In My Father’s House


In my Father’s house,
There’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God,
Yes I am.

Hillsong Worship

His aunt’s hand stretched backwards from the row in front of us at church, handing him two old photographs. In one, there’s a boy maybe twelve or thirteen with a red button-up shirt who looks like our son Cole, sitting next to a little black and white dog, that ironically looks like our dog Luna as well. As my husband studied the young man in the photograph, I studied him. Waiting to see if there was a warmth in his eyes as they tracked back and forth over the photos and to our son, as he compared them. Was there any reaction to seeing a man we seldom talk about? And there was, but I could see it was met with hesitation.

As I searched his eyes and studied his facial expressions, the worship band played Hillsong Worships, I am who you say I am. As we’re singing along, my mind realizes his hesitation wasn’t just rooted in the fact of the man being his father, or that he had passed years ago. His hesitation came from not knowing where his place was now. And how that picture was probably more important to him than he would care to admit. Mindlessly, the lyrics slipped out until I read the verse on the screen above, “In – my – father’s -house – , there’s – a – place – for – me -” and my voice cut out under the heaviness of the words. I couldn’t finish. None of us had a place in our father’s house, not God, but our biological fathers.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me.

Over the years my focus had been on myself never having a place in my father’s house, and on my daughter, who didn’t have a place in her father’s house. My husband was raised by a wonderful man, who was technically his stepfather, but he accepted him as his own and treated him as such his whole life. He was his and is his father. It never crossed my mind that maybe he missed the lack of a relationship with his biological father. I had missed the fact that he too hadn’t felt as though he had a place with his own biological father, which explained more than I realized. But God’s plan was already in place; we just needed to trust and have faith.

I am chosen. Not forsaken. I am who You say I am.

Every year just before Christmas, my husband’s grandma would call him and invite us to the family breakfast at our local Elmer’s restaurant. “Matthew, this is Grandma”, she’d say, and he would respond by saying, “Yes Grandma, I know it is you, it says your name in my phone” and they would share a laugh. She would extend the invite, and we would accept. The last couple of years she would call out of the blue just to say hi and to tell him she loved him. And I would tell him he needed to spend more time with her, and he would agree, but it wouldn’t happen.

This past year that changed. What started with Christmas breakfast became a wedding, church, lunches, visits etc. It’s funny to look back now and see how smart she was in knowing that she planted the seed each Christmas starting with the breakfast, we just had to water it daily for it to grow. In January, there was a push in my heart and not a light one, it was more like a shove to get back into church, and to be closer with his family. Church was where his family was rooted, and where Grandma was every Sunday. When we would hug her and say good morning to her, I remember thinking she had the kindest eyes, and though I’ve never liked anyone touching my face, the way her hand cupped my cheek as she said good morning in return, is something I will treasure always.

Free at last, He has ransomed me. His grace runs deep.

The last time I saw her, she stopped my husband as he was walking out of her hospital room. She was asleep we had thought and suddenly we hear, “Matthew, don’t you leave me.” and it made us laugh for a minute. We had thought at first she was going to pull through, but it seemed as though we were wrong. While some other words were spoken in that room that night, that will remain in that room, but my husband received one of the grandest gifts he’ll ever receive. As he stood at her bedside she spoke to him and said, “Don’t forget me, I love you” and I don’t know that I will ever be able to recall that memory without crying, because I know he had thought of her so much over the years, but it was his hesitation that kept him away. It was one of the few times I had witnessed my usually strong as an oak husband, cry.

Grandma passed away a little over a week later, and although that was the last time I saw her, he visited her again which I know he is grateful for. Yesterday, we celebrated her life in the most beautiful way, through worship which was something I learned yesterday that she loved. Witnessing my husband up on stage with his cousins, all worshiping and singing praise together for both the joy of her living a loving life, and now dancing in heaven with Jesus was priceless. And, to know now that this writing piece that I have been working on for weeks, rooted around a song during worship and her, is all the more fitting.

I am who you say I am.

