Mom Nearly Escapes Human Traffickers? More Like Fear-Mongering!

I, like any parent try to be aware of dangers to my family. It is important to do our due diligence to protect and shelter our families from harm.  This desire is taking a very dangerous turn in leaps and bounds all because of social media. What is going on in our culture that so many viral articles are leaving us paralyzed as parents to the potential dangers in society? Articles that have no substantial evidence but are based purely on speculation and feeling are being shared in droves.  It is no longer validated information, but outright fear-mongering that is happening on social media! Just because you can have a voice on social media doesn't always mean that you should.

Fear-mongering
or scare-mongering is the spreading of frightening and exaggerated rumors of an impending danger or the habit or tactic of purposely and needlessly arousing public fear about an issue.

Wake up parents! Read between the lines and use your heads. The stories I read are remarkably emotional and have no substance other than someone "thinks" that something could have happened. You will become consumed with these warnings and will fail to enjoy life if you are always looking for the bad guy. The "boogie man" if you will.  What are we teaching our children when we give in to such fears and irrationality?

I know that evil is in the world and that bad things do happen all the time. We absolutely need to be aware of real threats, but parent with smarts and instinct, not fear.

Below, is an article that has been floating around social media. This is a perfect example of a viral fear without relevance or evidence. Dramatics at it's finest. I'll leave the article found on SNOPES.com below for you to read but my point is this: Don't believe everything you read online. Spoiler alert: It may not all be true.

People chuckle when that statement is made but look how quick people were to forward this article and "freak out" that their children are at risk! Now, I'm not saying that there isn't reason to be on guard because human trafficking is very real.  What I am saying is that our culture is going to become quite cold if we continue to parent in fear.  If we look at the person who compliments our children as someone who wants to harm them or over analyze someone's motives to create the story fear has placed in our head, we are going to be consumed in a very bad thing.

Be your own person. Investigate before you spread a rumor or story. You never know what chaos you are spreading or eliminating by using your own wisdom before you give into fear.

The fear outlined in this article, my friends, does not come from the Lord.  Wisdom however, does.

 ______________________________________________________

CLAIM

A Southern California mom experienced a near-miss abduction of her daughter by human traffickers at a local IKEA store.

RATING

UNPROVEN

ORIGIN

On 23 March 2017, Facebook user Diandra Toyos shared a photograph said to have been taken inside an IKEA furniture store somewhere in Southern California, along with a common claim: that she and her family had narrowly avoided abduction by human traffickers while shopping there.
Toyos’ report was widely disseminated via social media and was also aggregated by a share-focused site called inspireMORE. Like many other accounts of its kind, it began with Toyos’ saying she had read similar stories on Facebook (i.e., that human traffickers commonly ply their trade within chain stores) and went on to explain that fellow shoppers inside the IKEA behaved in a vague manner which convinced her she and her children were potential targets of a crime:
I recently read a post written by a mother I didn’t know, that went viral. She described an event that happened to her while she was at target. She and her children were targeted by human traffickers. She talked about how when she reported the incident after the fact, she was told that this was a very common way they worked.
I read things like that, and I always think “wow, that’s so scary… I need to be careful”. But I also always think “that could never happen to me.”

But you guys, it did.

