This House Is Mine – What my Table Taught me about Being a StepMom

img_8412I’m a Mom and a StepMom and my big blended family moved a few months ago. Before we even found our little slice of heaven, I began looking for my new four legged friend, not the kind that barks, but yes, one that bites. Well…one that we would take bites at anyway.

A Table.

The Table.

Our Table.

The Heart of Our Circus.

There are 8 of us in my family, 6 quickly growing beanstalks. The last 5 years we have been crowding around a table meant for 6. We managed our way through lots of “He’s touching me!” kid chaos and in many ways it made us stronger and more patient in each others presence (and chewing with our mouth open moments). However, throw in company, parents, friends, drifters and neighbors and well..it just wasn’t as much fun n’ festive fellowship as I wanted for our home. I desired deeply for a gathering place that was more open and welcoming. I have always wanted to be “that” home, “that” Mom, “that place”. The one where the kids could come and hang out, eat, play and feel safe and loved, my kids, our kids, and any kids. Grown-ups too.

Even before we had a house and I knew where my table would go, I was watching the ads, scrolling through Craigslist, hoping to bump into a carpenter at church and then as a last effort, I began asking my husband about the potential of attaching two old tables together to make one big one. I had resolved this would be it, we would need to MacGyver something together and throw a table cloth over it and that would be that. Finances just would not allow us to do anymore than that right now. I surrendered to Gods timing in it all and moved on to the next project. But…I checked Craigslist one more time. It’s always that one more time isn’t it? God has such a sense of humor that way. That one more time was the day I met Carolyn.

At the time Carolyn appeared to be a savvy talented business woman with a flair for dressing up old furniture. Little did I know she was also going to be my angel and mentor with wisdom to help save my soul from sadness time and time again. Little did I know she was going to become a trusted friend and we were going to do BIG things together.

She had a beautiful set of a table and chairs for sale. The chairs were covered in cloth and suited for a Fancy Nancy dining room, not one like mine with lots of traffic and drips and drops but ….THE TABLE. #dropsjaw. THE TABLE! The table was perfect. It was big and wide and fun and colorful and ….scrolling…scrolling the ad…ohh poo… hmmm… out of my price range. I paused and exhaled. God saw my sadness and whispered in my ear to just email Carolyn. Tell her my story. Be honest. She refurbished old furniture so she was clearly a sensitive kind of gal. Perhaps, she would hear my plight and consider selling just the table to me for what my budget was. I asked, not hopeful, but you never know.

Sadly, unfortunately, Carolyn said “No.” I pouted. I prayed.

A week passed and we were back to the MacGyver strategy and then one glorious morning, just when I needed some sunshine, a text came in and the wheels were set in motion. Carolyn had a change of heart. What changed her heart I didn’t know quite yet but I didn’t ask either, I was over the moon. Not only would she sell the table alone but she said she could reduce the price to my budget if I had some old furniture with flair that I could trade her for. Which, of course, I did! I invited her to come over and see what I had and when she did we began to talk. And talk and talk. Carolyn was a Mom of a big family too. And a Step Mom and a Wife and she loved God and she had been filled with the good stuff of life for over 25 years in it all and, and, and… she was funny, compassionate, intuitive and beautiful and confident and I wanted to just sit with her and soak up every word of advice she had for me. I wanted to be Carolyn when I grew up, only me, but with the strength and zest oozing out of her. She told me God whispered to her too. That was her change of heart. My prayers! I think we both knew that day was the beginning of something divine.

table

Games, homework, birthdays, holidays and together around our table

We finished our visit, she decided on the furniture I had for the trade. My hubby and I delivered it to her the next week and picked up our table. The new nucleus of our family. The frosting in the middle of our Oreo.

I burst into tears when it arrived in our dining room. It was absolutely perfect. Yes I’m a big softy.

Now that our souls had connected Carolyn was trying to help me find chairs to go with our table that suited us better. She offered to refresh a beautiful old chair that belonged to my husband’s Grandmother. All the while she chose to take me under her wing. She was checking on me and texting me encouragement. She just somehow knew I needed it through the struggles I was enduring in our move and the never ever ending difficult process of family blending. Never ending. Always hard, always love, always pain.

