He Works In Mysterious Ways

God Made Dog.

“Free to a good home”.

Those words are never promising.  Why is the dog free?  Is he laden with fleas and infectious diseases?  Does he chew up every piece of fabric he can fit in his mouth?  Is he incontinent by choice and loves to mark up every inch of the house?  So many reasons floated around in my head.  However, I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful black puppy on my computer screen.

My friend and co-worker, Tanner, sent out a company-wide email asking for interest in her black lab-mix puppy she needed to re-home due to personal reasons.  She said “Kobe” was a healthy and well-behaved two-year-old lab/pit/pug mix.  She bragged on his manners and sweet disposition.  He was great with other animals and kids.  He sounded pretty perfect.  So, what was the catch?  Certainly there had to be one.  I was very intrigued by this pup with the soulful brown eyes and the ears that didn’t quite match his head.

Steve and I had been looking at local shelter websites and the Atlanta Humane Society.  Our home was a little too quiet when Keegan wasn’t with us, and we both enjoyed the company of a small dog.  Still, I was cautious because I knew he didn’t want us to get too far over our heads with an expensive or time-consuming animal.  I took a chance and sent Steve the black puppy with the soulful brown eyes.  I was anticipating him to say I was crazy for wanting a dog and we just couldn’t afford it time or money-wise.

Within about two minutes my email queue “dinged” with his reply.

“We can look at him tonight if you want.”

It was 4 p.m., and I got off work at 5:30 p.m. This was going to be a painfully slow 90 minutes!  My stomach started to get butterflies.  Steve’s simple but affirmative response made me giddy.  Oh my, how I wanted the companionship of a sweet little dog to fill our life and home!

BUT, Kobe had to be a good fit for us AND us for him.

 

 

We stop for dinner after work and discuss the pros and cons about pet ownership.  IF Kobe was a good match, he would be the first pet we adopted together.  Would our work schedules realistically accommodate an animal?  Would he be ok alone at home for 8 hours or more?  Were there any behavioral problems?  Would my allergies and asthma stay irritated all of the time?  So many things to think about.  Still, those eyes danced in my mind.  Those Kobe eyes.

We arrived at Tanner’s and were greeted by her other dog, a collie mix named Suki.  Suki was up for rehoming as well but already had several inquiries.  Steve sat on the floor in his work suit and played with him.  Kobe, on the other hand, was wagging his tail with shy curiosity.

“Kobe, come!” Tanner called to him.  He immediately bounded over to her and put his little paws on her knees.

“He’s such a great dog.  I really hate to let him go.”  Tears welled up in Tanner’s eyes.  She had such a tender heart.  I knew this was hard for her.

“What’s his story, Tanner?” Steve asked while rubbing Suki’s ears.

“He’s a rescue from Fulton County Animal Control.  Literally, a rescue from death row.”

Kobe was in the very last kennel in the back row of kennels.  He had been passed up for adoption for several days.  He wasn’t fluffy, fancy, or attention-seeking.  He didn’t do special tricks.  He was just a black dog who sat patient and quiet. He even held his pee for hours and hours.  He refused to make a mess.

And those eyes…

A friend of Tanner’s who worked at the shelter called her with tearful desperation in his voice one Saturday.

“Tanner, please PLEASE come get this dog. I beg of you,” Her friend pleaded.

“I already have one.  Why do you want me to get this particular dog?”

“Tanner, you’ve GOT to see this sweet boy.  His name is Kobe.  He’s the BEST DOG I’ve seen here.  He’s got these eyes.  They stare right through you.  He’s got the most gentle spirit.  He’s just special.”

He paused, wiping away tears before he continued.

“I have to put him down today if you don’t get him.  Please Tanner.  Just get here.”

Tanner DID save precious Kobe’s life, thank God.  One look at those eyes, one soft touch of that trusting head and those velvet ears and she was in love.  But life was changing for her quickly as a young professional woman, and she wanted to make sure Kobe had all the love he deserved if she couldn’t give it to him.