A few days ago, my mom and I took the kids (I have 3 kids. A daughter who is 4, and two sons, 1.5 years and 7 weeks) to IKEA … We were in the couch section and the kids were enjoying climbing on each couch and trying them out … I noticed a well dressed, middle aged man circling the area, getting closer to me and the kids. At one point he came right up to me and the boys, and instinctively I put myself between he and my mobile son. I had a bad feeling. He continued to circle the area, staring at the kids. He occasionally picked something up, pretending to look at it but looking right over at us instead. My mom noticed as well and mentioned that we needed to keep an eye on him. We moved on… and so did he. Closely. My son wandered into one of the little display rooms across from the couches and I followed him closely with my baby strapped to me. My mom said she watched as the older man dropped what he was doing and quickly and closely followed us into the area. At the same time, she noticed another man dressed more casually and in his 20s. He wasn’t looking at us, but was walking the same circling pattern around us as the first man. My mom and I decided to sit down and wait for them to move on. We had a gut feeling something was going on, but we hoped we were wrong and they would move on. So we sat in one of the little display rooms. For close to 30 minutes. And they sat too. They sat down on one of the couches on the display floor that faced us. That was when we knew our gut feeling was right and something was off. They sat the whole time we sat, and stood up right as we got up. We continued on and my mom turned around and realized the two men had moved and were sitting only one couch away from each other, still facing our direction. The older man was still watching us. She made eye contact… very clearly letting them know that we saw them. And we moved on. We managed to lose them at that point. (We talked with an employee, circled back and used the bathroom and went out into a different section). But still kept the kids right with us the whole time. I kept the baby in the sling which kept my hands free and my eyes too. I didn’t have to keep an eye on the stroller AND two kids… I just had to watch my older ones. When we got through the maze of IKEA, we reported what happened to security.
At this point, we note that IKEA is well known for its unique (and occasionally frustrating) store layout that essentially directs customers to follow one another on the same path throughout a store — a subject addressed by Professor of Architecture Alan Penn in a 2011 talk about related planning structures:
[A student] followed people around the store — and guess what [customers] do — they walk around like this. You can see the sort of lines of people. In fact, if you shop in Ikea, all you do is follow people around the store. You very seldom find people going the other direction. You do occasionally but they are always looking very harassed … You can only give in and follow the route that they set out for you, because to do anything else is really difficult.
In her lengthy post, Toyos listed inferences based on her observations of the men in IKEA, among them that they were unaccompanied by wives, were not talkative, were not dressed in a fashion similar to one another, didn’t smile at people, and were at one point adjacent to one of the store’s exits. And she asserted that human trafficking and the abduction of children from chain stores such as IKEA and Target is “happening all over [the place]”:
These men weren’t shopping. While they walked around the store, they weren’t looking at things… not really. The older man would occasionally pick something up and act like he was looking at it, but he’d look right over the top of it at my kids. Then he’d drop it and move on as soon as we did.
They weren’t waiting for anyone. Often you see men in a place like IKEA waiting for their wives, but these guys appeared to be alone. They didn’t even talk to each other. They didn’t talk to anyone. They didn’t smile casually at people (in fact, early on, I looked at the older guy when he got close to us and smiled… which is something I do regularly when I’m out.. I’m always making eye contact with people. He instantly looked away. That was odd to me).
They were dressed nicely but very differently. I would never have put these two together. And they didn’t appear to be together.
The area they were hanging around had an exit right by it. IKEA is a massive confusing maze of a store. But they could have run out that exit with my child and handed them off to someone waiting outside and been gone before I could find them.
Something was off. We knew it in our gut. I am almost sure that we were the targets of human trafficking. This is happening all over. Including the United States. It’s in our backyards. I’m reading more and more about these experiences and it’s terrifying. If not that, something else shady was obviously going on. Either way, as parents, we NEED to be aware.
Please PLEASE be aware when you’re out with your children. It’s not the time to be texting or facebooking or chatting on the phone. When you’re in a public place with your kids, please be aware and present so that you don’t become a victim. Had I not been paying attention that day… or had I let my kids roam and play while I checked my phone… I may have lost one. The thought just makes me completely ill. (Especially because I’ve been guilty of this!)
Also, in hindsight, I would have taken a picture of the guys. Probably right in their faces so they saw me do it.
Trust your gut. It’s there for a reason.
Toyos replied to commenters by denying that the men could have been loss prevention officers and reiterating that parents ought to watch their children in public, asserting that her belief was based on “what [she knew],” that the men “were up to something,” and that such occurrences were happening regularly across the United States:
Something was not okay here. This was not a situation that I misunderstood. Do I know 100% what harm these men intended? No. I’m taking an educated guess based on how things played out and what I know. But even if I am wrong about their specific intentions… I KNOW they were up to something and focused on me and my children.
Presumably, Toyos was referencing the barrage of near-identical Facebook posts in which women have reporteclaim they had close brushes with human trafficking rings in Target, Walmart, mall parking lots, or craft stores. Rumors fitting that template began appearing in force on social media in May 2015, when a woman shared a later-debunked tale about an Oklahoma Hobby Lobby store.
In June 2015, Twitter was awash in fears of a sex slavery ring targeting college kids at summer job interviews; and later that same month a long-circulating theme park abduction urban legend popped up again. Variations on that theme included a harrowing (yet false) story involving purported teenaged abductors (armed with heroin-filled syringes to drug victims) at a Denton, Texas, Dillards, a claim from a woman swearing she was a near-victim of human traffickers with gift bags in the parking lot of a Hickory, North Carolina, Walmart store, and a spate of rumors claiming Target stores in Tampa, Longview (Texas), and Houston were hotbeds of sex trafficking scouts.
Almost universally, such reports were found to be based on misunderstandings, overstatements, embellishments, and not infrequently outright fabrications (including a woman’s claim about an unsettling encounter at a Michigan Kroger store and a convoluted scheme involving free rings from Kay Jewelers). Similarly, nearly all such reports were appended with lengthy commentary about how the purported near misses were in fact exceedingly common and could happen to anyone.
Missing from the constellation of these hair-raising tales was documentation that abductions are commonly (or even rarely) being carried out in the described manner, as crime statistics don’t seem to back up claims that such a ruse is truly happening “all over.” Free Range Kids author (and advocate for reason-driven parenting) Lenore Skenazy addressed the uptick in such reports on social media, pointing out their illogic and pleading for a realistic approach to the growing number of social media abduction horror stories:
What the heck is going on, America? This “My kids were about to be trafficked, I just KNOW it” post is so shockingly similar to last week’s, “My kids were about to be trafficked, I just KNOW it” post that it feels … creepy. A lot creepier than being at Ikea where a couple of men glance at my kids.
The reader who sent me this link asked if I thought there might be some “validity” to it, to which I must respond: No. In fact, I think it’s crazy. What, two men are going to grab two or three kids, all under age 7, IN PUBLIC, in a camera-filled IKEA, with the MOM and the GRANDMA right there, not to mention a zillion other fans of Swedish furnishings?
Can we please PLEASE take a deep breath and realize how insanely unlikely that is? How we don’t need to be “warned” about this? How NOTHING HAPPENED!
You can TELL nothing happened, because the whole thing was described as an “incident.” And Lenore’s #1 Rule of Reporting is: When something is called an “incident,” it’s because nothing happened. In fact, my alternate headline for this post was:
POINTLESSLY TERRIFIED MOM URGES OTHER MOMS TO BE POINTLESSLY TERRIFIED
As noted above, Skenazy cited the prevalence of such tales as drivers of the belief “this is happening” everywhere. Moreover, she observed that the dozens of near-identical narratives do not match known patterns of abduction or trafficking:
So while we’re at it, here’s a snippet of last week’s note from David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, on the likelihood (or not) of sex trafficking of young children in America:

