Identity

Over the last year, I have found myself feeling like I really know who I am. And also whose I am. It is humbling and empowering to know the God of our universe had me in mind, created me on purpose, and has a plan for me.

I have come to a point where I am comfortable and able to kindly say I like this, I don’t like that, I want this, I need this. Instead of reflecting on time spent with friends feeling like I mirrored their sentiments, I am true to my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings.1561896982909_verse_image.jpg

Last October one of my sons tried to take his own life. While my heart broke and the pain I feel over all of it is deep, I have reflected often on the fact that I didn’t feel overwhelmingly distraught or desolate in the scariest moments of the ordeal, or the days that followed.

I did not feel as desperate as I thought I should. I found myself thinking a few times that I should be more distraught, more something. At one point I remember thinking, I should feel like the walls are crashing in on me right now. And then I wondered exactly who says I should feel that way and what good it would do? And then the clear picture of Jesus beside me, surrounding my son, and I was able to be thankful for so many hard things in my life that taught me that Jesus is the rock on which to build my life. Guilt likes to wiggle in and tell me I’m messing up or missing something by not being properly devastated. But the Word tells us that God will give us peace that surpasses understanding. I have dwelt in that peace more in the last 8 months than ever before in my life.

This peace comes as an answer to prayer – but not always my own prayer. Sometimes I don’t have the words to speak. But I have people standing boldly in the gap, praying for my son and for our family. We talk about community in church a lot, and it’s said that life is better together. Those first days, and the following weeks, really showed me how necessary it is to have people who love Jesus loving on our family in hard times.

I also realized that while I believe we were created for community and God didn’t intend for us to do life alone, He also didn’t intend for us to find our identity anywhere other than through Him. I think oftentimes we get the “we should feel/think/say/do” thoughts from finding our identity in our friend group, social media, parents, spouses, kids, work, you name it. Something other than identity in Jesus will leave our footing on shifting sand, “they said I should”, and being blown about with every shift in the wind.

Now for the hardest line to admit aloud – and I think this is hard to admit aloud because I don’t want it to be taken wrong. I don’t want to be judged. Here it goes…

1561897199618_verse_image.jpgWhile my son is absolutely important to me and I know he is a blessing from God Himself, my children don’t define who I am. Jesus does. My son’s choices are his own. I hurt when he hurts, from a place of empathy. I want his anguish to be relieved and I will do absolutely everything in my power to be sure he is getting the help he needs and that we as a family are also getting the help we need.

This isn’t about abandoning someone I love in the midst of their pain, or even boundaries, or rising above energy that doesn’t serve me. This is about wrapping my arms around him, praying for him, seeking the necessary therapy, and resting in the love and peace of Jesus as I do what is wise and necessary for my boy.

I’m doing my part. Not perfectly. Not without a learning curve and mistakes. I’ve had to ask for forgiveness. I’ve had to give forgiveness. And I’ll have to keep learning, every single moment of every day. And I’m going to keep resting in Jesus. It’s not that I’m confident about what the future holds on earth, but I have hope because of Christ, and for that, I am humbled and deeply grateful.

Until next time,

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If you or a loved one are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts and need help, please reach out the the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 – they are available 24/7 to help you and have been a help to our family several times.

Insecurity and Identity

We are a blended family and I grew up in a blended family. While I grew up with my natural mom and dad, my dad had been previously married and had 2 sons with his first wife.

I remember trying to figure out who my brothers’ mom was to me – another mom? An aunt? Friend? I remember a time when I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I remember my mom kind of flatly saying, “She’s just your brothers mom.”

That didn’t settle in my young heart well. This other woman was deeply important to my brother and for a while, I felt almost deprived because she wasn’t supposed to be important to me too.

I remember receiving gifts at Christmas from her. When she sent my brothers’ gifts, she sent my sister and I something too. I wanted to know who she was.

As I got older, I learned that divorce strains relationships and that things weren’t always pleasant between my parents and my brothers’ mom. I learned there was ugliness there, even. Some of the ugliness affected the relationship between my brother and my mom. (I have two older brothers but really only grew up with one.)

Now, as a mom and a stepmom, and with my boys having a stepmom, I have a new perspective of blended family life. For years I’ve been a mom and a stepmom, but until recently, I wasn’t a mom learning to communicate with a stepmom.

