Blended Family Blessings: Parenting Gracefully Through Shared Holidays
Happy to welcome this week's Guest Blogger Samara Ashley!
Sometimes, the simplest of holidays can cause unnecessary stress on the children in blended families.In my book, “Broken to Blended: Encouragement for Blended Families,” I have a chapter titled “The Not-So-Hallmark Holidays” which discusses the unwanted tension that comes along with holidays that should be more enjoyable. What most people experience as a fun day to spend with family is not always the case for blended families. Lack of communication and poor planning can be two of the stumbling blocks that can cause even more stress on these special days. I don’t want my kids growing up worrying about upsetting one parent or the other. I want them to be able to freely talk about and show love to each person that has a huge part in their lives. The older my children get, the more I realize how important it is for me to support their relationships with their other parents and grandparents. It wasn’t always easy. There were many times over the years where I let my selfishness get in the way and in return dampened the spirit of the occasion. I wish I could go back and have a do over and change my attitude, but since I can’t I try my best to make up for those times. I want my kids to know that it’s awesome when we show love to others. That’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do. After all, God is love and I want my children to see that Christ lives in me.
So, how do you make it work? First of all, I believe it’s important to encourage your child to celebrate their parent or step-parent. No matter your personal feelings or if there is drama in your family life, don’t let that carry over to your child. Take them to the store. Encourage them to make a card and most of all keep your conversation positive when talking to them about their family.
Last Mother’s Day, I went out of my own comfort zone and sent a personal message to my ex-husband’s wife. I felt the Lord leading me to do this, but it took some time for me to figure out what I wanted to say. After thinking about it for a bit, I got the words together and then something clicked. I live in the same shoes. I am a stepmom. I know how it feels when you put so much effort into parenting and sometimes feel like you go unnoticed or unappreciated. I felt as if I were writing exactly what I would want to hear from someone else. The words “I appreciate you” and “Thank you for all you do for the children.” Isn’t it funny how God reminds us that we are all human and in need of His love?
I wish I could say that I’m a master at this now, but I am human. I mess up daily and have to continually ask for the Lord’s strength, forgiveness, and help. Blended family life is hard, but with God all things are possible and I believe that He is working all things out for the good. My prayer today is that you will do the same. Put your personal feelings aside and for the sake of your children go out of your way to promote a healthier and happier holiday. Not only will this make your own life more enjoyable, but it will make your marriage stronger.
- Samara Ashley
To Every Thing There is a Season
My heart is so full of gratitude as I look back on the past seven days. No doubt they’ve been the most difficult seven days of my life. The first day I held my precious husband’s hand as our souls disconnected, and he walked into eternity. The days following are a blur, but on this breezy Sunday afternoon I have, in the depths of my being, the peace that surpasses all understanding. That doesn’t mean I don’t get hit by waves of grief that almost knock me off my feet. There is absolutely nothing as jarring to your spirit as looking at the person you love with all your heart lying in a coffin. How does one do that without searing pain? And then, how is it possible that I can have perfect peace in my heart today? Grief will still be, but In the overarching scheme of things, I’m experiencing a beautiful confidence that the Lord is holding me and that He is at the same time fellowshipping with my husband. It’s a wonderful feeling. I am thankful.
Life is both a mystery and a stark reality at the same time; a curious dichotomy. I have been present at births as well as at deaths. Both experiences open one’s eyes to the magnificence of our God. He breathes breath into a body and He stops the beating heart, snuffing out breath. It’s His sovereign decisions that cause us to celebrate one day and another day to mourn. …”all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16 The power is all His; the plan His as well.
At times my grief turns into a bit of envy. I realize that my husband is in the Presence of God; he’s enjoying laughter with family and friends he’s missed. He has no more pain, no more worries, stressors or sickness. I’m here missing him, wondering what comes next, dealing with unresolved bills, situations and responsibilities. My humanness bleeds over onto my joy that he is in heaven.
As I seek the Lord, laying all my concerns and questions at His feet, I sense that calming, peaceful Existence taking hold of my mind and body. I know without any doubt that He is with me, loving me, holding me and reassuring me that He will never leave me or forsake me. He knows what is facing me and He’s already there. Each day will find its own resolutions as He sorts things out. All I have to do is trust and obey. And to know Him. Knowing Him means knowing it’s all covered...perfectly.
