What Every Divorced Parent Needs to Know Before Remarriage

Last month, Hope wrote a blog post about the first time she met my boys, and the subsequent journey that followed. I’ll never forget that day, it was filled with expectation and excitement, as well as some nervousness on my part. I watched as my boys met the woman who would end up becoming their stepmother. We didn’t know that would be the case at the time, but nonetheless, I wanted this first meeting to go well both for her and the boys. This was a meeting that Hope and I had discussed at length in the previous three months, deciding to wait until we knew there was something serious about our relationship before introducing the boys into the dynamic. I often tell people that I knew I was falling for Hope in the months leading up to this meeting, but the day she met my boys was the day I knew it was a forever kind of love. The following weekend cemented this for me. Allow me to explain…

She met the boys on Sunday, October 6th. About midway through the following Friday, October 12th, I received a call from my brother. He explained to me that our mother was getting ready to have emergency surgery to amputate her leg below the knee. From the tone in his voice, it was evident that I needed to make plans to get there. With my custody arrangement at the time the boys were with me every Friday through Monday. This meant that the boys would also be making the trip from North Carolina to West Virginia. I picked up the phone, called Hope to let her know what was going on, and asked her if she wanted to go. She didn’t hesitate (at least verbally). Yes, she would be going on this unplanned trip, both of us heading into a situation that was uncertain. With three boys that she had met only one week prior. Before we departed, with all three boys strapped in the back seat of my Nissan Xterra, I looked at Hope and said “You ready for this?” I was halfway joking, halfway not. In some way, I believe I was also asking for the long term, because I knew that how this weekend went would reveal some things about how things would go in the future.  The pictures below this paragraph are from that weekend. The boys asleep on the way there, then spending time with Hope while I was at the hospital with my mom.

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To direct this back to the point of this post, there is one thing that every divorced parent needs to determine before considering remarriage. You get a glimpse of someone’s character when they are placed under pressure or in an unfamiliar situation. That is exactly where Hope found herself on that weekend in October of 2012. She was with three boys that she had only met one other time. Three boys whose grandmother was in a very bad place with regards to her physical health. She was in a place she had never been. She had never met my Dad, yet she would be spending the weekend at his house without me around for the majority of that time, as I was at the hospital with my mom before and after the surgery. (My parents had divorced years ago but still lived in the same geographic area.) Hope displayed an amazing amount of poise and patience as we navigated that weekend. How that weekend played out was no surprise to me, I had seen her character long before we ended up on that unexpected trip. It did confirm that there was an obvious ability on her part to be along for the roller coaster ride that comes when you sign on to be the stepmother to three boys.

To provide some perspective, it is essential to rewind to an earlier time. I can’t type this blog from the perspective of an expert without sharing my failures. Before Hope and I met, I was in a relationship for about 6 months that was becoming serious. This relationship was moving along with no major issues until the children became a bigger part of it. As that happened, things began to surface that made me come to a point of decision. Despite my compatibility with her, I had complete peace when I decided to end that relationship, because I could tell that those things that surfaced were a sign of much bigger things to come.

What I learned from both scenarios is that as a divorced parent, when it is time to introduce the children into your new relationship, take special care with the hearts of those young ones that have been entrusted to you. It is one thing for your romantic interest to be compatible with you, but a completely different thing altogether for them to be compatible with you and your children. You must seek wisdom to see the things about that other person that could be detrimental to the raising of a child. If you’re still in the “warm and fuzzy” phase, the temptation is to try to explain or rationalize those things away by saying “it will all be fine once we’re a family.” Or “as the kids get older these issues will go away.” To be blunt (and to use a great hillbilly term), that is hogwash. Those issues that you see will only be magnified when placed into the crucible of a stepfamily. They will only get worse as you deal with the home of the other bio-parent and those weaknesses are exposed. Trust me, you’re better off walking away when you sense those things. They will not go away. The direction of your child’s life depends directly on the kind of person you choose to bring into their lives as a step-parent. There is no way to avoid this.

You must also seek wisdom to see the things about your romantic interest that are positive when it comes to raising children. It is a must, an absolute must, to talk about parenting styles before things get too serious. This is a good way to gauge their impact on the lives of your children. To succeed, you have to be on the same page about this before you even consider talking about marriage. You don’t need to seek perfection in that other person or perfection in your relationship. What you do need to seek is how to effectively resolve conflict between the two of you that involves the children. What you do need to do is to play out some difficult scenarios that could come up and see how the two of you would handle those situations. No, that doesn’t make for lovey-dovey dating conversation, but it is necessary if you even have remote thoughts of walking down the aisle with that person someday.

