This year, for Christmas, I asked God for a miracle. 2012 has been a difficult year for me, and I needed encouragement.
That is what miracles do best, you know? Encourage us in knowing that God is there, and He knows us.
Our Christmas was spent in Mississippi celebrating Christ’s birth with the Grands.
Oh, the Grands, they live up to their name; they, are truly grand. They are our reward for not resigning during the difficult teen years.
Christmas with young children renews the hope of miracles in all of us. Their wide-eyed wonder at seeing colorful lights on trees inside and outside, and the story of a baby in a manger renews an excitement in all of us.
“Yes, a baby, just like you.” And, the one-year old pulls her doll close, and kisses the top of its baldhead.
Yet, the whole time we are with the Grands, the alarm in our home continues to go-off.
First, our youngest son goes to check the house, and reports, no problems.
We are then notified a second time that the alarm on the house is sounding.
Now, our oldest son checks the house. Again, no problems found.
The alarm sounds three more times for no apparent reason.
Though nothing can be found, we decide to return home. We gather the family around, and open Christmas presents, two days early with the Grands and their parents. Then, we tearfully pack up our car, which is much lighter than when we arrived, and make the four-hour trip back home.
Christmas Day was quiet. Our oldest came over to regal us with stories, and some Christmas cheer.
But, late in the afternoon, storms began to build. We battened down the hatches and prepared for heavy rains.
A tornado hits Mobile, Alabama late in the afternoon. Storms carrying severe thunderstorms and other tornados blanket central and southern Alabama all afternoon and into the night.
That is when I realized that I had seen my miracle – My touch from God – My Christmas gift of encouragement.
Had the alarm not called us back home, we would have been traveling right in the middle of those storms. God had protected us by arranging for us to return home early.
In what seemed like an interrupted Christmas and an irritation to be handled, God, perhaps, saved our very lives.
“If you will hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!” (Psalm 91:14-16 MSG)
So here we all are, with the exception of our step-granddaughter who was with her mother. None are perfect. Some are related by blood, some by marriage, but all by choice. When stepfamilies are created we all have to give a great amount of Grace to one another, and take it slowly.
Just like in a garden, we can see flowers blooming in different seasons. Some children will accept willingly the new family; and, some take years to adjust; while others, may never fully accept the new family at all.
All we can do is be willing to be used as Christ sees fit. Because our full reward and blessings will never be seen here, in the land of the living – though some certainly could. Our reward is in the hands of the one who loves us all more than we could ever understand and more than we could ever love in return.
For you in stepfamilies, here is the end message,
Show Mercy and Grace,
And keep your eyes on the One who makes all things new in His time.
Driving through the country back roads I see it, all large, bright and round up above the treetops. Slowing down, I turn off the headlight to the car for just a moment, and the light of the moon is bright enough to for me to navigate down the road without any extra light.
The earth and all it contains has moved so that the moon can come out of the shadow, bright and full; and, it is beautiful. If I were not in the middle of pitch black I might not have noticed it.
I call to the children in the back of the travel van, “Look, look, can you see it? Can you see the full moon?
Now the moon has their attention.
“Wow,” says the youngest child.
We continue down the road in silence, watching the moonlight dance through tree branches that are winter bear.
The other child is in quiet, amazement at the size, and brightness; and, amazed at how it follows us home.
“It never leaves us,” she finally whispers. I look back and smile, but she doesn’t see me – the light of the moon hypnotizes her.
The light of the moon brings me joy to watch; and, something about it seems to bring me peace.
I inhale deeply, releasing a long slow breath.
It would have been so easy to miss this moon had I been in my brightly lit home.
This is what it is like to be a stepmother. Like the moon, my influence waxes and wanes, and from time to time the children will gaze up at us in amazement and recognize the love that has been given to them.
But, for the most part, a stepparent is a shadow – a phantom or ghostly outline of the birth parent. We are rarely seen as the real thing; and, we are rarely credited for all we do in the shadows.
“Let us make man in Our image according to our likeness: (Genesis 1:26 NIV)
The Hebrew word for Image is Tselem and means, a likeness, a phantom, a shadow.
We are in a Tselem, a shadow of Christ. We are a shadow of Christ in our everyday life around our family.
We are a shadow, an image, and a reminder of Christ to our children; something that is not quickly noticed but is always present.
Our children have a choice in accepting us as a stepparent, and inviting us into their life, and into their heart, before we can do all that we are meant to do to care for them when they are with us. It is similar to the way we invite Christ into our life and into our heart so that He can do all that He was meant to do to care for us.
This is my life, as a shadow, as an image of Christ in the everyday life of this stepfamily. A shadow who waits, who loves, who helps and protects; and, who even needs to repent at times from selfish meltdowns. I rejoice at being able to lean into to Christ so closely, that to the rest of the world, I am a shadow of Christ.
