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.

The kind of Christian I want to be.

Today in church toward the end of the service, the pastor asked for the people who needed a miracle, and who wanted to let Jesus know they were ready to fully accept him, to raise their hands. Raising my hand in church is difficult. During worship when all the arms are raised, mine can be found folded cross-body or in my jacket pockets. Today though, I let go, and raised my hand. And, then the pastor invited everyone who had raised their hands to come forward, to join the others who had raised their hands and we could all pray together for them. “Nope, no way, not a chance,” were the words I spoke to my husband as I put my hands right back in my pockets.

Did part of me want to go up there, you bet! Does part of me want to raise both hands high and sing in my awful deaf tone voice that I love Jesus and I know I am forgiven, yes, more than you can imagine. But, I don’t. Because my sins are many and there are moments that even in church, I am reminded that my sins are bad. And, that even if God has forgiven me, which I know he has for the most part (there are two sins I’m still confused on), the others in this room may not treat me as forgiven. They may see me as my sins, and not just as a flawed human being with a story like everyone else.

Let’s be honest, there are always those Christians, who do not live the way God would want. They go to church, they can quote a scripture, they give to the poor, feed the hungry yet still judge and condemn. And, that is why I would go to church intermittently throughout the years because if I stayed, I would connect, and if I connected, I would talk. And, if I talked, I would be judged. If you know me at all, you know two things: 1. I cannot lie to you if we are face to face. and, 2. I am an open book, and once I start sharing, I physically cannot stop, and within an hour you will know not only my life story, but every deep and dark secret. And… that is when that look comes across their face, of an uncomfortable smile, and an awkward exit with a loud and clear message of you are not worthy.

When I am strong, I am very confident in my worthiness, and it was God who told me just months ago, that I was worthy. But, in moments of weakness, when the devil returns to destroy what is being rebuilt with Jesus, my worthiness decreases. My inability to raise my arms stems from that unworthiness, and where there is unworthiness, there is relapse of sins. Tomorrow is unknown, and although I know he has greater plans for me than I have for myself, I knew that for the past 23 sinful years. I knew his plans for me were greater when my suicide attempt was not successful. When I woke up from my attempt angry at God for not wanting me, for not accepting me, and making me stay in the hell that my life was at that time; I knew there was more. Yet, I still faltered, I still sinned, and I managed to get my life together, only to have it fall apart time and time again. So, tell me how I can raise my hands today exalting that I am forgiven, that I am saved, when my track record shows evidence of a potential relapse in sins.

God has been a constant from a young age in my life. Even when I was not actively following him as a teenager and adult, he was still my constant. Were there times that I was misled to thinking God hated me? Definitely. Were there times that I sat up at night going over what God and I would talk about when it came time to review my life? Yes, more nights than you can imagine. But then again, because I knew God, and had faith in him, I knew he knew my heart. I believed he knew that I was not that person from my past and that he still loved me. That he knew I was trying.

Fear is never something I’ve had for God, because to me he was the only one who has never let me down. He is who I look up to and respect, and do not want to let down, but not who, I fear. So, maybe I am doing things wrong. But you at least can understand why I always come back, and always find my way to his message in church. As, we sat there today, praying for the group of people who were stronger than I was, and had walked up front, I stayed planted where I was, with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was happy for those in front of me, and I was content in praying for them because my heart wanted their hearts to be at peace.

It was then that I felt a light touch on my back, and I thought it was my husband who when he notices I am crying, he will console me. But I realized quickly it was not my husband, it was a woman behind us. I turned to her thinking I had dropped something, or she needed something, and she said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes.  I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person. She then said, “I don’t know why, but I’m being called to do this, either for you and your family, or for me and mine” and all I could get out were the words “oh, okay” as we walked up to the front arm in arm.

Once in front with the others who were just like us, we listened and pray, and I sobbed deeply and quietly. The pastor prayed for all the things, I needed, he prayed for a miracle, he prayed over finances and then he prayed for the devil to let go of our children, and I sobbed even more. Because this past Friday our daughter was in a situation that was scary, and a dear friend of mine said “Hear me out, the devil comes to attack when your family is close to god, and when he can’t break you, he will try and grab a hold of your children” and it made sense because this situation our daughter was in, was evil and hate filled. We needed the devil to flee.

As the sermon ended, and everyone walked away, I hugged her thanking her, an asked her name, it was Corinne. I hadn’t noticed her there before and she said she usually stays in the back and has a hard time coming forward so maybe that is why God led her to me. But I think God led her to me, because I needed her, because he knew I needed to be up front with the others, and I would go if it was to help someone else. Corinne didn’t ask what my sins were, she didn’t look at me with shame, or inequality, she simply put her arm around me, and walked beside me in front of all the others needing what we all need, God’s grace, love and acceptance.

I pray that I will get to see this woman again, and that each of you get to see the grace of god as I did today because it is the way Christians should be, and how I want to be.

Blended Families are BLENDED with Discipline, Parenting, Finding your place & your voice.

