Sunday, October 30, 2016

Follow the Broken Road…

 

I love the whimsical fun of dressing up for Halloween!  Oh, and how the entire month of October gets hijacked by fall festivities and pumpkin-infused everything!  Society has made it completely acceptable to transform into anything or anyone we desire to be, and this reminds me of my youth…


As a little girl, I remember watching “The Wizard of Oz” time after time with my grandparents. The unforgettable songs and creepy characters, like the munchkins with kid voices and adult faces, or the wicked witch and her flying monkeys!  So intriguing as a child. 

What if we could transport ourselves to a place like Oz… "Somewhere Over The Rainbow?” What if…“troubles melted like lemon drops and dreams really DID come true?”  

Most of us have made our way to "Adulting City" after getting lost upon a few broken roads. I find this classic movie to be quite a relatable theme for most of us. When bad things happen, who can we trust? Is there any place better than home? As a strong-willed young lady, Dorothy thought the only way to "fix" her insecurities was through a powerful source, or her imaginary friends. She ended up discovering that her strengths lied within her all along, and that no matter how exciting the adventure, “home is always where the heart is.” And there’s no place like it! 

As I've grown into the woman I am today, I've come to realize that anything is possible if we believe! Thus our perception must be our reality. Right? Or is it? Our thoughts hold power. Here is a whimsical snapshot of how my imagination recreated “The Wizard of Oz” with a “reality” twist…


My widowed husband is our Tin Man.  A traditional soul who was happily married and lost the love of his life to breast cancer. His heart was left broken. He and his first wife shared many conversations that encouraged him to complete the family once he found love again. My husband is a man of little outward emotion, but deep down, he has a huge heart for making memories with his family. 

Our sweet son is the Scarecrow. He was five and left feeling broken when his beautiful mommy passed away. Confusion and anger were natural stages to navigate through after losing his loving mother. Today, he is a happy boy. Smart. Handsome. Energetic and disciplined. He loves Legos, Minecraft, and anything technology related. He is a great swimmer and loves his sisters. I’m in awe of how our most rebellious child is now our best listener, and follows great directions. 


"Dorothy" is our middle daughter.  Gorgeous, captivating eyes with a giggle that longs for acceptance. With a case of classic middle child syndrome, she is  always fighting for her place in our home. I remember the first time I met her, she greeted me at the door,  asking “Are you going to be my new mommy?" This question continued for months. Her trust was broken. No fault of anyone, just the collateral damage of cancer. Our beautiful introvert has acted out, simply aching for attention. Though now with time, she seems to be blossoming as she cartwheels her way around our hearts and home. Our lost and confused “Dorothy” has brains beneath her beauty. And side note: Her hugs can change the world. 

"Baby" is most certainly our lion with her wild mane of curly blonde hair.  She is small, yet fierce. Completely loving. And actually, very courageous. The only thing that seems to scare her is broccoli. Despite her affliction for the leafy green fractals, she devours them. One of my favorite phrases that she repeats multiple times a day is, "We have the best. family. ever."  Okay, so she may be our over the top schmoozer, but we eat it up. She melts our hearts. 


These four characters were on a quest to complete their family again. With the help of the "wizard" they traveled down a broken road for awhile. My stoic Tin man became captivated by a not-so-wicked-single-witch, (me) who may or may not have cast a Facebook spell on him. 


In this version, the wicked witch had a miracle daughter- Glinda the Good Witch. A magical gift from Oz, made up of sugar, spice, and all of my nice! A kind, theatrical girly-girl. She was born on a broken path too, and tends to live in her "bubble" forgetting at times, that the world doesn't revolve around just her. Normal though, since she was once an only child. On a lighter note, she is typically quick to defend and encourage her younger siblings, when mommy has a "wicked witchy" moment . She is a giver. A peace-maker, dramatic  and sensitive. It is not surprising that she received the character counts award for Kindness. Her old soul is full of innocent goodness. I know that "Oz" has big plans for her. 


