I will praise you in this storm…

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This is something I just shared with a sweet friend of mine who is fighting to save her marriage. But I feel like everyone is fighting a battle and can relate to this. Even if the battle is within our own heads. So this is what I shared with her this morning, and what I am sharing with you all now…

I wanted to share something with you that has been on my heart last night and this morning.

In Philippians, Paul and Timothy are writing a letter to Christians in Philippi. Keep in mind that Paul is in jail during the time he wrote most of his letters. It is amazing to me that Paul was in jail and sounded in his letters so free. He was free in Christ. Free in his heart. Because he got it. He understood what he had in Christ. And it was enough.
In Philippians 4, Paul addresses How Christian’s Should Act. He teaches about how to live in all seasons of life. When things are good, and when we feel trapped by our situation. In verse 4, he says to choose joy. Joy is not found in our circumstances. It is a choice we make. In verse 5, let your gentleness be known to everyone. Be gentle with how to treat people and handle situations. Verse 5 also tells us the Lord is at hand. He is always near and working in our lives. Even when we cannot see or understand what he is doing. In verse 6, he says to not be anxious. (Easier said than done, right?!). Instead we are to pray and give it all to God. And the promise in verse 7 is that God’s peace will guard your heart and mind. That is a promise we can cling to! And finally in verse 8, Paul tells us to meditate on things that are good and worth of praise, true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected. The thing that stands out to me there is to meditate on TRUTH. This is what helps me to not be anxious when I am overwhelmed with life. Whenever you are anxious or worrying about something that is out of your control or is in the future and there is nothing you can do about it now, think about this. Meditate on TRUTH. What do you know is true? I know God is in control. I know I am doing everything I can do right now. I know God will provide. I know I love my family and my family loves me. I know fighting for my marriage is always worth it. I know God loves my obedience in pursuing my husband. I know God wants me to keep my covenant with Him. It is true that I cannot make decisions for people. It is true that I can only control my own actions. It is true that things WILL work out according to God’s Will. There is nothing that will happen that will surprise God. He already knows “the rest of the story”.
PHilippians4-8
Meditate on God’s Truth. Look at the promises he has made and how he has fulfilled his promises time and time again. He is faithful. He will provide. He is in control.
PS- If you haven’t heard the song Praise You in This Storm by Casting Crowns, go check that out too. Music is life. This song gets me thru the extra tough days. 🙂
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Mother’s Day Blues

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It’s that time of year again. Mother’s Day is fast approaching. This is a beautiful holiday when children of all ages honor their mothers for their love, patience, and guidance. But most of all, for the gift of life. But as a stepmother, Mother’s Day can be the furtherest thing from a joyous occasion. Now I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that my stepson loves me. I am with him 7 days a week, about 28 days out of the month. And since my husband works long hours and is out of town several days a month, me and my stepson spend a lot of time together. Which is great. I love being so involved as a (step)mother. And the more holidays that pass, I am more accepting of my place as “not the REAL mom”. But still, it can be hard.

It’s hard because even though I did not give birth to him, I do all the things any other “REAL MOM” would do. I wake up early, fix breakfast, lay out clothes, double check that he has brushed his teeth, remind him to grab his bag and jacket, head to school, get him there on time, tell him I love him and to have a great day. I wash his bed sheets, wash his clothes, make sure he has everything he will need later for his sports practice, clean his room, bathroom, etc. Then pick him up, ask him how his day was, double check that he remembered to bring his homework folder home, turn back around and go back to the school when he realizes he “forgot” his reading book for the third time this week, then head home, do homework, eat a snack, go to practice, cook dinner, and on, and on, and on. You get the picture, right? I do these things. And I LOVE being mom. He fills a place in my heart that makes me SO happy.

The hard part is when his “REAL MOM” tells him that I don’t need a card on Mother’s Day because I am not his “REAL MOM”. That because he didn’t come from my womb, he isn’t mine. It hurts.

I don’t ask for much. I’ve never expected him to call me “mom” or for him to put me on a pedestal.  But a phone call on Mother’s Day would be nice. Or if his mom took him to pick out a card for me. Or even allowed him to craft a card for me to say “Happy Mother’s Day”. That would mean the world to me. Especially since I’ve always done that for her.

