Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Stepmom Diaries #13: From toxicity to stability

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Today, I realize just what a difference our life is today as compared to three years ago. As someone who has been struggling with insomnia for over two months, I've struggled in the mornings. Mornings are now when my body is saying "okay, you can go to sleep now", and I cringe with frustration wanting to lash back and say "okay, ummmm, maybe you should've said that 8 hours ago". Last night was an especially terrible night (my poor husband...I am so thankful for having a bed partner, but he just might not share the same sentiment!) and this morning I was determined to stay in bed until the second it was time to go. Now, if you had met these children 2-3 years ago, in fact, if you met them even a YEAR ago, you would know this would be NOT possible. But I'll get to that later. 

Everything in our house is pretty routine, and I do this because of what I saw the boys needed in their lives, and to lessen the burden on myself. The mornings are routine, after school is routine, and so on and so forth. Routine was never established anywhere else because our life was constantly in upheaval and conflict, it was impossible to establish a routine. Since moving up here, we thrive off of it. And the kids thrive. Breakfast and lunches are all planned out the night before, so in the mornings the boys go to the table where breakfast is, eat, grab their lunches that are in the refrigerator, grab their signed homework folders and put them in their backpacks, and get ready to go. This is so routine, I do not need to monitor or make sure it's happening. So this morning, I came out at the second it was time to go, and I found the kids outside with all their stuff, fighting over who gets in the van first. No prompting from me, no sign that I was even awake, just moving on their routine with 100% expectation that I would come through and show up. 

Two years ago, everything was worry and anxiousness. Jeren would come knock on our door an hour before needing to be anywhere with tears in his eyes worried that we weren't awake or were going to forget they have school or AWANA's (mind you, he had just gone 4 months of school and life without his dad [no, I was not in the picture when that awful plan was made]). He'd come check in every five minutes or so, crying each time, and would weep if we promised we wouldn't be late, as if he didn't believe that. Saturday mornings, if we slept in, they would be crying worried they weren't going to be fed. Saturdays around lunch time they felt we needed reminders that they would be needing lunch, because if we weren't reminded, certainly we'd forget, right? When dinnertime would approach, I would be reminded that they hadn't eaten dinner, because they were worried dinner would be forgotten. Worry over lunches being packed, worried that they might not be picked up from school, worry over EVERYTHING. And not just worry, but weeping sessions. Complete physical anguish over the idea that they might be forgotten. This unfortunately made sense, because they were forgotten so much (not by us). They were brought everywhere late, if at all. Lunches weren't packed with promises that a surprise lunch would be brought by later, only to be let down. For the brief few months that co-parenting was attempted, they always had the question "who's going to pick me up? Who am I staying with?" and it was so hard telling them the plan, knowing that it could fall through at any moment...so they got a lot of "someone will be there", because we knew that we just might have to step in and cover for those "unforeseen" circumstances. Although I worked so hard so that I would never fail in this area, I still couldn't establish that trust with them because they had no routine to fall back on, no way to KNOW that their needs would be met. Moving out of a toxic situation has changed their behaviors a lot. I'm trying to recall any worry since being here, and I can't. 

Being a stepmom might be one of the most emotionally draining things in the world, especially in a high conflict situation. Although I don't consider myself a "stepmom" (pretty sure stepmoms are the ones who are a "step" away from doing the fulltime duties of a mom...), it's still the title I have. Actually, I'm just called "Donica". Super NOT endearing. Kinda painful to hear coming from little kids, especially when all other kids start reverting to calling me Donica instead of "Auntie Donica" or "Mrs. Nash", because that's what they hear the boys call me. I'm never going to "love" being a stepmom, and it's never going to be something I would ever tell someone to get into, but it doesn't mean I can't find some sort of pride in it, right? I, probably inappropriately so, compare it to being like a war, where of course you'd never say you "loved" killing people or fighting in battle (unless you're crazy, which happens), but you can say you felt honor in standing up for your country, even if it meant pain and suffering throughout the duration. But when I'm able to look back and see the life that the kids were brought out of, I can at least feel some fulfillment in that. Just like we might never know what someone went through to fight for our freedom, Little Jax will never know what he was saved from (and therefore is slightly less appreciative and respectful), but Jeren does know, and he goes out of his way to express appreciation of it quite often (pretty sure someone is going to become a very doting husband one day). 

So this morning, as I see them clawing at each other, with the only worry on their mind being "who's gonna get in the van first", I sigh, thinking, "even if this is the only thing; at least I did right by them in this way". 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Stepmom Diaries #12: While I lie here as you die

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I started having incredibly vivid dreams a month ago, along with a wonderful bout of constipation (lovely...). I decided to take a pregnancy test even though I didn't "feel" pregnant (I thought it would be more obvious). I took a test which appeared negative. I became really emotional because we had been trying and I just didn't know why it wasn't working for us. I went to go workout, as I do when I feel emotional, and started talking myself through my emotions and why I needed to be content. While working out, I had a weird thought: what if my test WAS positive? So I went and looked at it again. I was SO excited when I saw that faint, oh so faint, line on the pregnancy test. I didn't know whether to wait a few days to get a more clear test, or just tell my husband. Being true to myself, I told him that night, I just couldn't wait. He didn't believe me and asked to see the test. Still didn't believe that faint line was a positive, so I took another which showed a true positive. There it was, all pink and positive: our love baby. As I got excited, my husband said "don't get too excited, it's just a clump of cells". I got worried and irritated in the same moment. I know what he was doing, he was trying to protect me from hurt. But I wanted him to just believe that our baby would make it, why was he thinking otherwise? So I kept talking about it. I kept getting excited. 

We both got giddy and excited. My stomach was getting more and more bloated by the second! I had crazy nausea and tenderness; all of these symptoms I just treasured and smiled about because I knew I was growing my very own human. But, eaaaarly one morning I woke up, scared. My tonsils were swelling and I couldn't swallow. Last time that happened to me was the last time I lost a baby. I woke my husband up and told him my fears; he was worried as well. I called in to work to tell them I wanted to take it easy because I was fearful I would lose my baby. It doesn't seem like a direct correlation with miscarriage, but I could feel something was wrong. 