So why would I assume the role of The Wicked Witch of The West?  Well, I did live on the  West coast of Florida. Oh, and my Italian cackle is quite loud and distinct. Yes, I became the wicked stepmom. I had thought my sweet “Dorothy” would be the easiest new child to connect with, yet she turned out to be the one who elicits most of my wicked meltdowns. In all transparency, I’ve had my share of frustrations while adjusting to my  lollipop guild. I imagined parenting my munchkins would be easier. Ha! Oh how thankful I am, to have the grace and guidance of God in my life. He makes our crooked paths straight. 


 I confess that my brown eyes (not face, thankfully) have often turned "green with envy" as I coveted certain aspects of other friends lives. Like the witch, I believed walking in another pair of shoes could literally change my life. The irony is, walking in the shoes of a deceased mother, comes with a ton of guilt and bittersweet feelings.  Oh how thankful I am to know God’s grace. Despite my flaws, I am called to teach and influence our “home” with two simple goals: 1. Love God   2. Love His people


Think about your life now. We all have our own roles to play in life. We are the main characters of our own stories. Each person and story is called to fulfill their purpose. In the end, I believe we all desire the same intangible gifts: Love and acceptance. We do life better together, and we crave healthy interactions and genuine relationships.


In my story I have wishes and beliefs…
I wish for acceptance and reconciliations. I believe it is the diversity in friendships, and unconditional love of families, that brings joy to people. 

I wish for peace and love! I believe living means loving. And loving means learning. We must be open to struggling, in order to be victorious. 

I wish for dreams to come true! I believe failures are just road blocks on our path to success. We must be willing to fail, and recover with grace. There are learning curves with new relationships  and endeavors. We should be encouraging each other to stay the course! 

I wish for eternal do-overs! I believe in forgiveness. Growth. Compassion. Kindness. Grace. 

 I believe the longer we skip along this journey, the more knowledge, love, and courage, we obtain.  Our self-confidence and authenticity comes from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz within us: God. At the end of the day, there truly is "No place like home.” 

I believe we all desire His eternal love...Why wouldn't we?  I challenge you to look up, and gaze upon his beautiful skies with child-like faith. For someday, we will all see Him…Just follow the "gold paved road"...Over His proverbial, dream-inspired rainbow!  


Thursday, September 29, 2016

My First Miracle



I was a very young girl when I was told I may never have children. 12 years old to be exact. After falling off my bike, I was doubled over in pain, and rushed to the hospital. Later, my doctor would explain how I had about a 50/50 chance of ever becoming a mother, since I had experienced pretty traumatic "female issues" and almost died on the surgery table. Six years later, and then again at 20 years old, I would go on to experience similar problems, which led to only having 1/8 of an ovary left, and a tremendous amount of scar tissue. My doctors told me that I would never bare any children of my own. It was a concept I had been preparing for since my first surgery, and now it was confirmed. It was time to make a plan B for my life. 


I had already started shifting my thoughts as a young girl. I would focus on  a life of "just me" and hopefully a man who didn't want children...unless we adopted. So, I spent my 20's traveling the world, while working for an airline, and chasing arrogant men who were a challenge. 


I spent my 30's making the most money I had ever made. Spending it faster than I made it. Falling in love. Over and over. While breaking a few hearts in between.  I lived for me. I was irresponsible and reckless with my decisions. was not walking in my faith, or any faith for that matter. I barely had faith...



In July of 2006, I met a man. Ironically, I also found the most solid relationship of my life. Not with my new boyfriend. Oh no, that one was a rollercoaster from the start. What I'm talking about is an unconditional love, something I had never experienced before. It offers an open communication policy, redemption, grace,  hope, love, and a stronger inner strength, which comes from  the keeper of my soul: God! My father. My rock. My friend. He showed me how He could meet all of my hearts desires. That I was enough. And that with faith, anything is possible. Above all, I learned I can do "all things, through Christ who gave me strength.”  Phil 4:13. I quickly learned that religion divides, but a personal relationship is all He truly really wants from us. 


