Just not enough.

Most days, in this adventure of blending two big families, we do pretty well. There is a definite upward trend in our identifying as a FAMILY, brothers and sisters seeing one another as siblings rather than competitors or intruders. We work together, we play together, we are silly together and sad together. Good things.

And then, there are THOSE days.

Those days when everyone is cranky. When one is irritated and the other is guilty by eye color. (All of my hero’s kids have brown eyes; all of mine have blue eyes.) When the still-fresh shock of our lives being turned upside down yet again gets on everybody’s nerves. It doesn’t matter that this time, the change is a blessed one and not a destructive one. It is a huge shift, and even though before we got married, their life with single parents was rough…it was familiar. The last time their lives were turned inside out, pain and devastation followed. Now, some days, I think they expect more of the same.

My job is to prove their fears groundless. My job is to love past the hurt. To extend grace and firm boundaries to the hurting child behind the angry hurtful words. To show them that this time, change heals.

Let me tell you, on THOSE days, I am painfully aware that I am just not big enough for this assignment. How do I extend grace to this young person who just basically called me an incompetent fool? Usually THOSE days happen when I am being bombarded on many fronts by criticism or difficulty. Thank You, God… yes, I know it makes me stronger. I had this funny idea that He had grown me so much through the abuse and divorce and single parenthood… that I was somehow entitled to some smooth sailing for a while. Ha. That’s what I get for thinking.

C.S. Lewis said, in his Chronicles of Narnia, that “Often the only reward for a job well done is to be set another and harder task.” Maybe the struggle on THOSE days is the applause of heaven… maybe it is simply the next level in my training as a disciple of Jesus. I do know that they require a depth of grace and strength and self control that I don’t have yet in myself. I have to lean SO HARD on Christ. The good news is that He is always there to help,  His Word my constant check and guide. No, I am not sufficient for this task. I fail regularly. But by His grace and through His strength, we are growing and uniting as a family, and it is good.
I may not be enough, but He is.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature… 2 Peter 1:3-4

This Too Shall Pass

Rough days happen. They just do. In the immortal words of Westley in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

Westley didn’t know something, though. I serve a God who makes promises and keeps them. And one of those promises is that “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

There are plenty of days, in this adventure of blending our family, that give Satan opportunities to sow seeds of doubt and defeat. But I have learned, after years of listening to his insidious whispers of worthlessness and fear; I have learned to recognize the oily stench of his putrid mind-darts. He says “You can’t.” But God, my God, the One Who Delivers, says… “WE CAN.”

He says “It’s too much-You aren’t big enough.”

But God, my God, the One Who Overcomes, says “I am greater than he that is in the world”.

He says “You’re too broken- you’re not worth respect.”

But my incredible God says “I am the One Who heals you. And you are Mine; my loved and precious one.”

How amazing is it, that we can serve the King of the known and unknown worlds- and that He loves us so deeply? We cannot allow ourselves to lose the wonder and the treasure of that thought. 

And so, on those days that dealing with the drama and mayhem becomes simply too much to handle, I have to remind myself: this too shall pass. Tomorrow is a new day. Jesus has carried me through every day up until now, and He won’t desert us. 

So here is my pep talk to the girl in the mirror: When you are tempted to throw in the towel, remember that success is determined not by talent, nor by intelligence, but most often, simply by not giving up. If God is on your side and you are doing what is right, then carry on! He won’t let you fail.

The Trenches

You have seen them. Maybe you are them. The perfect manicures, stylish haircuts, beautiful (new) cars, white capris, expensive shades. The moms that have it all together.

And then, there’s me.


The rumble of barely contained chaos follows me everywhere. There really must be a unit of measurement for the massive potential energy of young children. I could probably light up New York City if we could harness the humming, seething masses in my house. Watch out, world; domination is imminent. As soon as I can find my cup of coffee and convince my army that they need to finish their math so that we can conquer together. Oh wait… FRACTIONS. Never mind. World domination will have to happen tomorrow, we’ll be here a while. Teaching fractions with slices of cheese.

