Slow and Steady Does Win the Race: The Challenge of Consistency

The Challenge of ConsistencyRemember that Tortoise and Hare?

There’s a saying,slow and steady wins the race.” Other words describing this principle are

  • consistency
  • perseverance
  • doing the work

Is it hard to be consistent and persevere when you don’t see it paying off?

In the Love Affair that’s Not With My Husband bible study, we’ve witnessed Esther being consistent and persevering in what Mordecai instructed her to do {Esther 2}. We’ve identified how hard it is to “trust and obey” when we don’t see the results of our efforts. 

Things You Feel

Whatever you call it –

  • impatience
  • discouragement 
  • frustration
  • self-pity

…if it pulls you away from being obedient, it impacts.

Doubts You Havea pity party

  • Have you ever had a knock-down, drag-out pity party with God?
  • Have you ever been impatient and jumped ahead of God?
  • Have you ever been discouraged by people whizzing by you while you’re consistent in the task you’re called to?
  • Have you ever felt God just doesn’t see you?

I’ve had these feelings. As the bible study ladies and I have been looking at God’s character and perspective, we’ve been reminded we don’t see what God sees. We don’t see the finish line. We don’t see what we’re overcoming by being consistent, persistent, and faithful. We don’t see the character God is forming in us when we do the steady work.

But God does. 

Like Esther, at just the right time God puts us in situations where the work pays off. Slow and steady does win the race, if we are patient and have faith in the One who holds all things in His hands.

Applying It To Scripture

The same is true for our study of scripture. When we’re faithful and consistent by spending time in His word, He builds things in our character we’ll need later on. By looking at God’s character when studying scripture, it gives us a picture of His faithfulness and reminds us that He is the only One who sees the whole picture!  Join us in studying God’s word by looking at

  • God’s perspective
  • God’s character
  • How you can apply His perspective and character to your personal situation.

We’re using these principles as we study the book of Esther, but you can use them in studying any scripture passage. We’d love to hear what qualities of God’s character you are learning about as you study His word.

I’m hoping to put together a simple resource to offer readers when our bible study is complete. In the meantime, whether it’s studying scripture, living your faith, parenting your children, or doing the job you’re called to do – be consistent, persevering, and don’t give up. 

Remember the rabbit probably got tired when the tortoise got his second wind.

tortoise and hare finish line

Sometimes being patience brings the opportunity for the last stretch to be the best one ever.

Slow and steady……whatever your race, He’s the one who brings you to the finish line.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

The Important Things a Dad Does Wearing The Superman Cape

I was cleaning when Harold the Helicopter caught my eye.  Harold’s been sitting on my husband’s dresser for years.  It’s IMAG1166the spot where he keeps his important things, a sacred place I don’t usually disturb.

Dad can fix anything” was what my son said years ago when Harold first broke and he asked his dad to fix it. I remember telling Junior that Harold would be hard to fix. He emphatically reminded me that Dad Can Fix Anything.

So he gave Harold to his dad, who placed the toy on his dresser, among his important things to take care of. That was at least five years ago.

Poor Harold.  I don’t think he’s going to be fixed. 

At least he’s safe sitting on Dad’s shelf among The Important Things.

There are other things on my husband’s dresser along with Harold, a testimony to the honest faith my children have had that their Dad can fix anything.

Tractor wheels, rockets, Barbie toys, Star Wars figures, and Harold.

Time has gone quickly since Harold arrived among The Important Things.  Junior forgot about him. He transitioned from Thomas the Tank Engine to Star Wars and now to ESPN. 

So here Harold sits, but his presence isn’t forgotten.

It’s a testimony to the Power of Dad in the life of a child.Businessman Wearing Cape

To a child, their dad is a hero whether he wants to be or not, wearing an invisible cape only children can see.

As a counselor, I often hear kids say, “I don’t have a dad.” What they’re really saying is, “My dad isn’t a part of my world.” He’s absent, not present, or even known. But the child still yearns for his presence.

In their eyes, Dad’s presence, or lack of it, is immeasurably powerful.

