Friday, March 28, 2014

Lenten Project: Fourth Fearless Friday

My family is a modern, blended family, and it is beautiful.

Divorce is never a wonderful thing.  It's brokenness embodied. But the fact that something lovely has grown out of something so tragic is amazing and should be celebrated.

When I got divorced in 2012, I honestly never dreamed I would be married again so soon. But the hand of Providence is so clearly evident in the forming (and reforming) of my family.  It's been a long time getting to where we are now, and grace and redemption have brought us to a level of restoration that wouldn't be possible without our faith.

When I remarried and moved from South Carolina to Washington, DC, my ex-husband moved back to his parents' house in North Carolina, taking our son with him. Originally, we'd agreed to have him stay in Greenville so our son could finish out the year in his school (I didn't want too much upheaval all at once for the little guy). That plan got changed suddenly when my ex informed me he was moving, barely a week before it happened.  I wasn't pleased at all, but we found a way to compromise temporarily.  Then, we started fighting over what the next years would bring, and it was not pretty. There were threats, a restraining order, lawyers, depositions, court dates, angry phone calls, and lots of tears and grief, until, finally, I quit fighting.  I was weary and getting more and more broken with every frustrated and blocked attempt of getting my way. And I knew that my child would look back someday to see the fights and the bitter feelings between his parents, and it would not make him feel more secure or loved.

If I truly believe in the sovereignty of God, I have to accept that, whatever the past mistakes that were made, this is where we're at now, and I need to find creative ways to nurture life, not speak death.  So I stopped fighting the status quo and instead looked forward, trying to love my son and make him confident of his security in his family, even though it is spread out and a little different than the norm.

It's not been easy, let me assure you.  I still fight with my ex sometimes (a hallmark of our tempestuous marriage, I'm sure!).  We're both saddled with astronomical debts to lawyers, and I honestly don't know we'll pay them.  I hope God will provide, somehow.  But we try to resolve things with our son in mind now.  It isn't a game to see which parent wins and who is the loser.  Because when fighting happens, our child is the loser.  And I don't want that.

Currently, my son lives with his dad in North Carolina, where he is close to graduating from Kindergarten.  Maybe he'll attend a great DC school in the future, but for now, I get him about every other weekend and on school holidays.  Sometimes he comes here, and other times we drive down to my in-laws' place in NC, a couple hours from where my ex and son now live, since we like to visit them a lot.  And there're always the Skype calls!

These have turned into Lego builds via Skype calls.  We line our computer screens up just right,
and we can watch each other make awesome things, giving suggestions, and telling stories while we do it.

My husband is also divorced, and has a son. He shares custody with an ex who lives just 20 minutes from us, and we get to have that son a lot more often.  I coordinate school pickups and dropoffs with my stepson's mother, and we all work hard to get along.  We're friendly to one another, and no, it was not always like that!

I still can hardly believe, when I think of the antagonism we've all lived in for so long, that we are actually friends now, all working together for the sake of our children.  It's hard to thrive when you're filled with resentment, someone told me recently, and it's so very true.

Being a stepmom is tough.  It's made even more difficult when the son I birthed is so far away in a different state most of the time.  Add in a new baby, and you'd think my affections would be varied for each of my kids, right?  But the miraculous reality is, I love all of my children an infinite amount.  It amazes me.  Sure, it can be tiring at times. I maintain the custody calendar to coordinate the rotation of two different boys between three separate sets of parents, in three states!  My son has pretty severe ADHD, my stepson is four (with all the struggles and hardships that come with being four), and I'm exclusively breastfeeding, babywearing, and cloth diapering a five month old daughter! But it's so worth it, because my kids know they are loved, and we, their parents, have worked hard to create a safe space in our family. We are Lutheran, Episcopal, and non-denom/Baptist, and all of us to are good parents to our kids, committed to raising them in the faith, even as our family grows.

Of course, with an unconventional family like mine, we don't grow in the usual ways!  My stepson's mom got remarried last year, so now there's a new stepdad (whose name is the same as my son's, so we tack "Big" in front of his name to differentiate), and they coincidentally had a baby girl same time as my daughter was born. The girls were born literally days apart.  So my stepson has two half-sisters!

My ex just got engaged to be married to a divorcee with four kids, so there will soon be lots of step-siblings for my son.  We've got step-siblings and half-siblings coming out our ears! But it's so beautiful.

This Christmas, we went to the National Zoo for ZooLights, and most of the family was there, minus my ex, who had to work.  On Christmas Day, my son's father came and celebrated with us together as a family.  Birthday parties have been combined family endeavours. I hope we can have lots more of these blended family events where we're all together.  Maybe it looks a little weird, but in the long run, I think it paints a beautiful picture of restoration and reconciliation.

One really great "side-effect" to sharing custody of our sons with their other parents is that we don't have them all the time.  Yup, that's right, I celebrate that fact!  It means I get to be a mother of three, yet still enjoy bonding with my husband, and, with my newborn, in a way that a newlywed and then first-time parent enjoys.  I get to go grocery shopping with only one kid to wrangle!  It is certainly a luxury I don't take for granted.

Join the conversation

In what ways have you seen relationships restored in an unusual or surprising way in your life?
Do you have broken relationships with people with whom you wish you could pursue peace?
If you aren't there yet (and that's okay--it takes time to heal; believe me, I know!), in what ways do you save the space for them, in hope of a reconciliation in the future?

I ask, because there are still people in my extended family who refuse to repair the broken gap, and I need encouragement to not give up on them.