Our journey continues with its ups and downs, and I’ve learned numerous things along the way. One of my greatest joys is knowing that the trajectory of the lives of my three boys has been affected in a positive way because Hope has been along for this crazy ride. I can look back know and remember the things we considered when we were dating. We had no clue what we were getting into, and we knew we were going to get dirty. Just like any other blended family, we’ve had our fair share of tough days, but we’ve had plenty of amazing days to cherish. It is worth it all to be able to look at the lives of three young men and know that we considered their hearts long before this journey began.

 

 

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Number 1, 2 & 3 in Five

A post by Hope

I saw this really cool sign one time at a store that said “All love stories are beautiful, but ours is my favorite.” It’s true for me. I love how my love story began. Today marks the beginning of the love story between me and my three step-sons. Five years ago today, I met them for the first time. It was unexpected and impromptu, of course. Following careful planning about how we’d orchestrate this moment, Dave and I ended up throwing caution to the wind and I met them a week earlier than planned. God knew that the day that we had planned the following weekend would be forever etched into time due to an emergency. So, a lazy Sunday afternoon in October, I headed North and shook hands with 10 year old Julian, 7 year old Isaac and 4 year old Nathan (who took off running in the opposite direction instead of shaking my hand). I didn’t flinch. He was beside me in the wagon a few hours later.

When the day came, I was so excited and it felt natural. What didn’t feel natural was what my life looked like after the wedding was over and the boxes were unpacked in our new rental home. When the dust settled, the blending began and the impact of my decision to jump off the cliff hand in hand with my love hit me. This wasn’t going to be as easy as falling in love. The book The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal was as important to our marriage as the Bible in the beginning. It gave us a guide to gauge how we were navigating the emotions, the decisions and the development as we became a family. According to blended family experts, the process of becoming a family unit usually takes between 5-7 years. It varies greatly depending on circumstances. In my opinion, it feels like it’s going to take a lifetime! We were told “it’s all normal” but nothing about selflessness feels normal. I wanted to fight for my rights and feel sorry for myself and all my sacrifice when I hit a wall of conflict or confusion. I still battle that sometimes. But grace. Somehow, today we’ve arrived at five years. One day at a time and one big decision to stay. Multiple hurt feelings, countless tears and a few sleepless nights have brought us to this milestone. I’d love to talk about my husband and what a hero he has been, but instead, today, I want to celebrate those three little boys. They aren’t so little anymore. Can I talk to you about them?

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I’d love to tell you that when I fell for Dave, that I fell for his sons at the same rate and time, but that’s not the truth. I didn’t. I couldn’t. After living through infertility, I was already cautious about giving my heart to someone else’s children. They were cautious about this new woman beside daddy in the place that their mom once lived. All four of us approached with understandable caution. But one shared experience at a time, we began to trust. I cried a lot, talked a lot and “sucked it up” a lot and little by little I began to mature and navigate what it means to have kids in your life. As I continued to show up to every ball game, make desserts, watch for ways to connect and ask questions about them, they sensed my authenticity. They realized that I really did want to come closer. As they began to trust me, I learned to trust them and thus began a beautiful dance of blending hearts and lives. Not every day is a win but not every day is loss either. The reality is that there are a lot of awkward moments. On both sides. We come to a challenge and watch how the other reacts and go from there. There’s a push and a pull and sometimes there’s silence. I have to watch my heart and intent and they watch their mouth. We seem to offer respect to each other and so far have responded to these situations with a great deal of patience. Time has proven that the waves of disappointment, selfishness and conflict pass without breaking us. I never ask more from their hearts than they are willing to freely give and always land on the fact that I am the adult and must protect them as such. My adult feelings and reactions are coming from a much older and experienced perspective so my words and expression must be tempered with the reality that I could damage all that’s been built in a single slip of judgement.

When you love someone, you want to help them live their best life. When that person is a child, that desire to help gets magnified. (Well, that is if you are a healthy adult.) So naturally it can be difficult to keep your opinions and suggestions to yourself when you think parents should be stepping in (or out) of a circumstance. When you are a non-parent, you learn very quickly that biological parents do not respond well to this. Parenting is as intimate as it gets for folks. You can step on their politics, you can step on their social media, you can even step on their religious toes, but don’t you dare question the way they parent. You will reap the whirlwind if approaching  this space without proper care. This doesn’t just apply to blended families, it works this way within a biological family structure. You just try to tell your sister that she “caudles” her son too much….go ahead, I dare you. So what can the observant one do? They can pray, speak life into the child when possible and can live love toward the broken ones. In the meantime, don’t run the risk of destroying relationships by trying to help. Sometimes the best way to respond to this kind of tension is with silence.

