Love Language & the Holidays…

affirmationWords of Affirmation

“Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving.”
Above comes from my friends, Eric and Jennifer Garcia Co-Founders of AMFM (Association of Marriage & Family Ministries), who have now developed a site 40DayLoveDare.com. I took the quiz, but I already knew where it would land. Words are so important to me; they build me up but…. can tear me down instantly.
As I’ve aged and gained wisdom and discernment, I’ve also learned that my words can build up or tear down as well. I work hard to not use mean ugly words. I can express myself, even in hurt and anger without being mean. Instead I’ve learned to use my emotional “pause” button when I feel hurt or threatened. I’ve been practicing for years to always wear a smile, and find something kind to say with sincerity.
During this holiday, focus on thanking God. No matter what is going on, there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for….even if it’s for each breath you take. Be kind and gracious to others this holiday season. In stepliving, greet family and children no matter what day you celebrate on…avoid fights and arguments and “what about me”. Tell those you love, “I love you.” There are some folks who have lost a loved one since last holiday and they are dealing with painful grief.
 Free Thanksgiving Clip Art 400 Pixels Wide 01
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Social Media: Attraction & Temptation

   Every time I sat down….anywhere….I was checking my Facebook page. Who liked what I posted or if they didn’t like it, did they comment? I had become the one I was feeling sorry for. The one who constantly monitored what others were doing, saying, or “liking”. Hours would fly by every day.

So I took August off. The only time I went on FB was when I received an email notice that it was someone’s birthday. I celebrate birthdays and love to acknowledge those I love and care about on their special day.

Facebook/Social Media, the most insidious avenue to attract and tempt anyone to look and click rather than live life. I truly grieve every time I see someone walking, waiting, sitting with their children and on their phone because I know the percentage of them checking social media is very high.

In my home office, I am going to discipline myself and put a timer on so my “attraction to and temptation for” Facebook will be limited. An hour will be more than enough. I will have a book near my recliner instead of my phone.

God will not be determining my salvation by the “likes” I gave or received.

School has started….Stepfamilies and divorced parents please be sensitive to kids in split homes with things to remember. Help them by posting a “Did You Remember” dry erase or chalk board in good view. Something they or you can write on each week….”Homework, school books, iPad, Phone, certain clothes, jackets, or shoes, etc.”

Jonah and me….

jonah-beach-whale-168772-print Our worship services have recently begun digging deeper into the Book of Jonah. Years ago before my relationship with Christ, I had heard of this story and thought, “how weird, why”. But the story is a beautiful example of God’s grace and our potential strength.

This picture? I chose it because I have felt like this many, many times in my life.

Jonah was told to go to Ninevah and he didn’t want to, he tried running from God. Jonah was stowing away on a ship that was on rough seas and finally Jonah requested he be thrown overboard…thinking his death would be the answer, but God commissioned a large fish to swallow and “save” Jonah. He spent three days and three nights in the fish. Jonah prayed to and praised God. Then the fish spit Jonah out on land and God gave him a second chance to go preach to Ninevah.

What has this to do with stepliving? All of us stepparents have tried to run or give up when things become too difficult, too painful, too stressful, too disappointing. We fall into the trap of thinking we’re not good enough, we’re failures. But God in His mighty love for us, forgives us, and in grace “spits” us out continually to follow Him. Jonah had a huge job to do with going to Ninevah, an enemy of his people. Stepparents have a huge job and sometimes the family environment can feel like enemy territory. Pray, talk to God, ask Him to help and to bless your family.

I was struck by two movies I watched this weekend. New release “Megan Leavy”. She had difficulties resuming civilian life and missed her combat dog companion, Rex. Her dad told her it didn’t matter if she failed trying. She could fail again and fail again….but keep living. I rented the movie, “The Founder”, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s. Honestly, I was taken aback in learning the real story of Mac and Dick McDonald and how Mr. Kroc finally took over.

But my point is this: Ray Kroc said pertaining to his life that the only real keys to success are persistence and determination. In his life, in Megan’s life, in a stepparent’s life, in any Christian’s life….with God at the helm, we can excel and succeed with persistence and determination.

God Bless America.

 

Are Smart Phones Smart For Your Kids?

The 4th Annual Stepfamily Rx conference is coming Saturday April 1st!