Now here is the funny part. In November of that year, I met with my pastor to discuss "abstinence" even though my boyfriend and I had already been intimate for quite a while. 


Well, Christmas Day of 2006 came around, and while "popping popcorn" we didn't exactly abstain. 


I remember the weekend, the day, and the details like it was yesterday. I had a glow, he noticed. My curves were a bit more full, he noticed. I said it must be my tan. I was sure it must be my new bra, or possible water retention. I figured it was the wine I had consumed, that made me feel so exhausted that I practically slept through Gasparilla "party" weekend. My boyfriend was a father already. He saw the signs. I really thought I was just tired. Really. Really tired. He suggested I might be pregnant a few times, and I dismissed him with an impossible laugh. Finally, if was on that Sunday evening, when I went to Walgreens, (just to shut him up) and I grabbed a test. I was "positive" I was wasting $15. As you can imagine, my mouth literally dropped. I gasped. I screamed. We rushed to the hospital, because I was certain it would be a tubal pregnancy. After four hours in the ER, they assured me "everything was fine." Not really believing that my barely equipped body can make and carry a healthy baby, I scheduled two more doctors appointments with MY doctors. Two more sonograms later, and I was pronounced a healthy pregnant soon-to-be mother, with a fetus sitting exactly where she was created to be. 


All I can say is: I know that God healed and restored my body. And although I ultimately found myself becoming a single mother for about 6 long years, in the most "unfairy-tale" way....it was all worth it. The embarrassment. The struggle. The hurt. The pain. The invisible Scarlet Letter, that I felt was engraved on my forehead. 


Becoming Shaelyn Faith's mother has been the greatest gift from God that I had ever received. He filled a few voids that I didn't even know existed until my first miracle was born. 

My heart. My soul. My life. Forever changed by God's faithfulness. She is my funny valentine. My creative actress. My avid reader. My song writer. My friendly extrovert. My animal lover. My doll collector. My doll. The calm to my storm. The snuggle to my side. My everything.  


I have no doubt that He has BIG plans for the kindest, sweetest child I had ever met. You may think I'm biased, but I would question if you have had a chance to meet her? 

 

Shaelyn Faith sparkles when she smiles. She radiates love. She has an inner peace that is easily shared. And...she has been fascinated by bibles and stories of the Lord ever since she was a baby. And that my friends, is pretty rare. And to me? Very awesome!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sisterhood: A Legacy Of Love

 I heard the voice of God speak to my heart earlier this year. He told me to MOVE. He DIRECTED my steps. And honestly? I questioned Him.  That's right. I went home and asked my husband to support what the God of our universe was clearly telling me to do. The funny thing is, Mike didn't bat an eye. He was 100% confident in my decision to sell Premier Designs, just like his first wife Mary. I told him how I felt the Holy Spirit was talking to my heart about the foundation and how maybe I'm supposed to start selling jewelry "on the side" to launch her vision...

As I started sharing the goals of our foundation with friends, I began to realize that there is an unfathomable amount of women who are battling breast cancer every day. So the reality of my original desires to help people with my party profits was not going to cut it. I needed a new plan. Or maybe, I just needed more clarity and creativity.  And more people....(It really does take a village) I'm thankful to be working with amazing people who have stepped in, and stepped up. Though honestly? We would welcome more bodies...

 Our mission is to encourage women with breast cancer to have eternal hope and endless courage. We want them to know they are loved, prayed for, and never alone on their journey. We want them "to be strong and courageous, to not be terrified. For the Lord their God is with them, wherever they go." Joshua 1:9 

We will strive to inspire a sense of community, while reminding these strong and stricken women, that with hope and God, anything is possible. They were born to be overcomers. Psalm 27:1 reminds us, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Not cancer!

So, how do we make a difference? And...how does Premier Designs compliment our vision?

