The Mom I Needed to Be

Years ago, I had asked my boys’ dad if I could have three of his old shirts he doesn’t wear anymore.

I wanted to turn them into pillows, so the boys would have a part of their dad when they were with me.

I had a friend of mine, who knows what she’s doing, come over to help me. Remember, I’m not a crafty homemaker by nature. And it didn’t help I had a sewing machine that belonged to my mother, and in my lifetime I know had never been cleaned.

What should have taken a couple of hours, if I remember correctly, took the entire day and then having my friend take them home to finish them on her machine.

The important thing was they got done.

But here I am, years later, and one of my sons asks if I could re-fluff his.

Seriously? You still have it? It’s not destroyed? But you destroy everything? Why didn’t you destroy this?

Yep, he still has it. But to save face I have to tell you, it’s never been washed in all the years he’s had it. Gross.

So this morning, before work, I find myself looking around the house for my seam ripper.

As I sit down at the kitchen table with his deflated pillow and my ripper, we banter back and forth about how much work this is going to take me and that he should not make me do this, and how I’m a mom and it’s my job to do this for him, because I love him.

In walks one of his brothers, and guess what? Now I have to fix TWO of them!

Why can’t you be like your other brother? His is probably in one of the garbage bags of crap that he left behind, and is in the garage somewhere. He doesn’t care anymore. Why do you?

But if course, I don’t mean it. I don’t mean any of it. True I’m not looking forward to talking on this project, but only because it makes me feel incompetent. What would take other moms an hour to do, it will take me four.

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But it grows me as a mom. It’s challenging, and difficult, and I don’t particularly enjoy any of it.

But I love my boys.

Anyone who has a child becomes a mom. Qualifications are pretty low. But the opportunities are limitless. You get to be the mom you want to be.

God knows this.

He knew I would struggle as a mom. He knew I wouldn’t particularly love every minute. He even knew I would have a hard time enjoying a lot of it.

But he knew I would step up and do it. Even if I didn’t want to.

In high school, classes would debate abortion. They probably still do. What I remember back then was I didn’t feel I really should have a say in what another woman did with her body.

I didn’t particularly like the idea of abortion, but I could think of reasons why others might have them. Rape, incest, mother’s safety, I’m sure there were others.

But as an adult, once I got older, once I found myself not living in the garden anymore, I found myself not in one, but two not ideal pregnancies.

For most of my friends, I could probably say, there was no decision to make, but really…how many of them were in my shoes?

When I found out I was pregnant with the first one, I had already had a five and one year old, and I had just left my husband, a week earlier.

We were getting a divorce and I was living back with my dad and his wife, in their three bedroom little house.

My income was around $24,000 a year.

My one year old was already showing signs of some kind of a disorder, but I had no idea what.

And remember, I wasn’t suppose to be a mom in the first place. I had no desire, growing up to be one.

(And before you say it, I was on birth control with two of my kids. The only one that was planned was the middle one…the one who has stretched me most as a mom.)

Now I’m going to be doing it alone.

Second time, I had three rambunctious boys. Oldest one was eight, youngest one was two, and my middle one was four; still not talking, destroying everything during frequent meltdowns and beating his older brother in rage and constantly fearing he would hurt his younger one.

I am unwed, and in an emotionally, verbally and quickly escalating into a physically abusive relationship.

I needed out.

So twice I asked myself, what the hell are you going to do?

I can’t say it was a hard decision to make. Of course, ultimately you all know, I kept the two babies. But it was still a decision I had to make. Or, I should say, it was a choice I felt I had.

However, although I didn’t feel very close to him at the time, I still knew God. I knew deep in my heart, he still had a plan for me, and he had a plan for these babies too.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Oh my gosh, it took years, YEARS, for me to stop feeling like I was being punished.

God doesn’t punish.

But I finally came to the realization, that out of all the women, in all the world, that I was the only mom who could raise these kids the way God wanted them to be raised, so that they could grow up to be the men and woman, he intended for them to be.

