Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I have had a rather challenging week so far... Nothing really disastrous or "big", just countless little irritations and frustrations that have had a huge impact on my frame of mind.  I am relatively new at the whole "abiding in Jesus" thing, and obviously need some practice. As usual, God has provided me ample opportunity to work on it!  I don't really want to recount all of the details and particulars of the last few days.  If you are a mom then you can probably guess what that list would be...  However, I do want to journal some of the conclusions I have come to in analyzing (or over-analyzing) the mini-meltdowns I am having lately.

I am tired.  Exhausted is more like it.  I, like most of you, run myself ragged and still accomplish little that has any tangible value.  Sure, I know the importance of the intangibles, quality time with the kids, investing in their spirits, laughing and playing with the babies, etc.  But you and I both know that to spend an entire day in your house and not manage to get a single lasting thing crossed off of the to-do list  (I am not counting dishes or laundry in this statement, as I do these round the clock) can make a mama batty!  And irritable, and snippy, and just generally unpleasant.  So, I ask myself, "If others can do this, why can't I?" And if I am not careful about whose voice I am listening to (and no, I don't mean audible voices, I'm not that batty just yet),  the answers usually sound a little like this:  You're not disciplined enough.  You're not organized enough.  You're not capable enough.  You're not good enough.  You don't try hard enough.

I was definitely hearing those voices loud and clear yesterday.  I put my head on the kitchen table and began to cry.  I got up to do the dishes and cried some more.  I sat on the couch to watch tv and cried some more.  You get the picture.  Overwhelmed, tired, and feeling hopeless.  When I woke up this morning with a puffy face and a headache from all the crying, I determined that today would be better.  If for no other reason, then for vanity's sake! With a prayerful heart I sat down, opened my devotion book to today's reading and this is what was on the page (I get teary eyed all over again just typing this):

"Thankfully, I am not defined by what I'm not.  The 'I'm nots' of life aren't true.  They are lies that the enemy wants me to believe...For every "I'm not" Satan plants in my head, God says, 'I Am.'  What I'm not, He is.

'I Am the unconditional love you are able to give your kids.  I Am your Redeemer.  I forgive you... I Am your provider.  I Am there for your friends, you aren't supposed to fix everyone.  I Am living in you; therefore, you have great things to say and write.  I Am your audience, not the whole world.  I Am your husband, kids, and friends.  The hole they can't fill in your heart, I can.  I Am your Creator.  Love the body you were given and take care of it.'" ~Melissa Taylor, from God's Purpose For Every Woman, a P31 Devotional

Wow.  I get chills reading those words, even now!  All the things that the Enemy of my soul whispers that I am not and will never be... My father in heaven Is. He is all that I need to be completely equipped to fulfill every task in my day, and meet every demand. He is in control of my world even when it seems to be spinning out of control.  I am so thankful I can find my identity in Him, the only One who knows my heart.  Even today after I read this wonderful word of encouragement, I found myself getting upset over little stuff, like Gracie losing her brand new pink hairbow in Target, and having to firmly "persuade" the twins to take their nap. So, what did I do? I sat down and read it again! I may have to read it ten more times before bedtime, but maybe then the words will be firmly planted in my heart for tomorrow's challenges. He is Enough. That is a truth that trumps all the "I'm not enoughs" I can think of.

"It is the simple, dreary day, with its commonplace duties and people, that smothers the burning heart - unless we have learned the secret of abiding in Jesus" (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest)

Psalm 143:8 "Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You.  Show me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul."

James 4:7-8 "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and He will come near to you."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ouch! That Hurt

"Repent of selfishness and put your spouse first." That was the opening point of Pastor Mark's sermon this morning, followed by this statement, "The reason you fight over silly things is SELFISHNESS."  And right there in the first five minutes of the message I slumped in my seat and shrunk away from my hubby, who had the grace not to shoot any pointed glances my way.  Immediately God brought to my mind each and every little thing (and I do mean little) that I had gotten my feathers ruffled over in the last week.  See if any of these statements sound familiar... "You don't listen to me." "You'd rather watch tv than talk to me." (wonder why that could be ??)  "You don't care if I'm having a bad day."  Looking back at the little frustrations from the week, I began to see a theme.  The theme of ME.  It was all about Kari, Kari's feelings, Kari's needs, Kari's thoughts,etc. And I was reminded of something that I know well, but somehow manage to lose sight of all too often.  As long as I am focused on Kari, he will never be.

All women want a romantic, passionate relationship with their husbands, but most of us give up and resign ourselves to just "getting along" and coexisting peacefully. Like that could ever be enough. God created us with all of this passion and longing to be lovely to someone for a reason.  But in trying to "make" him wake up and be sensitive and romantic, I managed to make myself quite unlovely indeed.  I just kept thinking, "I know he has it in him, he used to be so loving and thoughtful. What happened?" Well, in church this morning, I received (less than joyfully, I must admit) the answer to that question.  I had changed.  I had, little by little, allowed my own interests and desires to become more important to me than meeting his needs and putting him first. A selfish cycle in marriage happens so naturally that we rarely see it coming until it is in full swing and we are bickering and distant.

 Having failed at this "marriage thing" in the past, I am determined that by God's grace I will get it right this time or die trying!  I wish it were easier to overcome my selfish habits and ways.  I truly did not realize until this morning just how selfish I had become! It is just so natural to be "in it for me".  But I am finding more and more that to follow Christ means to go against the grain of what comes naturally. I am thankful He loves me enough to guide me back onto the path when I stray, which is more often than I like to admit, but not as often as it once was.  Progress, not perfection, as a dear and trusted counselor has said to me many times.

