Tag Archives: love

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.

SassyLanePhotography-542

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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


A Wonderful Life

After cancer, after death, after a bottomless pit of grief, it really can be a wonderful life.

I have been silent for a while because my life has shifted again. This time for better. I laugh, I love, I work, I play and really truly live.

At 43 I thought my life was done, I knew I would continue to breathe in and out and keep moving through my existence, but I really thought that was it. My partner had died, my kids dad was gone, I was alone, scared, and sad.

So what caused the change?

For the first 8 months I was a train wreck. Pure and simple. It was just hard, I survived hour to hour, day to day. Then I had to face the reality, he wasn’t coming back, I really was in this alone. Kids grow up and move on, as they should, and in a few short years it would be me and the cat. So I had to ask myself the big questions, face the reality head on and get help.

The big questions were answerless. No answer to why my husband died of cancer and the rat bag down the road gets to live forever. No answer to what my life would look like now. No answer to why I felt picked on by God and why He decided to destroy my family. But I had to move forward regardless. Answers or not. I decided to let the questions go. To stop demanding “why” because it was draining me of life. That’s not what Paul would have wanted. I chose to step into a new world and trust that God knew my footsteps before I took them. And you know what? He did.

Beyond that I stopped shutting the world out and began once again to accept love and friendship around me. From my kids, family, friends, and a church family that demanded nothing of me but encouraged me endlessly to bask in grace and believe solidly that God who truly loved me offered new mercies daily. I believe my faith grew up a lot. Now I just know that I know He loves and cares for me. Despite circumstances. My reciprocation of that love is not always without doubt or fear, but it’s there.

I desperately needed comrades for the journey, and I usually needed them in the middle of the night. So I looked online for women, brave women, who had lost and had begun to live again. Their stories, their inspiration, and even their sadness helped me. I was done with pity, I needed real grit and real guts, these women had it.  I wasn’t alone in this; others survived this wreck, so maybe I could too. Some practical sites that helped in some very, very, very dark moments were as follows.

http://www.onefitwidow.com/

http://www.widowschristianplace.com/

http://www.secondfirsts.com/

https://anewseason.net/

Sometimes just reading helped, but through these sites I found new friends from all over the world and we pushed each other along. I am forever grateful.

There is one more reason for happiness, one more joy in my life that is new. I felt a whisper deep inside to keep my heart open and to believe that I could once more experience the greatest gift one person can give another… love. The odds weren’t good. Then 44, 3 kids, and a whole lot of complication to offer, I didn’t like my chances. But God doesn’t gamble, it was all there in His plan, a man that loves me and I love him. Not a secondary kind of love, not someone else’s leftovers, but a man I daydream about, can’t wait to be with and have to pinch myself sometimes to remember it’s all true. I feel adored, honoured, and embraced. I really thought those days were over, it is the greatest gift I could ever receive. He is wonderful and I love him deeply.

Of course I still have moments and ache because my kids lost a good dad, but I also know that goodness and life are true things and not just theoretical concepts. Life can turn around, hearts can heal and love can be felt again.

It really, truly is a wonderful life.


A New Pair of Shoes

new shoes

Girls like shoes. Girls like new shoes…and clothes and well you know everything!

I am a girl and I like them too, but I don’t like shopping. That’s a dilemma. You can’t get new if you don’t go out to get new. (Yes I know you can shop online but that doesn’t fit the analogy…just go with it).

Recently I have lost weight, no not from grief, that’s how I gained most of it, I ate my feelings. Over and over, there were a lot of feelings! I was frumpy, unfit and unhappy. I made a very conscious decision to change all that and am glad to say its’ working. So I have a pile of fat clothes and a dwindling amount of things that actually fit properly. But I hate shopping.

So I can stay in my fat clothes, or make the effort to get new ones.   I face a few of these dilemmas nowadays.   Buying new clothes is not a big dilemma but what I sell and what I keep, do I move house, what church I attend now, how do I parent alone…all have been big questions for me, but they are all figured out the same way. By asking myself “what is the best thing in order to keep moving forward. “

The fact is I need a whole new wardrobe. My clothes had to change to a new size, a no-more-husband-size, its different now. But my shoes still fit, my feet didn’t get fat! So do I need new shoes too?

New clothes need new shoes to match. A new life needs a new attitude. The old things just don’t match anymore. It’s not the same. I cannot move forward holding onto the past. Is my husband only in my past, no! He will forever occupy a room in my heart; he will forever be my kids’ dad and if there is ever anyone new to love in my life they will need to accept that. But my life is different now. If I keep looking backwards I can’t see where I am going, I trip and I fall.

I need to look to happiness, to love, to life, to a future. I need new things that fit my new life.

I need new shoes to match the outfit.

“No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put your wine in cracked bottles.” Mat 9:17 (The Message)


Single Parenthood – Grace in the Desert

                                                   hand-pouring-sand

I realize single parents have to do all the tasks; laundry, cleaning, shopping, endless running around after kids etc. But it’s not always those things that are the hardest. Of course sometimes the actual doing of these things is exhausting beyond belief but when rest finally finds you, recovery follows.

I am a widowed single parent. Something hard to understand until you’ve faced it personally, when you’re forced to stare in the face of circumstances and make them part of your life. Your own life, not someone else’s, not a movie you can watch and leave behind in the cinema, but yours. This is hard for me, I know I am a single parent logically, but in my heart I still find it hard to accept. All the responsibilities land on me, no one else, no Dad somewhere else, no consultation about anything. I have focused hard on coming to terms with my widowhood, and focused on trying to heal, but being a single mum adds another dimension.

