Tuesday, July 2, 2013

And I'm Back!

Hello Dear Friends!

What was an unintended mini hiatus has turned into two months away from my Blog-dom. Yikes!

Between the packing, unpacking, settling, learning, searching, vacationing, adjusting, gardening and all the living that has been happening around here the Blog had to be put on that back burner for a bit. We also squished in a wedding, two family reunions, a visit with great grandma, multiple softball and baseball games, a bit of sewing, a whole lot of a homemaking, and an enormous amount of yardwork. We are very blessed to have found a beautiful rental farm house on the edge of a town the size of pig's eyelash and I couldn't be happier with it. 

God is Good.

All the Time.

 Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. Selah
~Psalms 68:19


Pictorial Time Line: (May through June, including our vacation that was pre-emegency-have-to-leave-your-home planned. :))





























Bless the Lord, O my soul.
O Lord my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty,

You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use,to bring forth food from the earth,

~Psalms 104: 1,14



Blessings, Gretchen :)



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For the Bible Tells Me So

What I have been up to..................













Packing!

We are moving to a beautiful rental farmhouse on the edge of a pretty little (and I mean little) town just a few miles down the road from our current home.

We had been looking for a new home for some time due to my husband's job which takes him out of town. The thought had been to find a home in a more central location. With our blended family things like a move are never an easy decision. We weren't in  a huge hurry but we had been discussing it. 

We have found ourselves in a bit of a pickle.


This move was not however to get us all that closer to The Hubs but instead to move us to a home that is more rural (which we wanted), puts both Pirate Rob and Princess Peony in the same high school (life will be easier), gives us a transition house while we decide what our next step is with his job (there is a possible promotion in a city even farther away than he is driving now), and most importantly because what we thought was a small fix-it problem in our house has turned out to be a HUGE hidden problem. 

A problem we actually can not fix and must in fact leave our house so as to not potentially damage our bodies. We are leaving behind or throwing away many of our things. We are having to clean and vacuum everything that can leave with us. It has been a taxing, frustrating, humbling, exhausting, and emotionally wrenching experience. We are having to trust God, trust others, and ride out this storm to keep our family intact and healthy. 

Through it all, God is in control and we as a family will grow closer to Him and each other as we sort through the next few months. My mantra has been Philippians 4:13:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
and Matthew 19:26
 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

In my darkest moments when I was snot nosed crying out to God for a deliverance of this mess, when I was a swollen, red-eyed mess begging Him to wave His hand and make it all go away and disappear for me, I could not hear Him. My heart was so full of pain and anguish and frustration that I could not see a light at the end of this dark cave we are in. My pain, my hopelessness clouded my vision and deafened my ears. I was trying to fix it myself, to find anyway to keep us from having to give up our home, our things, and all the  stuff. 

I was trying to protect my pride. What will people say? What will they think? Is this mess my fault? Why didn't I know? I can't let anyone know... It is humiliating.

I believe what He was saying was simply... Wait. Wait and let Me work. Wait and let me lead. Wait for I know what is best. I will keep your family together. I will get groceries on your table. I will find you furniture. I will find the funds you need. I will grow your love for me.

I Will.

My job is to obey. Though it seems crazy. Though it is painful. Though I can not know the end result or even hear His voice there is a knowing. 

A knowing that it will be okay.

How do I know? Because the Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so!
Little Ones to Him belong;

They are weak

But He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus loves me!

Yes, Jesus Loves me, 

The Bible tells me so!
 

For He Will Take Care of Everything Because He Loves ME.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. ~ Matthew 6:25-34
Surviving


Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Muddled Marriage ~ The Marriage Pillow Journal



A few months ago I came across a post about connecting with kids by using a Pillow Journal. For the life of me, I can not find that post to give credit for this amazing tool we have been using in our home. I think I will be writing soon about how the kids and I journal to each other.

This post though is about how The Hubs and I have begun using a Marriage Pillow Journal

My wonderful husband works about 2 hours away from us. He is gone more than half the week. We never expected our married life to be spent living in different zip codes most of the time. We did not expect to sleep in different beds. We did not expect to have to discuss discipline issues over the webcam. We never thought that we would spend so much time physically apart.

However, life has a way of sometimes throwing a curve ball and we are asked to adjust to the pitch. God is in control. My husband has work when many don't. My children are clothed and our bellies full. So for a time and in this season we live apart, often.

This means that we have to get creative with our communication.

