Fami-versary: The Anniversary of a Step-Family

Nine years ago, I woke up knowing that I would be sharing the rest of my life with an incredible man who loved me, not in spite of, but because of all my shortcomings - the obvious ones and the ones I may go to great lengths to hide. He sees them before I recognize them, and yet, he never uses them as a weapon. He only offers me grace, love, and compassion - every single day.

Today is more than the anniversary of our marriage. It is our Fami-versary. 3,287 days ago, The Engineer also entrusted me with the role of mom to his 5-year-old and 11-year-old sons. I literally studied for this role. It scared me more than stepping back into the arena of marriage (I’d done marriage once before and failed, so I went back and did an After Action Report to improve my odds of success!)

Never had I been given the gift of step-mothering. I was not afforded the role of being a biological or adoptive mom, so for me mothering in any capacity was an opportunity I did not take lightly. I didn’t dream of being a step-mom when I was a little girl – Disney didn’t portray that role as one to be admired. I know now that the emotional turbulence of step-mothering is much too complicated for Hollywood to encompass in a 2-hour time frame!

Being a step-mom hasn’t always felt like the gift I believe it to be. There have been plenty of days – and weeks – when it has felt like a battlefield and I am the enemy in my own home. Yet, just when it feels like I’m ready to pull out a flag of surrender, there is the familiar feeling of love and connection with one of my sons and I remember this situation is much more difficult on them than it is on me. They didn’t choose this type of family as children. They, too, have experienced the struggles – but even more so because they have two step-families to navigate!

I would not trade this journey of tears, joy, hurt, laughter, and humility for anything. The three of these Milligan men make me a better woman – they stretch me to grow in ways I never thought I could.  I am blessed to be the wife of such an amazing man. I have a bonus blessing of being a mom to two amazing young men.

Shattered Pieces Sparkle

Light is in both the broken bottle and the diamond ~ Mark Nepo

There are lessons learned, remembered, and hopefully even embraced, during the highs and the lows of life.  Many times the depth of the lesson doesn’t manifest until many years later following considerable reflection and humbleness.

We want our lives to sparkle, shine and illuminate like the beauty of a diamond.  Yet, reality is much simpler.  We are all broken pieces of glass, typically transparent with no distortion, unlike the many facets of a gorgeous diamond.  

We make mistakes, choices and decisions that may not appear complicated.  But, when those decisions involve our fellow journeyers with the concealed life experiences they carry, all bets are off.

We hurt people and people hurt us.  The interactions we share with others aren’t always energizing and uplifting.  

When our communications leave us drained and confused, it is likely we have been a witness to the person’s own pain and confusion - the burdens they are scarred with.  Scars they may have carried for so long, they are no longer recognized as once being a source of pain.    

We carry emotional wounds deep within ourselves because we likely learned early on they were the ugliest of wounds.  So, they go unattended for many years.

Then someone may enter our lives and we can’t pinpoint why or how, but it feels unsafe to be around them...uncomfortable and uneasy.  

This same phenomenon can happen in an opposite way.  You are attracted to someone - love being around them because they remind you of someone you admire and love.  They have qualities that put a spring in your step.

We all live amongst our own little diamonds and shattered pieces.  There is light and there is dark - in each of us.  We are complex beings.  So very intricate we often don’t know ourselves.  We don’t recognize our own scars, our own triggers or what we may need to heal and eventually sparkle as we were designed to do.

The sparkle is there.  Amongst the rubble of the pain, the sparkle is still there.

Honoring the Pain

All parts of the journey are sacred and holy.  Take time to honor the beginning ~ Melody Beattie

In January, we often take time to reflect on the previous year.  In taking a step back, I am now able to see the meaning in some of the madness, pain, disappointment, and poor choices.  I can also recognize the great opportunities, amazing experiences and beautiful people that have been part of my journey. 

I can’t look back at 2017 without contemplating previous years.  Who I am and who I am becoming is a chain reaction of my prior experiences.  The growth manifests if, and only if, I allow myself the time to reflect, contemplate, and explore the blood, sweat and tears with the same honor I recall the laughter, happiness and rejoicing.