As we were about to leave her celebration of life, our son Cole, looked over at his great grandmother’s photograph and said he only – almost cried a couple times – and laughed, as he hugged me. He teased me for crying as he usually does because I cry all the time. When he asked what made me cry, I told him to look around, to see the surrounding family, the church we now belonged to and to remember it was all because of her, and that this was God’s plan all along. We just needed to water the seed from Christmas.

My husband is his grandmother’s grandson, his father’s son, his aunt’s nephew, and welcomed by the highest king whose love for him, found him and brought him home at the right time. While the push for me to return to the church, to be closer to his family is equally a blessing for me, it was all in God’s plan for my husband to find his place. The lyrics to “I am who you say I am” don’t just belong to a beautiful song of love, redemption and having a place with God, they also tell a story. A story of where a little boy’s grandmother reminded him of where his place was, how to get there again and that he was always loved and deserving.

This post talks about God, judgement of past, and being deserving of love.

The truth sets you free

It’s time to be real. To be honest. To lay it bare.

Fear. Shame. We all have it and shy away from anyone who may hurt us by exposing us. The people in our life can be split in half right down the middle by two types; those who love us anyway and those who love to hold us back.

When I sit and ponder my life and my purpose, I know it well within the deepest core of my soul – that I’m supposed to write. And, I know if I did, I would be hugely successful. Like most dreamers, it is common to imagine what living your dream would be like. And, I have this reoccurring day-mare that plays in my mind each time the writing bug hits, nudging me to write my story. It feels incredible at first. My book becomes a best seller, and I am exiting a fancy bus in New York City on my way into a book signing during my very first book tour. My husband and children are with me and we are so happy and proud. And, then as I am stepping off the last step of the bus, the flashes from the paparazzi blind me, and all I can hear is chatter, and I can see the vision of spinning newspapers, and blurbs on television saying “the story behind Jessica” and how someone sells a story about how I’m undeserving. Someone exposes the things in my life that I’m disappointed of and don’t talk about and I just stand there feeling humiliated and worthless. I quit, I leave and I walk away. So close to the dream, but not worth facing the fear and shame.

Each time I began to write, the day-mare would ruin it. The fear would ruin it. When we succumb to fear we give in and find other ways to sabotage ourselves by disguising our fear in a respectful manner. Posing it as something outside our control. One day while visiting my grandmother, she was going on and on about how wonderful my father was and I sat there thinking to myself, how can two people who knew the same man have such opposing memories and views? And, I also thought to myself how much it would break her heart if I told the world about my view of him. And, I knew that couldn’t happen, and that writing a book would have to wait. It would have to wait, until at least after she has passed, which bought me time. Temporarily it extinguished my fear of failure and unacceptance, and my grandmothers’ pain – all in one simple selfless act. But self-sabotage isn’t selfless, it’s actually selfish.

Korie Robertson’s advice to her children, shared by Sadie Robertson.

Months down the road, the nagging feeling of needing to write visits again. And this time I’m stronger. This time I’m able to talk myself through the day-mare, I tell myself that it could be years before I am published and maybe my Grandmothers dementia while sad and hard at times for her, would benefit us both, and my writing a book would be okay. Then, I write, and it feels good! People read my words and tell me that it makes them feel good too. So, I think okay, maybe now’s my time. But, fear doesn’t want it to be my time. Shame reminds me that there are no parts of my life I’m not prepared to share, and if I continue down this path, he will expose me. He, being the person who sells my story to get rich in my day-mare. So, guess what happened next? Yep, I quit. I let fear win, again. I traded in my dream for fear, and let it consume me like a kudzu vine, and decided the dream was dead, there would be no book, not when my grandmother died, not when the villain in my life found Jesus, not ever. No book. Period.

It is a harsh reality when you must own up to the fact that you are not courageous enough to be fearless. That in the face of challenge, adversity and judgment, I was a coward. Can we be real for a minute? Do you understand the amount of courage it would take to write my story? …for me to say to the world I’ve messed up and I am strong enough to stand proud regardless. About everything.