The three boys that I get to live with every other week are amazing. Their hearts are pure gold. All three of them. Seriously. They are obedient, they are helpful and they are spunky. They make me laugh, they help me, they accept me and they melt my heart like wax when they tell me they love me. Every single time they say it. I treasure the different ways they tell me. Each of them say it differently. Julian tells me he loves me with a punch in the arm or in the respectful way he speaks to me. He tells me he loves me in the way he engages conversation with me about his life. He says it with a look. Isaac tells me every hello and every goodbye. He tells me with a smile and hug in the kitchen and right before bed with a kiss. Nathan tells me with a barrage of Nerf bullets and a giggle after a photo bomb on my phone. Nathan tells me in the most unexpected moments by phone or text. He gives love the least obvious so I have to look close sometimes, but he’s always genuine when it comes.

To say that I am pleased would be an understatement. I’m thrilled with how we’ve worked through the difficult times. They continue to give and I do too. I understand now that this is a calling and I am to stand my post and pray over them. To cover them as they walk in their generation and culture as men of God. That’s it. I don’t get much of a microphone for big life decisions or direction in their life. My role doesn’t come with loyalty nor does it guarantee acknowledgement or appreciation. Dave turns to me for my input and opinion in most every situation and he says that it has made a difference. Each time my attitude or perspective has outgrown the appropriate boundaries for my role, I crash and burn and have to turn to God and others to recalibrate. Giving more than getting never feels good, but these three guys didn’t ask for this family model so I must be a physical example of a spiritual truth. God works all things together for good according to HIS purpose. I love that God, in His sovereignty, saw fit to cause my path to merge with Julian, Isaac and Nathan’s. They are making me a better woman. They are giving me the opportunity to experience more of God. They are showing me what it means to trust and what it means to learn. Today I celebrate my three young men. Hopefully one day they will understand what they have brought to my broken heart and how very much I love them. Because I get to.

photo jul 17, 12 10 16 pm

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Don’t Wear It

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Posted by Hope

I am short. Next to Dave, I am REALLY short. I am loud and many times have been described as “bubbly”. Dave is practical and more mature. I am very spontaneous and really fluid with planning. Dave is calculated with time and better at preparation. I am stuck in the 80’s and Dave knows what Apple is planning at all times. We are different. In many many many ways.

The longer I spend in this family (going on 3 years), the more I find that I am the oddball in this here Laundry estate. I’m okay with that, for the most part. Not only am I okay with it, I like to revel in it from time to time. But there are some days that it can be awfully lonely in this brick ranch. You see, along with the differences between and my bestie, there are pieces of him that magnify my faults and his gifts.

With the ringing in of 2016, I resolved to face the entrance into my 40’s in complete and total health. Mental, emotional, financial, physical and spiritual health. I’m winning big so far in all areas, except physical. That category can cause emotional pain for me which turns into spiritual imbalance. Blah, blah, blah….then it all kinda takes a tumble. See how quickly one area affects the others? So, I’m doing work y’all. Hard work.

Coach D is very physically fit. Which is intimidating if I let it be. He is one of the most disciplined people I know and I greatly respect him for it. He can walk past a box of doughnuts without flinching and says no to ice-cream without a sideways glance. I, however, speak to food and tell it to stop tempting me and then allow the whisper of a cupcake lull my senses to sleep until I somehow find the sugary goodness turn into poison and self-hate. Well, that was until January. After a few months of work, the battle is getting easier, but the results aren’t coming. That’s where this post came about.

This journey of life balance has exposed some jealousy in my heart. I have found myself jealous of Dave on a few occasions and it’s surprised me. It’s dangerous and if left unchecked, could really do some damage to my heart and my precious husband. There have been mornings where he gets up and planted on the floor doing core work and I stare at him through eyes of envy, defeat and jealousy as he stays committed to his health. How could that happen?! But, alas, it’s the absolute truth. I shared this confession with him when I discovered this ugly attitude and through tears sincerely apologized. His response to me was one of tender understanding and encouragement, not of chastisement or judgement. This showed me something very intimate about our marriage. Bigger than physical fitness, the ability to share the most shameful parts of who we are to our covenant partner, fosters intimacy.