“Hi Kobe!  Hi buddy!” Kobe trotted excitedly over to Steve and put his cheek next to Steve’s hand.  We both gently played with him and the bond was so instantaneous that it was almost spooky.

“Wow, those eyes for sure.” Steve knew we’d found our new four-legged companion.

 

Kobe is 13 now, and we wish we could freeze time.  He’s our mascot in many ways.  He’s traveled the country going to Steve’s shifter kart races.  He gets the first bite of hot dog off the grill.  He loves the smell of sweet Southern pines.  A favorite destination is the Blue Ridge Parkway with Mommy and Daddy.  He loves a good car ride.  He also loves to come home.  He will wake up from a deep sleep and almost anticipate every turn when he smells our Georgia neighborhood.

He’s my companion when Steve is out of town. He’s Steve’s constant little teddy bear when he’s home. He loves to cuddle on Steve while we watch TV, watch the snow fall on a winter day, or while quietly reading a book.

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He’s an ambassador of sorts.  He knows when you’ve had a long and frustrating day.  He gives you the most special cuddles then.  He also can tell when other animals need a little extra TLC.  He refused to leave the side of our sick cat during a thunderstorm one spring night.  The next day our cat passed away.  Kobe knew.  He also would stay near and look terribly concerned when our other dear rescue dog was struggling in his last days.  Kobe knew then, too.

He loves everyone he meets.  He wins over the crustiest of curmudgeons with his soft brown eyes.  There’s a common phrase we hear that will indeed follow him into the lap of Jesus.  We say all the time,

“Everybody loves Kobe.”

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Probably most memorable, we adopted Kobe during a time when Steve really missed his little boy.  Keegan was in elementary school at the time, a very tender age.  We wanted more time with Keegan, but life and the court system are cruel dictators of when many men can see their kids.  An animal can’t replace a child by any stretch of the imagination, but Kobe helped ease the sting of the pain a bit.  It’s as if…Kobe knew.

Actually, it was all part of a divine plan.

God knew.

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The Ex-Spouse

Pray For Her

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers and sisters, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you.  Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.”  1 Corinthians 1:10 GNB

 

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Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

It must be human nature to keep track of the wrong things done to us.  A friend of mine takes this so seriously that he vows to ALWAYS return a wrong for a wrong.  I couldn’t help but think that takes a whole lot of effort and eventually creates a calloused heart.

All of us have a “history”.  

We either have an ex boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband, former place of employment that wasn’t a good fit, a sibling we don’t always get along with, or a friend who betrayed us.  We could fill restaurants, bars, or coffee shop conversations will long and descriptive tales of all the woes we’ve experienced at the hands of other imperfect people.  

But remember, we are ALL guilty of causing our fair share of pain.

As a second wife and stepmother, my mind is prone to wander off to the “How I’ve Been Wronged” thought soap opera.  The characters excitedly display their prowess and abilities right before my eyes, dazzling me with their cunning smiles and malicious sideways glances.  They LOVE to perform for me when I replay their dramatic scenes.

I started recalling one of those “scenes” while I was folding laundry on Father’s Day.  In 2013 my husband Steve, my  stepson and I were coming back from a weekend getaway when Steve and I were informed of a very hateful post on social media by his ex-wife.  It was unkind, untrue, and malicious.  I felt my heart pounding in my neck and I became angry all over again.  I started thinking about all the lies said about my husband and I through the years.   She said things about us that attacked our characters and questioned our ability as parents.  Many of these things were posted while my stepson was WITH us, which brought on a whole new level of fury.

Meanwhile, Satan was doing a jig.  He had taken my eyes away from the beautiful sun streaming into the window.  He had taken my senses away from the pancakes my husband was so graciously making for my stepson and I.  He had planted these thoughts of bitterness and I dwelled on them. I reveled in them.  How dare anyone attack my family?  Satan sought out to create strife in my mind, and he succeeded.

As I’ve grown closer to God, I can catch the devil in his tracks.

I more easily can identity his attacks of mental destruction.  What I did next was unthinkable, unimaginable in my former thought pattern.

