Monday, December 29, 2008

Even the little things

God cares about the things that concern me. Noone can convince me otherwise. Even those things that probably wouldn't matter to anyone else...or noone else would deem important...He cares.
I went to an open house a few months back of a high end couture store at a local mall. My Junior League group had an event there. I remember looking at the clothes and almost choking at the prices for things that I liked. So, I quickly ran to the children's section and remember wishing I could afford some of those things for my daughter. The shirts and blouses were unlike anything I had seen. They were colorful but detailed and extremely well made. The fabrics were thick and rich and durable. The pants were slim cut just like her and some of the pockets had gemstones and embroidery. Just absolutely stunning. I just sorta went through the racks and smiled as I look at the 125.00 price tags and just envisioned her in some of those nicer things.

Fast forward to the shopping for Christmas.... I thought again how nice it would be to be able to buy her some nice clothes. She is getting older and although the discounters clothes are fine and would make due, I just had a desire to do more for her. Not that she would even care, or notice...she just likes "cute" stuff that noone else has on. Anyway, while shopping at a discount store I noticed another store in the strip that I hadn't been in for awhile. I stopped in there (its a thrift shop called "Grace" owned by a ministry/church) and "lo and behold" I found 3 pair of NEW (not used...tags still on) size 0 pants for my daughter at almost a tenth of their normal price. I bought some beige Lilly Pulitzer pants and two pair of dressy Laundry brand dress slacks. I took a picture of the prices. You can see the normal price (the crazy, over the top bottom nunber)..then you will see the Thrift store price and then everything in the store was 50% off their marked down price.

I thought I was going to cry. Not because I found such a supernatural bargain, but because I know God cared enough about the desires in my heart that noone knew about or cared about but He and I. He cared enough to allow me to do something I wanted to do for my baby. It was a little thing...but I thought that was pretty nice of Him. So God, I appreciate what you did for the kids would say "good lookin' out". Thank you for caring for my "little things'.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Superfamily Shuffle-Play the hand your dealt!

Well, tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The shuffle begins..The kids are home in the morning. John and I are off work and we have church in the evening. John is singing. The Jamersons are going to their grandmother's house. Then, on Christmas Day we will probably wake early ..... open gifts and then the Superfamily shuffle continues.......

John and the Jamersons (his children) will be going over his sister's house. As of this writing, it is not quite confirmed which drives me nuts since I am a planner...but they are used to I'll leave food, drink and plenty of toliet paper just in case...and Praise God...because..

Me and my crew are at my family's house for the Family Monopoly Game and Family Feud Tournament. We changed the theme a bit and made Christmas more family focused. We signed up Thanksgiving and pulled names (so gift exchanges will go pretty quick...more like here, here-thank Christmas-now GAME ON).

So, unfortunately John and I won't be together for Most of Christmas again but..guess what? I sleep with him every night! I see him every morning...and when the day is done he's coming home. So "other people's normal" no longer pressures me or gets me in a state of foolish expectation. Be where you wanna what you need to do..make the choices you need to running around all over the city trying to meet everyone's expectations....I'll see ya when I see ya. Sounds harsh...maybe..but you have to have thick skin and a steel protective coat to be a Superspouse and Superparent. You can't be overly sensitive or let small stuff get under your skin. That's why I am called to do it and many are not and could not. Its not the dream job from me.

Some of the kids were talking and one of them mentioned "that's why everyone should come over here". I gently reminded them that what makes you think that everyone wants to be at your house all the time? Secondly, that's selfish and self centered. Everyone in our families has in-laws and other family besides the nuclear family and they want time with them at their home as well. They can't and shouldn't have to adjust their lives just to accomodate our complexity. That's our problem...not theirs. Its our hand and we have to play the hand were dealt and everybody else can understand...or not doesn't really matter. We are the not the center of attention or the main attraction-Christ Is. As long as their is love and Christ is being glorified ..wherever you are in the right place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mini Praise Report

Oh I forgot...a very special young lady to us was looking for her first job. She was very adamant about working and helping pay for some of her high school expenses. Now mind you, she is a very blessed young lady in that her family situation is such that honestly she doesn't HAVE to work. She also makes excellent grades in school. She is very active in various groups and activities in school and in the community. She helps her mother out in ministry and in her business which is alot of manual work. She is juggling it all like a champ. I told her she is learning time management skills early and that lesson is invaluable and will help her the rest of her life.

She lost her dad a few years back and my constant prayer for her and her sister was that they grow up to be responsible, respectable, educated, God fearing, hard working young ladies that would make their daddy proud. I remember being with a group of people and we were praying against any spirit that would make them feel like victims or that would give them an "entitlement type" bitter spirit as if the world owed them something. Watching them over the years...well..its just been remarkable what God has done. They are abslutely incredible. I attribute alot of it to their mom but of course all praise goes to God!