As our kids have gotten older, I still hear, “Dad can fix it.” I’m often tempted to tell my older-and-wiser children their dad really can’t fix a lot of things. But I hesitate, knowing their hero with the cape will at least attempt to fix it, even though he may not succeed.

For his kids, the process itself is powerful. To them, it says, “Somehow, my Dad will take care of me.  If he’s not able to fix what’s broken, the effort itself will be bookmarked among “The Important Things” in life.

Just like Harold.

How do you let your children know you care about what is important to them? Perhaps it’s not fixing a toy, but how do you let them know what is important to them is important to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Father’s Day, Superman.

 

Parenting Series: Fifty Things I Want My Child To Know About Life

To my children entering the world of adulthood –  I recently wondered what I haven’t taught you.  So here’s my non-exhaustive list of things I want you to know. 

fifty things I want to my child to know about life.

  1. Be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove {Matthew 10:16}. Use common sense when dealing with people, institutions, and situations.  When in doubt, trust your gut.
  2. Don’t use a Pampered Chef stone on an open flame. It will break.
  3. Cleaning up after yourself right away will save you a lot of dread of doing bigger jobs later.
  4. Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you need to for business, professional, or personal reasons.
  5. Disable the GPS tracking on your smartphone when you finally can afford one on your own since we have deprived you of this luxury.
  6. Be kind to everyone but you don’t have to be their friend if they are not healthy or appropriate to be in a relationship with you.
  7. You can buy potatoes, beans, corn and tomatoes in a store. Not everyone has a garden.
  8. Pay your bills on time and don’t carry credit card debt.
  9. Watch for hidden fees in business transactions. You don’t need “all the extras.”
  10. If it’s too good to be true, it is. Unless it’s answer to a specific prayer and you’ve checked it out with God first.
  11. Pray every day and be in God’s word as often as you can.
  12. Consult with God about your daily decisions.
  13. If it doesn’t feel right, wait, or don’t do it.
  14. Don’t buy meat from Walmart.
  15. First impressions really do matter.
  16. Budget for your necessities first and make sure you can pay for them. Get necessary debt paid off as soon as possible.
  17. Stay away from people with bad pick-up lines.  Or good pick-up lines unless you want to have sex with them.
  18. Don’t have sex with anyone with consulting God first. He does have something to say about it. If you’re serious about your relationship with Him, you can’t ignore this area.
  19. Open the door for others.
  20. Don’t be afraid to take risks.
  21. Don’t take stupid risks. Have common sense {see #1)
  22. Build relationships with your siblings. You have relationships with them for life. See them as adults, not as who they were as kids. Don’t hold grudges.
  23. Find a church you feel comfortable in, but don’t stay away until you find “the right one.”
  24. Keep in touch with your grandparents.
  25. Don’t say display anything on Twitter or Facebook you wouldn’t want a future boss, spouse, or mother-in-law to see.
  26. Don’t throw credit card receipts or statements with personal information in the trash no matter where you live.
  27. Don’t get into a car with a stranger.
  28. If you can’t find a job, McDonalds is always hiring.
  29. Marriage is hard work. Don’t think you can change anybody but yourself.
  30. Extend grace to others.
  31. Don’t judge people who were not raised like you.
  32. Don’t expect your future spouse to be like me or your dad. 
  33. Earn your way in life but give to others and graciously receive when something is given to you.
  34. Air-dry any clothes you don’t want to shrink or look worn.
  35. Clothes pins can be found at a hardware store.
  36. You can’t microwave anything with metal.
  37. You need to brown a roast before putting it in the oven or crockpot.
  38. Kids are cute but don’t have them before you are ready to give up your time and energy to someone else.
  39. Worship God no matter what the circumstance.
  40. Cheap food is not always the healthiest.
  41. You need life insurance, car insurance, and renter’s or home-owner’s insurance.
  42. Be cautious when walking in dark hallways. Park under lights in a parking lot at night.
  43. Be generous with kind words as long as they are genuine.
  44. Don’t order things from TV advertisements.
  45. Cheap is not always better.
  46. Expensive is not always quality.
  47. Go to a doctor when you think you need to.
  48. You can learn to do just about anything. Most of what your dad and I know we didn’t know when we were your age.
  49. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
  50. Your way is not the only way.