I started praying for her.

Yes, praying for her.

Another fellow stepmom blogger talks about praying for the parents of your stepchildren.  At first I thought it was a nice thing to say, and she must not have the patterns of parental alienation we face.  I was oh so wrong.  When I read her bio I became aware of her struggles.  She faces everything we do, and them some more.  But she finds peace in her heart and CREATES peace and love within her household by replacing damaging words and actions with prayer.  I was apprehensive but very intrigued.

I turned off my wayward thoughts and intentionally prayed for my husband’s ex-wife and mother of my stepson.  I asked God to give her a good day and for Him to fill her mind with peace.  I didn’t melt.  I didn’t recoil at the words.  I, in contrast, felt the tension leave my body.  I even will admit it felt good to pray for her.

Sometimes we don’t feel like those who wrong us deserve our prayers.  Well, news for ALL of us, we didn’t deserve the gift of salvation either.  None of us deserve forgiveness paid in full by a loving God.  But, He loves ALL of us that much.  ALL of us.

Praying for others doesn’t excuse harmful words or actions, but it releases us from being judge and jury of perceived wrongs.  

Prayer places all that heavy stuff at the foot of the cross and back into the capable hands of God.  We also start to look at circumstances not selfishly, but selflessly.

To dive into this a bit further, check out my blog post, Jesus Loves Her, Too.

Need a prayer partner for your blended family?  I would love to pray for you.  My personal email is sunshinestepmom@yahoo.com

God Bless you all!

 

Indy 2018

God’s POWERful Plan – Our 2018 Indy 500 – Part Two

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Photo Credit to Jody Karam and Kingdom Racing

Hello Friends!  It’s been a full week, but I praise God for many things to do.  My hands are never idle!

Picking up our story around May 18, Steve and I finished up a wonderful (but blazing hot) afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  We love the weekend before the 500.  It definitely has an energy all its own!  Drivers and teams are busy practicing then vying for the “pole” (1st starting position) for the 500. Drivers want to qualify well of course, and preferably in the top positions, A.K.A. “the fast nine”.

Only 33 Indy cars are allowed on the coveted Indianapolis 500 starting grid. This year,  “bumping” returned, and that is SUPER drama filled and exciting to watch as 35 teams were competing for those 33 spots.  There’s only so much time on “Bump Day” to get your ride qualified.  Once the gun fires at 5:50 pm (it was 6 pm in the past, which is a controversial topic all it’s own), qualifying is OVER.  If you get the chance to experience the weekend before the 500, I encourage you to jump at the opportunity.  It’s a wonderful time to walk around the garages (“Gasoline Alley”), possibly meet a few drivers, observe the frenetic but methodically detailed team preparation, and watch the strategies played out before you in the qualifying lanes on pit road.  True fun for true fans? Yes.  Will you be totally geeked out as an open wheel fan? Most definitely.

We get back to the hotel room and relax our tired legs.  I start editing some pictures I took on my phone earlier in the day and Steve is listening to the latest Marshall Pruett podcast.  While wrapping up our day I kept thinking about the interaction with the strangers at the picnic table today and the fellowship they were sharing. I reached into my purse and pulled out the business card Mr. Tim Carrie, Outreach Director for Kingdom Racing had handed me that afternoon.  Curious, I look up the Kingdom Racing website.  (Please check out the entire team and the collective mission of KR at kingdomracing.net)

Again, I had heard of KR, but I didn’t really know much about them. Their mission statement is, “Kingdom Racing is a 501(c)(3) non-denominational Christian team with a mission to Deliver God’s Word Through Motorsports.  We have been competing in IndyCar races and other motorsports since 2007, and we’re the first faith-based team to compete in an IndyCar race.  Our team combines IndyCar races and other motorsports along with our outreach ministry programs: Miles of Smiles, Fan Festivals, and KR Ambassadors.  Our goal is to use motorsports as a platform to reach 1,000,000 men and women for Jesus Christ!”

