Archive for the 'Grace' Category

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Stepfamily Relationships

It’s easy to think we must be perfect in our stepfamily interactions and make huge steps every day to strengthen our relationships. But that isn’t true.

Small steps on a regular basis can result in huge dividends with your stepfamily.

steps

Here are ten easy ways to show every day love and harbor positive relationships in your stepfamily:

1) Offer grace freely and often.

2) Think positive thoughts about your stepchildren; if a negative thought pops up – replace it.

3) Say at least one nice thing to each person in your stepfamily daily or as often as you see them.

4) Live “one day at a time” and enjoy the present moment – don’t project into the future.

5) Take care of yourself: emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

6) Strive to keep a thankful spirit.

7) Nurture your marriage with sweet gestures, alone time, and date nights.

8) Send thoughtful text messages when your stepchildren are away.

9) Deal with conflict when it occurs in a healthy context – don’t stuff it, don’t ignore it, don’t exaggerate it.

10) Pray for each member of your family daily.

Other ideas? What suggestions can you give to help strengthen stepfamily relationships?

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

Lessons Learned About Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting Wounds

I’ve been nursing a bee sting on the bottom of my foot for weeks. I ignored it at first, thinking it would heal on its own. But it hasn’t.  Now,  I’m annoyed at the nagging pain I feel when I’m on my feet too long.

My sister suggested I puncture the wound and look for a stinger that needs to be removed. I’m not a good patient but I carefully inserted a sterile needle close to the wound and removed a small skin-like material I found. Optimistic that would help, I thought – let the healing begin.  But the nagging pain continues. I’m now soaking it daily with espson salt and keeping it covered  with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid. If that doesn’t help,  I’ll have to consider my last resort - a trip to the doctor.

I would prefer wounds heal on their own. But that doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a physical wound or an emotional wound, the steps we take determine how quickly our wounds heal.

Stepparenting wounds come in all shapes and sizes. They occur when someone hurts our feelings or our expectations aren’t met. In the beginning stages of blending a family, wounds occur frequently.

 Some wounds resolve on their own, but most require special attention. Nagging wounds occur   repeatedly, leaving us vulnerable to anger and resentment.

So how do we resolve our stepparenting wounds? How do we prevent our wounds from negatively impacting our relationships?  Here are a few steps I suggest:

 

1. Forgive your stepchild.

You may be justified in your anger, but it’s hard to find peace when you refuse to forgive an offense. The relationship with your stepchild suffers when you hang onto your hurt. Take the high road. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

2. Don’t allow your feelings to fester.

I allowed my bee sting to fester for weeks before I did anything about it. As a result, the wound will take longer to heal.

Emotional wounds fester when we let our feelings take over our mind. Instead of addressing the issue, we compound it by complaining to others, acting out in anger, or  stuffing our feelings deep inside.

Festering wounds erupt. Deal with the offense so healing can begin.

3.  Commit to pray daily for your stepchild and strive to think only positive thoughts about him/her.

I know that’s not easy. When my stepson made piercing remarks about me in a custody hearing years ago, I didn’t want to consider praying for him or try to think positively about him. But when I made a conscious choice to dwell on his positive aspects and pray for his well-being, my wounds began to heal.

4. Give yourself grace for your part of the offense.

Each of us plays a role in conflict. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly. Stepchildren sense disapproving thoughts and critical looks. Words fly out of our mouth we can’t stop, contributing to conflict.

But if we choose to stay defeated in our guilt, we won’t find victory with our wounds.  Recognize your part and ask for forgiveness. Then give yourself grace and move on - imperfect people make mistakes.

5. Seek help when necessary.

It’s not unusual to get stuck nursing a stepparenting wound without healing. Some wounds go deep and wide, requiring professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of courage.

If you’re considering stepparenting coaching, my fees for the summer are reduced. I would love to help you heal your stepparenting wounds and restore your relationships.