And they didn’t need a mom who loved to bake cookies, or could sew all their clothes. Heck they didn’t even need a mom who could or would cook half way decent food.

They just needed a mom who would try.

So here I am, sitting at my kitchen table, cursing up a storm in my head but teasing my son about having to re-fluff a pillow, when it hits me…

I needed them, as much as they needed me!

Never, ever would I have felt the need to learn to cook, if I didn’t have to cook for them.

I wouldn’t have realized I needed to start standing up for myself and not let people take advantage of me, if I didn’t have to teach them the same thing.

I wouldn’t have learned I had a voice, if I hadn’t have had to shown them they have one too.

And I wouldn’t have learned to love, if I didn’t have someone, or someones to love.

So, I need to get back to ripping two pillows apart, so I can continue learning how to love my sons.

And I can give them a hard time about it later. Cuz that’s the kind of mom they need. And that’s the kind of mom God has made me to be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

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Things We Hope For

I have a secret.

My son, Tunes, is back! He’s actually been back for a couple of weeks.

One happy momma, RIGHT HERE!

Not because I can’t let go. Not because I’m being codependent or enabling. Not because, “I told you so.”

But because I love my son, and God is faithful.

He’s grown up so much. He’s not a little boy anymore.

We’ve got some boundaries set up. Not that they’re any different than before, but they’re there.

He will be treated as a grown man, as long as he continues to act like one. He starts acting stupid, well then he’s out.

He will start paying, continue working, and act responsibly.

So far, he’s been doing a great job. I couldn’t be more prouder of him. Well, except when he eats my Italian turkey sausage that I’ve been saving.

But I’m not even mad, because he’s eating. That’s something he was neglecting to do while he’s been out of the house for the past nine months.

I don’t include Subway, as eating if you only do it twice a day, everyday. He has a hook up. Still, he’s resourceful. He made it work. I’m just glad he’s eating real food again.

Last night was the first night he sat down and had dinner with us.

Oh, how I’ve missed him. And when I say missed him, I don’t just mean him physically being in my home.

No, he’s finally broken through whatever has been holding him back.

He’s growing into the person I knew he could be. The one I’ve been dreaming of. The one I’ve been praying for.

When I see Tunes, now, he’s smiling. He’s talking. He’s sitting down, watching TV or interacting with his siblings. He’s loving on the dog he’s never liked. He’s helping his brother with his homework and he’s playing with his sister.

He’s never done these things before. I don’t know what’s been holding him captive, but he’s finally free of it.

It makes my heart sing.

In all honesty, I know it wasn’t his decision to come back. He really didn’t have another option. His room he was staying in was requested back.

He did try to make other arrangements first. They were put on hold, until the end of the month. We shall see.

But until then, I will marvel at the young man he has turned into.

When he left, two months before he graduated high school, and I poured my heart out to God in prayer, I had no idea the plan he had for my son.

But I trusted he had one. I trusted he loved my son, even more than I did.

I didn’t know it, but I knew it. Does that make sense? It’s, faith. Having it is easy, growing it is… well, scary.

My Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your promises. Thank you for the opportunities to grow my faith, my faith in you.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1

The Step Mom

I often don’t write about Gamer and Smart, for a couple of reasons. They are my step kids. And even though they say you’re not suppose to look at your step children any differently than your own, you do; well I do. It doesn’t mean I love them any less.

Just differently.

I have a hard time figuring out how I play into their lives. They already have a mom and dad who love them to the moon. But I’m not just a friend either, who just wants them to like me.

I’m somewhere in the middle.

Nothing about being a step, is easy.

One of the sweetest presents our friends gave us as a wedding present was a stack of books about blending families.

I was so grateful, because I didn’t know how we were going to do this stuff. Mike is not from a blended family. I am, but that only happened after I was an adult and didn’t have to grow up in it.

Not only did we suddenly realized none of our friends were from a blended family, but none of them had them either!