Wow!! Talk about a breath of fresh air in our secular surroundings.  Reaching souls for Christ through racing?  Talk about a MISSION we could support and believe in!

I wanted to know more but I’m shy.  I don’t like to “bug” people, and I knew Tim must be terribly busy this week.  I did the soft version of interaction and sent him a friend request on Facebook.  A while later I get a message back from him, and he asked if I was the lady at the picnic table from earlier in the day.  Yup, that was me! I replied back and told him I was quite moved by his platform, and my husband and I were enjoying learning about them.  He replied back and said he would be at IMS the next day, and we were welcome to call him and meet up with him when we have some time.

The next day was full of so many blessings only Christ himself could orchestrate.  The morning started with Steve and Tim officially meeting, and we were able to meet Christy, Tim’s lovely and sweet wife.  Have you heard phrases like “be evenly yoked” and “marry someone who complements your character”? Well, this is Tim and Christy.

When you surrender ALL to our Savior, the answers, blessings, and joy just seem to flow forth.  Tim and Christy are a testament to this.  While talking to them and sharing our collective walks of faith, they were very open and honest about the state of their marriage a few years back.  The devil loves to attack marriage because he knows it is the second most powerful union with God we can enter as human beings.  If Satan succeeds at tearing the fiber of our home, he can attack us in many other ways.  Tim and Christy said they had reached a low point in their lives together and almost got divorced.  One day they turned all of the strife over to God and asked Him to repair what was broken.  The result was a renewed love that is stronger than EVER.  You really can feel the joy resonate from them.  They aren’t just spouses, they are each other’s best friend.

Tim also shared with us that he had questioned his own worth in those dark days. He had asked himself questions like, “What is my purpose, Lord?” “Why would you want to choose ME?” “Where are you leading me?”  Tim reached out to God and surrendered his human doubts and questions.  The Lord is now using Tim to reach thousands of people and to show them there’s hope in a Loving God.

Tim asked if we had a few extra minutes to meet someone very special to them.  Of course we did.  Steve and I both were thinking to ourselves that this was one of the most important and fulfilling spiritual experiences God had placed in our path in a long time.

He led us into the race garage of Indy Car driver Sage Karam.  I had been in a Gasoline Alley garage just one other time, and that was to meet Helio Castroneves the weekend Steve proposed to me.  (I MUST share this story with you all one day.)  The garages are buzzing with activity and become quite small when many people are milling about.  I never want to be in anyone’s way while they are working, so I was a bit nervous.

Tim introduced us to Sage, and Sage was remarkably calm amidst the chaos around him.  Sounds of electric tools filled the air, rubber mallets hammered away, and the “ping” of metal striking metal was sharp to the eardrums.  It was a beautiful cacophony of sound, though.  I could have stood there for hours.

Sage and Steve talked briefly about wing adjustments and downforce.  I’m still learning these intricacies and I do find the physics of it all quite fascinating.  After some technical racing conversation, Tim mentions to Sage that we had been praying for him.  Let me briefly explain why.

Sage has a storied and vibrant career as a racer.  His racing resume started when he was just 7 years old.  It didn’t take long for him to be a consistent leader on the track.  He earned 91 National Karting Podiums and 36 National Karting Championships.  Being the wife of a World Karting Association Champion myself, I can attest that accomplishments such as these are no easy tasks!  It takes time, financial obligation and dedication, sweat and HARD work, and a gigantic, passionate heart.  This heart and drive to win led him to an Indy Lights Championship in 2013 and then every racer’s dream job, a ride with Dreyer Reinbold and a position on the starting grid for the 2014 Indianapolis 500.  This just touches the surface of his accomplishments.  He’s EXTREMELY talented.  (Check out his resume on the KR site when you get a chance.  We are so proud of this young man.)

Fast forward to 2015 and life changed in a matter of seconds.  (It’s an incident Tim and Sage refer to as “Pocono”, not by the names of drivers or any other identifiers.) Sage’s car hit the wall so violently on Lap 179 that he worried at first if his body or head were severely injured.  After an accident adrenaline is pumping so hard that you might not feel the sting of injury at first.  Thank goodness though, he was OK.  However a piece of the car struck fellow driver Justin Wilson.  The injury Wilson sustained eventually was fatal.

