Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Unending Quest for Total World Domination

World domination is a goal of mine. It’s right up there with losing 10 pounds and traveling to Milan for fashion week. I’m sure it sounds lofty to some but I suppose that explaining what world domination is to me would help…My father in ministry used to tell us all the time about dominating YOUR world. He would say you are responsible for taking over and mastering of your domain and everything that encompasses your “world”. He’d say (imitating MLK) that if you are a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper the world has ever seen, Sweep streets so well that everyone who sees them will have to take notice and admire the excellence of your persistence and commitment.

So, in my world…”stepworld” do you become the best stepfamily there is? How do you measure it? How do you take over and restructure the thought patterns and perceptions of what the general world believes blended families to be? How do you get over the hurdles and heartaches to be an example? How do you dismiss the hurts and wade through the disappointment of what you thought your life would be versus what it actually is? In a word or two, “faith and persistence”. No matter what, keep believing and keep going.

Which brings me to my picture….Pinky and the Brain was one of my favorite cartoons. They were lab mice and Brain’s main purpose in life was total world domination. Every episode was a new feeble attempt at some strategy or plan to take over the world. Pinky, who was a tad less “alert” than Brain would usually be an unwilling accomplice to Brain’s projects and sometimes the cause of it going awry. But no matter how badly the plan failed, when they were put back in their cages- Brain never faltered. This exchange between them was the end of every episode.

Pinky: "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?"
The Brain: "The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world."

So after every time a child displays crazy behavior, or treats another sibling badly, or disrespects the authority in the home we keep going. Every time I disappoint my spouse or he treats me poorly, we keep going. Every time lines are drawn in the day to day that display separatism rather than togetherness, we keep going. When you hear or see behavior that yells “you’re not my mom”, “or you’re not my dad”…”or she was better than you” or “you pale in comparison to him”…you keep on going. Draw back for a moment if you must, but regroup, strategize and pursue.

And when the enemy tries to get you to go in another direction and ask you….

So….Superfamily after all of this drama “what are you going to do tonight”?
We can boldly tell him...............

”The same thing we do every night, stupid-Try to take over the world.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another arrow shot...

Jay’s gone to school and I am back after a whirlwind 4-5 days of getting him outta here and set up in Oklahoma. It was work but it was it was smooth. Grace and Favor followed us around like a devoted puppy and he has already nailed one job and is looking for another for the weekends and the summer. The family that he is staying with is awesome. The pastors and teachers already love him and gave me their word that they would look out for him. The dean carved out some time of his schedule to meet with us just to see how he was, how he was adjusting and to give us some wisdoms on what to watch for and what to watch out for. It was invaluable! The pastor and his wife took some time to talk with us and took a picture with him. It was a great transition and we could not have done it without family. His biological family, his stepfamily, his church families (new and old) and his extended family all came together to encourage him, love on him and cheer him on.

That’s actually what family is of many things I guess. When you need them most (when you are dealing with a life changing moment) without fail-they are there. When someone dies, when you get married, when you get divorced, when you have a baby, when you go off to school, when you get your first house, when you lose your house, when you get seriously sick, when you are heartbroken, when you have good news, when you are depressed-true family is the tissue passing, hug having, pom-pom waving, protector (keeping away the stupid people) standing guard, praying, fasting and sometimes paying to help you to make it through the issue or live your dream.

At his open house, I watched and marveled at all of those that stopped by. My sister was there hours before it started and jumped in everywhere making it happen and stayed til' the bitter end. So did my mom and dad and brothers. It was amazing and heartwarming as well. There were some who had just gotten back from out of town who came. Some who had 3 other stops to make. Some who came when it was almost over. Some we didn't even expect. We had so much fun. We ate until we were stuffed. The smaller kids played while the older kids watched action movies. The adults laughed, ate and encouraged my husband and I. I was also humbled to see my husband’s family and kids chip in and help. They brought food, gifts and even helped cleaned up. Their very presence really blessed me and Jay as well. Eventually, we had the opportunity to pray over him and Jay had the chance to honor some people that came that meant alot to him.