The trenches for a mom of young children are deep and filled with laundry and dishes. Some days you feel like you will never dig your way out. Some days I feel like I am on top of my game, kids have their chores done, school is humming along and I realize… It is 5:00. The day has vanished, and I need to start dinner. Some days the sibling bickering is so intense that if I hear “Moooom…” in that time honored, sing song, tattle tale voice One More Time, I swear- the example of the old lady who lived in the shoe comes to mind. Broth and bread and bed for everybody, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

And on the days that are the most ridiculously draining…the days when an isolated cabin in Alaska looks like paradise… It is on those days that I am so thankful for my friends who are also in the trenches. 

My friends who completely understand when I say “Hey, it is the end of the day, the house is mostly intact, and no one is permanently damaged. It was a good day.” The friends who, far from judging me, offer to show up with cold beer and pizza at the end of those long, long days. The friends who have seen my perfect children misbehaving in a shocking manner and still love us anyway… partly because I have seen their flawless offspring acting like the little sinners that they were born to be as well. 

Real, honest friends who don’t feel the need to pretend are oxygen to a drowning man. Where did we get the idea that we needed to act like everything is postcard perfect? I will just say it- Christians are the worst. Somehow the Redeemed got the idea that they weren’t supposed to have bad days. Jesus makes everything rainbows and roses. 

He doesn’t.

And He never promised that it would be. Quite the contrary, actually.  “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 

I have felt His hand so often- on the beautiful, blue skies and precious giggles days, as well as on the I Want To Crawl Under A Rock days. And very, very often, His hand is manifest in other people who are familiar with the gritty reality of parenting and just offer encouragement at the right time. Most often, it is my hero and partner- he makes it all ok when he gets home, whether it is fixing the broken chair, replacing the microwave when it goes out, or dealing with teenage attitudes that have me at my wits’ end. He helps me see the ridiculous, laugh at it, and maybe create some more. 

But often it is my friends who are there with me, my nonpretending, honest friends with imperfect lives and amazing testimonies of an incredible God. Their input and companionship on this crazy parenting journey is simply…priceless.

So to those friends who are beside me in the trenches- here’s to another day of keeping each other sane. We might not talk every day, but I know you’re good for a rescue mission if necessary, and perspective and a good laugh if it isn’t. You know who you are, and I am profoundly thankful for you.

Brokenness

To understand how amazing our journey has been, you have to know a little more of our story. Like the beautiful painting that you admire, until you find out that the artist painted it…with his mouth. Because he had no arms. Our story is lovely on the surface, until you look closer and see the absolutely shattered lives that God has not only salvaged, but made into something new and beautiful.

I grew up in a wonderful home, on a dairy goat farm in Texas. We were in church or Bible study regularly, we worked hard, lived wholesome honest lives. My mom homeschooled all of us kids, we played sports; it was an idyllic childhood. At a pro-life event, just as I turned 20, I met a man.

I didn’t date at all in high school. I had too many things going on, too much focus on what was important to me, and had watched too many friends go through the heartache of dating and then breaking up. I just wasn’t interested in playing that game. But here was this guy, and there was this energy. He spent a lot of time with my dad after that event. My dad gave him a summer job, hanging vinyl siding. I got to know him on the periphery, and my attraction to him grew. How easy it is to deceive the innocent.

I married him nine months after I met him. He was moving to California for grad school, so even though I didn’t know him well, I figured that a successful marriage is more about commitment than being in love. So on a whole host of prayers and boundless faith that everything would work out for the best, I stepped into my new life with enthusiasm and anticipation.