Well, the oldest baby has landed and started her first job in the midst of an economy that NO ONE is getting hired anywhere and people are getting laid off daily. Her mom says its the F.O.G....and I agree (Favor of God).

So moms and dads hang in matter what your children have faced, I (and this young ladies mom) would tell you that God can do anything but fail. Provide jobs outta wee...God honors a diligent heart. Denounce laziness and excuses. Teach then to be diligent and responsible and they will knock the lid off of what God can do.

Put your mask on first!

On a recent flight , I was reminded of a most awesome analogy for managing a marriage and family...especially a complex family such as a blended one.

As you know, flight attendants always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting your children or other passengers. WHY? Because frankly you can't help anyone if you have passed out. It is less likely that a child will be able to help you if you have passed out because of helping them. Technically speaking at 35,000 feet you have about 9-15 seconds to get oxygen flowing to you as an adult before you pass out. If you have the mask on and then pass out, when you get to a lower altitude you will most likely regain consciousness and not have any harmful effects. So, if you put your mask on 1st and then assist your child or others...when things stabilize, all should be well. But if you help everyone else and end up unconscious without a mask, the chances of your survival are nil.

As a spouse and a parent...and a will wear yourself out trying to meet the ever increasing needs of everyone in the house and if you try to do that with grace and're really looking for a grueling on going experience. Before you know it (for women) you haven't been to the gym, the salon, the spa, or anything that just involves taking care of weeks...or months. For men, you can't be anywhere without getting 7 calls from work, church, wife or kids. An example for me, I have tried to map out specific days to go to the gym and by the time I get home, finish dinner, get homework rolling, get out clothes for tommorrow, straighten out the house, wrap lunches, talk to the kids and sit for a second its time to pick up kids from work and get to bed. And mind you I haven't even said "Hi" to my husband yet or checked on my parents, siblings or rehearsed for that skit I have to do this Sunday.

An example for my husband would be this past weekend we went to see the musical "Wicked" and we don't get very many nights out so I protect and treasure any time alone we get to detach from our every day lives and just give our minds a break. He was really enjoying himself and I thought I had his undivided attention for just a moment. However, I go to the bathroom for 15 minutes and come back to find him on the phone with one of his children. I was so disappointed that he didn't feel comfortable enough to be able to first of all- turn the phone off-not vibrate, but "OFF" and secondly that he couldn't rest for 2 hours without having to get totally out of the moment to focus on someone else besides himself.
It's not the child's fault. They are only doing what they have been allowed to do. It's not your churches ALWAYS...say yes....It's not your job's LOVE overtime...It's not your spouse's fault you always meet their needs first in spite of your own.

Are we NUTS ?? Moments like that will kill you as a spouse, co-worker or a parent. You have to retrain people to know and respect your value. You have to take care of yourself and your marriage. You have to know when to say....when. You have to say NO. No to your kids, no to your job, your church, your family, your spouse. Phone off -unavailable for awhile, just wing it and I will get back to you later. Trust me, the world will go on without you. You will be able to rest, think clearly and will be a better wife, husband, mom, dad, steparent because of it. Put your mask on first and then you will see how much better you'll be able to help those around you.

On that note, I am going to eat a healthy lunch and go for a power walk with my co-workers! Its better than nothing :-).

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Charlie Brown Christmas

I'm not a Christmas kinda person...I mean what Christmas has become I should say. People, even with good intentions have tried to make it WAY more complex than what it is. By attaching all of their monikers, slogans, ideas and method on how to celebrate Christmas, it becomes way more complicated than it was initially intended.

October 19th is one of my brothers' birthday. Never has that date rolled around that I don't call him, see him or maybe have a piece of cake with him to celebrate his life....and that's it. I don't decorate the house, put up lights, give my sister, nieces, nephews and parents a gift, cook for 40 people, take time off work and act "nicer" to people everytime his birthday rolls around.

Christmas is Christ's birthday and never has that day rolled around (that I can remember) that I don't say happy birthday to him and thank him for coming to earth. Everything else is well...EXTRA. Yup,, family, decor, vacation, plays and TV specials are all just extra. They are not what Christmas is about. Sure you can use that time to see and visit with family, but nothing is wrong with also doing that on March the 3rd, September 8th, July 26th etc. You can spend the holiday making your house look extra special and put up a tree, buy gifts for everyone, give a special offering and take time off work but you'll still miss it, if you are not careful. Snow is pretty, parades are fun, sales are incredible, and time off is great, but none of those encompass the true meaning of Christmas.

