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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Dear Stepmom/Stepdad: You Made the Choice

I Chose You 1Sometimes when I’m reading or listening to a speaker, a phrase will leap up at me. I love this because many times it’s a new thought that will change my thinking or change my spirit. Or sometimes it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come or the choices I’ve made.

I was reading a book the other day and it had a scripture attached to the point the author was trying to make and the words in the verse seemed to leap off the page at me and wrap around my heart.

You did not choose me. I chose you. John 15:16a

The theological context is that Jesus is telling us that we were chosen to be a living testimony as we follow Him. And in the next verse, vs. 17, it tells us to love each other.

It got me to thinking. Doesn’t this describe the choice we make to become a stepparent? When I met my husband and his son, I had a choice to make. I could continue in a relationship with him leading to marriage and gaining a stepchild because they were a package deal or I could walk away.

In other words, we chose our stepchildren by choosing to continue a relationship with their mom or dad. But when you think about it, our stepkids didn’t get the same choice. They don’t get the choice of walking away. Sometimes this can be delicate territory and can sometimes create hostility between stepparents and stepkids. If you are experiencing some struggles right now, try to remember this and work to extend grace and love to them.

They say a marriage takes work by making the choice to love and to stay with that person each and every day. With blended families it is more intricate because we not only make the choice every day to love our spouse, but also to love their child or children as well, a commitment to stay and to love them each and every day.

I Chose You 2 Being a Stepmom or Stepdad is hard but so rewarding. I can imagine a conversation between a stepparent and stepchild like this: “I know it’s hard and you may even wish your mom and dad were still together. I know you didn’t choose me to be your stepmom/stepdad, but guess what, I chose you! I chose to love you both with all my heart and I’m so glad I did.”

You did not choose me. I chose you.

Yes I did! And I am so blessed and thankful every single day.

 

 

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.

 

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!!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stepfamilies and The Dad

Dad blog

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!

Dad blog

House Rules

House RulesRe-marriage is a really big deal to a child! It can be traumatic. I’m a firm believer that the more straight forward you are in a blended family the better. Our children would go to their other homes and things would be very different for them. Things were not spelled out as clearly there and they would get in trouble and not really know why. They even told us they would just do whatever because they felt they would get in trouble no matter what they did. So, right after we got married, we sat all the children down for a family meeting. Here are some things we defined that really helped create peace in the midst of newly blended chaos.

1. We defined our roles in our home. We explained that although we are the mom and dad of the house. However, we assured them that we would never try to take the place of their real mom or dad in their lives. We wanted them to know that it is okay to love their other parent even in our home.

2. We defined the rules of the house. We wrote down our house rules on a large poster. We wrote the basics about disobedience, lying, and disrespect. Then we let the kids come up with what they felt should be house rules. This was a really good thing for them. It created less confusion and more order and helped them feel that they played an important part within this new family.

3. We defined consequences if the rules were broken. After we created the house rules, we discussed consequences for not following the rules. The children also came up with some of their own consequences for some as well. This really aided in the kids feeling more stable when here with us because they knew what was expected.With divorce and remarriage, they have no control whatsoever so by us giving them a little decision making power in the home really helped them to develop their identity within this new family and feel like some things are in their control.

We have learned that the best thing you can do for a new blended family is organize, define and create expectations in the beginning to create more order and less confusion! Proverbs 1:3 NLT “Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair.”

A Candle For Jack

Jack is a wonderfully gifted, inquisitive, articulate 9 year old boy with a beautiful, sweet warmth about him.  His strong determined mom is a blogger friend of mine and for the past year or so I’ve been following her powerful emotional story of co-parenting (if you can even call it that) with a narcissist.  For years she has struggled to move mountains to get the help and encouragement for this highly gifted child with an IQ in the 98th percentile. When Jack was 7, because of her efforts of trying to get him enrolled in the Gifted Academy, she lost custody of her son through a very broken court system. A court system that felt it was better to not look to experts in the field of gifted children but rather to the squeaky wheel that was screaming for grease.  Her parenting time has now been reduced to 8 days a month!