How the heck were we going to do this?

Can this even be done?

I’ve heard there’s lots of them out there, but do any of them work? Do any of them last?

Before Mike and I married, our kids got along great. They hung out, they played, they got along just fine.

But imagine our shock to the groans and questions of why, once we announced our engagement.

We were completely blindsided. What had happened? What was going on?

There was arguing, and now fighting. Nothing physical, but what the heck? Were they trying to separate us?

It was during this time were a riff had started.

We were told later, by a professional, that in the beginning they saw themselves as just friends, but as things grew more serious, they had become more like siblings. This was actually appropriate and normal behavior.

Who knew?

I tell you what, it sucked for me. Mike wasn’t loving it either.

We honestly, had no idea what we were getting into. Maybe if we were talking about two or three children, things would be different.

Maybe not.

But blending six from the ages of five to thirteen, who we later found out all but one had mental health issue to deal with as well, really just about took us down. (Butterfly, honey, you’re just a girl. There’s no pill for that.)

Oh my gosh, and once we got married, everything tripled! The tattling, the stealing, accusing, “That’s mine!”, “I didn’t do it!”, the laundry, the mess…it was hard on everyone.

It did not look good. It did not feel good.

But I had hope.

Not because my kids are perfect, or Mike’s kids are perfect, or that either one of us are perfect, but the one who we truly try to model our lives after, is.

Jesus, show me this can work. Guide us. Teach us how to honor you with our marriage and with our children.

Shortly after we were married, we started attending a new life group, from our church. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves, we met Ken and Penny; married for over 20 years and have five adult children. They’re grandparents, even!

And after that, through the same group, I met someone who introduced me to someone else who has blended SEVEN!

Since then, even more couples have become our friends, who have blended their own mess.

So I know we’re not alone! This does work! This can be honoring! We will make it!

Now, we’ve only been married for five years. That’s really no test of time, but our kids now get along again. In fact, sometimes feelings get hurt, because now they actually want to stay when it’s their time to go to their other parent’s house.

And where in the past we had to separate and mark what was who’s, they now share rooms.

Oh, and the mischief! I always said if they ever learned how to come together as a team, Mike and I wouldn’t stand a chance. Well, were there.

While, we are FAR from looking like The Brady Bunch, we’re looking much closer to Eight is Enough. Although, they weren’t really a blended family; they just got a new mom.

Which brings me back to Gamer and Smart. They have a mom, so who am I suppose to be? I’m still trying to figure that out.

I’m finding that’s an even slower process.

Immediately after Mike and I got married, Butterfly started calling him daddy. She asked if she could, before the wedding but we always told her she’d have to wait.

Smart called me mom, one time, but then was quickly reminded by his older brother, that he already had a mom and to not call me that.

It took Smart two years before he stopped calling me Miss. Kim and start calling me just Kim.

It’s OK. We’ll get it figured out. Mike is still figuring out where he stands with my boys too.

So, until then, I’ll just keep loving on them as much as they will let me. We’ve got time. And from what God has shown me, I’m not going anywhere.

I’ve seen the fruit of blended families. And it is sweet!

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

Where’s Santa?

It’s incredible how upset people get when I mention, I don’t celebrate Santa.

In all the years, Mike has been decorating our front yard with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, not even once has a child asked us, “Where’s Santa?”

But you better believe, that adults do. Not all, but there are quite a few.

Even after explaining my reasoning I get,

“Oh, so you don’t believe in Santa, but you believe in a great big snowman, instead?”

I want to say, “Don’t be dumb.”

But I don’t. I hold my tongue.

Believing in Christ offends people. Not celebrating Santa, during Christmas, offends people too, I suppose.

Who knew?

But I’m not standing out in my front yard, holding signs and yelling through a blow horn that anyone is going to hell for putting a Santa in their front yard.

I’m not.

I’m not condemning anyone who does.

Regrettably, I have several pictures of my kids sitting on some strange man, wearing a red suit’s, lap.