What other tips can you offer to help with stepparenting wounds? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Offering Forgiveness

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

The Beauty of God’s Grace

I’m posting a devotion today that I wrote for NIV devotional contest for Mom’s. Hope you find it helpful.  :)

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When I married my second husband I took his last name, Grace.  God offered me another chance at marriage after failing the first time.  With my second wedlock came a new role: stepmother to my husband’s son and daughter. As the mother of two daughters already, I knew and cherished the role of Mom. But I had no idea how vastly different the role of stepmother would be.

 My new role proved challenging and full of obstacles. I made a lot of mistakes. And I struggled with rejection when my stepchildren didn’t embrace me right away.

But I knew I had been placed in their lives for a reason. I wanted to add value and make a difference as their stepmother. I began to pray about how to love and accept them as my own.

God spoke to me about offering grace more often. He reminded me that He freely offered grace as a gift to me when I didn’t deserve it and challenged me to do the same.

With God’s help, I began displaying more grace to my stepchildren. It wasn’t long before I noticed they were doing the same for me. They began to love and accept me as another maternal figure in their lives. Our interactions contained less conflict and more forgiveness. And now in their young adult years, my stepchildren and I enjoy meaningful, purposeful relationships.

I don’t deserve the gift of grace God offers me. But I accept it. And from a thankful heart  I seek to offer God’s grace to my children and stepchildren, freely and abundantly.

Ephesians 2:8-9   “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it  is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

How do you show grace toward your stepchildren? Does it make a difference in your relationship?

Related Posts:

The Perfect Opportunity for Grace

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

The Perfect Opportunity for Grace

“I’m failing my International Business class,” my stepson Payton relayed to me through tears. “It doesn’t matter how much I study, I don’t do well on Ms. Cantrell’s tests and I’m afraid it’s too late in the semester to pull my grade up to passing.”

As a 3rd year college student, Payton understands the consequences of failing a class at this stage of the game. Although he had a history of neglecting assignments in high school, he doesn’t want to fail and we’ve talked on several occasions about the importance of applying himself in his upper-level college courses.

“If you’ve done the best you can, there’s no point in berating yourself over it,” I said. “Sometimes we can’t foresee the difficulty of a class for us until it’s too late.”

A business major myself as a young college student, I went on to tell Payton my struggle in Accounting at the undergraduate level. I hated the subject and couldn’t grasp the concepts. But it was required to advance in my major and after making a “D” the first semester, I was forced to take the class again.

Payton was broken over his inability to pass the class. I immediately sensed his need for grace as he talked to me. There was no need for consequences as I knew the natural consequences of his actions would be enough.

In my early years of stepparenting, I didn’t offer grace freely enough to my stepchildren. When they did wrong, it was easier to harbor anger and build up resentment toward them. Forgiveness and grace didn’t flow easily.

But I’ve learned that the person who suffers the most from that unforgiving spirit is me. My stepchildren don’t see the bitter feelings I’m carrying around or sense its strangling hold on my spirit. They only see the fallout of my feelings through angry words or inappropriate behavior.

I love the acronym that illustrates God’s grace for us: God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. As we celebrated Easter this past Sunday, I was reminded of God’s sacrifice for us. His grace is more than we can ever comprehend. And although we’ll never be asked to illustrate that kind of grace, we are given the opportunity to offer grace every day to those living around us - our imperfect stepchildren who need it more than we realize.

How can you illustrate grace today?

Related Posts:

Healthy Stepparenting: Don’t Keep Score

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Coping with Difficult People

Angry. Humiliated. Disgruntled. I left our church choir rehearsal with a flood of emotions circulating through my mind. As a piano accompanist, I had been belittled in front of the choir. It wasn’t the first time it had happened but I vowed it would be the last.

I knew it was time to confront the person in charge who touted his musical knowledge in a fashion that humiliated those who worked for him. A peacemaker by nature, I don’t like conflict. But I’ve learned there are times we must confront those in our path who are mistreating us.

That doesn’t mean we recreate the conflict or nitpick issues that should be overlooked. As a stepparent, we can recognize the losses our stepchildren carry, and allow grace for their troubled emotions. As my post, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff talks about, we want to pick our battles. But it’s important to realize that even as Christians, we do not have to allow others to mistreat or take advantage of  us.

