Author Archives: trulyyoursjen

A Short Story about My Near Death Sandwich: Part One

The first slice of bread

Have you ever had a moment you thought may be your last?

In that moment, your mind takes off in the direction of all of the “what if’s” and you begin to feel like every part of you is being covered with a heavy blanket of anxiety. You feel like you may suffocate from the weight of it. Do you know what I am talking about?

Have you had that moment?

I have.

I wish I could say in that moment when my mind was all “what iffy” and the endless stream of possibilities were making laps around my head like race cars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I was perfectly calm and not all sweaty and suffocatey feeling.

I wish I could say that, but I already told you – I was covered in an Is-this-the-End blanket of anxiety.

Not once – but twice.

The first time was at the very beginning of a vacation of a lifetime – a trip to Maui with my sweet husband.

The other was at the very end of that same vacation.

The vacation is now what I like to think of as My Near Death Sandwich – with both crazy experiences being the slices of bread and our amazing trip being all of the good stuff in the middle.

I have a gluten sensitivity, so it’s not a big surprise that my brain came up with this analogy. Bread has never really been good for me.

Anyways – to fully appreciate where I am going with this, let’s start with the first slice of bread.

The ancient airplane

Patrick and I arrived at the airport bright and early, eager to board the plane for our trip to Maui. We hadn’t slept much, but that was fine because we were heading to Maui for nine days of bliss. We would sleep later.

The first leg of our trip was uneventful (as you want your plane rides to be.) We flew to Dallas and enjoyed some breakfast during our layover while we waited to board the plane that would take us the remainder of our way. An eight hour flight to paradise.

Sometimes, when you’ve been up pretty much all night and it’s 7 am in Dallas and you have already had one flight – you make weird faces

I was excited to see what our plane would look like. I had never traveled for that many hours and was confident it would be something luxurious. I imagined it to be a little bigger than the usual plane – with personal televisions and Wi-Fi – a souped-up plane with all of the amenities.

I boarded the plane, looked around and thought, “This is the plane? This is what we will be in for the next eight hours? What? This plane looks like it may have been the first commercial plane. Ever.” All of my WiFi dreams came crashing down in an instant.

Let me paint a picture of our plane for you……

The plane came with ashtrays. You couldn’t open them. They must have been glued shut or something, but still…..ashtrays. How long ago could people smoke on planes anyways? I know I could Google this and find out, but I would rather just ask the question for effect.

And it wasn’t just the ashtrays. It was also the TVs. Yes, it had TVs (so that was a plus), but these were not the cute little personal screens I had dreamed of. These looked like they were modeled after my first ever computer – the Commodore 64. Seriously. They were small, sturdy boxes hanging from the ceiling. The screens were surrounded by a thick off-white border (teetering on the verge of yellow – maybe from all of the years of smoke exposure it had endured.) You know, like the good ‘ol TVs from the past – big and bulky. The opposite of a flat screen.

Oh well. My disappointment quickly passed. So what if it was an old plane? This old plane was transporting us to paradise. I could live with the ashtrays and the sturdy TVs. I am a reader anyways and had brought my own mini library along – a bag full of way more books than any person could read in nine days.

Patrick and I settled in to our seats. We enjoyed a snack. I even watched a movie on the old-time television. A funny one that made me laugh out loud. I read a little and began to do some work. This flight wasn’t so bad after all.

The heat

As I was working, I started feeling hot. It came on quickly and as the heat was rising, it felt like someone was taking all the air out of the plane. It was hot and stifling, like an intense summer day when there is no air movement and you long for a slight breeze to bring a little relief.

Was it just me? I am too young for hot flashes. I know they are around the corner, but I’m not there yet.

I looked up to turn on the air vent and didn’t see it. I saw the light, but no air vent. I must be missing something. I asked Patrick to help me with the air flow and he didn’t see it either. Of course the plane from 1960 didn’t have air vents. What was I thinking?

I touched the window and it was hot. Burning hot. Like fry an egg hot.

I had to get up. Now.

I wasn’t feeling well.

As I got up and began to walk toward the back of the plane, I realized it wasn’t just me. People were beginning to take off layers, they were fanning themselves, some people were beginning to look around uncomfortably and a lucky few were still asleep.

Something was wrong.

The flight attendant who was sitting in the back of the plane was reading a magazine and eating ice. Very nonchalantly. Wasn’t she feeling this heat? This must be flight attendant protocol. Rule Number One: always remain calm. Never panic or look even slightly phased.

I walked up to her and she raised her head from her magazine with her eyes peering at me over her reading glasses. She smiled.

What I wanted to say was, “Is this normal? I don’t think this must be normal. How hot can this plane get? What is the plan here?!” But I couldn’t say that so I said, “I think the plane feels hot. Is it hot in here?”

Calmly, with a slight southern drawl she said, “I know honey. We’ve had some complaints. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”

Ok. My mind takes off like a rocket – Something is wrong with the air? What does that mean? We are an hour over the ocean. What do we do? How hot will this get? How hot is too hot? We can’t open windows. There is no air. What do we do?

“I’m just going to stand back here for awhile if that is okay,” I said.

“Sure honey.”

As I’m standing there, more and more people have the same idea and the back of the plane is starting to fill with people who are wanting to know what is wrong.

“It’s hot in here” and so on and so forth. Her response is always the same. “I know honey. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”

Not too long after we have all gathered, a cooler is opened in the back of the plane so that people could stand by it to cool off. Temporary relief, but not a solution. I was still very hot. I was wearing a dress with leggings and realized the leggings were only a hinderance at this point, so into the bathroom I went to remove anything that could help me to cool off.

I realized I could not stand back there for the remainder of the flight, so I reluctantly made my way back to my seat. I was trying not to pass out, or panic. The last thing needed in that type of situation is for someone to start panicking. There was an overriding sense of people trying to keep their cool – literally. I knew I needed to keep it together and try my best not to vomit or do any of the other things that comes with feeling incredibly hot.

The flight attendants began to push carts around offering whatever comfort they could to the passengers. Even though they were pushing around the carts that were supposed to make people feel a little better, the male flight attendant couldn’t help but to grumble about his long sleeve shirt. I couldn’t blame him. I would grumble too. He was dripping in sweat and his face was bright red.

We still hadn’t heard from the pilot and were making our way across The Pond in this oven in the sky –  headed in the opposite direction that I would like to be heading. After what seemed like way too long – the pilot’s voice finally boomed out from the speakers to let us know the plane was hot and they were having some difficulty with the air. Hmm. Really? He went on to say that it was well over 90 degrees (I believe from the way that we were all feeling that means into the 100s….but he probably couldn’t say that) and it had been decided we would turn around and fly back. Because of the storms in LA, we are headed to San Francisco.

Thank goodness.. I did not want to continue over the ocean any longer in this plane. Unfortunately, the gentleman behind me (who may have started celebrating a little bit early…if you get my drift) did not feel the same way. He was determined to get to Maui and said if we could all just start taking off our clothes, then we could make it. He became his own Maui Flight Pep Rally. He said he was going to talk to the pilot.

Oh no.

A minute later he was back in his seat. Thankfully his talk with the pilot didn’t go as he had planned. I didn’t think it would. The idea of all of us getting naked didn’t seem like something American Airlines would go for. It wasn’t that kind of flight.

