“Slow down; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

I’m over at Alamo City Moms Blog reminding you to slow down, there is no finish line.

The moment she feels her baby move inside her womb, she imagines the life her child will have.
She tries to picture the precious face of her baby and what color her hair will be.
She can’t wait to give birth, to get through the pregnancy and let her new life begin.
The mother-to-be rubs her belly, sighs, and says out loud, “Mom, I just want it to be over. Am I going to be pregnant forever? I can’t wait to finally have this baby!”
Her mom takes her by the hand and gently whispers, “Slow down, sweet girl; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

She’s exhausted from long nights and short naps and can’t remember the last time she slept for more than a few hours at a time.
The laundry is piled up, and the sink is full of dishes.
She plops herself in the glider, lifts her shirt, and begins to feed her newborn.
While her baby quietly breastfeeds for the millionth time that day, she twirls one of her daughter’s curls around her finger.
She sighs and thinks, This can’t be what my life is all about. When will she sleep through the night? I can’t wait until she’s able to walk and talk!
Then she recalls her mom’s gentle whisper: “Slow down; it’s not a race. There is no finish line.”

Read The Rest Here

There Is No Finish Line

Coparents, please don’t pack your child’s suitcase.

 

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A little girl stuffs the next few days worth of clothes into a small backpack and waits for her mom to pick her up.
Her mom adores her and she adores her mom. She looks forward to this day each and every week and can’t wait to spend then next few days with her mom.

When she gets to her mom’s house she sets aside her backpack, careful to make sure whatever comes out of it is washed, neatly folded, and returns with her to her other house. She’s silently taking inventory so neither parent is upset if clothes that might be accidentally taken to the other house don’t make it back. Over and over she’s heard her items refereed to as “mom’s stuff” or dad’s stuff”, even though she’s the one who wears them.

The older she gets the more she feels the divide between her homes. The older she gets the line becomes thicker and darker.

Unintentionally her parent have made her feel like visitor in her own home.

Unintentionally her parents have divided her into two different people.

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Coparenting can be tricky and because we are busy struggling with the big details, we often overlook the small ones.

It’s a balancing act.
It’s hard work.
It’s extremely sensitive.

One thing we can do for our kids who glide between two parents in two different homes is to not make them pack a bag. It tends to make them feel like a visitor, like when we arrive at a hotel pulling our luggage behind us. It never feels permanent.

Don’t pack a bag.

Whether it’s their own room or their own drawer, give them the security to know that, even when they aren’t there, there is still a place for them. Have everything they need for their time at your home. Don’t make them pack a bag. Don’t fight over whose clothes they are. No matter who purchased them, they’re her clothes. Give her the freedom.

Coparenting can be brutal  but one simple and easy act can minimize some of the stress for the child. A drawer full of clothes, a tooth-brush, her own hair brush, and an extra pair of shoes can give her a sense of security.

It can also eliminate some pointless arguments when an article of clothing doesn’t make it back to its original home. It’s one less thing that stands in the way of finding a way to healthy coparenting. There are already enough things to navigate through, remove this one.

 

A little girl gets dressed, brushes her hair,  and waits for her mom to pick her up.
Her mom adores her and she adores her mom. She looks forward to this day each and every week and can’t wait to spend then next few days with her mom.

When she gets to her mom’s house she grabs her pajamas out of her special drawer and cuddles up on the couch with her mom, settled in for movie night. She’s thankful to freely spend time with her mom.  Over and over she’s heard her parents remind her that both homes are hers and she is safe and wanted in each. She doesn’t even think about what clothes belong at which home, they’re her clothes and she knows her parents allow her to have her space and her things.

Intentionally her parents have made sure that both of their homes are hers and a place she belongs.

Intentionally her parents have found a way to be one united front so their little girl doesn’t have to stress over little details of two different homes.

Intentionally her parents are working their way towards healthy coparenting for the sake of their daughter.

Be where you are right now. Letting go and being present.

 

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My daughter is probably going to get bullied when she starts middle school in 2 years. She has autism and is different from the other kids. The older they get the more obvious it becomes and middle school is a brutal time for any child.  I think about it all the time and am constantly trying to figure out how to prevent it, save her, change the challenges she faces.

