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!

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A Special Kind of Stupid

I’m a black and white kind of gal. If it pertains to something I care for, or am passionate about, I need to know the details.

What are the rules? Something is either right or wrong, and I need to know which.

There is no, it’s something like, or kinda, and certainly not, it doesn’t matter. EVERYTHING matters.

It’s how I am.

So when I study my Bible and I read about the Israelites escaping Egypt, to cross the wilderness so that they may enter the Promise Lands and all the hardships they overcome, I think to myself,

“Man, they must have been some special kind of stupid.”

God rescues them from their captors. He guides them as a cloud by day, and fire by night. He parts the sea for them to cross and orders the waves to crash down at just the right time, thus killing their pursuers and ending their slavery.

He provides them with food. He provides them water. He keeps them safe.

He then gives Moses all kinds of rules. Laws that explain in great detail, how they should live. What is right. What is wrong.

And he eventually brings them to the outskirts of the land he is giving them!

So I’m thinking, PERFECT! Not only had God shown them, daily, he was with them; he also provided them with the run-down of how they should act and where they will live.

So how on earth could this great group of people, not once, but continually screw this up and forget who God was, need more proof that he was with them, and for the love of Pete, question his intentions and their safety?

I just don’t get it!

Until I look at myself…

I struggle with my weight and eating healthy.

I know ALL the rules. I’ve read all the books. What to eat. What not to eat.

I’ve talked to several professionals about weight loss and exercise. I know what I’m suppose to do and why.

I have friends who are nutritional specialists and friends who are personal trainers.

Everything I need has been laid out before me. The science behind all of it is extremely black and white.

And yet, time and time again I find myself broken, exhausted, and crumbling with self-doubt, disappointment and feelings of failure at the feet of Jesus, in a big fat puddle of special kind of stupidness.

I just can’t do this. Oh, I can for a little while. But as something I must do day after day? Forever? No, I can’t.

Even with all the rules I fall short, everytime.

Why God? Why does this happen?

God sent the Israelites into the wilderness for 40 years to sanctify them. To transform them from slaves into his chosen people. They had to learn what sets them apart, by being set apart.

Maybe that’s why I’m here too. Maybe my issues with my weight are to sanctify me. I need Jesus to transform me from being a slave to sin, into being, saved by Grace.

With Grace, there are no rules. There is nothing for me to do. God sent the laws to his people to show them they cannot live by them. The laws are not what saved them; what made them right with God. No, he sent his son to save us from sin; to make us right with him.

I don’t understand Grace. It doesn’t play by the rules. It is often, something like, kind of, AND whatever.

We don’t live by the law of the Old Testament anymore. We’re not judged by it.

So when I look at me and my weight. And I try so hard to follow all the rules, I get so frustrated because I can do the rules for a little while. But eventually I always, ALWAYS fall back into my old habits and gain my weight back again. Just like the stupid Israelites.

Maybe God is trying to teach me Grace, while I’m trying to force myself to live by these ridiculously hard and impossible rules that I’ve set up for myself. When Jesus is right here telling me, “Kim, what are you doing? Who are you doing this for? I love you just the way you are.”

Knowing that God sent Jesus because we can’t live by rules, and we can’t save ourselves, brings me some kind of relief.

What kind, I don’t know, but I feel relief from something.

Regardless of my weight, I am not lazy, I am not a pig, and I am not a failure. And the Israelites were not stupid.

We are all in need of a savior. And God says, his Grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9). So this is what I will try daily, to understand. And I will accept it, even if I don’t ‘get’ it.

Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning. – Lamentations 3:23

Praise God for THAT!

Unlearning This Fear

Why am I so afraid?

Even if God wanted to bless me, I wouldn’t make it easy on him.

I always live like everything could be gone tomorrow.

My husband wants to buy a new truck. He needs a new truck. Could we afford it? I don’t know.

I don’t feel we’ve exhausted all of our options.

What does that look like?

We dump all kinds of money into an old beaten down vehicle only to find out there no hope to resuscitate it.

So I, for some reason, believe I have to dig hole before we even know if we have to start digging; a hole that we might not even have had to dig if we had just bought something in the first place.

