfless not selfish. Focus on making memories instead of what you can’t control.
I also want to share just over a year ago, my son was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and underwent brain decompression surgery. It was an emotional eye-opening experience for both his father and me, but from that came better communication, patience and appreciation for each other as his parents. It affected every one in both families. It helped to solidify in our hearts that at the end of the day, what truly is important, is each other.
I would like to sincerely thank Huffington Post for everything, especially the wonderful opportunity to share with so many that otherwise would not be possible to reach. I want to say thank you for including a link to my blog so that I could write this post and share what was left out. Allow me to share more of a part of who I am, who we are.
But most of all, I want to thank God for opportunities to allow me to share Him and how he truly has helped make something new out of our brokenness.
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
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You may have started out broken but God heals and restores to unbroken.

 

Blue Blessings

WP_20160319_21_25_43_ProThere are moments that happen in our lives that I like to refer to as blue blessings. They happen when we are really down and heavyhearted. They seem to come out of the blue and whisper that it’s going to be okay. Surprise us with their simplicity to touch our hearts and encourage us to keep going, and that somehow what we face has purpose and meaning.

It’s been just over a year since my son, Luke, had brain surgery for Chiari malformation. He has come so far and I think it’s given him a love and compassion for others in ways that continues to surprise me. I have had so many tell me how special he is and inspiring to them.

Recently, I learned that a coworker who had battled cancer before and beat it had recently found out it had returned. My heart broke for her. Luke decided to make a large card for her. He spent hours on it, drawing and coloring. He would not let me help in any way.

When he was done, we packaged it up and also sent with it, a prayer bear. I included a note explaining how Luke and I had prayed over it and when she hugged it close, we prayed she would feel our love and prayers of healing and comfort for her.

Lately, I have been discouraged. Luke has had some health issues come up that have burdened my heart with worry. Because he has an incurable brain condition, he will never have just a normal headache or just a typical stomach ache. As his mom, it will always cause me to wonder if it is something more. It will cause me to question if I am doing the right thing, making the right decision for him on how to treat it or what doctor we see.

So the sweet card that we received this past week from my coworker came out of the blue and the words she wrote at the end brought tears to my eyes and to my little guy’s as well. Sometimes we just need to know that there is a reason and purpose for the bad times we face. We need to be reminded that we make a difference, that we matter. Sometimes it comes to us as blue blessings.

Barbara note

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey Stepmom, You Are Not Alone!

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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!

 

 

Hands Are For Holding

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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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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

Dear Discouraged Stepmom

Dear Stepmom BlogI was thinking today how I have been a stepmom for nearly seven years. In some ways it has seemed that time has flown by and in other ways, it has been a slow meticulous process of blending our family. I have received so many blessings and moments filled with happy memories, sweet unexpected hugs, deep intimate connection with my husband, and wonderfully precious family time with our children.

However, I must admit that their have been times when I have also felt discouraged in this process. In one of my previous post for Family Fusion Community, I wrote “Stepmoms do not have an easy job. They are caught somewhere in the middle of all the emotion and tend to receive the brunt of negativity and spitefulness because they are not a biological parent. Often, they are a dumping ground for all the hurt, frustration, anger, confusion, and sadness that comes with divorce from all involved including the biological parents, children, and even extended families.”  (You can read the entire post here: http://familyfusioncommunity.com/2014/01/30/the-other-mothers/)

Stepmoms can also feel invisible, as if no one sees them for who they really are. They feel unseen for their choice to love anyway, for their good intentions, and for their kind hearts. Or, their love and kindness is twisted and turned into negativity through bad mouthing or false accusations. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

During my prayer time several months ago, I came across a very important prominent family in the bible that was not only blended, but dysfunctional as well. I am talking about Abraham. A little background of this story, found in Genesis 16 and Genesis 21, is Sarah, because she had not become pregnant, gave her servant Hagar to her husband Abraham so that he might have children. Hagar became pregnant and gave birth to a son named Ishmael. Thirteen years later, Sarah became pregnant and gave birth to Isaac. So now if you haven’t caught on, this is a blended family (maybe not traditional) but blended just the same. I look at Hagar as like a stepmom because she has no legal rights and is completely at the mercy of Abraham and Sarah. And feeling so overwhelmed, Hagar runs away.

There are some verses that create a picture of this blended family, especially in chapter 21 where I found 3 very interesting facts. First, the two sons had conflict between each other. Second, there was conflict between the two moms, and third, the father was caught in the middle. And I will be writing on each of these. However, I am only focusing on Hagar’s story to say this directly to you, discouraged Stepmom. God hears you, He hears the deep cries of your heart and most importantly God sees you. You are not invisible.

Genesis 16:9-11; Genesis 16:13-14

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael,  for the Lord has HEARD of your misery.

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.”

What a beautiful picture of a God whose love is so compassionate that He would seek out a servant girl and let her know He hears her; He sees her and is going to bless her. She is so deeply moved that she gives God the name, “El Roi” which translates “The God Who sees me.” I encourage you dear Stepmom;  the next time you are feeling discouraged, disheartened, and overlooked to call out the name of God. Because those verses have been such a comfort to me and during those times of discouragement I have prayed and called the name of God “El Roi” because I am not discounted. I am not invisible. I am loved. I am blessed. God hears. God lovingly and graciously sees me!

Dear Stepmom Blog