My other daughter is a little over a year away from entering college. I lose sleep at night worrying about her leaving the nest and being on her own. I budget our entire lives every single night trying to figure out how we’re going to afford her school.

My son starts kindergarten in a few years and I can’t decide where he will go to school. Will we keep him in the school all of our other children have gone to or will we put him in the one that’s closer to home? I try to finalize our decision every time I pass the school that’s near us…and that’s every single day.

We have a life changing event headed our way, something that will completely change our family dynamics. The change is coming, it’s out of our control, but I’ve lost hours and hours of sleep wondering how we can stop it or change it. I will myself to travel back in time and fix the moment it was broken.

In the middle of a conversation about all the possibilities of what might or might not happen in the future, my sweet friend looked me in the eyes and said “Just be where you are right now. You can be somewhere else later.”

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I’m losing precious time.
I’m stealing my very own joy right out of my own hands.
I’m robbing my family of having their mom and wife be fully present.
When I take myself out of the now to worry about the maybe, I miss out on what I have right in front of me.

I’m changing my outlook today. I’m going to choose to be where I am right now. I’m going to have the courage and faith to let go and be present right now, where I am and with who I’m with .

I’m not going to let worry of the future steal the joy I have in the moments that are in my sight, in the air I’m currently filling my lungs with. I’m taking my peace back and I’m giving it to the people who are in my life right now and deserve to have the current me, not the one that’s stressing about what might be. I’m not going to miss out on the small moments that hold so much happiness. All the tiny moments combined are what form the most beautiful stained glass and I don’t want to miss a single piece of it.

We have a choice to be fully present.
We have a choice on what our attitude will reflect.
We can choose joy in the now or fear for the future.

I choose joy. 

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I have no idea what tomorrow holds but I know that from now on I will just be where I am right now. I can be somewhere else later.

 

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Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

Your Blended Family Is Going To Fail.

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Being a spouse can be difficult.
Being a parent can be hard.
Finding balance in family life and doing your best to get it right is rough and takes mountains of patience.

Even trickier than all of that is trying to pull it off in a blended family.

I tried to look up statistics on blended families and it became overwhelming. What it boils down to is that about 50% of American families are blended, meaning the adults in the family have children from previous relationships.

My family is blended. Well, my family is chopped, minced, and then blended. Even though we don’t use the terms step or half, the reality is that we have step parents, step kids, step siblings, half siblings and we even have my sister who we’re raising as our daughter.

We’re the poster family for blended families.

Being a blended family is tough work. You don’t just have to figure out how to make life inside your home work, you also have to figure out a way to make life between two or more homes work. Navigating co-parenting with another family is not for the faint of heart and is another post all together.

I’d like to say we get it right all the time and that love always trumps the hard times but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say grace is always given when we tread on bumpy terrain but I’d be lying.
I’d like to say that we never doubt the choices we’ve made but sometimes none of our choice make any sense at all and I wonder how the heck we got here in the first place.

Blending families takes more than most of us are equipped with and because of that the failure rate is through the roof.

The brutal reality of it all is that your blended family is going to fail and over and over again you’ll fail at trying to make it work.

You’ll fail at never having feelings of resentment.
You’ll fail at swallowing your pride.
You’ll fail at relinquishing some control and allowing another person discipline your child.
You’ll fail at showing compassion and grace.
You’ll fail at keeping jealousy under wraps.

You’re family will fail at not being territorial inside your own home.
You’re family will fail at making love completely equal between all its members.
You’re family will fail at pretending it’s easy.
You’re family will fail at wanting to make it work.

But through all the rough spots you’ll find immense beauty.

There will be the moments where the light shines through the cracks.
There will be the moments when the broken pieces will come together to make a stained glass window where others will look through and see nothing but beauty. They’ll see all the different colors, shapes and sizes and stare in awe at how it all came together so perfectly.

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There will be the times when you watch your spouse love on and parent your child as their own and it will bring up a love so deep you can’t even imagine how it contains itself inside your heart.

There will be a time when your spouse’s child kisses you and tells you that they love you and you’ll wonder how you ever lived your life without them.

There will be times when your children walk hand in hand with your spouse’s children and you’ll know that you are teaching them to love far beyond any boundaries.

