Our Life, 2015

Recently I clicked on that “Most Used Words on Facebook” link that I noticed most of my friends sharing. It showed the words used most in your status posts in a neat little word cloud. I’ll show you mine, because it goes perfectly with my 2015 post. I think you can see from the large letters what my life was like this past year! 🙂

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As I close out this crazy year of life changes and firsts, I realize how much Kali and I have grown and changed together. Abe and I have grown as a married couple (hey, we made it through the first year!!) but the differences for Kali and me are more noticeable. So this New Year’s Eve post is dedicated to my special little girl and the bond we made this year. (And sorry, Abe–but Kali’s name is just bigger than yours on my Most Used Words cloud! 😉 ) 

Life with Kali

#1 thing I learned this year: Kids grow SOOO fast!! It is hard to believe that this time last year Kali was a little toddler who needed me to carry her up the stairs, lift her onto couches and her bed, and kind of basically do EVERYTHING for her. Now she is a tall-for-her-age beauty who walks on her own, is fully potty trained, and has a better sense of style than I do! Her confidence has sky-rocketed this year. And so has mine.

She is more confident in my love for her. She doesn’t ask Grammy any more if her mommy will “love her forever, or just for a little bit.” (And break my heart!)

I am more confident in her love for me too. No matter how many times it happens, it touches my heart every time when she wants me over all else. I love when she runs past her dad so he doesn’t grab her (it’s a morning ritual haha) to get to my side of the bed so I can pull her up and cuddle before we have to wake up. I love when we’re at church and she tells everyone around her that that’s her mommy playing the piano up front.

I’ve seen my confidence grow in the area of parenting. And trust me–I’m no expert!! But I’ve noticed that a key, at least for me, is knowing Kali. I’ve read a lot of books trying to get a handle on the whole instant-mom deal, have gone to parenting classes at our church, and watched other parents. But only Abe and I really know Kali, and sometimes all that stuff just doesn’t work. Kali and I went through a lot of rough patches this past year. It wasn’t easy going from “best-friend/sleepovers-every-week” during the engagement phase to just mom.

I remember one day she was being pretty difficult–nothing too crazy, just a lot of whining… and crying… and acting like I was the most terrible person on earth. 😉 I went into her room to tell her she had to put her night braces on, and she burst out crying yet again. “You ALWAYS make me wear my braces! I don’t WANT to wear them!!” At that point, after the whole rough day, I was ready to cry myself. I couldn’t handle our repeated conversation with her about why she needed to wear them, and definitely couldn’t handle a battle where I just made her wear them. Just from lack of knowing what else to do, I picked her up, sat on her bed, and just rocked her in my lap for a little while. I was tired of trying to have all the answers like “real moms” do (in my opinion at the time).

I was a little shocked when just a little later she stopped crying and hugged my neck and told me she loved me. She seemed calmer and easier to deal with, we got her night braces on with no problem, and she was even laughing and begging me to read her a book. It was a miracle from God and I thanked Him for getting me through!

#2 thing I learned: Kids pick up on and copy actions that you might not even know you’re doing!

I can’t tell you how many times Kali will say something and I wonder where she heard that, only to find out I had said it! I didn’t realize I said this one certain phrase a lot–“If I said it’s time for bed, it’s time for bed!” and “If I said it’s not, it’s not!”  Then we got in the car one day and Kali said it’s sunny out. Abe and I looked at each other, and Abe said, “Actually it’s pretty cloudy, Kali.” Kali replied without blinking an eye: “Daddy, if I said it’s sunny, it’s sunny!” Ahhh!!! Abe definitely knew where that one came from. 😉

But then there are the times when I didn’t know it was possible to feel so proud of someone. Like when she picks up on my teaching habits, and teaches her dolls how to play the piano–with lots of praise for how well they do! Or when I realize that what I’m saying might actually be getting through to her–like when she uses please and thank you without being told.

I’ll end with one of the most rewarding moments of my year.

