Stepfamilies and Change

River-and-fall-wallpaperDuring this time of the year, I enjoy God’s pallet of water color tones among the trees here in the Midwest. Some of the reds, yellow, and oranges are so brilliant, I have to stop and allow my eyes to take it all in. The change of seasons come whether we like it or not, whether we are prepared or not. I think of stepliving as seasons of change.

There is a saying: “Two things are certain: Taxes and death”. I would add one more and that is “change”. It comes whether we like it or not and whether we are prepared or not. Within stepliving, there is always change and here are two areas to help.

One is avoiding expectations. We cannot change or control anyone, we can only do those things to ourselves. Expectations are in our mind and to project them on spouses or children/stepchildren, is setting ourselves up for frustration, disappointment, and even anger. We can plan, anticipate, hope for….which are more harmonious ways of thinking and living. Sometimes we just have to “let things go”. If we ponder situations, pray, and talk to our spouses about it, we’ll figure out if it’s worth letting go or fighting for.

The other is avoiding taking things personally. So many times in stepfamilies, especially for stepmoms (because we are nurturers and FEEL things so much), our efforts, time, and commitments often go unappreciated or unnoticed. It’s very difficult not to want to be valued for taking on this role. It’s difficult to be a stepdad and not be appreciated or respected for paying bills, providing a home, safety, food. I have found the best way for me to handle this emotion is to focus on Christ. If I do things for others in His Name, it takes the focus off of me and what I do….to focusing on loving and serving Jesus, because I know He loves me so much, He died for me!

Embrace the change, choose to enjoy the good changes and pray about the difficult changes. We are not alone. We have each other and we have God.

Blessings, dori:)

 

 

Vacations, Wounded People, Conference Announcement!

Cruise5-Robyn n Me Formal Night Cruise8-Dolly n doriRecently I had a most fantastic vacation, checking off a “cruise” on my bucket list! I am claustrophobic, so the experience tested me in many ways. The trip was to Alaska with a beautiful intimate group of 13 of us. Robyn Besemenn (check her out at http://robynbministries.com/speaking) and I are pictured above on “formal night” and the other picture is of Dawson Dolly and me. I love hats and am sporting a flowery fluffy hat, feather boa, and “the largest nugget in the Klondike”. 🙂 Cindy Godbey aka Dawson Dolly is one of the tours in Skagway, Alaska, and surrendered her life the same year I did…1997… to our Lord and Savior Jesus. This was a God-driven trip, I can assure you! Robyn’s daughter, Tami was our travel agent (check her out at: http://www.momentousjourneys.com/)

The trip was prefaced by a grueling month and week before. I had been busy with planning the Stepfamily Rx conference which is going to be Saturday, September 27th at Peace Church in Eau Claire. That prep was all month of August. That and… a call from four hurting people who needed some Divorce Care help until a sister church began their fall program. That and then the week before the vacay…spending three out of five days with my husband in the hospital with kidney stone procedure, emergency room pain, and a stent. That and a day trip with my dad to a city two hours away for his prostate update and coming out of the clinic to find a flat rear tire. Do I need to keep saying “that and…” Oh boy!! And the other day of the week was spent with my 17 year old grand-daughter for our 11th annual trip to the Minnesota State Fair….it was the only day in 10 days that I could take her.

Overwhelmed? Absolutely. If I would have logged the hours I spent the first four days of the cruise that I rested, napped, and slept, it would likely have shown more of those hours than active hours! I found myself dangerously exhausted.

Families, work, relationships, volunteer work, marriages, ex-spouses, schedules….on and on and on. All I can say is when your body tells you to rest. REST. We cannot over-extend ourselves without paying a price with our spiritual, mental, and physical selves.

We need Jesus. We need the grace of God. We need the strength and discernment the Holy Spirit provides. Today, look at your schedule, cross out the unnecessary things to do. Rather than play a game, check Facebook, or Twitter or whatever else is out there to swallow up your time….pray. Close your eyes and listen to soothing music. Help someone. Slow down. Ask God to guide you to focus on Him and the really important things for today. Blessings to all…..

