Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Combine All Ingredients, Mix Well... and Add a Dash of Love

In today's world, I'm sure all of us know someone who is part of a "blended" family -- with step-parents, step-siblings, half-brothers and sisters and the like. Perhaps you're one of these "step" or "half" relations yourself.

Sometimes these blended families don't mix together very well. Differing personalities, choices about who's yours and who's mine can cause a lumpy mixture instead of a smooth one.

So what makes it work? I know of one family who has made it work, where the parents are parents and the kids are kids, and there are no labels like "step" or "half." It doesn't even enter their vocabulary.

Here's their story in a nutshell: The husband fell in love and married a woman, who was a single mother to a beautiful little boy. That boy was three years old when they married. Together, this new couple had a daughter. So, already, you have a step-son, step-father, and half-sister. But they were family.

Sadly, some years later, the wife passed away. The husband remarried. So, enter wife #2, who somehow needs to blend in to this family and become a mother to two teenagers while respecting their deceased mother.

The only way this family could blend well was to mix it with love. The new wife had to learn to appreciate their traditions from before, while slowly making new traditions that they could share together. It was finding ways to blend the past and the present... to appreciate what came before, while creating the new family today.

Was this always easy to do? No, of course not. But it came down to everyone involved making the choice... they made the choice to love each other.

The kids noted their dad was happy again after the passing of his first wife, so maybe they needed to give this second wife a chance. Their new mother was different and had her own ways, but she wasn't so bad. Again, she made Dad happy. And she was good about allowing them to have their friends over and always seemed to have brownies and Dr Pepper at the ready.

She stumbled a few times along the way. Things were not perfect. But wife #2 knew she had to make her place in this family and not be a replacement. Her husband helped her with that by making another choice...to treat her as someone who had a place in this family and wasn't a replacement for his late wife.

As a mother, wife #2 could only learn on the job. But her attitude in "claiming" the kids as her own was this: Any mother, if they can't be there for their kids, just wants them to be loved and well-cared for. So wife #2 figured the best thing she could do for those kids and as a show of respect to their mother, was to love them and take care of them. Treat them like their mother would've wanted them treated. Period. It was pretty simple once she kept that in mind. Any mother wants someone to love and care for their kids if she can't be there.

So, this family blended together by choice, mixed together, had a few lumps along the way, but always added that dash of love. Don't forget your sense of humor as well!

What about you? Do you know of blended families that really make it work? What's their secret?

Please share.

As for the "rest of the story" (as Paul Harvey would say), I lived this story I told you today, and know it from the heart.

I am "wife #2."

I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo credit: roshan1286 / Foter.com / CC BY

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Guest Post: What One Little Brother Did

Note from Becky: I'm so pleased to welcome fellow writer from ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), Joi Copeland, who is my guest blogger today. Following my blog post last week about reconnecting with my brother, Joi shares a story about her uncle reconnecting with her dad. Thank you for sharing this story, Joi!

What One Little Brother Did

I don't drink coffee with her, I'll have tea or some type of beverage. But that isn't the case with this Stoffels clan.

My dad decided to step away from his family some 25 years ago, not my sisters and me, but his siblings and parents. He may have had contact with them once in a blue moon, but that was mostly due to his parents' dying or his other sister's death. Certainly not because of anything else.

Until my Uncle Mike (Dad's little brother) and Aunt Ronda decided otherwise. My Aunt was pretty adamant about Uncle Mike reconnecting with family. So Mike began with his nieces and bided his time with my dad. He'd tell us kids to let my father know that he loved him and was ready to see him when my dad was. No pressure.

Then the day came finally when my dad said he wanted to see his brother. I think I cried when I got that phone call. I was ecstatic and wished I could be a fly on the wall.

But it didn't stop there. Nope. My dad spoke with my Aunt Gayle while spending time with his baby brother. Again, I think I cried.

Miracles upon miracles what the love and desire of my aunt and uncle accomplished with their persistence and patience. Nothing but God Himself could have prepared the way for this to happen.

Then, my dad was going to spend his second weekend at my uncle's house. My other uncle, Rick, planned to have my aunt see her brother for the first time in over 25 years.

So, when I called my dad yesterday morning, my heart did a flip, listening to them laugh together....possibly at my dad's expense, but hey, I like to pick on him.

Wiping the slate clean. Determination. Love. Those are the things that allowed this to happen.

Which leads me to Jesus. Most everything leads me to Jesus. Wiping the slate clean. That's what He did when He died on the cross for our sins. Every day, His mercies are new. Our sins are as far as the east is from the west. Determination kept Him on the cross. He was determined to bridge the gap between us and God.