We went up to Anchorage the next day, and I was ignoring the fact that I no longer felt nauseous. Because I kept having to unbutton my pants at work due to tremendous bloat (suuuuuuuper professional), I bought my first pair of maternity pants to solve the problem (that would last me through the next 7 1/2 months). I was so excited, I couldn't stop thinking of how I finally get to be called "mom", and I finally get to show the world that my husband and I really DO love each other. And maybe, just maybe, people would start to take me seriously. 

With my few maternity items in hand, we drove back home. I was so excited still, I felt like I finally was connected to my husband in a way that no one could break us apart or try to deny my position in the family. I felt weird on the drive, but still, was in denial of there being a problem. When we got home, I noticed blood. I know that a lot of people bleed, so I calmly announced to my husband the issue. I ignored it for awhile, but then it all came as a flood. The cramping, the passing, the flood, it was all there. It brought me back to the first time I miscarried; a world of questions, "maybe it's something else", and fear. I wept like I've never wept before into my husbands arms. I logically knew what was happening, but was in denial and thought I was an exception and this was "just a thing". I wanted my nausea and constipation back. That night I just kept praying "LORD! I will be on bed rest my whole pregnancy, I will do everything right if you just let me keep my baby". I kept coming up with plans of how I could trade something for the life of my baby. I knew there wasn't a way I could trade my life for the baby, and yet I offered it anyways.

The next day the bleeding intensified. I called the nurse at my doctor's office and she said "you're having a miscarriage, it's totally normal and there's nothing we can do about it". I kept pushing it. I wanted verification, she made it sound like I was crazy to want to get an ultrasound because she thought it would be a waste, and insurance companies don't like to pay for those. I was an emotional wreck. The bleeding wasn't dying down. I was passing all kinds of things I wish I didn't have to see. How could I go from pure ecstasy and in a moment feel death inside of me? We both took the week off of work and I didn't want to see anybody. As you might gather from my posts, I like to process with words, and publicly. It's how I move on, and one of the reasons I've made it so far. But I do not like to process with people. I kept having random bursts of weep sessions. I didn't want to look at facebook and see all the pregnant people and moms on there, it hurt my soul. I've felt in the past like I was robbed of a normal life, but this taste of actual normality, this taste of what being a family was like, was taken from me again. I wanted to be the one to share this with my husband, nobody else deserved to. I was frustrated with all the moms of the world. Some of them shouldn't be moms. Some of them don't want to be. I'm an awesome mom, even to kids that aren't actually mine. I just wanted my efforts, my hard work to be rewarded with someone calling me "mom".

As I processed through these feelings, I began to have a deeper ache inside of me. I began to feel for the actual baby that was in me. This baby was intentionally made. It was wanted. No other baby I have will look like it. It had unique qualities. Would it have had my hair? My husband's eyes?  Would it get the seasonal colds I seem to get, or have the immune system like daddy? These are questions that will remain unanswered. I don't know what that baby would have looked like had I birthed it and held it in my arms. I will never know. But I will know that my next baby is going to be different. I never imagined that losing a baby so early could make me feel like I had just lost a close family member. But it did. The agony was the same. I may be able to move on from it "easier", but the pain was just as intense. 

My husband and I camped out at home the whole week. We barely left the house. Barely did anything. But I just needed him by me, needed him to hold me. A few days passed and he had to go to the dentist. I decided to go to the store by myself while he was at his appointment, and walking alone in the store surrounded by so many people....I almost lost it. I was freaking out inside, I was overwhelmed, I just wanted my husband to hold my hand. Walking in to the store I thought "I'm fine, look at me being all independent", but being in there alone, I couldn't handle it. I bought myself some candy and just sat in the car, mourning with my bag of candy, letting the sun beam in the windows. 

I am never going to get answers to the questions of "why me", so I don't try anymore. I actually don't believe that it's God who makes every event happen, I think a lot of it is the course of life: chemical discrepancies, life choices, etc. So I can't expect Him to tell me "well here's the reason I took your baby away...".  But it's funny, with this belief that many of the things that happen are not God's "doing",  I can in an instant believe God did me an injustice. It's a mere flash of a thought for me, but it's funny, isn't it? Funny how we desire so much for someone to be blamed, or for someone to "have it out" for us. And if we're too Christian for those feelings, we desire to find MEANING in everything. We say "well God must have a bigger picture in mind" or "must've not been God's timing".  That may be true in some cases, but always resorting to that is not a healthy way of coping with life. I think that's why I am who I am today. The feeling of injustice, the feeling of life not being fair, it's not a healthy thing to cling to. If I still believed that life was all about what I thought justice was, I probably would be a single, divorced woman who had given up on family and God. Instead I try to focus on who God wants me to be through any situation. If God is only FOR me, he is for my ultimate good. Having babies, being thought of as the worlds most amazing mom, being successful; these are all things of the world. It doesn't matter what things I have, because things don't make me who God wants me to be (though they can be tools). I can't give up on who God wants me to be just because life doesn't seem to go my way. I feel pain in my heart a lot of times, but it doesn't debilitate me anymore. I may need time to process, but I don't feel hopeless. There's always a hope inside of me. I've visited the place where there's no hope, and it's a place no one should go ever. I think there's a sign on the way to the-place-of-no-hope that says "turn back now". 

So although I might still get emotional or frustrated when I see moms or pregnant people, I am hopeful that I will get over it. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Stepmom Diaries #11: Thou shall not be judged if you are only facebook friends.