We will miss him being around, he is one of many arrows that we are preparing and shooting off into the world. His decision to go to school, his tenacity, his diligence and hard work in making it happen affected all of us and we, as his family will never be the same. Rhema will never be the same with a student like Jay on campus and Oklahoma will never be the same having Jay out in the public and in the workforce…. And when he is sent out to the nations, the world will never be the same. Lift up Christ and get em’ saved Jay…that’s what’s up!!

The verse for the day on our blog is fitting for Jaivon and for our entire family...

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The S on my chest !

Don't upset, hurt or attempt to bring harm to my husband or my children. Nothing will send me flying through the air into your face faster than messing with my people....that's just the way it is. My kids know it, my husband (poor thing) is learning it and those that really know me try to warn those that don't. Since I know in advance that I have the proclivity to smash my foot into the face of anyone that upsets them, I have to strive to be more disciplined, restrained and well-mannered in some areas. I'm getting better...really..I am. But you learn something from conflict. God reveals the idiotic tendencies in others so you know in advance how to handle them. He also shows the short fuse in you, so you can learn to manage it and become more like him. Confession time: Sometimes it takes me 2-3 lessons per issue.

For example, (and this was before we were married) my husband and I were talking on the phone about a serious issue he was having with someone. Someone did something that not just broke his heart-they crushed it into the ground and kicked it to the side like trash. He was devastated and I was angry. On the phone, he is describing to me their "I'm sorry" speech and I am on the other end (discreetly as possible when enraged) pacing , throwing plates and punching walls waiting for him to get to the part where he says something like "and then I picked up a bat and slammed it across their throat". That part never comes. What a guy huh? He just meekly shares his disappointment and his pain and then I had to refocus my anger by praying him through it. It was rough. The next time I saw this person- I had to go in the bathroom and call my sister to keep from literally choking them. Why? Because even then, My husband was mine and what hurt him, hurt me. I knew then that somehow this issue was gonna be a continuous problem. We worked through that and even though he struggled awhile, his tenacity won out and he got back on his feet again and was healed of the hurt. He was ok, so I was ok.

Not less than a year later, this same person hurt him again. The same type of crap... yeah crap. (I tried to think of a better word, but none came so there it is...) No regard for him, his feelings, his heart on anything my husband had done to and for this individual. Not thinking, just grab heart, smash to floor, keep walking-hope you can deal with it. Furious does not come close to describing what I felt. My soon "to be" husband was blank. Literally blank. I had never seen him like that before. It wasn't depression or hurt or anger. Those I can handle and have a scripture or two for each...but blank? I didn't have anything for that. He was here, but not here. His mannerisms were listless, he seemed distant, sad and just minimally functioning in his day to day. My first thought was to jump in the car and run the person over that hurt him and tell God that they tripped and fell and I didn't see them...and then repent and Praise God for the victory....After about an hour of planning it out-I guessed that it may not work....and went to see John instead. After awhile...a longer while...we worked through it. Limping, but we made the best of it. Is there a pattern here or a lesson that I am missing God? I was telling a friend of mine about this and how I was struggling to handle this right. She was like no problem, I'll pray-but you are doing have really grown...the old you would have punched them clear in the mouth by now..I was like she's right..I can't believe it either...hmmm.

A year later...( you know what's coming don't you-I know...I think I'm kidding, but I'm not) This same person/situation rears it head again and causes confusion. But now...we're married. My home is in turmoil. All bets are off. I am no longer trying to impress John with how nice and calm and rational I can be. The S on my chest is burning, cape is flying and heads are gonna roll. There is no excuse for us to be blindsided by this again. Somebody has to step up. Boundaries need to be set. From now, on they get this far and no farther. As for me, that rule still stands. John is extremely more gracious and lenient. Somebody has to offset my extremes. I am now always on guard; always watching, always protecting, always listening, always praying....and THAT"s what God wanted from jump. He was showing me early of how a situation can brew and plant a negative seed and if let unchecked, what could happen when you let the walls of your home become open to any kind of spirit or influence. The enemy can destroy your peace. In other words, don't be a punk girl, guard your home, guard your marriage, guard your kids. I gave them to you, so protect them, stand guard because they are your valuables.

