Archive for the 'Change' Category

The Blessing of an “Ours” Baby

I was approaching 40 years old. My husband and I had four children already – we each brought two from our previous marriage. My husband had had a vasectomy almost ten years prior. How could we even consider having a child together?

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I wanted a child with my husband. We knew the odds were against us. But we chose to claim God’s promise and do our part to make it happen.

The doctor was frank. “You have less than a 50% success rate because of your age and the length of time since the original surgery. But I’ll do the surgery if you’d like.”

We agreed. It appeared to be successful. Two months later, I was pregnant. Three months shy of my 40th birthday, I delivered a healthy baby boy. Praise the Lord!

Nathan turns 12 years old today. He has been a complete joy to our family.  He is the common thread we all share. And he is the one child my husband and I can enjoy and raise without any outside influences.

Gayla, nathan

But having an “ours” baby is not for everyone. For some, it’s not even an option. And if you’re considering it, I don’t recommend doing it immediately after marriage. My husband and I were married five years before we began the process.

There are sacrifices to an “ours” baby. Many times, there is an age gap between an “ours” baby and other children. Vacations become harder to navigate when you’re planning activities for a wide range of ages. In addition, other children in the family can become sensitive to playing favorites with the “ours” child.

And of course, there’s another mouth to feed. Current statistics say it costs more than a quarter of a million dollars to raise a child to 18 years old. Add college expenses on top of that.  We currently have three children in college. We have put braces on five sets of teeth. We have paid for glasses or contacts for four of our five children. We have bought and insured a bunch of cars. And the list goes on.

But do I regret our decision of an  “ours” baby? Absolutely not.  The financial and personal sacrifices we have made can never outweigh the joy of the only child my husband and I share together. I will be forever thankful for our blessing, Nathan Cole Grace.

Do you have an “ours” baby? Are you hoping for an “ours” baby? Please share and I’ll be happy to pray with you about it.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

When God Says Wait

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Count Your Blessings

What Stage of Remarriage Are You In?

I was recently talking to a stepmom who’s struggling in her role with her stepdaughter. In hearing some history of the relationship, I could see the normal progression that often happens in stepfamilies with various stages of integration. How a stepfamily navigates the stages of remarriage determines the success or failure of long-term relationships.

monkey fami

As noted in Dick Dunn’s booklet, New Faces in the Frame, most stepfamilies work through a progression of stages.  We start out in the infatuation/honeymoon phase and everything is grand. Many couples at this stage are blind to the difficulties they will encounter as a stepfamily. They negate their children’s feelings about their relationship and refuse to listen to others’ opinions.

But it’s not long before things begin to change and we move into the questioning phase and begin to wonder, “What have I done?” “Why did I think this would work?” During the questioning stage of my remarriage, I reflected on how it seemed easier to be a single parent than cope with the daily challenges in our new family. I had committed to my new marriage, however, “for better or for worse,” and endeavored to continue the journey. For many remarriages, the questioning stage will make or break a family.

The most critical stage: the crisis stage comes next. Levels of crisis vary from minor bumps to major explosions, but this stage represents a turning point in which family members seek change. Challenges build until someone reaches for help. It’s a productive stage if families confront the problems and begin to find solutions. Unfortunately, many couples give up and call it quits at this stage.

The last three stages usually occur somewhere between the second and fifth year of remarriage. Complicated stepfamilies that include children from both partners will likely take longer. It’s also not unusual for stages to be re-visited. But as families reach the latter stages, hope begins to surface and tensions begin to ease.

The possibility stage offers positive thinking toward improved relationships. Following the crisis stage, the stepcouple emerges with renewed energy to seek family harmony. After struggling for years, the family begins to unite. Broken relationships begin to heal and day-to-day life appears easier.

The growth stage follows on the heels of possibility. Although there has been some growth from the beginning, families in this stage recognize a steady pace of growth, with more steps forward than backward. Family members feel accepted by one another and problems are resolved quickly when they arise. Stepparents feel comfortable in their roles and tension with ex-spouses has eased.

The last stage: the reward stage is reached only after years of intentional effort. For many stepfamilies, it is never reached because they give up. But for those who persevere, the reward of harmonious relationships and sense of accomplishment from a united family outweighs the burden of what it cost to get there.

Stepfamilies offer children a chance to heal from broken relationships while learning how healthy relationships relate to one another. Researcher James Bray published results from a ten-year study with stepfamilies that indicated a healthy, stable stepfamily can help overcome some of the negative psychological effects of divorce. And while remarriage with children may be challenging, intentional effort and commitment can lead to satisfaction and reward in the long run.