The day will come when my breath will be snuffed out, my heartbeat stopped. I will have the joy of walking into the arms of Jesus, greeted by family and friends. What I endured on earth will not matter at all. All that will matter is being in the Presence of the One Who controls it all. And experiencing His love and grace. When grief tries to derail me, I am determined to take hold of His promises and hang on tight. The alternative would be pointless and pitiful. “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.” And I am eternally grateful for the strength and hope and courage He is pouring into me.
Thank you for your prayers and love during this season of my life.
A Little Rain Must Fall
In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Into every life, a little rain must fall. Sometimes it’s considerably more than a little. Sometimes it’s a flood. We can always quote happy scripture promises when things are going well, but when the deluge crashes in, it’s a bit harder to let those easy verses roll off our tongues.
This week I’ve had prayer requests from people I love that are seriously painful events:
One’s pastor fell and broke his leg in three places, requiring surgery. One’s husband’s memory problems got extremely worse and he had to be admitted to an Alzheimer’s facility. One’s son was killed in a tragic car crash. One’s daughter rebelled and ran off to marry against the family’s wishes. One who is ready to reconcile a troubled marriage doesn’t have the support of her family. One’s teenage niece is missing for a week now and no one has a trace of an idea where she might be. One suffers a debilitating disease that robs her of fulfilling her calling. I could probably list more, but my point is that many, many folks are struggling right now with issues that are far from easy.
I want to thank all of you who have loved us and prayed for my husband and me these past months. God does truly have a purpose in all things. Sometimes we can’t identify what that purpose is, but it doesn’t negate the fact that He is working behind the scenes. I already can see things in me that have surfaced that are not good. I’ve confessed and repented and realized places where my heart needs cleansing. He is teaching me many things about myself. He is also showing Himself to my husband in different ways.
When your storm is raging, find ways to remind yourself to stop, breathe, and step back. It’s necessary to not react, but to look up, call out to Jesus and let Him take over. I fully realize that several times when I over-reacted in distress, I totally flunked a test---and so yes, I got to take it over till I passed!! This process of refining is a good thing. It doesn’t always feel good, but no discipline ever does.
I talk a lot about resting in God. Resting in Him means you stand firm against panic attacks, despair or hopelessness. It means you trust God to the point that whatever the outcome, you can be at peace. It is possible. It might not be spontaneous, (and we wish it was), but if you allow Him into your situation, and you trust Him completely, you actually can rest and find peace in the midst of the storm. God is in control. We can become angry with Him for not answering our prayers the way we want, but if we truly believe He is sovereign and omniscient and omnipotent, how can we stay stressed?
I wish I could have miracles to pour out on your situation. I would gladly do it, and quickly. But more importantly, my prayer for you would be that you could trust God so fully that you sigh a deep cleansing sigh, look up and trust that He has it covered and He knows best.
That’s what I’m reminding myself each day. I still flunk some tests, but I’m doing better.
Jesus said He has overcome the world. That’s quite a statement. As for me, I want to be fully attached inside and out to the One Who has overcome the world! I pray that for you too.
Endurance? Here’s the real Enduro
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do
God's will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:36
Greetings from Caregiver Land,
I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been so sleep deprived there’s no telling what might come forth. Anybody out there relate? I really appreciate the emails and other messages I’ve received filling me with encouragement and support. And from those who are in the same boat---we need each other! I know people are praying for us, and for me specifically. At times I’m teetering on the brink of despair and suddenly I’m flooded with peace and calm. So….thank you folks, and thank you Lord!
When you’re slogging through the mire of grief and survival, you are tempted toward self-pity; just being honest here. I’ve asked God, “Why is it that you chose this path for my husband, and why did you feel it was a good path for me?” It’s so easy to say that we grow through our trials. It’s common to hear all the cliches about how we learn so much through suffering. And I agree. We do. But, at 3 a.m. when I’m jolted awake for the fourth time since I went to bed at 10, to find him on the floor once again, I frankly don’t care what I’m supposed to be learning. I just wish he could sleep all night occasionally, and oh, how I would love to do that too. I trudge downstairs, wake up my daughter, who comes without complaint, and together we heave him off the floor, clean him up, and eventually all of us get back to bed...at least for a couple of hours, till he wakes again.