It’s as if I don’t believe I deserve nice things and if I get them, I should be punished for them, not celebrating it.

This is so not Christ-like.

Christ, does not punish (Romans 8:1). He does no harm (Jeremiah 29:11). He provides for our needs (Philippians 4:19). He showers his children with love and blessings (1 Corinthians 2:19b).

Why is it so hard to accept a gift?

I am acutely aware that everything can suddenly turn south and we could lose everything. I know that everything he gives, he could also take away (Job 1:21).

But I don’t believe this is how he intended me to live. Not in fear.

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever! – Psalm 111:10

But…

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

So what this tells me is, yes, everything we have we can lose, but he loves us still so much, that he would continue to provide for us.

This has been a ridiculously difficult post to write. It’s been even much harder to talk to my husband about. How can he possibly understand me?

If it wasn’t for my husband I would be living in rubbish.

He seems to be able to spend money on things that I don’t feel I deserve.

He has replaced our floors, built an additional bedroom to accommodate all our kids, remodeled our kitchen, painted almost every wall inside and out, replaced bathroom fixtures… I could go on and on.

If I was still single I can honestly say none of this would have happened.

My house would be in total shambles, but instead he has turned it into a modest palace.

This weekend has opened my eyes to just how much fear I live in. It is days like this were I feel my faith has been a huge sham. How can there be faith with so much fear?

It saddens me to know my children have been raised in my fear. I know this, because I too, was raised in the same fear.

Everything was just barely hung together. We were not a family of risk takers. If we were, I didn’t see it.

Let’s just play it safe. Don’t get our hopes up to high. If we don’t expect much, we won’t be left disappointed. If things go better than expected, well that’s a bonus.

This is not the ways of the Lord. This is not how he expected me to live. He has much bigger plans in store for his children. I am a daughter of a King!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Psalm 3:5-6

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. – Isaiah 58:11

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. – Psalm 32:8

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. – John 15:7

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, – Ephesians 3:20

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7-11

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” – Luke 6:38

You whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9-10

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:10-11

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:4-7

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. – John 14:12

Greater things than Jesus? One cannot do greater things than Jesus and still live in fear.

But this is the kind of life God intended me to live.

Lord, please forgive me for my fear. I know this is not from you and I desire to be released from it. I don’t wish myself or my children to be enslaved by it any longer. Please continue to show me my fear, and help us break this generational chain. May we rise into your glory and show our future generations the kind of life you intend for us to live. Ones that bring you praise. Ones that reflect your Son. Ones that reveal your love. May that be the generational chain that we pass on. In your Son’s name, Amen.

End of Year Expectations

I have struggled with expectations I have put on my kids and their education, their entire lives.

I was a child who never earned straight A’s, but I strive for them like nobody’s business. I graduated at the top 10% of my class, and I received a scholarship to a community college.

Don’t be too impressed. I lost it after my first year and my friends were in the top five and received scholarships and acceptance letters to universities.

Not doing homework, was unheard of. The amount of stress I put on myself led to migraines and breakdowns. Getting good grades was what defined me.

So, to have children who constantly do not turn in their homework, routinely bring home C’s and lower and just do the bare minimum to pass a class, has just about driven me over the edge. I have been disappointed and heartbroken time and time again.

However, things are changing. I have changed. Instead of comparing my children to me and what I was capable of as a child, I am learning to accept them for who they are and what they are truly capable of doing. I am no longer allowing their success or failure define who I am.

We may not have had any kiddos who have received any scholarships, acceptance letters into their favorite University or even applied for community college, this year.

We don’t have anyone with straight A’s or perfect attendance.

But we do have…

A kiddo who stuck it out and graduated, after losing his privilege to live in our house, two months before the end of school. He may not be going college anywhere right yet, but he’s working and paying rent somewhere and has bought his own form of transportation; as unconventional as it may be. It’s his and he’s the one who purchased it!

We have a kiddo, after struggling with his grades all year, and especially his last semester; who looks like he was able to pull a minimum grade up at the very end to avoid summer school!

We have a kiddo who after years of being suspended once a year, has managed to not only keep his nose out of the front office for the whole year, but has also avoided D’s and F’s, for the first time since third grade. And is coming off his IEP in time for him to start high school!