To consider the emotional aches and discomfort of my past almost seems like self-inflicted torture of a CIA interrogation.  However, if I cannot make peace with these defeating times, whether they were of my own doing or the result of someone else’s emotional defense, how can I continue to be fruitful on this journey?

I cannot resist what is – what my past has been – the parts of me that are so very frail and incompetent…I must only breathe.  Breathe in these pieces of brokenness with respect and honor.  Breathe in with a belief that there is meaning in these moments of suffering.

Can I allow pain to be significant and soul-quenching?  Can I understand and accept the value, the richness and possible magnificence created through defeated devotion and ruptured relationships?

I bear witness to similar aches, hardships and shame that afflict my fellow journeyers.  In them, I see the Divine pushing the breath of healing and their strain to allow it to fill their cracks.  I fight that same breath of Divinity desiring to saturate my being.

Why do we fight this Gift?  The most sacred and holy Gift ever bestowed to us, we reject it when we need it the most.  Do we not recognize the Extraordinary because we have neglected it for so long?  

Have I avoided and dismissed the Divine in me because I have not honored every phase of this journey?

There is Holiness in every moment.  There is Goodness in each step.  Each juncture is Sacred.  The footing of such Divinity may not seem solid at this moment, but it is the foundation of who we are to become.  

2018 is a new opportunity to breath through the struggles and allow the Divine within ourselves room to grow.  Exhale the pain and inhale the Gift of Healing.

Never Lose Hope

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

I learned a long time ago if I had little to no expectations, the disappointment of not receiving what I hoped for wouldn’t be as painful.

I lost hope the Christmas I was in the 6th grade. I was one of those kids who would sneak and unwrap the gifts under the tree, carefully taping them back together after I had a peak of what was to be mine on Christmas morning. I lost hope the Christmas I was in the 6th grade. Serves me right, huh?

I had coveted a navy blue Izod sweater our adult neighbor wore...it didn’t just have the little alligator on the left side, it had this huge alligator in the entire center of the sweater, but it was woven into the sweater with no extra color - it was subtle yet Izod bold...I can still picture it on the neighbor.

It was a very unrealistic gift for a 12 year old whose parents always ensured a wonderful Christmas for their 4 daughters but were never overly indulgent.

Something inside believed that one of the boxes under the glowing tree was that sweater. I pulled out all the boxes with my name on the little tags...determined which few were the approximately weight of the Izod sweater and carefully untaped the end...just enough to push the box end down, touch and see the gift inside.

The first one - pink and flannel. The second one - corduroy and brown. The third one - jackpot! Navy and sweater. My heart leaped with joy! I really couldn’t believe it! My mom had been listening and she figured out a way to get that navy blue Izod sweater for me! Sweeeet!

Two mornings later, as I act surprised with the long flannel nightgown and the corduroy brown pants...I can barely contain myself when I get to the Izod sweater...I rip the paper and the box to proudly lift up - a navy crew sweater with my initials embroidered in kelly green across the center...WHAT?! Where is my Izod sweater?

There was never an Izod sweater under the tree. Rightly so, my parents would never have spent that kind of money on me for one sweater. But my hope was gone...I was disappointed and a bit jaded...

That’s a sad place to be for a 12 year old, a 25 year old, a 42 year old, a 68 year old...living without hope is not living.

Having hope is the anticipation, the belief and expectation there is more to come...better ahead...dreams to come true...

In our world of hurt...in times of pain and hardship, dreams and optimism, faith and aspirations are difficult to grab hold of...

The bleak and scary news blaring out of the TV and talk radio don’t lead to promises of optimism and brighter times ahead.

So where is this hope? The hope is in this season of Christmas...

Can you imagine the fear and doubt weighing so heavily on the young couple who were about to become the parents of the greatest package of Hope ever to be given?

This couple was likely shunned because of their circumstances...the young lady who had expectations of marrying her love in a celebrated ceremony was now riding on a donkey into a stable on the verge of giving birth...thinking of the confusion and apprehension they must have been experiencing causes me a bit of anxiety.

Yet, they believed. They trusted. They had hope.

We have a choice. Disappointment over material items or joy and peace with the gift of Hope selflessly given to us over 2000 years ago.

I choose Hope.

Believe. Create. Live.

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