That's why I adore "A Charlie Brown Christmas". There are many stories and shows that emphasize the "Spirit of Christmas" Such as "giving"...(and usually its to someone in dire need), "Family" (seeing family members that you don't want to deal with or that you didn't know existed) or "Worldly"(the Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty) stories. But none quite tackle the one true meaning of Christmas outside of an actual Nativity better than this show. Its simplictic answer to Charlie Brown's question "Is there anybody here that knows what Christmas is all about?" puts Christmas in its proper place. Linus answers him simply by telling him " I do, Charlie Brown.... and begins to say simply from the Word of God....

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
and that's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown...and to all of you. Keep it simple. Tell Christ Happy Birthday, have a piece of cake..and enjoy. Our slogan for this Christmas was taken from our Bishop's last sermon (and we'll loan it to you if you'd like)..."Its' all about Him".

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Wicked Witch of the West

My Husband and I are going to see the musical "Wicked" . First of all, I LOVE musicals and I always like to know the story before the performance so I can follow along better. I do the same with ballets and operas. Besides its involvement of witchcraft, The Wizard of OZ is one of the most profound fairytales of all times. The lessons learned in each layer of the storyline is enough to digest for years. Everytime I watch it, there is a new lesson to be learned. No man could have planned that. Kingdom messages can be learned almost ANYWHERE. So, anyway in my research of the story "Wicked" which is a "prequel" to the Frank Baum story, I was astonished to note the change in my deameanor toward the original characters once I understood their motives. (There is a point to this just bear with me)...

For example; The infamous "ruby red slippers" were given to Dorothy by Glinda in the Wizard of Oz..but what you find in the "pre" story is that they weren't even hers to give. They belonged to Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west). She created those slippers for her wheelchair bound, paralyzed sister, Nessa (the one who ended up dead-under the house), so she could walk. Glinda was sorta behind the cyclone and giving them to Dorothy was really just to keep Elphaba distracted and chasing after Dorothy for the shoes (the last memento of her sister), when it was really Glinda that was responsible for her sister's death. after figuring that out and reading a ton of other find that those people perceived to be mean weren't really..they were responding out of hurt to a misjustice and were actually "right' and those who appear to be just or 'right" may not have necessarily been.

So lesson learned: Don't judge based on what you see on the surface. Someone may appear to have it all together. They may seem as if all their ducks are in a row and everything that comes out of their mouth is truth. Ummmmm not necessarily so...the ruby slippers they are trying to pawn off on you may not even be theirs to give. The reverse is also true. Just because someone comes off as mean, defensive or arbitrary does not mean that they are hopelessly bitter. If you dig deeper into their story you will find that they got dealt a bad hand and may not know how to overcome it.

Sidebar: I know if I was stuck with green skin and somebody stole my man and my sister's million dollar ruby encrusted shoes it would be on and poppin'!! Earrings off and vaseline out...and you would too...admit it.

You will handle people differently, if you care enough to dig a little deeper. You may also find that people you may have looked up to have some severe issues too and could have left a long line of hurt people behind them. Every "Glinda" with a white dress, a smile and a seemingly magic wand to make all your dreams come true is not necessarily good. And every green witch on a broom ain't all bad...give her back her shoes (or whatever is missing in their life, usually its Jesus in some form) and you may find yourself a new friend with wayyyyyyyyyyy more power, confidence and character than the undercover fake good person could have ever conjured up.
How does this apply to stepfamilies?? I'm glad you asked. There is this terrible stereotype for stepmoms known as the "evil stepmother".... Stepdads also have a simular "mean" assumption made about them. Stepchildren are often viewed as spoiled, rude, mean, inconsiderate and selfish. But the same thing applies to them...all of them...moms, dads, step moms, step dads, the step kids, the non custodial parents...everybody...the acting out- is out of loss. Loss of a dream marriage, loss of a spouse, loss of a parent, loss of a family, loss of a stable environment, loss of security...just plain ole' loss. Don't forget that big wild cyclone that happened, happened in all of your lives in some way. That storm took out and destroyed something or someone you loved and cared about. Be patient, pray and dig deeper. You may eventually find real love behind all that "green".

Monday, December 1, 2008

Four Christmases

There is a movie out now called "Four Christmases". The premise of the movie is that there is a couple that has parents that are divorced and they collectively are a part of four "step" families. The goal was to always be "busy" during the holidays so they wouldn't have to wade through trying to see everyone, every holiday. This year, the vacation getaway plans get canceled and they have to make an effort to be everything to everybody that's important to them. I haven't seen the movie but we can relate. Being in a Superfamily, we actively deal with at least 3-4 families every holiday not including our own household. First of all, there is my family. That includes mama and em', daddy, my sisters, brothers, in laws, nieces and nephews. Then there is John's family, he has a brother, two sisters, nieces, nephews and in laws. Then there is John's kids family (his former wife's relatives) which include their grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. Then John's oldest son has his own family which includes his children and wife.