Steve and I were watching this race live.  Steve could tell the situation was pretty dire.  The news began to unfold throughout the evening and later we learned Justin had died.  I remember Steve saying, “The person we need to pray for the most in this situation is Sage.”  Over the next several weeks and months we would mention Sage and pray that he was doing OK emotionally.  We saw ignorant and hurtful things said on social media from people who couldn’t possibly fathom what Sage was going through.  It sickened us.  We had so much compassion for Sage and just wanted the best for his young life.

Through the help of Godly parents, friends, counselors, and confidants, out of tragedy came renewed faith and trust in the Lord.  Sage is open about his walk with God and how prayer and the Bible got him through the most difficult period of his life.  He “gives God all the glory” for lifting him out of depression and setting him on a new foundation of hope and mercy.

In the garage we had a POWERFUL moment with Sage and his father Jody.  Tim asked if we could share a prayer together as Christians.  We all placed our arms around each other’s shoulders and asked for God’s grace in our lives and for Jesus to bless the heart, mind, and walk of faith for Sage.  We asked Jesus to continue to use Sage’s complete story as a testimony to others who may be suffering and struggling with something in their own life.  Have you ever prayed and felt like you could almost feel the wings of angels fluttering around you, felt like you could feel the beams of light going right to the throne of the Father?  This was one of those moments.  I never will forget it.

The next day at the track we had the pleasure of meeting the Founder and Owner of Kingdom Racing, Mr. George Del Canto and his wife Maricarmen.  George is a handsome man with a strong and sincere handshake.  Almost always at his side is Maricarmen, a beautiful, tiny blonde with an adorable accent and gentle spirit.  We enjoyed talking with them and sharing stories of our walk with God.

George is the vision and heart of KR.  His is a story of success, loss, renewed hope, renewed faith, love, and a rededication to Christ.  His personal testimony will touch you and really make you think about your own priorities.  I am beyond humbled at the REALNESS of these men and women.  Authenticity and transparency are so rare these days.  They have it in spades and they aren’t ashamed to talk about the rocky path it took to get here.  They are living examples of God taking what we think can’t be repaired and making it into a treasure.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be the light”?  They embody this saying and make it reality.

I will stop here for today, but I ask you to PLEASE read the book, GOD SPEED – Steering Through Triumph and Tragedy by Chad Bonham (with Team Kingdom Racing, foreword by Al Unser Jr.) The book is a devotional that outlines George’s path to starting Kingdom Racing and his sometimes challenging faith walk.  Sage’s full testimony also can be found along with other unforgettable and moving testimonies.  It’s a fantastic read!

The blessings aren’t over! I will be back soon with Part Three.  The week before Indy included a cherished checkered flag and unexpected but welcomed fellowship with old and new friends.

 

The Ex-Spouse · Uncategorized

Step Up To The Plate, Step Back From Bait

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

“Thanks for the extra help today, Caroline!  I really appreciate you.”

Those words were spoken by a stepmom in my office to the biological mom on the phone.  I about fell out of my chair.

“Christy, was that your husband’s ex?” I asked.

“Sure was!  We haven’t always been this good, but we’ve come a long way.  I actually don’t know what I’d do without her.”

Christy explained to me their fragile beginning.  It involved a divorce, new love, hurt feelings, and children.  Christy was the new bride and Caroline was the ex-wife. There was tension and hardship for a couple years.  One day Christy called Caroline to discuss some boundaries and maybe some common ground for civility.

“We need to at least try for the kids,” Christy said.

Those words really broke through the wall Caroline had built up.  Do it for the kids.

From that point on, Christy and Caroline worked bit by bit on their relationship.  Time and kindness brought healing and understanding.  They actually became friends.  Caroline would babysit Christy’s little girl when needed, and Christy would pick up the kids if Caroline had to work late.  They also helped each other in other ways like picking up something extra while shopping or helping to feed pets when needed.

