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

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Overcoming Me-Pride vs Purpose

I apologize I’ve been gone for so long! Summer brings a lot more to do outside. Also, I adopt a leisurely countenance and a tendency to languish more than usual. At my age I’ve deemed it “deserving”. 😉

My speaking on Boundaries has led me into a subsection that I title, “Overcoming Me-Pride vs Purpose”. I have two parts of me that I need to monitor, inventory, and take care of. This blog writing is just a snippet of the message.

stubbornAm I going to deny my sinfulness in my relationships, in my words and actions? Am I going to cling to pride as if my way is the only way? There are seasons to feel pride in personal accomplishments, that isn’t the pride I am addressing here. To be brutally honest with oneself is a challenge. Self-examination is a much tougher road to walk than you think. We want to be right. I want to be right with God and true to myself.

I want to stand up for righteousness, to be a model of Christ, of truth, honesty, integrity, and responsibility. That may not be popular with everyone. Today there are so many opinions. Does “Little Miss Stubborn” exist in me? As I sit here laughing…she does; however, I have learned to reel her in when my firmness is no longer a purpose to stand up for who and what I am. My purpose is more important to me than my pride.

walking with God

 

These are turbulent times. God Bless America….”I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Note….I truly wonder how many “Americans” young and old can recite this from memory.

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.

Sometimes It Takes a Funeral

When I was growing up, the first of six children, my family did not have a lot of money. We were provided for and lived on a farm, but extra money for “stuff” wasn’t available. My social events included auctions, wedding dances, and funerals.

Auctions and wedding dances were just plain fun. Rain or shine, we’d run around with other kids and laugh and stay out of the adults’ way because we might get told we had to go home. Funerals, on the other hand, were a real curiosity to me. I remember most of all the crying and grieving and remarks of how much the person was loved, was nice, was generous, was ….whatever. And I’m sorry…but saying “They really look good” as the deceased is lying in their final resting place is really a very strange thing to say! I have never figured that one out. Anyway, every funeral was the same to me.

Then I grew up. Life happened. I couldn’t do life myself, so I surrendered to Christ. Going through all that I did involved other people and their lives. I began to attend funerals as an adult and listen to the same basic remarks I did as a kid. But I wondered…”Did you ever tell THEM while they were living?”

I have just returned from a sweet lady’s husband who passed away from Alzheimers complications. They were married 54 years, had four children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Trails of memories were displayed in albums, on poster boards, and on the screen. As I sat and watched the DVD of many years’ worth of photographs and videos I began to wonder about my own. Who would come and what would they say about me? What legacy will I leave behind?

I speak to groups using a revised version of Steve Covey’s story about a memorial gathering and moving through a group of people to find yourself in the casket. The first time I heard that story it struck me with great finality. What marks did I make in my little world, whose life did I affect and how, did I serve God well….additionally, I would have no more chances to say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “Forgive me”, or whatever else would be unfinished business.

Relationships are complicated. Families are complicated. Stepfamilies are more complicated. Life expectancy is unknown. Death is final and anything we wanted to say or do cannot be done once we leave this world.

There is nothing in my life and I pray in yours, whether a friend, neighbor, family member, stepdaughter, stepson, stepdad, stepmom….that is going unsaid or undone. Love covers many wounds. Mercy, grace, and forgiveness do too. Don’t wait.

I live to hear Jesus tell me…”Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Are You Discipling Your Children and Step-Children?

This morning, Mark Halvorsen on WWIB radio interviewed Pastor Brian Cole and Jerry Carpenter, the grandfather of a boy who was driving fast and had an accident, killing himself and other teen passengers in 2012.

The conversation was rich in the Lord, speaking of woundedness, honesty, forgiveness, and MOST importantly….speaking to our young people about God and Jesus Christ. Pastor Brian read part of Psalm 78 wherein God is speaking to His chosen people, the Israelites, about teaching and preaching our Sovereign Creator to current and future generations. Verses 4 through 6:

We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.

