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To My Daughter’s New Stepmom

ABURKE2014 (11)I always knew this day would come.  I mean, I didn’t expect my ex-husband to stay single forever.  Nor do I want him to stay single forever.  I really don’t have a problem with him getting married.  So in that way, I am happy that he met you.  But to say that I’m happy for you would not exactly be telling the truth.  You see, you aren’t exactly the woman I pictured being the stepmom to my baby girl.  But, if I’m being honest, no woman probably would have measured up to that. I would want that woman to be just like me.  Someone to love her just like me, and I know realistically that’s not going to happen.  

I haven’t actually met you yet, so I don’t know what you think of me, but I want you to know I don’t hate you.  I do hate the fact that by marrying you he is leaving our daughter and moving across the country.  Because, you see, our daughter adores her father, and it’s going to crush her when he leaves.  It’s hard enough on her now that she only sees him twice a week – what is she going to do only seeing him a few times a year?  I don’t know if you have a father, but if you do, maybe you can imagine just a little bit how much my daughter loves her dad and how much she’s going to miss him.

I know that you don’t have any children of your own.  I have already been down this path of stepmom-hood, and I can tell you that it’s hard – really hard.  I know it’s not going to be any easier just because the child is mine.  But when the going gets tough, please just try to remember a few things:

  • When she cries because she misses me, it’s not because she doesn’t like you or even because you’re doing anything wrong.  It’s because she’s six and she doesn’t adjust to change very well.
  • Sometimes she gets scared and emotional at night and needs someone to lay down with her a little extra longer before bed, but then she’s usually fine.
  • She’s not there to come between you and your husband, but she needs some time one-on-one with daddy too.
  • She loves to bake.  Any time you spend with her in the kitchen will really help her bond with you.
  • Too much TV, ipad, sugar, or dye makes her CRAZY – save yourself!
  • She likes to have a nightlight and a drink of water by her bed.
  • If she decides one day to call you “mom” that’s ok with me – I hope it will be with you too.

I know you won’t love her just like me, and that’s ok. Unconditional love doesn’t just come overnight. She can be frustrating and sassy and too talkative – but she can be SO loving and funny and caring and she’ll be your best little friend, if you’ll just give her the chance.

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When the Marriage is Over, but the Wedding Dress Remains

When I got married the first time, I had one of those pretty big, fancy weddings most brides have these days.  I was never really one of those “it’s my day – I must have my way” kind of brides, but I was pretty insistent on my dress.  As soon as I got engaged (like, that night), I went to Wal-Mart, bought a magazine, and picked it out.  The dress.  A few months later I went with my mom and Grandma to David’s Bridal, tried it on, and it fit perfectly.  I did not need a single alteration.  It was meant to be.  I seriously loved that dress.  But alas, a wedding lasts only a day, and all to soon the day was over and the dress was put into storage.  I thought for a while like most moms that maybe I would save it for Daughter P to wear, but once my first marriage ended in divorce, I just felt weird keeping it around.  It wasn’t really the symbol of marriage that I want for her to wear on her wedding day.  It doesn’t represent what it should.  And, let’s be honest, styles will be totally different by then, and she will probably hate it.

So I opted to keep my “crown” that I wore for her instead, but I could never figure out what do with the dress.  I tried to sell it at a few garage sales, but no one bought it.  I thought about having it turned into a quilt, but I never had it done.  I just couldn’t bear to give it to Goodwill, so it’s sat in my garage for almost 9 years.

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Today, a friend of mine shared a local newspaper article on Facebook about two infants without any family buried in a joint ceremony given by members of the community (source The Indy Star).  As a mother of four, I was deeply affected, as a always am, not only by the deaths of these precious babies, but by the fact that they died and were buried without any loved ones around them.  Although I know they now rest in the arms of their Heavenly Father, the world is just so cruel and unfair sometimes.

