The Day We Met
So, last week I teased the story of the day I first met all my step-kids. You could actually call it the day I almost didn’t meet my step-kids. ;)
A little background info:
My husband and I met at our church in the summer of 2014. Our first date was in August. I knew that he had three kids and for some reason I had decided (in my head and told no one) that it would probably make sense for me to meet them in October. I don't know why October, that's just what I decided. (my husband can tell you, I had lots of random rules throughout our dating relationship. And he and God had a lot of fun completely ignoring them and showing me how amazing it could be without all my rules and regulations. :))
So, in my mind I was set to meet these three awesome humans sometime in October. Probably late October. ;)
One day towards the end of August, Paul and I were talking on the phone (do dating people even still do that? Or is it all over DM and SnapChat now??) but we were talking on the phone because we are old, and he invited me to do a 5k walk with his family towards the end of September. That meant with his kids. In September. It also happened to mean with his mom, brother and his brother’s girlfriend but I was more thrown by the idea of meeting his kids a month ahead of “schedule”.
People. We have schedules for a reason. And it's not to change them!
But as you know, in dating, you need to introduce your crazy slowly to someone that you like. Otherwise they might get wise and make a run for it.
So, I decided I could go ahead and bend the rules this one time, adjust my expectations and be ready to meet the kids at the end of September instead of sometime in October. Done.
Then, Sunday, September 7th happened. (Yes, I went back in the calendar to see what the dates were. iphones make that easy now.)
Since that was the first Sunday of the month our church had a worship night called Beyond. I attended that and after it was over I was talking with two friends in the atrium of our church. One of these ladies was Tammy who also happened to be the one who first introduced Paul and I.
As we stood there talking, all of the sudden Tammy saw something in the distance behind me. Her face lit up and she got this "kid on Christmas morning" grin that spread across her entire face. She gleefully exclaimed, “Ooooooohhh, I see someone coming over here! AND he’s got three little people with him!.”
I knew this was not Santa and his elves that she was talking about. It was Paul and his kids.
Now, maybe for most normal people you would match her enthusiasm and get excited as you realized you were about to meet the kids of the person you are dating and really enjoying dating to boot. But I am not most people. Remember the PLAN? Remember the SCHEDULE?? Meeting them in October, then adjusting to meeting them later in September? September 20th to be exact?Yes, I looked.
This was not September 20th! I had not even begun to prepare myself or ask ALL the questions I would have asked in order to be ready to meet them on September 20th!
It's September 7th and I am completely unprepared and on the verge of freaking out!
I promise you, as soon as Tammy said what she said, the hallway over her right shoulder suddenly came clearly into focus. And the thought ran through my mind, “I can just start walking. I haven’t seen them. They don’t know. I can head for that hallway and into the parking lot and into my car and be on my way home in about 2 minutes.”
As I contemplated my escape route Tammy, seeing the look of complete terror and fear on my face, asked “Oh, have you not met them yet?”
I may have responded. I can’t be sure. But the answer was quite obvious all over my ashen face.
I had wasted precious time and therefore missed my opportunity to run. The event was now upon me. If I didn’t turn around it was soon going to become a very awkward moment that would be hard to recover from. Ironically, several of those "awkward and hard to recover from" moments would be sprinkled throughout the next 5-6 minutes of my life.
So, I planted the best, most natural-looking smile on my face that I could, and slowly turned to face the unknown. (I imagine in this moment I looked a little bit like Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka.)
As I turned around the following questions exploded in my mind all at once making it a bit hard to focus:
“Who do they think I am?
What has Paul told them about me?
Do they know we are dating?
What do they think about their dad dating?
What do they think about their dad dating me?
Do I have a creepy smile on my face?”
At some point Paul reached over to give me a hug as he said hello. I kind of stood there, frozen like a statue and our hug turned into a more awkward side-hug sort of thing. (I’m not even joking. I wish I were.)
He then turned to introduce me to his kids. I can’t believe I didn’t stroke out right there and then.