 

WE’RE IN A “LIKE” SOCIETY

I was listening to a recent public television special on how important and crucial the word “like” has become. It has become more than a friendly feeling. The word “like” is now associated with attitudes such as acceptance, appreciation, and recognition. As I sat there listening, I was struck with my own level of participation in this activity, and how I’ve “liked” various people’s activities and photos. I realize my topic doesn’t directly affect stepfamilies, but I feel it does affect relationships.

“Will you like me as a friend, will you like my book, will you like my Facebook page, will you like my product, my movie, my picture, my opinion, my video….” I began to ponder how many children use social media to feel loved and accepted as an emotional crutch, but will settle for “like”. Well, adults too for that matter.

The truth of what the researcher was saying hit me hard. He was speaking to a group of young adults who had their laptops and/or iPads, as they shared with him what they wanted the “world” to know about them. The “likes” and pictures they posted were the bait they offered to the public as they fished for responses. One young man said his profile picture and cover image received less “likes” than his female friend as they both made their changes at the same time. She received responses within seconds that totalled much more than his did in two minutes. “You just have to know how to do it” was the answer from the group. I honestly wondered if the young man felt “less liked” at that moment. Hmmmm.

Especially because children, teens, and young adults flood social media with pictures and information, marketers and retail businesses know exactly how to market to them, how to get them to spend their money, and request to “like” their business page. Depending on what browser you use, such as Google, and how many apps you have on your cell phone, you can be tracked to where you are and what you are doing. That is quite unnerving to me.

I don’t want people I don’t know to have this much information about me. I value my quiet time, my “be alone” time, my “get lost” time. Geez, didn’t we used to live with talking, writing, and calling…with generations and bazillions of people since Adam and Eve who lived, survived, and even excelled in life?

This afternoon, I heard Alex Trebek on Jeopardy ask a man (one of the contestants) how he does it living without a cell phone? The guy said he loved it and would not consider having one. He lives, works, loves, plays, and eats all without a cell phone. He appeared quite happy.

From a medical standpoint, chiropractors and doctors are beginning to see the effects of ongoing cell phone usage in our thumbs, arms, necks, and backs. I see cartoons on Facebook with figures sunburned except for the pale area denoting where their arms and cell phone were. Really? How did we become so dependent on a small technical device?

How did we become so influenced by and addicted to who likes us, likes our pictures, likes our….whatever. At our family gatherings, I was a bad guy for awhile asking to just “be present” and visit and NO iPhones or iPads. Now, everyone sits around laughing and talking to EACH OTHER. No one has been stricken with any sickness or mental disease because they weren’t on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. And I have to say the first time I heard a grown man’s name associated with “Tweeting”, I laughed out loud.

So, ok, technology is here to stay, but can we seek a balance? Technology for work is one thing, but to be “liked” is another issue. Husbands and wives need face to face time to nurture, love, and protect their marriage. Children need face to face time with parents and step-parents to FEEL nurtured, loved, and protected. We ALL need face to face time with family, friends, and peers.
My request today is to ask you to take a step back and evaluate how much your day depends on other people’s “likes”. Do you honestly feel bad because your recently posted picture didn’t get the number or friends you think should “like” your post? Do you feel you “like” others, but they don’t “like” you as much? Oh, the minutes we spend on such things! They add up!

Social media has its place I know, but where is the balance, when do we say “take a break?” Yesterday my 17 year old grand-daughter explained to me what a “hashtag” was! I depend on Yahoo and Facebook for personal reasons as well as for marketing and promotion, but come Friday night until Monday morning, I am not available on the Internet. You need to call me. Have a blessed day…and yes I LIKE you! 😉

Forgiveness on WOGO.com

Yesterday was Session 11 on Forgiveness. A most powerful and critical part of our everyday life. Whether forgiveness applies to separated/divorced individuals, or adultery, theft, murder,…am I touching on the “Big Ten” yet….we need a forgiving heart every day and often several times a day.