  Well, we kicked off our first official fundraiser on October 18th, 2016. A perfect time to do so, since it was National Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was held at "Painting With a Twist" in Fruit Cove.  Mary Russo Holm loved to create, so we couldn't imagine a more fun, local, and honoring event, than gathering with friends for fun! Our featured canvas had mason jars of "Hope" with a survivor ribbon weaved in it.  We had raffles and a silent auction too.

 Our 2nd annual event is on Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 at 6:30pm (social) and @ 7pm, the painting begins... Same location in Fruit Cove.

We are always looking for ways to raise awareness and money so that we could be the "light" when theses women and families encounter darker days. We also believe in blessing those women affected by breast cancer with some of our encouraging pieces of jewelry. Premier Designs has a variety of faith inspired pieces. They are beautiful reminders that HOPE and COURAGE are powerful. Faith does wonders...

Sisterhood: A Legacy of Love was created to inspire hope, strength, love, and prayer while helping our "sisters" who are fighting cancer. 

Blessed be the God Of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encouraged us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are going through affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Our foundation is growing....We welcome friends, family, and community participants. We offer many opportunities to help other sisters battling breast cancer who need HOPE, as well as some positivity, sparkle, and bling in their lives. 

We are growing organically.  We have started by helping the women we know. And the people you know.  Our goal is to eventually have larger quarterly events, and we welcome partners who want to work with us throughout the year, even on smaller scales too. We are open to anything that helps... 

 As we think about all the women our foundation will be blessing during this stressful, life-changing challenge, we are pretty confident that Mary and Debbie will be cheering us on from heaven. Literally!  It seems everything in life is about timing, and we finally joined her Premier family after all.  💖 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando Could Not Dodge THOSE Bullets

And I'm so devastated and sincerely sorry. What an awful play on words, right? Please allow me a moment to share to an innocent comment that resonated with me while I was networking last week. A kind, cool, and respected colleague congratulated me on "dodging a bullet" recently. I walked away thinking about her choice of words for a bit. It conjured up a very ugly scenario in my head, and filled my mind with curiosity, confusion, and gratitude. Clearly this is just a figure of speech, and perhaps she was right, in "that" context. However, I am so thankful to God that I have never literally had to dodge a bullet. I can't even imagine the panic, the fear, and the absolute horror that all the victims of such tragedies have had to endure. When these mass shootings occur, most of us get curious and paralyzed, while we watch the dramatic footage and heart-wrenching interviews unfold in utter disbelief.  





My heart truly aches and breaks for Orlando. For the fear and hatred that radical, crazy people cause in our world. My heart aches for the young, talented singer who was also killed by a crazed fan. For the people who will make extreme decisions and judgements based on the acts of a few mentally disturbed or evil people. My heart aches for our media. For our corrupt government. And all the division they try to create, simply to increase ratings or fulfill a political agenda. Innocent lives have been lost. And for this? My heart is pounding with aches and pains.

My heart breaks for all the people who were directly affected by this mass shooting, as well as the countless other tragedies I've become aware of throughout my life. My heart breaks for those who are currently suffering from the aftermath of those senseless bloodbaths. For the family and friends of the countless victims. Nobody should have to endure that type of terror and pain. My heart aches. And breaks to a feeling of complete brokenness, when I really stop and think about where we are as a civilization. (Ironic, right? We should be "civil" and kind to all)  Many bad things have happened in history, and will continue to happen, which are mostly, outside of our control. We must be intentional about focusing on the positives. 

"I" must be the safe haven and protective shelter for my children, as they are too young to comprehend what this means for their futures. Tonight I was led to stop, put my phone away, and just cuddle with my children. I needed to hold them a little tighter tonight. It felt so good.


In reality? Senseless killings have been happening since the beginning of time. Hurt people hurt people and when they want to "hurt people" they find a way to do so. Radical gun laws will not stop the depraved from finding a way. In the same respect, "making drugs illegal" has never stopped broken humans from buying and consuming those substance, then spiraling down to the depths of addiction and self-destruction.