Each one of my kids received at least one present from me, but addressed from Santa, until they were at least 8 years old.

So Santa celebrating went on for a good sixteen years under my roof.

Most of those years, I was a single mom just trying to make ends meet.

God provided for everyone of those years, and yet I gave credit to Santa.

I’m so ashamed now.

So no, I don’t celebrate Santa.

But I do celebrate Christmas with snowmen and penguins, and Christmas trees and Snoopys, and Star Wars and gingerbread men, because they’re fun, and they’re cute and they don’t promise my kids anything, and they don’t take credit for making them happy or giving them anything.

Not everyone has walked in my shoes. Not everyone has experienced the heartache of a Santa, year after year. Not everyone has gone through what I have.

It’s why my relationship with Jesus is a personal one. Everyone’s is personal. Having a relationship with him is a unique one, unlike anyone elses.

So, I’m not asking anyone to change.

I’m just over here celebrating Christmas the way I do. With inflatables and lights, and presents and music, with neighbors and strangers, and with kids and sometimes with those offended adults.

And if I’m lucky, I get to share my relationship with Christ, with someone who asks,

“Where’s Santa?”

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Growing Beyond Lazy

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? – Matthew 25:26

I know, me personally, when it comes to following Jesus I get lazy. I don’t want to wander too far outside of my comfort zone.

However, when I have taken steps to move in that direction, I have been very happy with my results.

Every time I push myself, in the name of Jesus, I have never been let down. It encourages me to go again, and again, farther and farther, this time.

However, when it comes to my fitness routine, I find myself not only being lazy, but never exerting myself beyond what I think I can do. I work until gets hard. I work until it hurts. I work until I do what I set out to do, but not one more step beyond that.

I know my body can do more than what I push it to do. Just like I know I could do more for Jesus than I do. He not only calls me, he enables me too. Do I always do it? Nope. Because I get lazy.

I find when it comes to parenting, I am also just as lazy. I expect from my kids, what they have shown me they can do, or should I say what they are willing to do. But they whine and complain and it’s “easier” not to listen to them than to step up as a parent and ignore their excuses and demand their best. Well, because that would require more work on my half too.

But like me, I know they can do so much more.

So how do we teach our children to push on, to overcome, to not give up, to expect more?

I should expect more from them for starters. That would be a good start.

What if we pushed them beyond what they think they are capable of doing?

Would that not build their confidence as my stepping out in faith has built mine?

I want them to one day to be able to push themselves when there is no one else doing it for them.

I want them to continue on, when everyone else says they can’t.

And I want them to work to their potential; not to their comfort level.

I have a bunch of lazy kids. Kids who, like me, look for comfort. But growth doesn’t come from comfort.

It is through the pushing and the stretching and the going beyond what you thought you ever could.

It’s living through the pain and seeing you can still survive.

That’s what I want to teach my kids. That’s what I want to teach me.

What Did I Just Do?

So I kinda did something behind my husband back. He may kill me.

I had prayed that God might use me greatly for his kingdom, and to use me how he sees fit.

I’ve already been working with the homeless for a while now, but today I heard God tell me, “That’s easy.”

You know what? He’s right. Anyone could help the homeless. It’s not that much of a sacrifice. Buy an extra few cases of water a week. Cut some bags up that other people have donated, to make into mats. How is crocheting sleeping mats and beanie hats any real sacrifice? I love to crochet.

No, I feel God calling me to do something else and honestly I’m scared to death. I know whatever it is, it’s going to stretch me, push me, and nearly send me over the edge.

I LIVE FOR THAT KIND OF STUFF!

I’ve been following Jesus for too long to accept an “easy” mission like homelessness. Or I should say, how I serve the homeless, is easy. I should be dedicating my time to something that is harder and more challenging to me.

Something that requires me to GROW my faith.

And….

I believe working with children; homeless children, may be it.

Me, the one who never wanted kids. Never desired to be a mom. The one who is still raising five of her six kids.