That’s all for now. I love you,

Mom

Parenting Series: Surviving the Toddler Years by Kristin Nelson

It’s always a joy to have contributing writer Kristin Nelson of Not Alone Mom post here!
        I’ve always considered myself to be a very patient person; even after I had children.   I remained patient as my newborn cried through the night and I was up and down trying to figure out what she needed.  I remained patient through the exploratory 12-18 month age when she was just learning the concept of “no” requiring me to be up and down A LOT in order to physically pull her away from the “no no” item(s):  “Not for JJ”.   Having made it through these stages with minimal collateral damage; other than a few extra wrinkles and a new found tolerance for sleep deprivation; I was confident the closer and closer my daughter got to the infamously labeled “terrible twos” that I was going to soar on through with no problem.  Remaining calm, patient and loving…
        But as any mom who has survived the toddler years knows, when children enter the curious “terrible two’s” they have a very special (I say clinching my teeth) and unique way of testing your patience.
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They are relentless!
“Mommy… mommy… mommy… mommy….MOOOOOOMMMMYYY!!!!”
“I want… I want… I want… I WAAAAAANT!!!!”
“No… no… no… no… no… NOOOOOOO!!!”
They never say anything just once… it’s always repeatedly…repeatedly…repeatedly… (It’s possible my toddler is rubbing off on me…)
        Whoever said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” must have been a mother! And must have been referring to the infamous toddler years!!
      It’s hard to gain perspective when you are living in the belly of the beast! And that is currently where I am living – right in the thick of it with toddler #1 who is about to turn three and wants to do everything “my-self!” and toddler #2 who is in the lovely 12-18 month range opening drawers and climbing on everything.  Between the two I don’t know how I am able to keep any form of sanity.  They feed off of each other and I swear each morning they make some sort of secret pact, “Let’s see how we can drive mommy crazy today!”
       Yes, surviving the toddler years can be challenging at times (a lot of the time), but when I take a step back and force myself to look at the world through their eyes I gain some much needed perspective.  Sure, the frequent, relentless reminders and requests can be exhausting and pull at my very last nerve, but I when I look at the world through their eyes I can see what a special (no teeth clinching) time they are at in their lives.  A time when everything is new and exciting, “shiny and new”!  A time when anything is possible!  Though I am constantly intervening to prevent nose dives in the carpet and finger pinches in drawers and doors… my children just living life!  Living free of limitations! Living without a care in the world! What an amazing place to be!  I think any one of us do whatever we could to live in this place even for a day!
      It’s up to us as parents to help them navigate through this adventurous time in life safely. Providing boundaries.  Preparing them for the “real world”.  Giving them the security they need to know you are there to catch them when they are falling and mend their wounds if they hit the ground.
      Yes, loving a toddler means pulling your hair out and testing your patience to the limit… but more than that, loving a toddler means you are helping develop confidence in a precious little human atop a foundation of love they can fall back on for the rest of their life; and a structure of security they can always lean on knowing that even through the tantrums and the relentless demands you will always love them… always…no matter what…
Dear Jesus, thank you for my precious, curious, relentless toddlers!  Thank you for the opportunity I have as their mother to help guide them through life.  Everything is bigger and brighter to them now making each and every component all the more enticing to explore.  Be with me Lord, as I create boundaries for them.  Increase my patience threshold and flood my heart with love… your love.  This way I know when life gets intense and a bit overwhelming I will have the ability to take a step back and see the world through their eyes… through precious innocence.  Replace my frustrations with compassion.  Empower me to rise above the situation at hand and see the bigger picture.  Allow grace to flood my heart as I navigate through this time in my children’s lives.  In Jesus Mighty Name, amen.
What are some of your “go to” tips for surviving the toddler years?