The following few days, I worked through this with the Lord. He reminded me of my strengths and the areas that I am spectacularly built. Psalm 139 so perfectly explains how we were knit together intentionally. This has made me laugh because God built me with a weakness of speaking before I think sometimes. He laughs at me too. But I have a tender heart for broken people and an intentional heart for prayer. I have healthy boundaries, have sharp discernment and am a great people read. Not everyone can say that.

So, let’s close with this thought:  no matter how much tissue paper I stuff into the toe of Dave’s shoe, my size 6 will never fit just right. And he couldn’t stuff his giant ski of a foot into my tiny pink sequined bedroom slipper without breaking it. Celebrate the gifts that you’ve been given and work on the areas of your own weakness and learn to let others come alongside to make you better, not become competition. Your “walk” will thank you for it.

 

Begin (Again) With The End In Mind

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Posted by Dave

Hope and I work together, and most days we commute together, which provides an additional time together that we normally wouldn’t have if we worked at separate organizations. Many times, we’ll fill this time talking about recent happenings in our family or discussing the day at work. Recently during our commute, we listened to a message on YouTube that spoke directly into the way that you make a successful marriage. The message was by Lisa Bevere, and it is called “Begin With The End In Mind”.

If you’re married, or if you’re in a relationship that is leading toward marriage, this is a message that you must take the time to listen to. It speaks directly into a mindset that is critical for any successful marriage. Success in a marriage means that the phrase “til death do us part” is actually how your marriage ends. If you look toward the end of your marriage and how you want to go out together, it makes many of the things you deal with on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis less intimidating and frustrating.

But what if you’ve already had a failed attempt (or multiple failed attempts) at marriage? How do you begin again with the end in mind when it didn’t end well before? Trust me, entering into it a second time was a scary proposition for both Hope and myself. All of the questions circle in your mind like “will I ever trust again?”, “after last time, can I ever commit again?”, “what if the broken things inside of me cause it to happen again?”. Fear can drive you to ask some crazy questions, but fear can also drive you to ask some very valid questions. Fear can’t be what brings you to the answer, but it can motivate some much-needed prayer and discussion with your prospective partner.

My advice? Talk about those fears together before doing anything. Talk about your expectations before doing anything. If you’re going into a re-marriage, take some time to look back at the failure of previous relationships and look for things that YOU did to cause it, because unless those things are fixed, they will doom this one too. No topic is too small during this time. I’m talking about everything from who is going to pay the bills to who is going to do specific household chores. Leave no stone unturned. For example, I do the laundry in our house. For some reason, I believe laundry is my calling, maybe it is because of my last name. Believe it or not, Hope and I discussed this before we got married. We talked about numerous other items, many of them much more important, during our dating and pre-marital counseling. Beware, it’s easy to overlook the End when you’re in the midst of the “warm fuzzies” of dating. Everything is new, you can’t get enough time together, you text or call each other constantly. Marriage seems like a great idea, because you’re having so much fun being together. Don’t let the “warm fuzzies” fool you into overlooking the seemingly minor things that will make sure your marriage stands the test of time. Imagine yourselves becoming old and gray together. Do you honestly see yourself wanting to grow old with that person? Imagine you get a diagnosis that is terminal. Is that person going to stand by your side as you fight that battle? If you can’t envision the End and see your partner with you, then it might be time to reconsider.

If you’re going to make it to the End, the Beginning has to be full of clear communication about what it is going to take to get there. You and your partner have to be on the same page. Your dreams and goals for your relationship and for your family have to align. Spend some time dreaming about what it will look like as the years go by. If you do, it will go along way toward making sure that you both make it there together.

From Rubble to Restoration

Posted by Dave

On October 25th, I had the opportunity to speak at my brother’s church. He recently became the Senior Pastor of a church in Huntington, WV, and had been preaching a sermon series called “Broken” during the month of October. He asked me to share my story as a part of this series. I have to admit that this was a very surreal experience. It had been nearly 5 years since I stood behind a pulpit in a church, and this time around my family looked very different. The other thing that surprised me is how healing the whole experience was. My brother asked me to share with the church for a reason, but one of the unintended circumstances from last Sunday is that it was another moment of healing in the life of our family. It revealed yet again the twofold principle that has evident during this journey:

-God will use external circumstances to bring you to a place of repentance and humility.
-Not only will He use those external circumstances, God will use your own mistakes and faults for His glory if you let him.