And it is in His shadow, that I reflect His light as the Stepmother.
Being a step mom is probably more difficult than a birth mom, there are not as many hugs or “I love you”; and, at times, there are none at all. You work hard and are given little credit or recognition.
I am on the sidelines with some conversations between birth parent and child. Conversations that are taken into another room, for privacy; and, my family, the people I serve, and that I love, need privacy – away from me. I am on the dark side of the moon, out in the middle of darkness, not a planet, just a rock that hangs out around the earth and I’m not sure this is the life I want.
I could just quit – Quit making bed, quit doing the laundry, or cooking the food. I could quit picking them up from school and having good snacks, or quit making birthday cakes that look like teddy bears, butterflies or just quit acknowledging birthdays at all! If you can’t include me then I QUIT!
I think about it, but I could not live with myself if I chose this kind of narcissist mentality. I do what I can, then cry because it is not appreciated. I want glory! Okay? Here is the ugly truth; I want credit and extra credit for all that I do! Am I not worth my salt?
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasonings that bring out the God-flavors of this earth. If you loose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.” (Matthew 5:13 The Message)
How, Lord, can salt loose its saltiness?
Salt is a mineral that is brought up out of the depths of the earth. Then heat separates the salt, and then what is left is broken into pieces, so that it can be useful to others.
When salt looses it saltiness, it is because it has been watered down, or come in contact with other elements that contaminate it and render it useless.
Is that what is happening to me? Am I allowing the things of this world to contaminate my joy, my influence and water it down to nothing? Is my ravenous desire for credit the very thing that is causing me sorrow?
And I am being broken – of my own will, of my need for my own glory; and, at times it feels like a type of death.
Is this how salt feels when it rooted out of its environment, placed into boiling heat and then broken into pieces? You know…this is not the marriage I signed up for!
I signed up for the marriage where everyone loves my cooking and I am loved and appreciated for all of my gifts and talents; and, where we have fun crafts that they love to do and, my love tank gets filled to overflowing and the love I give is immediately accepted!
But when the melt down and breaking apart is going on, I can see in Doc’s eyes, that my angry response to becoming salt is very unattractive to him.
Not the salt part, but the anger.
Now, looking into his eyes, I see myself; and, it isn’t the beautiful bride that he married, and it isn’t the beautiful woman that I desire to be. Yes, my hair looks good and my make up is on, and my clothes are attractive. It is my pragmatic garment of self-seeking glory that causes his eyes to turn away in sadness.
Something has to change…I have to change, because, in the end I am the only one that I have authority over; And my change is my journey, not my family’s. My change is to allow Christ to change me into the rock he has created me to be.
Thank you for hanging in there with me, we are close to the end. Please come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this lesson.
These next three blogs will all go together. Just so you will know.
It is the night for the Boy Scouts to celebrate Christmas with a dinner and a few awards. Doc helps as much as he can with the youngest son’s troop; but, his job is very demanding; and, it is difficult to have time off.
Today is one of the few times he can participate with the troop and his son. I pick the children up after school, giving them a quick snack from the gas station (one of their favorite places to get a snack), and instruct them to get showered and dressed.
In the kitchen, I am making my assigned green-bean casserole and sweet potato casserole, when the youngest son comes in and announces that he needs his new badges sewn on before we go. I throw the casseroles into the oven and race to the sewing machine to put patches on his uniform. Then, I iron both his and his father’s uniforms for them to wear.
The youngest daughter begins to carp about going to the scout meeting, and how bored she will be, proclaiming, “it is not fair that I have to go!” So into the craft basket I go, pulling out new colored pencils and art paper, hoping that she will find them intriguing and get into the car without an argument.
On we go to the church fellowship hall, where I help the other mothers set up the buffet line, and make sure each dish has a serving utensil.
Doc flies in from work just as the lights are going down, kisses me and lets me know that the children’s mother was able to make it. I nod in acknowledgement.
Now it is time for Doc and his son to take to the stage and hand out awards. He hands me his camera, and asks me to take pictures of them. I get up and go to the corner for the best shot of the two of them together.
Awards and badges are handed to the boys for their accomplishments. Then they announce that awards are to be given to the mothers. The birth mom, over to the daughter, and takes her by the hand as she goes to the stage to receive her award.
And there it is – the truth! – they are family; and, I am just a phantom, an image, a shadow of a real mom to these children. I am the extra wheel that is called upon when the other wheel cannot be there. I am just the extra, the back up, the sub.
I did not birth these children, but I made the casseroles, I ironed the clothes, the children are clean and on time because of me; but, my name is never called. I am never acknowledged. My job continues as I click, click, click – frame after frame – to make sure a couple of the pictures come out well – no half closed eyes, no weird expressions, just a happy family.