I was FASCINATED by this.  Every time I heard their kind chatter and occasional laughter, I’m sure my mouth would fall open in awe.

My relationship with my stepson’s biological mom is, well, non-existent.  I would welcome any olive branch, any kind of civility.  I have tried with her through the years, but any action from me is met with hostility, downright hatred, or a passive-aggressive remark about my “motives”.  We are 16 years in, and sometimes I feel like she just gets worse.  For my sanity (and maybe safety) reasons, I finally had to stop trying and just let it be.

The struggle in the absence of co-parenting with her has taught me many valuable lessons.  I could list dozens, but for our time today I will stick with five and share more in a later post.  I believe these are pretty crucial though.

  1. Be very careful and mindful of EVERYTHING you post on social media.  The days of carefree posting are gone.  Be bigger and better than the haters and KEEP YOUR DRAMA OFF YOUR FACEBOOK WALL!  Do it for the children as well.  They are embarrassed when we act like first graders.  Vent to your spouse, friend, or a diary. But please, NEVER badmouth another parent online or in ANY public setting.  I could go on and on about this one, but for our time today I ask that you think of the little eyes that might see your daily updates.
  2.  Be very mindful of texts and phone calls as well! My husband has a great saying for the workplace.  He tells his employees, “Don’t put anything in an email that you don’t want to end up on company letterhead.”  I think that applies well to the blended family.  Even if baited, antagonized, cussed at, or falsely accused, don’t say ANYTHING in text or in a possible recorded phone call that is hateful or tacky.  Answer questions directly but stick to the facts.  Keep adult problems and emotions out of your questions or responses.  A high-conflict individual would love nothing more than to break you and show your inappropriate responses to the kids.  They will try in the cleverest of ways to pull you into the mud.  Stay squeaky clean, my friends!
  3. Dont be passive-aggressive about the biological parent to the children.  The older, wiser, and more mature our stepchildren get, the more they recognize the truth.  I promise you!  That day does come.  They will either see that YOU were the problem or the bio parent was. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution!  Hopefully time will heal our blended families where strife remains.  In the meantime, rise above the situation!  Don’t use a belittling tone about what must go on in the other household or make condescending remarks under the guise of trying to be “funny” or inquisitive.  You only cause more hurt and confusion for your stepchildren when you are cheeky and snide.
  4. Remove the word “mistake” from your vocabulary concerning the biological parent.  Do you truly love your stepchildren?  Their little lives have purpose and so much meaning.  Yes, your spouse’s first relationship failed.  But calling it a “mistake” is basically saying the children are mistakes.  Imagine how that makes them feel?  The TRUTH of the matter is, both biological parents were needed to create your unique and beautiful stepchild.  We all have common sense to know that, but sometimes we don’t WANT to know that.  The sooner you can be at peace with that, the more loving and accepting you can be of your stepchildren.  BUT, please know that YOU can be JUST AS IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY in their lives as a biological parent!  YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON AND YOU ARE A STEPPARENT FOR A REASON.  I believe you are also reading this for a reason just as I am writing this for a reason.  My faith as a Christian teaches me so.
  5. You can’t control the actions of a hateful person, but you CAN control your reactions!  Take GREAT care of yourself.  Be patient with yourself.  Be as loving and understanding of yourself as you are “stepping up” to be with others in your family. When you feel overwhelmed get out into the sunshine and take a walk, run a hot bath, make your best coffee, call your Mom or best friend, or just sit still and enjoy some silence.  My stepparent Sister or Brother, this road is not easy.  I understand and my heart goes out to those struggling.  I want you to be the BEST VERSION of yourself though and not let tough situations chip away at the beautiful creation you are.  Take good care of your body and mind.  You are loved and needed.

I could talk about this topic for days!  I will end here for now.  Need a prayer partner concerning a high-conflict blended family situation?  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! Respond to me here or in a private message at sunshinestepmom@yahoo.com