Author Archives: J

Blended Life

Complications. Family. Same thing.

Blending 2 families. I shouldn’t have romanticized it. But I did.

I quickly went from dreams of happy family dinners to lying awake praying I, the wicked stepmother, would not be murdered in my sleep! The kids are good, really, we just had to get used to each other. That implies a lot of change, and kids don’t like change.

My second husband and I have 3 kids each. Yes many, many Brady Bunch jokes are made at our expense. Ha ha, fake laughter ensues…it is not like a fictional half hour sitcom, and no live in maid to clean up all our mess. Wouldn’t that be nice?

At times there have been silent meals at the dinner table, countless complaints about outings together, and endless moaning about the extra chores that come with a large household. Tensions high and relaxing became a thing of the past. A perfect recipe for stress and strain. It didn’t mean we had made a mistake, it just meant we needed more patience, more time and more unconditional love…a tonne more unconditional love.

We are not perfect, not in the past, not now, but we can get along now. We do talk at dinner and we can go away together with only the normal amounts of stress and organisation. There are no perfect steps to take to get to normal. Each family is different, heck each child is different. All I can offer is this – learn to respect, trust and love unconditionally .

Respect the relationships that exist, in fact, encourage them. Time between biological parent and child is important. They have lost part of their family so don’t add to the loss by insisting on everything changing. Respect their personal space, no matter how messy it gets! I’m not good at mess, it stresses me, so I just try not to look. Their room is their room. Basics for regular cleaning are asked for, but beyond that, if they can live in it, to quote a teenager “Whatever!”.

Our kids all had a parent die, a mum and a dad that cannot be replaced. EVER. We know that, we respect that and encourage talking about them. They are gone, but always and forever a very integral part of who we are. Best advice I can offer, don’t try and change that, be a big enough person to understand there are now 4 parents in the family.

Trust, this one took me awhile to figure out. When you birth babies you get to know each other from the ground up, the good, the bad and the ugly. Your kids know what to do, what not to do, and you teach them your values. The new kids do things how they have been trained, problem is it’s different, not wrong, just different. Motives shouldn’t be questioned, not washing a dish does not mean they hate you! It means they are a kid! I had to learn not to judge their attitudes. We all have them, those thoughts of “why should I” or “it’s not fair”. Not everything they do is a reaction to me, it may be, or it may be because they hate their new normal that they didn’t choose. Fair enough, they love their mum, and I’m new, I get it. I know my biological kids would never do anything wrong…cough, cough…of course they do. Each day offers me an education, learning to trust and hopefully one day be trusted back. 

Unconditional love loves flows out of decisions. I can’t wait to feel it. It flows out of respect and trust. It grows from the little things. Looking for moments is helpful, listen if they will tell you about their day, give help if it’s asked for, remember their traditions, find ways to laugh together etc. Then before you know it, you have a little bit of history together, then you have memories, then you have a medium to grow in. It takes a lot of praying that it will be OK, and then a lot of trusting God that He listened and it really will be OK. But the results are worth it. 

We still have a way to go, but we are OK and learning to love each other.

Respect. Trust. Love. We can’t go wrong.

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HOPE

Words have power. God’s words have power. They offer hope when before there was none. They help you walk around a corner to your “suddenly” from whence you see hope. HOPE. I love that word. Not always seen, heard or felt, but it lingers in the background offering a sense that it can be OK again. It will be OK again.

Getting to suddenly isn’t as sudden as we would like. Losing hope causes your world to bottom out and it’s a steady climb up through the elements.

At first you can’t see why the grief, the betrayal, the tragedy that stole your hope, didn’t kill you. Or you wished it did because somehow that seems easier than what you are forced to bear in its wake. Darkness shrouds the hope that once was and leaves you alone, scared, and stuck under the covers.

Hopeless.

But as sure as night follows day, dark clouds do lift and seasons change. I know the winter can feel cold and unsure with hope frozen beneath the surface. Please remember this, ice melts, clouds move on and you can feel warm in the sunshine again.

Changing seasons is natural, but we don’t always like it. We see birth and death and we  navigate the life in-between. Sometimes we even hang onto winter because of the questions screaming in our heart.

How can I move on without my love?

What if I am hurt again?

What if my feelings don’t change?

Can it ever be the same again?

What will everyone think if I dare to be happy again?