Your blending family is going to fail.
They’re going to fail over and over but they’re also going to prove that love and grace can outshine any darkness.
They’re going to show others how broken things can be mended, maybe not back to the way they were but to a way that lets the light shine through the cracks and heal the hurts.

We must be aware and vigilant …. Hooters Girls are teaching our kids!!

I’m a Hooters girl!

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My Hooters tribe

Okay, I WAS a Hooters girl but we’re lifers, man.
I wore the panty hose, shorts, tank tops (that had to be tied up in the 90’s so your tummy would show) and tied a bandana around my waist (yes, it fit way back then). I was there for two years. I supported myself well, had a ton of fun and met amazing people. My customers there were far less inappropriate towards me than some of the customers I had at the “normal” chain restaurant where I worked for years. The men I worked with were more respectful than some of the men I worked with at my corporate sales job. My best and all time favorite customer was my 80 year old grandma who visited me once a week, always brought me a gift and had a plate full of mild wings. The managers were kind and caring and made sure we were always comfortable and respected.

I made solid friendships with some pretty amazing women who, at the time, were putting themselves through school, dating or married to super awesome men, mothers to the sweetest children and honest, loving friends to me which can be hard to find. Those same women are still my friends and are nurses (yes, they’re caring for you and your family members), teachers (yep, they’re out there educating your children),engineers,taxidermist (I know but she’s still cool), restaurant general managers, kick booty stay at home moms, business owners and so much more. They all have hearts of gold and always have. They’re all amazing women and always have been.

Parents/people are free to be offended by, well, everything these days and this post isn’t about them.

To the company and people who donated money and their time to an organization in an effort to do good and provide a great experience for a bunch of kids, a tip of the hat to you. To the women who spent their day off cheerfully doing projects with the kids (while wearing appropriate shorts, t-shirts, hoodies and hats), thank you for volunteering in your community and doing good in a time when we are seeing and hearing about so much hate and evil in the world. I’ll gladly read about your generosity over news about the lack of humanity and kindness that is spreading like wildfire around the world. Can’t we applaud the good for once. Hooters, you did a good thing and if I could squeeze my booty back into my uniform and cheer you on I would but come on, the shorts probably don’t fit over my ankle anymore. Good on you, Hooters, good on you.

I’m never going to be your mama, but…….

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I know I’m never going to be your mama. I know I won’t be the one sitting on the edge of your bed and asking about your new boyfriend or helping you study for your big test. I know I won’t be there to press a cool wash cloth to your forehead when you have the flu. I know I’m not your first mama — the one you loved so much who died too early and too suddenly for some of you and the one who was just a little girl herself and couldn’t handle the pain after your daddy was murdered and so she ran away. I know I don’t look like you and we don’t share the same beautiful brown skin that you wear so well. I know we don’t even speak the same language —- you with the Ateso words that drip from your tongue and your new, broken and adorable English.

In short….I know I’m not enough. I’m not enough to heal up those gaping wounds or fill the gaps that make you gasp in pain. I know, baby girl. And yet here I stand — offering all that I am. I don’t understand it anymore than you do. I don’t understand how when I met you for the first time, you crawled into my soul. I don’t understand how out of the thousands of Ugandan children that I know how you 6 beautiful girls have somehow become mine. I don’t understand why I love you with a mama’s love. I don’t understand the tears that fall down my cheeks even now as I write about you. But it’s true. It’s real. It might not be much and certainly not enough, but I offer you my mama heart to love you all of your days.

6 girls. Ranging in age from 7 to 16. All motherless.