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I've gone through a lot of struggles these past two years (everyone has struggles), from relationships to money to physical problems. Yet, all these struggles have caused me to develop a better sense of understanding people; not a PERFECT sense, but a better one. Had I not gone through these things, I would never understand why people make the choices they do. But the more I suffer, the more I learn. And I've come to realize that we were all created SO UNIQUELY. I mean, the very chemical structure of each of us is SO UNIQUE, we can't be compared to another. I don't believe there's a certain way for people to eat, or parent, or act socially, because I now know the best thing for each person depends on their specific, unique situation and chemical structure. Yes, I believe in moral absolutes, but people apply absolutes to things that were never made to be absolute. I am wheat-free, because that's what my body needs. Some people need to be vegetarians, because their body struggles with something totally different. Some need to be dairy free, some vegan, some paleo. Each person is totally different and each body needs something different. This is why some people just can't lose weight on certain diets, they aren't having their specific needs addressed, they are being part of the generalized population.

Take going to the doctor, for example. I can present a list of symptoms I have, and they will give me the thing they think it is. Surely if I have a these symptoms it must be this certain ailment. But really, there are THOUSANDS of possible problems that could produce those symptoms, and because each person expresses symptoms differently, you have to take each person as a unique case. There are doctors who don't put in this effort, and they go on to treat people for diseases and issues they don't even have. 

I think about this, and then think about how this is what we are doing to people when we have such a massive social world. We see other people's lives so much, that we CAN'T take people as individual, unique cases. We take their "symptoms" (i.e. facebook statuses, pictures, comments, etc...) and apply it to the world we know, a world that is possibly states or countries away from these people. You have no idea how many facebook statuses and posts I have misintrepreted. People post sad posts, and I can get frustrated because I think they're looking for a pity party. But on a few cases, I took the time to inquire and realized that I had NO IDEA what this person was going through, and in their world, the status made so much sense and was not intended to be a pity party, nor had any personal reference. I felt instantly humbled and shamed. I've done this with people's political views, or shared news articles; I imply my own meaning or understanding from what I think they are trying to say.

I do this outside the social media world as well. I sometimes know the answers or think I know the answers to people's problems. I'm gonna be honest, I have done this my whole life with my family members, especially my sister. I would imply my personal experience and knowledge to what she was saying, and therefore I would create my own "right" answer to her problems, or shut her down completely. After getting married, I realized, that if I wanted to maintain my family relationships, I needed to take the time to understand why she was saying and thinking the things she was thinking. There were reasons for the emotions and passion she had, and those reasons weren't  necessarily bad, they were just rooted from different experiences than I was used to. My mind was blown. Maybe the right thing to me, isn't the right thing to her (this has nothing to do with moral values or anything, more just general life circumstances) because my life is totally different than hers... how could it be the same for her?

But we don't have the time to do that with many people outside of our family. Especially because we have so many people's lives we are keeping up with. So many "symptoms" we see without seeing the actual causes. Let me just say, don't be afraid to delete people from facebook. And people, don't get offended if you're deleted. Our lives weren't made to be so easily accessed, and some people's situations require boundaries and privacy, or others might struggle with focusing on their own relationships because they are so caught up with the online ones. You need to do what is best for you. You may be totally fine with having 1000 friends, maybe that's helpful for you. But please, don't get to the point where you judge people for being careful on facebook. That's just silly.

My husband and I have become very accustomed to people judging and thinking of our lives in a totally different light. Why? Because they have not lived it or been around it, so of course they are going to take our "symptoms" and apply it to their understanding...it's a human thing to do! But it's amazing how much pain and hurt that can cause when you choose to stay a part of someone's life but not take the steps to understand it, yet still feel you have a place to judge or make assumptions. You don't; I don't! And I know I still do, probably more than I wish to admit. But now I actively fight it and tell myself that unless I'm going to take the time to invest in understanding their situation, I don't have the right to judge yet; and this works! My behavior towards others is better, my feelings towards them are better because I know there is a little life behind that person that I don't know about, a string of events that have brought them to that point. And I need to take the time to know that life.

I think about Jesus and the way he handled people. The only time he "judged" the face value was with people like the Pharisees. Why? Because Jesus knew that they KNEW BETTER. And that's where I think the line is drawn. Do you really actually KNOW that people know better than what they are doing? Because I can guarantee you that most people don't know the gravity of their choices.  What did Jesus say as He was hanging from the cross? "Father forgive them for they KNOW NOT WHAT THEY ARE DOING." NO, it does not mean they weren't wrong, but Jesus was asking for them to not be judged on this action. He was asking for them to be given a chance to realize what the gravity of this action really was. And that is a love like none other. 

I believe firmly that we were all created uniquely, and I believe God knew that this would challenge us to keep our judgement in check. Are we giving each other the love and grace that Jesus gave those who condemned him to death?  Maybe we should be.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Stepmom Diaries #10: To Suffer Well

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You know how sometimes you just want to tell somebody how to do their life, because you "know" what each decision will lead to, but they seem to not know? Well, it's tough. It's a rotten position to be in, and I've been on both sides of it. But I've discovered that you CANNOT merely TELL someone.  They often times are completely unable to accept what you have to say because they have not been through what you have. I can tell someone why they are overweight, because I have been overweight and I know what the reasons were and can see them reflected in others. And because of this, it seems like I should be able to simply explain to people why they are overweight and they will "get" it and change. Or I can explain how you need to treat your new marriage because I've gone through it the hard way. What seems so "clear" to me is not so clear to others. So even if I tell them exactly why or what, people can "understand" with their ears, but they can't actually apply it to themselves. 

My husband told me when we were dating that I should not marry him until I have experienced what sharing the kids might be like, and even though he explained to me how "horrible" it all was, I couldn't get it. I could not understand the gravity of it. He spelled it out, situation by situation, and even though it sounded unbelievably awful, for some reason I couldn't grasp how that would affect me. I wish I would have listened, I wish I was able to understand, but I can tell you that I was INCAPABLE of understanding. As hard as it is, sometimes, we just gotta take a step back. We gotta say "alright, I've gotta let you go through this one on your own."