Finally, I must share with you all, that I watched a segment of a young, shaken up man who survived this tragedy. Towards the end, he admitted to not being "religious" but was emphatic about asking for prayers. He said, we all need love. We all want those prayers. We NEED them. My response to this man, is you do not need to be religious to believe, or have a relationship with God. And of course, we are praying for you! For ALL of you. I pray you find comfort. Healing. Peace. And your best friend... I will also be praying for a change of heart in all those lost and broken souls, who continue to focus on hating and dividing us as people, rather than accepting and loving all.

As a mother. And a woman who believes love (my Jesus) can truly conquer all...I will be vigilant about praying for all those who are hurting. I will also continue to pray for my children. My family. My friends... and for the state of this world. We need a major HEART change in this world we live in today. 

I am so blessed to have witnessed the healing powers of God, first hand. I am believing and trusting with my child-like faith, that God will continue to work his everyday miracles in the midst of this tragedy. For His word says, "And we know that in ALL things God works for those who love him, who have been called to his purpose." Romans 8:28


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sparkle and Shine!



This may not be a big surprise, however, I will share the realization that being  a new "mommy" when the original mother is sitting up in heaven can be pretty hard sometimes.  

My son and I were on our way out for dinner together on "date night" a few weeks back. As we passed an old building, my son enthusiastically pointed to it and said, "I've been to that library." Surprised, I inquired further. "Really? With who?" "My birth mommy in heaven," he said very matter-of-fact.

As the wind was slightly knocked out of me, I smiled and fought back the tears. I mean, he was 5 when she passed. Of course he remembers her the most. I realized God was writing this conversation, so I took his window of opportunity to let some fresh air flow into our bonding time. He smiled, when thinking back to those times. I filled in the blanks as a mom, and realized she must have taken him to those toddler events, as I did with my daughter.  

Then I shared further.  "Hey buddy, did you know that I knew your mommy?"
He lit up like a Christmas tree when I went on to explain our connection. I asked him if he remembered that she sold jewelry, and let him know I had a few parties for her.  Yes, I was very blessed to meet his diamond in the sky,  angelic mommy. There was a genuine sparkle and joy that followed Mary when she entered a room, and those who met her, or had the opportunity to do life with her, know exactly what I mean. Mary Holm was a gem. 

We were introduced by a dear friend who asked me to help Mary by hosting a party for her. I'm so thankful to have said Yes!  In addition to become a regular hostess for Mary, we became Facebook connected too. I will never forget the call she made to me in March, 2013. She had been aggressively fighting breast cancer, and we had all thought she beat it. On March 20th, she sweetly referred me to a dear friend of hers, who would be helping me with my future jewlery orders.  Mary inspired me with her strength, when she said that she was done fighting with chemo. That she was going to make the best of her time left. She also said (as I wept) that she believed in miracles and trusted that God would use her life to help others. She is, and forever will be a testimonial of courage, grace, and light.  

As many know, she elevated to heaven a few weeks later.  Not fair and not our plan. Only God could have orchestrated a way for her husband and I to meet and become friends, and very soon after that... my husband. (that's an entirely different blog) "Divine Meetings" explains that story. 

Can I share an honest reality? Good. Please don't judge me when I say this, but as much as I adored Mary...sometimes I'm envious of her. I have no idea what their marriage was like, but it's hard to follow in the steps of an amazing woman. It's embarrassing to admit.  I mean here I am, breathing and alive. Making mistakes as a mom and a wife.  And yet, her life here on earth ended entirely too soon. How selfish of me, to compare myself to such a beautiful soul. I can only imagine that she may have felt similar feelings, as she was saying her good-byes...wondering who would fill the roles she created? Nobody can replace Mary. I cannot be their birth mom.  I can only be who God designed me to be. Their "new" and curent mommy.

A few weeks ago, (AFTER my son and I had the chat about his two mommies meeting)  I was invited to a Premier Jewelry, home based party. I didn't really want to go, but I wanted to support my friend, and so I did. While watching this enthusiastic, captivating jeweler create an energetic and fun night, I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me: He said, "Never say Never Nikki." It's time to say Yes.  


 By the way....here is the following post was the day she went "home" to heaven...