Child abduction rarely occurs in a crowded public venue like that, where help would be easy to muster.
Moreover:
Most sex trafficking lures and abductions are of teenagers.
We have been so brainwashed by talk of trafficking that we imagine we see it everywhere.
We attempted to contact Diandra Toyos via Facebook for further information but have not yet received a response.

Sources:

Brignull, Harry.   “Alan Penn on Shop Floor Plan Design, Ikea, and Dark Patterns.”
    90 Percent of Everything.   10 April 2011.
Skenazy, Lenore.   “The Modern American Brag: ‘My Kids Were About to Be Trafficked, Too!’”
    Free-Range Kids.   27 March 2017.
inspireMORE.   “Mom of 3 Evades Human Traffickers in IKEA After Noticing These 4 Warnings.”
    27 March 2017.


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Teaching Children About Real Love


I've often thought about how I would teach my son about true love. The mere feelings of being in love are vastly different from the meaning of true love, as the Bible instructs.

What would I teach him so that he would one day be a good, potential husband for a nice young lady?  And, what if the young ladies that he meets along his path, aren't so nice?  What if he struggles with understanding the difference between true love and temporary feelings?

Truth be told, we all struggle with knowing the difference and our children will also go through their own struggles.  The difficult part will be watching when things aren't positive, but learning what to teach before we embark on this adventure is key.

What can we do?

Teach how Christ loved the church. 

Yes, that is a great thing to do but how will he completely relate? The only answer I could come up with was that we show true love and read direct from scripture. We explain God's intention for love and for marital union.  We show what it truly means to love each other so much so that he will recognize when something isn't real or hints at a lack of genuineness.

Speak truth. Read truth.

I've had great success so far with my son by speaking everything in truth. There is an age appropriation for every discussion but when they are emotionally ready, you speak truth.  My son is only twelve but he is already very aware about sex, temptation and what true friendships will look like.  His school has discussed "sexting" and his friends use terms that are very sexual because they are curious.  Luckily my son knows that there is not a topic for discussion with us that is off the table. Discussions enable proper teaching and truth.