I am a talker. I like to talk things out. Unfortunately, when The Hubs is gone at work I can not call him 15 times a night to chat about all the 'stuff' that is going on in our family. I can't always call and vent to him. I also don't have the privilege of being able to talk it out and hand off an especially difficult child for discipline when he comes home from work. He might not be home for three more days.


The Lord has blessed me with some talent and so I am a bit of a writer. When life is exciting, busy, or feeling out of control I may not be able to talk to my partner. But, I can write it down. I can write it out better, with more feeling, and often with more foresight and thought given to my words. I can vent in a more cohesive way and usually get to a solution by the end of my journal entry. If not, at least I have a record of my thoughts and feelings and any Biblical help on the subject that I have come across.

So enters the Marriage Pillow Journal. It is my way of keeping up with all the things that I should say to him, but can't fit into a 12 minute Skype session. The things I can't text to him. The daily or weekly or monthly life stuff that happens along and can get left in the dust in our short time spent together.


I can leave The Hubs long drawn out letters about how I am feeling about Prince Ray and his behavior, our day at homeschool group, or about how I am wishy-washy about a curriculum choice. I can write mushy love letters with notes about the awesome things he did for me that melted my heart the last time he was home. I can leave verses to mediate on. Amazing thoughts (well amazing to me) I had during the day. Silly quotes from movies or private jokes we share. Ideas about our future, the kids, church life or when we should get vacation planned. When we are in a disagreement over something I can put my heart feelings to paper and apologize for my stubbornness or state my case. The goal is to get it off my chest and then rest.

I can write it down. Pray for us. And then place it under his pillow for when he returns.

Now here is the best part.

Those birthday card love notes, valentine flowers and anniversary dinners from The Hubs have got nothing on a pen scrawled notebook love note.

Don't get me wrong, I love those kind of thoughtful gifts. Who doesn't like a card and chocolate now and then? But, there is something so special about reading my lover's words. I can savor each one. Read it over and over. I am reminded of those first tender feelings we had for each other. 


I can search in between the sentences for signs of need in my partner. Does he need more words of encouragement? Is he feeling stressed or concerned about work? Have I offended him and didn't know it? 

I then turn this around. 
As much as I enjoy receiving a note ending in: I thank God that He lead me to you!, The Hubs enjoys a note giving him affirmation and thanks. Can I let him know how much I appreciate him? Can I empathize with his work stress and write a prayer for him? Can I apologize if I have hurt him?

My words are longer. My stories often more wordy. My handwriting terrible. But he has warmed to the idea and now enjoys reading my thoughts all put down on paper, just for him. A moment carved out of my time with intent to communicate numerous things to him. Simply because I love him and want to share with him.

His words are short and to the point. His sentences less decorative but so powerful. My heart gladdens when he writes to me because I know it comes less easy for him and therefore it means so much more. I love it when he writes to me. 


For the cost of a five subject spiral bound notebook you can have an enormously useful tool for keeping marriage connected... 
......and a bit less muddled. 


Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)




Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hey Stepmom...


Stepmom.

A word that comes with such visuals I shudder to use it. In fact I never describe myself as a stepmom.

What comes to mind? Come on... you know.
Disney had a hook in which Stepmother was hung and it wasn't decorated with roses and pretty ivy. You can see her. Can't you?

source




Then you remember all the women in your life that are a stepmom. You think about the young family at church, that troops in a number of different ages of children, sometimes all together and sometimes just one or two. You remember your cousin married a woman with a child. You think about an older couple in your Bible Study group with a blended family and the Grandparents that are raising their grandchildren.

It is so commonplace nowadays that we tend to forget how many step parents there really are. Our mind often links to the wicked stepmother in Cinderella that is abusive and evil. We remember the Wicked Witch that hates her stepdaughter's beauty and is so envious of her she wishes her dead! Unfortunately, now we are tainted in our thinking of the word.

source
The Preacher Man and I have a blended family. We often joke we are like that old Lucille Ball movie with a His, Mine, and Ours sort of lifestyle. The difference is we have other parents we have to deal with. We are not married secondly with children because of widow-dom. We were both married before. Married before we were Committed and Born-Again Christians.

So even with those past sins forgiven we soldier on in this world we had created before. We are an example of the New Nuclear Family. We have Mom and Dad, 2 of Mine, 1 of His, and 2 of Ours. We also have Step Parents, Step Siblings, Half Siblings, And a set of Grandparents acting as Step parents. You almost need a drop down menu to follow the family trees leading to and from Our Family.