We think if we let go and trust the sunshine to warm us, and it doesn’t, we have lost. Then it truly is over. Better not to try. Just leave me alone! Here’s where words come in handy. Right in the middle of the indecisionh is where a little injection of something from outside of ourselves helps. If we choose to believe them it’s like a leap from the highest cliff with no view of what’s in front of us. It’s faith and trust that believing words from an ancient book still have power to change.

Little-by-little. Minute-by-minute. Day-by-day.

Truthfully, at first I couldn’t make that leap. I had nothing left, no excess oomph … I hid in bed. But eventually what  helped was a knowing, sometimes a very faint knowing, that God did love me, He did somehow have my best in mind. The mystery will always remain as to “Why?”, but if you stay paralyzed there, you can’t leap.

My hope for you is that you can leap one day. Over and over until you see Hope like a beautiful summer rain welcoming you in to dance. It can be OK again. You can see hope again.

Believe. Trust. Hope.

John 14 image


Sucker Punch

A sucker-punch is an unexpected uppercut to the diaphragm often referred to as a “bitch move” as it leaves the victim breathless and without defence against the blows that follow.

The aftermath of tragedy can be the same, blow after blow and not a clue how to go on. In the haze, you don’t know what to dodge. Chest constricts, ribs ache, can’t breathe…

Endless paperwork, bills, decisions, loneliness, hopelessness, lostness, and then

A birthday

Christmas

Anniversaries

Each “special” day comes at you with vengeance. You want to hide away, frightened of the attack. You try to slip into the shadows away from the phone calls and the looks of pity. You just can’t get smacked down anymore. You really don’t think you can finish the bout, you expect that it should kill you.

But it doesn’t.

You live, you don’t know why or how, but you live. Somehow you catch your breath, stand a little taller and you can see the fight. You can dodge the punch you thought would kill you, you stand taller, it doesn’t hit you.

While you were clinging to the side of the ring, gasping for breath, head stooped, you couldn’t see. Couldn’t see hope, couldn’t see love, couldn’t see reason. In those moments where the pangs of grief didn’t engulf you, breath filled your lungs and gave oxygen to hope. As you dared to step out of the shadows and pray for more, healing could come. The bruises fade and your limp disappears. God heard you.

You can see what’s coming, you know what to expect and it’s possible to prepare for it. You are stronger. The initial tragedy hasn’t changed but you have. You don’t cower, you see the pain differently.

Yes, you are stronger.

Trust grows, determination deepens, and hope for a future does return. Never the same, but grit your teeth and turn to face the fight, step into it knowing you are strong.

Hope returned. I love Hope.


Remember the Smiles

Sadness can alter your memory. It can trick you into believing the lie that suffering was all there was to living. It isn’t true. Amidst the suffering there was true life, the one were a joke was laughed at, a hand was held, or  “hey how are you” was shared. These small things in the everyday mattered, and still matter.

The end did not negate the years of holding his babies, of taking them to soccer, of kissing me goodnight, of the worst dad jokes possible or of just sitting together wherever we were…because the place didn’t matter.

Hope finds it hard to return if it has to fight through regret and guilt. They where the bookends that held me captive, torturing me with a continual reel to reel of all that was bad in the end days. The “what ifs” intertwining each chapter with nagging questions.

“What if I had prayed harder…”

“What if we had tried another doctor…”

“What if he had wanted to stay a bit more…”

“What if I had been more…”

Answer-less questions that feed guilt because they can’t be answered from the grave.  

Before the suffering I knew the answers. Yes he loved me and knew I loved him. Yes his kids were his greatest achievements and nothing could alter that. Yes he found joy in life, in nature, in his faith and those he loved.  They were unaltered memories. They didn’t have question marks.

I had added the question marks to the statements of his life. I had warped the looking-glass of my memory. I had forgotten the smiles and could only see his pain.

I needed to see hope again. To believe hope was possible. I remember falling to my knees on my bedroom floor, desperate to know that moving on was OK. Stuck between the holding on and the letting go. Only a decision away but uncertain if letting go would leave him behind.  I asked God to free my heart of the guilt and betrayal that pushed hope away. To let go of those unanswerable weights and open my life up to new possibilities…even if that was on my own.

I needed to understand that choosing to live was in fact what he had wanted, even though every pore oozed the contrary. I took small steps and made small decisions that supported hope until it became a habit. Grace filled the space guilt left behind and I was able to walk on. Hope grew into a new life because you can’t grow moving backwards.

