winter.jpgMany moons ago, on a dark winter night, as the children lay nestled in warm beds and my husband reclined pale and motionless in his chair, I wrapped myself in a thick coat, pulled boots upon weary feet, and ventured out into the bitter loneliness.

My emergence was greeted by a silent dirt road, my being enveloped by the brisk air as the blackness provided shelter from the rest of humanity. Nothing but stillness awaited my pilgrimage. I was free.

I glanced to the left and recognized a spattering of houses and to the right – nothing but naked branches swaying in the stagnant air. I leaned into the vacancy and began moving, one foot in front of the other – the vicious cold biting my face and freezing the tears as they fell. I walked in penance for whatever grave sin I had committed – a sin which had led to a recent life of so much pain and heartache. I knew that surely if my husband held the strength to wage war against numerous rounds of poison, and my son had the strength to defy the proclamations of death voiced against him, and my children possessed the strength to look into the abyss of eternity staring back at them through their daddy’s hollow gaze, then surely – SURELY – I could face whatever lay ahead. And so I walked. I walked the coals – the clear crystal coals intermingled with the frozen ground. And nothing moved. And all was silent.

I walked and I paused and I crumpled to the earth, fists curled and pumping into the night sky –

“CURSE YOU NIGHT!” I screamed.

I screamed and I screamed until the noise was deafened by gasps – gasps of oxygen being pumped into a broken heart, gasps of air reviving a weary soul, and then I rose, yet again, to face my tormentor and crumpled beneath the weight of the heavy cold air. I wrestled and rose and cursed and moaned and fell again and again and again, all to the beat of the maestro’s baton, to the beat of the never-ending drum of life.

Eventually I grew weary, as we all do, and I turned back– slowly fixing my gaze to reality, the dim lights flickering through the swaying trees – ready to return to my life- a haven of pain and grief and joy.

This Do In Remembrance Of Me

Breaking the bread and drinking the cup – wrestling, walking, moaning, cursing, accepting – traditions which enable our remembrance. The bread and the wine; the aching joints and all of the movements that stir our remembrance of something greater than ourselves – a remembrance of His faithfulness.

I still walk in the bitter air, but I no longer seek the solitude of the night. I now turn to face the warmth of the sun, often walking hand in hand with those I love – those born of the light. The bitter cold of what was and the warmth of what is – of how life can unravel at any moment into something bright and beautiful and unexpected.

Choosing life. Choosing warmth. Choosing light. Choosing to Just Keep Livin.

Alrighty…  Our second blended webcast.  Not exactly sure what happened with the audio during the first 20 seconds or so, but it was basically just me babbling.  In other words, it doesn’t affect the message, and we couldn’t redo it because Annabelle was finished with her bath. 

 

 

 

Just keep livin!

I recently asked Ryan if he would be willing to be interviewed for a blog post on blended families. I thought it would be interesting and insightful to have a guy’s perspective on a touchy subject. 

He and I have noticed a trend throughout the years.  If I write on being a mom to children who I did not birth, write honestly about the difficulties that I’ve encountered and my feelings towards it all, I often receive backlash with one or two people going so far as to call me an evil step mother.  But – if Ryan, a man, writes almost verbatim what I say, he is heralded as a hero towards four, fatherless children. I’m not sure why there is so much hatred towards mothers – particularly mothers who raise motherless children, but it is the reality of the situation most of the time – men are given far more grace than women are when it comes to blended families. Maybe it goes all the way back to the garden of Eden and Satan’s attack on Eve but that’s a different post.

Our family is currently five years into a blended family dynamic, and we are in no way experts, but we do live this reality day in and day out.  We don’t get breaks when the kids go to the other parent every other week or whatever it may be.  We have all eight kids all the time so perhaps we have an insight or two that might be helpful.

Alrighty… Here goes:

What is the most difficult aspect as a husband being a part of a blended family? 

Initially, making an effort to let you run a household the way you wanted to and not how I was used to having it run.  I had all of these preconceived ideas about how a house should be run without realizing you were a new woman, with her own thoughts and ideas, and I needed to respect that. Today, five years in, we are in a much better space. I let you do your thing.

What have you found to be the best way to handle this difficulty? 

Give you some space and lots of communication

What is the most difficult aspect as a Dad in a blended family?  

Hmmm I think the mom part is way more difficult than the dad part. As a dad, you want to have a connection with the new kids but it’s like when you have a new bio kid, it’s just your new kid. I guess it’s harder to give love to my bio kids the same way they were used to before the blended family because it might come across the wrong way to the new kids and my time is so much more limited with 8 kids.

And positive way of handling this

Do your best to love them all the same – even if the feelings are different. The kids shouldn’t feel the difference if at all possible. 

Are there different feelings towards your adopted children and bio kids? 

Yeah, there has to be. The hardest part is admitting it. Of course I have more of an instinctual connection to blood  children I’ve known since birth. It’s human nature. As time goes on my bonds grow deeper with my adopted children. 

What have you discovered to be an effective discipline method for the kids across the board

Structure. 

How do you prioritize your time among so many kids, obligations? Wife? 