We were turning around and I was ecstatic, but still covered in that anxiety blanket of what-ifs and how-hot-is-too-hots and all of that stuff that comes to mind when you are in a plane over the ocean and that plane keeps getting hotter and hotter.

I closed my eyes and began to pray. I prayed for peace. I prayed for my family. I prayed for the people on the plane. I prayed.

The red-faced, sweat-covered flight attendant came back around. I asked him for water and he handed me ice – never acknowledging my request for water. I realized they must be out, or something like that. I didn’t ask, I just took the ice and started eating it and rubbing it on my forehead. The man behind me was persistent and determined and started to ask him why we couldn’t just go to Maui? Couldn’t we endure the heat? The flight attendant calmly reminded him there were elderly people, infants, children with asthma and pregnant women on the plane and they were not going to wait to see what would happen to them.

That was the last I heard the man behind me talk about enduring the heat to get to Maui.

As we turned around and headed toward California the plane did cool off a bit. Not much, but a little. I spent the rest of the flight with my eyes closed. Praying. Thinking. Holding on to Patrick’s hand and realizing that everyone will have a moment that really is their last. Whether this was my moment or not, that moment would eventually come. I became very introspective during the end of the flight and determined to make the most of my life. I felt my blanket of anxiety being replaced with a blanket of peace. I wish I could say that happened the minute something went wrong on the plane, but it didn’t. I got there eventually. It just took awhile.

It’s funny how those anxiety blanket moments are usually blessings in disguise. Like most of life’s challenges.

This is already long, so I won’t bother going into detail about the going up and down as we were supposed to be descending. Or the fact that toward the end of the flight the plane started beeping – and wouldn’t stop. Not a normal beep. More like a warning. Or the fact that when we left the plane the pilot was sitting in the first row of First Class staring at the seat in front of him. He wasn’t standing at the cockpit waving and telling us goodbye. He was sitting there. Staring. Straight ahead. He didn’t look well. I think he was as happy as the rest of us that the plane had landed safely on solid ground.

We walked out and felt the cool air – I had never been so grateful for cool air. I felt an enormous amount of gratitude in that moment. Deep, all-consuming gratitude.

Our trip was starting out differently than planned, but that’s how much of life is. We would get to Maui eventually. But for now, I was just happy to be anywhere at all. I was on solid ground, with my sweet husband, and I could not wait to call and talk to my children.

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

 

 

*This is part one of a three part Blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Today is my Birthday: Lessons from Another Year

Today is my Birthday.

I am one of those people who loves Birthdays. Not just my Birthday. All Birthdays.

A Birthday is a day to celebrate the gift of a person’s life. It is a day to celebrate the unique qualities that make them who they are.

A Birthday is your own special holiday. You can go around all day saying, “It’s my Birthday!” and most people will respond with a huge smile and an enthusiastic, “Happy Birthday!”

When you go out to eat – you get free stuff. When you go shopping – you get discounts. When you check your mail – you find cards. When you look at your phone – you have text alerts and voicemails. When you check Facebook – you realize why you still love Facebook after all.

A Birthday is a day filled with hugs and heart-felt well wishes. It is a day to celebrate.

A Birthday is also a reminder. It’s a reminder of another year gone and a new year beginning. It’s a reminder that time does move quickly and to treasure each passing moment. They are gifts from God.

As I begin my 39th year, I reflect on the joyful moments and lessons learned from another year behind me.

Here are some of the things I have learned in my 38th year:

It is best to live in the moment.

Seems obvious, right? But not always easy to do. I am in a season of my life where it is actually not possible for me to get too far ahead of myself. I have enough time and energy in a day to focus on what is right before me. I have come to appreciate being in this season. It is good to be fully present where I am. I have learned if I try to make too many plans, they often change anyways because there are so many unpredictable variables in life.

It’s okay to not make a bed (until later in the day.)

I had to throw that caveat in because anyone who knows me knows that I couldn’t leave a bed messy all day – but sometimes I have to walk out the door with ruffled sheets and clothes on the floor and that’s okay. I will get to it later. Again, live in the moment and if the moment calls “It’s time to go! Forget about the bed!” Then I better listen.

Sometimes big, scary, uncomfortable choices need to be made.

Choices you don’t want to make. Choices filled with unknowns. Choices that leave you on your knees praying for God to show you the way. We had to make a big, scary, uncomfortable choice this year and it was hard and is still hard and will continue to be hard for quite some time I am sure. On the edge of the unknown lies some excitement. I will try to focus on the excitement and know that God is with us. I know He has gone before us and I trust fully in His plan for our lives. Again, live in the moment and if the moment calls, “A change is on the way, but until then be present where you are, enjoying every last joyful bit of where you are – in the moment.” Then I better listen.

Sometimes the dreams you dream for all of your life do come true.

Like the dream of being able to keep a cottage on your favorite lake where you have a lifetime of memories. Or the dream of being a writer. Sometimes those dreams come true and when they do come true – you do not take one second of them for granted and you look up at the sky and you fall down on your knees and you take a deep breath and exhale with all of your might thinking, “Thank you God. Thank you.” And then you remember, that you should always be grateful. Not just for the big things, but For Everything. Always. Grateful.

Sometimes you need to let go of the future you imagined and open your heart to new possibilities.

Like when the big, scary, uncomfortable choice has been made and you know your future is about to move into a big gaping hole of unknown – then you open your heart to new possibilities and remember it was silly to presume what the future would look like anyway. You know the whole unpredictable variables and live in the moment thing.

And lastly, be kind. Always. Be kind. 

The world seems a little different in this moment then it did at the beginning of my 38th year. It seems a little more divided and a little more unsteady, but my faith is strong and my eyes remain focused on the unseen knowing all battles on earth are truly battles in the spiritual realm. No matter what my beliefs are and how they differ from my brother or my sister I must be kind. Always. Be kind. I need to listen more and try to understand the other side. I need to do more listening and less talking. I must be kind. Always. Be kind.

Today is my Birthday – the beginning of my 39th chapter. A new year with incredible opportunities. To live in the moment. To not be afraid of mess. To trust in the unknown future. To dream big dreams. To let go. And to be kind. Always. Be kind.

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Summertime Bliss

I love summer.

Weeks before the last day of school, I begin anticipating the long stretch of time when the kids and I will all be home together.

I look forward to it every year.  It is a little reprieve from the usual routine.  People can sleep in. We can wake up in the morning and decide what we are going to do that day. We are not bound by a schedule.  There are no lunches to pack and buses to catch.  There is not homework to do.  We slow down.

It is good for my soul.

sweet-summertime-image

I woke up last Friday morning eagerly anticipating the first day of summer.  It was going to be a great day.  I could feel it.

I slept in a litte later than usual, because it was summer.  I poured my cup of coffee and relished in the fact that two of my children were still sleeping. The house was peaceful.  It was good.  My heart was filled with summertime bliss.

The other kids woke up and breakfast was served. We were off to a great start.  For a few seconds.  And then the demands started.  And the arguing.

And more arguing.

arguing

I wanted to yell, “Don’t you realize this is the first day of summer?!  You are ruining this moment!  This is my time, people!!”  But, if I would have done that they would have looked at me like I was crazy. Really, this was their time wasn’t it? Their summer vacation.  They would have thought I had gone a little batty.  So, I refrained from yelling about my summertime bliss that they were destroying with each “That’s mine!”  “Don’t touch that!”  “That’s my seat!”  and so on and so forth.