Honouring those who have died doesn’t have to be sad, live the life they supported, be all you can be. Intertwine the best of them into who you are and go forward knowing they are always in your heart. Smiling …until you meet again.

my honey


Sally.

Our pup died today.

I was in the vet surgery, but could just have easily been back in that ICU room loosing all over again.

It rushes back, the pain, the grip on your insides that squeezes and oozes.

At this point in time I haven’t told 2 of my kids, one overseas, one at work early. I don’t want to load more grief into their worlds, they have suffered enough. But I know I have to and have faith that they will feel enough love around them to ease the grip on their insides.

Loss is compounding, it doesn’t just add up together and let you feel it one singular part at a time. It all piles on top of itself like a weighted vest, suddenly and all consuming.

family 0073Sally was 15 and a half. She was part of our family, she grew up with my kids, came on holidays and was part of our family photo shoot. She was part of us. I remember when I came home without her master, she was sad and confused. She would look past me begging for her master to come behind me…but he never did.  But she kept loving us, kept needing our attention, kept being part of the family. We will miss her.

Here’s to a very, very good pup, loved and adored by us all.

Sally, you can go to your master now xxx


Notes for my new husband…

Sometimes I get stuck and I forget.

I forget how special you are and how much I love being a part of us. Life gets busy and I get tired and it clouds my remembering. When it’s cloudy, a storm might just be around the corner. I don’t like storms. I don’t like hail, it hurts, it damages. I don’t like heavy rain, it floods, I might drown.

0ne day there was a storm.

I nearly drowned. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see sunshine, I couldn’t see through those clouds. I don’t like storms.  I lost a lot in that storm.  Not a house, not things, but I lost being a part of an us when the storm of cancer took my other half away. It destroyed me. Some things were lost forever; a father, a friend, a son, a brother, a husband. Gone.

Gone.

So, I don’t like storms, I get frightened. Frightened of the weather that might bring back the clouds. I can’t stop them, I can’t predict them, there’s no app for that. If I hear the hail I worry, if I feel the heavy rain I panic…what if it’s catastrophic? What if I am not enough? What if I can’t do it all? What if I don’t make it, don’t pray enough, don’t say the right thing … can’t save everyone?

I can’t breathe.

If I bury the worry, the panic, the fear so I can’t feel them, I can’t feel anything. It makes weathering the storms easier, but I can’t feel the sunshine. I don’t feel the warmth, the growth, the life. It stays dark. Really dark.

And that’s my choice. A really hard choice.

So sometimes I get stuck and I miss the important stuff. I miss the warmth in the touch of your hand or the life in your words “I love you”. I’m sorry I miss that. I know you will protect me if you can, I know you love me. Just remember that I still need to choose and if I seem stuck, look around for the clouds, I might be hiding. Just wait for me, I’ll try not to be too long.

I will come back into the sunshine.


Family Photos

I remember the stress I created the day of our family portrait shoot. I wanted the perfect family picture, in order to proudly display my perfect  family!

Hence the stress.

Of course perfection and family are not synonymous. But I loved them and wanted something to commemorate that. I bought new clothes, haircuts all round, french tipped my nails (as if anyone could see them), and brushed the dog because she was part of the family too. It was a lot of work and I can never quite understand why kids just didn’t want to do things my way…

We got our great photos and my family is recorded smiling and happy. It was worth the effort because very quickly the photos on my hard drive changed. The photos that came after were of a man losing his hair to chemo. He didn’t want photos taken then. He died in 2013.

I go down the stairs at home and I see a photo of a woman I never knew. I often wonder if our paths crossed somewhere living in the same town, I will never know. She is the mum in the photos of another family in their happy times. She died in 2014.

2 families all lost their smiles for a while.

I, the mum from one family met the dad from the other and we found our smiles together. We joined those two families. Life for everyone did not become perfect all of a sudden but we are working on the smiles. I see them seeping back and it brightens my heart and a brighter heart has less room for darkness. That’s how happiness can grow.

Family photos are bigger now, we’ve got a few good ones so far and I pray like crazy we get a million more.

We will forever keep the photos we have of the dad and the mum that are gone, treasure them and love them. Sometimes they will make us cry, but sometimes they also brighten our hearts, and that’s how happiness can grow.

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“This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him.” 1 John 1:15


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