Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Practicing truth and the love of a good man


It has been 3 months and 27 days since I married my love and, while the two blonde princesses that call him "Daddy" have been in my life for years up to that point, something changed that day. In addition to becoming "wife," I became "step-mom" even though that term has rarely, if ever, been spoken in our home. After 3 months and 27 days, what could I possibly have to share about mothering, about step-mothering, in fact? So many more have gone before me, learned more, shared more, been more and yet here I am trying to put my thoughts and musings into something in black and white.

Here's what I know. Step-mothering is an art.

Most days, I don't feel like an artist.

Most days I feel anything but. Every bit of selfishness, fear, insecurity, and impatience is brought into the open, laid, I fear, for all the world to see. I am ever conscious of the fact that I am not *yet* (I hope) the woman described in Proverbs 31, that godly wife who moves with grace, compassion and a shrewd ability to care for her family.

I knew that this journey would be hard and would take a ton of adjustment. I knew there would be growing pains and heartache. I just didn't know how much. I hadn't expected the loneliness and the lack of control. I didn't know how much I would be surrendering my schedule, my home, my bank account, my time with my husband, my hopes and dreams and my heart to this role. 

Never before have I been aware of such anger, spite and resentment in my heart. I long to protect these girls, my family, from the one who should be protecting them in all things and from all things...and yet that is not my place.

I have come to believe that the term "step-mom" is more apt than I once thought as so often it feels as though I am only taking a half step into motherhood. I share the responsibility for their well being, for their happiness, for their growth and for their hearts. I share the sacrifice. I share the early mornings and the chauffeuring and the school band productions and the dance competitions and the fights that erupt between sisters in a way that only sisters can accomplish. I share the desire to see them to flourish and to grow to be women after God's own heart. They have my heart. But I am not their mother. Some days, my most insecure days,  I wonder if I am anything more than the woman their daddy married.  The big decisions - the ones that matter - those are made between mother and father. It is in these moments that I feel like a participant from a distance, if a participant at all. The deep knowledge of the innerworkings of these girls is not mine - the memories, the stories, the likes and dislikes, the friendships, and the background behind it all. The deepest and most tender of moments - from heart ache to celebration - are not moments that I share and it's in those moments that I feel on the outside of something special, a bond more powerful than anything else. There will be no mother's day or parent teacher interviews or holidays without struggle and argument. And so I'm "step-mom, " stepping into their lives and hoping to share a part of me with part of them.

And so here I am, limping along, feeling a lot more like a toddler with a crayon scrawling on the walls than the artist I hope to one day be, beginning to put practices in place to save my sanity and my heart so that I can spend more days offering something of value to my family, creating home together, living together well. Two practices that I hope and pray will make the difference.

I practice loving my husband well.

A friend of mine shared a photo of a button recently. The bright orange button was a beacon sharing this "Parenting is a hard. It's a good thing my co-worker is cute." And it's true. He is. We have heard so many sermons and read the books that talk about God's vision for marriage being of two people coming together as one, about making your spouse the priority, and about constantly coming back to the heart of the other and you know what? It's true. It makes a difference. Funny how scriptural truths do that, huh!? And so we work to love each other well. We spend time together. We talk. We cry. I meet him with a kiss and take time to rub that spot on the back of his neck because I am learning that my touch assures his heart that I am with him. We watch hockey and share quiet over a glass of wine. Sometimes it's just nice to be quiet. I tell him that I'm proud of him because I mean it, from the depth of my heart I mean it. He calls in the middle of a busy day and I know it's because he knows that my language is time and that connection means the world to me. We share about work and home and family. And, because this adventure isn't always easy, we have to find ways to laugh. And laugh we do because, you know what My Love? You are fun and hilarious and one of the reasons I love you is because you laugh with me...and sometimes at me. We spend time doing things the other enjoys for the sake of the other. We date even when life is busy...sometimes especially when it's so. I try to remember to say "thank you" everyday for this man I know is a gift.

We do this because when we are good, they will be good and we will be good for them.