Oh this is not going to go well, I can assure you. My husband and kids are going to freak out!

Today, I spent three and a half hours sitting next to a room, listening to an infant go through what I think were withdraws, and her nurses talking about lowering which drug, over the next couple of days.

It hurt for her to eat. It hurt for her to lay down. The only time she stopped crying was when someone held her, and even then she wasn’t happy.

It hurt my heart. It broke my soul.

After an agonizing feeding that lasted forever, the baby girl threw up. From the sound of it, it was everywhere. Her nurse remained calmed. She spoke gently to her. I was impressed.

It was during her bath, when an alarm when off outside the infants room.

“Oh no.” I heard the nurse panic for the first time. After a few minutes, she called out to me. She asked if I could help her.

Ah…

Not knowing exactly what to say, or what to do, but knowing I wasn’t going to say no, I got up and entered her room.

“Would you mind just standing here to make sure she doesn’t fall out of the tub?”

I immediately thought, oh this could be bad. If something happens to this baby it would be bad for me, it would be bad for the nurse, and it would be bad for this baby.

“Sure.”

Her nurse wasn’t gone long, but it was much longer than what I was anticipating.

I stood about a foot away from the tub. My eyes glued to her as she and the tub faced away from me; too afraid to touch her. I already knew I wasn’t suppose to be there. I could see her little pink arms and legs move as she kicked the water. The top of her head and eyes were covered by a wash cloth.

She was so little. She was so full of life. And she was so alone. God, where is her mother?

I thought to myself, this isn’t easy.

It bothered me I would be leaving soon. It bothered me I would soon escape this child’s pain, and she wouldn’t. It bothered me that I was going to do it anyway.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a 40 day devotional prayer challenge. Yesterday was day one.

Today I read, “Every act of obedience, no matter how small, makes our heavenly Father proud. Every act of faith — even a faith as small as a mustard seed — puts a smile on His face. Every sacrifice, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, makes a difference.” – Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge

So I ask God to use me. I asked him to show me where he wants me. Then I find myself in this situation today.

After the nurse returned I went back to my chair asking God if there was something I was suppose to do.

For today, I was just suppose to sit there and listen; to listen and become aware.

What am I suppose to do now? I don’t know. I told my husband about my day. He flat out told me we were NOT going to adopt this baby.

Well of course not THIS baby, but I don’t know. There was a reason I was were I was today.

He tells me, “You’re just thinking about Delilah.”

“Who?”

“Delilah, who called into the radio station earlier this week to nominate her mother who raised 10 kids and fostered five of them.”

“OH MY GOSH! HE’S WORKING IN YOUR HEART TOO!”

“No he’s not! This is your crazy idea, not mine.”

“But I completely forgot about Delilah.”

In James 1:27 it says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

After today, I feel he may be calling me in this direction. I don’t know, but whatever it is I know it’s going to grab me with both hands and take me and my whole family with it. And where it goes, grows closer to Him. I can feel it!

Communicating

My pastor and his wife came to pick my daughter and I up early, one Saturday morning. We were going to a couple of house dedications for Habitat for Humanity. As I entered the vehicle, he immediately handed myself and his wife a sheet of paper that had the time, date, and location of the houses we were going to speak at.

As we drove off we laughed, and joked and kid, about life and what was going on in it, when suddenly my pastor asked for my address.

I froze. I thought, what an odd question considering he just picked me up from there. I got about half way through my home address before it hit me, he meant the address of the house I was suppose to talk at for the dedication. We all started to laugh.

It was funny.

My son went to his dad’s house wearing a shirt that was too small, stained, and honestly was just weird looking. His step mom text me commenting about the shirt, saying Fun says he doesn’t have any clothes over at my house so she’s going to send some shirts back with him.

I was stunned and furious (with Fun) at the same time. I thanked her for the offer, but explained the child had plenty of clothes. He just chooses not to put them in the dirty hamper to get clean, so when it’s time to go to his dad’s, he has no clean clothes that fit.