Returning speakers and NEW speakers are joining the line-up. One of the new speakers is Brandon Sutherland.

brandon-nelson

When we met and discussed becoming a part of the conference, Brandon gave me his background. He previously worked for a well-known cell-phone service provider. He loves the newest and fastest gadgets. However, he also recognizes the pros and cons of smart phones especially as it relates to young folks. Additionally, Brandon will update us on websites that are dangerous and inappropriate. We are again offering the open mic panel discussion for YOUR questions. REGISTER NOW! You do not want to miss this!

2016-halvo-speaking       2016-speaker-panel

Stepfamily Rx Conference update

My brain in finally settling back down after the consuming details of wanting to present a successful day for the other speakers and attendees.

The biggest feedback was parenting issues and co-parenting issues. For stepdads…some questioned whether they might be falling in love with their stepchildren and focusing on them more than their own because of the split and occasional visitation days. This is a real concern for some!

For stepmoms, the same issues exist with having a clear understanding AND support of their role in the family. Biological parents set the boundaries and rules for their children and decide on discipline consequences, but many times, the stepmom is left with caring out the actions because she may be with the children and stepchildren more hours during the day. Children need to understand what roles the adults have and what roles they have. Being in control and “the boss of the house” is not in the rulebook for children.

For other couples, they’ve allowed the older children, aged about 10-13 years of age where they want to live with a residence change each year. What? One poor father said the month before the annual “decision”, he walks on broken glass wondering if his kids will feel he is “good or fun enough” to live with for the next year.

Adults need to set the parameters and rules for the best interests of the children. Yes, age appropriate children can determine which parent they want to reside with; but then there is a stipulated agreement wherein the other parent will get sufficient time for visitation. The stressed dad of the “annual decision” said he made a terrible mistake to agree to that arrangement.

Parenting today is much different than it was just a couple of decades ago. Spouses always come first under God in the marriage. Children always come first under the parents. Such a relatively simple concept, yet many adults/spouses want to tangle up the two definitions. Kids do not need pals….they need PARENTS. And parents should care about raising respectable, responsible, reverent children that know and love God. If you think “spoiling” them is benefiting them…you will need to keep them in your household the rest of your life, or follow them to every employer and explain to them why they need to continue the spoiling. NOT!

Take care, God bless you, and stay strong and consistent!

Co-parenting Panel at Stepfamily Rx Conference!

Co-parenting can be a tough challenge after any divorce and really difficult after a nasty divorce. However, it is the most important thing you can do for your children! They didn’t ask for the divorce (1) and (2) they love both of you, even if they say they don’t! Here are some quick tips: Children need the freedom and permission to love both of you. They should never be spies or messengers. Do not argue about the children in front of the children. Avoid harsh gossip or cruel words in front of the kids about your ex…which is their parent. Be civil with each other and share schedules often, update as needed. No secrets to control or manipulate.

The 3rd annual Stepfamily Rx Conference is coming to Peace Church in Eau Claire again! Call now to register and take advantage of EARLY BIRD pricing…715-834-2486.

In the afternoon, there will be a panel of six individuals who SUCCESSFULLY co-parent and you will have a chance to ask them your personal questions! Don’t miss this!

Here is the announcement video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBiwA8Nw8qY

 

Blessings….

Today’s WOW: Silence can be powerful.

Quiet image      Isn’t it great to have the last word? With your spouse, your kids, a friend, or on Facebook? I know I used to believe I had the best last word and I used that privilege often.

Not so much anymore. I have learned that in some situations, leaving someone else’s words “hang” in the air is more powerful than my adding to it. I’ve learned that silence can enhance my integrity and honor because in some instances, my response can lower me to the other person’s level. I’ve learned that I can learn something if I’m not always preparing a response.

Being a step-parent provides many opportunities to want to have that last word or to jump in with an opinion or chastisement. Today, practice taking the higher road. Ask God to help keep your lips closed, to help give you strength, endurance, and wisdom. Avoid gossip, avoid bashing the other parent or their household. Words can build someone up, but so can meaningful silence.

If you need to protect or defend yourself and it’s the right thing to do, then say what is necessary. However, I challenge you to seek the power of silence as often as you can and see what a difference it can make in your day.

“Do the right thing in the right way for the right reason.” God bless you~

Boundaries = A Step in the Right Direction

fence  I’ve been doing speaking gigs lately and have chosen “Boundaries” as a topic that works for all audiences. It is not something we habitually think about, but having good healthy boundaries in place is absolutely necessary. I have been seeing a real need lately as I facilitate Divorce Care at our church, and as I coach stepmoms. Most of these individuals have poor or non-existent boundaries.