(BESIDES when she went a week with no accidents and finally was potty trained–I HONESTLY was more excited on that day than I was at my highschool graduation!) 

We were at a family gathering, and all the cousins were eating at a smaller table in a different room from the adults table. At our house, Abe and I always pray before meals with Kali, and she loves to beg us to let her pray for the meal. She and I also pray before lunch at school. In the busyness of getting all the kids their food and drinks and being all together, I didn’t even think about praying before the meal. Suddenly I heard Kali’s high, loud voice above all the commotion–“MOMMM!! We didn’t pray!!” Apart from being a little embarrassed as all the eyes in the room turned to me, I felt an enormous sense of satisfaction that my girl remembered and wanted to make sure we prayed before we ate. I quietly told her she can pray for herself and her cousins, then the whole room got quiet as my little Kali prayed in her cute little way.

I realized that day that investing in the life of another person is worth it. Whether you are a step-parent, biological parent, teacher, mentor, friend–any time you make a difference in someone’s life, all the struggle is worth it. I’ll go through a thousand more nights waking up to Kali’s cries at 2am and rubbing her legs for 15 minutes until she falls back asleep because the night braces hurt her so much. I’ll take the extra 10…15…20 minutes it takes to get out the door each day with her in tow. LOVE does that to you somehow, you know??

I wouldn’t trade a single day with you this year, Kal-Pal, and can’t wait to see how much you grow in 2016. I love you so much. ❤ Mom

 kali an me

P.S. Goals for 2016??

Abe and I are cutting Facebook out of our life this year, just for one year. We’re focusing on our family and limiting distractions. I’m committing to wake up earlier and exercise…yeah, yeah, that’ll last about a month. 😉 We’re saving to go to Disney…if that dream will ever come true, for Kali AND for me! And we’re praying about decisions for the best option for Kali’s schooling. We are so thankful for all that God has brought us through this year, and all that He has in store for 2016.

Happy New Year!!

 

 

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Better to Die in Egypt

Have you ever been at a point in your life where you wanted something different, something better? And then something happens…and you change your mind and want your old life back?? (Not speaking from experience, I promise…. 😉 )

I have occasionally wanted something and then got it, only to find out I didn’t really want it at all. AKA, a small sporty car. Give me back my big engine Explorer! 🙂

Abe and I are attending a class on Wednesday nights offered by our church, called “Restoring Love in the Blended Family.” This was our first week. We are watching the “SMART Stepfamilies” video series by Ron Deal. (If you are part of a blended family, which a HUGE percentage of Americans are, please check out the site: Smart Stepfamilies You will be encouraged!)

Before I get to the reason why this blog post title is about Egypt, let me back up. I was excited and cautious when I found out our Pastor was doing a blended family parenting small group class on Wednesday nights. For those of you who don’t know me, I married my husband Abe in December of this past year, 2014, and became an instant step-mom to his beautiful daughter Kali. So we are about 9 months into the whole blended family deal. And it is true, NOTHING can fully prepare you for this life. You think you are ready, and you prepare, and you pray…but it is simply, as Ron Deal puts it, “complex” and there is no easy formula! 

So back to this class, I knew I wanted to go…knew I needed to go. I tried to think through our church families…Umm, who besides Abe and me will be there?? I actually knew of many in our church that would possibly go to it. Will we have to talk? Because I’m positive there’s no way Abe will say anything so that means I will have to. I was relieved when Pastor announced that it is open to people not in blended families as well, as they could still learn from it. Phew!