It was put on my heart to sell Premier Jewelry for 3 BIG reasons:

1.  To keep the spirit of Mary Holm alive in our life! Doing Premier will be a constant reminder to her children that their mommies met through the love of all things that sparkle, and although we are different women, we have many commonalities too. I want them to remember heavenly mommy, and know that our meeting was clearly part of a divine plan. 

2. I love helping people!  By sharing Premier Designs now....perhaps, when our shared daughters are old enough, they may decide to join the business that connected their two mothers together.

3. Because God told me to...And when I felt him tugging at my heart, He made it very clear that I would be selling Premier Designs. Thoughts of reviving her foundation were already swirling in my mind, yet this unforeseen calling now made perfect sense to me. The details will surely work themselves out. They always do. 

Mary was more than a stylist of accessories. She was an engineer. An artist. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A wife. And a child of the one true King. She was authentic. She is dancing up in heaven now, decked out in the most sparkling bling you could Imagine...And she loves it!!!

I feel my decision to sell Premier Designs will bring her and I closer in spirit. Closer in family.  Closer with God. I am not Mary.  I am Nikki.  I am a mother. A wife. A realtor. A blogger. And a child of the one TRUE king.  I am authentic.  I am hoping to make a difference in the lives of our children. Always with the loving memory of MY beautiful and honored Jewelry Lady: Mary Holm. 

Notice we are both wearing the classic Opulence necklace, which can be worn 5 + different ways... 

May her spirit and memory continue to sparkle and shine...God never wastes a hurt. Mary Holm has created a beautiful legacy of eternal love and selflessness. Her magnetic smile shines on in our hearts, thoughts, and memories.  


www.mypremierdesigns.com/Instyle



The name of our Premier "Family" is "Legacy of Love!" 
RIP Mary Holm~ Forever in our hearts...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Prayer For Them

In our house with four kids, we are all about the routines: Brushing teeth, washing hands, laying out clothes, and so forth. Well, a few weeks ago, I noticed that our family had hit a stagnant, memorization "routine" with the night time prayers. My husband and I had taught them to be little robots, repeating the same prayers with gratitude, while asking God to watch over all of our family and friends....It always started with,  "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, may angels watch me through the night, and wake me with the morning light. Amen." While I certainly pray for God to keep their souls, I feel we are just teaching them words, without really thinking about what they are saying...And praying for "everyone in the world" truly doesn't seem like enough to me anymore. Our children are sponges, and I want them to soak up and absorb the words of God, and learn to really talk to him. To call out for their Father in prayer and and always with gratitude.  To know that He will never leave them, nor forsake them...Deuteronomy 31:6.  To know that He wants them to continuously seek Him....To build a lifelong relationship with His son, Jesus. An everlasting best friend who accepts them unconditionally. To know that that Holy Spirit dwells within them as they navigate throughout their entire lives. John 17:21 




So,  I sat down and wrote a prayer for some of the most  important things I  TRULY pray that they learn, during their trials and victories of relationship building.  To always know who they are in Christ, while figuring out who they are as little human beings. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  Psalm 139:14. 

My goal is to start sharing parts of my prayer over their lives, and begin teaching them the elements of what mommy's prayer requests means for each of them.  Most importantly, I want them to trust in God, and know they can ask Him anything...Call out to Him. In addition, that they can trust in speaking to us, their earthly parents too. No matter what.  We may not have all the answers right away, but we can certainly seek them together, with God. 

Here is My Prayer For Them: 

Dear Children,

As you grown up, you will learn that this big world we live in is not as crayola perfect as the picture books you read or the cartoons you currently enjoy. So, as we pray each night for our family, friends, and "everyone in the world" with requests of peace and love, let me share a constant prayer on my heart, from a voice of experience... I wish to spare you the pain of having your feelings hurt...but always remember...if they were never hurt, then you might not learn to choose your words more carefully when speaking to others.