I've found that the more open I am in an appropriate manner, the less curious he is and therefore he feels confident in making the right choices. He isn't wondering about this or that because he's heard the truth about it before he even encounters an awkward circumstance. By age twelve we have discussed everything that he will encounter in this culture related to love.  He has not seen first hand everything that he will encounter, but it is coming. We have to prepare our kids.


Read what scripture says about real love. Back up everything you are teaching with what God has instructed. This is how we are to relate all our decisions, so teaching that scripture is our guidebook is vital as they grow into adults to learn.

Set an expectation.


You give your young adult your expectations and hope for accomplishment.  You share with them mistakes you made and the consequences. You also share the good decisions you have made and those consequences. I'll never forget when my new husband and I spoke of the wonderful outcome of us waiting to have sex until our honeymoon.  We explained the joy we felt knowing we had accomplished such a difficult task in waiting and how incredibly satisfying it was to share that with the commitment of marriage.  How safe we felt and were because we waited.  We also shared how difficult this task was.  My son was both happy to hear this and slightly grossed out to learn that we have sex.  Totally normal, but totally necessary to discuss. We are his examples and even if grossed out by the thought, it was something he'll think about when making his decision whether or not to remain pure.

Give confidence.

Giving knowledge is the first way to equip them but the most important thing you can do is to share with them that you are their backbone. They need to know that you will love them no matter what and are behind them to succeed.  You know they have what it takes to be successful in this part of their life. Be their cheerleader and support.


Listen.

Lastly, the key to knowing when your child needs to have a boost in this area is to listen. If you've created an open line of communication, it is imperative that you put down your phone, set work or chores aside and listen to them. We enjoy my son's non-stop talking at dinner because that's when we learn most of what is happening in his life away from us.  We take time to go on day trips without technology so that we can just talk together. When he talks he has my undivided attention  and I learn so much about how his mind works and what he needs most from me as his parent for him to succeed.

It's a journey full of valleys and hills but creating a healthy foundation will help establish a base for understanding and pursuit of healthy love.



Put Down The Screen

Being that part of my career is in the world of social media, I often feel an addiction to my phone and computer screen. It is so tempting to check on how things are progressing with projects, posts, campaigns, etc. My son also has an addiction to his screen time. He loves video games, television and coding on our computer. My husband however has no problem at all setting his phone down and walking away for hours. I wish we were all more like that.

Studies have shown that too much screen time can create behavioral and mood issues with children. I believe that adults become less social the longer they are on social media. As odd as that sounds, we as adults are growing into a culture that our children are embracing.  We feel more social because we can interact more with others, but it's on a surface level and not an intimate "in person" level.  I even found myself texting my brother, "Happy Birthday" instead of actually calling him! I'm sorry, CJ!  What kind of culture are we becoming when our friends on Facebook mean more to us than our time with real "in person" friends or family?  I can't tell you the last time I took one of my good girlfriends out to dinner and had a genuine conversation.

We use our phones for much more than social media. There are games... fun games. There are apps that cause us reason to want to be creative, sell merchandise, watch the weather, check out the constellations, read our favorite blogs, and so on and so forth.  All of these are amazing and wonderful, however do you limit the time you are taking part in such activities on your phone? I don't know about you but I start to get nervous if my phone battery falls below 50%. I use my phone for my alarm clock, radio while I get ready for work, timer, voice recorder for memos and so much more. If I didn't have my phone I'd feel like something was missing. That is a horrible place to be in. I have even turned down camping trips with my friend because of the lack of Wifi! Sorry Tamara!

Now I could be on the end of the scale that has a real problem with phone separation anxiety but what about you? What are you missing out on in life because of your phone?  What about your computer? Do you realize how many marriages struggle simply because of online activity? The energy that is put into screen time rather than into the marriage?  What about the example our kids are seeing in us parents? They'd rather be on a screen than playing outside.

My point is this, we are in a screen culture. We all love to watch and experience The Screen. Be careful to use in moderation and be very aware of the life lessons and experiences you are missing out on with your true friends and family because of your screen time. Is your phone or computer time really that important? Try putting your screen down for 4 hours and see how you feel after.  That will tell you a lot about the importance of The Screen in your life.

I'll do it first.  Signing off my screen for awhile...

