Monday, May 27, 2013


A time of change, a time to rearrange and rethink priorities and purpose.

That is what this time holds for me.

I've long wanted to move from my "newbie-Christian" place of writing and transition to a different blog with a different angle.

My angle will always be one pointed up at God with my head bowed, but as far as my writing goes, I am going to focus on different aspects a bit more.

I am starting a new blog.

I admit to not having a lot of details.

For instance, I haven't decided it will be completely anonymous (which has its perks) or if I will continue to be pretty open (with respect for boundaries, of course).

I haven't decided all the areas I'd like to focus on. I know I'd like to focus on being a stepparent and the challenges that holds, as well as how being a Christian stepparent has been increasingly challenging.

I'd like to include more of thoughts on the Bible.

I'd just like to feel more focused.

And a fresh start is a good way to do that.

So dear Dove Chronicles readers, hold on for a bit. I haven't decided when the switch will happen.

I already have the new blog up and running, but I've not decided if I will advertise that here or not. Those of you who are already "followers" received an email pointing you to the next destination.

Those who aren't "followers" should keep an eye out for any link I provide here, if I decide to.

Thank you so very much for two and a half years of writing joy. Thank you for listening and for providing prayers and feedback.

I know this is a wonderful step forward, an adventure I feel called to take.

All because of Him...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dear Weary Mom: The Dichotomy of these Love Letters

Dear Weary Mom,

I'm weary of not feeling confident as a stepmother.

I think I may be far too paranoid and feeling far too childish. Far less equipped and far less ready.

Surely God must have meant for some other woman to come into these kids' lives, to fall in love with this man.

Because all I can see lately is failure on grand levels.

Surely God meant for me to stay in my hermit-like 1-bedroom apartment and live a solitary existence so I would not mess up any children with my insecurities and immaturity.

...Wow. Do you hear how awful that sounds?

First of all, that isn't a very kind thing to say about myself, is it.

Secondly, I am basically telling God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, that He messed up.

He got the wrong girl.

As if God could ever get anything wrong.

When self-esteem is floundering, take the "self" out of it and feel how you soar.

God esteems me.

When I am weary and burden-laden, when my identity gets thrown in the laundry with dirty and grimy clothes by the enemy of all of us, God whips me out, shakes the dirt off, claims me clean, and I start fresh. 

Like mountain-spring-fresh. Grassy-meadow-fresh. 

And if I just let God be my launderer, maybe I won't get so weary or lost. Maybe I will realize the Truth, as I do on my good days when I know God has called me here to these children, to this husband, for such a time as this.

I love the story of Esther and I especially love the unlikely heroism of it all. 

I love how God chooses who we would consider the least qualified to do extraordinary things.

Do you feel weary?

God chose you to do the work you are doing BECAUSE of your weariness. No, not as a cruel joke, but because you show that you need God.

These Weary Mom letters are a blessing to each of us. They are not complaining sessions between mothers, they are love letters to God shared between women who do the hardest work.

They are letters of reminders, proclamations, clarifications.

You think God got the wrong girl?

Think again.

God intimately knows each person He calls and He calls each of us to something.

And He's just loving these love letters floating all around the internet, around the neighborhoods, over your telephones.

It's a dichotomy: be weary no more 
yet also continue to feel weary -

because both are a sign that we believe in God bigger than we believe in your own ability to carry it all.

**linking up today at Hope for the Weary Mom blog - I recommend the book of the same name, as well! Let's band together in our weariness and point to the God who gets us through it all!**

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More than Crumbs (another pre-post of my church newsletter essay)

image copyright The Dove Chronicles 2013

She only asked for a crumb. What she wanted was the restoration of her demon-possessed daughter, but the Canaanite woman in the Gospel of Matthew was so desperate, so needy of Jesus’ mercy, that she ultimately asked for a crumb.

She was persistent, tenacious, and stubborn: three qualities that some people would think rude. But put it in the context of seeking the Lord and it can become some of the best qualities we can have.

She was desperate and needy: two more adjectives that aren’t exactly pretty to our ears, but interestingly enough, I think Jesus desires of us.