I get it; concerning them I mean. I am learning that the old adage is true. Joyce Meyer says it all the time: Hurting people, hurt people. They are/were hurt. The enemy was using them to make everyone around especially us a victim of their bad decisions. Not me, not anymore. I'm sorry that they hurt and I pray they work through it however, now-lesson learned- I've got my hand to the brow looking out. Not just at them, but anything or anybody that comes with garbage, negative influences or drama. Not having it. I manage my relationship with them cautiously. I do not allow them to manipulate, use or manage me. The S on my chest does stand for Superwife/mom...but God also showed me that it stands for SOLDIER. He was teaching me that I may not have to fight hand to hand anymore (although I will keep an old school alley beat down tuned up as a viable option should God call upon it ) but I will always have to fight spiritually against evil principalities and God knows as He empowers me, humbles me and teaches me- I'm game....bring it on!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Scars from a Big Wheel

My husband and I have the best goddaughter in the world. Yup, I'm braggin' on her because she is the most considerate, hardworking and humble young lady that I have met in a long time. Even when she found herself in error-she listened, humbled herself, learned and moved on. She is the mother of an adorable, incredibly smart two year old and when I see them together I think about when I was a single mom and how much further along she is than I was. I can't think about it too long before tears will well up in my eyes. I am so grateful that she learned early that making consistently stupid, out of the will of God mistakes doesn't delete the first mistake. It just amplifies it and sows seed and cycles of rebellion and discord in your life. I didn't quite catch on as fast as she did and I paid dearly. But now...she doesn't have to much.

I told the kids when they were younger that "I got this scar on my knee by running my big wheel into a tree. Now kids, you run YOUR big wheels in to the tree and see what happens." They were like..."NO....I will hurt myself"..I said "how do you know that?" My daughter said, "cause look at YOUR knee." They GOT it! You don't have to make the same mistakes to see if those errors will cause havoc. You can look at the damage and scars of my knee and know that running a Big Wheel into a tree is probably not a great idea. Look at the battle scars of someone else that has gone through what you are facing, ask and learn. Early on, our goddaughter (after some urging from my husband) did that...and she is now, with some great decisions and grace, living a supernaturally blessed life.

I get to share and teach her "mommy" stuff. You know, like how to balance life and single motherhood and how to take care of yourself. I also share simple mother wisdoms that teach her priority, character and sacrifice like-"never go out the house with your child looking dirty, raggedy and uncared for while you are dressed to the nines". Or how as a mom and an example now, your persona, attire and your conversation has to mature. I didn't know she even really valued those things I told her until once when she was bringing the baby over, she called me ahead of time while driving in the car to tell me why she didn't have time to comb the baby's hair..(she was excused... :-). Mind you, she has a great mom and sisters. I am usually just another confirming voice.

My husband gets to share with her practical things like making the right job choices and how to invest and manage your 401k. She was having issues with adjusting to being a manager and getting the respect she needed to perform properly and he helped her wade through it. They talk about what she will major in her master's program and how she can use it later. She is getting ready to buy her first home and he has been sharing with her about what to look for and where. He shares parenting things with her from a dads perspective and he also brings down the hammer of correction when he sees her being too leinient with the baby, getting run down and tired or not spending time for herself.

The key to all of this is...she respects what we know..she shares, she asks and she listens. We got a card from her yesterday that was so heartfelt. It was just a gift from God in timing. An awesome woman had just shared with me that she felt led to tell me that we would have more children (maybe not natural) to lead and teach. I believe, Our goddaughter is one of those people.