-Meg

Building Hedges Around Your Marriage

When my first marriage failed due to toxic outside influences, I discovered first hand what I had been naive to.  My ex-husband and I neglected to build walls around our marriage in effort to safeguard it from destruction. Unfortunately, without those walls and commitment on both sides to success and protection our marriage failed. A lot was lost and many issues were created for us to sort out. 

Growing up I had always thought of marriage much like a fairy tale. I had never really given much thought to the work it would entail and to the perseverance to protect it at all costs.  Sure, as the marriage progressed I was more inclined to think of things that could harm it, but it was all internal.  Arguments, financial issues, children, etc. were the areas I concentrated on.  I never gave thought to outside influences destroying us quietly and slowly. I naively trusted my ex-husband and never gave thought to where he spent his time, who he spent his time with and how much time we spent growing together.  Because of that we grew apart and developed lives away from each other. We found friends that we didn't share and we enjoyed situations that we didn't speak about or share with one another. By the time it was clear that we were failing, it was too late to build our walls. The desire to make it work was gone, first from him, then from me.  The destruction that caused for our family was heartbreaking but God heals.  God mended our hearts.

The decision to re-marry was huge for me. I knew exactly what that would entail for myself and for Duane. I don't think he was even quite aware of all that would be required from us emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually in order for us to remain protected.  Being able to share the stumbling blocks that ended my first marriage and share with him all that I had learned was vital to our survival as a couple. He shared a lot of the same understandings but some were new to him.  We are finding more and more reasons everyday to cleave to one another and block out any potential threats to our marital well-being.

"Most couples think they're strong so they don't have safeguards in their marriage. But Satan is always looking for an opportune time to tempt husbands and wives with inappropriate relationships."
~ Al and Lisa Robertson, Duck Dynasty


Some would think that over-protection is prudish and based on fear.  Yes, over-protection is based on fear but not an unhealthy fear, but a wise fear.  A fear of the known outcome if we don't protect. In the same way that you shelter your children from a sexual scene in a movie or a bully at school, we are to protect our marriage from anything that could harm it.  Call it whatever you want, but I call it, wise.

I've seen destruction in marriages over things that seem small but over time they become very large problems. Like the first weed in a beautiful garden, if not plucked or removed it will produce more weeds and if left unattended, eventually your beautiful garden is simply a pile of weeds. The only way to continue to see a beautiful garden is to build a foundation that will not allow weeds to grow in the first place.  That foundation will save your garden and keep it looking and feeling beautiful.

Some of the things to consider when laying your foundation:

1) Movies- Do you find it casual to watch a movie with intimate scenes or nudity? How about the woman taking off her shirt quickly exposing her in just a bra? We all know that men are driven to sexual desires by vision, so what in that could harm your marriage? What does that quietly do to a man's desires and to a woman's self esteem? What about "Mommy Porn" like the movie 50 Shades of Grey?  How about watching a movie full of vulgarity in marriage or where a couple treats each other horribly?  Quietly they seem harmless, but what are those messages transmitting to your brains?

2) Friends- Are your friends healthy and do they encourage your marriage and union? Do they gossip about your partner with you or around you? Do they encourage you to have inappropriate relationships or feelings? Do they help you work things out with your spouse rather than encourage anger and divisive feelings?  Are they trustworthy around your marriage?

3) Children- Do your children come before your spouse? The bible is clear that "two become one flesh".  Your children are important but not more important than your spouse. You are a team, unified and must remain in tact for your marital health and ultimately for your children's benefit.

4) Habits- Do you put yourself in situations that could result in harm to your marriage? Do you drink too much? Do you allow yourself to be alone with the opposite sex? Do you confide in someone of the opposite sex, thus creating an emotional affair? Do you spend too much money? Do you enjoy others more than your spouse? Do you have a habit that causes you to ignore your spouse? These are things that are dubbed as "normal" but they are far from normal and over time can create a division in your marriage.

5) Trust- Does your spouse trust you with their most intimate feelings? Are they safe with you or do they hide things for fear of rejection, retaliation or embarrassment? Do you make fun of them or tease them for things they cannot control?

6) Sex- Are you sexually active with your spouse? Sex is the most intimate act you can do with another person and is reserved solely for your spouse. You are their outlet and the only person they are able to experience sexual gratification from. Having sex on a regular basis is very healthy and will encourage intimacy between you both.