We ate our breakfast and went about the day.  The arguing was not going to stop me from enjoying this much anticipated first day of summer.  No way. No how.

This day was going to be fabulous.

And then, the moment when I wished I had Take-Two happened.

You know the thing that says “scene” and “take” with the little arm that drops down to signal that was horrible and you need to start over. That thing.  I needed that thing.

I wish someone would have stepped in and yelled, “CUT! We need to start this scene over from the top!  Let’s go back to the moment before this woman lost her mind and reacted like a five-year old.”

directors_cut

Honestly – calling myself a five-year old may be a little generous.

The moment began when I walked around the corner into the family room where I found my son and daughter sitting next to a pile of papers they had ripped out of a coloring book.  The papers were crumbled and covered with pencil holes.  Someone went to town on these pages.  There was not any evidence coloring had taken place.  It was more like a coloring book mutilation.

And it was my coloring book.

IMG_4748

My beautiful coloring book that I had received as a gift for Christmas.  The one I had taken with my daughter on our date to Starbucks. The one I had taken with my sister and my kids when we went out coloring.  My fabulous coloring book.  It was all mine.  And now it was in pieces on the floor.

They had their own coloring books! Why did they need to go Freddy Krueger on mine?!

So what did I do when I saw my beautiful coloring book mutilated on the ground?  What any reasonable mom would do I am sure.  I yelled about how you cannot destroy things, and especially things that don’t belong to you. And then I asked them how they would feel if that happened to them?  All very reasonable.

And then – it happened.

I saw one colored picture on the ground.  I picked it up and looked my kids in the eyes and ripped the picture apart.  Just like that.  Beautiful artwork destroyed.

Take that kids!  An eye for an eye.

As soon as the ripped papers hit the ground, my daughter started crying and my insides started turning.  I felt a little bit sick as I looked down and thought, “What in the world did I do that for?”

Can I please get a “CUT!”  Can someone right this wrong?  My reaction was no different than a child’s would have been.  I was mad they destroyed my book, so I was going to destroy something too.

What happened to the first day of summer I had been dreaming of?

I picked up the pieces of the coloring page and found the tape.  Piece by piece I put the picture back together.  I handed it to my daughter and told her how sorry I was.  I explained that mommies make mistakes too, and that I never should have treated her beautiful artwork that way.  I told her just because someone hurts us, it doesn’t make it ok to try to hurt them.  I told her I was wrong.

IMG_4750

We hugged and she told me she forgave me.  I forgave her.

We all make mistakes and there are no Take-Twos in real life.  I guess it’s how we handle those moments when we have done something that makes our insides turn that really matters.  I know I have learned my lesson and I think my daughter learned hers.

I talked to a friend that day and she said, “Well, the summer can only get better from here.”

She was right. It has gotten better. This week has been a great week. Summertime bliss is upon us.

wallpapers-summer-time-desktop-x-px-1680x1050

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

There is a Reason

After doing some thinking about what I wrote last time, I decided that my last post needed a follow-up.  A sequel.  I was just a tad bit judgmental, and it’s time for me to right my wrong.

I realize that the victim of my judgment was a fictional character.  I realize that writing another post about Finding Nemo may be overkill.  Even with these realizations, I am moving forward.

As a tribute to a character that I have grown to appreciate.  Marlin.

I promise this isn’t the beginning of a long string of Blog posts about my psychoanalysis of fictional Pixar characters.   There will not be a prequel, or a threequel, or anything else like that. It stops here.

With Marlin.

findingnemo

Marlin is the epitome of the overprotective “helicopter parent”.  His life is ruled by his fears.  If there was ever a candidate for some anti-anxiety meds, it’s this guy.

He cannot move forward in his life because he is plagued by his past.  And consequently, he cannot let his son move forward in his life either.

The movie starts with a scene where we see a care-free Marlin having fun with a wife that he obviously adores.  They are about to have a family. They are coming up with names for their children, and dreaming of their seemingly bright future.

It is during this moment of great joy that something horrific happens.  Marlin’s wife is brutally murdered while she is trying to protect her children.  Marlin, in the process of trying to save her, is knocked unconscious.  He wakes to discover his wife and all of his children, but one, are dead.  He promises in this moment to never let anything happen to his one remaining child.

Fast forward a few years and we see a completely different Marlin.  A Marlin who is consumed with anxiety.   His son, who we learn was born with a birth defect, is grown and about to go to school for the first time. 

Fast forward a little bit more and we watch as Marlin’s son is kidnapped.  Again, Marlin is powerless and unable to stop this atrocity from happening.  He watches and can do nothing.

This fish is anxious, but it makes sense.  Doesn’t it?   He has been through an incredible amount of pain and suffering in a short period of time.  His wife and children were murdered.  His son has been stolen from him. The entire movie is about him trying to find his kidnapped son, while encountering one dangerous situation after another.  This is a petri dish for anxiety.

There is a reason he behaves the way he does.

Until we know somebody’s story, we may not know why they behave the way that they do.  Like Marlin, there is probably a reason.  A reason that they are angry.  Or scared.  Or sad.  Or anxious. Or over-protective.

It isn’t our job to judge. Judgment does not help a situation. Instead of offering judgement, offer love. Offer encouragement. Offer to meet people in their pain and suffering.  Offer to love them where they are.

That is what Dory does for Marlin.  We all need a little Dory in our lives.  Someone who helps us to move forward when we are afraid of what lies ahead.

And it always helps when we are able to recognize when somebody has been through a lot in life.  It is helpful when we can come along side them, while allowing them the time and space to heal.

I went through a period of time in my life, years ago, when it was hard for me to move forward from my past.  I was afraid that if people knew who I was, or the choices that I had made, that they could not possibly love or accept me.

Over the course of time, God has taken away those fears.  I have come to realize that His love for me never changes.  I have also come to realize that not everyone will like me. Some people may judge me for past choices I have made, and that is Ok. I am not ruled by the fear of what people may think of me.  I am no longer consumed by my past. It is a part of me. It is a part of my story.  It does not define me.

We all have a story.

We all have bad things happen in our lives. We all make bad choices.  It is part of living in this fallen world.

The next time I encounter someone who seems a little bunched up and Marlin-like, I hope I remember to offer them a smile and a word of encouragement.  I hope I remember to say a little prayer for them.  I hope I remember that I have not walked a day in their shoes and have no idea what they have been through, or may be going through.  I hope I can be like Dory and encourage them to just keep swimming. I hope I can remember that there is often a reason that people behave the way that they do.  I hope I will always love people in their Marlin-moments. Because that is how I would want to be treated.  And my next one may be right around the corner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Just Keep Swimming

 

I believe that Dory, from Finding Nemo, is one of the most endearing characters of all time.  She is eternally optimistic.   Repeatedly, she finds herself in very difficult situations.  She suffers from short-term memory loss and her traveling companion, who she is with 24/7, is a pessimistic fish named Marlin who suffers from severe anxiety.

What she endures would cause many fish to throw in the towel, but she does not.  She keeps moving forward.

One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when Dory is faced with another seemingly impossible situation, and her response is to sing.  She sings as she swims into the darkness.  She sings and believes.  She believes that everything will be Ok.

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim. Swim.”

She does not know what is ahead of her, and cannot remember what is behind her.  Unlike Marlin who is paralyzed with fear because of the memories from his past, she is fully present in the moment. She does not move with fear. She moves with confidence. With faith. With joy.