Parenting Series: Raising Kids is Not So Easy

MP900227797Raising kids is not so easy. Teaching kids to respect each other is a lifelong process.  How siblings treat each other is crucial to the health of a family and a child’s individual development.  It’s tempting to ignore it when siblings hurt one another or don’t get along.

But you can’t. 

There’s not an easy answer to the problem because children have unique differences.  They go through ages and stages.  They each have their own perspective on things.

Sometimes I want to just relish in the happy family times and ignore the underlying things that brew. Doing this would be negligent. Isaac {Genesis 25} didn’t correctly deal with his sons Jacob and Esau and that didn’t turn out so well.  Teaching children how to navigate through sibling relationships is a skill they can use in other relationships in life.  

Parenting is difficult. There are times, even as an experienced counselor, I sit on my child’s bed thinking, “I don’t know how to help this situation.”  I’m thankful prayer is an ever-present resource as a parent. I can’t always help a situation or change another person’s perspective or heart, but God can.

This week has been one of “those” weeks.  A week full of family highs and lows.  Do you have weeks like that?  Weeks where you glow in the goodness of family life and then want to pull your hair out at the reality of it all – sibling rivalry, fighting, teenage melt-downs and hormones. 

At least that’s how some family days roll at our house.

As a professional writer, speaker, educator and counselor, I interact heavily in social media.  Sometimes I internally rollMP900382671 my eyes at easy “how-to” articles on parenting even though SEO data says it’s the best way to get readers. I’ve probably written some of those because a social media expert told me to.

I apologize.

There’s nothing “easy” about parenting.  

That statement won’t get me invited on the Today Show.  But I’m still raising my kids. Some days, it’s exhausting. 

How about you?  How do you impact your child’s relationships with their siblings?  What are the  stresses you experience and things you’ve found helpful?  I’d love to hear your thoughts today because I hope I’m not alone.

Father, give each of us wisdom for the journey of parenting.  Give us the words and counsel as we minister to our families. Amen.

Parenting Series: 101 Summer Boredom Busters for Boys

By contributing writer Josh Kissee of Manbuilders.com.

summer boredom busters for boysThe cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Dorothy Parker

Are you dreading your boys asking to play video games, watch TV, or sit at the computer when they get bored this summer?

I am. They do it now and it’s not even summer yet!

Solution: Have a list at the ready of boredom busters that do not need you to shell out a ton of cash, feel the guilt of putting your boys on screen-time autopilot, and continue to build the curiosity bound up in their heart!

Prime the Curiosity Pump

Spend 15 minutes with your son(s) and talk to them about curiosity and get them excited and renewed in their interest of things outside of games! If you are unsure where to start, consider using the steps below to guide your discussion.

1. Ask your son(s) if he knows what curiosity means.

2. Give him a few different definitions of curiosity. Consider reading “Sam I Am” by Dr. Seuss.

3. Discuss how “distractions” keep our curiosity from being fulfilled through exploring the world.

4. Explain to your son(s) that you will be posting a lot of new and exciting things to help him become curious about the world this summer.