I never could have anticipated the years of pain that I was facing. If now, I could go back and talk with my younger self, what would I say? I would say “Hold on. Hold on to Jesus with everything that you have, because everything else will be taken from you.” I will gloss over the eleven years of nightmare, years that hammered me and molded me and broke me, years that are redeemed by my six beautiful, funny, creative children. They are proof that good things can come out of awful things. But after holding on as hard as I could, and fighting as long as I could for a marriage that wasn’t much of a marriage- more like legal slavery- it all crashed in on me inside of three days. My fragile strength was no longer enough to hold it, and my world exploded into a million pieces. 

But.

And with God, there is always a ‘but God’. 

But God had gone before me, and had already made a safe way out for myself and the children. A house, owned by my parents, on an acre of land and near my family. A job- cleaning houses and caregiving for elderly, flexible with my schedule as a suddenly, newly single mom. In a horrible school district, but since homeschooling was not foreign to me, I defaulted to what I knew. My pride and work ethic wouldn’t allow me to enlist in government aid unless I was simply incapacitated, so we economized, made do, were cared for by God’s people; we thrived on what most people would consider a completely insufficient income. We joined a homeschool co-op to broaden the children’s education and give them more social time. I taught a class and fell in love with all of “my” kids, but most particularly these little brown eyed pixies. One day my daughter was begging for her brown eyed pixie friend to come play at our house, so I had to speak with her father. 

I had studiously avoided men. I had severe trust issues, had no desire to date, and had plenty on my plate just being mom and breadwinner and teacher and chauffeur and church member…but I spoke with this man with eyes that literally, truly sparkle and a smile that could melt butter, and my determined shell of indifference slipped a little. He was a single dad with full custody of his kids, and that alone told me a long story without any words.

My hero had a similar story, in reverse. Maybe not as extreme,  but an unwanted divorce had rocked him to his core. He shared my struggles of trying to juggle the home, the kids, and work- but he worked more than full time, which made the juggling harder. We each understood the awful road the other had walked; the complicated emotions, the confusion, the agony of watching our children hurt and being unable to fix it. Our children’s friendship became our friendship as well, and when he asked me to take him on as a cleaning customer, I said yes. Our problem was that we couldn’t quit talking. My two or three hour cleaning job became six or seven hours, dinner, cross country rambles on his family’s land. We both knew there was more to this friendship than a Platonic companionship, but I fought it hard. My trust issues were a huge obstacle, until I realized that I didn’t just like him. I needed him.

My boys were growing, and they needed a father- A man to teach them how to be bold, exemplary men. My girls were growing, boys were noticing, and they needed a protector- A man to affirm their worth (and scare off icky boys until an appropriate time). And I needed a mate. I needed the missing part of the equation. I needed him on a level that I didn’t know existed- not merely practical or romantic, but the other half of myself that I didn’t know was lacking until now.

Somehow, simply by being himself, my hero quietly conquered my darkest fears and slipped past my defenses. The years of abuse did a beautiful thing for me; they gave me perspective. Ladies, I will warn you now- I have precious little patience for any complaining about husbands not picking up their clothes, or forgetting anniversaries, or any of the common gripes that women have about their men. My hero is not a perfect man. There are things that, had I not gained the perspective of those awful years, would drive me nuts. But he is a good man. He works so hard for us. He is faithful and kind and funny and he LOVES OUR KIDS. And we have both chosen every day to appreciate the good and forgive the failings of the other. The hellish pain of divorce is not something that we are willing to taste again. 

So when he took me on that moonlit walk those months ago, and we came back into a house full of giggly children who all lined up and yelled “Will you marry us?!?”… when they brought me the most perfect ring ever, and he whispered “Will you be the one who drives me crazy for the rest of my life?”… The answer was easy. 

Yes. Every day, yes. On the fun filled, happy days, yes. On the days we are both pulling our hair out, yes. Even the hard days are more bearable as a team. My heart has never been so full, or more at peace. 

My God is faithful. His hand has stayed on us through all the breaking and crumbling and rebuilding, and He guides our future. I know that whatever we face, His word is true: 

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten… you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.” Joel 2:26