I feel like I can learn a lot from Dory.

The past couple months of my life have been busy, to say the least.  I have felt like I was moving from one thing to the next at warp speed with no time to breathe in between.  I was getting a little bunched up and Marlin-like.  It was hard for me to be in the moment because I was consumed by what was ahead of me, and a long list of what-ifs.  What if I can’t get this all done? What if it doesn’t work out as I had planned?

When someone would say, “how are you?” I would inevitably list off all of the things that were going on.  I would list off the things that I needed to accomplish in that day.   I’m not sure how that answers the question, “how are you?” Other than tired and maybe a bit over my head in commitments.

I often say that I feel like, with four young children and all that comes with raising a family, I cannot think past “the next big thing.”

When I say “the next big thing” I mean the next vacation, or Birthday, or holiday.  I cannot be working on too many things at once. There is just not a whole lot of extra time and energy left at the end of the day.  Just the regular events that happen on a daily basis are enough in and of themselves.  I have learned it is best for me to stay present in the moment focusing on the tasks at hand, while also working on “the next big thing.”

But what happens when each weekend is filled with “the next big thing?”

It seems that what happens is I rattle off lists to every person who makes the mistake of saying “how are you?”

And I break out in hives.  Yep. Hives.

I actually am still breaking out in the occasional hive.  I’m not sure if I was just so stressed that my immune system went haywire, or if I am actually allergic to something.  I will find out next week when I have my allergy testing done.

What I found in the past months of being all hivey, stress-bally, and overly-listy, is that this seems to be a predicament that many people find themselves in.  As soon as I was finished rattling off my to-dos, many of my friends would list off their to-dos.  It seemed that myself, and many people I knew, were drowning in piles of to-do lists.

So, what do we do in these moments of being pulled in too many directions?

I can choose to either be like Dory’s traveling companion Marlin who is constantly in a state of freaked-out panic, or I can be like Dory who sings her way through life.

When I do as Dory says and “just keep swimming,” I will often find a wonderful gift from God awaiting.  When I stay in the moment without fretting about what is ahead, or focusing on what is behind, then I am at peace.  During the painful times in life, and the busy times in life, and the times when it feels like I am drowning in my to-dos, there is always something wonderful happening too. Something to be grateful for.  Every day is filled with wonderful gifts from God.  It is just a matter of what I choose to focus on.

For me, during this busy time, the gifts came in the form of people that I love.

It was the joy of celebrating a friend’s upcoming marriage.

IMG_4094IMG_4085 IMG_4093-2

It was the joy in seeing my daughter’s face during her Birthday party.

IMG_2070

IMG_2068 IMG_2074

It was the joy of watching our daughter play a sport she had been wanting to try for a long time.

IMG_2149 IMG_2152

It was the joy of having family at our house on Easter Sunday.

IMG_2159

IMG_2200

12006179_10209467454272365_4007288029603320259_n

It was the joy of being with family on a short vacation over Spring Break.

IMG_2299

IMG_2415

It was joy of making the trip to our college town to spend the day with great friends.

IMG_2447 IMG_2449

It was the joy in standing next to a dear friend as she said her vows.

13055014_10153699322366936_6104324019446215633_o 13119791_10153699319956936_6701148871045291135_o 13119890_10153699316731936_6033364535710188753_o

It was the joy in seeing the look on my daughter’s faces when they saw their new rooms.

IMG_4508

IMG_4518

IMG_4550

The many nights of staying up late to complete tasks ultimately ended with great joy. It was worth it.

Now, I don’t recommend moving at this pace often.  It would not be healthy to be that busy all of the time. But sometimes, because of life’s circumstances, it is inevitable.  Sometimes you get life on steroids.

Slowly, over the past couple of weeks, things have started to calm down at our house.  We are slowly getting back to normal.  And at the end of the craziness, God gave Pat and I an unexpected gift. We were able to take a short trip to Florida together.  It was a time of rest and relaxation.  A rainbow after a storm of frenzy.   It was exactly what we both needed.  We were able to push the reset button.

IMG_2744 IMG_2750IMG_2757

Oftentimes, if we “just keep swimming” we will swim into something completely beautiful, and unexpected.  We may get a little Marlin-like along the way, but that’s Ok.  That is where grace comes in. We are all works in progress.  I hope as I grow older, and wiser, that I will become a little more like Dory and a little less like Marlin.  A little more able to trust. And believe. And move forward with joyful confidence.  In my experience, some of the roughest waters I have swam through have lead me to the most wonderful places.  I always need to “just keep swimming.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Unexpected Lessons

Last week, I learned a few unexpected lessons.

In my experience, some of the best lessons I’ve learned are the ones I’m not expecting. The show up, unannounced, with trumpets blaring demanding my attention.

My unexpected lesson began as I was in the chair at the orthodontist office with my mouth held open by some contraption that pulled uncomfortably on both sides of my cheeks. While I was laying back with every nook and cranny of my mouth exposed, the woman who was taking care of me kindly stated, “We forgot your sunglasses.”  Of course. My sunglasses.  That will complete this crazy look.

The rest of the appointment consisted of gadgets and gizmos, pressure, and attempts to swallow that weren’t always that successful. Thank goodness I had on my sunglasses.

By the time the appointment was over, I had my braces.  And, a new perspective.

IMG_3989

I was excited that this moment had finally arrived, but the braces seemed to be coming with a price.  Pain.  My teeth hurt.  My mouth hurt.  And, when I opened it to talk I sounded just like Sylvester the Cat from Looney Toons.  I was spitting and “Suffering Succotashing” all over the place.

images

Fortunate for me, in the most sarcastic voice imaginable, that night was the Winter Carnival at the elementary school.  I tried my best to talk to other parents without bathing them in a shower of spit.  I could feel my mouth moving awkwardly over my braces as I spoke.  And the more I spoke, the more my mouth hurt.

By the time we got home, I had developed a decent cut on my inner lower lip and was starting to form one on my upper lip.

This was not what I had in mind when I eagerly hopped into the chair that morning.  All that I was thinking about at that time was how great my mouth would look when this was all over.

My how my thoughts had changed.  Now all I could think was, “is this worth it?”  “Will I be in pain for as long as these braces are on my teeth?”

Of course not. But when you are in pain, it is hard to see past the pain.

I was told it would only last a few days and then subside. In that way, I was fortunate.

What about people who live with chronic pain?

What I learned in those few days of pain was that when you are in pain, it is hard not to think about the pain.  It is always there.  It lurks in the back of your mind. The awareness of the pain exists along with the pain itself.   It stinks.

As C.S. Lewis states in his book A Grief Observed, “I once read the sentence, ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache, and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life.  Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.”

IMG_3971-2

And with this pain came my lesson, trumpets blaring.  Through my pain I learned a lesson in empathy.

When my children wake up in the night saying they have a leg ache and I am snuggled comfy in my bed, not wanting to move, I hope that I may be more sensitive to the fact that they are in pain.  Instead of mumbling, “drink some water….try to go back to sleep…that will  help” when I know that it won’t, I hope that I will get out of my comfy bed and get them a heating pad and some Ibuprofen because they are in pain.

When they come in with a scraped knee and need my attention, I hope that I may be more likely to run over and give them a big hug and put a bandaid on them instead of saying, “wait one minute while I finish folding this laundry” or “be there in a second” or “oh it looks Ok, you can get back out there and play.”