We have a kiddo who has transferred schools last year. Not once this year has he been sent home for fighting, crying or leaving his classroom or campus. He also has not been a target for any bullying and the kicker…made Honor Roll for the first time ever, this last quarter!

Oh I’m not done!

We have a kiddo who struggled all year with D’s and F’s. We were concerned he wasn’t going to pass the fifth grade. Even being grounded from the Internet and video games for over half the school year, didn’t seem to be helping. Although, his last quarter grades may not have been all A’s and B’s, he still got all his F’s up to passing and will be entering the sixth grade next year!

Finally, we have a kiddo who may have never have struggled with any of her grades, ever. But has proven herself once again just how versatile and capable she really is. Last year she transferred schools with her brother to a much smaller classroom. I was actually concerned it would hurt her socially, however she made new friends, both inside and outside her class and has still made Honor Roll three out of the four quarters!

We don’t have any rocket scientists, obviously, when it comes to their education. But I still feel these kids have ROCKED the 2015-2016 school year!

And I don’t feel I have lowered my expectations for any of them at all, but have certainly changed them to match who they are.

It is amazing the amount of love that blooms and heart that swells, with just accepting who my kids are and what they are capable of doing.

I think we’re all looking forward to what next year can bring and to see how much farther they can go!

Without Expectations

So, somehow in the last 24 hours, I became a parent to an adult child. I don’t even know how this is possible. Where has the time gone?

Because Tunes and Justice are so different now compared to their five year old selves, we often joke about five-year-old-Tunes and fourteen-year-old-Justice.

While fourteen-year-old-Justice is much easier to get along with, than five-year-old-Justice, I miss five-year-old-Tunes.

He was so sweet and caring. He was carefree and fun. He always had and endless supply of smiles and hugs.

But as he has grown, his anxiety has taken much of those traits away. I love my son with all my heart, and it’s so hard on me to see how his illness has stolen his childhood and has changed who he is.

This is not how I believe he was designed to be. And because I still hold onto those old expectations of him, I am often left bitter and disappointed.

He has just turned 18, and yesterday we joked about giving me my last 17 year old hugs and saying goodnight for the last time to my 17 year old.

Today we are having his party. I have spent weeks trying to figure out what to get him to make this a special occasion. I’ve asked him what he would like and I get the same response every time. I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

But it does matter. It matters to me.

Late last night, while my husband and I were still out looking for something, I told him I wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow.

I have all these high expectations in my head for his 18th birthday and I know I’m going to be let down again.

He’s not going to be happy. He’s not going to smile and be excited to see his family. From the moment people start showing up, and he’s forced from his room he’s going to be harassing me to let him go back. Social gatherings exhaust and irritate him and he makes sure they are equally as hard on me too.

And here I am trying to make it special. I guess the only reason we are still doing it is because he’s always shared his party with his little sister who’s birthday is just four days before his. And well, eight years later, of course.

Every year, I’ve always given him the option to have separate parties, but every year he’s always wanted to share with her. His relationship with his little sister has always been a close one. And this one is probably going to be their last.

So, as we’re wandering around the store last night, really wanting to get him a bike since he has no interest in getting a car or his license, but knowing it’s not really something he wants either, I decided to not get him anything.

Well, anything for right now.

I can’t see spending so much money on something that he may not even use, just to give him something special, that he doesn’t even care about.

And then there is the high expectation of seeing a look of delight and excitement in his eyes when it is revealed, that I’m never going to get. And the disappointment sets in for me and for him.

Why put us both through that?

So I’m getting him nothing. No expectations. No disappointment. He doesn’t care anyway, right?

But I will tell him this is just for today. We don’t have to put so much pressure on this one day. We have tomorrow and even the next day. We can take our time to make this time special; to make this gift special.

I am always rushing him; expecting him to be what I consider normal.

He doesn’t get A’s and B’s, but he does still pass…barely. I pushed him to get a job at 16, but he eventually did get one at 17…and a half. I’ve taken him several times to get his drivers permit, but he just doesn’t want it…yet. But he will.

Just like he will think of that special gift from me. One day he will know and he will care, and that will be the day I celebrate with him.

We’ll get there. But this time without expectations.