Archive for the 'Fear' Category

When the Unexpected Happens in Your Stepfamily

This month marks the eight year anniversary of the loss of my stepchildren’s mother after a fierce battle with colon cancer. It’s always a hard month for them as they reflect on life without her.

When I married my husband, I had no way of knowing such a tragedy would occur. We could have never prepared ourselves for the difficult season that followed her death.

But unfortunately, it happened. And it’s not the only difficult issue we’ve dealt with in our stepfamily. I’m sure there have been challenging circumstances in your family too, that you could have never foreseen when you married. So, how do you cope when the unexpected happens?

For me, I strive to live by faith instead of allowing fear to control me. You see, fear and faith don’t go together. If I’m allowing faith to guide me, I won’t be controlled by fear.

In her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow says, “Faith enables us to be content even when life doesn’t make sense. Faith is the bulwark that keeps us strong even when we’re assailed by agonizing thoughts about what might happen or by what has happened. …Faith is believing God is true to His word when my feelings are screaming out something different. Faith is completing my small part of the picture/puzzle without being able to see the finished product.”

Faith allows me to take the next step that seems right for me, even when I don’t have all the answers, trusting God will guide me. Fear paralyzes me from making any kind of move, convincing me every move will be the wrong one.

If I focus on the challenge that seems insermountable instead of focusing on the reality of God’s provision to meet my needs, I invite stress into my home. I love the quote I read recently by Joyce Meyers, “The person who really understands the grace of God will not worry. Worrying is trying to figure out what to do to save yourself rather than trusting in God for deliverance.”

When my husband lost his job last year, once again we faced the unexpected. Re-locating out of state, leaving three children behind in college, has not been easy. But I take intentional steps every day to allow faith to guide me instead of letting fear paralyze me.

I’ve heard it said there are 365 “fear not” verses in the Bible. Isn’t that interesting? God knows the stronghold of fear and gives us a verse every day to rely on for strength and comfort.

So where are you at on your stepfamily journey? Have you faced the unexpected?

Do you allow fear or faith to guide you? Will you share it with us?

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Related Posts:

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Struggle You Face

Expect the Unexpected

Stepfamily Detours – Where Are You Headed?

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

A Glimpse Into One Stepmom’s Story: The Good and the Bad

She was looking forward to some time alone as her husband left for a business trip to India. With three stepchildren in the throes of the teen years, life wasn’t easy. Married for less than two years, she had no idea the challenges that would erupt when she wed.   

But she had signed up for the journey. When she said, “I do,” she committed to be a part of her stepchildren’s lives and wasn’t going to give up now. As a corporate executive, she had been through tough times before.

So how would she counter the hard days in her stepfamily? How would she keep going when her stepfamily relationships were struggling?

She educated herself to deal with the challenges. She read stepparenting books. She attended Ron Deal’s stepfamily conference. She sought counseling. She united with her husband to stay afloat. She read God’s word. She prayed.

And she stayed active in her stepchildren’s lives, even when it might appear they didn’t want her there. Soccer games, dentist appointments, band rehearsals, and a host of other kid activities made their way to her calendar. She sought to show love and support to her stepchildren in whatever way possible.

She altered her work schedule to allow more time at home when her stepchildren were there. She stepped off the corporate ladder and chose to work from home as much as possible.

And she committed to a new life that included love and rejection, smiles and glares, happiness and exasperation, and contentment and doubt.

Would she trade it for a different life? Some days, yes.

But will she quit? No

Although she yearned for time alone with her husband out of town, she opted to spend time with her stepchildren. When her 16-year-old stepson called and offered to mow the lawn, she welcomed him. After he finished, she offered to take him to dinner and  asked if he would go to church with her that evening and he agreed. At dinner, they carried on meaningful conversation about  his goals and future opportunities. She encouraged him to steadily work toward his aspirations.

When she dropped him at his mom’s that evening, her stepdaughter came out to say hello. After a brief hug and a few remarks about her first week of school, her stepdaughter retreated inside and she returned home for the evening, thankful for a good day as a stepmom.

A caregiver book I’m reading, Strength for the Moment, tells the story of a man who volunteered to care for an aging man–one who was a hermit and hoarder. The caregiver bonded with the man, Howie, and adjusted to a daily routine of caring for him. After dementia and Parkinson’s disease took control of Howie, he was forced to be moved to a nursing home. But the caregiver continued to visit him, unable to neglect the love he felt for the man. After leaving the nursing home one day, distraught that Howie was still alive when he was such a burden on others, he asked God why He didn’t take Howie home.  Suddenly he realized, “Howie was there for me! God was teaching me how to love someone even when he offerered nothing in return.”

As stepparents, we all face days when our stepchildren offer nothing in return. We want to turn our backs and start down a different road. But as one caregiver discovered,  God can teach us how to love others, even on days they offer nothing in return.

And God can teach us to be thankful on days our stepchildren offer love and laughter too – because those are the days that keep us going.