IMG_3986

I want to be more sympathetic.  Not just to physical pain, but emotional pain.

Being in pain, whether it is physical or an emotional wound that is struggling to heal, can be exhausting.

This is not to say that God can’t use that pain.

It is often through experiencing pain myself, whether physical or emotional, that I learn how to relate better to others in their pain.  He took my pain and reminded me to better care for those around me who are hurting.

The next time I see one of my children laying back in the chair at the orthodontist, I will better understand what they are going through.  As a result, hopefully my attitude will be more empathetic, more kind, more quick to offer a hug and less likely to think, “oh come on…it can’t be that bad?”

Because maybe, just maybe, to them it is that bad.

I pray that this lesson will not fade slowly over time.  I thank God that I am no longer experiencing pain, and I pray for those who are.

I am thankful for lessons learned at unexpected times, in the most unexpected places.  I am thankful that a simple trip to the orthodontist has the potential to be so much more. Thank you, God, for using ordinary everyday experiences to grow me into the person that you desire for me to be.

Thank you God for unexpected lessons.

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Reality Checks

Sometimes I need a reality check.  Or two. Or three.

Sometimes more.

I am a stay-at-home mom.  I realize that this is not for everyone. Every family needs to decide what works for them. This was the desire of my heart, and my husband’s heart, and we were committed to making this work. We also knew, God willing, that we desired to have a large family.

IMG_0552 (1)

Having a large family and one income would require sacrifice, but this was a sacrifice that we were willing to make.  We knew that we may not have the finest things, and we were Ok with that.

In October, 2009, my husband and my very pregnant self, along with our three-year old and 20-month old daughters, moved from an area that is located about ten minutes east of downtown Indianapolis called Irvington to the suburbs of Westfield.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about being in the suburbs at first. My husband and I had a lot of conversations prior to moving. We liked the idea of being close to downtown.  It seemed so much cooler.  I still think it is cooler. 

But, coolness aside, it wasn’t a great fit for us anymore. For many reasons, including the location of his job, it made sense for us to move to the north side.

So, that’s what we did.

We found a foreclosure that was a wonderful fit for our expanding family.  I felt very blessed that we were able to move into a house that we otherwise would not have been able to afford. Along with the feeling of gratitude came the reality that our blessing was another family’s misfortune.  I would think of the family often, especially in the first year.  I would wonder about them.  And pray. 

DSCF0084

About three weeks after we moved into our home, our third daughter was born.  We began to settle into our new location.  At first, I did not think much about moving to such an affluent area.

When we lived close to downtown, we were surrounded by the rich and the poor.  Very nice homes were located just blocks away from poverty-stricken homes.  Our cozy little yellow bungalow sat across from the golf course.  Just a few blocks from our home was a street known to be a hangout for prostitutes and drug dealers.

DSC01915

We went from living in this melting pot to living where we live now.  We live in Hamilton County. According to a recent article posted in WTHR, Hamilton County is now ranked as the seventh wealthiest county in the nation.

The longer we have lived here, the more I find myself comparing our lifestyle to others and feeling like I am not living up to some type of standard.  The longer that I have been surrounded by wealth, the more my perception on how people live has erroneously changed. My idea of what is normal is becoming skewed. I am comparing my lifestyle to the lifestyles of some of the wealthiest people in the world. This is one of the challenges people face when they are living in the land of plenty.  I am beginning to understand why the term “keeping up with the Joneses” exists. This struggle is not unique to me.  One of my favorite movies is about this struggle that many Americans face, fittingly called The Joneses.  It is a thought-provoking movie that I highly recommend.

joneses-1000x400

Now this is not a knock on the suburbs, or the people who live in the suburbs. This is not a knock on being wealthy, or having nice things.  Those are wonderful blessings that God has bestowed on people.  I really enjoy living here, and feel very blessed to be where we are.  This is just commentary on my ridiculous, absurd, insane thoughts.

I find myself forgetting about the early years in our marriage when we talked about having less and being Ok with that.  I find myself feeling like what I have is not enough, but here is reality:

I have an ample amount of everything that I need.

I am not hungry.  I actually have the ability to choose, daily, what I will eat.  I am able to make food at home.  I can go out to eat.  I can eat fast food.  I can sit down at a restaurant.  I can search Yelp and see what sounds good to me, and go there, and eat.  Everyday, I have an overabundance of dining options.

th

I have water.  Clean water.  I have options of what kind of water I want. Tap water. Filtered water from the fridge.  Bottled water.  Flavored water. Water from the hose.  I can drink water. Shower in water. Bathe in water.  And when I drink the water, I don’t need to worry about if it is going to make me, or my family members, sick.

I do not worry that my children will die from starvation, or dehydration.  Thank you, Father.

I have a roof over my head.  I am warm in the winter.  I am cool in the summer.

I have clothes on my body.  I have a pillow to lay my head on at night and blankets to cover myself with.

If my children are sick, I can take them to a multitude of doctors and grab them medicine from a plethora of pharmacies.

To many people around the world, living in our home would be like living in a mansion.  It is all about perspective.

That is reality.  We are blessed beyond measure.

But, here is a secret of mine.   I am sometimes embarrassed by the cars we drive.  Yep. True.

We have a 1997 Toyota Avalon that we have had for years.  It is paid off and runs fine.  We have a Toyota Sienna that is also paid off and runs fine.  We own two working vehicles.  True, one of them is more like the car you get when you turn 16, but who cares? It works and it is paid off.

IMG_3830

When we first moved here and had our third daughter, we did not have the minivan yet.  I would load all three kids into the back of the Avalon. That was my car.  I thought nothing of it.  Now, I have become increasingly embarrassed to drive that car.  I actually will go out of my way  to be sure I will have the minivan when I need to go somewhere because I don’t want to be seen in the Avalon.

Do you know how crazy that is?!  There are people who don’t have food, and I am caring about being seen in our paid-off second vehicle.  Something isn’t right here.

Thankfully, God has been showing me the ridiculousness of my thinking.  He is teaching me gratitude.  He is giving me reality checks.

This year, at our Christmas dinner, I looked at the overabundance of food on the table and in that moment God did something to my heart.  I felt like He said to me, “Look.  Look at this blessing before you and be grateful.”  I was struck in that moment by the fact that I was able to feed my children.  I could feed them without any fear of where the food would come from.  There was so much food on our table that some would go to waste.  My heart was grateful, and it was also very convicted.

I have carried that conviction with me into the new year.  When I find myself thinking about the things that I want, I quickly remind myself of all that I have.  When I find myself thinking about wanting a new car, I remind myself that we have all that we need right now.  When I find myself feeling embarrassed, I remind myself to be grateful.  I do not need to impress anyone.  And, really, nobody cares what kind of car we drive.  Our friends care about us, not about what we have.  The way that I feel has nothing to do with people saying, or doing things, to make me feel this way.  It is just my own stinking thinking.  The thought that we need to have more, or be more, to prove something is just a lie.  It is a lie that I am not buying into anymore.

I am on week four of my 52 weeks of donations and it has been a wonderful experience thus far.  I do not think that it is a coincidence that I am embarking on this at the same time as I have been struggling with these thoughts.  As I clean out our home, God is cleaning out my heart and my mind.

I am thankful for the work that God is doing on my heart.  I am thankful that He is patient with me.  I am extremely thankful that I do not need to worry about how I will feed my children tonight, and I pray for those who find themselves in that situation.

