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