Dads, stepdads, moms, stepmoms….are you teaching the children in your homes about Jesus Christ? Remember your words and teaching are important, but you will be doing more teaching by your EXAMPLE. Although we are not perfect (I’m certainly not), our actions as a way of life will speak for themselves. God bless everyone….  ❤

Marriages are Built By You Not For You

Recently a post crossed my vision while I was browsing on Facebook that caused me to stop, read, and ponder the words for quite some time:

Marriage box The words mirrored what I believe and share in my book “Everything Changed When I Said ‘I Do’ – Preparing for and Living as a God-First Stepfamily” about how marriage should be viewed. Marriage is not something you do and then wait for the marriage to help you and solve your problems. Marriage is a beautiful union created by God in the perfect Garden. It represents an intimacy unknown to any other living creature. As a visual person, a “marriage box” is a great analogy as I believe when man and woman get married whether it is for the first time or the next time….they give “birth” to their marriage. Just as with any living thing, the marriage requires both the husband and the wife to love, protect, nurture, and grow the marriage.

6But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,a 8and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mark 10:6-9

What have you done today to help your husband feel like a man and that you respect him? What have you done today to help your wife feel cherished and “your bride…your special girl”? It doesn’t take money. Perhaps you can make a phone call, write a note or a text. Prepare a favorite meal or dessert for him, tell him how much you appreciate him and be specific. Take out the garbage, clean up the dishes, or change a dirty diaper to help her. Here are more ideas: Back scratches, foot rubs, shampoo their hair, praise them in front of someone, a surprise lunch date, look them in the eye and say something sweet, hug, hold hands, kiss.

The “marriage box” is what will honor and glorify God, giving Him proper praise for your union. It is much easier to make emotional withdrawals than deposits. Be sure to fill your marriage box today with some love! There is no greater love in eternity than the Love of Christ on the cross. There is no greater love here on earth than an honoring, cherished, transparent, and respected marriage.

Stepfamilies: Doin’ It Right!!

The below article appeared in Sarah Stokes’ “Queen of the Castle” February magazine:

When asked to write this article, I thought and prayed about the content. As a stepmom, the owner of Stepfamily Rx, and as an author and blogger, I decided that there is a lot of information out there about “how to” and perhaps not enough about encouragement for all the good, powerful, and positive attributes of living as a stepfamily. So, within this article, I’ve shared some tips and “bravos”.

There are statistics that indicate when children grow up in a safe, positive, and healthy stepfamily with good rapport between biological parents, they can prosper and flourish as adults. Children need to feel loved, wanted, and respected. When emotional, physical, and spiritual needs are met within a stepfamily, everyone can relax and prosper. I realize things can be difficult, but I know there are happy times out there, too!

I am reading an exciting book by Shaunti Feldhahn entitled “Good News About Marriage”. In eight years of extensive research and reading numerous surveys, she has found that marriages hit a divorce peak in 1981, but since then have been on the decline. The higher statistics for remarried couples suggest that there are different situations that can cause stepfamily marriages to struggle or falter and fail. However!  The high statistics repeated by many for redivorce in stepfamilies is inconclusive (62-65% for 2nd marriages, 75-78% for 3rd marriages). Shaunti found that the divorce rates are much lower that what people have previously believed. It is true when issues are addressed from a more positive perspective, hope and endurance can reign. Marriage is a GREAT thing, and THAT is what we should be repeating!

In Ms. Feldhahn’s book, she states that her findings indicate that couples who pray together and regularly attend church and worship services have a higher success rate with happiness and longevity in their marriages. God created us for relationship with Him and with each other. Therefore, having God as first and foremost in your family establishes the relationship harmony…everyone has their focus on loving and serving God instead of dwelling on selfish desires.  That’s why in my book, “Everything Changed When I Said ‘I Do’  – Preparing for and Living as a God-First Stepfamily”, I propose ‘The Marital Perch”, which indicates that under God, husband and wife occupy and exist on this perch alone. Under the marital perch are the children, and under the children, everyone and everything else. This hierarchy is critical and essential, especially in stepfamily homes. Husband and wife must put each other first as the authority in the home for the sake of the children. It’s not easy, but it is important to the success of the family!