And yet in the midst of these tragedies, my old wedding gown, with it’s own reminders of betrayals and sin, I find can now be repurposed for good.  Little Angel Gowns is a non-profit organization takes donations of not only wedding gowns, but all formal dresses (hello hideous bridesmaid gowns!) and first communion dresses, and makes them into burial gowns for infants who either have no family or whose families cannot afford to bury them.  They then work with other local companies to provide all the components for a complete burial for these children.

I looked up their website (they are also on Facebook), and I will be donating my dress this week at a drop-off center in my town.  Although I live in Indiana, they have sites in Alabama, California and Iowa as well.  If there is not a location in your state, perhaps there is a similar organization.

I am overwhelmed once again at how God continues to take the dirt and sin and mistakes from my first marriage and provides the grace to transform them into something redeemable and useful for something else. Truly nothing is too broken for Him!

Dawn

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I Asked My Abusive Ex-Husband to Forgive Me

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Oh, my heart is so full of things I want to say, that I feel I don’t know where to begin.  Please bear with me as my heart is heavy with these words.

Abuse is wrong.  Abuse in ALL forms is wrong.  I don’t care if it’s physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, etc.  And I don’t believe being a submissive wife means that you allow your husband to abuse you.

The Bible says in Ephesians 5:25-28, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives…”  (emphasis mine).  If a husband is abusing his wife, in any way, he is certainly not leaving her spotless or without blemish, and thus not loving her in a Biblical manner.

It’s something that on the whole, the church is just ignoring, and from the stories I’ve heard, it’s a rampant problem.  My ex and I sought various types of counseling for years before our divorce.  For many years, I never labeled what he did as abuse.  He said and did things that “weren’t nice,” but he never beat me, so he wasn’t abusive.  But he tore me down year after year until I was just a ghost of my former self.  I literally ended up in the hospital with my organs shutting down before I realized how bad things were, and how desperately things needed to change.  And yet, I stayed.  I stayed another year or so until I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I firmly believed I was going to end up dead (from sickness) or in a mental health facility.

Originally I wanted a trial separation, but my ex refused.  He wanted all or nothing.  When I went to talk to my pastor, he said (and I quote), that since I had never been “hit in the face” that I didn’t have a Biblical reason for divorce.  He acknowledged my husband treated me poorly, that he had a raging addiction to pornography, but apparently he wasn’t the right kind of abusive for the church.

I left the meeting and filed for divorce.

Eventually, I met and married Andy and joined his church.  The Lord convicted me for some things regarding my divorce, and I confessed my sins to Him and moved on.  Except I couldn’t.  My spiritual life was stagnant.  I was going to church faithfully, reading my Bible, listening to godly music, but I was so distant from the Lord.  I began to earnestly cry out to Him, “Show me what I’ve done!”  “I NEED you, Lord!” “Bring me back to you!”

The Scripture says in Number 32:23 to “…be sure your sin will find you out.” And boy did they ever.  Over and over and over again.  The Lord brought to mind time after time that I was not the wife that I should have been to my Ex.  You see, I started out as every young Christian bride, planning on being the submissive loving wife, but as he let me down, I stopped trying.  I gave up on him.  And honestly, I became a hateful, vile wife.  I said and did just hateful things that I am deeply ashamed of.  Things that there is no excuse for, as I have the Holy Spirit living inside me.  And as the Lord brought those things to mind, it became clear what I needed to do.  Not just confess them to the Lord, but seek forgiveness from my Ex.

I talked it over with Andy, and he graciously listened and prayed with me.  I set up the meeting with my Ex for the next day.  I met with him, and with tears in my eyes, apologized for not being the wife that God had called me to be.  You see Ephesians has some words for us wives too.  It says in 5:22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”  It doesn’t say if they’re nice.  It doesn’t say if they deserve it.  It just says if they’re your husband.