We don't use titles such as Step Brother, or Half Sister. We say: Brother and Sister. We say: Mom and Dad. We have strove to provide a home that is without those titles that would seek to pull us apart or put walls in between our children. We have worked hard to make a united front in parenting, no matter what the other Parents say, we stand firm using God's Word as our guide. We act as a nuclear family as often as we can.

Young Mother and Her Children

We have known since the beginning that the odds are against us and that the 'norm' for families like ours are dysfunction and pain. Often this is found leading to a division of family that only exacerbates the problem and causes a cycle of building relationships, placing walls up, and then separating. As a couple entering into marriage with children from previous relationships we decided we would double and triple our efforts to place God as our centerpiece. We knew we would have to pray, and seek, and repent and then do it again.

We have been optimistic in our approach. We have been honest with all of our children about details of our B.C. (Before Christ) Life and about some of our bumpy and rumply paths. We are a walking example of God's Unending Love and Grace. Of the possibility of a New Life as a New Creation in Christ. We are the Mess made Whole Through Christ. 

We are not however perfect. We goof up. We sometimes miss the mark. 

Breakfast in Bed

We have some children who are living in between worlds. We have family dynamics that change depending on the weekend and who is home. Sometimes my youngest son is in the 'oldest' spot instead of his 'middler' or 'youngest boy' spot and he transitions well into and out of this space. My truly middle child is the oldest child at his 'other' home and that is a much bigger transition for him to bump back into when he is there. 

There are different belief systems in these other homes, none actively Christian, and that can lead to confusion and frustration. When one set of parents  or guardians allows an act at their home but we do not it can be a thorn. When one set of children is told negative things about their siblings' nationality that can cause hurt and internal dilemma for that set of children. When what we say is Biblical Truth is contradicted by another set of parents we are left defending our choice. It can go on and on.

In truth, I am not complaining. I am asking the Church to be understanding of a situation like ours. I am 100 % supportive of blended Christian Families. It is a ridiculously difficult path to tackle. We would have loved to be only married to each other, to have had a sacred honeymoon, and have all our children sharing the same last name and DNA. That would have been quite a wonderful thing. 

That was not our path. Our path was scarred with life's trials and mistakes. With addictions and problems. There were bad choices and lots of painful results. We were broken pieces of clay waiting for the Master to search us out and place us together.

But there were three beautiful and amazing persons that came out of that B.C. Life. Three lives that are now committed to Christ. Three lives that we are raising, in the shared time we are given, to become strong doers and preachers of The Word. Three fantastically created children that have had one heck of a puzzle pieced childhood. They are resilient, strong in faith, discerning beyond their years, and all growing into the most hopeful of souls.

In Giji Park

So here we are. Carving a life out of that space in our Family Tree. Forming strong roots that dig deep for stability. Wrapping around the Rock of God's Word to keep us steady. We need to bend with the wind and storms. Bend and sway with those fights and personality disputes. Shake off the insults and the hurtful words from those 'other parents'. Drop leaves of regret and leaves of sorrow at all the things we can't live up to so we can look 'normal'. We let the bark grow thick over those spots where well intentioned Chritianese speaking folks have forgotten that we did live that Before Life and that we have no control over certain traits and things those 'other parents' bring to our children. 

I am not gonna lie. When I see families with mom, dad and the 4 kids deciding to go on vacation I am jealous of the ease in which that happens. When we plan vacation, I have to notify no less than four other people! We then have to schedule it in, by playing my favorite game: Which weekend is mine and will you trade so neither of us loses any time? 
I am envious of families that can Live together, Move together, Adventure together. My husband works hours away to provide for us, but we can not move to live with him because of custody arrangements. I lose children or force them to choose. What mother can do that?
I am heartsick that I can not do daily devotions with all my kids, that our family worship is rarely as a whole family, that holidays are broken up into random dates circled on the calendar. I celebrate the days when we are all together and we can play a board game and eat popcorn and laugh like it is going out of style.

The Orphans

We are striving to tear down stereotypes. We do not see ourselves as halves or steps but as wholes. And yet.....
I am by definition a stepmom. 
I am also a mom. 
And I am also a mom whose children have a stepmom. 
I am not evil. I am not hateful. I don't want to steal a child or make a child a slave. I do want them all to respect me. To love me. To see me as just mom. 