Love. That's what lead Him to the cross. His love for humanity, for mankind, for you, and for me. Love.

Dad, Aunt Ronda, Uncle Mike, Aunt Gayle, and Uncle Rick, I'm so proud to call you all family! I love you all and am so glad you're in my life!

Joi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom! She enjoys spending time with her sister Steffanne, and loves to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea with friends! She's been a Christian for over twenty years. Following Jesus has been the best decision she has ever made. Joi's books are Hope for Tomorrow, Hope for the Journey, Christmas Rayne, and Sheriff Bride Rob's Story.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sneak Preview for Tuesday

Please check back this coming Tuesday, 4/23 for a wonderful post by guest blogger, Joi Copeland. Following this last Tuesday's post about reconnecting with my own brother, Joi tells the story of how her uncle reconnected with her father.

See you Tuesday!

Joi Copeland is married to a wonderful man, Chris, and has three amazing boys, Garrison, Gage, and Gavin. She is living the dream in beautiful Denver, Colorado. Joi loves being a wife and mom! She enjoys spending time with her sister Steffanne, and loves to sit and have a cup of coffee or tea with friends! She's been a Christian for over twenty years. Following Jesus has been the best decision she has ever made. Joi's books are Hope for Tomorrow, Hope for the Journey, Christmas Rayne, and Sheriff Bride Rob's Story.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Relationships are a Choice

Relationships are a choice... yes even family relationships. It's said that you can't help the family in which you're born, but you can help how you treat those family members. And you can help how you react when you feel you've been mistreated by others.

With blended families, that choice is even more important. I'll talk about that in a future blog.

For now, let's discuss family relationships. I was raised with three older brothers. Yes, I was the youngest, and the only girl...and probably a bit spoiled! My brothers knew how to work this to their advantage though.

On family trips, if they wanted to stop at Dairy Queen for a treat, my brothers nudged me and said "Hey, Beck, ask Dad if we can stop for ice cream." It was me who had to "ask Dad." They knew their chances were better if I did the asking.

As we've grown older and have lived our separate lives and even celebrated the fact that one of my brothers became a grandfather this year (gasp!), we could easily not remain close. Especially since the four of us live in three different states.

In fact, with one of my brothers, there was a period of time that we weren't getting along so well... we had lost our "friendship." Yes, we still hugged, were glad to see each other at family gatherings, and all of that. But we had lost that deeper connection that I still had with my other two brothers. It saddened me, but I chalked it up to the fact that we had gotten older and just went our separate ways.

Then there came a wonderful weekend. A spontaneous visit that turned out to be the weekend where my brother and I spent time one-on-one. Despite my parents and my husband being part of this weekend, something was in the air, and my brother and I were left alone on my parents back patio, and talked for hours.

It was one of those good talks. We started our discussing our mutual interests like writing and tennis, although he's a big fan of Rafa Nadal and I'm a fan of Roger Federer. That only made the conversation more endearing. We talked of our childhood and laughed at our different recollections of the same event.

In a single conversation (although long conversation), my brother and I found our connection again. We focused on our commonality, and respected our differences. We made the choice to be friends again, and hang on to our relationship.

While in some ways, I have an easier relationship with my other two brothers, I will always appreciate this special time I spent with this third brother.

Thankfully, I can tell you stories of special times with each of my brothers. I am grateful that we all have the bond where we choose to be friends and choose to be a part of one another's lives.

It's so easy to walk away... and with certain friendships and relationships, sometimes you need to walk away.

But my brothers and I have chosen to remain as close as we possibly can. We choose to enjoy the times we spend together and do our best to respect our differences.

We'll talk more about our relationship choices again.

But for now, what about you? What choices are you making in your family relationships?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Idols and Addictions

In talking about relationships, I guess I would be remiss if I didn't discuss our "relationship" with other things, like food, alcohol, television, shopping or any other types of addictions. My church recently had a message about "idols" in our life. Idols that replace God as first in our lives, like money, material possessions and more.

We all struggle with something. There's some addiction or idol that's distracting our focus from where it ought to be, on God, and on His plan for our lives. In our efforts to seek comfort, we beat up on ourselves, and then the cycle begins again. Why do you think there are terms like "emotional eating" and "retail therapy?" We're seeking comfort.

So, how do we get past these idols in our path? It's very difficult. Very difficult. But you start one day at a time. Try to eat a little less, replace that bad habit with a good habit, live a cash-only life to curb your retail shopping habits, turn off the TV. And don't forget the power of prayer.