Many months ago  I stood in an auditorium full of adoptive and foster parents who were lifting their hands in worship before their God, many of them openly weeping for the hard journeys they have walked and I began to silently weep. I had just gotten back from Uganda where I had been wrecked all over again. Many of you have read about the day Beatrice crawled into my soul and broke my mama heart….but now other girls were being added. I dropped to my knees and pressed my forehead against the chair in front of me as I wept for these 6 precious girls – these motherless ones who had lost too much in their young lives. These girls who were considered the heads of their households at ages where kiddos should be complaining about school work and not worrying about feeding their siblings. I wept for each of them and told God I didn’t understand this love I had for them. Love for Ugandans….that I understood. There are 7,615 of them in the program I run and I love every one of them fiercely. But this was different. This was a mama’s love. But that couldn’t be. I was not their mother and adoption isn’t even an option for them. And yet the love and the tears (because my dear, doesn’t love come with tears) continued. In that still small space between my gasping cries while I tried to catch my breath, I heard Him “You are their mother, Brandi. You are. They don’t have a mama and you are here. Why do you run from it? Will you choose to be a mama in ways that don’t make sense here on earth? Will you accept the mantle of motherhood? For these girls and for many, many more in many, many ways. The motherless are waiting for mothers to step into the gap.” My breath caught in my throat once again and tears came afresh as I offered my hands and my heart up to
my God and croaked out a quiet, “yes.”

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You see, I wonder if motherhood is so much bigger than I’ve ever thought. I’ve seen it expanded over the years already, but I wonder if I’m just scratching the surface of how big and beautiful motherhood really is? I birthed my first child nearly 12 years ago and I thought I understood the heart of a mama. My second child came along 20 months later, expanding that vision just a bit. 18 months after that, I welcomed a 2.5 year old into my heart and my home from a war-torn country. “Oh now I really get motherhood,” I thought. Experiencing motherhood as an adoptive mama taught me how I could easily love children another woman had borne.

But this? This is a whole new concept that is blowing my mind. It’s motherhood from a kingdom perspective.

Because we all need to be mothered. There are motherless all around us just begging to be mothered. Children and adults alike who never had a mama who could really, really mother them for one reason or another, who crave the ministry of motherhood. I remember hearing a friend of mine who had grown up with tremendous abuse and trauma tell me once, “Even at 40 years old, I wish I could be adopted. I just want to have a mom and dad so deeply. Is that silly?” NO! That’s not silly! It’s how we are made!!! The motherless of all ages around the world are asking with no words, but from the deepest, loudest places of their souls to be mothered. And it’s time we let motherhood break out of some boxes and stepped up to the plate.

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For me, offering my mama heart to the world and accepting the mantle of motherhood is going to look like choosing to love and be mama to 6 precious girls who will never live in my house. It will mean skype conversations when I’m in the US and snuggles in a hotel room bed on the weeks I am in Africa. It will mean me knowing that while I cannot offer much and certainly not enough, I can offer what I have. I can offer to love them fiercely, pray for them devotedly and do all I can to provide for Beatrice, Rhoda, Leah, Auma, Anyait and Mary. It will also mean mothering people when I walk women through their deepest trauma memories here in the US. It will mean sitting on my couch with grown women who may even be older than me and holding them and speaking to and loving on the little girl inside of them who needs to be spoken sweetly to.

This is what it looks like for me….but it may look different for you. This post may have stirred up in you a deep longing to be mothered. Oh sweet one, I wish I was sitting next to you and could hold you tight and speak gentle words to those wounded places. I pray God will provide a friend who will mother those places in your soul. For others, this post may have stirred your mama heart. You may or may not be a physical mama here on earth, but your mama heart – the heart in you that is created to reflect the image of God as mama (because he is both mother and father and in Him both exist). I encourage you to offer that mama heart to a hurting world. I don’t know what that
will look like or who He will bring you to mother, but I trust that when you offer what you have even when it feels like not much, it will make a kingdom difference. It might look different from you ever imagined, you might mother friends who are your own age or teenagers from your neighborhood or you might pursue the courageous adventure of becoming a foster mama (!) —I don’t know! No matter what, I wonder if you will accept the mantle of motherhood and offer His mother heart to the world.

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I little bit about Brandi Lea

Brandi Lea is a single mama to 3 amazing humans – 1 adopted from Liberia + 2 biological. She is the founder / executive director of 3 non-profits: She’s Worth It (a campaign to fight human trafficking), SoulCare (pouring into non-profit leaders) and Beauty for Ashes Uganda (working with single mamas across the Teso region of Uganda). She is absolutely passionate about promoting justice and championing value. She spends her days raising money for mamas in Uganda, encouraging non-profit leaders and walking with dear women who find themselves healing from trauma — all from the comfort of her home in beautiful Southern Colorado. She loves healing and fighting for beauty and hopes you will do the same.