How desperate is a parent to heal their child’s wounds? This daughter was demon-possessed and the mother knew she was lost to her so she asked Jesus for mercy. She believed Him to be who He said he was, something so many others couldn’t - or wouldn’t.

When Jesus tested her, she rose to the challenge. She had so much faith that she would take any handout, anything the Master would give she would take. She was desperate, needy, loved her daughter so much and had such faith in Jesus, that she believed a single crumb could help.

Do you think yourself too small of a person with too big of a prayer? I sometimes do. There are so many people in this world with so many prayers. Where do I fit in?

This determined woman knew what she wanted and she knew who could help her. She gave her all to Jesus - her dignity, her pride, her ego. She was begging on her knees.

People see begging as “beneath us,” but how did going to Jesus on our knees become anything less than the preferred position?

Because Jesus, indeed, answered her prayer.

Jesus rewarded the Canaanite woman’s faith not by a handout or the dropping of a crumbly grace - Jesus completely healed her daughter based solely on this woman’s faith.

This woman who was small and sinful and human. This woman who was on her knees, dirty, sweaty, and tear-stained.

Jesus gave her more than she asked for, more than a crumb.
If you truly become desperate for Jesus, to the point of recognizing that you, indeed, have nowhere else to turn and you cling to Him as the only one who can help, that is an act of faith. Jesus loves that sort of faith. In fact, He asks it of us.

We all can have more than a crumb if we so choose Jesus as our Savior. If we put all our faith in Him, we receive so much more than crumbs - we inherit God’s Kingdom.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

What the Heart Knows that the Womb Doesn't

This blog post has been resting in my heart and my mind for a while, ever since Lisa-Jo Baker posted this post the real-life definition of a mother.

Because I often think about the role I have in my kids' lives, Lisa-Jo's definition really struck home. Not in a bad way, just in a way that made me think. I know Lisa-Jo has had an "other mother" in her life so I do not pretend to think that she is really only talking about biological mothers here. But my mind often hangs on titles, so I wanted to write out my own "definition of a stepmother."

But I found I couldn't. Because I don't think there is one that can include all stepmothers. So I decided to write a definition of myself as a stepmother, as an other-mother, as whoever I am to these kids at this point in time. Because it's different for each child. To the eldest girl, I am a bother she doesn't want to admit that she loves. To the middle I am the mama she desperately wants to call on but feels scared and confused. And to the youngest, my little man, I am nearly as much of a mother as his own as I've been in all of his known memories.

So I set out to write a simple definition for myself which quickly became a tome of how my title of "stepmother" - and how these kids and myself - have changed in five years.

The following is my response to Lisa-Jo's blog entry and I ask for grace as you read. This is the story God currently writes in my life. Not every story is the same. In fact, our stories are not the same at all.

I thank you for reading and my hope is that the stepmother role and title can one day be taken out of the vaults of badly-depicted Disney movies and snarky women on soap operas.

My womb was expectantly waiting for children the day I met my love. My womb waited and waited until the truth began to settle like an emptiness unknown to fullness.

My womb would always be empty and so, I thought, would my heart.

But I became a stay-at-home-Something soon after meeting him and took the one and a half year old to Storytime, tried to nudge him to join clapping games. I kissed his warm barely-there-blond-hair on nights he slept over and, in the morning, held and rocked him upon waking.

But my stay-at-home-ness was new and foreign and on some days I didn't like it.

And I resented.

But there were days when I played trucks and made PB&Js and secured bandaids. The girls, still young enough to be amazed, repeated their requests for me to sing Ariel’s song from “The Little Mermaid.” Then the next day they'd fight with each other so bad that I wanted to stomp out in my own tantrum and slam my door behind me.

My identity wavered.

Now, five-ish years later, my identity is rooted in titles that defy true comprehension. Titles like “stepmother” that get written on emergency contact forms and titles like “Mom” to the in-the-moment-slipped tongue.

I do not ask for the Mom title. I don’t feel it’s mine to have, though I do the Mom thing.

I have made plates of waffles that would sink a ship. I have yelled at doors so loud the house shook. I have used the word Stop too many times and not said enough Go’s.

I have worn my own mother on my sleeve and allowed her anxieties to clutch these kids tight.