Now, again, I’m not saying anyone should stay in an abusive marriage.  That’s between you and the Lord.  But I chose to stay for 6 years.  And during that time, I should have done my best as a wife to follow the instructions given to me by the Lord.  And I didn’t.  Who knows the changes that could have been made in my Ex if I had.  I never gave him that opportunity.  Maybe it would have all ended the same.  I’ll never know.

I also felt God calling me to apologize to that pastor who gave me the terrible advice.  He was my pastor, and I had placed myself under his authority.  To be honest, apologizing to him was WAY harder than talking with my Ex.  Not that what he said was right AT ALL, but I should have been willing to sit under counseling with him and my Ex for a period of time, and I wasn’t.  I simply wanted his stamp of approval on my actions, and when I didn’t get it, I stomped out.

But here’s the deal.  The only reason the Lord blessed is because I truly humbled myself and truly sought forgiveness only.  Because you know what? Neither one of them apologized back.  My Ex has always blamed me for the divorce, so I imagine he felt pretty validated.  And that pastor? His response was pretty smug.  But, I got my clear and full relationship with Jesus back.

As 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

It may not be your Ex.  I may be your parents or a sibling or a friend who has wronged you that you may need to ask forgiveness of  It’s not easy, but peace with God and yourself is SO very worth it.

Dawn

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When Plans Fail…

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;” (2 Corinthinans 4:8 ESV)

This past weekend was hard.  I mean, really hard.  It seems like we’re being bombarded on all fronts.  It began with my car breaking down in the rain on Friday, continued with Andy and I both struggling with medical issues, and ended with hateful emails and disobedient children. To say it left us feeling overwhelmed would be a massive understatement.

But do you know what upset me most of all? That I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do.  Yes, my thoughts were that selfish.

You see, I had spent a lot of time planning two surprise dates for our weekend.  On Saturday, we were supposed to drop Daughter P off at my aunt’s, then head to dinner at Outback and go to a corn maze in the dark.  I had even made up this cute invitation for Andy from The Dating Divas.

But because of the car breaking down, and Daughter P getting sick, and our other various ailments rearing their ugly heads, we didn’t get to go.  I knew Andy felt that it was all his fault, and the last thing I wanted was to make him feel guilty about it.  My flesh though, wanted to throw a fit about it.  I held off, but it was only because of my love for Andy and my concern for his well-being.  Had the situation been a little less serious, I can’t honestly say that I would have been as gracious about it. I was very convicted over my selfishness and the potential problems that it could create in our future. 

But as we were going to bed last night,  Andy reminded me that God is in the process of growing us.  As I thought over the events of the weekend, I saw many areas in which God was teaching us to work together as a couple, and strengthening our bond, and I have to say, I do feel much closer to him than I did before.

The biggest lesson though was mine, and as I pondered the ways things went versus the way they could have gone, I was thankful to the Lord for challenging me and providing me a chance to grow as a wife.  I only hope that the next time it will be easier for me to disregard the selfish route and put my family first without thought.

Dawn

(Originally Written in 2012)

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It’s Not Always Easy to Forget

After my divorce, I was in very intensive weekly counseling for about 6 months.  Slowly, the memories of my marriage and the anxiety it produced subsided.  Sometimes though, the past comes jolting back in a very real way, and it never fails to catch me off guard.

One such memory came flooding back to me this week at a doctor’s appointment.  One of the most devastating things that happened in my marriage took place during a time when I was extremely ill with (what ended up being) mono.  I was hospitalized for a week and in-and-out of doctor’s appointments for many months after.  The details don’t matter, except for the fact that it was my mom and sister who came to care for me from South Carolina and Washington D.C. respectively.  It was a very trying time physically, but also when my family started to confront me about some of the serious issues they were seeing in my marriage.  It’s very hard for me to think back on that time, and I don’t do so if I can at all help it.