We learn from Scripture it is ongoing throughout our lives: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:20-22

Forgiveness can be difficult, it can fill our mouths with bitterness, gall creeping up our throats. But if we hold on to bitterness, embrace unforgiveness…it is our heart and soul that are held in an emotional prison. The person you are feeling anger toward does not “feel” a thing, but inside of you….your emotional, physical, and spiritual means are deeply and negatively affected. I hope the podcast helps you and offers both insight and comfort.

http://podcast.wwib.com/7-8-14-divorcecare-session-11-forgiveness/

Jesus loves us!

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This past week we finished up Vacation Bible School. I have been blessed to bring my third grandchild to this beautiful event. The latest is Abe, who is my 4 year old grandson. He is creative, vivacious, and was sooooo excited to go to his first “school”. I have to admit that after the first day I asked myself if I had the energy to continue with the week. We had at least 160 children overall, with three groups of 4 year olds, averaged six in each group.

I get fired up when I am around people, giving my best and giving it all. For these little people, I was animated, engaged, and provided a lap for any small person who would need a little encouragement or comfort. Two little girls in our “class” figured that out. 🙂 We learned this week that “no matter what…Jesus loves you!!” Whether we are wrong, can’t understand, afraid, or whatever we are feeling, Jesus never leaves us and always loves us.

I wondered how many children at VBS who ranged from 3 years old to 5th grade were from single homes or stepfamily homes. I know the percentage is high based on statistics of today’s world. I gave my all each morning and then collapsed upon returning home for at least an hour to have lunch and rest. The songs still play over and over in my head.

Yesterday at worship service, one little boy from my group saw me at communion and tugged at his momma’s sleeve saying, “That’s my teacher, that’s my teacher!!”, as he pointed and jumped up and down. Then he ran toward me. My husband and I were returning to our seats, but I scooped him up and his little arms snapped around my neck and squeezed as we walked up toward our pew and out of the way.

I am reminded of the tender hearts of our children…they are just as and perhaps even more….tender than ours. Children living in single homes or in stepfamilies need extra measures of love, hugs, and laps. We must remember that they did not choose any of what they are living through. Talk to your children, check in with them, ask about their day, what they are thinking about and feeling. And most of all, hug and hold them. Tell them you love them, are proud of them. This is true of ALL children…biological or stepchildren…they all need love and assurance. They need to feel accepted, protected, and wanted.

Last night I sat and watched a video of everyone and Abe dancing and moving to one of the VBS song videos, I smiled and my heart swelled. That little boy yesterday along with Abe’s discussions and singing songs from the week made it all absolutely fulfilling. Beautiful. Precious.

God’s blessings,

dori:)

Secretariat and Stepliving

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I own the movie “Secretariat”, I love horses. Each time I watch this dramatic film, I weep during each race, especially the final one. Secretariat wins the Triple Crown. There is a particular image that the jockey and horse have as they pull away from the other horses that is etched in my mind. The one above is close, but not “the one”. The horse’s legs are splayed out as the above picture, but his head is more stretched out into the wind, his mane and tail flying straight out, nostrils flaring, muscles tense…a look of incredible determination on Secretariat’s face. Well, at least I thought so. And the endurance of not only pulling ahead of the other horses, but each stride pulled him further and further ahead until he was 31 lengths ahead and crossed the finish line in record time.

I recently watched the movie again, thrilling to each race as if I’d not seen the story before. The feelings I experience are indescribable and I began to think this last time how much Secretariat’s last race that won him the Triple Crown reminded me of us stepmoms in our marriages and families. Here are a few thoughts:

We run the race each and every day, seeking to win our husband’s and families’ hearts.

