Today, I am not just becoming one with your dad, I am becoming family with you. Over the last few years, I have prayed intensely for more measures of grace, more measures of hope, and more measures of faith in my life. God has answered that prayer for me in so many ways, but today it is answered in a way that is immeasurably more than I asked or imagined. Today I receive the three of you as my daughters. Please accept these gifts as a symbol of our love for you and the bond we create today as we join together as a family.
These are the words I said to my three daughters, Grace, Hope and Faith, with tears in my eyes and a heart that had already embraced them as such, on the day I married their daddy.
Thank you for sharing Mommy with me. Thank you for loving me and allowing me to love you with all of my heart. I was not there when you took your first steps, but I promise now that I will love and support you in every step that you take in your life from here forward. Please accept these gifts as a symbol of our love for you and the bond we create today as we join together as a family.
These are the words David spoke to Madalyn, Meredith, Charlotte and Josiah, as he was down on one knee, looking into their eyes and their little hearts on the day he married me.
We didn’t just become husband and wife on that day. We became a family. We became parents of each other’s children. We accepted the responsibility that comes with that. We promised to love and support all seven children as our own. We promised to make time to listen to them, cherish them and guide them. We promised to show them respect and kindness, tolerance and honesty. We promised to make it our life’s goal to show them how much God loves them through our own love and guidance. We promised to provide a safe, loving and caring home where each of our seven children would be encouraged to develop qualities unique to them in the knowledge that they will always be loved and valued for themselves. The promises we made to them were made with the same amount of commitment as the promises we made to each other.
Since that day (and even before), we have made every effort to strengthen our bonds with each other’s children. We stay alert in the effort to look for opportunities to engage them and connect with them and keep the promises we made to them. David’s originals are away for the month of July. They are only gone 5-6 weeks total a year which is an amazing blessing, but four of those weeks every year will be spent as a chunk-a long, hard stretch of time. I wrote before about our effort to make the most of it by taking time to focus on our new marriage and recharge after so many crazy months. But there are other new relationships that need cultivating too.
While Grace, Hope and Faith are home, there are two days every week that I get to spend with just them. I try to make time with each of the three alone and take them to do things together.
We have shared so much already in the time since we started doing this on a regular basis in January. David hasn’t had that same opportunity. He works full time and when he is home at the same time as my four originals, we are in the hustle and bustle of life with seven kids and all that entails. While we
have had good quality time as a family, shared many laughs and hugs and created memories, he hasn’t been able to grab that focused time as much. In the effort to make the most of this time, David has made a list of things he would like to do with each of his four new children like I have been able to do (and will continue to be able to do) with my three new children. Hearing my son giggle with glee as my husband teaches him to play catch is one of my new favorite sounds. It was so fun watching the girls squirm with excitement as the cardboard house they have been working on with Dad starts to look like a house. Seeing the way my youngest original looks up at him with such admiration fills my heart with joy. His list isn’t complete yet, but valuable moments have already been spent.
In some ways it already seems like so long ago, but it was just over a year back. I was still a single mom with four young children whose lives had changed so drastically and so quickly. They were in so much need of stability and security. I was trying so hard to give them that, but there was only so much I could do. I worked very long hours and spent life exhausted. I tried not to let that affect my time with them, but it did. I knew that I wasn’t as patient as I needed to be. I knew there wasn’t enough of me left on weekends to use our time pouring into them. I spent the days surviving and I spent most nights lying awake, despite the amount of tired I had accumulated after another long day, pleading with God that they would be ok. That He would give me the energy I needed to be the mom they needed and that He would give me a helpmate in raising them. The thought of entering the dating world again was frightening to me, but the thought of continuing on like I was for an unknown number of years was equally frightening. While I was constantly encouraged by those around me that I was a good mom, I still couldn’t help feeling like their childhood was being robbed from them AND from me.
Last week, my four originals and my sister’s family were at the pool together. In a now rare moment, I was alone with them. They had grabbed my hands and formed a circle in the pool, then started jumping up and down and giggling. I looked at those four smiling faces and just said, “Guys, we made it.” They had no idea what mommy was talking about but they smiled back anyway. As quickly as our moment began, it ended as they ran off in different directions in search of the next fun thing. I watched and smiled in the knowledge that they are going to be ok. We are all ok. I know David can look around now and have the same thoughts after spending years as a single dad of three girls. We made it.
There are ways in which we are still “becoming” blended. Bonds are still forming. We are still all learning to live together and function together. We are still navigating the waters of sharing our kids time and hearts with the ones who walked away. We are still learning to mesh two parental viewpoints that have similarities and differences (don’t get us started on car seats or teenage dating please!) We are still carefully exploring our roles from all sides. Many have asked how it’s going-Do the kids have moments of jealousy? Do the kids respect their new parent? Do the kids get along? Honestly, God reveals more and more that someway or other we were meant to be a family. The kids love each other and have embraced all of this with excitement and openness. We know at any moment we could see something different, but for now we all are very aware of how blessed we are to have found each other and all this beautiful chaos.
While we continue to remain true to our promise to ourselves to make the most of this time, the countdown to the rest of our family coming home continues! FIFTEEN days! We miss them terribly and feel incomplete without them. August 1 can’t come soon enough!
Featured Image taken by the amazing Hilary Colleen Photography. Quality though is my fault because I took the image from instagram. Check out more of her awesome work at www.fb.com/hilarycolleencreative