People are Hard Work!

This afternoon I was listening to a Christian speaker on the Hillsong channel and when he spoke the above words as he was preaching the love of Christ in us, words began to flood my mind for a blog.

Why would we think this is not true?

Our best friends are easy…really?  We respect them, love, listen, help, encourage, understand, change our schedule to meet theirs, be kind, etc. This doesn’t take effort (work)?? Of course it does.

Courting someone for a relationship we find we work work work and we love it because the chase is often so much fun.

Then comes marriage and before we know it, we left the “work” of the relationship at the altar. Too often we’ve nestled into a groove of apathy, complaining about our spouse, feeling tired, used, bored.

Remarriage and a stepfamily? You say we’ve been married before, we won’t make the same mistakes (No, you’ll make NEW ones, and many of the old ones want to come back!). The kids will get used to it, everybody will get along……Riiiiiiight.

PEOPLE ARE HARD WORK!

Are you a single parent? Stepfamily Rx’s conference has something for you!

Are you a couple contemplating marriage creating a stepfamily? Ooooh, lots for you!

Are you married and in a stepfamily? WOOOOW, even more for you!!

It’s going to be great! Everyone that has attended has left with information, more skills, knowledge, and new friends!

God has blessed this event every year. YAY.

 

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Character vs Chaos

human pinball There was a time in my life where I was the the epitome of that little round steel ball, bouncing from one thing to the next. I was wounded, struggling, but pretty sure I had everything under control…..not! Reverand Billy Graham’s passing today prompted tears and a memory of where I believe true change of character in me began.

I had moved to Sacramento, California, in the early 1990’s several years after my first divorce. That is when I became the “pinball”. Not that is was a bad thing or that I was a bad person, but leading the life of a human pinball without the guidance of God is chaos….one thing to the next, to the next. I was trying to chase some kind of peace, stability, and happiness. The second marriage and divorce in the mid 80’s didn’t help matters….but I was trying.

I heard Billy Graham was coming to Sacramento. I believe it was in 1996 that I was made aware. The Holy Spirit put a heavy nudge on my heart one day to call Arco Arena to get a ticket. I ended up sitting in the nose bleed area, but the experience was profound.

My paternal Grandma Slaby listened to Reverend Billy Graham. I used to hear him occasionally as I entered her apartment. Turning the corner into her tiny living room, I’d see Reverand Graham on her black and white television; holding up a Bible, preaching with passion and a loud clear voice to thousands of people. I remember being rivoted to the sound of his voice and then watching as many people would stand up and walk down to the front of his stage to accept Christ. Over the years, I’ve heard him several times and I also read a biography on Reverend Graham. He was so aware of the human condition that when he travelled with men and women as part of the ministry, he insisted they stay on opposite ends of their hotel and that men and women did not go out one-on-one casually while travelling.

He obviously planted in me the seed of character, decency, and a subconscious awareness that I was living dangerously. In early 1997 I surrendered my life to Jesus and have given my heart to Him. I had finally found the deep sacrificial unconditional….agape love I’d been searching for. This testimony is for you, Reverend Graham…..the sun seemed a little dimmer today because you’ve left us and entered the realm of your heavenly home. I’m feeling a tad envious, but that’s ok….I know I have much work left to do here.

Thank you, Lord, for Billy Graham and his passion for Your Word…it sure made a difference in my life.  God bless America. Billy Graham

 

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

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.