I applaud my sister, Jan, for continuing a stepmother road that has not been easy. The good and the bad – it’s all part of the stepparenting journey. But blessings abound for those who persevere. Love ya sis!

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Do you agree? What blessings have you experienced as a stepparent? I would love to hear about them.

Related Posts:

As a Stepparent, You’re An Olympic Champion!

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Are You Willing To Go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Six Steps for Coping With Stepfamily Storms

 Over the week-end, we braved severe storms with damaging tornadoes in Central Arkansas. My family and I retreated to our “fraidy hole” more than once to seek protection from our frightful surroundings.

As I listened to the blare of tornado sirens and attempted to comfort my tearful 9-year-old son, I reflected on what options we have during storms. I compared weather storms to emotional storms that occur in stepfamilies. I thought about ways we can cope during stepfamily storms that allow a healthy outcome without a lot of damage. Here are a few steps to consider:

1. Stay calm – don’t overreact. It’s easy to raise your voice and exaggerate what kind of storm you’re dealing with during times of conflict. Solutions don’t emerge naturally when emotions are heightened . If you find yourself out of sorts, it’s best to take a time out and leave the conflict. Be sure to come back later and address the difficulty.

2. Pray for wisdom and guidance for the situation. Find a time and place to be still and listen for God’s direction. Meditate on Scripture and be patient as you search for answers.  James 1:5 tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

3. Brainstorm and talk through your options with another person. Seek out an objective party who can help you sort through your emotions and solutions for the conflict. Find a pastor, counselor, or friend who has your best interest at heart and can offer a healthy opinion. My husband and I used a professional counselor in the early years of our marriage to help us get unstuck during periods of heavy conflict.

4. Wait it out. Many times, storms dissipate with time. Don’t jump to conclusions or insist on taking steps that might make matters worse. When my stepson chose to continue living with his stepdad after his mom died, we were devastated. My husband could have demanded that he come live with us right after the funeral, but he believed it would alienate his adolescent son and cause further pain. We waited out his decision, tormented by some of his choices over the next year. Finally my stepson came to live with us with a willing heart after he took the time he needed to grieve with his stepdad and older sister.

5. Take one step at a time when the conditions are right. As solutions emerge, move slowly toward resolution. Take the next healthy step toward reconciling with those involved. Don’t expect harmony overnight but do your part to mend relationships.

6. Maintain a positive attitude and trust God for the results. We may not see an end to our storm, but we can trust God with the results. I love this quote by E.L. Doctorow as applied to stepfamily challenges: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” We may not understand what’s happening around us or see an end in sight but we can choose to keep going anyway while we Let Go and Let God. (AA slogan)

Storms are frightening. We won’t always react as we should or take the right steps, but if we refuse to give up on our stepfamily relationships, we will find solutions in our storms.

Other Posts You Might Like:

It’s Always Too Early to Quit

Confront Conflict Head-On

Conquering Conflict: Get a Grip on Your Pride

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Struggle You Face

I just finished reading God Enough: Trusting God when Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Kasey Lowery Ewing. It’s a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness through a horrific loss as Kasey tells her story of losing her two-year-old son in an accident.

But it’s not an easy story to read. As a mom/stepmom, I can identify with Kasey’s raw emotions and personal struggle over a situation she can’t control. I understand her need to make sense of something she can never make sense of. And I admire her courage to heal her broken heart and look to the Lord for guidance for her tough questions and comfort for her pain.

Kasey writes about a close childhood friend who watched her daddy die of cancer and offers a statement her friend wrote in her grief: “It is well with my soul, but I am not alright.”

Kasey says, “This one quote resonated very deep inside me and describes how I felt that summer after Jake’s death. I was not okay, but it was well with my soul. There was a deep underlying trust that God was going to get us through.”

I”ve felt that same way with our stepfamily struggles many times – I was not okay but I trusted God would see us through. The future was uncertain but I knew God had a plan.

Can you relate? Are you facing a struggle in your stepfamily that you don’t have answers for? Trust that God will see you through. Ask Him the tough questions, expectantly waiting for answers.

As we look to a new year it’s easy to identify what went wrong last year and what we want to change this year. But if we do it on our own accord, we will fail. Only as we seek and trust the Lord for answers will we find the right answers for our struggles.

Do you believe God is enough? Did you see God’s hand in your stepfamily struggles last year? Will you encourage others and share them with us?

Related Posts:

“Will You Trust Me?” said the Lord

Making Resolutions that Count

Let Go and Let God

“Will You Trust Me?” Says the Lord.

As I sat in the unfamiliar church service with strangers on every side, I felt the tears begin to roll down my cheeks. “I miss my church back in Conway,” I told the Lord. “I miss my friends. I miss my kids. Why did we have to move out of state? Starting over in a new community feels overwhelming to me. I’m not sure I can do this.”

“Will you trust me?” the Lord said to me. “Will you trust my ways, even if you don’t like them?”