Don't forget the power of friendships. It's so hard to open up about some of these issues in our lives. As you know from last Tuesday's blog post, I have a hard time opening up and choose to remain private. But I know the times when someone opens up to me and shares, then there is a blessing in sharing together, in leaning on one another as we deal with our struggles.

So, while there are times when we are embarrassed, ashamed or angry with ourselves, we need to know we're not alone. There are others struggling with the same addiction or battling the same idol...

Look around you... it could be a dear friend.

How can we open up and help each other? How can we minister to each other and feel less alone?

Any ideas?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Modern Day Psalm - God Knows My Heart

Editor's Note: I wrote this about 4 years ago when I was a member of another church. Our pastor that week asked that I write this and present it at church. I ran across it again while spring cleaning at my house. I thought it was appropriate for a Sunday post. Here's what I wrote and presented at church:

I wrote this psalm a couple of weeks ago. We were on our mini-church retreat, enjoying a time of fellowship and getting to know the members of our small group better, since my husband and I were the newest couple in the group. During this time, my husband shared an event that I was a little uncomfortable with him sharing to the group. It really was okay, but I tend to be a private person, so sometimes it's hard for me to share the way he does. I really envy his openness and trust.

After this time of sharing, there was a group activity. I chose not to participate. I was still trying to collect my thoughts from the sharing time we just finished. I ended up being the only one not to participate, and I really felt silly about not joining in. But, it was during this quiet time alone that I wrote the words to this modern day Psalm.

Why do I hide myself away? Why don't I trust and open my heart and let people in? Why do I only present one side of myself and not go deeper. When I'm angry or in pain, I shut down, hide away... not wanting to say or do anything wrong or anything to escalate the situation, or bring tears too close to the surface -- tears that won't stop. So, I think no one will know how I feel if I'm silent.

I'm not sure I can even pour my heart out to you, God. Even though you know what's there, why can't I let it out, exclaim to you my fears, share my joys, or just go to you in silent prayer?

But I can't hide from our Savior. He knows my every thought, the depths of my heart, and every tear I have, whether shed or brimming just below the surface.

I may not pray well. I'm not a prayer warrior. I wouldn't be good on a prayer chain. Does it mean I've done something wrong? I pray in my own way -- but again, it is silent, and very informal -- yet is it worth any less in its value? Are writing these words down, and not speaking aloud, any less of a prayer?

I sit here alone as I write this -- not joining in the group activity -- separating myself once again. Oh, how foolish I feel. I'm not upset at anyone else. They didn't tell me not to come. I told myself to stay behind -- and I isolated myself from the group, and from my husband.

I wonder if this is how we isolate ourselves from you, O Lord?

You love us completely, you want to draw us in, you want us to be closer to you, yet we still shy away. We still find a way to isolate ourselves, and say "not now -- maybe later."

I often think of how it is to be a parent. My father once said that being a parent was his greatest joy and his greatest hardship. I never understood that until I became a parent myself. I love my children more than I thought possible. Yet when they flounder or when they're rebellious, or when they're just being kids, it hurts so deep inside. It hurts when they disobey and don't understand that what we do for them, we do out of love. Is this how you feel, God? It hurts you when we fall away, when we disobey -- when everything you do for us, you do out of love. You sent your only son to die for us! We are so undeserving. Could I sacrifice my child that way?

So, I sit here today and worry about not praying well or praying enough, scared to be involved in ways I'm not comfortable with, feeling foolish from being left behind from the group, trying to convince myself that it really is okay that they know of a dark, difficult time in my life... and wondering how many other ways I've disappointed someone I love -- how many times I've disappointed you, O Lord.

I have to turn to you today, Lord, to bring peace to my troubled heart. To know that it's okay if we all don't pray that same way. It's okay to open my heart to the people you put in my life. That even if I disappoint you with my isolation, with my selfishness, you will forgive me, and still love me -- in spite of me.

Give me that peace today, O Lord. Help me turn to you not only in bad times but also when things are good, when you are blessing us abundantly. I know you are sovereign and I know I won't have to be fearful. For you alone are God -- You are my Savior, You are the Lord of Lords, most high.

What else do I need to know? Let me rest in that knowledge and in your peace today, O Lord. Let me be mindful of you. Let me say "thank you" today.

Thank you despite my doubts and fears. Thank you God for cradling me in the palm of your hand.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Reaching Out

Last week, I talked about "Digging deeper" with friendships. That seemed to be something that at least a few of us can relate to.