I am thankful for abundant blessings.

I am thankful for reality checks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

Potential

I love fresh starts.  Maybe that is why one of my favorite times of year is the beginning.  It feels like the slate has been wiped clean and it is time to start over.  It is a time of reflection and anticipation.  Reflection on what has passed, and anticipation for what lies ahead.  It is a time filled with potential.

Last year may have been great, but this year can be better.   This year is an open book filled with blank pages that I am about to fill.

I can eat better.  Sleep more.  Workout more frequently.  Pray more. Spend more time with the kids.  Plan more date nights. There are so many possibilities.  All for the better.

That is how I felt on the morning of January 1st.  Giddy with excitement about another year bursting with opportunity.

So long 2015….Look out 2016….Here I come!  My Wonder Woman cape is on!  Hold on tight!  I am flying toward all of that potential at break-neck speed.

il_570xN.409193097_juid

But then reality hits.  The cape is removed.  I am still me.  Just because the calendar year changed, doesn’t really mean that I have changed.   It isn’t about the calendar.  I may have more excitement on January 1st for what lies ahead, but if I am not intentional then that excitement will eventually fade.  If I am not committed to making these changes, then the end of this year will look no different than the end of last year.

I can have one hundred goals, but if I am not committed to the necessary work that precipitates change than I am just making resolutions for resolutions sake.

Change takes more than desire.  It takes planning.  It takes commitment.  It takes perseverance.

Before the holidays, we had our kitchen, and living room, painted.  I feel like I have a pretty clean house.  Or so I thought.  Until that morning.  What I discovered, on the day that the painter arrived, is that my house may look sparkly on the surface, but when you move items around you get an entirely different view.

Dust. Dust. And more dust.

I was appalled.  My seemingly clean house was actually filthy. The parts of the objects that were out of my view had been completely neglected.  The side that was seen was unblemished.  The side that was unseen was a mess.

Something hit me when I saw all of that grime, other than the fact that I really needed to clean my house.  I realized in that moment that it is easy to focus on what people see.  Making the surface appear sparkly isn’t the hard part.  The hard part is moving things around and cleaning all of the parts that people don’t necessarily see. That takes extra time and commitment.  For me, it is the same with my goals.  If I want to make changes that will stick, then I need to focus on the unseen parts.  I need to work from the inside out.  I need to change the way that I think, and that will ultimately affect the way that I operate.

This year, I have set a goal to donate something every week.  Seems lofty.  I know.  But, not impossible.  I have set one big goal, not one hundred.  For me, this works better.  If I set too many goals, than I usually am not as successful.

I have a lot of clutter in my life.  My sister calls me a stage-one hoarder.  If you were to open the drawers in my house you would see that I am an extremely organized packrat.  Why have two coloring books, that the kids rarely use, when you can have 30 saved up for a rainy day?  Seriously.  Not exaggerating.

IMG_3732

I don’t need this much stuff.  So, what am I going to do?  I am going to be making some type of donation.  Every week.  52 donations made one at a time. I am going to go from the attic to the basement in small little baby steps.

I will donate more than just material possessions.  I will donate my time.  My money.  Whatever I feel God is calling me to donate that week.

Part of this isn’t just cleaning out the “stuff.”  It’s cleaning out the dust in my house, and the dust in my soul. I’m praying that this adventure that I am embarking on in 2016 makes me more generous, more loving, more prayerful, and more aware of the abundance of blessings that God has bestowed upon me, and where He is calling me to share those blessings with others.

Right now my trunk has bags with items destined for Wheeler Mission, our church, and Goodwill.  My daughter’s backpack has some books for her classroom.  I’m starting with a bang.

The year ahead is bursting with potential, and I am ready for it.  I am about to put on my cape.

Look out 2016!  Here I come!

 

 

And just to show how excited I am about the start of the new year, I am including a video from this year. Everyone else is relatively calm, and then there is me…….

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

“Oh Shoot”

Yesterday evening, I received a phone call that made me fall to my knees and cry.  I knew this call would come.  That wasn’t the surprise. I guess I just hadn’t expected to receive the call so soon.

And even if I had expected that my phone would ring at that exact hour, my reaction would have been the same.  Longing.  Longing for more.

One more hug.  One more kiss.  One more I love you.

Just one more.

But that one more would never be enough.  Because when we love someone, we don’t want to have just one more of anything.  We want lots more. We want to be with them.  Here and now. With them.

IMG_0894

IMG_0896

But, that is not how life works.  This life is temporary.  We all have a guarantee that one day will be our last.  We don’t know when that day will come, but it will.  And when it does, our loved ones will fall to the ground longing for more.

But that pain that makes the body crumple and the tears flow is, for me, often times accompanied by another emotion.  An emotion that seems contrary to, but somehow compliments, the heartache.

That emotion is hard to describe, but the closest word I have for it would be peace.

Peace in knowing that the one I love is truly in a better place.  Peace knowing that there is no more pain.  Peace knowing there is no more suffering.  Peace knowing that they are now at home.

IMG_0891

One of my favorite movies is Inside Out.  I love how it describes the developing emotions of a young girl going through significant change in her life. In the beginning, her emotions are simple. She would feel each of her emotions independent from one another. As she grows and changes, her emotions become more complex.  By the end, it is not just the isolated emotion of joy that she feels, or the isolated emotion of sadness, but instead a beautiful combination of the two.

This is how I felt in that crumpled moment.  I felt an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness in knowing I would never see my grandma again on earth, and at the same time a peace that all was how it should be.

My grandmother, Marjorie Alice (Hill) Lohman, who we all lovingly called Gammy, was 95 years old.  95 years wonderful.  95 years wise.  95 years stubborn.  And 95 years well loved.

IMG_0899

She was the master of the English language and taught me at a young age that you should never end a sentence with a preposition.  If she ever heard me say, “Where is it at?” She would yell, “Right before the AT!”

She knew the way things once were, and the way she believed they should still be, and she wasn’t afraid to let you know.  A man should take off his hat when he walks in the door, and a hat should under no circumstance be worn at the dinner table.  Hands should never be washed in the kitchen sink.  A table should always be set for dinner, even if you were just having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  And when you set the table, you better set it properly.

She loved reading, knitting, and the game show channel. She strongly disliked commercials and muted them instantly.  She loved wine spritzers (after 5:00 of course), bridge, golf, good food with good friends (no spice, please), and the occasional trip to the casino. And with the exception of golf, did all of these things until the very end of her life.

She was an artist. A teacher. A wife. A mother. A grandmother. A friend. She was my Gammy.

IMG_0897

Gammy spent her summers up north at her lake home on Walloon Lake, Michigan.  When I think of the Lohman family, I think of Walloon. Gammy would spend her summers there, and the rest of us would come and go throughout those months.  She would have a revolving door of family members.  As one family would leave, another would arrive.  We would enter her home with the anticipation of another week spent at Walloon.  We would bring with us our bags, our noise, our chaos, our joy, and most of all our love.

IMG_0898

Gammy6

Gammy1

FullSizeRender

When the week, or two, or more if we were really lucky, had come to an end we would gather our belongings into the car and prepare for another trip home.  Knowing we would return again next year.  Those who still remained would all gather on the front lawn to wave goodbye.

A week spent at Walloon would always come and go quickly, as most times spent in the company of loved ones at a special location do.  And even though the promise of next summer was ahead of us, that did not take away from the difficulty of saying goodbye.