As parents, (bio, step, grand, godparents, or spiritual parents) our jobs include teaching, training, discipling and encouragement. When we look at their lives we want to be able to see glimpses that "they listened", "they heard", "they got it", "they are better", "they are wiser". There is a season (for some) that your kids think you know absolutely nothing, don't panic-its just folly-or as I say in modern english terms "short term mild brain damage" will pass. But as opportunities re-present themselves-give it to them again with both barrels. You will have to be transparent to a degree. You may have to open up a bit and show them the past hurts. Share, teach, show, disciple, and share some more...Show them your scars from the big wheels of life. It may help them to avoid that gigantic tree up ahead.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The New Normal

I was in high school in the 80’s and I remember being in the 9th or 10th grade and wanting some orange converse high top all stars. I am not sure why. They weren’t quite my style. I was quite “preppyish” then. But they were unique, not many people had them. So, I worked for them, saved my money and bought them. (Please accept my belated apologies if you ever saw me in them). It was perfectly normal for me to wear them every chance I got. That along with members only jackets, a double belt, legwarmers, jelly shoes, a nanny goat fur coat were among other fashion dares of that time. If this were 1984, those items would still be normal. But now in 2008, my kids would nail the doors shut before allowing me to go out like that.

Why? Although I liked those things then, the season for them has passed. My "new normal" is suits, pantyhose and pumps for work, green sprite pop printed pajama pants at home (hey, my husband bought them and they are my absolute favorite). But to see me in those pajama pants at home or a suit at work would not shock anyone who knew me. They realize times change, fashions and designs improve and adjust depending on the season and creativity. In 2008 I wouldn’t get pulled over by the fashion police and asked “Where are your purple and gold leg warmers from 1982?” Seems silly, because what worked then doesn’t work now and no one will fault you for changing your “normal”.

That is unless you are talking about almost anything that is not material. If you change your mind about a thought process, a way of doing things, a method of approaching something or a decision, you are looked at as a “flip flop”or unstable. Ok well how about this…how about “I changed my mind”. That's it. Its’ just as plain and as simple as that. What worked for me then doesn’t work anymore. What I thought then was based on the information I had at the time. What I think now is based on what I know now. Some of us are afraid of change just out of fear of what people may think. I’ve had to change a lot in the past 5-6 years. There are those who may not like it…and I say…um yeah well-I don't know what ta tell ya…. Things that used to be important to me just aren’t anymore. Things that I use to HAVE to do or things I HAD to be involved in…Well, I just don’t have to do that anymore. Some call it the "40" flip (and I will lend some credence to that-after I turned 40 my focus did turn a tad to the left and it's great). Some call it maturing. For me, I suppose, I just did what I had to do. That's what a Superspouse/Superparent does. You adjust to the blend and deal with it. Having a quieter home is not the norm now, so? Having alot of space and time to myself is a distant thing of the past, so? My husband not having to share a closet or bathroom is so over (sorry dahlin', but scoot over). Making decisions independent of someone else isn't the way its done anymore, and? We just face it- Our normal is changing daily.

There were certain ways I did things in the past from as simple as paying the bills or banking to gardening and laundry that I don’t approach the same anymore. Or it could be more serious, such as how I handle offenses. Some believe that the opposite of change is consistency. I believe the opposite of change is closer to “stagnant”. As in, you are becoming inactive or dormant. As a stepfamily, what worked in your previous family 9.85 times out of 10 won’t work in totality in your new family. You have to be open to change to function effectively. If you don’t, you will be the equivalent of being in 2008 wearing Orange Converses with a Members Only jacket and purple and gold leg warmers. Not cute people. Not cute at all. Be open and flexible to change and get used to your new normal even if it includes wearing green sprite pajama pants .

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Optimus Prime Principle

On Sunday, Our Co-Pastor was speaking about “transformation” and encouraging those in worship to believe God for transformation in the area of their lives that needed changing. Moi, being the super spiritual power house that I am ( immediately began thinking about a movie. Yup, right in the middle of worship, I was thinking about a motion picture and I couldn’t shake it. It was relevant though, even though it seemed a tad inappropriate and intrusive at the time.