I am married and have 3 kids with my husband. Our oldest daughter (6 years old these days!) runs to greet her oldest brother’s mom and step dad when they bring him by. It always means the world to her when they say hi to her. They’ve always been kind to her.

My two boys’ Dad and stepmom have fairly recently re-entered the scene, and I see my daughter grappling – but who are they to me? Who are they to me? They are important to my brothers! They need to be important to me, we are family. I remember being exactly where she is at.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to you that I felt guarded and unsure how to help her navigate at first. But isn’t that one of the glorious things about parenting? Finding those icky spots that hang us up, and really flushing them out, really dealing with them, so they don’t have a choke-hold on the next generation?

After a lovely and lengthy conversation with my boys’ stepmom, I got on a video call with one of the boys. She was in the background and we were all interacting and it felt natural, normal even. Then my littles crowded in and got to say hello and see her face. The excitement was tangible, they were being included and it was good. Then, my sweet 4-year-old boy said, “I love you.”

And without even skipping a beat, she said, “I love you, too!”

He just beamed and then we all carried on. Honestly, the next moments were a blur because I soaked in the reality of how blessed I am. Family comes in so many forms. Some years ago, I went to a conference for blended families and it talked about how we not only got a spouse but an ex-wife-in-law or ex-husband-in-law to learn to do life with. At the time, I was only taking in the information as a stepmom and bio-mom, without the boys also having a stepmom.

It’s true though. If they are part of the boys’ life, they are part of mine. And I’m part of theirs. Blended family life is as good or bad as we choose to make it.

I think, too often, blended families have strained relationships with the other home because of insecurity. We aren’t sure of ourselves, of our influence, of our relationship with the kids. Bob Goff (author of Love Does and Everybody Always) talks a lot about insecurity and how we are all insecure and we meet people who need our help dealing with insecurity we’ve already conquered, and we meet people who have conquered insecurity we need help with.

It’s so true. We are so insecure. And that insecurity, if we aren’t aware of it and don’t handle it with care, gives rise to ugliness and defensiveness. My guarded responses to my daughter weren’t because I thought she was in danger – I thought I was. She has ONE mom. I don’t have to navigate multi-mom-dom with her.

Some of the insecurity comes from the broken marriages, which come with a multitude of hurts. And we’ve lost our place as husband/wife to someone – whether it was for the best or not – I think most people grapple with insecurity after divorce. It has such a rippling effect through our lives, our kids, our futures, our communities.

When we know whose we are, and who we are, we are free to connect and love and forgive and navigate hard stuff with grace. It doesn’t come perfectly but it is beautiful.

When I was praying for my boys to have a healing relationship with their dad, I didn’t see a way. But God said it was coming. And when I came before Him with walls up, He tipped my chin heavenward and asked, “Daughter, don’t you know you are mine?” And when I came to Him wanting to know how to be a mom dealing with a stepmom, since I’d only ever known the being a stepmom part, He said, “Don’t you think they know who their mom is? Do you not realize how tightly knit each person is to their mom, good or bad? Know who you are, that’s what matters.”

My Daddy is wise, friends. So, so wise.

It made all the other stuff make sense, fall into place. It made acceptance easier. It brought down walls. And He was right, a way was coming.

So I put aside my insecurity. I give it up.

My littles adore their brothers, all of them. And as an extension of that adoration and love, they love the people who are important to their brothers. I won’t flinch or shy away from that.

My boys have 2 moms and 2 dads. Raising kids is hard, the more of us that are pulling for them and praying for them and modeling for them, the better.

I realize now that insecurity drove the ugliness directed at my mom by my brother’s mom. She had lost her place as wife to my dad – and no matter how that comes about, it is a sucker punch that steals the wind beneath your sails. She didn’t want to lose her place as mom. She didn’t want to be left in the dust as a new family formed. She wanted to be important, too.

Insecurity drove the flat response from my mom – she was my mom, and while she was my brothers’ step mom (back in a time when positive resources for step moms wasn’t a thing), she didn’t have to share me. She didn’t have to navigate the hurdles and tear down the walls and push for a healthy, working relationship with the influence of another woman in my life.

If you find yourself navigating blended family life – however you’ve been brought together, know first whose you are and also who you are. Our good God is faithful and He will supply you with wisdom and peace to navigate the messiest parts of life.

Until next time,
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