Well, this week I had a Dr.’s appointment at the same hospital where I was admitted during that illness.  When I checked into my appointment this week, the nurse went through and updated my information.  My emergency contacts listed were two of my aunts….not my ex-husband as it should have been, because I knew that I couldn’t count on him to come if there was an emergency.  The feelings and emotions of how utterly alone I was during the time of my illness came flooding back, until I turned to see Andy sitting with my daughter P in the waiting room, ready to go through anything with me.

It happens sometimes when I go get Daughter P.  My ex-husband still lives in our old home, and although I would never want to be back there, sometimes I am overwhelmed with sadness just remembering what I hoped our home and family would be like there, and the failure of my marriage.

Unfortunately, it happens sometimes when Andy says a certain phrase that my ex-husband would say, and I have to fight back the tears or harsh comments that threaten to spill forth from me.

I guess my point is this….just because you are removed from a situation, it doesn’t mean that it won’t still affect you for years to come.  Letting go of the hopes and dreams you had for your life is hard.  Even if you were in a horrible marriage, it is still necessary to grieve the loss of it.  I have had to grieve the loss of the person I was before my first marriage.  Some of the thoughts these memories bring up are straight from the enemy, and I have to confront them as that.  I find myself repeating the lies that I had gotten used to believing about myself, and I start to feel the guilt and failure all over again.

For those of you who have suffered through a separation or divorce, or who are suffering in a difficult marriage now, I highly suggest that you work to begin looking at yourself as God sees you.  Search through Scripture to find the wonderful thoughts and promises that He has for His children.  When those negative thoughts and lies creep up, replace them with the Truth from God’s Word.  Memories are powerful things, but the Lord who created us is more powerful.  Cling to the Truth about your present and your future, and leave the lies of the past behind.

Dawn

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How Did I Get Here?

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

I had my life plans mapped out at a very young age: I wanted to be a wife and mother.  Even in college, while I studied education and “prepared” to be a teacher, I knew all I really wanted was to have a family and devote my life to serving them.  During my homeschooling years, I even followed a curriculum based on the Proverbs 31 woman that focused on taking care of a household and family.  So, if you would have told me at the age of 30 that I would find myself a divorced, single mother, I never would have believed you.

But….here I am.  I spent a good deal of time wondering, “How did I get here?”  My life has turned out nothing like I had planned.  I did everything “right.”  I saved myself for marriage, I went to church weekly, and followed Christ with everything in me.  I led and participated in women’s Bible studies.  I worked in the church nursery.  I was devoted.  My faith and family were the number one priorities in my life.  I never even considered divorce as an option for my marriage, yet, that’s exactly where I found myself.

It was without a doubt the darkest period of my life.  Not only was I mourning the loss of my marriage and family, but I was shunned by my church and my church “friends.”  I lost my home and most of my possessions.  It was devastating.  I was hurt, ashamed, and confused.  But, God had a different plan for me.

All during my separation and divorce my mom encouraged me by saying, “You don’t know how God wants to take care of you.”  She was right.  Never could I have imagined what the Lord had in store for me.  I had planned on focusing on taking care of my daughter and making the best life possible for her.  In my mind, this did not include ever marrying again.  But shortly after my divorce, the Lord brought an amazing man into my life.  He too had gone through a painful divorce and was trying his best to parent school-age triplets.  Although we tried to focus on being friends, the connection we had, and our similar Bible-based goals for our lives and our children was undeniable.  After a short courtship and receiving the blessing of our families, we were married on September 14, 2012.

My one hope through everything that I’ve been through is that I would be able to help other women struggling with similar circumstances.  As I was praying last night, and thanking the Lord for the amazing new life He’s given me, He laid the name of this blog on my heart.  The Second Chance Wife.  For that’s truly how I see myself.  I’ve been given an amazing second chance to be the godly wife and mom that I’ve always dreamed of.

I invite you to follow me as I learn how to practically apply those things I’m learning, struggle and grow with us as we attempt to raise a godly blended family, and share your stories of overcoming heartache and disappointment.  Most of all, I aim to serve and praise God through my new circumstances.  I hope you can relate.

Dawn