It took me going through it and experiencing it to understand. And it was excruciating. I won't try to explain it because, if I've learned anything, people just can't understand. I don't tell details to people or try to make intimate friends with people because no one can understand that what we are saying is real. After the pain I would weep and say "I wish someone would have told me!" as if my husband hadn't already tried to tell me multiple times how exactly it would be. But I couldn't comprehend what that would be like so I pressed on.

In a way, we never grow up. Parents have to let their kids learn things the hard way. You can say "don't touch that curling iron because it will burn you" and many kids will dismiss that as if it doesn't apply to them and reach out for the hot piece of metal regardless. You can say "you need to stop staying up so late and then you wouldn't be tired for school as much", and your kid might just roll his eyes. We can know exactly how to fix someone and their life, but most times they are incapable of understanding where that advice is coming from. It's almost like we were MEANT to suffer in order to learn and get better. So we can ask ourselves "why me?!" and wonder why we're going through all the junk we go through, but do you ever think maybe humanity is just inherently stubborn? Some things just can't be learned until we suffer.

The things that have made me into the woman I am today, a woman I am proud of, are things I wouldn't wish on anyone. I wish I could just tell you and you could just trust me. But I know that not even I am able to just trust someone's advice, especially when I can't imagine or comprehend it completely (and some people have just plain bad advice).

My poor husband has had to watch me suffer over and over again. Some things he has been through himself, and he knows the endpoint to that suffering. He knows where I could be and sometimes tries to explain it to me. But most of the time I just have to go through it on my own. I have too much baggage for him to carry me to that end point, I need to get there myself. But in the end I have to choose: am I going to suffer well, or am I going to let this destroy me?

I've let suffering destroy me. It's a choice. I have chosen before to let it eat me up and rot inside of me. That's how I felt. I felt like I had a huge lump rotting inside of me and it was eating me up. I was not ready to accept my suffering. I was not about to accept and "be happy" about something no one should have to accept. I know some peoples' experiences are much more difficult than others, but it's still a choice how you handle it. It doesn't make it any less hard, but honestly, the amount of effort you put into suffering is the same amount of effort it takes to accept your trials. So why choose to put that effort to something that is going to rot you when you could be putting it towards something that is going to grow you???

Suffering is inevitable. But it is a necessary trial for growth. No one is amazing and wise without having suffered. Sometimes I just have to take a step back and look at my pain with the perspective of "I'm going to get through this, and I'm going to be awesome because of it". Not that every trial makes me "awesome", but getting through anything makes you THAT much more wise and strong!
Choose to suffer well, and you will be amazed at what you can get through joyfully.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #9: Conquering the Bad

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I just want to preface this by stating to the world: I do not write anything that I would be ashamed of my family reading, and that includes my kids. I do my best to speak truth about life, while protecting my family. But I like being honest. I like being able to speak to people who struggle. I do not write anything about my kids that I wouldn't write about my biological kids. Being a parent is hard. Being a parent is rewarding. But being a stepparent is the MOST rewarding. Yet it is also the role that receives the most criticism. You can talk about your own kids however you want, but a stepmom is immediately criticized. This is a stepmom blog, geared towards people who have unconventional lives, therefore the concepts may seem negative or crazy to you. But I wish you could take a step inside our lives, the kids' lives, because it would make you smile. My little family makes me smile. I don't feel hurt by criticism anymore, because I feel so blessed to give to this little family of mine the things I am able to. So on to this current blog:

You have no idea how many unposted posts I have written. I always imagined I would put together a book with all the ideas I use in these posts. Needless to say, I went about four different ways with THIS specific post, and deleted all of it. Apparently I have a lot to say, or at least I like to say stuff. 

I had a post written where I explained in length, but will now in short, how we need to stop focusing on the bad and start focusing on the good. Stop preaching about what is bad and start preaching on what is good. The post was written on the basic psychology principle of:

Don't tell your kids to not go into the road, tell them to stay in the yard.

"Don't go into the road" means that they could go ANYWHERE else besides the road, yet "stay in the yard" means that the yard is the only place you want your kids to be. If they are anywhere else but the yard, they know they're disobeying.

How much does this simplify life? When we know what TO do instead of all of the things NOT to do? I wish I was surrounded by examples of this. I wish I had this philosophy. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. Yet, it's heartache that brought me to this understanding....

The first year of my marriage, I wept over and over thinking that I would never be able to say that I was glad I married my husband. It's sad, I was sad about it, who wants to be in mourning over the love of their life?  But I couldn't say I was happy to marry him. He knew it, too. That whole year, or year and a half, I could never even think it would be possible for me to say that. In my mind, I had a made a huge mistake. I caused myself so much pain by marrying into this situation, that surely it was a mistake. Good choices never bring pain, right?


We're never promised a painless life. Good AND bad choices bring pain. The BEST choices can bring pain. So why would we be doomed to pain, even if we are making the best choices? I've touched on this subject before, and I just want to reiterate. We view pain as bad, but it's not. I've gone through more pain than I ever thought I wanted. But I was not taught how to conquer it. I wasn't given the skills to feel BLESSED by going through pain. But today, I know that I could never be who I am without it. And I really like who I am (never thought I would like myself!). During the worst of it, I hated myself. Yet now I see these challenges as just that: a challenge. A chance to conquer. A chance to see what's on the other side. 