The three of them stood in perfect order, oldest to youngest. And as I was introduced to Caleb, then Riley and finally Remi all I could think to do was stiffly reach out and shake each of their hands. I honestly couldn’t tell what Caleb or Riley were thinking. Probably, “Who is the very odd, creepy woman that is shaking my hand. And why is she smiling like that?” That’s what I would have been thinking.
Then I got to the youngest, Remi. And there she stood with the biggest grin on her face. It melted me. I thought, “Well, I think this one likes me, if nothing else.”
The rest of the conversation was a weird sort of out of body experience for me. Paul was making small talk. Something about my birthday coming up soon. Blah, blah, blah. I was simply waiting for the first opportunity to politely excuse myself from the conversation and get out of there before the pit stains in my shirt became visible to everyone in Denton County.
(Y'all, I'm sweating now just thinking about it and it's 20 degrees outside.)
Within a few minutes I made my polite exit (I don’t even remember the rest of the exchange!) and headed to my car as fast as I could. Before I got out of the parking lot I got a text from Paul asking if I wanted to go to dinner with them at Jason’s Deli? Did I want to go to dinner with them?? Eat food? In front of them?? I think I quite actually would have died. I politely said no and that I didn’t want to interrupt his time with his kids. And then I think I burned rubber peeling out of the parking lot.
Before I got home he texted back and said it really was fine, he had asked the kids and they wanted me to go. I politely declined again and sped the rest of the way home. It makes me so sad, now, to know I missed that evening with all of them because of my fears.
When I got home I had a long conversation with God about how I didn’t know if I was cut out to be a step-mom. What if they didn’t like me? What if I screwed it all up? I felt so out of my comfort zone and I just knew I wouldn’t be good enough.
Since Paul was not in a coma, he knew something was up and we got to have coffee the next day to discuss my special form of crazy. I explained all my thoughts, and fears and questions and crazy processes. He was very kind and understanding and was sorry he didn’t give me more of a heads up. He hadn’t planned on it at all, he just saw me in the atrium and saw the opportunity. No big deal. No big deal unless your head houses my stupid brain.
The rest of the week was smooth but in church that next Sunday I was talking to God during worship. Again, I was explaining all my inadequacies and how I probably wasn’t the best person to be a step-mom. I was clueless and would probably mess them up. They seemed so nice and sweet and normal. And I felt like a huge, crazy mess. I finished telling God why this was all a bad idea and why I was the wrong girl for the job when a new thought popped in my brain. God heard all my questions and protests about my shortcomings and asked me, “What if it’s not about you? What if it’s about them? And what if I have a space in each of their lives that only you can fill?”
I froze. Well, I froze and I started to cry. My first parenting lesson. What if it wasn’t about me?
What if I just needed to show up and be willing to be there with all my perceived imperfections because that was just what God had ordered up for them AND he was going to take all of that and make it great? What if he had actually been preparing me my whole life just for this? For them? And what if he would be with me and I'd never be doing it alone?
Right then and there I told God, ok. I was in.
It felt like a big assignment but suddenly I had a confidence I hadn't had before.
(And thankfully I had not done any irreparable damage! As soon as the 5 of us started spending time together I saw how fun and funny and interesting they all were. And they were excited to know me. God gave me special and unique bonding moments with each of them and as I fell in love with their father, I found myself falling in love with each of them.)
God's been handing out big assignments for a long time. He handed them out all throughout Scripture. And he hands them out still today.
What was true in Scripture then, is still true now:
And God said, “I will be with you. Exodus 3:12
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." Deuteronomy 31:6
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
That wasn’t the last time I would have to face my fears of inadequacy in parenting/step-parenting. Or fears and inadequacies in lots of things for that matter.
What God taught me in that situation is true in all the others: It’s not up to me and it’s not about me and I am never, ever doing it alone.
It's true for all of us. Whatever big assignment he calls us to we can do it. We can take it. He will never send us to do it alone. He is always with us and maybe, just maybe, this is the assignment he's been preparing us for all along.
And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14