“Lately, I have been struggling with others views about my life – marriage – family etc. How far do we let peoples opinions, advice, etc in to our homes and how do we do that, and still find a place within our little family and our spouses families at the same time. Below you will find many scenarios of things I struggle with, and some ways to help that. “

My husband teases me that I need an invite before I will just stop by someone’s home. He often times goes to his mom’s house unannounced, will help himself to food in the fridge and take the most comfy chair. Not only does this make me uncomfortable, but its something I would never do. Seriously, I am an adult – and I wouldn’t want someone just stopping by – what if they are having sex or enjoying time alone – or naked walking around the house? That happens at our house, so it is possible.

Call it being sensitive, which I know I am, or you can call it being a worry-wort which I have been since I was a child – either way I don’t want to intrude. Is it possible they want me there, sure – but it’s also possible that even though the like me, they may not feel like having to entertain company. Some will argue that family is not company, I will argue they are both. Putting this into account with other things – I sometimes feel as if I don’t know my place, I don’t always feel welcome and can grow uncomfortable easily. Not because they did, or said anything – because of me.

There are times when I don’t feel included – and when I choose to let it bother me. There were two months that grandma was in the hospital. My mother and father in law – spent the majority of the time there alone – working full-time and spending nights there. Just showing up there – isn’t something I would do, yet I couldn’t understand  why when they needed help no one called us. Getting my feelings hurt, it was explained that we have kids – and that all the other people who were too busy or unavailable to help out – didn’t. I never thought about that – I just figured they didn’t want us there. The same with the service, I simply showed up. There was no helping with setting up, or getting pictures, or anything. When it was time to leave – it was my husband’s brother and sister that helped his mom carry things out, and I stood there – not knowing my place. Everyone is different – and in a blended family – this couldn’t be more true.

Take for example my husbands Grandmother that recently passed. Her hospital room welcomed visitors that were immediate family, I had never met. People that were so important to her, that she loved, and then there is me. Having been in the family for a hot minute – I worried I was taking up room for someone else, or maybe they felt it wasn’t my place to be there. Yes, I wanted to be there, both for myself and my husband. But, I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle with it.

Today, at the Celebration of Life – the church was full of people I did not know, and very well may never see again. It is also the same church that is led by husbands ex-wife’s family. Her Uncle is the Pastor, and her Grandfather plays guitar in the band. The pastor and I have met, and they are fantastic about staying out of anything about them. The pastor even helps my husband and I as we have problems like every other blended family does. They love my husband, and for that I am thankful. But, did I feel a sense of belonging there? No, it was uncomfortable – however this day wasn’t about me, so I sucked it up.  Once seated with my food after the service, I sat next to Grandpa and I never moved. Many people came to speak to him, none of which I knew – but I made my job refilling his coffee cup and that gave me a purpose.  Outside of that, I didn’t speak with too many people, and when my husband would leave and visit with others, I stayed put. I didn’t want to follow him around, and literally waited for him to come get me, when he was ready to leave.

Since we had our kids there with us, that meant that my stepson would see his great-grandfather, and as they were talking and he asked him if the kids with him were his brother and sister – I knew he knew, I was the Step-Mom. Had he heard of me? Had he believed what he heard – did he think I was all the things his granddaughter said I was – or was he a genuine christian man – that appreciated the fact I loved his great-grandson? I’m not sure, but I definitely felt on edge, fearful I would say or do the wrong thing – be too friendly or not friendly enough. Should I just leave my stepson with him, and walk away, or do I wait until they are finished and continue on my way as a family, as we had started? Have you caught that I am an over-analyzer yet? Cause I am.

Although my childhood, wasn’t horrible – I do lack the general understanding and feelings of being part of a bigger picture – of being wanted. Being a daughter is foreign to me, being able to go “home” help myself to food, or a comfy seat without notice is something I never had or did. Being a mom, that I know – how I want my children to feel – that I understand but not how to receive it myself. Leaving the church, I don’t even think I said goodbye to my mother in law – I think I just wanted to be home – in my comfort zone. Allowing things to get to me, is something I struggle with. There was an attendee at the service, that always makes a point to make a big deal out of seeing my stepson – but not my two kids. It bothered me. First, he barely knows who she is, and it’s not as if she is actively involved in his life. Yet, the reason it bothers me – is inside me – which I know once I am honest with myself.

Whether it is admitted or not, there is always favoritism in some manner. Whether it be that the bio family is more important, or your spouse’s family feels that your spouse can do no wrong – or maybe even one of the step-kids is liked more. It can go every which way possible. And my favorite – it will all change tomorrow. I have had my brother-in-law and husband both say in the heat of the moment, that I am their mom’s “new” favorite – and there have been times where I swear she doesn’t like me for some reason. There are times when, following arguments – I will feel like we are not family anymore – because that is how my family worked. However, their family doesn’t work like that – they forgive and move forward. This is more than foreign to me, because I am still mad – when they are over it… I simply take things more serious – more final – and have a hard time building that bridge to get over stuff.