THIS HOUSE IS MINE! 

One particular day, when I was at a low point in step parenting, sifting through outside influences, texts, lawyer fees, court documents, Facebook posts, inquires from my step kids and concern from my husband, I invited Carolyn over for a visit… around our table. She listened to me whine on about this and that and a bunch of he said, she said’s, she did and then this happened. She took a breath and ferociously looked me right in the eye and spoke the words I will never forget – and now tell myself daily,

“MINDEE, THIS HOUSE IS YOURS! NOT THEIRS! YOU ARE LETTING OTHER PEOPLE RUN YOUR HOME AND CONTROL YOUR LIFE!”

“Poo, I thought. She’s totally right!” That was not what I expected her to say but WOW did she hit a nerve and WOW was she right on. I was everyone else’s puppet, giving all this energy to whatever bone they threw at me. Trying to please and pacify, keep the peace and make everything cozy and comfortable. All the while hoping that eventually all my nice gestures would make people be nicer to me and the madness would stop. Carolyn could tell me from years of experience that was not going to happen! The storm is always going to be there. Our family, us, our kids, we are broken and it’s complicated and when people show you who they are you have to believe them or you will become them. The storm was going to rage. All I can truly do is keep it out of my home.

She went on to talk to me about boundaries (there are many great books on this topic, Mama), about rules and expectations that are the same regardless if this is your full time or part time home. About honoring my husband and our commitment to each other above all else. And about making sure that no one in my home mistakes “Mean Mom” for “Strong Mom.”

Even though you live in my house and I may not be your Mom, I am still a Mom and I have a responsibility to my husband, my family and my God to put my cape on, fight evil, and be a good one – Every. Single. Day.

 It was one of the most empowering conversations I have ever had with anyone, ever, in my life. I sat my husband down that night, apologized for a mountain of this and that and told him I wanted to write the rules for our house. We want our house to serve the Lord and that means we will simply not allow repeated behavior that is not full of kindness, love, self control, grace, mercy, forgiveness and compassion – no matter who you are or where you came from. #fruitsofthespirit.  We will make mistakes, we will learn, forgive, fix and move on, back into love swiftly and successfully.  I told my husband I would start with my own attitude and that I was making a change to the constant anxiousness and worry I allowed in.  Turning the attacks on our home into actions of love inside it. He agreed he would work to follow this mission and our home has never been the same since. Truly.

Mamas, so much in your life is going to move and change. There will be pain and drama and life will not be fair. People will be mean and people will assume and people will persecute and life will be hard. God gave you a home, a safe place for you to fill with peace, home cooked meals, games, prayers, stories, encouragement, conversation, snuggles and memories – despite all that stuff. He gave you his word and his power to release it all. To turn the other cheek, focus on the positive, let it go and say NO to the influences that try to beat down your door and drag you down into the mud. You are completely 100% capable and you will be remarkably blessed and beautiful doing it.

“If a house is divided against itself it will not stand.”

Mark 3:25

Carolyn changed my life. Let this message change yours. YOUR HOUSE IS YOURS! Take it back and own it Mama!

To finish my table story; Yesterday, I invited a few beautiful, strong Step Moms over for tea and Carolyn came too. We sat and shared. Carolyn shared about boundaries and fences and the power of a Mother – any Mother. God worked in us all. It was just divine and we decided it should be a thing. We decided to meet the first Thursday of every month and be together as friends who get it, who protect our home, over and over again. Rejoice together, pray together, laugh, share and grow. I’m quite certain God will grow and grow the connection Carolyn and I made with our table into a wide ripple of fellowship and inspiration for many families. That’s just who he is. He answers prayers. He provides what we need when we need it and he loves a Mama who gathers her family around a table and builds a home to serve him in. If you are a Step Mom, a new one like me, or 25 years in, like Carolyn. Reach out your hands, open your hearts and listen to Gods whispers through it all. He will always deliver you to a home just for you and the marriage and family you dreamed of the first time around….and still deserve the second time. 

Love & Serve & Go Get your House Back!

Mama Mindee

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