We stretch ourselves to the limit with attempts to manage and organize and take care of and do.

We may start out lagging, but with efficiency and purpose we focus on the goal and accelerate as needed.

Our faces are in the wind as we strive toward accomplishments.

Our muscles and legs are operating at full capacity, running, stretching, enduring.

Secretariat’s look of determination with nostrils flared and eyes gleaming and every muscle attuned to what lie ahead…the finish line, the accolades, the accomplishment. That animal had the look of pure beauty..he knew what his purpose was. Stepmoms are beautiful and we know what our purpose is too.

We are capable of multi-tasking, juggling several things at one time, running full speed, aware of our goals and striving hard for them…with the finish line in mind. Most of the time the finish line is the end of the day! It’s difficult to raise ourselves above the schedules and routines to see that the true finish line is when we cross into heaven.

Marriage and raising a family is really hard work…raising children that must co-exist in another household can be even more hard work. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses…in a way it is what I am running toward, body fully engaged, face in the wind, nostrils flared, arms open wide, determination in my eyes and heart:

“His master replied, ‘Well donegood and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”    Matthew 25:20-22

This is what I live for, strive for every day.  When I die and meet Jesus, I pray the above is what my Savior will say to me.

The TSA and a Dragonfly

Hi,

This particular blog does not have anything to do with stepfamilies per se, but I did glean a few life lessons to use in stepliving. Recently my husband and I flew out of state to visit his adult daughter. In a small quaint town near Seattle, there is a fabulous flea market/thrift sale extravaganza held every Memorial and Labor Day weekend. Trash and treasures galore!

Last year I found a woman who made bird feeders out of glass jars and antique dishes. The bears in our backyard decided to just pull the beautiful creation apart, cracking and breaking the glass parts, in order to get the black sunflower seeds, causing me to throw my original treasure away. I was so hoping I could find her again. Success!

At the end of our day as I walked back to the car tired and hot and quickly browsing the various tents and tables, I spotted the gleaming dishes and artwork basking in the sunlight! But this year, she added magnificent yard art to her collection. I spotted the metal dragonfly perched atop a piece of curved black metal that had two little pointed stakes at the bottom to plunge into my backyard. I knew exactly where I was going to put it! I shared my story of the previous year and we laughed and enjoyed each other as I walked off proudly touting my find.

I told my husband I would have to carry the piece on as I was not going to even try to smush it into his larger suitcase and I certainly wasn’t going to let the airlines throw it around in the hold. We arrived in plenty of time at the airport, it was late, and we rounded the various ins and outs of the belt lines that took us to the TSA safety agents. The man that was in charge of making sure everyone had their i.d. and boarding pass asked to see my dragonfly art. He began to shake his head and say it looked like a dangerous piece.

At that point, my husband looked like a deer in headlights, turned and gave his info to the TSA agent checking him into the secure area and off he went! (I thought…thanks a lot, you big chicken!) I maintained my composure and kept assuring the man that it was yard art, I would be extremely careful (he said I could accidentally poke someone!), and that to go back to the airline desk to check it would jeopardize my ability to make the flight with my husband.

“HEY! YOU!!” The badged TSA woman at the podium shouted, and pointed at the uniformed man that was still holding my dragonfly. “STOP HOLDING UP MY LINE, LET HER THROUGH!!” the man began to stammer about safety and she said, “GO OVER THERE AND TALK ABOUT IT, NO ONE HOLDS UP MY LINE!!” Everyone froze as this exchange took place as I calmly retrieved my dragonfly from his hands and moved toward the woman TSA agent.

She smiled at me and said “That is really beautiful…you aren’t going to hurt anyone with this, are you?” I smiled and shook my head and murmured, “Noooo.” “I thought so.” she said. She then proceeded to close down her lane and took me to the moving scanner belt, carefully laid it down, covered the spikey ends with a plastic container and yelled, “METAL BUTTERFLY COMING THROUGH!!” I smiled and did not attempt to correct her in any way. I touched her shoulder and graciously said “Thank you, I sincerely appreciated your help.” She smiled back. Off I went without a hitch and joined my husband.