I would NEVER know how to love the way I know now had I not gone through this journey. I would NEVER know peace had I not gone through it. It's easy to think you know peace when you are going through peaceful times, but when you are challenged to really put peace to practice, THAT'S when you know what it is. It's supernatural. You shouldn't be able to be in peace during that pain, but you can. And Christ says you will have it, just ask for it. So yeah, I asked for it...over and over again...but I never received it, because I didn't put out my hands to receive it. My hands were filled with pain, I was clinging to it. I didn't say "oh thank goodness, Lord, let's trade. I'll take peace and you take pain." I was holding on to pain so hard and with both hands, that I was just hoping God would toss the peace as close to me as possible. Maybe I could use my feet to pick it up. But God picked me up and put me somewhere else, somewhere far away from the main source of pain. And again, I was challenged. I still was clinging to the pain, like Gollum hiding in a dark corner with a piece of meat. But finally I realized that pain isn't something God asks us to hold on to. He wants us to conquer it. There is another side to pain. The grass really IS greener on that side. It was a hard breakup, pain and me. Now I can see why even when horrible relationships end, it can be hard. Pain was my companion. What was I gonna do without it? 

Well, now I don't see pain the same way. The same things come up every day, the same challenges, the same day-to-day tasks, but I know what it's like to have pain be my companion during those times, and I actively fight it by choosing to be happy (I do my best). By choosing to love when I don't feel loved. By choosing to take care of people when I don't feel taken care of. By KNOWING I am valuable even when people try to tell me otherwise. These seemingly little victories are huge moments of conquering for me. And it's not just for me. Those small things are Christ's victories. Christ doesn't live in darkness, so it's up to you and me to bring his light to those dark places. Challenges are for us to bring him glory. They are for us to know him better, and for us to BE better! I dare you to find me an outstanding human being who hasn't conquered hard things. Find me an outstanding person who has had every thing easy in life. You won't be able to. Those people you think are incredible, are people who know how to conquer the bad. Living in pain, focusing on the problems in life, these are all things Christ has freed us from. Don't make light of his death. He did this for us, so you'd BETTER take the opportunity to experience his freedom. 

I see people use this "freedom" as bondage. Bondage to sin, bondage to prayer, bondage to the scriptures... absolutely no empowerment of Christ in them. You can spend hours rereading that verse over and over if you want, you can pray constantly over your decisions and not make any for yourself...but it's precious time wasted when you could be out on the battlefield. You are now an ambassador, God has entrusted YOU to make decisions. YOU are to pray for wisdom so that YOU can make decisions. I see so many people's lives just wasting away because they're waiting, they're waiting for a for-sure sign from God. And then they make an outrageously emotionally based decision because they were waiting for a sign and chose to make that sign themselves. God does not promise us miracles to justify every decision we want to make. He promises wisdom, ask for it. Guidance, ask for it. If you are trusting him to guide you, no decision will not be used for good, oh ye of little faith! 

We live in a dark world, people say this all the time. But they try to take on other people's "darkness" and avoid their own. If you're trying to bring light into the world, start with yourself. You may think you aren't living in darkness because you're doing and saying all the "right" things, but if you aren't living in God's freedom, in his peace and love, then you have a victory waiting to be won with yourself.

I may be a few victories in, but I have many many more to win!

Also, to the love of my life, I love you more than the universe. You are the best thing to happen to me. I am so happy to be able to say that. I am so sorry I was never able to. You, and your life, has grown me in a way I would never have been able to grow. I am slowly developing into the person I should always have been. Thank you for being my companion in life, I'd choose you any day :)

Grace and PEACE,



Thursday, October 2, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #8: Dear author of "16 Things I Want The Love of My Life To Know"

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Wow. This post has taken me a long time. I have about 6 different versions and I am scared to post any of them. Why, you might ask? Because I'm scared that my "radical" marriage is going to be upsetting to 35-year-old and younger crowd. But here it goes:

I recently came across an article shared on Facebook titled "16 Things I Want The Love of My Life To Know". I opened because I assumed the person who wrote this is unmarried and wanted to see what she thought she wanted from marriage. I made this assumption because I would imagine most marriages would already have told the love of their life the things they want them to know. As I read the article, I became more suspicious that this author was, in fact, single. To my horror, her view on marriage was pretty modern and sadly what I see all too much nowadays.

I'm going to address some of her more controversial points (her whole article is found here http://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2014/09/16-things-i-want-the-love-of-my-life-to-know/). **Make note that I am speaking from what I have learned, and I am not all-knowing. 

#1. "When people talk about their partners and spouses (future and current) they usually want them to know that it’s forever, no matter what. I want you to know that I don’t care about forever. I want you for as long as I’m meant to have you. I will love you every moment I’m able to because I’ll never pretend I have forever to do so."

I honestly have no idea what she thinks she's saying, but she seems like she is trying to sound passionate. I, however, want my husband to know that he is my forever. As long as I am alive, I will love him. If through some tragedy I lose him, I will still love him. I commit to him not for how long "I'm meant to have" him, but for how long we are alive. To me, that is what I consider "forever". So yeah, I care about forever and that's the type of love I'm going to give, the one that will last forever.

#2. "You won't always come first...real love isn't about dropping everything in pursuit of one another, it's about wanting to pay bills and keep food on the table..."

See, I can understand why she might say this. People will see lovey-dovey couples and make judgments about their lives. They think those people aren't realistic, logical, practical, or mature. I was one of those people. Let me tell you: put your husband first. My husband and I will not have conflicting work schedules where we trade off the kids but miss out time with each other. We just won't. We will live cheaply if we have to, we will make sure all needs are being met for our kids, but we will not put our marriage at risk by "putting finances" first. We put each other first ALWAYS. Putting each other first is putting your marriage first, and marriage is the most important human relationship God has given to us.

We're not going to let our bills get out of hand, but we're not going to let our finances control us. We control our finances. And if putting your spouse first comes in the way of finances, you need to rethink your whole lifestyle.

Now, on the other hand, when my husband and I first got married he told me specifically that he would never put me first. In those words. You see, for him, he didn't like the way that sounded. In his prior relationship, he put the woman first. But he assumed that giving in to everything she wanted and doing all he could to make her happy was "putting her first", and he just would not do that again. My heart was broken when he told me this. So I understand how someone might not like the way "putting first" sounds. Yet, in a healthy marriage, "putting each other first" means making sure that first and foremost your spouse is emotionally,spiritually, mentally, and physically contented. His/her needs are your highest concern, but it doesn't mean that you don't feed the kids or take a shower. I mean, come on, be reasonable.