101 Summer Boredom Busters List

  1. Plant a small flower garden from seeds. Be sure to water everyday!
  2. Make two different paper airplane models. Have a flying contest to see which plane model/whose plane can fly the farthest, straightest, or most unusual. If you have an Apple iPad or iPhone, checkout this FREE App on how-to make paper airplane models.
  3. Make a paper mache’ solar system and hang the project from your bedroom ceiling when finished. Spend an evening under the stars with your son and try to find some of the planets.
  4. Make a costume and act out the parts. Ideas could include a pirate, soldier, construction worker, scientist, or doctor.
  5. Create an emergency plan in case of fire and do a real drill.
  6. Play with Play Dough (Outside). Older boys can have a play dough war!
  7. Sing Songs.
  8. Exercise. Checkout the Subway fitness program for exercise ideas.
  9. Watch educational shows (e.g., animal planet, discovery)
  10. Write a letter to a family member.
  11. Mystery topic (cut up 20 pieces of paper with a topic, put in a bowl, and then have your son research it and talk about it. Monitor his internet usage!)
  12. Draw Pictures and Practice Art Techniques. Google or youtube search for Bob Ross (former PBS guy who drew amazing mountains and other scenic pictures).
  13. Create a Diarama
  14. Search for bugs in the yard and collect into a jar.
  15. Visit the library and get books to read together.
  16. Visit a museum.
  17. Go for a walk or search and destroy mission outside.
  18. Conduct a science experiment. Lots of ideas at Steve Spangler Science.
  19. Build with legos or blocks.
  20. Cook a new recipe for a sweet treat.
  21. Go fishing.
  22. Go swimming.
  23. Play a board game.
  24. Play tent in the living room.
  25. Take a bubble bath and relax.
  26. Make a bird feeder. Free DIY plans at Ana White’s website.
  27. Have a picnic.
  28. Play at the park.
  29. Go on a nature walk in a wooded park or by a lake. Skip some stones or throw rocks and have a contest while you are there.
  30. Have a water balloon fight.
  31. Build a volcano.
  32. Play hide and seek.
  33. Play basketball.
  34. Play baseball.
  35. Play soccer.
  36. Do a scavenger hunt.
  37. Shoot the BB gun.
  38. Call a family member and tell them you love them.
  39. Play cards.
  40. Go to the movies.
  41. Take pictures and act like a photographer.
  42. Fly a kite.
  43. Go to a pizza restaurant, like Chuck E Cheese. Get some coupons first!
  44. Dress up in a costume and act out your favorite movie.
  45. Do some woodwork.
  46. Work with tools.
  47. Learn how to change a tire or do maintenance on the lawn mower.
  48. Learn about parts of a car and especially the engine. Learn how to check the fluids.
  49. Play sword fight.
  50. Go on a mystery drive, where you the boys say which streets to turn on.
  51. Have a talent show.
  52. Build a time capsule and bury in the back yard.
  53. Have a video game competition.
  54. Have a Limbo contest
  55. Look at the stars at night and make wishes about the future.
  56. Wrestle.
  57. Draw with sidewalk chalk outside.
  58. Look for shapes in the clouds and tell stories.
  59. Use the grill to make smores.
  60. Play twister.
  61. Play charades.
  62. Watch the sunset together.
  63. Plan out a dinner menu that is crazy!
  64. Trace your hand onto paper and color
  65. Look at family pictures and talk about the memories.
  66. Make bubbles.
  67. Silly string fight.
  68. Jump rope contest.
  69. Have a lesson the guitar or piano.
  70. Think about how to redecorate your room.
  71. Learn about a specific animal.
  72. Play frisbee.
  73. Throw a party and invite some friends over.
  74. Go bowling.
  75. Play 20 questions.
  76. Have an Olympic festival where you compete in a variety of sports.
  77. Play iSpy.
  78. Have a hotwheel race.
  79. Play penny poker.
  80. Learn 100 signs in American Sign Language.
  81. Fix something that is broke.
  82. Sleep outside in a tent.
  83. Write down bad habits onto paper, build a fire, and throw it into the fire with a desire to change the bad habit.
  84. Go bicycle riding.
  85. Make holiday crafts in anticipation of the holidays.
  86. Go play laser tag.
  87. Play hot potato.
  88. Play name that tune.
  89. Play finish that story. Each person makes up a sentence and the next person has to keep the story going with another sentence. Do this for 10 rounds among all the players.
  90. Play with face paint and dress up like warriors.
  91. Play with hulk hands and have a boxing match.
  92. Make a pinata.
  93. Make a cardboard robot.
  94. Have a watergun fight.
  95. Watch a baseball game.
  96. Play Dominoes.
  97. Build a dirt castle.
  98. Go to the zoo.
  99. Do crazy Karoke.
  100. Build a cardboard castle.

101.Organize a magic show.

Print the 101 Summer Boredom Busters List and place it on a wall that your son(s) pass by often in your home. Challenge your son(s) and yourself to do one third to half of them this summer!

Keep the list going. Add more summer ideas in the comments below or share links to help some of the ideas come alive!