The lesson? Stepliving has all of the above similar components. Someone trying to be overly careful, something new coming in, someone needing to keep things together and moving along, and with all this, behaviors, actions, temperaments. A TSA agent has the power to do anything they want to. I was completely at the mercy of this woman. I have no rhyme nor reason why it played out as it did….I only give all thanks and glory to God. I feel He was right there with me orchestrating my ability to be able to take my “butterfly” home to look at and enjoy. I chose to stay calm, to trust that everything would work out….and even if I had to go back to the airline, I would eventually get home even if I missed the flight my husband was on, or if I had to hand it over to be packed in the hold, it might get bent, but so what….I knew no one was going to die over this situation, so my spirit was soothed in that. Actually, that is how I prioritize a lot of things in my life these days. If no one is going to die over “whatever”, let it go, leave it alone, oh well. This is so true in stepfamily life. Various issues come up, things are out of our control, we have choices to make regarding our reactions and behaviors.

God loves us, He loves marriage and husbands and wives and children. He created a stepfamily for His Son, Jesus, to live in. We are precious. We are not losers nor failures. We just have to work extra hard, be more diligent, flexible, forgiving, compassionate. It’s all worth it. Gifting your spouse’s children with an extra measure of love and devotion might make a huge difference in their lives, we just don’t know because we cannot predict the future. Keep reminding yourself none of this here on earth is permanent! Our real home is eternity with Almighty God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and all the saints and angels, as well as those we love who have gone before us and those who will join us there. God bless each of us!

Enjoy the photo! dori:)

p.s. There is a shepherd hook standing up taller behind my dragonfly (not to be confused as part of my precious new yard art).  🙂Image

A Mother’s Heart

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A Mother's HeartAs I was scrolling through Facebook postings early this morning, I came across this picture. Immediately, my heart swelled and tears rolled down my cheeks. This was right after I had posted a picture of myself with my two sons taken several years ago, as well as a shared picture and comment from my friend Jeanne. I used to beat myself up regularly with guilt and shame over what I considered to be and also knew to be mistakes I had made as a mom. Oh, if we could just “go back”. And even when I say that, I know God would never let that happen because I am who I am because of the many roads I have travelled and the many lessons I have learned.

I did have to come to that day when I understood that trying to live and “drive” forward while looking in the rear view mirror was taking up precious time I needed to focus on doing God’s will for my life. I had been transformed that same year in 1997 when the picture was taken. I was living with renewed devotion to Him and my family. I am a much different person than I was in that picture and a much much different person than when my sons were little boys. Just a few months prior, I had completely surrendered my life to Christ, freeing myself from the bondage of believing men were my answer to happiness and fulfillment. I turned instead and chose my Main Man Jesus. Previously, I had been trying to live as I thought was best, bouncing around and taking my sons with me as we rode some turbulent roller coasters of experience….twice married and twice divorced by the year 1997. For this, I have many regrets….I’ve just learned where to place them in my life at this point.

We are all sinners. We fail, we struggle, we pick ourselves up and we continue on. However, beating ourselves up does no one any good. I believe women in general, but especially mothers have a tendency to do this. When we repent, when we approach those that we’ve hurt and apologized and sought their forgiveness, all with sincerity and the same grace that God extends to us….well, then….it’s time to focus on our daily living and leave the past behind us. I do not want to die with regrets…and living in constant guilt and shame would be a big regret. 🙂

So, my heart and the Holy Spirit is speaking to me and to all mothers, moms, mommies, stepmoms, 2nd moms, whoever you are!!…..enjoy today, reach out, and love those that consider you a mom in any way, shape, or form. As I said on Facebook, I have loved my sons with every breath I’ve taken from the time they were conceived. I love you Travis and I love you Derek with all my heart. God bless you both, I am truly proud to be your mom.