Since the custody change, Jack’s anxiety has increased to an all time high.  He has shared with his mom after crying uncontrollably for the first hour of most visits with her that his father is abusing him mentally, emotionally, and physically and since the courts are not monitoring him and this man has complete control, the abuse has escalated to an alarming level.  One small example of this is that Jack is afraid of heights so his father held him by his leg and suspended him over the railing of the deck 20 feet off the ground to teach him not to be afraid!  Countless times he has been called a baby, stupid, and an idiot.  He is not allowed to cry.  I could go on with many other examples.

I was deeply moved by this brave mom’s post, her message of hope that she has received from God through her son and her anxious fear as she goes to the court of appeals on April 15 to plead with them to overturn the custody ruling.  This is the link to this post and I encourage you to please read it!  You will be so inspired by this amazing little boy.

http://scatteredsmotheredandcovered.com/2014/04/07/one-word-365-submit-to-hope/

Today we had a prayer service at church.  A time where we can be prayed over, take communion,light candles and also literally carry our burdens and nail them to a wooden cross.  My daughter and I solemnly lit a candle for Jack.  And we prayed.  Prayer changes things and so I asked God would surround this situation with His almighty power.  I prayed that Jack and his mom would feel that power and strength in such a way that they would know a peace that they have never known in the midst of this raging storm.  I am asking that everyone will join me on April 15, in the middle of working, business of life, tax deadlines, etc…to stop just a moment and pray for this hearing.  Pray for this dedicated mom.  Pray for Jack.

I have been thinking and meditating on Psalms 10 which is such a powerful chapter.  Here are a few verses that really speak to me.  Psalms 10:10-11 ESVThe helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”  Verses 14, 17-18  “But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.  O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

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Pray for Jack.
   

What’s So Great About 4?

Earlier this summer, I was driving down the road on the way to the grocery store, listening to the radio when the overly zealous radio DJ announces that if you are the 10th caller your name will be entered in a drawing to win a family 4-pack of tickets to go see an upcoming show at the local coliseum. I get to the store and begin my grocery shopping.  I head for the meat department to check out the sales.  I notice that there are packs of fresh ground meat hamburgers all conveniently made into large patties in packs of 4.  I chug home after finishing the task of grocery shopping, put things away and finally sit down and grab my laptop.  Although we had already had an amazing beach vacation at the beginning of the summer, I wanted to look up some prices for a possible trip toward the end of the summer.  I go to the various websites and search the packages and specials.  There is countless, and I do mean countless deals on theme park tickets, food, and  lodging for (you guessed it) a family of 4. Deciding that we did not have enough money I started looking into alternative options for the summer.  A local  water park at a lake 20 minutes from our home was running a special for a summer pass at an amazing deal for a FAMILY OF 4!  After this happened for the 4th time (pun intended) that day I started to ask myself, is society trying to tell us something?  There are so many deals and so many specials geared toward the family and every single one of them for family is limited to 4!  It seems there are so many differences of opinion out there about families and the ones that society seems to want to force upon us is referred to as being politically correct.  Is it that perhaps if you are a family of 4 you are politically correct and the ones that have less than or in my case, more than 4 are politically incorrect?  I can’t help but ask the obvious question here;  what’s so great about 4?  Is that society’s way of reminding us at every turn “ok you have 2 children, you’re done now”?!  Maybe, if you are a family of 3, well I guess it might not be too bad, you can bring a friend.DSC_2164

I asked my husband how he felt about the subject with all the family deals, coupons, or specials are geared toward families of 4.  He said that society certainly seems to be biased toward families that have 2 kids.  He says he feels like it is inconsiderate to the larger families and I am going to have to agree.  Wouldn’t it seem that if you have more than 2 kids would you not need the discount and specials that much more because you have more mouths to feed?  Seriously what are these companies thinking?  “sorry but we only have 4 passes kids so pick a number between 1 and 10  to see which one of you has to sit this one out”!  It seems that we are seeing more and more blended and expanded families these days.  I think it’s time we changed the standard! Who’s with me?? 

Psalms 127:3-5a “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”