Usually, the days I’m feeling sorry for myself, I open up facebook and see a handful (at least) of horrible stories of people who are going through so much worse than I. I repent, and realize I do have more compassion now for those folks than ever before. Don’t get me wrong. I think we (you who are walking through similar circumstances with me) are really normal and okay when we sometimes stop to vent or cry or whine. We are human. We just can’t plant the flag and live there. I know one thing from all this: I have a new and deeper appreciation for sleep and for “normal” daily life.
As we move through this journey, we are blessed to have hospice staff who offer support and insights toward the things to come. As Christians, we know that this world is not our home and the eternal home to come is going to be indescribable. I am excited that my husband soon gets to meet Jesus face to face, be reunited with his loved ones, and begin his eternal life of joy. I’m a bit envious, in fact. I know that my time will come eventually, but I want his crossing over to that other side to be pain-free, peaceful and all that God wants it to be. I don’t want to interfere with that by being selfish, complaining or without loving compassion. I don’t want to have regrets.
We really should celebrate any Christian’s homegoing with joy and excitement for what’s coming for them. We are allowed to grieve as we say our temporary goodbyes, but I’m praying that in the midst of my pain, I can truly rejoice for him. I’m not really all that strong. Most days I wonder how I will ever get through this, much less do it well. The answer is that I know my Lord will carry me, strengthen me and sustain me all the way through, just as He is doing now, day by day. I constantly recite Phil 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, Who gives me strength.” And I can! One day at a time. One hour at a time.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:36
When life doesn’t turn out the way you planned
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
I lie in bed at night, listening to the nocturnal sounds of my house, like the refrigerator humming, my husband’s bipap machine blowing air, and frequent thumps on the deck outside, that I know to be the arrival of our local raccoon family. The peacefulness that comes just prior to midnight is sometimes the only quiet time of my day. It’s a good time to talk to the Lord. It’s a good time to reflect upon the day’s activities, and to wonder what comes next. When I’m really exhausted, it’s good to soak up the peace. If I’m not careful though, it becomes a time to feed doubts and fears about what’s next.
Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way we planned it. I planned to continue in the career I loved, pastoral counseling, until I was too old or the Lord told me to quit. I had envisioned my husband and I travelling, serving in some community projects together, writing, and spending our retirement doing ministry and things we hadn’t had time for while working. Then cancer arrived at our door.
This isn’t about the cancer. It’s not about my disappointments. It’s a reminder to you that you might have all kinds of wonderful plans for your future --- and they just might get toppled into the waste basket in a day. How do we get past what ‘ought to be’ and really live in ‘what is’? I want you to consider this question, just in case you may need to know.
We can spend all our lives attending church, quoting scripture and being the nice Christian. The real test is when life turns upside down and nothing makes any sense. Nothing is as you had envisioned. Where do you go from there? It’s so easy to fling out scriptures to others who are facing tough challenges, but what happens when you are the one standing in those shoes?
The reality is that for those who don’t have a firm foundation in Christ, all those memorized verses will just fly right out the window. Despair hangs heavy overhead. You hit the bottom line really hard: you either trust God or you don’t. He understands our disappointments and all the emotions that accompany shattered dreams. He’ll comfort us and redirect our thoughts and plans, if we let Him. But to live in His perfect peace, you will not get there without knowing Him personally, believing His Word and testing Him out in it.
I am still a work in progress. I don’t pretend to have it all together--sometimes I cry and shout at God and say it’s not fair. But...when I’m lying there in the dark, soaking in the quiet of the night, I know that I know that I know, that He still has a purpose for my life. It’s not what I planned at all. It’s not fun, or pleasant, or enjoyable. I’m just being honest. But I understand how He molds us and refines us and then uses us, because, after all, it’s not about me. It’s about Him: Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, Yeshua, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Whatever He chooses to do with my life, it’s His to do. It’s mine to surrender to that and find peace and joy, knowing I’m bound for the Promised Land. This world is not my home. What I do and who I am while I’m here is only fruitful, is only valuable at any level, if I am rooted and grounded in Him. He is my salvation. Be sure you know that more than you know anything else. Know who you are...in Christ. Rock solid. Work on it now. You’ll never regret it.
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