#4.  "I have no expectations. Even just promising to love somebody unconditionally is an expectation...unattached love is the most sincere kind..."

Our main purpose on earth is to love, and perfect love is unconditional. I realize none of us can achieve this type of love, but we should act like it's possible and strive to give perfect love. What the heck is "unattached" love, anyways? Loving from a distance? Not needing someone? Let me clarify, unattached love is actually the easiest kind of love (but is it even real?). When you're unattached, you are less prone to receiving hurt. It's easy to love someone through hardships when they're not even attached to you. When you're "attached" (i.e. marriage, anyone?), loving someone through their struggles hurts you personally, making it THAT much more difficult to still love on them. I'm sure that, either as a single person or married person with not much physical attention, it may seem "gross" or overwhelming to see married couples "attached" to each other. You may roll your eyes when you hear one spouse ask the other for permission to do stuff. I suggest you read on.  

#5. " I don’t want to be your entire life. I want to hang out with my friends. I want alone time. I want to go on trips and start projects and take long walks without having to report where I am. I want the same for you. I want us to maintain our lives outside one another; a successful merging of them isn’t infiltrating each moment, it’s coexisting as one. (People are quick to confuse attachment for codependence.)"

Now this, this right here, is one of the most tragic things I see in marriages. She mentions coexisting as "one" and yet says they should maintain separate lives. Quite frankly, marriage takes a lot of time to make it wonderful, and friends also take time. But I'm not going to sacrifice an awesome, exciting marriage to maintain my "separate life" and pursue outer friendships when I should be daily pursuing my husband. Marriages might be able to "work" while maintaining your own social lives, but I guarantee you will never reap from what marriage can really be, and you're only making space, between you and your spouse, for troubles.

I like people, I don't mind being around them and I actually think I have a lot to offer others; but I would rather my husband with me. No one needs to be encouraging spouses to take time away from their husband, don't we naturally have that instinct? The more you make friends a priority, the more your loyalties become torn between family and friends. All relationships take work, and I'd rather first focus on the person I am with every night and who will be with me for the rest of our lives, however long that may be. I realize there's a possibility that one of us will be taken from the other sooner than we would have hoped, but I would only regret not giving him my all while I have him. I would never say "Oh I wish I hadn't spent that time with him and that I spent it with friends", even if it means that I don't have friends when he's gone. I'd take family any day. I understand that there will be times a girl or family member will need me by myself to talk(privacy wise), and I respect that. So what do I do? Schedule a coffee session while my husband is working. Schedule it during a day-time appointment. Those things are planned around one-on-one time with my honey. But when the kids are in bed and it's just me and the husband, there's no way I'm going to leave him. 

I've seen marriage problems (they're everywhere!) where the husband feels like he has to let his wife go and be social because she's sad  and unfulfilled otherwise. My husband was stuck in a relationship like that. This is one of the most unhealthy things you can do as a married couple. I keep telling my husband to never let us get to that point, because we see what it does to people. Eventually, spouses feel the need to talk to other people about their marriage issues instead of working it out first with their husbands. They start to enjoy attention from other people and therefore build up a need for that type of attention. Their desire for friends and fun (or even the support of friends) only grows, and it becomes more and more justifiable to leave your husband to be with other people. The few times I've been away from my husband with other people, I realized how easy it is to put your spouse on the backburner. Never do I want to put my husband in a position where he might seek other means to fulfill his needs, I want to be there for him whenever he needs me. 

Shea and I talk through each time we might spend time away from each other and make a decision together of whether it is a worthwhile venture. Then we maximize our time where we make sure the other spouse isn't sitting sadly by themselves, but that they are hanging out with the kids or getting projects done. I'm sure people might laugh at this, but let me tell you, I was very used to doing everything for myself. I was incredibly independent and made all my own decisions, but I would never trade my amazing marriage for the ability to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I wasted a lot of time and don't even remember who I did all those things with. In fact, what I want now is to stay with my husband all the time. And no, it doesn't make me want time alone. The times I think about wanting to be away is never for a just cause, and usually means I have something to work out with my man.

I will say that mothers, especially, do need SOME(***some) time to themselves. I get this with little effort now that both kids are in school, but before they both were in school I figured out a different way to steal time. Instead of making my husband or the kids miss out on time with me (or vice versa), I chose to get up early in the mornings, before anyone was up, to work out and enjoy a cup of coffee by myself. That was "me" time. I didn't rob my husband or kids of time with me, in fact, I would hop back in bed each morning so that I could wake up with my husband. But I did see the benefit from time to myself, and even Shea admitted I was much more of a joy when I had that time in the mornings and was able to work out.

SO, all THAT being said, we aren't crazy. But I do think that we are different than other couples. Some couples don't agree with this philosophy, but it changed marriage for us-- for the good. Basically, out of all human relationships we could pursue, we chose each other and continue to choose each other every day.

#15. "You can tell whether or not somebody loves you by two things: the way they glance at you when you’re talking and they think you’re distracted by your own thoughts and the way they touch you in a non-sexual way. Never underestimate the tiny gestures. Never over-estimate your ability to convince somebody that you love them when you don’t. Never rely solely on stating that you love me, it’s meaningless until you wouldn’t need to say it for me to still know."

Yeah.... that's never how I know my husband loves me. Like, in no way shape or form is the way he looks at me while I'm thinking the REASON I know he loves me. I actually do need my husband to specifically say he loves me. I certainly like saying it to him. I have no other outlet for this intense passion and feeling I have for him, if I don't say I love him I go crazy and can't stop nuzzling him, and that's just silly ;) Those tiny gestures that sound romantic become of such little importance when you're married. You discover what love really is and you learn to show it in a totally different way. Sure, there are still times that he might brush my shoulder or face with his finger and look at me sweetly; it's super cute. But that's not how I know he loves me. He did that when we were dating! He thought I was the best thing since sliced bread and was all about staring at me and brushing my hair and touching my face. But he barely even knew me. It had no reflection of his love, it was infatuation. 