My body begins to shake and I am fighting back tears. I want to be up there too; I want an award, I want credit.
I have talked with so many stepmothers who have worked hard, with little or no thanks. Stepmothers who have given baby showers, paid for everything, then left to do dishes as the birth mother, daughter, grandparents, and friends go out to eat lunch without any invitation to the stepmother.
I have seen weddings where the stepmother worked like a slave, and for some reason, there were no flowers for her to wear on her dress, and she was seated with the guests.
But, that is not the way it goes every time when you are the stepmother. You do what is right, because it is right. You do what you can for the child, and for your husband.
Don’t blame your husband for all of it. Yes, sometimes he probably could do a better job, but most of the time, ladies, he is lost as to what to do. They simply do not know, and their greatest fear, is taking a stand that causes their child to never speak to them again. That is what they fear.
Here is what you need to know. Did I say know, I mean KNOW – the live it out loud, kind of Know!
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thrust for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:13)
See the word “shall” that I have italicized? In these sentences, that is the part of speech that is called the Perfect Tense (PF); and, represents the action that was completed in the past but has continuing results.
From the beginning of time, before the foundation of the earth, God knew you would be challenged in this way. Before the beginning of time, before the foundation of the earth He signed off on this for your life. He prepared and equipped you for the mission field you are in. The plan was made in the past and the results are continuing in your life today.
But today, we need to know, that we are in God’s plan; and, the plan is bigger than acknowledgement of a job well done. But our attitude makes the difference. Our attitude can destroy any joy that could possibly come our way; or, it could change us into the type of woman that takes our husband’s breath away – day after day.
Come by tomorrow as we continue this lesson.
30 Days to a Better Stepfamily – Day 26
I want to share with you some communication that took place between Doc and me early in our marriage. I have mentioned more than one, that I had a lot of growing up to do to be a stepmother. In the beginning, I cried…A LOT! Here is how we tried to lighten it up!
Here is my poem to Doc:
Why am I such a crying Geek?
Why not just stand up and speak?
Are my intentions always so wrong?
Is there more to life than a mourner’s song?
The little things – they make me crazy!
Yet, when I distance myself, I feel I am lazy.
I try to help as a stepmom, or nanny,
Yet, I end up defeated, and look like a …fanny!
Each person in my life is a piece of twine,
They weave my tapestry, my reasons, my rhyme.
Some threads I don’t want, they mess up my view!
But, the contrast in place, accents the hues.
Forgive me for crying and stirring up trouble,
I pray for us peace and love that will double.
Doc’s response to this poem:
So stop all the crying and dry up your tears,
You’ve got kids in the house for fourteen more years.
You’re not a geek, and you’re not crazy; and, one thing’s for sure,
You damn sure not lazy!
Gird up your loins, put your mind at ease,
Occasionally we all suffer from mad cow disease!
Being calmly available, even when not needed,
Just love them and treat them as you want to be treated.
Never expect to be treated as well,
The high expectations will put you in hell.
So, roll with the punches, Christ is your teacher,
That big heart He gave you is your finest feature.
Back off, ladies, he is mine! Learn to play and laugh in adversity with your spouse; because, he is the one you are left with when all is said and done.
My children are twenty-something and thirty-something years of age. Doc’s children are in their early twenties. Both sets were about the same age when their parents divorced.
No matter how old a child is, they always long for their family of origin to be one. This is where my maturity has grown, by the grace of God, prayer and love for the children. Lately I have been able to give all of the children time with both of their parents in the same room –talking and laughing.
In the past few years, we have had times of getting together with the former spouses and their families. At first it made my children a nervous wreck to have both parents in the room. They were concerned that it would be world war three.
What they did not realize is that I had met with my former husband and run the idea past him for us to call a truce, agree that we would never agree, and enjoy our children and grandchildren together.
With Doc’s children, well, it has been difficult for me, and a learning curve; but, from the beginning, we have been around each other, supporting the children in their activities, and inviting all out to eat for birthdays, graduations or whatever the special event.
Choosing to grow up and get past the Junior High, competitive, Just-the-way-girls-can-be mentality, is the first step.
If you consider the former spouse an enemy, then read how to be at peace with your enemies from God’s Word.
Here are some good ones:
Romans 12:17-19 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Matthew 5:44-46 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?
Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,
Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Maybe begin in a public place, but consider inviting your former spouse to have dinner with your family after an event the child has participated in. Maybe you could pay for everyone – wow what a concept, what a gift. Most people are on their best behavior when there is an audience. This Christmas would you consider, you and your spouse, giving the gift of peace to your child, and allow their original family and stepfamily to gather together?