During the message, I shared this quote from author Ken Gire: “When suffering shatters the carefully kept vase that is our lives, God stoops to pick up the pieces. But he doesn’t put them back together as a restoration project patterned after our former selves. Instead, he sifts through the rubble and selects some of the shards as raw material for another project – a mosaic that tells the story of redemption.”

Adding to the amazing timing of last weekend is the fact that October 25th would have been the 18th anniversary of my first marriage. Talk about shards of raw material being used for a new project… I’m so thankful for healing, restoration, and memories of a broken past. It is a constant reminder of how my loving Heavenly Father works.

The video from this service is below (note: there were some technical difficulties around the 18:00 mark, but they inserted a slide showing the points that I spoke about).

Part Time Is Still Full Time

part-time-jobCo-parenting is a fancy word for the fact that you are no longer married to the other parent of your children. Co-parenting is one of the most challenging aspects of a divorce that involves children. It is tough for the parents, and it is tougher for the children. I’ve now been a co-parent for four and a half years, and not a week goes by without a reminder that my children live in two different environments with two different sets of rules and expectations. I’d like to share several things that we have learned when it comes to co-parenting, hopefully it will shed some light on our challenges and how we’ve handled them.

Remember it is difficult for the kids too. I used to spend a lot of time focusing on the difficulties of being a part-time parent. As time has passed, I’ve learned that it may be difficult for me, but it is more difficult for my boys. I try to spend some one-on-one time with each of my kids on a regular basis. Earlier this summer, I took one of my sons on a hike. We sat down by the lake, and I asked him a few questions about how he was doing. I asked him “What is the hardest part for you when it comes to the divorce and living in two separate homes?” He didn’t hesitate for a second with his response. He said “The rules are different in your house.” He went on to explain that there are certain expectations that are present in our home that aren’t present in his mother’s home, and it is hard for him to adjust when he first returns to our house. I’ve had to keep this in mind and set my expectations based on this. The key is learning how to walk the fine line of allowing your kids some room to adjust. Speaking of this…

Keep your custody arrangement in mind. This was a hard one for me at first. I expected the kids to follow all of the rules and adapt immediately upon returning to my house. This led to frustration and a lack of patience on my part. I know it stressed the kids too. If you only have your kids every other weekend, then don’t expect them to adjust to different rules and expectations quickly. We pick my boys up every Friday after work, and on Mondays we drop them off for the school bus. I’ve learned that Fridays are an adjustment period for them, and to give them some room to adjust. If we jump all over them immediately for something that is different in their mom’s house, then nothing is accomplished.

Keep the ages of your children in mind. This one is pretty simple. My sons are 7, 10 and 13. When setting my expectations for them, I’m learning how to account for their age when it comes to parenting them. I’ll hold my 13-yr-old more accountable because he’s closer to being an adult, meaning that he should be able to adjust to various situations quicker.

Communicate with your spouse. One of the things that Hope and I have learned is that to do this right, you have to talk about parenting together. You each will have different parenting strategies and philosophies. As traditional parents, you get to slowly blend your parenting philosophies together with a baby that can’t talk back. As a step-parent, you’ve become an instant parent with another person who may have raised their kids with a different mindset, or who wants to parent your kids with their mindset. More importantly, that person comes into your life with a fresh perspective on how you’ve raised your children, and may be able to see things that you don’t. The challenge is to learn how to communicate openly and have conversations about parenting without them turning into arguments. In addition, be sure to communicate EVERYTHING that will affect the schedule of your home. School activities, ball games, church activities, make sure it is all available for your spouse to review. One solution that has worked well for our situation is using a shared Google calendar that everyone, including the other biological parent, has access to. Set your smartphones so that you can see the calendar at anytime.

The battle isn’t yours. You’re divorced from the other parent. That means you didn’t get along and didn’t agree. Don’t expect this to change when the kids live in separate houses. The thing that has helped me the most is learning that I need to focus on the things that I can control and change, and let the rest go. Don’t think you can change how the other biological parent runs their home, because you can’t. Don’t try to do it through the kids either, because that will do nothing but keep your children in the middle. They don’t want to be there. Always, above all, keep the kids as the focus and the priority. Let the hurt feelings and pain from your divorce fall by the wayside when you co-parent your children with their other parent. Stay out of the emotional battles that may still tempt to drag you back into old feelings or the past. One scripture that continually brings me back to reality regarding this is Galatians 6:7, which says “You will always harvest what you plant.” Keep this in mind in all aspects of co-parenting, and that promise will prove itself true.