Not so funny.

Communication is so vitally important to any relationship. It is easy to hurt someone’s feeling over a lack of communication. There is the potential for so many misunderstandings because we don’t know how to talk to each other.

How many times has a there been a broken relationship because of it?

I know, for myself, my first marriage disintegrated because we didn’t know how to communicate.

We just didn’t do it right. We didn’t talk. We didn’t speak up when feelings got hurt. We didn’t stop to explain our reasoning behind something. We didn’t listen. We assumed the other should have known, they should be able to read my mind by now.

For whatever reason, communication just didn’t happen.

So now I find it funny, two people who sucked at communicating one-on-one, find themselves in a second marriage with kids and step kids and exes (possibly two) and a new spouse.

No wonder second marriages have a low success rate. If two people could not communicate the first time, what makes them think this second time…with more variables, is going to be any easier?

Now we have kids’ schedules to arrange between school, and home(s), sometimes work. Half days, and holiday breaks. Activities they go to. Grandparents to see. Homework to do. Projects to get done. School supplies to be bought. Doctors’ offices to be visited. Churches to attend. Friends to play with. Birthday parties. Christmases.

UGH!!!

For the sake of our family, marriage, kids and our sanity we have to, really have to, learn how to communicate if we’re going to make this all work.

Here is a list of my suggestions I have found to be helpful when trying to communicate with my new family, and blending this mess.

– Talk
Never assume the other person knows stuff. Even if you’ve already told them, tell them again. And don’t be upset with them if they forgot. At the same time, don’t get upset if they tell you something again, and again, and again. Getting upset does not help with communicating.

– Listen
Listen to what the other person has to say, even if you don’t like them, can’t trust them, it takes too long, or you already know. Don’t interrupt. Don’t rush them. Be mindful.

– Assume the Best
Assume this person means no harm. Assume they love your children just as much as you do.

– Encourage
Use kind words. Build them up. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it. Don’t even think it and certainly if you can’t say it to them because it’s not nice, don’t say it to anyone else.

– However, You Can Express How You Feel
Use “I” statements. “I feel disrespected when you pick up and drop off the kids without telling me in advanced.” “I feel you don’t care as much for Peter and Mary because you don’t ask them about their day, like you do with James and John.” Instead of, “Changing the kids schedule without notifying me is disrespectful.” Or, “You don’t even try to care for Peter and Mary, because they’re not your own kids.”

– Avoid Words Like Always and Never.
Seldom does someone ALWAYS wait until the last minute to do something, or they NEVER help around the house. It takes just one time to turn you into a lair and now a battle of honor is about to pursue.

– Keep Your Emotions Out of It
Do not text, email, or call while you are angry. Walk away. Figure out why you are so upset. Calm down. You want to respond, not react. Usually our first impulse is to show them how we reacted to their message. They don’t need to know that. It’s often not pretty and not how we want to be viewed. Instead, don’t say anything. Process your feelings. Talk to someone to help get all your reaction out. And then respond maturely, calmly, and respectfully.

– Don’t Let Them Turn You into a Person You Don’t Like
It would be better to not say or do anything at all, than to say or do something you are going to regret. Stay true to you, and don’t give them that power over you.

– Do Not Ignore
Do not throw your hands up in the air in defeat, saying, “I just can’t communicate with this person.” Figure it out. Even if they do everything wrong; for your marriage, and your kids, figure it out. If it was easy, you probably wouldn’t be divorced in the first place.

– Practice Grace and Mercy
Everyone messes up. It is not unusual for people to suck at communicating. You don’t need to remind them. You don’t need to tell them how horrible they are at it. Assume they are learning. Assume they are practicing. Assume you suck at it too!

I am confident there are many more good tips to consider. These are just a few I try to practice and fail at, daily. Maybe they can help someone else too. Maybe you have some to share with me.

Until then, happy blending and keep communicating!