Holy crap. You can quote me on that if you want… I think when I get a chance to have one on one time with any of them I do my best to give them one on one attention- teach them something, make a connection. 

How did having a baby together change the family dynamics? For better or worse? 

It’s hard.  We all love Annabelle. We felt like she would eliminate all divisions but she really didn’t. There’s still a division. Now it seems to be the kids and us with the baby because she gets a lot of our attention being a baby. It definitely created a special bond for us as a couple. 

Why make a difficult situation more difficult by living off the grid so to speak? 

What I see in the world is, if it’s hard – give up. Life if supposed to be a little difficult. You’re going to face adversity. It’s a training tool for us, for the kids. You don’t give up. You move forward. Goodness, Josh thinks I built this house! Our kids are learning sustainability and there’s something to those skills. Not sure they’ll use these skills someday but at least it builds confidence. 

What are the positive aspects to blended families? 

I enjoy learning about new personalities and new relationships and connecting to new people. To provide a father figure to four children who needed a dad. I work harder to be accountable. 

What, if anything, do you want people to see in our family? 

I want our kids to be respectful and to know that we are a team. We will stick up for each other. 

How do you foresee the future with a blended family?

 I see a future of not a blended family. A unified family. A successful blending. 

Word of advice for blended families who are really struggling? 

It’s gonna be hard. Find other blended families and make friends. Focus on your problems and not all of the extended families issues. Stay true to yourselves and tell everyone else to get in line. 

In one word, what makes blended hard? 

Change 

In one word, what makes blended entirely worthwhile? 

There’s not a one word answer for that. It’s not simple – there’s a future in blended, there’s hope in blended – that makes it worthwhile.  

Thanks Honey!

I’d be happy to post on other blended families and what works for them.  Drop me a line at jessplusthemess@gmail.com and we can coordinate and come up with a format.  

Just keep livin!!

I’ve been a little busy lately and recently had the pleasure of reading a post on a blog that I really enjoyed. It lined up exactly with my philosophy of “just keep livin!” and it came from my new friend Kate, who I was very sad to leave behind in Michigan, but I am convinced that we will stay in contact for years to come.  She has lived right down the road from me for years, our paths taking eerily similar journeys through the deaths of our late husbands,  left widows with four young children, and both of us recently remarrying to become moms of 7 children!  I hope you enjoy her “kind of crazy” as much as I do. 

 

Several things lately have come up prompting me to once again grapple with the reality of choosing Joy or choosing bitterness in the midst of setbacks, struggles and sometimes downright painful experiences.  I had a conversation recently with a good friend of mine about the struggles her and her husband were going through, they have been trying to sell their home for a very long time now, with no success and had just learned that their last attempt to have a child had failed. All of this was met with a heart wrenching, outpouring cry of “why?” Why me, why us, why is God’s answer no when we’ve been praying so long and so hard for this. Her pain is real, and in the middle of this right now, she is truly struggling with anger, anger at the situation, but also at God for his answer of “no”.

Then last night, after weeks of helping her pack up her home, I and my family said goodbye to my mother as she is moving to California where her future is uncertain as she battles liver failure and waits for her health to decline to the point where she is sick enough to receive a new liver. We do not know when we will see her again or what state she will be in when we do. We have prayed for years as a family for some miraculous healing to occur, to take away this disease which robs her body of strength and health and is in fact killing her, but the answer has been “no”.

Four plus years ago as i was faced with a very uncertain future as a young widow with four very small children looking to me for the answers, i asked “why”, screamed it in fact, more times than i can count. I raged and wailed, i struggled at the deepest parts of my soul to understand and reckon this situation God had placed me in. I fought it, I raised my proverbial fist in the air and begged to know how this could happen. Then after a year, yes a year, i asked a group of pastors a pointed question. I asked if it were possible to be content in the situation as God calls us to and yet still struggle with being angry. The answer, “no”, it seems logical, however when you are in the middle of it, logic can sometimes have nothing to do with it. This answer of no propelled me though to the place where i realized that i was choosing anger and bitterness, i wasn’t seeking joy and living in the peace that God offers so freely. From that day on, i decided to choose joy. This joy doesn’t mean that we never have moments of anguish or sometimes still ask the why’s, but it is a purposeful decision to find joy and contentment despite and sometimes right alongside of the pain.

This is the answer i gave my friend as she asked me “what do i do?” I gently in love told her to cry and scream, ask the why’s and then choose joy, choose to embrace the peace God is offering through the pain. This is the answer i gave my kids who cried themselves to sleep because their Nana had to go away, I told them to let the arms of Jesus come around them even though it hurt, because the God who loves them, loves their Nana even more than they do and He has it figured out. This is the answer i give anyone who is struggling today, We may not know the answers today or maybe even ever, but the God of the Universe who loved me enough to send his son to die for me, loves me enough to know the plans he has for me and will provide peace and joy when we seek it.

 ” For I know the plans i have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon me and come and pray, and i will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and i will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where i have driven you, declares the Lord, and i will bring you back to the place from which i sent you into exile.”
                                                                                                                     Jeremiah 29:11-14


In Christ,

Kate (kateskindofcrazy.blogspot.com)