Instagram: @brandilea + @beautyforashesuganda FB: Brandi Lea + Beauty for Ashes Uganda beautyforashesuganda.org + brandilea.me + soulcareretreats.org

This is what social media and texting are doing to our “selfie” generation.

 

I want to say the duck face picture days are behind us but I’m not sure if that’s a safe statement yet. We still have the mouth wide open, peace sign pics but I haven’t seen a duck face pic in a while so I’m hopeful.

I’m not one for selfies. They actual freak me out and when I see my teenager take 75 selfies during the 3 minute ride to church, I completely lose my cool. She says she has to get it just perfect.
She once tried to get me in one of her selfies so I shot the camera the bird in an effort to make it unsendable (I know, I know, there’s no need for chastising comments) …it ended up being sent anyways and now she’s the kid who’s mom flipped off the camera.

Seriously.

Snapchat is nonstop in our house. We have two teenagers that use snapchat 26 hours a day.

What’s wrong with these kids?

How did we raise a generation of selfie taking narcissist who are constantly sending their friends pictures of themselves. I told my daughter to send something else instead of a selfie to her friends on snapchat and she looked at me like I had 2 heads. “Like what? What else would I send?”

I was speechless.

Last week one of our teens missed a week of school and ended up in the ER because she was so sick. I have no doubt that on Monday morning ,when her friends realized she wasn’t at school, they started snapchatting. I’m pretty sure they all got a selfie of my sick child with puffy eyes and pale face.

Oh my God, make it stop.

But then something strange started happening.

The first day she was home sick the doorbell rang mid-afternoon and it was one of her selfie taking friends with a milk shake for my daughter. She knew my daughter couldn’t eat because her throat was so sore so she brought her a milk shake. She drove to Sonic and spent her own money on a milkshake for my daughter. Even if it seems like the smallest act of kindness, it’s kind of huge in the teen world.

They next day the door bell rang and it was the delivery guy from Panera Bread. Her “oh my gosh mom, stop calling him my boyfriend, you’re so embarrassing” called in an order for her and had it delivered to our house. For real, this sweet young man placed a lunch order for my daughter and had it sent to our house. What? Who does that? I’m sure she snapchatted him a thank you. I called my husband to tell him he needed to step up his game because this kid just schooled him!

The following day the doorbell rang again and when I opened the door, there stood a pizza delivery guy. Her BFF (who doesn’t even live in our city) called in a pizza and had it delivered to my daughter. He handed me a personal pizza, fries and a drink and let me know that everything down to the gratuity was covered.

I called her mom later on in the day to tell her thank you and her mom had no idea that her daughter had sent mine lunch. There was no glory in it for her friend, she was simply and silently being kind.

The next day we landed in the ER and as she laid in the hospital bed I watched her phone go off nonstop with friends checking on her. I also watched her snapchat pictures of her IV, monitor, socks, and whatever else was in that room.

On the last day of the week, her “oh my gosh mom, stop calling him my boyfriend, you’re so embarrassing” and her best guy friend showed up to our house during their lunch hour with hamburgers from our favorite fast food joint. The three of them sat outside and had lunch together. They kept her company and gave her several reasons to smile after a long and isolated week.

 

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I have no explanation for the scrunchies in their hair or why he has the order number on his head. I can tell you that they’re the sweetest boys just being silly to make my daughter smile and that’s what matters.

 

 

These kids proved me wrong over and over all week-long. It was a humbling experience to say the least.  Maybe all this technology, snapchat, texting and selfies aren’t making them all crazy, self-centered bullies. It’s giving them access to each other in ways that we didn’t have growing up and maybe that’s not always a bad thing. I know that sometimes social media is abused and used in hateful ways but I’ve learned this week that sometimes it’s used in the sweetest, most generous ways.

When I was growing up and friend missed a week of school due to illness we really didn’t do much about it. We might have called them from our Swatch phone after dinner to see if they were okay and if we were really cool we added a friend to the conversation by using three-way calling. But other than that we kind of just let their parents handle it and waited for them to return to school.

The instant access these kids had to each other over the week gave them the ability to show compassion to my daughter in ways we couldn’t when we were their age. It gave them ways to love on her while she was home sick. It gave them the ability to show her that they cared and that she was not only loved but she was missed. I want to call each one of their parents and tell them thank you and well done.