There are moments when I feel like no one see’s my point – and no matter how many different ways you try to explain to explain it – it will not help. If you are like me you may get emotional, or feel judged because they seem one-sided. Sometime’s they are one-sided – sometimes they are right. The good thing is that either way, its is your life and you have the right to feel how you feel – even if they don’t agree. In our home, bringing up softball – will always be a lost case for me. If I complain that hubby is playing ball 3 days in a row all day long – I am the bad guy because he played ball so much more when we first got together. Therefore, I have no right to feel as though that’s excessive. To me, if you have chores, or anything that needs attention that comes first. If you are playing in a tournament that is two days and your wife says that she doesn’t want you playing a third day that is unrelated – that you shouldn’t – especially when she is at home with both his kids and hers. When does a mother get 3 days of being able to not have to be a mom? She doesn’t but because it’s a hobby that has been cut back on – we should get over it.  I still think I have every right to have been upset – others disagree. The world did not end – therefore life goes on.

It’s not any different from how you parent your children. Chances are there is a good chance you parent differently than your spouse. One major difference in our home is that my husband eats anything – I am a picky eater. When my stepson eats – he eats anything – he will eat it all and whether he likes it or not. My son is picky, he doesn’t like new things and I simply refuse to force him to sit there and choke it all down. I was asked once by a family member on my husband’s side ” So, because when you were raised you were forced to eat things you didn’t like, and your dad was mean to you, you refuse to do that to your kids?” the answer I gave was yes…  My answer wasn’t well received – did it bother me? yes, but they are my kids and my kids don’t have to just like my husbands. People can and will disagree with how you parent – but while advice is great – their opinion really doesn’t make a difference unless you want it to.

Discipline is the same way. My husband is far stricter and competitive than I am when it comes to the kids. He has a better follow through rate than I do – yet I remind him that I have pretty great kids – so whatever I am doing must have been working before him. He believes instilling a “general fear” the kind of fear that when you are speeding and see a cop – will make the kids behave better. He also makes it known at times that his son will be better at things, than my children – because of it. My comment is always – I guess we will see. Fear is not something I want my children to every feel when it comes to me, I would rather them worry to disappoint me, let me down or themselves down. I had a home where I couldn’t be honest and talk to a parent about what was going on with me, and when I needed help – I had no one to turn to. I refuse to let that happen to my children –  Truth is, we are both good parents – although we don’t always see eye to eye. It doesn’t always mean on of us is wrong and the other is right – it’s just different.

Blended families are hard, when trying to find your place – and trying to assert your independence while showcasing what you have to offer to your spouse and your stepchildren. Many of these people have seen your spouse with the ex, many know that the children are not both of yours – and while at a grocery store or restaurant you can continue in the world of “were a family” – during family events your secret is out. How then, do you manage to be yourself and be comfortable?

First, don’t do the things I did above. Ditch the over-analyzing, don’t be sensitive, and don’t feel watched. Is it possible you are being watched, of course. However, by acting on this, you will most definitely make a mistake.

Second, be kind – initiate a conversation and allow that person to make their own decision on what they think of you. I can’t tell you how many times, I have walked away from a conversation with someone I didn’t think I liked, only to find out that I actually rather enjoyed that person.

Third, Smile, and breath. First because not breathing would lead to passing out and that would only make it worse. 🙂 There is that saying “Smile, because you never know who is falling in love with it.” Its true. Plus, smiling makes you more approachable.

Fourth, identify why you feel the way you do. Is it your head  playing into it, or was there really an issue with someone who has caused this?  If so, make a plan to talk with the person later, away from the event if it is someone important enough to clear the air with. If its someone who talking to, would make no difference – don’t waste your time or energy.

Fifth, Don’t take it to heart. How many times has someone said to you: “What’s wrong?” for you to say “Nothing, why do you ask?”, finding out that you had a look on your face that looked mad or sad – without even realizing it. Or better yet, how many times have you said or done something that later you realized was probably not the best way to go about it, or maybe was taken the wrong way? We all say things that we may have not meant in that manner, or that we didn’t realize we said. Give the benefit of the doubt.

These work even if you are in a home that doesn’t exactly accept you. The term “Kill them with Kindness” really works – as well as “Fake it until you make it”. Neither of which I am good at.  Talking with your spouse or significant other before arriving, can provide you the opportunity to have them be more supportive, and to inform them that you may need a little helping hand here and there.

All in all, you were picked to be in this family – by a key person in the family – your spouse. Find some value in that alone, and realize you have something to add, because there is no one like you. Today, as I was standing outside, my  husband was helping his grandfather to and in his truck. I had hugged him goodbye already. Then, I hear my name being called, and my husband was motioning that Grandpa wanted me to come to the truck, he told me he just wanted me to know he appreciated all I had done and that he loved me very much. At that moment, nothing else mattered – I had served a purpose and he appreciated it. He will never know – how much that meant to me either.