So you figure it out...who do you go see first? Who do you say no too? What happens when it is your turn to host on "your side" of the family but your spouse's sister turn on the other side. Or a scenario could be-your kids are pulling you to see their mother's family which of course cannot include your current spouse and her side of the family. So, to take them means leaving them and their children behind and spending time with your former family, when you really have a new set of in-laws that you need to get to know. UGH, all you really want is to get back into bed with your husband or wife, eat a TV dinner and some popcorn and forget everyone else. Its enough to bring you to heap of frustrated tears, if you allow it. You stretch yourself so thin and in the end without fail someone is left disappointed-usually you. Trust us, real "stepfamily" life is a far cry from the what was displayed on the Brady Bunch. There is no Alice to help clean up messes and NOTHING gets solved in 22 minutes plus commercials.

For example, Thanksgiving this year was over my brother's house (on my side of the family). John's side did not have any concrete plans. He decided to go to his son's house to take his children to visit and visit with my family later. To which I said NO. Really, I did. I said that because I don't want him running all over the place trying to make everyone happy. I said if you are going to be with your son, just be there and I will see you later. Me and my kids would be fine, we would miss the other side of the Superfamily but we would still have a great time with mama and em' and catch them back at the house. Unfortunately for John, his plans did not go as orchestrated and he ended up over his son's house for the entire holiday. He felt bad about not being with me (as well he should have, because I am the bomb:-). But I was fine, I missed sharing a new memory with him, but we had an absolute blast, much too much food and hated to leave. My family was already are talking about the next time we will all get together. Everyone that was suppose to be there was there. That's how God does things.

But if it were in the reverse, Honestly, I would probably have felt just like John. Feeling.... just like my super cape had a hole in it and I fell instead of "flew". He and I worked through what he was feeling and I reiterated why I did all I could to relieve any expectations or pressures in that area. I never want him to feel like that again. However, we are complex and everyday we face new awkward complexities. Sacrifice and disappointment are inevitable, but how you deal with it can make the difference. We're learning.........

Our holiday advice for stepfamilies:

  1. PLAN ahead. Do not wait until the week of, or day of and think that you can manage a complex family situation-it won't work. Communicate your plan ahead of time and listen to (and consider) your spouse's suggestion about your plans.

  2. Learn to say NO. Sometimes to your kids, sometimes to your family, sometimes to your job, church, neighborhood or club. You cannot do everything, get over it and let other people know they need to get over it too.

  3. Understand and accept that this is your life now. It will only get more complex from here. Wait until our children begin to marry and have children of their own. They will have to visit other family members as well as us, mama and em' etc.. Accept where you are so you can plan effectively for where you are headed.

  4. Enjoy where you are, wherever you are. I would have possibly ruined Thanksgiving for me, my family and my kids if all I did was worry about if John was coming or if I constantly called him, bugged him, wondering where he was or if they were going to make it. Instead, I put my phone in my purse, ate two plates, made punch, ate dessert with my nephew, played a hilarious charade game with the whole family and let the chips fall where they may. I assume that John and his family had a good time together as well.

  5. Protect yourself. If one and/or both of you has crazy or insensitive family members that you don't want to be around (and everybody has them :-), set up a signal or a time limit ahead of time as to how long they can stay or how long you will be there. Also, never ruin or sacrifice your holiday by being someplace more than 30 minutes where you are likely to be dishonored, ignored or inundated with an abundance of memories, paraphenalia or consistant reminders of your spouse's former married life. Unless you have the tenacity of a bull and you know your spouse will protect your heart from people who don't understand or don't know any better, its a set up for heartbreak. Don't do it. Stop by if you must, keep the car running, be polite, wave from the door, send a pie, but don't subject yourself to any foolishness both of you and your family deserve better.

  6. Don't give ultimatums. Why not? Because its stupid, as ultimatums usually are. I tried a psuedo ultimatum with John unwittingly once and I lost. I will never, ever do that again. Don't try and force someone else to make a decision. You present the issue and share with them the decision that you have to make that's best for you and drop it. In this case-no demands, you are going to have to spread the love around and share her/him, so suck it up. They had family when you met them and they will have family when you leave. So, instead of being jealous, mean , standoffish or possessive, be grateful that they have family that love them and that they have the heart capacity to love others and still have a special love for you and your kids. Send them on their way and have a great time yourself.

  7. Carve out time with just the two of you during the season to reflect on the year and dream for next year. Last year John and I did a breakfast on Christmas Eve at a restuarant and it was great to slow down from the hustle and bustle and enjoy him. Try it...