7) Respect- Do you respect each other? Do you uplift your partner and speak highly of them to others?  Do you honor their desires and needs as important?  Do other people see you respecting your spouse regardless of circumstance?

8) Last but not least is love. Do you truly love your spouse.  Do you tell them you love them? Do you show them? How do you show them?

There are so many more encouraging ways to build a foundation for a healthy marriage, but remembering that the tiniest and most seemingly insignificant thing can quickly turn your marriage into a breeding ground for weeds is key.  Talk with your spouse regularly about temptations and those things that you feel could destroy your marriage if left to grow. No matter how small, every feeling is important in this discussion. 

Duane and I have had to both make some adjustments and changes in the way we approach certain things in our lives.  The movies that we watch, the things we do in our spare time, and the people we spend our time with.  Everything has a consequence, good or bad.  There is never a wrong decision to do something that will protect your marriage. Others may not understand but it doesn't matter, you are in this marriage and not them. Protect it without apology or hesitation.


A Little Perspective

Duane and I hiked over 8 miles in 2 different days.  The motivation in the hiking was to be outdoors, clear our minds and spend some quality time together.  Duane loves to hike, camp, explore and pretty much just spend time in the majesty of God's creation.  Tough terrain, rocks to climb, mud, dirt, and physical exertion are things he craves time with.  He loves a good challenge and loves the feeling that the outdoors brings him.  Then you have me.  I am not a fan of dirt but I do love spending time in God's creation.  I crave the peaceful breeze, sound of birds and the beauty of it all. These two days I was challenged but walked away with some pretty deep perspectives of how our hiking was a lot like life.

As we began our journey through unknown trails, we found ourselves climbing rocks and maneuvering over and through tree branches.  Sometimes we were right alongside the edge of a cliff with a pretty steep drop and other times we found ourselves in the middle of trails without a drop in sight- all the while we knew we were climbing in elevation. We passed quite a few people on the easier side of the trails, but as we progressed on the advanced trail we saw less and less.  It was quieter and we felt more in tune with the nature around us and each other.  Every so often my foot would slip or I'd lose my balance.  There was Duane with his hand out to help me. I felt so cared for in this journey and well protected.

I had never been on a trail quite so volatile. Loose rocks, mud, snow, ice and steep hills required specific steps and actions that a normal, flat trail wouldn't need. At times we had to go slow and other times we ran up a steep incline.  We enjoyed each other's company and the accomplishments we were making each step of the way.

We walked, ran, slid, stumbled, mapped out the journey and chose the path together.  Life and marriage can be like that. It can be messy, slippery, rocky and difficult.  It requires the outward hand of the one we love to say "I am with you" and "I will help you". Let's not forget the incredible high five at the end of difficult path.  God has given us a helpmate and someone to journey through this life together.  Whether you are single and God is your spouse or you have an earthly spouse as well, no matter the circumstances, you are not on this crazy journey alone. Enjoy the flat terrain because the rocks, mud and hills are coming. Are you ready for your hike?

Take The Next Right Step

I've often labeled myself "a planner".  I don't do surprises well and I struggle with spur of the moment thinking. I like to know what is ahead of me before I get there and how it can or will affect me.  I have always been this way to an extent but it became much more important to me when I became divorced. As a single mom, you are often thinking of the future and planning ahead because if you don't you are liable to find yourself up a creek without a paddle.  Although planning is all well and good, sometimes we aren't supposed to plan or in other words, call the shots. I am finding this much more to be true each day I get older and especially in my new marriage.

While hiking with my husband, I found myself in physical situations that were extremely strenuous at times.  We'd be walking on a fairly level trail, then around twists and turns, then uphill, then downhill and it just continually changed.  We had been hiking the day before at this same location but decided to take a different route which was unknown to both of us.   We walked mostly uphill on a new path and I found my asthma acting up and my legs beginning to ache.  We walked a good 2 miles on a rocky path then up an incline. As we arrived at a fork in the path, we found the trail we had been wanting to get to, the "Intermediate" trail.  This trail took us on ledges, in twists and turns going uphill then downhill.  We came to another fork in the path.  This was another trail we had been seeking.  The "Advanced" trail. We turned to head up this trail and I looked all the way at the top.  The path was full of rocks and it was at a steeper incline than we had just encountered.  Unknowing to us at the time, we had a good 1/4 mile incline to attack, but what I saw was simply 300 feet up.  I let out a whimper and almost asked to take a different trail.  My husband who has much more stamina than I do had already started up the trail. I decided to just follow him and hope for the best.