 

 

Saying Good-bye and the Power of the Mundane

photo flowersI’m sitting on my porch swing taking in the day I hope will never end.  The sun is on its way down to slip behind the trees in an hour or two.  The flowers are bright around me and a breeze is on my cheek.  The birds are singing,  the cattle are walking to a cool place for shade.  Another Sunday gone, another week comes to an end. So predictable yet so different. 
                            This week my oldest son is graduating.  Up until now things have been routine.  Days have been predictable like every season we’ve walked through.  Today as he shared in church, he reminisced on things that have influenced him…...Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, the support he and his classmates have received in being part of a faith community.
                          “Being in a small town, there’s accountability. Because if you mess up, everyone knows,” he said.  A doubled edged-sword in ways.  My son declared it instrumental in helping him make choices growing up.  There’s value in everyone knowing your name.
                            Today’s not quite the same as I sit on my front porch rocking to the low bellows of the hungry cows.  In the routine of photo (87)life, somewhere my boy became a man. A man who has surrounded himself with friends who hold him accountable.  A man who has chosen to love God not because we said so, but because he has learned of His grace, faithfulness, and unconditional love.  A man who began walking out of my life years ago as I realized I needed to release him to be the leader God has called Him to be.
This week we will celebrate, say good-bye, and let go.
                                 Every mother releasing her son knows its different than releasing a daughter. Somewhere along the way your role changes as you step aside to let him grow and figure out who he is.  There are times to step back so he can develop strength.  Times where you have to be strong and push him into the storm so he can figure out how to survive, all the while watching with a life raft ready at a moment’s notice.  Times where you must step back and let his father instruct and discipline.  Times where you still touch his cheek with a kiss because he is still a little boy inside a man-size body.  Times where the best words are, “I’m proud of you.”
                               This boy has been a big brother, his sister’s best friend, and a son who has held me accountable when my actions or words did not match what I believed. He has been the voice of reason when needed.  In the ordinary and routine moments, he has grown into a man who is ready for the next step.
                        I believe raising kids for moments like these lie in the mundane and routine, in the moments we live when we think no one is watching.  One thing this child and I know how to do is forgive, trust, and give second chances. Important moments for us have included the words, ” Will you forgive me?”
                               I have two more boys to raise in mundane moments.  Six years from now, sitting on my porch swing, I will be saying good-bye to my last knight in the household.  I’m reminded to not rush these days on or to close my eyes to what is ahead.  Each child God gives us is one to be fully seen and known.  They are kings and queens in the making, not for our glory, but for His.
                        I’ll shed lots of tears this week along with other moms and dads celebrating the milestone of graduation.  I’m thankful for each tear of joy, sorrow, and sadness along the way.  Each one a part of the process of releasing a child to fly, lead, and grow.
                        Don’t miss the moments each day.  Let the wind blow on your cheek as the sun slips beyond the horizon. Read a book, sing a song.  Let your boy dazzle you with his charm or your girl snuggle in your arms. Shed a tear, laugh out love, and kiss a cheek.
 photo (86)
And let the mundane and routine bring blessing when the last goodbye is said.

Parenting Series: What Have I Gotten Myself Into? By Shannon Dew

It’s my privilege to have Shannon Dew, author at Dewing Life, to guest post today.  Visit her site – it’s full of encouragement and practical advice for parenting blended families. I’m thankful to have her contribute to our parenting series!

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What have I gotten myself into?” The first year I was married to the love of my life and his three children I often had this thought. The first year almost did me in. You see, I am a perfectionist and I don’t ask for help and to top off those positive character traits, I am a people-pleaser. Good golly…just writing that makes me tired…living it nearly killed me.

Our wedding was beautiful and intimate and our honeymoon was lazy and relaxed. We returned home to REALITY! Blending a family of five children with ages that ranged 7 to 19 is no small feat. We felt we had done a good job preparing everyone for our wedding. His girls even came to stay with me and my girls in the house we bought a couple of weeks before the wedding.  A good sign that everyone was excited. A new house, new relationships and a new normal. We were all hopeful as we began this new life together, but it would not be without its challenges. My favorite saying in that first year was, “Change is hard even when it’s good”.