I have walked blocks in this neighborhood crying, wanting an “in” to this family to which I don’t always fit, and also sometimes wanting an “out” to everything I said yes to.

And then I am reminded.

The middle girl who twirls my hair as we sit together, who fingers my cross necklace as she buries her head in my neck, who wants me to braid her hair because I finally got this hair-thing right.

I am reminded.

The boy who I potty-trained four years ago now won’t let me see his naked bum because I’m a girl and I laugh because I made sure he aimed at the toilet so many years ago. He who asks me to sing my made-up song I sang to him as a baby - that he remembers! Every night, the request to sing, the request to rub his back.

And I am reminded.

The oldest, in all her drama and trauma, I am reminded even as she pushes me away and spits on my advances. Even as she is not with us right now and is in serious peril, I am reminded as she talks calmly to me on the phone when everyone else she verbally abuses. When I look around my bedroom at the kids’ drawings and I see hers from four years ago, naming me the “best stepmom in the world” who gave her “hope when [her] family broke up.”  I am reminded when I clean out her bedroom and I see the poem I wrote her not torn and tossed in the garbage, but put in her dresser drawer. For safe keeping or just out of the way - no matter. It was not in the trash can in shreds and my heart was not in shards. Even in silence and absence she reminds me.

I can do this.

I can relive my childhood as I watch them grow up and I can be okay with it all.

I can forgive myself for all the wrongs I did as I watch my kids do all the same wrongs and hopefully forgive them, too.

I can do so much forgiving all before we get into the car to go to school.

“I have lost it, yelled it, fought it, cried it and apologized it all before 9am.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

Yes, that.

I have spoken Truth to a little girl’s fears, empowered her with an emotional vocabulary, and watch it all fade away in the span of a day only to have it return in full force the next.

I have explained too much and also not enough.

I have nitpicked and critiqued.

I have not looked, listened, and felt in emotional first aid emergencies. And everyone knows you need to do that.

“I have been woken up, shaken up, thrown up, loved up, and shut up. I have never quite, completely, ever given up.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

And yes, that.

I am halfway to insanity on most days but still want to come home to the eyes of these children, the arms of my husband.

I would have never guessed this life for myself in a million years. My womb wants to fight me on this one. My womb insists it is still empty and on the bad days, it cries out for more.

I know better because just when I think they hate me they shock me with arms that reach for me.

I know better because just when I think I have done or said that thing to tip them over the edge, there is a knock on the door asking for one last hug goodnight.

I know better because God called me here and spoke to me clear and plain that these were the needy children I was to serve, not the ones in Honduras or Uganda.

And though wet towels left on the floor sends me through the roof, I can barely believe we own this beautiful house and live in this beautiful town and have the good neighbors and church families that we do.

I am amazed that after five years I can say to the kids, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown.”

Stepmothers get such the bad rap and though I’ve been on the spitting end of hateful words and slammed doors and torn up pictures and scratched up gifts, I know that I love them with all the love that a womb can hold.

They are mine, too. Not born in my womb, but in my heart. And not right from the start, but in time. 

Our love for each other is by choice and earned intentionally. It hasn't been there “since their first breath,” but it’s grown over time and past shirt sizes.

“I am out of my mind and in my calling and desperate for five minutes alone and a lifetime together.” - Lisa-Jo Baker

Oh, and so much of that.

I want to slow down and listen to the wise words of other mothers around me, words to heed time and squeeze the small moments because memories aren’t as tangible.

I want a better sense of humor, to not be so weepy, but I want to teach the ability to let out the icky feelings and then be okay.

“These are the good days, the glory days, the slow-as-molasses days. These are the fast years, the wonder years, the how-do-I-find-words years.” - Lisa Jo Baker

These are days I want to stretch to infinity and stop all at once. These are days of contradictions and confusion, desperation and howling at the moon.

And I wouldn’t change any of it.

My womb might not have guessed I’d never bear children. But my heart always knew I would love them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Other-Mother Mother's Day

It’s hard to know what to say on Mother’s Day for women who care for and about children but don’t fit the typical title of “Mom.”

Aunts, grandmothers, sisters - they can be a mother. Neighbors, friends, mothers-of-friends - they, too, can be a mother.