The hardest part about being a single parent for me is not having a partner. Sounds obvious right? What that means to me is that there is no one else on the face of this earth that has the same vested interest, unconditional love, or do-whatever-it-takes energy towards my family as I do. No one to come alongside when I have had enough, no one that chooses not to just come and go in the kids’ lives as they please, because parents, well good parents, no matter the circumstances are always there for their kids. So when two becomes one there is just less and that just seems so unfair for the kids. That becomes part of the kids “loss” and the control freak in me just can’t handle not being able to change that.

For arguments sake let’s say shared parenting is about 50/50. Now that I’m on my own, can I possibly become the 100% they need? I really don’t believe I can. My reality is that I became about 75%, give or take. Your normal 50 + everything extra you try to cover. But try as I might I can never be male, never be their Dad, never be all they need; I come up short, and very tired! So two things come to mind about figuring this out. Firstly I just need to accept the reality, it is what it is so for goodness sake I should take the pressure of myself and quit trying to be everything. Secondly, I have faith in God and He will need to help me accept the first thing and I need to trust Him to be there tangibly for my kids.

I have come to believe that Gods love for my kids is endless, fearless and pursuing. Even if they can’t see that yet. From the time they were but a twinkle in His eye He has loved them unconditionally and without hesitation, and will continue to do so forevermore. Gods position on that love does not move if they doubt or make a mistake, His desire is relationship with them not retribution, He is fearless. God is a pursuer, He never gives up on people, instead He waits for them to choose Him. He never forces, He actively waits, endlessly offering love, acceptance and grace.

When all seems hopeless, dry deserts, lost loves, battles lost, God offers us love, grace and repair. That’s one amazing Dad. Even if I tried my hardest every single minute of every single day I could not offer what He can, I can never ever be enough, it’s His design. I will believe in that design and hope my actions follow suit. I will trust that He is enough for my kids, enough for me; He is Father to the fatherless.

This is the way God put it:
“They found grace out in the desert,
these people who survived the killing.
Israel, out looking for a place to rest,
met God out looking for them!”
God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
Expect love, love, and more love!
And so now I’ll start over with you and build you up again,
dear virgin Israel.
You’ll resume your singing,
grabbing tambourines and joining the dance.
You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards
on the Samaritan hillsides,
And sit back and enjoy the fruit—
oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests!
The time’s coming when watchmen will call out
from the hilltops of Ephraim:
‘On your feet! Let’s go to Zion,
go to meet our God!’”
Jeremiah 31:2-6 (The Message Bible)


Scared

I am scared to live fully and abundantly.  What if I lose again? What if I am never the apple of someone’s eye again? What if no one else on this whole planet ever cares, really cares, if I am theirs? What if I love again and am not loved back. What if I can never again lend the strength of my heart to another just to see them smile back at me? What if I compare too much and kill something before it even gets a chance to breathe? What if I never feel the touch, the heartbeat, the breath of another again? What if all this is true? What then?

Love found after love lost must be an amazing thing. Quite a gift. I wander if the wrapping, the complications of the past, adds to the gift? Layers and layers of intricacies that add to how special that gift could be. The very things that once broke our heart becoming the things that binds together. Or is it just romantic fodder? I don’t know. I think about this sometimes and conclude that it would be easier to shut my heart down, never feel bad again, but I would never feel good again either. I have felt a whisper in my heart of late “Keep your heart open” over and over. I am trying, but an open heart can be a target for pain, rejection and disappointment, and I’m not sure how much courage I have left.

I’m so tired. It takes so much energy to keep going, to keep trying to find the joy in things. It’s worthwhile, but it can become tiring. I’m sure God would have me quit trying, and just be in order to stop worrying about all the “what ifs” I cannot control. To do that requires some contentment in current circumstances. Further acceptance of my lot, that’s the real dilemma. Current worries versus a new level of accepting my widowhood. What a choice! I know the latter is the only pathway to peace, it just really sucks, but it’s my new challenge and I’ll try.

I guess I should be grateful really, not everyone experiences love like I did. We could fight like there was no tomorrow (mostly because I’m a bit fiery), but my Paul loved me deeply, that’s what I miss. No one on this earth loves me like that. Everyone’s different, every relationship different, but today I miss being the apple of my Pauls eye. I miss being his best friend, his closest everything. I don’t know if it’s possible to have anything like that again, but if I did, it would be the greatest gift.

 

2012 Janene camera 541 - Copy

 


My Cup Overflows

2 years and 7 months I have waited for this. To truly feel once again that my cup does indeed overflow. Full to overflowing, running over with honest to goodness love. It’s been a long time.

I used to muse to myself of the goodness, the love, and the absolute blessing I felt just being wife and mum to beautiful people. Ordinary people to the untrained eye, but with my well-honed mumma skills it was clear: they were beautiful indeed.

Then the tragedy.

Cancer stole my love.

My cup was empty.

My cup was broken.

Now to hear my children’s laughter, and have it warm my heart, to hear them talking to me, really talking to me and be able to engage, to once again find joy in simple things is beyond priceless. It’s pure gold.

My cup must be mending.

All the tears, all the determined searching for answers, all the willingness to face the pain head on, has done something. It has begun healing my cup, my heart. I cannot say that I have willed it from my own strength, because I had none, or discovered hidden reasons, because there are none. It was the God of all creation, who made the cup, who made my heart, He knew what it needed when it needed it and healing is the result.

I am sure that my grief is not completely over, because my life isn’t over, and for as long as I live I will hold love in my heart for my Paul. But I feel love and joy again, and I know that I know that’s a good sign. I can once again be full of love and blessing. Nothing grand so far, nothing the papers will write about, but I know it’s going to be OK. In my everydayness I can smile and have life overflow.

My cup overflows.


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