To see my complete article on the stages of remarriage,  published in Calgary’s Child Magazine this month, go here.

What stage of remarriage is your family in? Have you successfully navigated some of these stages? I would love to hear about it!

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marital and Parenting Issues

Debunking Stepfamily Myths: Do You Get Caught in Their Web?

Don’t Settle for Mediocrity in Your Remarriage

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

I love watching the giddiness of pre-married couples in our stepfamily class. They are in love and somewhat blinded to what lies ahead. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thankfully, they’re trying to educate themselves on how to do stepfamily life before marriage. It’s a beautiful season of refreshment.

We have another couple about four years down the road and they’re definitely in the stepfamily trenches. With a few years under their belt, the kids are questioning their authority and as teen-agers, trying to separate from the family. The stepparents express frustration and bewilderment in how to move forward with their relationships.

It’s a hard period that can last several years before resolving the challenges. During this season, stepfamily authority Ron Deal says, “You must learn to endure disharmony.” I completely agree. It’s a season of challenge.

If you make it through the season of challenge, you move into the season of rewards. During this period, stepchildren decide you’re okay as their stepparent, and regardless of what the other parent might say about you, the stepchild chooses to love and respect you because of the significant role you’ve played that they’ve learned to appreciate. The relationship isn’t perfect, but it’s special. Unfortunately, many stepparents never make it to this season because they’re not willing to endure the season of challenge.

The next season is the season of celebration. The stepchildren leave home and become productive citizens. They aren’t making perfect choices in all areas of life but they’re functioning on their own without your daily assistance. They stay in touch regularly (especially when they need money :)) and the relationship is generally positive and hopeful.

Other seasons follow (like grandparenting seasons) but I’m stopping here to give thanks that we’ve made it to the season of celebration. My stepchildren aren’t perfect and I don’t agree with all their choices, but they’ve launched from the nest and at 22 and 27 years old, are coping well as young adults. My husband and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this month and I’m continually grateful we didn’t quit during the season of challenge. Yes, there were times we wanted to, but those times are now behind us. And they will pass for you too if you learn to endure the disharmony and commit to the end.

I look forward to the years ahead with my husband. Although we worked through a lot of disharmony during our season of challenge, it’s seems a small sacrifice now for the seasons that follow.We still have one child at home but there are fewer disagreements and stressful circumstances to deal with since it’s our child together.

Are you in a difficult season? Will you commit to endure your season of challenge so you can enjoy the seasons that follow? 

Related Posts:

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Change: A Friend or A Foe in Your Stepfamily?

It’s been one year since my husband and I and our youngest son re-located to Louisiana. We left our home of 11 years and three kids behind in college in Conway, AR. Thankful for a fresh start after the company my husband worked for closed, we embarked on a new beginning with bittersweet feelings.

Within a few days of the move I was overcome with grief. Making it through the afternoon without a spell  of tears became a rare event. I wrote about my feelings last August in my post, “Will You Trust Me?” Says the Lord.

Living in a different town than three of my children proved harder than I anticipated. Although two of them were already living on their own before we moved, I was accustomed to unannounced visits several times a week and lunch dates whenever our schedules allowed. The realization of how quickly our empty nest was approaching became a stark reality that seemed unbearable with only one child living in the same town with us.

Change is hard. And unwelcome change is even harder. I realized I had a choice: I could become better or bitter.

In her book, When I Lay My Isaac Down, Carol Kent writes of a change that forever altered her life as a parent. “This book is the story of two parents who received the devastating news that their remarkable son, a young lieutenant in the Navy, had committed a crime so unthinkable it was impossible to believe.” Their son was arrested and convicted for the murder of his wife’s ex-husband, the father of his two stepdaughters.

Kent describes the agonizing process she went through in coming to terms with the reality that her son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy with an impeccable military record, murdered another man, and how she learned to cope with it. Her story doesn’t have a happy ending; her son is sentenced to life in prison. But Kent chooses to accept the unwelcome event that abruptly changed her future, and walk by faith to find purpose in her suffering.

Her emotional and spiritual agony brought her to a new understanding of faith: “I have found that the greatest power of faith lies not in how we think we might use it to conquer challenges we’re sure a loving God would not put in our path, but in how we live–with courage, passion, and purpose–in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable, obstacles.”

As stepparents, we often live in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable, obstacles. Change knocks on our door as an unwelcome visitor through custody battles, unending schedule modifications, parental alienation, or a variety of other difficult circumstances. But we can choose to live with “courage, passion, and purpose” as we face unwelcome change with a steadfast faith.