Love is the choice to be in love, the choice to still hold your spouse even when they're angry with you, and the choice to stay with them through it all. Love is making sure that your spouse is taken care of, even before yourself. You may hear of how couples just burnt out all of their "madly in love"-ness, but you can choose to be madly in love. It is a choice. And it is so much more beautiful than any other sort of love you could ever have.

I know that all situations are different, and I realize my husband I have only been together for two years...but we were not strong in the beginning and would never be where we are today if we continued to remain separate in certain areas of our lives. And for those of you who have been married much longer than we have, I also understand that I may desire to get some time alone someday. But I want to remember why I choose not to. I want to remember what I've learned from marriages where, over time, they start to hang out with people separately. I've seen husbands struggle with porn, I've seen women desire attention from other men, I've seen marital problems and trust issues...and, yes, I believe much of this could be avoided if we devoted ourselves to making our spouses our first choice of companion. 

I feel the need to clarify everything I'm saying because I already can think of some people who would say "well what about..." questions.  Shea and I DO get time to pursue things; I play the piano while he draws. I talk on the phone to my family or friends while he is wrestling the boys. He'll talk on the phone while I'm at work. I'll go to coffee while he has a meeting and boys are at a friend's house. We take those moments to do things that are our own. I just would rather not do things that are my own while leaving my husband to stare at a computer screen while I'm gone.

So to the author of "16 Things I Want The Love of My Life To Know", I hope you find a fantastic man to marry. I hope he captures your heart in a way that you would never want to make any room to hurt his. My marriage is not "perfect", I don't always abide by what I preach (oh how I try!), but I do know that protecting your marriage is one of the most important missions you will have in your life. You, your husband, your children, your children's children, and the institute of marriage....they will all reap rewards from this. 

Grace and peace,

Mr. and Mrs. Shea Nash

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #7: Let's talk about food.

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As my family and I are in transition and not living in our own home yet (hopefully within a month, though!), I have realized how different our lifestyle is than others, especially having been living in a very small town for the past two years.  Candy, dessert, and soda have never been a part of our eating routine.  We don't talk bad about it, we don't adamantly oppose it (or so I thought), we just simply don't do it.  My kids never even knew that was a thing until recently.  In McCall, there was no fast food, so there was never reason for the kids to know what that was like.  I always bought the same simple groceries, and the kids have eaten what we eat. Lately, we've been exposed to more.

Living in a bigger town (yes, I'm referring to Soldotna as a big town), where there's Taco Bell and McDonald's, is tempting, because frankly with whining kids in the back, it's the fastest thing to get.  In McCall, our house was one minute away from everything so there was never a reason to buy food when the kids were hungry, we would always stop by the house. Living with others also makes it difficult because now I can't control what my kids are being offered.  In our house, there was no dessert. One time (okay it was every time) the kids came home from a weekend with their mother and asked for dessert after dinner. We looked at them and answered "What are you talking about?".  We were floored, we couldn't believe they expected that we would have dessert. We just don't do it. Besides, after dinner and before bed is the WORST time to have desserts.  Now, if it was a birthday dinner and they asked that, it would be understandable. Birthday cakes are just a thing that will never not exist, and I'm fine with that. Dessert every night, however, I'm not fine with.

Needless to say, my kids have been offered dessert and candy so frequently (not to mention coming back from a trip to Washington last week with an extra suitcase devoted solely to holding five pound bags of candy. Yes, that was all that was in the bag...), that they are now starting to think this is a consistent part of life and are asking for it.  We used to think it was fun to go out to ice cream every now and then, but seeing that the kids are being accustomed to it, we just feel sick offering those things. This brings me to something else that I just WISH someone would preach about: Gluttony.

People feel free to preach against alcohol because the accidents that can come from it seem more severe than heart attacks and gall bladder disease (as if those are the only consequences for gluttony). I know this is a touchy topic, but no one is talking about it. No one is talking about what gluttony is really saying about us. 

Overeating is not something to be taken lightly. I've been a victim of food issues, where I would either not eat or I would eat until I was sick... all the time.  I gained a lot of weight in college, and then dropped a little when I started binge eating on "healthy" food. But let me clarify: I was still binge eating.  This was not healthy, and I'd like to go face-to-face with the person that tries to tell me it had nothing to do with my mental or spiritual state.  I was so torn every time I saw a skinny girl eat a dessert or drink a soda, because somehow I convinced myself that I was a victim. I did not get a healthy view of food until I got married, gained a healthy self-confidence, and STOPPED TALKING ABOUT FOOD. 

I don't believe unhealthy or binge eating is something we should ignore.  People constantly preach about how if they were to have a drink and cause a brother to stumble, they simply won't drink. WHAT ABOUT FOOD?! How many times do we overeat because others are? How many times have my kids been eating sugar because others around them are? I'm sorry, but the way others eat does cause me to stumble. It's hard to say no when it's offered and everyone else is eating it. It's even harder because there is no taboo against it. My kids used to feel sick when they'd have more than one piece of candy, and therefore I never had to tell them candy was bad; their bodies just knew it.  Now that it's being incorporated more and more into their diet (not my doing), they don't get to that point. Now they have no idea when to stop. 

I do realize it's a hard line, because if I have guests over, maybe I'd make a pie (I'll be honest, I actually don't know that I would make dessert). I might offer it to them, but then again, I won't offer it twice if they say no. I'm at the point in my eating where, if I am a guest, I won't die if I eat dessert there. Yet, we have that "etiquette" standard where we just assume we can't say no when we're a guest. Okay, fine.  But it's the consistency of eating poorly in front of others, the amount you eat, the time of day you eat it, or being excessively overweight and showing these eating habits... You do need to be careful. If you are someone who tends to judge those who have a glass of wine a night, yet you are having dessert every night, take a step back and reevaluate what addiction and unhealthy behavior really is. I know someone who has a small glass of wine every night with a piece of chocolate, and this habit is not an "addiction".  Constant excess is addiction.  Emotional attachment and expectation to/of it is addiction.  This certain person actually portrays moderation very well, which is what we should be portraying. But I have seen food addiction to the point where immediately after going out for lunch or dinner, someone has to find the nearest candy or ice cream shop. No matter how much they ate, they just have to have dessert. 