The day we returned from our honeymoon my mom told me that all FOUR girls had lice. LICE!! You have to understand that my stepdaughter’s have enough hair between them to cover a small country. It took us nearly a month to be rid of that infestation. To this day when I see the girls scratch their heads I am on top of them looking through their locks to see if I see anything resembling lice as they are screaming and knocking my hands away secretly scared I may find something. We were all traumatized by that experience.

We got married in November so that we could spend the holidays together as a family. Between nit picking hair and buying Christmas gifts for this huge family and extended family, I often wondered often what have we done? That holiday season was stressful. I was doing it all. Super Mom and Super Duper Step Mom. She runs, she buys, she cleans and cooks and nit picks nightly while watching Christmas movies creating the perfect home environment, while asking for help from no one! She IS AMAZING! And she was burning out quickly. We were not even two months in and I was struggling.

I was working hard on building relationships with my stepchildren and I was band-aiding my own children as Mother Kissing Her Daughter for a Present and Red Rosethey had a new school and neighborhood to adjust to since our move. I was in a part of town where I knew no one and I missed my friends and the life I had built on the other side of town for 15 years. I was giving a lot and not receiving much. My husband was trying to be my mainstay, but because I was busy doing it all for everyone else I was on an island. I had cut myself off and was just in “doing” mode. I couldn’t receive. We talked about it, but I just couldn’t stop and I was becoming resentful. I wanted help, but would not ask for it. Why?

Honestly, I loved the attention it gave me. The comparisons the girls gave me to their biological mother were positive. She was smarter than I and was not doing every little thing for them, but I pressed on with my S on my chest doing more and better and cooler things. I soon began to resent my husband for not doing more, but what was left to do? I never asked him to do anything.

That summer I was starting to get really tired. I was sleeping more and doing less. I thought maybe I was depressed. I made an appointment to see my doctor. He found a huge cyst on my thyroid. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was my wake up call and my reflection time. My thyroid and the mass were removed. I was treated successfully and I continue to take replacement drugs, but that time made me realize that I cannot do it all.

Not only had I not been relying on my husband or asking anything from any of the kids, I had not been relying on God. I had set myself up to be the martyr. You know the one who says, “Oh no, I have it”, and then seethes as they perform the task. They enjoy the attention, but loathe the responsibility. Yes, that was me.

As a mom, I think this behavior is a trap so many can fall into. However, a step mom can be special prey because as a stepparent there are always strangers in the house. That means that first year especially, you can feel like someone is always watching and judging your every move. That is how I felt. I don’t know if that was true or not, but because two of my stepchildren were older I was super conscious of my actions.

My advice to new and old step-moms is to take time for yourself. I’m working on this myself.  Don’t allow yourself to get lost in your new normal. Do something that is totally one hundred percent for you. Don’t get caught up in the comparison to the biological mother. Just do what you think is right and stay out of that trap. Keep your focus first on your husband and make time for one another. Talk openly and not defensively. The last and most important piece is to find a Godly woman or women that can walk along side you. If at all possible look for another woman in a blended family. We are unique in our struggles and it is nice to have someone who understands. I have someone I partner with and she and I use one another to grow and keep us honest.

Step-parenting is not for the faint of heart and it is not easy, but almost four years later I will tell you that it is the most rewarding role and I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I love our new normal and all the ups and downs that go with it. The relationships I have with all my children are ones I wouldn’t trade. My husband and I are closer than ever and he has been my rock. Blending a family can teach you some of the greatest lessons you will ever learn in your life. Each day brings new challenges but now I don’t face them alone.