Only God Himself fully appreciates the influence of a Christian mother in the molding of character in her children. Billy Graham
Reine Lefebre and Margot before a Window
When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway. Erma Brombeck
 No one in the world can take the place of your mother. Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right. She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones. Harry Truman
Mother and Child

 I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.
Abraham Lincoln

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavour by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.
Washington Irving

So to you who are the definition of Stepmom, I say, you are mom. You are raising, loving, providing, comforting, and breathing your daily walk into that child. Act like the mother you are. Forgive. Be patient. Lose the labels and titles. Build the bridge. All that mom really wants you to do is love her children like they lived under your heart for nine months as well. 

For you who deal with a Stepmom in your child's life, I say, pray for her. It is a thankless job with little to no respect. Pray for her even when you don't want to. Pray that she is open to your suggestions. She knows she can't replace you, but she wants to make a great stand in. And she needs you to not bad mouth her in front of those children. She will earn the respect but she deserves the honor of parent if she is your stand in. She may even rise to the occasion.

Those who have the rare joy of being both, I know it is a tough job. I am living it. I know it is hard. But it is worth it. Pray. Pray for the Stepmom she is and pray for the Stepmom you are. And then be the best you can be in the situation you were placed in. God has given you a unique view of the world. Don't waste it being angry or petty. 

Realize how blessed you are to be heart touched by that child and to have the privilege to help raise him.

Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)

All quotes from: http://www.allgreatquotes.com/mother_quotes.shtml









Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Psalm of Life ~ Longfellow

Waiting to Sail

A Psalm of Life 

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait.
Be not Slumbering in restlessness or be Languid in your thoughts. Instead seek to leave behind footprints in the sandy, slippery life that may encourage another. 
Labor not in vain. Leave your trail to help another take heart.
Before me someone left footprints that help to buoy my soul when I am feeling lost on that beach. Some other Soul Labored in and out of the waves that seek to pull us down and I benefit from their wisdom of jumping waves.. 
So now I am Learning to Labor in that muck and to Wait........
 
Always Blessed, 
Gretchen 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sound the Retreat


source


Sometimes I need to retreat. To pull back from the hurt and pain that comes with life.

Retreat from the confusion of my own wants and desires. My weak attempt to make things work out.

Sometimes I want to hide from everything. To cover up my head with my grandmother's quilt and not surface.

Usually this is after I have railed aloud at God,  screamed at the top of my lungs for an answer to my needs, my wants, and cried until I am spent.

Then I take cover.

Retreat to the quiet of my head.

Which is never really quiet.

So I fill it with audio versions of the Book of Psalms because I am too weak to even read
I listen. I breathe. I fill myself with the words of David:

Psalm 4

Confident Plea for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
    You gave me room when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
    How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.
When you are disturbed, do not sin;
    ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
    Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
    more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.


There are times when my enemy is myself. My own thoughts that seek to bring me down. 
To be distraught and saddened beyond outside control is a mournful thing. 

So I sound the retreat.


When crying out appears to be met with deaf ears.
When Hope is a splendored thing that it seems is not meant for me.
When life has brought you to the place of a tauntly stretched guitar string and all you can hear is that high-pitched whinning and vibrating sadness; It Can Feel Like Just Too Much.

Retreat to God's Word. 

Psalm 6

Prayer for Recovery from Grave Illness

To the leader: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger,
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
    O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
My soul also is struck with terror,
    while you, O Lord—how long?

Turn, O Lord, save my life;
    deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
    in Sheol who can give you praise?

I am weary with my moaning;
    every night I flood my bed with tears;
    I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eyes waste away because of grief;
    they grow weak because of all my foes.

Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
    for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
    the Lord accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
    they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.

Find Solace in another who has cried for help. Who has been brought low by life and it's circumstances.

It may feel like God doesn't hear you. It may feel like you are alone. It may feel like all hope is lost. It may feel like He isn't helping. It may feel like you are drowning in your tears and that your string is going to break. 

Find peace in His Word.


 Psalm 17: 6-8, 15
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
    incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
    O savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand.

Guard me as the apple of the eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,

15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

Understand in your retreat, that He is still there. He still loves you. 
When your guitar string breaks, and sometimes it will, that is when He can restring you with newness. He can lift you up and hold you in an embrace of such Father Love you are once again whole. 

For it is in the Breaking that we are than able to start to heal. It is in our weakness, our sadness, our faulty attempts that He is made greater.


2 Corinthians 12: 8-10
Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Sound the retreat. Heal. Thank Him. And Move On. 

I shall be in Retreat for now.....


Always Blessed,
Gretchen :)