Walking up that trail I kept looking to the top and my feet became heavier with each glance. I would look down at my shoes and the one step at a time in order to catch my breath when it hit me! I didn't feel the agony quite the same when I was concentrating on just one more step.  When I looked at the entire journey I became overwhelmed but as I looked just at the next step it wasn't as bad.  Sure there was still grunting and heavy breathing but it wasn't too much to handle.  As I rose to the top of the first defeated hill, I looked down. I was able to see the journey I had just taken and I felt happy that I kept taking those steps. It was wonderful to see where I had come.  My husband and cheerleader gave me a proud high-five.

How often are we looking up our mountain of circumstances rather than just the next step ahead of us? And how often is that mountain of circumstances, just a percentage of the entire journey?  God may allow us to see a little mountain at a time, but we should focus on the next step. I guarantee that if I had seen the 1/4 mile incline I was going to climb when all was said and done, I would have said, "no thanks" and chosen a simpler path.  But seeing the journey in pieces and then concentrating on each step made it all the more possible.

Two Parenting Styles

The thing I can probably say I enjoyed the most about having full custody of my son was the ability to parent alone. I would have loved help in the day-to-day, but I truly loved calling the shots and developing a parenting style that fit my son perfectly.  Sure, I encountered his dad’s varying ways of parenting now and again, but for the most part I was able to parent how I saw fit and it seemed to work just fine for my son and I.  I was blessed with a wonderful child who is very mild tempered in nature and is a genuinely good kid.

One of my main reasons for saying in the past, “I never want to be in a blended family” is that I saw the effort it would take. I honestly wasn’t up for the energy it would take to mold two families into one.  Learning different parenting styles, ways of living, habits, quirks…none of that seemed attractive to me so I had resorted to staying single at least until my son was grown and out of the house.
God had other plans. I met my husband, Duane and quickly I knew that there was more to this man than just a friendship. I had resolved to be single, but I quickly found that I didn’t want to be anymore.  Duane had never married or had kids.  He had taught kids who were in my son’s age range and he had 3 godchildren. This was the extent of his “parenting” although he was very involved and it definitely counted as experience. When we married, he was faced with joining the routine of my son and I but some of my parenting techniques were challenged and some of my son’s habits were not accepted as okay. To be honest, some of the things that Duane saw as a need for change were areas that I never even noticed because of the constant go-go-go that I encountered daily. For example, my son would eat dinner and leave his plates on the table and I’d clean up.  Duane saw this as lazy but I just saw it as “quicker if I do it”. So, now my son clears the entire table each night after dinner and then Duane or I (or both) clean.  It’s one step towards him learning independence that I was missing. He’s more capable than I was giving him credit for simply because life was always in a hurry.

We do have our moments where correction is made and Duane and I don’t agree and those times require grace and flexibility.  Duane isn’t wrong in his direction but sometimes I feel like I know my son better and wouldn’t have handled it the same way. We are all learning each other and it takes time. No one is more right than another, it’s developing a style together that works. If we continue to each parent in our own way, we’ll always bunt heads.

Something for a stepparent to remember is that a new relationship with stepchildren is fragile. It can be easily made great or it can easily create bitterness. Be on the same page with your spouse as to what discipline will look like regarding your children but the delivery will be smoother when it comes from the biological parent. I’ve read books and listened to podcasts giving this advice and I can tell you in my own situation that this is completely true. My son knows that Duane and I are on the same page and often Duane is in the room or nearby during delivery, but being disciplined directly from the parent he’s been used to discipline from creates less conflict for he and Duane and is better received. 

You have to learn through trial and error unfortunately for what patterns work well with your family. As you grow in understanding your blended family better, the key word to remember is GRACE. 

-Meg


“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’
springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”

Hebrews 12:15

Healing After Divorce


When my divorce was final and the judge announced that I would return to my maiden name, I felt a joy of redefining who I was.  That was quickly followed by a sorrow unlike any I had ever felt before. Like someone had just died.  Well truth be told, not someone but something just had. My marriage was gone and buried and officially over. Unlike the happiness of the wedding vows that were celebrated 9 years earlier, now no one was there.  Just my now ex-husband and I and a document that said the last 9 years didn’t matter.  At least that’s how I felt. This document also labeled my son as property of the state of Colorado. “Property” and no longer mine, well not completely anyway.  The state gave me full custody but it still felt so cold.  Unlike the day my son was born, this presentation of my child into my care felt so evil.  There’s a good reason for that.  It was evil. The entire process and thought of divorce is evil. Arguments, contracts, worry and the death of something that before God promised to last forever was now dead.