I thought about the Transformers…you know Optimus Prime, Bumblebee…decepticons, autobots..The Transformers! As soon as she said it, I saw Optimus Prime changing from an 18 wheeler to a robot in my mind over and over. I wasn’t too surprised as I know that God uses Movies and TV to teach me principles and spiritual things all the time for two good reasons; I am an extremely creative/visual type learner and the 2nd more obvious reason- I watched A LOT of TV in my day. So He's getting some use out of that seemingly senseless wealth of knowledge. Just wait to you see the pieces I am writing on Superman and Pinky & the Brain !! Anyway; immediately, I couldn’t say why that picture of Optimus transforming kept replaying in my head. What does this have to do with Parenting, Step-parenting? Or being married or being in a second marriage? Hmmmm, what can we glean from the “ Optimus Prime Principle” (lol)..?.

Everything they need to fight and function as a robot was in them as a vehicle. They didn’t need to pick up parts or add anything someone else had in order to operate as something else. They just heard the command “Autobots Transform” and then they switched. When they changed, everything adjusted to accommodate their new role. What were headlights is now armor for the chest. What was the engine, now serves as the brain for a functioning robot. Why? Because to prepare for battle you can’t remain the same way. There is a battle for your household and for your marriage. You can’t remain the same way, do the same thing and expect to be able to fight and win. You can’t see your child acting crazy and just “let them be”. You can’t notice the communication in your marriage getting touchy and just ignore it. You can’t continuously see your house falling apart and in disarray, kick the shoes and garbage to the side and keep going. You gotta use what you have, transform it and function differently in order to win.

What were executive administrative and office manager skills now serves at managing, organizing and maintaining a super-sized family. What was used in teaching in Sunday school and VBS, now is used for teaching children, god-daughters, nieces and nephews. The info gained from being the Secretary of the youth choir was used to take formal minutes years later in an executive auto meeting. Things my husband learned from his mother and sister (cooking cleaning, shopping and combing hair) prepared him for raising his kids alone when their mom died.

You have what is necessary to handle the roles you have been called upon to play out. Think, what can you already do well. What may seem insignificant, could be the transformable skill you need in a new area. Use the skills sets you already have and then adjust, refine, develop and transform. Transformers are really much “More than meets the eye”.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Paper Plate Tamborines.....

You can’t take it personal. You want to, but you can’t. Its feels personal, but it isn’t. Sometimes as a step parent you get the fall out from a child resenting the fact that you are there. Or the behaviors may just be residuals of the fact that they miss their parent or the way their life used to be. So sometimes you get the rolling of the eyes, the stomping off, the ignoring or disregard for what you have put in place. Some of this happens in regular nuclear families, but with the stress of the blended family already tense, this kind of issue gets amplified, sometimes unjustly, sometimes not. But you can’t take it personal. You want to, but you can’t.

We have learned to deal with this by keeping the main thing; the main thing. Personally, I just remember I do what I do because I love my husband; I made a covenant to him before God and witnesses to be his helpmeet. It has nothing to do with the kids, how they feel about me or how I feel about them. So no matter what it “feels” like, we are obligated to keep our word to God that we would help each other raise these children in the fear of God. Oh sure, there are days that the children think we’re great. There are times we may feel a love for them the same as we would our biological child. We know however that our job and responsibility to them, nor their respect and honor to us isn’t conditional on whether we “feeeeel” we do or not.

I’m reminded of story that made me reflect on a macaroni tambourine that my daughter made me out of paper plates, macaroni and crayons. She had streamers flowing from it and as a 2nd grader, she probably worked on it all day. I took it to work (I worked at a doctor’s office at the time) and had it displayed on my desk for years. When I got ready to switch jobs, a co-worker who was helping me pack was about to toss it out when I stopped her. She was like” It’s not like it’s a real tambourine, you can’t use it girl”. I told her I may not be able to do a thing with it, but I value my daughter and she made it for me, so it goes in the box.

When you look at how you treat people or things (children, siblings, spouses, co-workers, neighbors, the earth etc..) it can’t always be contingent on what your perceived value of the person or the relationship is. Sometimes the value isn’t just in them, “the creation”…its in the Creator. How you treat the creation can reflect how you really feel about the Creator. So, all of God’s little creations running around our home will be honored as His masterpieces. Thank God He used pencil so as He gives us wisdom we can adjust, erase and show up a little better every day.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bedtime at 9:00 !!!