Do you understand that if I write my story, if I share my truth, the world will need to know my faults, my hardships, and my demons before they could understand my triumphs? Do you realize that in order to be accurate in my personal accounts, I would have to bare my weaknesses and give my enemies permission to use them against me?

To write my story, I’d have to go back to where I first got stuck. I’d have to tell you the why’s and how’s before the gratefulness of the now’s!

How many times I’ve been married and broke my vows. How many times I’ve been divorced. How I met a criminal who almost killed me. How I met a man who was kind and good, and I hurt him. How I cheated. How I lied. How I got fired. How I stole from Walmart. How I almost loved a lost man so much that trying to save him, almost caused the loss of myself, and put my children in direct danger. How I have a daughter I did not raise, and that I fear I’ve failed her. How I have a father that couldn’t and wouldn’t choose to love me, and a mother who’s addictions replaced her desire to want me. How to this very day there is a man who daily attempts to break me. I’d have to share about the time I was on assistance. The times we had no money & no food. You’d learn that I have a brother who’s an addict, in and out of prison for the past 20 years. And, I’d have to tell you about the time I attempted suicide, and woke up angry at God that it didn’t work. And, how each and every one of these instances were the broken ground on which a more firm, stable and loving foundation was formed.

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The answer Mack was given when he asks Papa why she brought him back to the Shack where Missy died.

Do you know how much power is in all this truth? And how much courage it took to even write these truths down? And, guess how much fear I feel having now released it? None.

Sharing my stories, will be painfully honest, and to be honest it will have to be dark at times, and I have to be willing to share these stories with people I love, people who’s respect I would want to keep, and whose judgment I am now ready for. Because their judgement has no bearing on me any longer.

I choose to share my truth with complete strangers who may attempt to tear me apart but won’t succeed. Because there is one person, the same person who built me for struggle, who built me to share my story, who gifted me the desire and ability to write out my inner most personal feelings in a way that enraptures people’s souls.

Today, for the first time in my life, I can say wholeheartedly that with God within me, and above me, that anything below can never break me. Because the truth is there is one person who knows my story, one person who loves me anyways and the only person who can justly judge me, and it’s not the person who sells the story, it was the person who co-wrote it beside me. God.

God didn’t answer my prayers to change my circumstances, because he needed me to be in those trenches, to be in the lions den to allow me to escape unscathed. And, the first step is facing the fear of those lions, facing the fear that they may bite, they may intimidate and they could easily devour me – but God protects me. My faith has to be stronger than my fear.

This is my story of a past that built me. A beautiful story mixed with that of a tattered reputation and an inspiring redemption. No one can tell my story for me, but me.

And, I AM READY.

Divorce & the StepMom

Have you ever awoke from a dream that was so intense and real that your heart breaks as you open your eyes?

I dreamt about him again, and its such a double edged sword because even though for the duration of the dream we’re together again, there is always the waking up that rips him away.

Divorce sucks, everyone knows that,  divorce with your children involved even worse, but nothing is worse than divorce with a stepchild.  Nothing.

Ethan was only one when he blessed my life. Having had a hysterectomy after my son, I always believed God wasn’t done with me as a mother, therefore he brought me Ethan. We had him in our home every other week for a week at a time, which is virtually unheard of at his age.

At first, it was hard to get used to, because my children were 5 and 7 at the time. Diapers, sippy cups and highchairs were a thing of the past. But, it took no time at all to fall in love with this blonde little sweetheart.

He always called me mom, because he copied my kids. It was hard because his mother hated it. It was something he chose and though I was uneasy with it at first, I grew to love it and to call him my son. Raising him was a joint responsibility in our home. In every definition and action I was his mother, and I loved him dearly, and still do.

Through battles in court, battles between my husband and his mother, I fought hard for this little kiddo. My love for him and my relationship with him, is what started my blog, and my parenting page. My children took to him instantly and we were a family.  And then after three years, we weren’t.  He was gone.

His dad left for another woman. He left while my kids were not at home, and while Ethan was with his mom. There was and has never been a goodbye on either end.  My children were left heartbroken by the dual loss of a stepfather and brother. And, I, well…I haven’t seen Ethan since. Except in photos here and there.