We don’t give this generation enough credit. These are good kids doing their best to navigate through a world that has instant access to everything and every event the moment it happens. Their lives are being played out through social media in real-time right in front of all of our faces. Teenaging is hard stuff right now but they’re actually doing a pretty good job at making it work for them.

If you have little ones and are terrified of the teen years please let me tell you that the best is yet to come. These kids are the coolest and even through their struggle in trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in, they can be surprisingly awesome.  It’s so amazing watching these kids grow into compassionate and generous young adults, even if we have to see most of it via snapchat. .

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This is the most normal pic I could get them to take.

 

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Snapchat would have come in handy here. Next time they’ll let each other know what they’re wearing before he picks her up and they’re accidentally wearing matching outfits. I added this pic purely for my enjoyment and because it’s adorable. .

Number One Rule In Co-Parenting: Get Over Yourself.

 

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To all parents and stepparents who are co-parenting impressionable and innocent children:

If you’re having issues with each other and struggling to make this co-parenting thing healthy, please keep it off social media. It stays here forever and your child will see it one day. If you’re being outright ugly then please understand that you’re not winning the battle, you’re poisoning your child. If you’re being passive aggressive, trying to take digs at the other parent while trying to look like the bigger person, it’s not working. That’s the most transparent way of toxic co-parenting. Your child is the one who will suffer and it keeps the cycle going instead of putting a stop to it. Allowing bitterness to rule your actions towards the other parent is fueling the fire, not helping to put it out.

Your job is to find a way to be kind and loving to the other parent, regardless of the other parent’s behavior. Don’t let someone else’s actions lower you to a level that hurts your child.
Bad mouthing the other parent, rolling your eyes at the mention of their name and trying to one up the other parent are easy ways to push your child in the opposite direction of where you want them to go. Never let your feelings towards the other parent outweigh your love for your child.

Before opening your mouth to speak to the other parent, ask yourself if your words will hurt or help your child in the long run.
Before you post something snarky or repost a passive aggressive article directed toward them, ask yourself if it’s working towards healthy co-parenting that benefits your child. Social media is a dangerous place to try to win your co-parenting battle and can go terribly wrong with just one click.

If you’re the custodial parent, noncustodial parent or stepparent, you are equally responsibly in the co-parenting equation and every single action you take can either hurt your child or give your child the best situation possible. It’s up to you. The child didn’t ask to be in the center of any of it and your responsibility as the adult is to not let it have a negative effect on the child.

Rise above it.
Be nice.
Let it go.
Forgive.
Do what is truly in the best interest of the child and get over yourself.

And please, please keep it off social media!

I’ve never fully understood redemtption until my father took his own life.

 

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If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

I’ve never fully understood redemption until my father took his own life. What I thought he stole from us that day turned out to be a gift.
Because he made the choice to leave us behind on that rainy Monday, this precious little girl now lives in my home.

My husband and I have been given the gift of parenting my teenage sister. We’ve been blessed with loving her through her pain and watching as the corners of her mouth gradually sneak up to her cheeks to form a smile.

Her story was set to be told by a very different narrator.
The road she traveled on was rough terrain.

But redemption came that day.

God’s redeeming my story by allowing me to parent her in the absence of our father.
God’s redeeming her story by allowing her to get a daily glimpse of our father through my eyes.

If you’ve never seen redemption, this is what it looks like.

What happened after my ex husband and I threw away our custody agreement.

Every other weekend.
Wednesdays from 6pm to 8pm.
Christmas on even years.
Thanksgiving on odd years.
30 day extended visitation in the summer.
Spring break every other year.
No moving out-of-state.
30 days notice with a job change or move.
Child support.
Child support review every 4 years.
Insurance provision.
Split copays.

We were exhausted after the first year of trying to follow along with each detail. Details that were somewhat standard and very general to accommodate a broad span of families. Details that were permanent and signed by a judge. Details that never changed, even when our lives did.

Following these instructions laid out for us made us tired, angry and confused.
We were tired of times and dates and who has her when and what time she needed to be where and on and on. We were angry because of expectations that seemed impossible. We couldn’t always get her by 6pm or drop her off by 8pm, life just doesn’t work like that and occasionally you’re late or early or can’t do it at all. We were confused because it’s a mess.