Boundaries help define who we are and help keep us accountable for our behaviors. They help us remember we are only in control of ourselves. They are not walls, since God created us for relationship; boundaries need to open and close to protect us as well as allow good things in and good things out. Think of yourself surrounded by a fence with a gate.

Stepfamilies need to focus on additional boundaries because of previous histories, loyalties, and relationships. New and previous family members will require “boundary review and changes”. As my book title begins, “Everything Changes….”, indeed it does with a remarriage.

Stay tuned for additional boundary posts based on Drs. Cloud and Townsend’s books.

 

Holidays, Chats, Emotions, a Lot of Listening….

How easily time slips away. Quietly, quickly. The Christmas season is full of preparation including activities such as baking, planning, figuring out family gifts, shopping, and the stress that always seems to come. I’ve become more seasoned at how to handle all of it, learning that if I focus on anything or anyone else other than Jesus Christ, I fall into a consuming pit. I’m not perfect, I still have to face many issues that range from pure joy to retching aches. It’s a true test of trusting God when we all want to shout, “You’re hurting me!!” at various times to various people….but we choose to remain silent.

I met with several people during this season that have relational and emotional issues going on in their lives. People saying hurtful words without thinking. Parents wanting more love and acceptance from their adult children…that four letter word “busy” hampering quality time. Separation and divorce wounds open and bleeding. Children of divorce favoring the parent that caused great heartache to their other parent…the bruised spouse/parent wondering why.

Listening to someone pour out their hearts is one of the most therapeutic things we can do for each other. I greatly value the trust gift that many individuals give me. Praying that Jesus heal hearts and soothe aching spirits is the only answer and my gift back. We cannot fix, we cannot expect, we cannot change others.

My prayer for all of you is that this year of 2016 with the world’s issues and our country’s unrest constantly reminding us of our sinful condition…that Jesus remain FIRST in your life, that you know the joy and peace that only He can give…..because: Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Hello Mrs. Olson!

I recently walked into Scheel’s, a well-equipped hunting, sporting, and clothing store in our local mall. I had barely entered the facility when a young voice right in front of me called out, “Hello, Mrs. Olson!”

I stopped in my tracks. I looked down. A family friend’s seven year old son stood there smiling at me while bobbling a football, probably in hopes that whomever was with him would be buying it. I smiled and said “Hi!, where are your folks?” He told me he was with his brother and his grampa.

I found the other family members, we chatted, and I went on my way.

As I entered the mall area, I remembered the specific feeling of hearing “Hello Mrs. Olson” and the face of that innocent boy. I felt like I had been sucker-punched in my gut. Naturally, this emotional spin was completely invisible to anyone else. I just remember stopping and standing for a few seconds.

All this precious boy knew was that his elementary school girl friend’s last name is Olson and her mommy and daddy’s last name is Olson. And so, seeing me and knowing I am his friend’s gramma, he greeted me as “Mrs. Olson.”

However…..that is not my name.

The faded pain, guilt, and sadness of divorcing my sons’ father tried to rise up and flood me again. There are times I do wish things could have been different. I do wish that I had never changed my last name until my sons were grown. I do wish my sons and their families do not have to figure out how to divide time between all the various households during holidays. I could wish all I want; however, my life is the path I’ve chosen after dealing with circumstances. As with most decisions as a single mom, we do the best we can at the time.

As I regained my composure and continued to walk, I realized this experience eased into something I could write about for all of us stepfamilies. I’ve ministered to a divorced woman who is an elementary school teacher and the class called her ”Mrs. Smith”. She finally had to tell them one day after her divorce that she changed her name, and they could now call her “Miss Jones”. She shed tears as that too, brought back painful memories and emotions. Complications of an agonizing event in our lives.

Today I thank God that we’re all healthy, and that MOST importantly, we biological parents and step-parents get along. All of us can be in the same place at the same time for my sons, their wives, and our grandchildren.  Additionally, God has given me the gifts of ministry so that having lived these experiences, I can be empathetic, compassionate, and help others. Some day that innocent little boy and my grandchildren will understand divorce and remarriage and how it’s affected our family tree. My fervent prayer is that they never have to live it.