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That is probably why I still dream about him. In my dreams Ethan calls me mommy, and hugs me so tight as if to hold me over until our next date in our dreams. He caresses my face and tells me “I love you mommy” the way he used to do. This time I was so happy to see him that I was crying, and woke up feeling as though I was going to cry. My heart hurts, still, a year later.

It makes me hate his father, and the woman he left our family for. The woman who informed me it was better for Ethan and my children, to not see eachother or the man that was a father type in their life. She has no children of her own, how does she know? She made the rules and he followed them.

While I’m thankful my ex is gone, and even more delighted that they two now are eachothers karma;  I miss my son. I miss his laughter, his silliness, his sweet breathy voice and the way he loved me so. I miss him crawling into my lap, caressing my face and telling me stories about bullriding and hockey with his excited little boy voice. I miss him holding hands with his brother and sister and how excited he was to see them when he came home every week. I miss the 3 am tapping on my shoulder, saying “mommy can I snuggle you?”

Now, awake and emotional, I will go on about my day dealing with the loss of my son again. The sinking  feeling in my heart, that dull aching pain which will exist unbeknownst to anyone throughout the day. I’ll suffer quietly because noone understands it and everyone expects it to go away because its been over a year. But, guess what?  It hasn’t. 

It hides away until we meet again in our dreams.  I miss you Ethan, and love you always. 

Not your typical sports physical…

This past week, I took my daughter Grace for a sports physical/well child exam. (apparently insurance providers are kinder to you if its simply a well child exam) I’m guessing a case of karma may have bitten Grace’s nerves since she had to wait in the hall during her brothers physical last year. Which she spent laughing and taunting him while the doctor was making him “cough.”  There was simply no reassuring her conscience that reassurance was nothing for the doctor to check down there, or to make her cough!

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He did as any mother would expect, he checked her reflexes, her weight and height, breathing and bones, diet and exercise etc. he made her walk heel to toe, and to the other side of the room on her tiptoes – which resulted in my telling her that the shorts she was wearing are going in the garbage as soon as we got home! They were way too short for my liking.  After her doctor stopped laughing he then did something that shocked me.  He didn’t fill out our paper and send us on our way. Nope, instead he folded his arms, and started a conversation with Grace. How fantastic is that? Does your pediatrician do that?

He started asking some rather valid questions. Questions such as: Can you talk to your mother, and father? Are you ever sad, lonely or depressed? Do you have a best friend? Do you have the confidence to say “No” when you feel pressured to say yes? Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? To say I was impressed, was a huge understatement. Then when she joined in on this conversational rally of sorts with him, I just sort of sat back and took it all in. Man, is she growing up I thought to myself.

She trusted him, and was open enough to answer any question honestly and humorously – which might I add, she totally gets from me! For a second, it did make me wonder though, how many parents sit and ask their children these same questions? Could they answer these questions about their children? A slight sadness came over me in the thought that not every child has the opportunity or the openness that Grace and I have. The sadness was met with the appreciation for this moment though, and the realization that one day, it may change.

 

Quickly my thoughts were interrupted by her answers to his questions which she met them with such poise, intellect and witty retorts. During their talk, I was careful only to chime in when necessary, or an unavoidable humorous answer was necessary. Like, when he asked her “Do you worry” Are you a worrier?” I couldn’t help but share the answer of “Yes! She worries! She is terrified that if she doesn’t re-post those forwards on Facebook that says your mother will die at midnight, that I’ll die! Yet, here I am, alive in the flesh!”  We all laughed, and he explained as I have numerous times – those aren’t real.

He talked to her about periods, which I did ask if he could rush along, because the hormonal pre-teen stuff is simply too dramatic at times, he said no, damn it! He talked to her about sex, birth control, drugs and alcohol – literally these two talked about everything. He mentioned teen pregnancy and she responded with the hand gesture of throwing a ball into a basket and said “ I’m not throwing my life in the trash!” Laughing he said “Okay, I think were good then.”