So anyway, I don’t mean to whine. I have accepted that things are the way they are. Maybe one day they will be different. But I have low expectations for now. So what I got to thinking about tonight is that I wonder how God feels when he has to share us with our earthly parents. I mean, here he is, our Father. And how often do we thank him and think of him on those special holidays? I tried to imagine that how I felt, he must feel even more. Or perhaps he is much more mature than I am (I KNOW HE IS!) and so it doesn’t bother him at all. These are just the thoughts going through my mind tonight!

So Happy Mother’s Day! To you all! Everyone who shows up for the children in their lives. Every woman who is there for the children, no matter what the circumstance. You matter. You are important. And I appreciate you. XOXO

Perfect Justice

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As I was doing my reading for my ladies bible study group, I felt overwhelmed with conviction. Acts 9 is such a perfect picture of God’s sovereignty. Saul is not someone I would pick to use to build the church. He was an enemy of the church. He committed so many horrible acts trying to destroy God’s church from the start. And then God, in his sovereignty, chooses him. He told his disciples to accept Saul. When they questioned God, he told them to trust in His authority and not question his reasoning.

How hard is that! How many times does God direct our paths or stir in our hearts to do something and we hesitate. We question. We argue. It is so hard to simply trust. But because we know the character of God, we know he is goodness and faithfulness. We know his plans for us are for the advancement of his kingdom. So whatever he asks of us is for good. We may suffer. Things will likely not be a walk in the park. But if God asks it of us, we know it is good. That’s incredibly hard to accept when God’s plan doesn’t align with our selfish desires. Or when God gives so much grace to someone we don’t feel deserves it. But it’s a humbling reminder and I was so thankful for the timing of it.

Thank God He gives so much grace! Thank God He forgives over and over again. Because where would I be if he didn’t? Only by the grace of God am I not struggling with the same sin as someone else. Only by His grace do I resist any temptation at all. Surely I know it is not of anything I can do for myself. I am weak against sin and temptation. The Holy Spirit is my only refuge. Praise God for his grace and mercy. Amen.

Complain up, not out.

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When I worked in management, we had a saying: Complain up, not out. We told our sales reps this over and over. If you have an issue, tell a supervisor who can listen, understand, and potentially make change happen. Do not complain to peers who will just listed and bring you down even more and worse, have no ability to do anything to fix the problem. I’ve preached this. I know this. So why is it so hard to take my burdens to the Lord instead of calling and complaining to friends who can’t do a thing to change my situation? Thank the Lord that he has placed people in my life to remind me of this when I forget. 

Today I was overwhelmed. So mad. Mad at a situation I have almost no control over. My husband caved and let my stepson’s mom have her way on something that, in my opinion, he shouldn’t have. It made me so mad. But what are my options, really? I could pick a fight with him. I could tell him all of the things I’ve said a 100 times before. Or I can find a way to deal with it. Even though it affects me, ultimately it is his decision and his situation. So I did what I shouldn’t have. I called everyone I thought might listen (and agree with me, of course). No one answered! I was mad and not one person I called answered. Until I decided to call a certain sweet friend. She answered and I unloaded on her. I told her my issue and cried and felt so sorry for myself. And do you know what she told me? Well first off, she is a sweet person so she was genuinely sorry for my grief. But she told me what I already knew. Take it to the Lord. Complain up! When you have to send your child off with someone who is not a good care taker, it is such a burden on your heart. But she told me that every time I thought about it, I should pray about it. And she reminded me that even though I cannot be with my stepson, God is always with him. She reminded me to trust that and pray every time it crossed my mind. How thankful am I for a friend like that.

Most times when God works in your life and in your heart, it isn’t pleasant. It hurts. It requires we look outside of ourselves and look to Him for refuge, peace, and guidance. I know God is working in my heart through this storm. 