You see, mommy has hurt people, from time to time. Usually without intention, yet nevertheless, it has happened. Oh, and mommy has been hurt. Some people believe that people do not change...however, they absolutely can and do. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." -Philippians 4:13.  Sometimes close friendships will end...Sometimes beautiful families will fall apart...Sometimes you may realize it's a part of YOU that needs to change, and so you will need to work on yourself. And pray. And read. And pray. And become the better person, who God intended you to be....to become the friend that others will gravitate towards.  Though whatever you do, and whoever you become...do it authentically and with a genuine heart.  


I pray you never let the words spoken from a thoughtless or insensitive person define you.  "Hurt people hurt people" and as the bible says, "Forgive them...for they know not what they do." Luke 23:24   Children, at times, you will make poor decisions. Sometimes you will directly, or inadvertently hurt others. Once you become aware of your blunders, please humble yourself and attempt to make amends. No matter what the other party says to you, please forgive  yourself. God already has. 



If people decide to walk away from you in life, you will be okay. Let them go...Breath in and learn from it. Remember there are reasons for various seasons. Some friends will blow in for a short season, and others will be there for decades....A friend may end up growing in a new direction...God will reshape and enlighten you through every trial. He will bless you with new relationships that exceed your hopes and enrich your dreams. True friends will rejoice with you and show more love and acceptance than you could ever imagine. Though first you must learn to embrace and love yourself!  Hopefully not your "
selfie"- self. Learn to be selfless. Be thankful and love the way He made you. (Your freckles are His design...your height is perfect...your curls are angelic....you are EXACTLY as He intended for you to be--Beautiful!)  Embrace your imperfections as they are perfectly imperfect parts of who you were created to be!  

I pray you continue to run with passion towards God. Try not to be influenced by what "others" are saying. Keep an open mind that there are always 3 sides to every story: "Your" side, "Their" side and the TRUTH.  However all the truth you will ever need, can be found in your bibles. When in doubt, seek Him...Dear God, may you continuously seek Him. 

Most of all, I pray you always have the courage and character to stand up for who and what you believe in. Walk to the beat of your own drum and make your own decisions about people. I hope your hearts have enough compassion to love and cheer for the underdog!  They need the encouragement...you never know, that under dog could be you some day...In some way. When in doubt, try to put your feet in the shoes of others...not literally!  

Think, reflect, and dream on these words, my sweet little ones: 
Philippians 4:8. Finally...Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy...think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen from me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. --This is a verse. This is the word of God.  


And to summarize this in Mommy terms: 
Be the light!  Follow the Light of the world...It is in Jesus name we pray. Amen. 



And as I blow up your pillows, remember to always dream the biggest, sweetest dreams! Happy thoughts...Always knowing how much we love you!  From the moon to the sun, and back through the stars...I LOVE you more! 


--Mommy

Monday, November 09, 2015

Confessions and Lessons of a Not so Wicked Stepmom

My parents divorced when I was a young child, and shortly after, I began to experience the reality of stepfamily dynamics. I’ve heard stories that I would torment my father's new wife by telling her that SHE was an evil queen, and MY mother was the beautiful princess JUST like Cinderella!  Hmmm, and I wonder why she wasn't my biggest fan? Ha! 

As fate would have it, I am now a stepmother, by definition. I certainly feel convicted from time to time, on how I can be a better mommy. New families are complicated. Heck, even many traditional families would consider their situations dysfunctional at times. Two different lives coming together, bringing unique sets of expectations, traditions, and backgrounds to the marriage table. Now, imagine voluntarily signing up for a more complicated life, where all children are not created equal "so to speak” and  this is known as the beautiful, modern day step-family.   Many people now refer to us as the "blended family." 

Before I met my husband by divine design, I was a single mother with just one child and much more freedom. I married a widower with three small kids, and we were in such a rush to complete our families and start our happily ever after life, that we never paused to think about the changes and the realities. We had four little ones between us, and all seemed so desperate to have constant love and stability from both parents.  His first wife advised him to “complete the family” when he knew, so we both trusted that between her and God, our marriage was meant to be.  Our wedding was completely magical, and just like a fairy tale.  Our children really do love each other and get along quite well. So what happened to our “happily ever AFTER?”  Well….