The best part of this appointment, besides her overall good physical and mental health, was what he said as was left. He looked at me and said “You are doing a good job Mom, you have a really special girl here.” And, while I fought back the desire to dodge the compliment with a hilarious remark of “Yes, the helmet kind of special” I instead simply thanked him, and agreed.

Sure there is the possibility he says that to every mom, but I took it as the truth. It’s truth and validation come from the fact that I know she is a phenomenal little girl. As well as knowing, that I am a phenomenal mother to her. We as parents owe it to our children to know our worth as parents. Our worth in ourselves as individuals and parents translates them as their own worth. Take the time to be that parent who takes the time. The parent who makes the effort, who has the strength and maturity to answer those questions, remember when you yourself were a child, think of what you needed, desired and wished your parents would have done. And, by that I don’t mean letting you sneak out and drink at fifteen!

Look at yourself in the mirror, right into your eyes and say this “You are doing a good job!” Your kids will thank you for it.

Okay, you be the Mom and I will be the kid!

I’m willing to venture a guess that almost any adult would choose to go back to being a child in a heartbeat. No bills, less stress, maybe do better in school the second time around and ENJOY those naps! I mean, life for our kids these days is just so hard, they get bored, they need instant gratification, video games, cell phones, bedazzled jeans, and so on. Have you ever asked your child what is it about being a kid that is so hard? Well, I did! And then, I took it a step further – what if our roles switched? What would our kids make us do if they could be our parents for a day? And, what would we do to them, if we were the kids? Read below for the hilarious switch.

The hardest part about being a kid:

Allison, 5: Umm, working and working out – I have to do that at NaeNaes. My favorite part was when I asked how she spelled her name, and she said A, L, L, I, S,O,N – but I do my “S” backwards!

Pierce, 5: Dumpster diving! The look on moms face, and the adamant denial that she does not make her children dumpster dive, may have been funnier! She swears its from Sponge Bob!

Coleton, 9: That sometimes kids really don’t understand

Gracie, 11: That we makes mistakes, and parents don’t always get that!

Kaiden, 8: That we can’t play all the time, because of chores and homework.

Emma, 8: That I can’t spend the whole day with my mom – cause I have to go to school.

Nick, 15: Having to listen. You have to try to remember to listen!

So, just for the fun of it, lets switch. If you as a parent could be your child, what is the first thing you would do? Would it be enjoy a nap? Maybe sleep in, play with your friends all day? Or, would you have a little fun with some get backs?? The answers were 50/50!

Telia Fogle: Yell “I’m hungry, fix me food” and destroy the house

Jami Fernandes: Get in a bathing suit and run through the sprinkler!!

Dina Fentiman: TRASH MY ROOOOM!!!

Amber Martin: Pick my nose and wipe it on the seat of the new car. Ask them to make something special for dinner, then say I don’t like it anymore. Say I cleaned my room but really I shoved it all under my bed.

Tiffany McIntosh: Eat whatever I want & not gain a pound… & then take a nap!

Desiree Rafferty: Leave socks ALL over the house!

Kathleen Winfrey: I would eat a million lunchables and then actually enjoy a nap instead of fighting it!

Sherri Tucker Tunnell: I’d yell “Mom mom mom mom” that is what I would do.

Now your kids are your parents, what would they make you do? What rule would they change? Would they have ice cream for dinner, or buy you whatever you want? Would they have a case of the “getbacks” also? Let’s see!

Allison, 5
“ umm laundry, washing the counters, cleaning the dishes, make my bed and clean my room … pretty much everything, I’ll make you do all my house work!”

Kaiden, 8
Allow ice cream BEFORE dinner, and set bedtime to 8pm.

Riley, 8
I’d make you massage my feet, do my chores and go to school for me!

Jacoby, 15
I wouldn’t make my parents do anything, I would do everything AND buy them whatever they want.

Josh, 9
I would make my parents do everyone’s chores!

Tommy
Make you clean your room, and if it’s already clean then give you a treat!! Then take us to Rogue Air!