Those aren’t just feelings that go away quickly. Even when the desire or your spouse dissipates, the hurt, confusion and struggle continue. How does one heal after divorce? That is such a loaded question and one that is answered differently by many people. The common conception is that after a divorce each individual typically goes off the edge for a while.  Sewing wild oats if you will.  Living the life they felt that they were taken from during their marriage.  For others it is to quickly jump back into another marriage for fear of being alone.  There is not one magic recipe for healing, but I will tell you that all of the above is toxic to healthy healing.

Your healing will depend on your circumstance.  It will depend on whether or not you have kids and if your ex will be in your “every other weekend” life or your “day to day” or not at all. The pain of your divorce will last a long time.  It will hurt like crazy but it is really important to stay single for a while.  That timeline will be different for everyone but you need to rediscover who you are in Christ and in a healthy way.

I began journaling, reading scripture and taking notes. I began spending time with girlfriends who would lift me up and be good godly examples to me.  It was painful to exist around married friends, but it was vital to understanding good, godly marriages. To see the reality that every marriage struggles, but the discovery was in how those around me handled their issues in healthy ways. This was very important should I ever find myself in another relationship.

I believe that God blesses a persistent heart. One that craves to know truth and to live according to scripture. Learning to do that in your healing process is key. It takes time and energy. But for now if you are in your early stages of healing, just rest in Him. Rest in His love. He loves you more than anyone can and He loves your children more than you do.  They will be okay.

-Meg

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Revelation 21:4

The Importance of Alone Time

When I was a single mom, I found that alone time was necessary for me and I took every opportunity to have it. I often stayed up late in an effort to get some time to myself and became quite good at studying scripture, taking notes on what I was reading, writing in my journal and embracing my "not so well known" pastime of singing.  I almost had it down to a science. Come home from work, take care of the needs of my son and spend time with him. After he went down to bed, the world was mine.  It didn't bother anyone if I stayed up late and I was able to choose what I did and when and I answered to no one. I was alone in my thoughts and this created the ability for me to know myself and understand who I was beyond the role of mother.

Meeting my now husband, and embracing a new role as wife has proved challenging in the area of "alone time". Now when my son is in bed, I'm not alone. I have someone who is tired from the day as well and staying up late just isn't an option unless we are both feeling up to it. Coming home from work to both of my guys is different than picking up my son and heading home together. There wasn't time to detox before, except after my day. My body didn't need it until after my day was over which meant later at night. Now my "after" moment is when I walk in the door from work. My busy day is over because everything is taken care of. My body now needs the "me time" when I walk in the door and not later.

I struggled with guilt a lot in these first few months of marriage because I simply pushed aside the need to have my own time. I enjoyed having a husband to come home to and a son who was able to come home right after school, get his homework done and be in a place of rest upon my arrival. I wanted to embrace that immediately and so I did.  I then put my son to bed and spent the rest of the evening with my husband. I neglected to journal, sing, and most of all read scripture and study. I realized that I truly was never alone. Not even just in the house alone.  Literally I had someone listening or watching me 24/7. This felt quite suffocating.

Instead of addressing the suffocation I was beginning to feel, I did the typical "me" thing and I let it fester until one night I blew.  I wasn't a very happy person to be around and I found myself blaming my husband and son. It truly wasn't their fault. It was mine. I knew that the walls were closing in and I said nothing. They were just trying to spend time with me.

The reason I share this story is that I feel a lot of people who are entering into a blended marriage, will encounter this.  They are used to flying solo and now there are two people running the home who have different needs and different expectations. It is important to fine-tune time together and also realize that time apart is necessary and vital to a healthy-minded marriage. There is no need to give up all of the the things that kept you mentally sane during single parenthood.  You'll still need those things when you are married. The key to figuring this all out is communication and flexibility. If you are feeling yourself getting frustrated or feeling like you are losing yourself in your relationship, it's time to put all the cards on the table and talk about needs. I guarantee that talking to your spouse will feel a lot better than exploding on them when it gets beyond what you can handle.

-Meg