I practice truth.

My love and I truly believe, even when I am in this place, that His Word is truth and want our home to be filled with the sweet fragrance of the Spirit. It is undeniable that some days the smell is stronger and sweeter than others but hopefully, hopefully, the aroma remains, hints of it on the air, even on our worst days. And so we aim to live that truth. Not simply in actions for the world to see but deep in our hearts, spilling out into all of how we live.

And we believe that all truth is God's truth so, in my heart, I daily work to remind myself of truth. My list goes something like this:

*I am not perfect. I don't have to be perfect. I will mess up. Oh, is this hard for this perfectionist soul and yet so freeing and so life giving.
* We are all adjusting. Me. Him. Them. All of us. It will take time and that's okay.
* My job description is to love. The rest of the details can be figured out. 
* This is not a situation that the girls' chose. Even believing with all that is in me that this is God's good redemptive work of a crappy situation doesn't make the crappy situation less, well, crappy (yes, I just used crappy three times. I know).
* No matter how much I stand in direct opposition with the values, choices and decisions of their "mommy", she is still their "mommy" and they deserve to be free to love her. Every girl needs their mommy. Part of me being in their lives is to help them have healthy relationships even in difficult situations.
* Just because she's their mommy doesn't make her right. I can disagree. Sometimes my disagreement needs to stay on the inside and sometimes it needs to be spoken...without making it "about" mommy but rather about truth and living well and having opinions that are different.
* They are children. They will react to situations like children. The picky eating, the sudden outbursts, the seemingly unending stories about "mommy," the challenges around bedtime and homework and chores and packing lunches, the complaining about well, whatever, are because they're kids and need guidance. They are not personal. They are not about me. There is no attack or ill will intended.
* I have the freedom - no, the privilege - of participating in teaching them and guiding them while they are in our home, addressing situations as they come up with grace and love and partnering with My Heart as we grow with them. Sometimes there are things that he will need to handle as their daddy. This is important and good.
* I only have control - or a semblance of such - of what happens in my home. I can not control what happens the other days of their week BUT I can influence them and help give them the tools to react well and discern wisely.
* There are good times, golden moments, that I have to hold onto. There are inside stories, moments of laughter and acceptance, and things unique to our home and our family that we can all cherish.
* My feelings and emotions are not wrong or bad or shameful. As much as I often do, I don't need to feel guilt for finding aspects of this new "hat" difficult.
* As much as it sometimes feels lonely, I am not alone. My Love and I are in this together and I trust him with all that I am. I can trust him enough to share the truth with him when I hurt. I can trust him enough to ask questions. I can trust him enough to include me in the moments of joy. I can trust him enough to protect all three of his girls. I can trust him to live truth too.

Conversation between My Love and I has often centered around truth. Speaking truth, in love, when it's hard. Knowing when to speak truth into lies. How God is truth and shines through the darkness. He reminds me often that Truth wins. Even when I feel like I'm tripping and stumbling, even when it seems like lies abound and the enemy is digging his claws in deep, even when I'm lonely and want to allow myself a good cry, I can know that truth wins. Perhaps only in bits and pieces now but victory, oh, sweet victory, will come and will come on the side of truth.

And so today, I know that step-mothering is an art. Instead of hating that I feel like toddler, today I'm going to try to remember, with all the grace that I can muster, that not even the world's most renowned artists painted their masterpieces on the first day.


Anonymous said...

Bless you!

Sarah Bessey said...

I love this. LOVE. IT. So glad that you wrote it all out. This will be a beautiful gift. Thank you.

Jennelle Dippel said...

This is really, really beautiful and honest Stacey. What an intense, growing, amazing journey it must be... Though our situations are quite different, it is a great comfort to read about somebody figuring out how to make something beautiful from the chaos of brokenness. You are brave, and I'm sure doing an amazing job of "mastering the art".

Anonymous said...

May God pour his richest blessing on you and Colin, your relationship and the relationship you are developing as a family. Bless you for writing this.