I am including the "Communication Don'ts" from today's sermon, because they are such great reminders of what it takes to have a happy, healthy home.

1.  Don't stomp out of the house (when there is a conflict).

2.  Don't freeze your spouse out.  (the silent treatment)

3.  Don't put down your spouse outside the home.  You can't respect someone in private that you disrespect in public.

4.  Don't fight in front of the children.  No raised voices or using the kids as weapons.

5.  Don't reverse an argument.  (don't turn it around on your spouse and bring up old offenses, "well, that may be true, but YOU..."

6.  Don't reason in the face of pain.  If your spouse is hurting, comfort them. Do not try and explain it away or tell them all the reasons they shouldn't feel that way.

None of us are perfect, and we are not married to perfect men.  We have to, as women, learn to look honestly at ourselves and the messages we are sending our husbands.  What do they hear in our tone of voice? What do they see in our expressions?  I fear that too often the message is not "I love you. I appreciate you. I respect you. I am proud of you."  Lord help me to be ever mindful of these things. Help me learn to love well, serve well, and to honor You in my marriage, to reflect Your kindness, grace, compassion and gentleness.  I know this is Your will for me, so I know that it will be done, and I thank You.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not-So-Super Mom

The difficult task of  being a stepmom can be expressed one single statement.  I have to be a parent, but I am not their parent.  I spend several hours of most days with my stepsons, ages 10 and 11.  They are great little guys with their own unique personalities.  I am still getting to know them and what motivates them. More accurately, I am learning by error what frustrates them. After more than a year of caring for them, I still get it wrong more often than not.  This is my latest struggle.  I will not be offering any insight in this post, mainly just venting some frustration at my own lack of skill.

I am a non-conflict, peace-loving individual. I live in a house with 5 little boys, 4 of whom are relatively close in age, along with 2 daughters.  The conflict is nearly constant! It is my natural tendency to avoid dealing with it, but you can only guess what happens when I use that approach with this many kids!  So I am trying to find a way to parent effectively and still be authentically me.  My efforts have not been successful thus far, which leaves me feeling pretty useless by the end of the day.  One thing I know for sure, being passive or passive-aggressive with kids will get you nowhere FAST.  But the only alternative is re-learning my parenting style (which, by the way, has worked beautifully with my older kids, probably because they are so much like me.)

The thought of trying to change in such a fundamental way is frightening to me.  I am comfortable with myself for the first time in a long time, except for this one area of my life, which is still very new to me.  And I find that I become very defensive and resentful if anyone says "if you would just do this...." or "maybe you should try...." Why do I feel that way? If what I am doing isn't working, why would I not welcome advice on how to improve my methods?  I suspect it is pride, which has been and apparently always will be a struggle for me.  But even more than that, it is fear.  Fear that I will not be able to change, that I don't have the ability to form new habits, that I don't have the strength or discipline to follow through.  So I hide behind the denial that is so comfortable to me.

As usual, I have at least taken notes on what doesn't work.  Here's the list.

1.  Making my husband be "the heavy" all the time.  The conversation goes like this: (me) "They never listen to me."   (him) "Of course they don't, there are no consequences when they don't listen to you."  (me) "They only listen to you." Then he marches upstairs and deals with the thing that I should have dealt with myself, leaving him tense and frustrated, and me feeling inadequate and guilty for not handling it myself.  And leaving the boys upset that dad is yelling at them for something that I let slide or did not enforce. A crazy-cycle, indeed!

2.  Getting frustrated and yelling at the kids.  Guess what I've learned? When I start yelling and lose control of my emotions, little boys stop listening! Men are BORN with this ability.  They don't respond well to out-of-control women at ANY age!  And I truly hate the sound of my own voice when I respond harshly, especially to a child.

3.  Pretending not to notice when they are disobedient.  These guys are super smart, and very intuitive, and they KNOW when I have let them get away with something.  Yes, we must choose our battles wisely, but disobedience is not acceptable in any form and needs to be dealt with.  For me to let them "win", either out of weariness or fear of the conflict, leads them to even greater acts of disrespect and disobedience.  Because they are kids, and they are human, and that is what comes naturally.

4.  Being unreasonable.  For me, this is letting my level of emotion decide the consequences.  Grounding a kid for a month for a relatively minor offense.  Or losing my cool and refusing to listen to a child who just wants to explain himself and be heard.  Or assuming the worst in a child, and not giving grace and the benefit of the doubt.  Those things come more naturally with my natural children, because I feel that I KNOW their hearts.  With Michael's boys it's an educated guess, at best.

There you have it. Kari's lesson on What-Not-To-Do.  Truly, my area of expertise. When I get it all figured out, I'll write a really great book.  Maybe my grandchildren will one day benefit from all these hard lessons I am learning.  For now, I pray WITHOUT CEASING and trust that God will make of this beautiful mess what He wants it to be in spite of me.  I never knew before entering into this chapter of my life what it meant to be totally dependent on God to get me through the day.  Now I am painfully aware of my desperate need for Him.  Maybe that is what it is all about, after all. If my kids can learn that from me then they will have learned something of value.  Something about grace and mercy and a Father who fills the gaps in our meager attempts at parenting with purpose.  Love covers a multitude of wrongs, and I have a heart full of love for these guys, so I have hope that it will be alright in the end.  But for now, I am grateful for mercies new every morning.  And afternoon, and evening, etc.  Now it is back to being Not-So-Super Mom... If I can find my cape...