Turmoil in my Heart

My husband and I started dating in January 2009. At that time he had an 11 month old son. In March 2010 we moved to Memphis together. September 2010 is when my stepson came to live with us full time. My husband was granted full physical custody. We had to file for an emergency custody hearing. My stepson’s mother was not taking care of him at all. He was severely neglected. Just a bad situation. So I became a full time mom over the course of 5 days. From September 2010 until about April 2013, my stepson’s mom was very much absent from his life. She was wrapped up in her own problems and just didn’t have time to be a parent to my stepson or her other child, who also lives with his father. She was hoping back and forth from friends couches to her parents home. She was partying, doing drugs, and completely obsessed with boys. When I would reach out to her and try to talk to her about my stepson, she would talk to me and seem concerned but then her actions would prove otherwise. When I would speak to her mother, the grandmother, she would go back and forth. One month she would be tired of her daughters actions and want nothing to do with her. The next they would be on good terms and she would defend her daughter to me. My stepson’s mother was very flaky. Sometimes she would not show up for her visitation with her son at all. Sometimes we would not get a phone call from her for 2 months at a stretch. It went on like that for 2 and a half years.

Then in the last year, things have slowly started to change. My stepson’s mother moved back into her parent’s home. She began being present for every moment of her visitation. She graduated from barber college. She got a job. She started have consistent contact with my stepson, calling on a weekly basis. She actually attended a few of his sporting events in the fall of 2013. She came to parenting day at his school. She really seems to be showing improvement. She still does things that we do not particularly like, but we realize that there are many ways to be a good parent. And most of the things we have problems with are more of our opinion than anything.

For so long I have been a mother to a child who I did not have to love. I choose everyday to love him and care for him. I have been here for him when his mother has walked out the door with him screaming behind her saying, “Please don’t leave me Momma.” I have been mad at her so many times for hurting him. I have had some many conversations with her about how to do better and what things needed to change. I have talked until I am blue in the face. Then last Mother’s Day, she hurt me like I’ve never been hurt before. She told my 5 year old stepson that he didn’t need to get me a mother’s day card or a present because I was not a real mother.

I was furious. Not a real mother? That’s funny. I sure do feel real. I really take care of my stepson 28 day out of the month. I really take him to school each day, fix his snack to take to school, pick him up, help him do homework, take him to sporting practices and games, get him feed and ready for bed each night. I really read him book every night before bed. I really teach him about God and Jesus. I really went through the two year old and three year old tantrums that she missed because she wasn’t there. I woke up with him in the middle of the night when he wet the bed. I stayed home with him when he was sick with fever. I take him to the doctor and dentist. I raise this child the best way I know how but I am not a real mom because he did not come out of my stomach? That just doesn’t seem fair to me.

Since that day, I have quit trying to help her. I have stopped communicating with her at all. The only times we have spoken is when we are in my stepson’s presence. In the past year, I have had all communication go through my husband. She hates it. My husband hates it. But for me and my sanity, that’s the way it needs to be for now.

And now that she is back in the picture full time, we are faced with a whole new set of problems. Now she thinks she is completely better and is entitled to all of her rights as his mother. But as it stand right now, she has supervised visitation only per court order. Her parents are both supervisors. We found out recently that the grandmother has been allowing her to have unsupervised time with my stepson. Which she is not allowed to do presently. But because she is his mother, she doesn’t understand why we wont allow her unsupervised time. So she lashes out at us and puts us in a position where we have to make tough decisions that ultimately only hurt our son’s heart.

So my dilemma is this: I want her to be in my stepson’s life as long as it is in a positive way because that is what is best for him. I know it is best for him to have a good relationship with all of his parents. But how do I forgive all the things that have happen in the past. How do I let go of the neglect, the abandonment, the hurtful things. How do I forgive like God has forgiven me. How do I forgive like God forgave Israel in the book of Hosea. How do I forgive? It is so hard! Especially when she continues to do things that are breaking the court order and showing no respect towards my husband and I. I don’t want to be a push over, but I also don’t want to be hard hearted. I am tortured by this. I just don’t want to forgive so quickly and have her turn right back around and hurt us all again. I am stuck in my heart because I truly do not know what is the right thing to do. It’s hard.