Have you seen a custody agreement? There’s such a division of time and dates that your calendar is so marker up it looks like a two-year old got a hold of it with box of markers.

Our custody agreement was stressing us out, making us miserable and was causing us to argue. It was crippling the need for us to figure out how to work together as a team.

So we threw it out.
Chunked it.
Shredded it into a million pieces.
Burned it at the stake.
WE GOT RID OF IT!

We’ve never looked back, not once.

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Instead of being controlling jerks, we decided to give each other some slack and truly stop to think about what was best for our little girl.

Our entire relationship changed after that. The dynamics of co-parenting made a positive switch and we became better parents and better friends. Our daughter became happier and we were all less stressed.

When we threw out the papers we communicated better and developed compassion and understanding towards each other.

We took the time to listen to each other and find out what worked in each of our families. We stepped outside the box and created our own custody agreement that basically say that she’s equally both of our daughter. If she’s with him or me, she’s with family and that’s what matters.

We decided to simply share in the joy of raising our little girl together and to see each others relationship with her as equally important as our own.

We decided to respect each other and each other’s spouses.

When it comes to holidays we just share our time with a huge dose of understanding and grace. We made a choice to not be married and with that we knew that neither of us would have our daughter full-time. For that reason we know that she won’t be with us for every holiday and we’ve learned to not only accept it but to be grateful that she is with the other part of her family getting loved on.

As for child support and insurance, I have no idea what the original papers say. We settled on a child support amount 14 years ago and neither of us have mentioned it since. The person who provides insurance is the person who has the option for the best insurance, that might be him or that might be me. We just do it. We just insure her because she needs insurance. There’s no battle over who carries it or who’s paying more, we just do it. It’s for her and we need to provide, PERIOD. If he thinks about it he’ll he puts money in her school lunch account, if I think about it then I’ll do it. As long as she has lunch money I couldn’t care less which one of us put it in there. When she needs clothes, which ever one of us is in a position to take her shopping does it. They’re her clothes and as long as she has what she needs then I couldn’t care less who bought the clothes, him or me, who cares. My husband and I provide in every way that we can and he and his wife provide in every way they can. She benefits and she is taken care of. Bottom line, it’s all about her.

It’s far more complicated for us to constantly refer to papers drawn up by lawyers (lawyers who don’t know the heart of our family or our ever-changing needs) than it is to meet up or call each other and talk about the changes like adults. It feels good to have my ex husband call up on any given day, not an assigned day by a judge, and let me know he’s picking up our daughter for a dad night.  I can’t tell you what that does to our daughter’s self-esteem and self-confidence. I will say yes to that phone call every single time.

Our daughter isn’t a possession or a puppet. She’s not a pawn or weapon. She’s a little girl who never asked for divorced parents and she needs to feel equally important and cherished at both homes. She needs to see her parents love each other and work together as a team. She needs to see us give each other grace and mercy. She needs to know that broken things can be fixed, maybe not back to the way they were before but in a way that works and is healthy.

I’m not going to lie, it take a great deal of self-respect and respect for the other parent. It takes releasing the need to be in control of everyone and everything and it means that you won’t always have your way. It takes accepting your ex’s decisions in dating and/or marriage and realizing the importance of co-parenting in a healthy way with them as well.

Co-parenting this way means you’ll need to stock pile huge amounts of grace, forgiveness and mercy because you’re going to need a ton of each.

Throwing out the papers made us better people. It made us like each other again and took an unnecessary pressure off both of our shoulders. It made us better parents.

It might be easier said than done, I honestly don’t know because it was the best decision ,as parents of a broken home, that we could have ever made.  We love our daughter far more than any ill feeling we ever had towards each other and because of that we were able to rise above. Because of it our daughter has two stable homes with four parents that adore her and work together in her best interest at all times. Because of our decision to parent this way, our daughter has one big family full of love and abundant grace.

*Side note: I’m well aware that  this can’t always be the case and that sometimes the “other parent” is not healthy for the child. I’m talking about co-parenting situations that can be healthy and productive but have things standing in their way that don’t need to be. Just throwing that out there before the comments start coming in.