The greatest of these is LOVE

the greatest is LOVEPosted by Hope

It’s a tricky thing to be honest with those around you. We walk a tightrope of comfort and transparency when we consider sharing our authentic selves. When I have shared life with a friend, I sometimes walk away having a review conversation with myself about what I should have said differently or kept to myself. As a woman, I know I’m not alone in that struggle. With that said, I would like to share how very conflicting it is to carry on this blog. I read a lot of personal stories and realize more and more that every single person has so much to give. Why would what I write, or don’t write, make a difference? I had a post written for Mother’s Day that was a celebration of the two years we have clocked in our journey as a new family. I didn’t post it. The reason, I felt it would be hypocritical. I had a complete meltdown on Mother’s Day evening. Timing is everything.

For the last six weeks, I have grown in an area that is private to most and disappointing to me. The ugly parts of me have been exposed in my interactions with my step sons. I have found myself in a season where reality is sinking in and the cost of giving up my single and childless lifestyle is hitting home. My head now understands that there is rarely room in the schedule for just catching my breath, finances are usually tight and boys are a different breed than girls altogether. It’s stretched me out of my comfort zone and quite honestly, I haven’t stretched quietly. I feel like making it to the end of baseball season with my marriage and sanity intact was a complete miracle. I have no idea how families that do travel ball make it. I have found resentment, selfishness, un-forgiveness and doubt in my heart and it is disgusting to discover. What I realized is that an old track that played in my head in a prior life had found it’s way into this one.

On Mother’s Day, as we returned home from a road trip, I couldn’t wait to deliver them to their mom’s house and regain the peace and quiet of MY home. So many things are wrong with that sentence, but it’s the truth of what was on my mind. I had spent the last 30 minutes of the drive home stewing in frustration at the lack of peace and quiet. When we reached the driveway, they exited the car and walked to the front door, without a glace back or a good bye. The moment I had waited for had arrived and instead of feeling relief, I felt loss. As I watched them disappear behind the door, I felt the tears come. The drive to our driveway was short and by the time we made it into our house, a wave of grief washed over me. Dave asked what was wrong and through my sobs, I told him, “I can’t talk right now, just pray for me.” I walked into our bedroom and collapsed beside our bed into a heap of tears. The waves of emotions washed over me and as I heaved the sorrow from my soul, I had no idea or understanding about why such a simple act could produce this kind of reaction. Slowly, as the moment brought calm and the storm began to subside, I felt a quiet knowing that this grief was bigger than the simple driveway incident. The timing of the day and the act of departure was no coincidence. It was THE purge. The emptying out of years of pain and disappointment for what would never be for me. No sonogram photos, no protruding belly, no girly showers with matching cookies and ribbon, no tiny fingers wrapped around my finger or smiling responses to my voice. This was the reality of my motherhood. Caution, trepidation, desire for love met with shallow response, competing affections and tender hearts.

In the following weeks, through personal study, amazing preaching and the secure voice of God, He unwrapped what this lesson held. I got lost in romanticizing the idea of our family. I had begun to rush us to become and for me to be. The timing of the blend has to move at it’s authentic pace or it is forced and will disappoint. God showed me that He would not have called me to this life if He had not already provided every single tool I would need to cover every need. My impatience with the gift He has given me in my new family had brought me to a place of careful consideration. When I was arrested by the willingness of my heart to discard what had been given to me as a blessing, I felt breathless at how I could even consider a trade. As a trade off, this past weekend, I was given a glimpse into not one, but three tiny hearts that was earned through trust. Because I could admit my faults and apologize, I earned the right to listen when they opened up.

I am in awe of single parents. Their ability to wear so many hats and keep it all spinning is miraculous to me. They don’t have the option but to keep going and to find the beauty in their situation. Getting acquainted with parenthood has been very conflicting for me because of my tendency to romanticize the whole experience. As I live the reality of the cost, I have not done a very graceful job of transitioning. My three step-sons and their father have extended so much grace toward me as I pout and react with passive aggression until the mirror of the Word is held up to me and I have to repent to them. What truth lies in 1 Corinthians 13!

If you are new to life with kids, know that it will challenge every selfish place inside and cost you dearly. However, when you receive a piece of their hearts, it makes every sacrifice worth it. Also, I highly recommend finding humor in it. There’s plenty of it flying around so don’t take yourself so seriously. Trust the process and don’t even THINK about attempting this without Jesus Christ at the center of your relationship with your spouse. These days pass quickly and it will be quiet before you know it. Don’t waste the opportunity to shape a life.