Mother’s Day: Inspiring Women and Messed-Up Experiences in Motherhood

MP900341759Today is Mother’s Day –  the day we think of the blessings of motherhood. In reflecting on this day, I’m reminded of inspiring women who had messed-up experiences in motherhood.  Many biblical women endured hard places, being forced to lean on the Lord alone and nothing else. For example:

  • Jocabed, mother of Moses knew her child would be taken away and killed if he were found.  Emotions if I were her?  Fear and anger (Lord, why would you give me a child only for him to be taken away or killed?anxiety and depression. But she responded with faith in God even though He gave her a child at a difficult time. Faith that He would take care of her and the child. Faith that the Author of their story knew what He was doing.
  • Mary, mother of Jesus knew her divine pregnancy defined her as morally corrupt and open for misunderstanding and judgment.  Emotions if I were her? Fear, anger, anxiety and ambivalence.  While knowing the honor and calling on her life, no doubt there were dark days for her, being aware of the whispers, looks, and judgment that came her way.  But she responded by clinging to the Lord she knew was writing her story, clinging to Him when no one else may have encouraged her.  She clung to him when she felt alone.
  • Sarah, mother of Isaac was pregnant past her prime, when her husband already had a child from another woman.  Emotions if I were her? Fear and anger (Lord, why would you allow Hagar to bear Abram’s child when you knew I was to have one?), anxiety, jealousy and bitterness.  While she knew she was bearing a child anointed by God, the strained relationship between her, Hagar and Ishmael must have caused some strife in her life.  She responded by remaining faithful the story line the Lord gave her, even though it was hard. Scripture tells us she laughed (Exodus 21:6) and took one day at a time.

There are truths these women encountered that face many of us:

Life wasn’t supposed to be this way

This isn’t what I expected

Motherhood has more pain than joy right now.

MP900227697I hear these statements when I share with women. Mother’s Day can be painful to individuals suffering in heartache, often alone.  But motherhood pain isn’t a popular discussion in bible studies, church meetings, coffee breaks or in social media.  Facebook or Twitter statuses rarely say, “Motherhood is not what I bargained for. I don’t think I can make it.”

If Hallmark doesn’t fit the bill for you this Mother’s Day, God’s Word does.  It shares the lives of real women in hard places, with real pain….. in places they didn’t expect to find themselves….places where there are no easy answers.  If you or a woman you know faces a tarnished Motherhood this year, share these principles from biblical women who were hard-pressed to find joy in motherhood.

  • They each knew the Lord intimately.  Each of these women could stand in their circumstances because they knew the Lord and His character when the truth of their circumstance dictated His absence from their situation.  God is never absent from our situation or that of our children He sees beyond the trial and knows the ending.  In that we can take hope.  When there’s no hope in sight, we must look to and know the author of the Story.
  • They clung to the Lord and His character.  Clinging conjures up visions of grasping hold of, refusing to let go because doing so would result in disaster (clinging to a raft vs. drowning, clinging to a ledge vs. falling to destruction).
    Clinging
    Clinging

    Despite their emotions, these women clung to the One they easily could have rejected.  If motherhood only includes blessings, then what do you cling to when the image of motherhood is not what you signed up for?   You cling to a sovereign, good God who sees the bigger picture…..clinging to the truth of His character when the “truth” of our emotions can lead us away from Him.  Our emotions can betray us.

  •  Motherhood does not define our happiness, but our relationship with God does.  What do you think got Mary through the whispers, misunderstandings and acts of judgment thrown her way?  If Jocabed’s happiness was determined by baby Moses, what was she left with when God’s plan took this child from her?  Happiness for these women did not rely on their motherhood or dreams for their children, but was rooted in their relationship and identity with the Living God. 

Wherever this Mother’s Day finds you, take encouragement from these women. They were real women whose encouragement didn’t come from the culture around them, but from the Lord authoring their story.  You can receive the same encouragement, too.

Lord, thank you that You are the Author of our stories.  Will you encourage each woman who is hurting this Mother’s Day?  Thank you.

Parenting Series: Things I’d Do Over in Raising Girls

I’m posting at Parents Space today one of my most popular posts on raising girls.

If you’ve been reading the blog the last week, you know the challenges and journey I’ve had in raising my girl.

Here is a simple list of things I’d do again in raising a girl and things I’d do different.

Join me at Parents Space
Join me at Parents Space

Read about it here at Parents Space.

Have a great day!

Brenda