Oswald Chambers says, “Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason–a life of knowing Him who calls us to go.”

I’ll never understand why God led my husband to a new job four hours away from three of our children. But I’m learning to accept the change and embrace God’s plan for my stepfamily, even if I don’t like it. I trust the One who is leading me and seek to face each day with hope through God’s strength.

What about you? What change has your stepfamily experienced and how did you cope? I would love to hear about it.

Related Posts:

The Valley of the Unknown

Coping with Change

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

How Do You Cope When Your Season of Life Takes an Abrupt Turn?

Mother’s Day is Coming: How Will You Celebrate as a Stepmom?

In honor of Mother’s Day last year, Heather Hetchler and I put together an e-book of encouraging stories written by stepmoms for stepmoms. We offered the book, Stepping with Purpose, to bring hope to stepmoms who often have a difficult day on Mother’s Day.

The ebook is still available on my website and Heather’s,  but for the next few weeks  I want to post some stories from the book. I hope you find encouragement from them as we approach Mother’s Day.

Acceptance by Jackie Brown

 There are many events in our lives that are life changing; marriage, childbirth, divorce, death and remarriage. I remarried in October 2006 and I became an “instant full-time stepmom” in February 2008. My husband and I received a phone call on the way home from a beach trip in late February 2008 informing us that my stepdaughter’s mother was in the hospital with heart problems and may not live through the night. Hope’s mother passed away four months later.

My dreams did not consist of being a full-time stepmom at this time of my life. My sons were grown, and raising a child again was a very devastating thought to me. I was still a newlywed and had plans and dreams of traveling with my husband and spending time together. I was also used to going and coming as I wanted. My husband works in the evenings so I had “me” time while he was at work to do things that I wanted to do.

Having a stepchild come into your home to live is very challenging. There can be a war of wills since everyone is adjusting to different lifestyles. I realized my stepchild was entering a different environment in which she had to abide by different rules, habits and traditions. I learned to be patient.

Having my stepdaughter 24/7 was not what I planned. My life became a roller coaster of angry, sad, unhappy, and at times, depressed feelings. The reality is that “I” suffered a loss too … a loss of the way things were and the way I wanted them to be. I learned firsthand that there are many things you have to accept in the role of being a full-time stepmom:

Accept that your time, space and privacy are different than they once were.

Accept that being a stepmom is unfair and lonely at times.

Accept that you may not see the fruits of your sacrifices until the stepchildren become adults.

Accept that there will be many sacrifices that go unnoticed.

After some time and crying out to God, I realized that I had to ACCEPT these circumstances. In the dictionary, acceptance is the “willingness to receive or to welcome.” To accept, you have to believe. You have to come to terms with a reality and choose to live in spite of it. Acceptance has been (and still is at times) a huge battle for me. Here are some things that have helped me through this:

First, I firmly believe this is God’s will for my life at this time. I know without a doubt this is not an accident. I feel that I was put in Hope’s life and she was put in my life for a reason that only God knows. There have been times that I questioned the why’s, but I’m trying to live with acceptance and faith.

Accept this time in your life and take the steps needed to honor God in this. Trust God in ALL areas of your life.

Second, have a plan or a vision about your relationship with your stepchildren. think about your impact and influence on the child today and how it will impact them later in life. What you put into this relationship is what you will get out of it. Spend time with them developing traditions just the two of you have together and traditions as a family. My stepdaughter and I do a Bible study together at Starbucks. It gives us both a time of talking and getting to know each other.

Be yourself with your stepchild and realize that you and her are different. Develop a relationship of trust, love, and guidance.

Give the relationship time to develop. It will not happen overnight. Have patience during this time.

Third, take time alone to unwind, release and relax doing what you enjoy doing – hobbies, exercise, blogging, journaling. Do whatever releases stress for you. Don’t keep stress bottled up. Also, make time to spend alone with your spouse. Have a regular date night without the children.

Finally, have a sense of humor. Laugh at yourself. Don’t expect things to be perfect. Enjoy this time in your life with all the ups and downs and struggles and rewards that come with a stepmom.

In closing, understand that life is just hard at times. As women, we juggle the responsibilities of wife, mom, stepmom, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and employee. Yes, it is scary and unpredictable at times. Recently, my mom told me that I should be honored and humbled that God chose me to be Hope’s stepmom.

Yes, I’m honored and humbled that God chose me. In doing so, He is teaching me to be more like Him. How awesome is that!! And now, I continue on the journey!