As for me, if I could swap places – I wouldn’t. My daughter would have way too much fun with that – but then again I could always get her back by slamming my door, flipping my hair, stomping off with attitude and knowing every thing about everything and bossing everyone around! Wait, that is kind of me now? Hey! Well played Karma, well played!

Dads are kind-of Awesome!

Dad verses mom appears to be an easy win for Moms, right? You’d think it would be a slam dunk because we are natural multi-taskers, nurturers, nurses, teachers, homemakers, maids, etc. I mean, come on, we literally do it all! Or, do we? We can tease them and share random facts which are absolutely true and humorous like these things…

Dads never sleep, they are simply resting their eyes. Even if they are snoring – they are resting their eyes damn it!

Dads can’t change diapers, they will throw up! It is a scientific fact – proven by the obnoxious, melodramatic gagging met my our mere thought of even asking for help.

Dads can’t go grocery shopping. Cheap, coupons, budget and list are not words that exist in his vocabulary.

Dads have a whole different time frame. In a minute – can literally be in a minute or the minute they see you actually doing what you asked.

Dads clean house without being asked for three reasons. 1. Sex 2. They want something 3. They did something already.

However, the truth is dads are kind-of AWESOME!   Yes, there are single parents who fulfill the role of both parents, and this isn’t meant to negate that in any way… but there are some things I think dads just do better than moms. 

First, dads know sports. They are the first to teach competition, the desire and drive to win, to be #1, the absolute best at anything and everything. They teach dedication, practice makes perfect and its okay to fall down as long as you get back up again. And, it’s a bonus for Moms because there is nothing more sexier than seeing your spouse out playing sports with the kids!

Second, dads understand that “mom doesn’t understand”. I mean, who better to understand being misunderstood than dad, right? You can tell him everything, and he can completely sympathize.

Third, dads are a sons best friend. They know everything boys. Video games, sports, fishing, ball games, hunting, you name it they can do it together!  They also know all about those “changes”, why your son is still in the shower, why mom may not want to clean up those dirty socks on the floor, or lift up the mattress at a certain age. Needless to say anything further.

Fourth, dads are natural conquerors. Whatever you need, they have an idea of what they can construct to do it! They can also get anything down from the ceiling, the roof, the top shelf etc. They know just how to fix, or repair whatever a child needs especially if it creates a project! (Extra kudos if said project supersedes mom’s honey do list) Same with lessons on cars, car repairs, etc. They are great at teaching with their hands, those are their best tools.

Fifth, dads are a daughters first love. A simple bat of the eyes, and daddy you are my favorite teaches little girls and grown women how to get exactly what they want! They are natural protectors and create that first sense of safety for a little girl. Daddy’s are everything to a little girl. They don’t care that she doesn’t wear a skirt, or that she has dirt on her face, they love that she can bait a hook, and loves to play with worms – they love little girls who can be boys when the time calls for it. (Now, boys that want to be girls…that’s a whole different ballgame)

Sixth, dads are calm. They diffuse situations and make sense out things, they are a natural peacemaker between mom and her children. You can call dad and even if he is pissed, disappointed or hurt, he will remedy what he can. He will also let you fall on your face, if it proposes to teach a good lesson.

The final thing I think dads do best, is teaching their children how to be a good husband, father, wife and mother. They watch the relationship between mom and dad, they see the way dads are supposed to be, how dad treats mom, and it sets forth an example and expectations for both sons and daughters. It is best said in this quote “The best thing a father can do for his children, is love their mother” and it is quite true.

read more at totallyjessifiable.wordpress.com

fathers

Make them aware that they are loved.

It doesn’t matter where the love comes from, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bio-parent or a step-parent – as long as there is love being freely given. Someone who gives their time, their energy, their love without any regard for a personal gain – solely to benefit the child. We all get some portion of this in life. A little piece of completeness.

When you look at your child/stepchild – look at them and see the child – not the other parent. See what needs they have, what talents they possess and can share with the world given your love,  your time, and your extra attention. Don’t be afraid or too busy to hug them, to discipline them, or to not be their friend. Because, inside of us all we have that small place that’s missing something? Don’t you?aware