In their book, Peacemaking Women, Tara Barthel and Judy Dabler talk about the need to confront. “As difficult as it is, sometimes we are called to go humbly to the people who have wronged us in order to help them to understand better how they have contributed to our conflicts. Of course, when appropriate, we should be quick to overlook (Prov 19:11), and we must always first confess our own sins (Matt 7:5). But if after we have confessed our own sins we cannot overlook the offense, we are called to help the person who has offended us by gently restoring her (Gal 6:1) and helping her remove the speck from her eye (Matt 7:5).

I like the way these ladies describe our responsbility in the conflict – try to overlook and confess our own sin first if that’s part of the conflict. Then, if we cannot overlook the offense, humbly confront. The Scripture they give offers additional understanding of the Biblical view on conflict. 

In my conflict mentioned above, the choir director and I reached an amicable agreement in how he would treat me at rehearsal. It took courage on my part to confront his actions, but the result was worth the effort.

I pray you’re not dealing with difficult people today. But if you are, I encourage you to seek a Biblical solution to the conflict by overlooking the offense when you can, and confronting in love when you can’t.

Are you allowing a difficult person to badger or bully you? 

Related Posts:

The Need for Boundaries as a Stepparent

Healthy Stepparenting: Take Care of Yourself Spiritually, Physically, and Emotionally

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

The Value of a Supportive Spouse

With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s a great time to show your spouse what you appreciate about him/her. And if your spouse is a stepparent, make an extra effort to validate his efforts and the important role he plays in the life of your child.

It’s so easy to get distracted with our kids and forget to let our spouse know how important he/she is to us. My husband is a much better encourager than I am and I often take for granted his words of love and support. But without his support, I would have given up on my stepparenting role.

During my stepkid’s adolescent years, it seemed I was emotionally attacked regularly. If someone was unhappy, I became the target for their anger. But thankfully, my husband stood up for me and required that I be treated with respect.

One of the best gifts we can give our spouse if he/she is a stepparent is the gift of support. Stepparenting is a difficult role and if we don’t feel that our spouse is supporting our efforts, it’s easy to give up. There are a lot of ways to show support but here are a few to consider:

Thank him for being a parent to your child.
Compliment his stepparenting efforts.
Require that your children are respectful toward him.
Affirm his worth as your spouse.
Offer him grace when he messes up.
Cook his favorite meal.
Enjoy an evening together without the kids.
Put his needs before yours.
Make your relationship a priority.

If you’re a stepparent also, and you’re not getting the support you need from your spouse, ask for it! Your spouse cannot read your mind and may not realize the struggle you’re experiencing.

Marriage is a union between two people that requires constant nurturing. But the rewards of our efforts far outweigh the work.

How do you show support to your spouse? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Be An Encourager

Nurture Your Marriage

The Value of Prioritizing Your Marriage

Friday’s Fav Scripture – "My Grace is Sufficient for You"

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)

I don’t know about you, but I often feel weak and inadequate in my parenting and stepparenting role. I love this Scripture because it speaks of the Apostle Paul’s need for Christ’s power to rest on him and supply the grace and strength he needs.

I can relate. I cannot adequately perform my role as a wife, mother, and stepmother without Christ’s help. I’m thankful for His willingness to walk this path with me.

As we move toward the week of Thanksgiving, I want to offer thanks for the unending grace, strength and power I can access.

What about you? Do you need to recognize Christ’s strength or grace today?

Related Posts:

Friday’s Fav Scripture – “I Will Strengthen You”

Be Anxious for Nothing

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Nathan, 2010

“Mom, I’m sorry my friend was talking like that in front of you,” my nine year old son, Nathan, said as I put him to bed last night. He was referring to some crude language a neighbor was using while playing at our house. My son knew the comments were offensive to me.

I appreciated my son’s sweet attitude toward my feelings. I was reminded of the blessing of his sensitive spirit because I haven’t always experienced that with my other children. Nathan is the only child my husband and I have together, and I believe God gave me a caring, affectionate, I’m-gonna-take-care-of-my-momma boy to make up for some of the hurt and agony I’ve experienced with my stepchildren.