The good news in many stepfamilies is the husband and wife’s desire to create something better after a painful decision or event that put an end to the original family. I talk to many stepfamilies that pray together, are involved with school, activities, sports, music. They attend worship together, spend time playing, and make every effort to successfully plan holidays. Stepfamilies create new memories, new histories, and new traditions, while respecting what is important to the children. Avoid expectations, avoid taking everything personally. Celebrate good days, learn from difficult ones.

A decisive action parents and step-parents can take is to be genuinely committed to communication between each other. Seek to understand first, then to be understood. I recommend any disagreements about the children between the spouses never take place in front of the children. It gives them a peek at any issue or weakness between the adults. Strive for peace, calm, and safety. We cannot control other people, we can only control ourselves.  When you avoid negative talk about anyone, you teach the children a very important life lesson about relationships. I know of stepfamilies that strive to have friendly relationships with the ex-spouse! It can and does happen!

Take time for weekly “table talk”, when everyone checks in with each other, schedules are discussed, and highs and lows can be shared. Adults and children take turns, keeping the tone respectful. Create a family mission statement wherein each person in the family contributes. Finally, make a list together during your family table talk time of fun, new, enjoyable things that happened during the week and post it on the refrigerator. Each week you can do a new one.

Now, I’ll bet after reading this, you realize that there are successes in your stepfamily, that you ARE doing some things right! Life is too short, so rather than just survive….you can thrive! God bless ALL families.

Memories

Mom Pulse Bday frnds 2013Me n Mom PulseOctober has become a bittersweet month for me. My parent’s anniversary is the 9th, they would have been married 63 years this year. October 22nd (yesterday) was the fourth anniversary of my mom’s passing, her funeral was on my husband’s birthday the 26th. October 10th was my mom-in-law’s birthday. She had her first stroke in 2012 in late September. Many visits to Dove West for a year. Bob and I took her out (via Abbey Van) last October, 2013, for her one and only social outing….a birthday party with her friends Kay, LaRea, Lorraine, and others. About a week and a half later, the second stroke on October 29, 2013, was her last and she passed to heaven on my birthday, November 4th. Even though this month is a month filled with memories of loss, it is also a month of remembering family and celebrating their lives.

Families and stepfamilies are critical components of our life’s journey. No matter how messy, how difficult, how enmeshed, how……anything, we are connected and intricately woven into each other’s lives. One thing we cannot stop and have absolutely no control over is time. As I’ve grown older and better, I embrace my relationships. I forgive much more easily and completely. I have lessened my expectations and take things less personally. I leave judgments to God.

I’ve discovered that I have control over me and that’s about it. 🙂 I pray daily, I seek God’s Word as often as I can, and certainly that’s not enough! I urge you to reach out to others in love if you can, and if you cannot, pray for them. We have no idea when we will be called home….or when a loved one will be called. And….don’t be afraid to tell those you love that you love them. One thing that is really hard to live with or die with….is regret.

God bless you. ❤

Sticks and stones….

Words…may break my bones, but words will nev….  Oh Yes, they will! I saw this post on Facebook this morning and thought what a great way to start my day. The book of James speaks of the uncontrollable evil a tongue is capable of: But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.[b] “

Previously I used a visual of thinking any hurtful words I would say would fly out and strike the first person in their path, causing great pain. But the above visual of words on flesh gives me a more powerful image…MY SKIN would be the billboard for the words I say…all of them. Would I be Christ’s example or feel safe to walk among any of you with my language visible? Hmmmm.

Stepliving is very complex and often challenging to the point of words falling from our lips that are regularly held in regret. Take a breath, practice silence, pray, avoid taking things personally. I want to close with this beautiful finish from James Chapter 3. God bless you, husband and wife as stepcouple united as one…may your words be sweet and uplifting to each other and to all the children in your family. ❤

“17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.[d] “