AFTER: WE discovered that while we have common values, we couldn't be more opposite.  We've had some major challenges. Meanwhile, we  live. We love. And we continuously learn. Adjust. Connect. Reach out. Reach up. We pray...A lot!  Life is not always as “happily ever” as captured and posted on social media. Not always. We have our reality moments more often than not. 

AFTER: We’ve endured countess tantrums and arguments. We've been tested and manipulated. Simply stated, the expectations we each brought into the marriage, as well our different parenting styles have caused us the most stress. We tend to struggle with balancing their constant fights for our attention. It can be so draining. We've mostly battled about fairness, jealous, and extended family issues. I recall warning my husband during our engagement period that we would need counseling. I'm certain he thought I was joking. Nope. Too much pain and too many complexities and dynamics.
AFTER: I’ve been haunted by visions of Disney's evil step mothers when self-reflecting. I will look into the mirror of my heart, and wonder, “But, Nikki my dear, would you have handled that situation just as equally as if it involved your biological child?”  Thinking and over analyzing my reactions, my tones, my facial expressions, and my disciplines and punishments. Was I truly fair, just, and equal? 

 My most recent step-mommy fail occurred when I took my two oldest out for lunch and a day of shopping. While strolling down the aisles of Publix, my biological daughter came to me very sad that her brother told her she is just  his "step sister?” Where did THAT come from? “The only steps in our family head up to your bedrooms,” I barked. His head hung in shame. After I had time to process his comment, I apologized for my reaction. I was responding from a place of insecurity. Technically, he was correct. I’m simply not a big fan of the word "step"  because it shows separation of a family. However, it IS what it IS. I am their “step-mother” and they will always have their biological mother in heaven.  
So, how do we manage through the messy moments? Honestly, I wish we had a magical mop to wipe away the emotional damages we cause when we stain our children’s hearts with our ugly "spills" of confusion. These responses come from our ego which manifests within us while we speak out of fear or insecurity.  Since magic only exists in the wonderful world of make believe, my husband and I strive to live a God first life. Our relationship with Jesus allows us to love each other through the hurts, and forgive when forgiving feels impossible. We have found immense support through fellowship in a group called "Blended & Blessed" which is a Stepfamily support resource through Celebration church. We are learning so much while building new relationships with other families who have "been there”  or who are currently walking in similar shoes. 

Typically we find the more common stepmother is dealing with other moms or dads while co-parenting, which can certainly cause more family issues and stress. While we have lost a great woman who wanted to be here, alive, and involved, we struggle with many other issues. Regardless of the challenges, thus far, I have found truth and comfort by learning...


1.)  Step family happiness is not an overnight miracle. Blending Families is not as fast and smooth as it sounds.  Be prepared to cook your family right: Low and slow.  Combining all the different ingredients as they are, in their own unique forms. If our old cooking methods cause the pot to boil over, it might be time to simmer down. The secret ingredient for all situations here is love. Love always tastes good too. Never bitter. Always sweet.
2.)  Family dynamics are like building a puzzle. We are all shaped differently, and “fitting in” to each others lives naturally can take time. We must focus on seeing the big picture as we work together, adjusting our expectations as we strive toward our own functioning family masterpiece. 
3.) A healthy family, equates to healthy children. The first year is always the hardest. No successful marriage or family unit thrives on auto pilot. The key is working at it. When we married our spouses, we married the entire package.  Progress comes with time. Younger minds need to adjust to the complexities of their new realities and schedules. It's an adjustment period for everyone. 

I have experienced first hand, that family peace is possible. Step by step. Day by day. It starts with believing God and HIS word. It means accepting and loving each other, and our children: Right where we are.  Right where they are. Just as God has offered his love to us. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that WE should be called children of God!” -1John 3:1  Figuratively speaking, isn't God just one giant step parent to all of us? Literally one "step" away...