mom:) xoxoxoxo

Me n the boys

Calling all moms

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Soon in just a couple of days, we will be honoring all moms. We come in many sorts, including shapes and sizes, colors, age, cultures, faith….and definition. Perhaps you are a bona fide stepmom, juggling the work involved in your home, being a wife, having a job, schedules, kids. There are wives who are stepmoms, but either chose not to have their own children, cannot have their own children, or aren’t pregnant yet, you just go right ahead and bask in the beautiful aura of your presence in a child’s life as a “mom”! For those women that are a “mother figure” to an elderly person, a foster child, an adopted child, a friend…..if you are a caretaker or advocate…join in and celebrate this day as well because you too, provide love, care, attention, and protection.

We seek Christ and model the love He gives us, both on the cross and every day. I listened to a brief video snapshot of an upcoming marriage retreat on “Focus on the Family’s” website. The person said, “We are someone’s ancestor!” This struck me in a soulful way. Long after I am gone from this earth, my children, my grandchildren, and down the line, will have me as part of their family history. Who was I and how was I…will they speak of me kindly and acknowledge that I had a great love of God? Will I have used all of my gifts that God graciously bestowed upon me to love and serve others? Did I impact anyone’s life and lead them toward Jesus? Was I a woman who modeled a beautiful mother/grandmother figure? Did I love enough and love well?

God bless ALL mothers and women in mothering positions. We are treasures. God created woman and her womb to hold and grow His future generations.

Child Care not Child Torture

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Just today on the local news another young 20 something boyfriend, living in a hotel room with his girlfriend and her 2-year old son, hurt the young boy badly. The girlfriend returned to the hotel and a locked room. When she finally entered, her son had red bruises and bite marks on his head, face, arms….  Stories like this have a physical effect to my heart…it feels heavy, hurts, I feel sick. I cannot imagine causing such trauma to a child that is unable to protect itself. It is bad enough to mistreat and abuse anyone, but a helpless baby or child is beyond comprehension. Yet, the statistics of a boyfriend hurting or killing the girlfriend’s child/children indicate the frequency of this horrible act. Also, within the last year, a girlfriend overdosed a young 2 year old with cold medicine. It is not just boyfriends…girlfriends can be abusive as well.

My “mom” reaction to this recent incident is to have the person struck and bit like they inflicted on another by someone who is bigger and meaner than them. But that is not the answer, of course. I understand some people have anger issues, are immature, are godless. There are those that have emotional or mental imbalances.  I pray for these children that the memory of these episodes will not harm them for the rest of their lives. I pray that mothers get help and get help for their child/children. I pray that they do not simply sweep the incident under the rug…or WORSE go back living with the man after he is released from imprisonment or….ever.

My message today to single mothers, to any mother who is living with a boyfriend or living with any man (including a spouse) that displays ANY sign of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse to get away, move out, steer clear. There is no law that says a woman needs a man, must have a male figure in her child’s life. I thought this at one time, but thankfully, no one abused my children as I waffled my way through some relationships.

I am begging you….. be single, be alone, and protect your child/children. Money is not that crucial that you must put yourself or your children at risk. There are enough associations, churches, shelters, food pantries, and numerous other types of help that can give you support while you get on your feet.

For those of you in a marriage with stepchildren….love them. If you cannot love them, respect, value, and appreciate them. They did not choose the death or divorce of their parent. They did not choose the marriage. God is watching, everyone, all the time, everywhere. Take a breath, step back, go for a walk….if things get escalated and tense. Pray out loud to Christ for help and guidance. We are responsible for our children. Period. They are not responsible for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, watch over and protect our little children. I pray that all mommies and daddies embrace the beauty of children and the innocence they possess. Let no one take away a child’s joy and happiness in living. Father God, thank you for Your creation and children. Be with us, in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.