When I married my husband, my stepson was five. Because I had two girls, I didn’t know much about raising a son but I dreamed of cheering him on at ballgames, hearing about his first girlfriend, and enjoying big hugs snuggled on the couch. Unfortunately, most of those dreams have not come true.

My stepson’s mother was an active part of his life as a young boy and she didn’t like me being involved. My authority was undermined and my behavior was criticized. It seemd as if I was on trial constantly regarding what I said or how I disciplined my stepchildren. If I made a wrong move, my husband would hear about it.

I didn’t know how to stop feeling like I was competing with my stepson’s mother in every arena. When I attended ballgames, all I heard was, “Way to go son. Stike him out son. Hit it over the fence son.” My insecurity in my stepmother role kept me from actively participating at ballgames or school events when his mom was there.

The loyalty my stepson showed toward his mother was obvious. I was kept at arm’s length because it was too complicated to show love toward his stepmother.The risk of hurting his mom’s feelings was too great.

I learned to live with little expectation in my relationship with my stepson. It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but it became a survival technique for me. As he grew older, the relationship showed signs of developing, but when his mom died unexpectedly when he was 15 years old, the loyalty issues returned, preventing him from moving forward in a relationship with me.

God has seen every struggle with my stepson. He knows my heart and acknowledges my hurt from years’ past. When I was expecting our youngest child, I wanted another girl. I had been through so much pain with my stepson that I couldn’t imagine starting over with another boy.

But God knew what I needed. He has used our sweet son, Nathan, to heal my hurts and bandage my wounds. Through His grace, He gave me a gift I can’t replace. Nathan is affectionate and loving toward me every day. He is not a perfect child but he shows me unconditional love and emotional attachment like no other child. I can only explain it through God’s grace.

I would not appreciate Nathan’s unconditional love for me without the pain of the past. But with God’s redeeming love, I can enjoy a relationship with my son that I could only dream of before.

Have you seen evidences of God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Related posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

Healthy Stepparenting: Don’t Keep Score

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting: Offer Grace

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting

During my stepson’s adolescent years, he often lashed out at me with hateful looks and angry words. I was caught up with feelings of injustice and couldn’t see his emotional pain.

When a friend said to me, “Hurting people hurt people,” it began to make sense. My stepson had situations in his life that he didn’t like and couldn’t control and therefore, took his feelings out on the nearest target: me.

I couldn’t always offer forgiveness readily but I would find a way to get to that point. I knew our relationship would never develop if I couldn’t act as the adult and do the right thing, regardless of his actions.

Our pastor offered some insightful thoughts on forgiveness today that I think are worth sharing. It doesn’t make forgiveness any easier but it does remind us of our role.

1. Forgiveness is always the responsibility of the person who is injured. When my stepchild offends me, I can’t wait until he offers an apology to forgive him. It is my responsibility to offer forgiveness, regardless of his actions.

2. Forgiveness is usually based on grace. I love this one! We don’t forgive others only when we think they deserve it. They may never deserve our forgiveness. But I didn’t deserve the forgiveness Christ offered me on the cross either.

3. Forgiveness might bring mutual peace. But then again, it might not. Offering our forgiveness doesn’t guarantee it will be accepted. The relationship may not be reconciled through our amends. But we can find peace through our forgiving actions.

We often become so focused on our own problems that we don’t recognize the loss and pain our stepchildren are suffering.

It isn’t easy being a stepparent. But it isn’t easy being a stepchild either.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Do you need to offer forgiveness to someone today?

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

My youngest son just came back from his first overnight church camp. He told me story after story of the fun he had with his friends and the memories he made on the campground.

But then, with tears in his eyes, he told me of the many talks they had of what Jesus has done for us and the love and grace He offers us, undeserved.

As we come to the end of our posts on creating a stable stepfamily, I am reminded of the most important element of creating a stable stepfamily: offer love and grace freely to your stepchildren. Even when they don’t deserve it.

Stable relationships are formed as we show our stepchildren we love them on good days and bad, offering forgiveness to them, undeserved. It’s not easy to do and can only be accomplished through God’s strength, but will make a long-term difference in our relationships.

How can you show love and grace to your family this week-end?

Have a happy 4th of July and spend some quality time with your stepchildren!


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