I don't quite care for movies such as "Fed Up" or "Super Size Me" because I don't believe that food is the biggest problem. People are. People's mental and emotional health are at stake.  I wish we treated it more seriously, because lives are ruined over food. People are ruined. People's bodies are ruined. I see so many girls go through so much pain over food. Do you know why? Society isn't showing moderation in anything. Preaching about bad and good foods isn't good either.  The only way I overcame my food addiction was by not talking about food. Eating healthy without talking about it. I eat healthy for my kids and husband, and we just don't talk about what's good and bad. I don't want to give any weight or taboo to food. I want to raise my kids in a way that they naturally eat healthy and in moderation. No words attached. When I give them healthy, good food, that's all they know to eat and that's all they crave.  When they start getting introduced to bad foods consistently, then unfortunately we have to talk about it, and I wish it never got to that point. I don't have a scale, I will never own one. I will never talk about weight in front of my kids or people for that matter. Carbs, calories, and fat are my least favorite words. Stop making food a big deal, people KNOW how to eat! They do! No one says "well I just didn't KNOW I should eat vegetables".  Start making a difference by not preaching about good and bad food, but start showing and preaching moderation. 

I believe there are people predisposed to being overweight, I believe this wholeheartedly because I see it. I was never hugely overweight, but I was a glutton. I see people who are overweight but are NOT gluttons. Weight isn't the core issue. Addiction, abuse of moderation, and consistent bad habits is what I see. I don't see it in "overweight" people, I see it in people who display these behaviors. Seeing someone overweight doesn't make anybody stumble.  It's the behaviors that make people stumble. 

I am feeling very intense about this issue because I am scared that I won't be able to stop it from creeping into my family. I want my kids to have a healthy mind and body, not constantly weighing how many calories they ate in the day but instead eating in a way where it's consistent, they feel good, and most importantly they are not concerned with food. I see it creeping up on me again, too. I'm now thinking about food instead of eating my normal, healthy routine... :(

One more thing: those who know they struggle with addiction know when they just can't even start. Which is why some people simply don't eat sugar or drink alcohol. They know those signs. Don't force sugar on someone, you wouldn't do that with alcohol, would you?

As you can tell, I obviously can't do this on my own. I can't keep my kids from being exposed (from food to television at a friend's house). Someone preach about this, please. Help others by helping yourself!


Moderation advocate :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #6: Why we are here

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #5: Oh Lord, you must know what you're doing to me...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stepmom Diaries #4: This may be blasphemous...

I have had this thought for a long time, and I have debated over and over whether I want to share it publicly. To me, it's very profound. I don't want anyone to think that I could at all compare my trials to Christ's burden, but I felt that it was a great analogy for my life and helped me understand Christ's suffering.

This is not an easy life for me. It is not void of happiness or joy, but it is not natural and not how God intended a family or life to function. A long whiles back, I was laying in bed wondering "what is this feeling I have all the time?" Nothing physically was happening to me on a daily basis, life went pretty smoothly most days. But I had this yucky feeling all the time and couldn't explain exactly why. While laying down, I started thinking "this is not mine. This is through no fault of my own that life is like this. I am taking on the burden of another man's mistake" I know, it seems a very dreary outlook on life. But as I keep rolling the thought around in my mind I was like "Oh my goodness. This must be how Christ felt." And something clicked.

Christ came down to earth, and I never understood the "suffering" he went through. It didn't make sense to me. I mean, people were SKINNED and tortured far worse for no good reason, how could he have gone through the ultimate suffering by dying on the cross? But then I realized....Christ came down to earth and lived the life that WE made. It was through no fault of his own that the world was this way, and yet he lived every second with the weight and consequences of OUR actions. The whole world's depravity on his shoulders, DAILY. Nothing physically was happening bad to him every day (until the end), so it makes sense that people wouldn't give him a second glance. They had no idea. But Christ had to look around every day and fight the urge to say "This was not made by me. I did not do this, I should not have to live this way".  I completely realize that my feelings may not even be justified and should not even be compared, but I understand a little bit of what it is like to daily bear the weight of another man's choices. To imagine living with the consequences caused by the mistakes of every human being made on a daily basis? Unbearable. That burden is astounding. I love how in The Pilgrim's Progress they express sin as a backpack, a literal burden. That is the feeling! Either a burden or like the whole atmosphere is Jello and everything just feels dense around you. But I handle the situation so embarrassingly. Instead of "fighting the urge to say", I actually DO say sometimes "I shouldn't have to live this way", and I try to find a way out. And then there's Christ who came down and was like "Alright, here I am. Little do you know how much I am taking on for YOU right now, but go ahead, throw a rock at me. I'm still trudging along to the end. If only you knew how ridiculous you look." I literally am physically impaired when faced with hardships due to this lifestyle, I get sick to my stomach. I keel over. I am so overwhelmed and shocked by how certain people behave, it makes me sick. Wimp wimpy pants. Total humiliation.

Yeah life can seem outrageously unfair and difficult, but I am humbled to know that the Creator knows this feeling. He knows what I'm going through, not because he is all-knowing, but because he has been through it himself (multiplied by every human being who's ever existed multiplied by every mistake they have ever made).

I have about 5 unposted blog posts dealing with what actually is going on in our life, but maybe another time I'll put an update out there :)

"Christ died for OUR sins... he was buried... he rose again."

Grace and peace,

Mrs. Nash