Jackie Brown said “I do” for the second time in 2006 to a wonderful man of God. She has two sons, 25 and 28, and step-daughter, 16. You can follow her on her journey at www.stepmomjourneys.blogspot.com.

What has been difficult for you to accept as a stepparent? I would love to hear your comments.

Related Posts:

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

The Beauty of God’s Grace

Five Ways to Create Stronger Stepfamily Relationships

I was married to a physician turned alcoholic in my first marriage, and toward the end of that 11-year-union, I learned to apply the slogans of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to cope with my everyday challenges.

But AA slogans shouldn’t be confined to only problems in alcoholic relationships. When I entered a stepfamily upon marrying the second time, I quickly recognized the value of the AA slogans in stepfamily relationships.

 Here are a few examples of AA slogans and how to use them to create stronger stepfamily relationships:

1) Let go and let God

In the beginning of our marriage,we encountered countless problems in our stepfamily that were beyond my power to fix. I spent wasted time trying to control the situation or find a solution. When I learned to let go and let God be in control, I found the peace I’d been searching for. Solutions to our challenges didn’t surface quickly, but I knew God’s solutions would always be better than mine.

2) Let it begin with me and Be part of the solution, not the problem

As the adult, we need to step up and be the example for forgiveness, kindness, patience, and goodness toward our stepchildren. When they see us model this behavior, they are more likely to extend the same type of behavior toward us.

It’s also our responsibility to work toward a solution. I often see stepparents ruminating over their problems with others instead of seeking solutions. We become what we focus on – will you choose to focus on the problem or a solution?

3) How important is it?

It’s easy to escalate small issues into big boulders. I clearly remember a conflict ten years ago that I created. I insisted that all our children should attend my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My stepdaughter, who was living with her mom at the time and had a strained relationship with me, didn’t want to go. I was angry when my husband couldn’t force her to be there and I made a big deal out of it, creating further conflict with my husband.

Fast forward ten years. My parents are celebrating their 60th annivesary next month. My stepdaughter and I have mended our ways and she wants to participate in the celebration! Many of the battles we deem important enough to fight will work themselves out over time.

4) One day at a time

Building trust takes time, change takes time, healing old wounds takes time; there are no immediate ready-made solutions. This day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon)

Living one day at a time allows us to focus on the problems at hand, letting go of the problems of yesterday, and trusting God with the problems of tomorrow.

5) Keep an open mind

Stepfamily relationships evolve over time.  Sometimes they get worse before they get better. But if we keep an open mind to different solutions when current ones aren’t working and remain flexible as we encounter change, we will have a better chance at long-term success in our relationships.  It’s also important to stay united with our spouse, keeping open to their thoughts and ideas on what is happening in our home.

Other slogans of AA that can be applied to the stepfamily journey also include: Easy does it, first things first, just for today, keep it simple, listen and learn, live and let live, and think. If you’re interested in learning more about their slogans you can go here.  I find Al-Anon resources (for families of alcoholics) helpful also.

I love AA slogans and can find ways to apply them every day. Do you agree?

How will you use an AA slogan to create stronger relationships in your stepfamily or have you applied one already? Will you share it with us?

Related Posts:

As a Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

 

Step-Relationships Change as Time Passes

Our family enjoyed a long Easter week-end with four of our five children home. As I watched our kids interact, I couldn’t help but reminisce of times past when we encountered constant bickering and conflict among them. But now, with four of our children in their young adult years and only one child at home, the relationships have matured and grown beyond what I could have ever expected.

In the Easter picture of the kids, it’s interesting to take note of how they arranged themselves. My two biological daughters are on each end with my stepdaughter in the middle. In early pictures of our family, my bio children always stayed close to each other and stood side by side. But as years have changed their relationsips, they easily assume positions next to their step-siblings.

I would love to give easy, pat answers on how to mold relationships in blended families. But there are no easy answers.

It requires time, perseverance, and unending prayer. It requires constant nurturing of your marriage.  It requires going the extra mile when you don’t feel like it. It requires sacrificing some of your needs and wants for the sake of others.

But I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth the effort.

I know there are days you want to quit. I’ve been there. Especially during the early years of our marriage, I remember thinking that single parenting was easier than trying to blend our family. If my first divorce hadn’t been so painful, I would have probably walked out. But after 16 years as a stepparent, I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

I’m also thankful that step-relationships change as time passes. It’s worth investing your time.

How have your relationships changed? Will you share it with us?

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Nuggets of Wisdom from Co-Author Laura Petherbridge: The Smart Stepmom

Coping with Change

 

 

 

 

 


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