I’ve considered that conversation with the Lord almost every day the past few weeks. I wish I could say that my heart and attitude about our move has been transformed since hearing the Lord speak to me. I wish I could say that I’ve quit questioning why and simply accept our circumstances. But as hard as I’ve tried, I’m still struggling with contentment surrounding our move many days.

I recognize my anxious feelings and questioning ways from previous stepfamily challenges. I recall questioning the Lord on more than one occasion as I sought to understand what was happening in our family.

“Will you trust me?” the Lord said, when my stepdaughter went to live with her mom over 300 miles away. “Will you trust my ways?” the Lord said, when my stepson was allowed to stay with his stepdad after his mom died instead of immediately moving to our house. “Will you trust me to provide?” the Lord said, when I lost my job shortly after my husband and I married.

And in every challenge we’ve faced, I’ve seen the Lord’s faithfulness. I’ve felt His presence most on days I was forced to lean on Him for answers and comfort.

So I’ve learned to trust Him. I trust His ways. I trust His plan. I trust His direction in my life. Even when I don’t like the direction He sends me. Even when I don’t understand the outcome. And especially, when I don’t see the big picture. I trust Him. Do you?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:8,9)

Related Posts:

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

There’s Beauty After the Pain

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Unexpected Stepparenting Moments

*Note to Readers: Our out-of-state move begins next week. My blogging will be sporadic for the next month but I hope to return to a regular schedule by late summer.

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. A milestone. I had great plans for a leisurely morning on my son’s first day of summer, while considering a movie before going to dinner with my girlfriends. (With my husband working out of state, I planned my own celebration). But my plans went completely awry.

“I’m headed to the Emergency Room,” I heard my stepson, Payton, say on the other end of the phone as I scrambled out of bed. “I’m in severe pain in my lower back and don’t know what to do.” I sensed panic in his voice and tried to calm  his fears. “Let me call the doctor and try to get you in. You will sit for hours at the ER,” I said. “Come to the house so I can help you.”

Less than an hour later we were waiting in the doctor’s office, my stepson barely able to sit on the exam table.The doctor explained that it appeared he had a kidney stone and would need to wait it out, pushing fluids and surviving on pain meds while praying the stone would pass on its own. I suspected that was the diagnosis we would hear and I think my stepson was relieved it wasn’t anything more serious. But kidney stones are not fun to deal with.

I dropped Payton at our house to rest while I picked up his pain medicine. Upon returning, I found him curled in a fetal position, trying to cope with the pain. He took the medicine and began a steady intake of fluids. As the medicine began to take effect, he dozed off quietly.

He stayed at the house most of the day while I encouraged fluid intake and resting. He expressed sincere appreciation for my help during his time of need. He knew it was my birthday and apologized for the inconvenience. But I was thankful I could help.

I reflected on the day later with my sister and she remarked, “That’s just how life goes, isn’t it?” It was okay that I didn’t get to enjoy a leisurely morning or make it to the movies. I did enjoy a special dinner with dear friends that evening as we celebrated my birthday. And I cherished the fact that I was able to help my stepson through a difficult day.

Critical stepparenting moments occur when we least expect them. But if we take the time to rise to the occasion, those are the moments most appreciated by our stepchildren.

Have you experienced unexpected stepparenting moments lately?

Related Posts:

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

When Stepparenting Isn’t What You Expected

Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

I have a good friend who is raising her step-granddaughter because her stepdaughter has proven too unstable for the responsibility. I have another friend who could be assuming full custody with her husband of her three stepchildren because their biological mom continues to struggle on the road of addiction.

Difficult happenings on the stepparenting journey that cannot be predicted. They’re all around us. As a stepparent, will you muster the effort and energy to go the extra mile when your family road takes a turn of events?

I believe we are called to do whatever it takes to keep our family intact if we sign up for the role by saying, “I do.” We unite with our spouse as a team and commit to minister to our stepchildren through the ups and downs of stepparenting. It doesn’t mean the road will be easy, but God will give us the strength and power to sustain us on the road He allows us to walk.

In their book, The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal acknowledge some of the complex issues that can show up unexpectedly on the stepparenting journey and how a smart stepmom deals with them. Here are a few thoughts to ponder:

“A Smart Stepmom:

– discovers the things she can control and releases the things she can’t.

– is prepared. She isn’t naive or ambused by complex stepfamily issues and is flexible to cope with matters that she didn’t see coming.

– is constantly growing and learning about wise stepparenting and parenting techniques.

– has a strong support system with other women who share her values.

– recognizes that there are limits to her contributions to decision-making regarding her stepchildren’s lives

– accepts that sometimes being a stepmother is going to be unfair and lonely.

– acknowledges that she may not see the fruit of her sacrifices until the children become adults.

– believes that her value is determined by the price Jesus paid for her and that she is precious in God’s eyes. This awareness offers her enduring peace even in challenging circumstances.”

Has your stepparening journey taken an unexpected turn? How are you coping?

Related Posts:

Coping with Fear

Discovering God’s Grace in my Stepfamily

Dear Stepparent: Never Underestimate Your Value with Your Stepchildren


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