Another part of me was scared to admit I needed to go. So many well-meaning people took it upon themselves to talk to either me or Abe or both of us about what we might be facing when we got married. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the advice…but when you are the main pianist at a large church, a lot of eyes watch you! And when you are a staff member, pianist up front, teacher to most of the kids in the church, AND you are about to marry a man with a daughter…there is no END to the advice offered, warnings issued, “I’m praying for you” phrases heard. I remember patiently trying to graciously accept each and all and take as much truth out of them all as I could. But then the wedding happened…and life went on. People still watched, but didn’t talk as much. They just watch us walk into church with Kali, watch Kali calling me mom and getting excited to watch me play the piano, watch us both try to keep her quiet during the service. (Haha! She turned 4 right after we got married…so we got to deal with those fun times right away!!) And somehow the combination of all the talk before the wedding, with the silence after the wedding, and the reality of our life after the wedding, put a little guard up on my heart. All of a sudden, it wasn’t about appreciating prayers and advice and kind people. It was about proving that we could make it, that we don’t have problems, that being a step family is the most natural thing in the world. 

But it’s not.

It’s really hard. 

There, I said it. 🙂 All of the kind people at my church are truly kind–it is only in my heart that I feel pressure to live up to expectations. This class on Wednesday nights is slowly taking that guard off of my heart, and helping me realize I can admit that sometimes life is a struggle. Whether you are part of a blended family or not–life will be hard!

Ron Deal made a statement that was like cool water refreshing my soul: “Feeling lost in the wilderness is par for the journey of a step-family.” How did he know?? 🙂

Sometimes I do feel a little lost in the wilderness. Sometimes when I see the hugeness of it all. Like the fact that Kali is growing up. And just like I grew up in my stable home with mom and dad and brothers and sisters, she is growing up in my home. Is it stable enough for her? Are Abe and I a good team, do we let our own problems affect her when we think she doesn’t understand? Will she ever resent me? Am I doing all the right things as a mom for her? How on earth will I get her through school and make sure she learns and does well in her class? If you are a mom out there–step mom or biological, I’m sure you can relate to the myriads of questions and concerns that bombard my mind constantly regarding Kali. I simply feel inadequate to meet all her needs.

Sometimes I feel lost in the wilderness because I’m not sure where I belong. My life took a turn that I never envisioned–so how do I go forward when I’m not even sure what our family life is supposed to look like? After 9 months, I’ve accepted the fact that we are, and always will be, a blended family. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We’re not like my parents, or my family. We’re not like Abe’s family. We’re not like the families that most of our own generation grew up in. So where do I fit in? I’m embracing this new family life, embracing Kali and everything that comes with her. But I realized in jumping in wholeheartedly, it is easy to actually lose my heart’s orientation…lose who I am, myself, as a person, why I chose what I did, why I do what I do. Hence…I’m lost in the wilderness. 🙂

As we sat in the dimmed chapel and watched Ron Deal on the big white screen speak about the Isrealites in the wilderness, I thought about the verse he read about Isreal wishing they were back in Egypt. First they wanted out of their slavery. Then they got what they wanted, and found out they didn’t want it at all. They were envisioning the Promised Land full of milk and honey, peace for their families and land to build a life on. Instead they were stuck in the wilderness–wandering, lost, losing sight of God’s plan and provision for them.

We heard about how that picture is similar to a step-family situation. Two people fall in love–and envision the Promised Land. And then we find ourselves in the wilderness, and wonder what on earth went wrong.

If you are like me, and tired of wandering in the wilderness–don’t wish for your Egypt! Abe and I were encouraged on Wednesday night to not quit until we reach our Promised Land. We WILL get there. It could be long, hard, dangerous, difficult–but God is our God in the wilderness AND in the Promised Land. He IS leading us to right where He wants us right now–in the wilderness. Depending on Him. With the hope of the life He promised when He said, “For I know the thoughts I think towards you…thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jere. 29:11) And until then, we are finding God’s peace in the wilderness. When parenting problems arise, and worries crowd out our joy, we know we can depend on God to teach us what we need to learn in our wilderness.

It is NOT better to die in Egypt. I’ll stick through the wilderness and die in my Promised Land, thank you very much. 🙂

Honestly Yours,

❤ Flossie Phillips

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Our family when our Promised Land journey began ❤