My husband made a proclamation this morning after ignoring the alarms and dragging ourselves out of the bed. “One day this week, we are going to bed at 9:00 PM “..No movies, just music and sleep.”

Why, you ask? Because frankly my dear, this "life race", has us absolutely exhausted. We feel exactly like "Erik" looks in this picture. For example, On Saturday- My Husband’s schedule: Waking at the crack of dawn to go to training then back home to pick up children for drop off at a rehearsal then heading to the store to get items needed for band camp then back to pick up previously dropped off children.

For me, it was mopping the ½ bathroom, loading the dishwasher, dropping yet another child at a birthday party, shop for a dress and shoes. Then we both got dressed and went to a black tie event (thank God we could sit long enough to eat a great meal) only to head home at around 10 PM long enough to change clothes and for my husband to head back out to the store for more band camp items. For me, I started Sunday dinner in a crock pot, headed out to pick up one child from work, and another from a girlfriends’ house who did her hair for her. We met back at home around 11:30 PM watched a Star Trek movie and collapsed. But then Sunday, its back up and rolling…My husband is up at the crack of dawn to drop off a child at the meeting place for band camp then we headed out to morning services that didn’t get out until almost 2:30pm.

We finally make it home at around 3:15, sit for about 20 minutes while the girls clean their tornado affected bedroom, before we discovered that we don’t have the energy necessary to finish dinner. So we pack up the van, head to a restaurant around 4:30 pm, and muster up the strength to eat. We go back home, it’s around 7ish now and see that the computer is on the fritz. My husband works on that while I work on my weekend project which was to get my old jewelry boxes cleaned out and all my jewelry transferred to my new boxes (that I bought over the weekend) while watching the movie “Mars Attacks” with my daughter (I promised). We finally finish up our projects and its now 9:35PM. We leave the house to go to ColdStone Creamery (which we have been trying to do for months), we get an ice cream, sit on the bench for a minute and talk. We head back home, and the computer is still tripping, so my husband works on that while I get ready for bed. I put on the movie I was supposed to watch earlier while I wrap my hair, get clothes out for today and straighten my dresser. We finally both make it to the bed, and I fall asleep before "Kirk and Bones make it back to Vulcan to help Spock", geez I hope they made it :-). Which brings us to this morning…and my husband’s proclamation “One day this week, we are going to bed at 9:00 PM “..No movies, just music and sleep.”

Not sure what day its gonna be..but he’s right. We are a tad exhausted. Funny thing is, we were three to four kids short this weekend (three were over an aunts house and one was spending the night over another relatives house.) Every weekend is not like this, but most are. It comes with the territory of having a large family. We don’t have drivers, or nannies, or housekeepers, or babysitters or maids or butlers or administrative assistants ready to jump in and pick up the slack…we have well….US! Yet, we get it done through super endurance, super patience and super support for one another. Oh suuuuuuuurrrrre we could buy all the kids that can drive, "cars" ! We could get insurance, help with gas and send them on all these errands. However people, "here on earth" those things cost money-and with teenagers, lots of money. Actually, some are working toward taking care of these things themselves. THAT's what we'd rather see, them becoming responsible young adults and then we'll help. That means that as parents,we are not raising helpless whiny brats and punk lil' girly men who can't manage to work toward anything successfully or have the patience and endurance to work and wait. If it means we run around in the meantime, yeah well, our super cape will fly in the wind and we'll do what we have to do. (ok, sorry if that was harsh...i'm sleepy remember?-but its still the truth)
Sometimes we need to plan better, we’re learning and we’ll work on that. I need to exercise more for more energy-yeah right...hmmm ,where do fit THAT in? Sometimes we need to learn to say NO. There is some cutting away from activities and obligations that we will have to decide on for the good of the group, especially when school starts again. If you can believe this, there are some things we need to add, to make sure that the kids are taking advantage of prime opportunities. I am sure we will find the time to figure that out in between pick ups, drops offs and scheduling time to brush our teeth…But you know what? If sleep is our biggest issue with a family of 13, Praise God-we’ll take it GRATEFULLY and without complaint.