With the car packed, we would all kiss and hug.  Inevitably, some would cry.  Those fortunate enough to have had their vacation, but unfortunate enough that it was now over, would pile into the car to make the trip home. The cottage sits on a giant oval, like a track. With two cottages on one side and two on the other.  Those who were leaving would make their way around the curve, and when they came to the straightaway they would honk and wave.  This was our tradition. Gammy would always be front and center waiting for this ritual to take place.  Sometimes she would even yell, “don’t forget to honk!”, as if any of us ever would forget.

For as long as I can remember, whenever someone drove away, tears would well up in Gammy’s eyes.  She would stand there while the car turned off of Hamilton Court, and watch it until it could be seen no more, and then she would turn and say, “Oh shoot.”

Gammy

She went out in style. She had just started hospice care and was told she had up to two months to live.  Anyone who knows Gammy knows she loves a good party.  So, that is what her kids decided to do. They were going to throw her a party.  She was taken out of hospice and brought to my dad’s house. We all gathered to tell her we love her.  It was her living wake.  Why wait until someone dies to throw a party?

Gammy2

DSC_0201

That night, when she was brought back to the facility and tucked into bed, I was told that she told the nurse that she “had made peace with everyone.”

The next day, I was informed that hospice had changed their time frame from two months to two days.  A few hours later, I got the call that she passed.  She was surrounded by the people she loved most in this world, her four children.

DSC_0824

She had her party, and she was ready to go home.

I can picture all of us standing on the lawn waving, and this time it is her turn to drive away.  I know she honked.  I know she waved.  I know she smiled.  I know she was ready to go.

Oh shoot.

04E1593B-9F78-4929-8AF8-A785AC2C44A4

 

video3gpp_0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png

I Have Been Thinking About Divorce

 

L0rdV

I have been thinking a lot lately about divorce.

Not because my marriage is falling apart and I am contemplating divorce. On the contrary, I feel blessed to be married to my best friend. Divorce is not on my mind because I want one.

So, if I am not wanting a divorce, then why am I thinking about divorce?

I am thinking about divorce because I am a child of divorce and I am at an age where I am starting to hear of more friends and acquaintances who are getting divorced.

I think I have reached that stage of life. The stage where people have been married long enough that they are realizing that things are not going as they had originally hoped when they said, “I do.”

I experienced divorce as an eight-year old child when my mom and dad divorced, and then again as an adult when my dad and stepmom divorced. Now, I am seeing divorce in a new way. I am watching friends, and their families, go through the pain of divorce. And painful it is. Very.

I mean, who wants to go through a divorce? Nobody walks down the aisle thinking, “I hope this ends with me signing some papers. I can’t wait for that day to come!” No way. Some people may have doubts when they walk down the aisle, but they still walk down with hope. Hope that things will get better. Nobody hopes to have their marriage end in divorce. But it happens. All of the time. It happens.

divorce_2147804b

And even though I have personally never gone through a divorce, here are some things that I think when it does happen……

1. All parties involved need time to grieve.

I feel like sometimes there is the “I can’t really grieve because I chose this” mentality or the “they were so horrible to their spouse, what did they expect would happen?” mentality. I think regardless of the circumstances leading up to the divorce, and regardless if you were the person who asked for the divorce, or it was a mutual decision, it is still a devastating loss and everyone involved needs timed to grieve.

I believe marriage to be the number one relationship outside of a person’s relationship with God. It is a big deal when this relationship ends.

Mid adult woman toying with gold wedding ring on finger

And, when I say all parties, I mean all parties. If there are children involved, the children need time and space to grieve as well.

I can remember vividly when each of my parents were remarried. On both of their wedding days I was very upset. I remember crying on the day of their weddings, and even refusing to smile in some of the pictures.

I also remember being scolded for my selfishness. Why couldn’t I just be happy for them? This was a very important day in their lives (no question about that) and all of my sulking was ruining their special moment (I am sure it wasn’t helping anything.)

But you see, although I really liked my future stepmom and future stepdad, I was still hurting deeply from the fact that my parents were no longer together. At that age, I wasn’t able to move past my own pain to rejoice with them in their happiness. I did not have the emotional maturity to behave as they wanted me to behave. It had been a couple of years since my parents divorced and it still hurt.

For some reason when my parents remarried it was like adding salt to the wound. I had so many fears like: Now that they are remarried, what does this mean? One thing I did know was that now there was no chance that my parents would get back together. It was crazy to think that they ever would have, but when you are a kid you think some crazy things. I also thought things like: How do I fit into this new marriage? Would they have more children? Would they still love me as much? If I was going from house to house and they were building new families, was I just drifting between families and not really belonging anywhere?

I knew I was supposed to be happy for my parents on their wedding days, but all of those questions (and the sadness that came with them) is what I felt more than anything. Even though I knew how I was supposed to be behaving, I just couldn’t do it.

family-divorce

And, there should not be a time limit on grief. I don’t think that somebody should wallow in their grief. I do believe that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to grieve. I also think that grief comes and goes in waves and can hit us at the most unlikely times.

I do not think that someone should be told, “It has been long enough. It is time to move on.” Maybe they have just uncovered a new pain that they need to work through. Maybe a memory has been triggered that needs to be processed, and maybe with that memory comes a little sadness. So, let them grieve. Don’t tell them how long they are allowed to grieve, and definitely don’t expect children to have the emotional maturity of an adult.

2. Being a stepparent must, at times, be very difficult.

Like on your wedding day when the soon-to-be stepchild is having a breakdown. Seriously. Like I said, for me it was a very hard day. But for them, it is supposed to be one of the happiest days of their lives. You find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, and this person does not come unattached. On the contrary, they are a parent. Again, probably not what was dreamed of when lying in bed as a child thinking of the big “I do” moment. ” I —– now take you —–, and all of your children, to have and to hold…” It cannot be easy.

Being a parent is one of the most wonderful things that I have ever had the privilege of doing in my life. It is also, at times, one of the most challenging. I cannot imagine stepping into this role when someone is in their preteen years. This is what both of my stepparents had to do with me. They put up with some serious attitude from me. While they were supposed to be in their honeymoon phase, I was in my starting-to-deal-with-all-of-these-new-hormones phase. I could not imagine returning from my honeymoon to a hormonal preteen girl who is mad that her parent just got remarried. Yikes!

Plus, as a stepparent, you have to figure out what the biological parents are wanting and try to operate within their parenting boundaries. You are a parenting figure in the child’s life, but not the actual parent. Seems complicated.

Not to mention the fact that you are now doing all of these things for a child who may, or may not be, constantly reminding you that you are indeed not their real parent.

78b6c309b005ea29d4b582ea643d3863

When you are a parent, you are always doing things for your child. You make lunches, drive them to and from practices, do their laundry, help with homework…just to name a few. As a stepparent, you may suddenly find yourself doing all of these things for your stepchild. If the stepchild is anything like I was as a child, then they just expect you to do those things. I was grateful to my parents for the things that they did. Don’t get me wrong. But, if we are being honest, how many kids are thanking their parents profusely for doing laundry or taking them to practice? As a child, you just know that your parents are supposed to take care of you. That’s what they do. That’s how it works.