And then there is the sort of mother that I am: stepmother.

What an odd word, “stepmother.” I used to think it meant that the 2nd wife, a fill-in mother for the weekend, was a mother who was always a “step” away from the children. Always second place. Always not-as-much. Not-quite-the-mom.

I had a wonderful stepmother growing up. She modeled independence and self-confidence in ways I still haven't digested. I know I learned a lot from her and what I did learn is still slowly coming out of me in bursts as I “stepmother” my own stepchildren.

I was not prepared for full-on-mothering my stepchildren, however. I didn’t know that was in the cards for me. I always heard of stepmothers who were on the peripherary. Side-stepping-stepmothers. Background-stepmothers. Stepmothers who had an invisible mask over their mouth so their ideas and opinions wouldn’t get in the middle of actual parenting. A mask, as though she had some sort of contagious illness.

Instead, I’m a stepmother who not only has no mouth-mask, but is encouraged to parent like a biological parent. I’m encouraged to be 50% of this household's parental makeup.

And I must tell you, with the world’s views of stepmothers, that is not an easy thing to do.

I’ve gotten all kinds of messages throughout my four and a half years of being in these children’s lives.

I’ve been told that I will never love them like a “real mother” does and I’ve been told that I am fully capable of loving them with a biological mother’s heart.

I’ve been told to back off and let my husband do all the parenting and enjoy the fact that I’m not the parent and I’ve been told to be grateful for a husband who respects me and wants me to parent alongside him.

I’ve been told these aren’t my kids and I’ve been told these are most certainly my kids.

Even my stepkids have been on this particular teeter-totter. When I first met them, they defied all the warnings I'd been given and all the horror stories I'd heard. They accepted me, even liked me. A lot.

But just as marriages have honeymoons, so, too, do kids and the new stepparent.

And I now know the stories of stepkids hating you because I've lived it. I've known the "you're not my Mom" because I've heard it. Mind you, this has only been from the eldest, but I sense the next one in line will come to that place all too soon.

My stomach sinks to think of it.

But through it all I have developed a wider definition of "mother." If the kids hadn't come to us full-time two years ago, had we stayed every-other-week parents and not become custodial, my love for them would have stayed confined by other people's perceptions of what my heart...and their hearts...could feel.

I am no side-stepping stepmother. I am not in any background, but rather in the foreground of the best and hardest calling I've ever had. I have no mask on and no illness to spread. My opinions might not always be agreed with, but my husband always listens and considers my ideas equal in importance to his.

I am in no peripherary, but, instead, in the thick of the teenage traumas, the torn mother allegiance, the frightening mental health.

In the thick of the little girl who vacillates between stuffed penguins and skinny jeans, who yells and screams at me one minute, then wants me to braid her hair and answer "one more question about Jesus, please" the next.

In the thick of learning "boy speak" as the toddler I met now says things like, "are you available?" and can't focus to save his life except in the case of Minecraft.

In the thick of emailing teachers to keep on top of school behaviors, monitoring homework and school concerts and karate class and play dates, worrying if she or she or he is learning the right or wrong lesson, being consumed with curiosity (sometimes trepidation) of who these children will turn into.  Wondering if I am doing all I can to teach them good things. Praying for them and praying that I point to God more than i point to them or myself.

I think of my role in their lives so differently now. I think of non-traditional mothers differently now: with more respect and, frankly, awe.

We are a special breed.

Mothers, biological, are celebrated this coming Sunday.

I don't want to forget us other-mothers, the mothers who might not get the Numero Uno title, but who do the work, have the love, who hold the children as though they are their own.

I celebrate that other-mother.

Because though my kids have a mother, I am confident in the role God has called me to and in the love I feel for them.

We aren't in this for glory.
Sometimes all we get are the guts.
I'm in this for God's glory and trying to juggle all He has entrusted me with.

So thank you Mom - Happy Mothers Day to my beloved mama. 

Thank you Lyn, my stepmother, Aunt Vivie, Sue Edison-Swift, Mary Fullerton, Nancy Broberg, and so many more women who have other-mothered me in my life. Happy Mother's Day to you all.

My prayer is that every person who has invested themselves in a child will be honored this Sunday.