Well, over the weekend, I did some reaching out of my own. I am a proud member of American Christian Fiction Writers (www.acfw.com) and in the spirit of full-disclosure, I also work for them. I work for ACFW because I love the organization. I'd still be a member even without being employed by them.

I like ACFW because it is an organization that encourages and supports writers. We cheer each other on and we want to see all of us succeed in publishing the stories God's given us to write. We all have stories to tell and we all want to succeed. Instead of fostering a spirit of competitiveness, ACFW fosters a spirit of support and of "we're all in this together."

With that in mind, I reached out via Facebook and on the ACFW loop for help in naming my blog and for help in "liking" my author page on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rebeccalvincent, in case you're interested). And without hesitation, without question, the "likes" drastically increased, and name suggestions for this blog increased as well.

I tried to take the time to thank everyone individually for "liking" my page. Hope I didn't miss anyone, because I truly appreciated it and was touched that they would do this.

Any one in the writing business, knows it's tough to develop an author "platform" and create that place where readers can find you. It's all about making those connections. It's a bit daunting, because writers would rather write, and not promote.

However, a comment from one of my writing friends brought me to tears. When I thanked her for the "like", she responded: "Of course! You're always so helpful to everyone else, time we helped you! Blessings and Joy."

That statement alone epitomizes how I feel about ACFW, and my other favorite writing group My Book Therapy (www.mybooktherapy.com). It's all about helping each other and supporting each other.

How would our lives be if we did this in the world around us? If we fostered a spirit of encouragement and support?

I can only hope and pray my writing, and more importantly, my friendship and relationships with others, will be a blessing to them. But today is a day when I feel overwhelmed with blessings.

So, what would happen if you took a chance and reached out? If you confided in a friend this week about an issue you were having? Do you think there would be an opportunity to bless each other?

Take a chance and let me know. This is a place where we can share. How can we take that first step together and reach out?

(Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Monday, April 1, 2013

We have a Winner!

Thank you again to everyone who suggested names for this blog. The winning name is: Ties that Bond.

Thanks to Jeannie for suggesting the winning name. She'll win either the $10 Starbucks card or the $10 Barnes & Noble card, her choice.

I hope you enjoy reading about the Ties That Bond Us together as we continue on with respective life journeys.


ACFW New Releases: April 2013

Hey Friends,

Below are some great books written by authors from American Christian Fiction Writers. There's a variety of genres from contemporary, historical, romance and even fantasy/sci-fi. Take a look if you need some good books to read!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Diamond in the Rough by Jennifer AlLee and Lisa Karon Richardson -- Grant Diamond is a professional gambler on the run from his past. When he comes across a wagon wreck, the chance to escape his pursuers is too good a gamble to pass up, and he assumes the identity of the dead wagon driver. His plan takes an unexpected turn when local heiress Lily Rose mistakes him for the missionary she had asked to come work with the Wiyot Indians. Seeing Eureka as a promising place to lay low, Grant plays along. (Historical Romance from Whitaker House).

A Healing Heart by Angela Breidenbach -- Workaholic mother, Mara Keegan, has a heart attack and must trust her business to the one man who tried to destroy it. (Contemporary Romance from Abingdon Press).

Avenger by Heather Burch -- Nikki knew Damon Vessler would not let his prized creation go easily---she simply never imagined the lengths he'd go to get her back into his clutches, and turn Nikki's heart toward darkness. A Seeker at her heels, trained on her blood, Nikki flees with Raven alongside her for protection, while Mace and the other Halflings fight the battle that has erupted on earth. (Young Adult from Zondervan).

Son of Truth by Morgan L. Busse -- The war in the north is over, but the war for all the Lands has just begun. As the Shadonae solidify their hold on the city of Thyra, Rowen Mar, the last Eldaran and savior of the White City, awakens to find herself hunted by those she has saved. Meanwhile, the assassin Caleb Tala finds himself in the presence of the Word. The time of reckoning has come and he must pay the price for all the lives he has taken. But in his moment of judgment, Caleb is given a second chance to change his life. (Speculative Fiction from Marcher Lord Press).

Rock Harbor Search and Rescue by Robin Caroll and Colleen Coble-- In Rock Harbor Search and Rescue, a middle grade fiction novel based on Colleen Coble's bestselling Rock Harbor series for adults, kids will enjoy the mixture of pets, adventure, suspense, and a mystery. (Children/Middle Grade from Thomas Nelson).

With Eyes of Love by Linda S. Glaz -- Two families collide in a flood, but that collision doesn't define who they are, he real change happens when Pearl Harbor is bombed. (Historical Romance from Heartsong Presents).

Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman -- A feisty young female artist with a secret past battles to establish her own gallery in 1880's San Francisco. (Historical Romance from Worthy Publishing).

Surrendered Love by Laura V.
-- Will a rebellious teen draw two old friends back together? (Contemporary Romance from Whitaker House).

Sundays in Fredericksburg by Eileen Key, Lynette Sowell, Connie Stevens and Marjorie Vawter -- Come to Fredericksburg, Texas, where four generations of couples encounter romance in Sunday Houses. Having become a schoolteacher to avoid marriage, Amelia Bachman finds her resolve crumbling before a smitten carpenter. Determined not to fall in love, Mildred Zimmermann carefully nurses an army medic crippled in love and war. Somewhat of a homebody, Trudy Meier isn't sure she has the courage to love a roving reporter. Gwendolyn's beautiful wildflower field is threatened by a geologist's search for knowledge. Will these four women risk their hearts for the love a stranger? (Contemporary Romance Novella from Barbour Publishing ).

The Heart Stone by Sherry Kyle -- When the biological father of Jessica MacAllister's son decides to break their custody agreement, Jessica and her son visit her Uncle George for advice and refuge… Following a year of grief, Evelyn Sweeney is finally ready to move on. Pondering her new path in life, her mind drifts to her first love, George MacAllister… When the lives of these two women cross, they discover that one heart-shaped ring binds their stories together. (Contemporary Women's Fiction from Abingdon Press).

All in Good Time (The Gilded Legacy) by Maureen Lang -- Can one impatient woman with a dream to provide a refuge for women in need melt the heart of an impervious, stingy banker? (Historical Romance from Tyndale House).

Love at Any Cost by Julie Lessman A spunky heiress without a fortune falls in love with a handsome pauper looking to marry well. (Historical Romance from Revell (Baker)).

Stress Test by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. -- They may not have enough evidence to convict him, but they have enough to ruin his life--if the kidnappers don't end it first. (Medical Suspense from Thomas Nelson).

Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin by Pamela S. Meyers -- Will she lose her heart to the man who stole her job? (Historical Romance from Summerside Press (Guideposts)).

Mending the Doctor's Heart by Tina Radcliffe -- A new job in Paradise, Colorado, seems like the perfect fresh start for Dr. Ben Rogers. Only problem is, Dr. Sara Elliott has been counting on getting the same job. Once they negotiate a shared trial run, Ben expects working with Sara to be less than pleasant. Instead, he finds himself drawn to her. She's dedicated and compassionate, exactly the type of woman he used to want-when family was an option. But Sara's life is just as emotionally complicated as his own. (Romance from Love Inspired).

Madeline's Protector by Vanessa Riley -- A chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything. (Historical Romance from White Rose (Penguin)).

A Lady's Choice (American Tapestries Series) by Sandra Robbins -- Sarah Whittaker travels to Washington, DC, where she joins forces with suffragists but finds herself imprisoned and near death in the Occoquan Workhouse. (Historical Romance from Summerside Press (Guideposts).

When the Morning Glory Blooms by Cynthia Ruchti -- Three eras. Three women desperate for hope. Three reasons to believe it won't come in time. (General Contemporary from Abingdon Press).

The Women of Valley View: Terri by Sharon Srock -- A daycare owner hungry for a family of her own falls for a man with all the family he needs. (General Contemporary from Harbourlight Books (Pelican)).

Georgia Sweethearts by Missy Tippens -- A wary realist fulfilling the requirements of her aunt's will is forced to share space with a charming dreamer. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired).

Captives (The Safe Lands) by Jill Williamson -- One choice could destroy them all. When eighteen-year-old Levi returned from Denver City with his latest scavenged finds, he never imagined he'd find his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed by enforcers, and many---including his fiancee, Jem--taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Land, a walled city that seems anything but safe. (Speculative Fiction from Zondervan).

The House that Love Built by Beth Wiseman -- Brooke has only loved one man. Owen's heart is filled with bitterness. Can a mysterious house bring them together for a second chance at love? (Contemporary Romance from Thomas Nelson).

The Winnowing Season (Amish Vines and Orchards, Book 2) by Cindy Woodsmall -- The tornado that devastated Kings' Orchard pushed Rhoda, Samuel, and Jacob to make a new start in Maine. Are they strong enough to withstand the challenges of establishing an Amish community-and brave enough to face the secrets that move with them? (Contemporary Romance from Waterbrook Multnomah).