But, what if you are the stepparent? What if you went from having no kids to suddenly driving these kids all over town? I can remember having a conversation once with my stepmom and she was telling me about how she would have to drive across town to pick me up or drop me off because my dad was working. I can see now as an adult what a sacrafice this was and I am very grateful that she went out of her way to do this for my sister and I, but at the time when she told me I remember thinking, “Ok? What’s the big deal?” In my mind, that’s just what parents do. It was part of the deal. My parents were divorced. She married a man with kids. I couldn’t drive. Someone had to drive me across town. She married my dad, so she had to do the parent thing. I didn’t get what the big deal was. Again, a child thinks much differently then an adult does.

But, God can take this complicated family and turn it into something beautiful. I have wonderful relationships with my stepparents and God has used them to teach me many things. I am grateful that they pursued a relationship with me when I was not all that lovable. They showed me grace at a time in my life when I really needed it. They could have easily thrown their hands in the air and said, “She isn’t my child. I’m not dealing with this!”, but they didn’t do that. Instead, they pursued me time and time again when I really did not always deserve it and now I call them “mom” and “dad” just like I do my parents and I cannot imagine my life without them.

images

3. There is no need to wear the Scarlet ‘D.’

I have always been very fond of the book, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this book, Hester Prynne, is forced to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ on her chest as a punishment for her sin of adultery. She wears this letter on her chest her entire life. I wonder how often we are like Hester? How often do we feel burdened by the sins of our past? How often do we hold on to guilt and shame and let that define us? And how often are we like the townspeople in that book, not allowing people to move past the sins of their past?

b_2e484098cfd747d9ffa5e8e7b4fe0e5a

God offers grace and mercy and does not want us to be bogged down with guilt and shame. There is freedom in Christ. As it says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Grace. Grace. Grace. That is what we all long for in life. Divorce does not define a person. it is a part of their life, but not the definition of their life. There is no need to walk around feeling shame because a marriage did not work out. Sadness, yes. Shame, no. Relationships are complicated and marriage can be very hard. Marriage is two imperfect people living out all of the good and bad that comes with life together and that is not always easy. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. I am not in my friend’s marriages. I have no idea what is going on behind closed doors, and I have no right to judge. It is hard enough picking up the pieces after a divorce. The last thing that people need is to feel shame for what has happened in their marriage. Our job is to share God’s love, not to reign down judgment.

4. Remember, if you have kids, they never asked for this.

One of the hardest parts about being a child of divorce is that it never really goes away. It follows you around for the rest of your life. It may remain quiet for awhile and then BAM! It rears its ugly head.

NewImage_blackandwhite-2

Hear are my words of wisdom (that I realize nobody has asked for, but I am sharing anyways)…..

If your child has moved out of the home and comes back to visit, he or she will more than likely stay at one, or maybe both, of their parents’ houses. If that child is at one house more it does not mean that they love that parent more. They are not trying to hurt you. Maybe they have friends on that side of town that they want to see. Or, maybe they are grown now and have kids of their own and one house offers more space for all of their children.  Whatever the reason may be, it is not a personal attack of any kind. Don’t try to make them feel bad for spending time with their parent. I know you may miss them and the feelings you have are because you want to spend more time with them, but they are doing the best that they can with a complicated situation.

If you have children, then you will have to see your ex again, a lot, and for a long time. At special events like graduations, bridal showers, weddings, baby showers. You get the drift. It is important to remember what you are there for and to try to make it as pleasant of an experience as you can for that child. Remember, they never asked for this and there is no need to add drama to this special occasion that is being celebrated. Save the drama for girls-night out or the next poker game with your buddies.

Your kids do not want to hear you trash your ex. They are your ex and they may have done some really horrible things, but they are still your child’s parent. Kids love their parents. Unconditionally. If they still want to hang out with that person that caused you so much pain, it is not because they don’t care about you. It is because that person that caused you pain is their parent, and the relationship that they have with them is very different than the marriage relationship that you had. The fact that they love this person that caused you pain doesn’t mean that they don’t care. They just love their parent. As they should. And, the more that a person talks negatively about their ex, the more that may cause their children to withdraw from them. It actually has a reverse effect. Instead of pushing them away from the parent that they are bad-mouthing, it pushes the child away from them.

Divorce1

Here is another one. Just because you are ready to date, doesn’t mean that your kids are ready to meet the new man or woman in your life. I believe this to be especially true if the divorce has just happened. As I said earlier, people need space to grieve and this is true for children as well.

You may have checked out of your marriage a long time ago, but your children did not check out of a house with both mom and dad residing there a long time ago.

Maybe you have moved on, but they probably have not. They are trying to deal with this new reality and that can bring up a lot of raw, new, and somewhat scary emotions. If you bring someone into the relationship when they are still dealing with this, just be prepared to deal with their emotions and try to help them through these feelings as they are going through them. Don’t expect them to be happy for you, just because you are happy.

And, if they seem overly excited about this new person my guess is they probably are not. Not to say it isn’t possible for a child to share in your happiness, but if it is a fresh divorce then I think that it is probably rare for them to be super excited to meet your new “friend.” I think that kids that act super excited about all of the change are probably in denial, and maybe a little scared. Their entire world has just been ripped apart. Things seem very fragile to a child after a divorce. I think when kids are super excited it really means, “I’m scared. If I don’t act like I am happy about everything, then what will happen next? Is this new person going to take my place?” I believe that there is a lot of insecurity after a divorce and if a child hasn’t had time to deal with these emotions before meeting their parent’s new possible love interest then there is a good chance that those insecurities, jealousies and difficult emotions will rear their ugly heads.

Even as an adult, after my dad and stepmom divorced, my dad quickly started dating someone and I had to say time and time again that I just wasn’t ready for this. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her. I was just dealing with the emotions from my dad and stepmom’s marriage ending. I wasn’t ready to start embracing his new relationship. I was in my 30s and still needed space and time. At that specific period of time, fresh off their divorce, I just wasn’t ready to embrace a new person. I needed time to heal. Little kids often don’t know how to express these emotions, so they come out in different ways.

With all of that said, if you have met someone and you love them then I think that is wonderful and I think that it is possible to work through all of these emotions. An overly emotional child isn’t doomsday for a relationship. I think that couples that have to work through hard times have the potential to come out stronger than ever in the end. I am just saying, be prepared that it may be a little rocky at times and that is to be expected. Just help the child work through it and try to see it from their eyes. They aren’t out to destroy your future happiness. They are just hurting.

And, lastly, if your child is expecting you to pick them up for a night, or the weekend, then by golly pick them up. I personally did not experience this. My parents were very good about getting me when they said that they would. I do have some friends who have gone through this though and it majorly stinks for the child. It can lead to all kinds of feelings of abandonment and rejection that can be carried all of the way until adulthood. Don’t leave your child with their bags packed anxiously waiting for you to show up, only to be left with extreme disappointment. Divorce is hard enough without that being added to the mix.

b02fe2ff30a91fca4294748ef2aa1df7

5. There is life after divorce.

And life abundantly. God can turn ashes to beauty. He restores what is broken and makes it new. I can see now all of the blessings that have come from the brokenness. I cannot imagine my life any other way now.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

psalm-147-3

As I said, I have not been thinking about divorce because I want one, but I pray for those who do. I pray for those who have gone through divorce, or who are in the process of divorce. I pray for their children. I pray that they will feel God’s love cover them and that they will be showered with love and grace as they are going through a difficult time.

Thank you God for your promises. Thank you for taking what is broken and making it new. Thank you that there is life after divorce.

 

 

 photo Signature_zpsxtntaani.png