Joseph, Thank You

Step-parenting is hard sometimes. It is an emotional battle to find the line on when you step up and when you step back. Imagine a child being in your home seven days a week. You have taken them to doctor appts, school functions, listened to their tears and held them thru the storm. You have been a parent, and you love this child as much as your own. You have stepped up. Then their real parent shows up to some game or plays out of nowhere. And suddenly you are just there. A spectator watching a child and the parent. You watch as everyone smiles and laughs and loves this child and their parent. Your job is to step back. That child needs their parent, and they need to know when their parent is gone you will once again step up. 

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I think the Bible shows us exactly what a step parent is supposed to be. Joseph. Most don't talk about him. In fact, the bible doesn't talk about him much. But here we see a man. A man who paid a dowry to marry this woman. He waited for her, paid for her, and right before he gets to marry her he is told she is pregnant. By God. He had every human right and reason to walk away. He in no way would have been looked down on for leaving Mary. And yet he stayed. He married her, he protected her. And then Jesus is born. We know he spent hours upon hours with Jesus. Jesus took his trade as a carpenter. We know he protected Jesus, we know he loved Jesus, we know he provided and cared for Jesus. I can see a little toddler running around chasing daddy. I can see a teenage boy full of hormones and Joseph sitting him down and explaining how men react. Joseph was his daddy. 

I don't know what happened to Joseph. The Bible never says. Yet, I am always lost at the scene of the cross. Here the Son of God hangs. Beaten, bloody, and barely alive. Every instinct is to protect an innocent man especially your child. Jesus recognizes his mother from the cross. He makes sure someone protects her. And in my human imagination, I see Joseph. Standing silently in the shadows weeping, broken, and crying because his son is dying. Wanting to help and wanting to protect his stepson. However, it is his duty to step back because Jesus has to return to his father. The pain, hurt, heaviness, and yet pride must have been very real for him. He didn't need the recognition, but his love was just as real. 

Joseph is exactly what a step parent is supposed to be. Always there. Consistently and steady. There when he is needed, ready to fight the wolves if asked, and yet staying in the shadows so the child can shine. 

Thank you for your example, Joseph. You won't ever read Facebook, but I want to say it anyway. Thank you for your faithfulness and love. Thank you for showing me what I need to be.

I Can't

photo credit: Tapout Fitness Woodland Hills

photo credit: Tapout Fitness Woodland Hills

Last weekend, I stood with the usual gaggle of moms at the gym as we chatted and watched our kids play. “You are such an inspiration. Seriously, such an inspiration,” I heard in a pleasant tone over my left shoulder. I knew this voice, this woman, was talking to me. Without even turning around, I knew she was addressing me, because I hear this well-intentioned, all-too-familiar sentiment on a regular basis. I am a single mom. That fact in itself seems to strike a chord with other moms, leading to the constant squishing of my entire identity into the neat little box of SUPERMOM.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the affirmations or that I intend to criticize people who are so outwardly supportive of single parenting. It is just a frustrating trope to occupy, because it doesn’t always align with my real life. I am not a super human. I am a deeply flawed, constantly failing, consistently overwhelmed human. And, usually, it feels like I am parenting as a heavy breather leaning over my own house of cards.

You see, today, the prospect of coming home, after a long day, to work on homework, to smile as they tell their stories, to clean up behind them (again and again), to prepare their dinner (and then their lunches), to participate in the ostensibly endless cycle of needing more kisses, then having to potty, then needing water, and probably more kisses; it just feels impossible. And sometimes, sometimes I feel like I can’t.

Today, I can’t breathe. I can’t do my job as well as I’d like. I can’t sleep. I can’t be the mom I’d always dreamed I’d be. I can’t escape the loneliness. I can’t escape the fear. I cannot extricate myself from the prison of knowing that every single part of my children’s lives are dependent upon me - me alone. Every cent, I have to earn. Every nutritional need, I have to meet. Every boo boo, I have to mend. Every medical decision, it is mine alone. Every life lesson, me. It is so much pressure, every single day. And sometimes, well mostly, I feel like I can’t. 

I have spent nights curled up in my shower crying beneath the pounding of water on tile, simply because it all feels so daunting. I have pulled over on the side of the road during my commute, because I couldn’t breathe while wondering how I was going to make it all work. I am not SUPERMOM. I am broken, again and again, by my grasp of the gravity of the task before me. I am terrified, every moment of every day. Fear robs me of patience, stress infuses my voice with tinges of undeserved anger, and frustration annihilates every schedule I make. And mostly, I feel like I just can’t. 

But today, this day that has highlighted the hollowness of my performance as SUPERMOM, I realized that I don’t have to. I opened my Bible to Isaiah and was reminded that, as much as I like to lament, I was never asked to do this alone.

“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJV)

I remember that God trusted me with these two amazing little human beings. He had faith in me. He saw my heart, knew my abilities as well as my limitations, and He still trusted me because He planned to walk with me. 

I am not alone. 

When I am crying in the shower, I am not alone. When I am pulled over on the side of the road gasping for breath, I am not alone. When I give up and let my kids eat ice cream for dinner, I am not alone. 

So, yeah, mostly I feel like I can’t. But that’s ok, because I know God can. And the next time I feel overwhelmed by the praises of women wondering how I make it all happen, instead of blushing, I will proudly tell them that I don’t make it all happen alone. I make it happen, sometimes just barely and often less elegantly than they imagine, because of God’s grace and unrelenting love.

~ A. Smith