Archive for the 'Prayer' 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

When Stepfamily Pain Overshadows Holiday Joy

The facebook status of my friend was heart-breaking:”After 25 years of working for the same company, my wonderful hard working amazing husband was told he does not have a job. Our world has turned upside down…” A hard situation to face at the holiday season.

sad christmasBut the reality is, we’re all dealing with tough stuff. Stepfamilies, especially, often carry pain throughout the holiday season. So, how do you cope? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Don’t dwell on the negative.  Try to find something positive about your challenging reality. The holiday season when we walked through my stepson’s custody battle was one of the hardest for me. It seemed as if I got out of bed every day with a dark cloud over my head. But I tried to focus on the blessing of the relationship with my husband and his willingness to walk a difficult road together that might not include a happy ending.

2) Trust God’s plan for your family even if you don’t understand it. I love the words of Charles Spurgeon: “When you can’t trace God’s hand, trust His heart.” God wants what’s best for you and your family. However, life is often understood backward;  circumstances don’t make sense with our finite eyes. But we find peace when we trust God’s plan, even if we don’t understand it.

3) Do your part to overcome the pain. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim, wallowing in self-pity. If you’re struggling with a stepfamily challenge that seems to have no end, seek support. Talk with other stepmoms (healthy-minded ones). Find a counselor educated in stepfamily dynamics. Use Scripture and prayer to find answers. But don’t stay stuck in your pain without reaching out.

4) Consider the joy of perseverance.  When I complete a long run as I train for running events, I find joy in the perseverance of completing a 10 or 12 mile run. I know I’ve pushed myself to the limit and I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. The same holds true with stepfamilies. We will be pushed to the limit, but the joy comes in refusing to quit. I’ve written about it more here: “Stepparenting Feels Like I’m Running a Marathon.”

5) Read our holiday e-book for encouragement. Stepmom Heather Hetchler and I wrote our e-book, Unwrapping the Gift of Stepfamily Peace, to offer hope and encouragement to stepparents. We know how difficult the holiday season can be – we’ve walked the road in our own stepfamilies. I hope you’ll consider purchasing and reading the e-book as a gift to yourself.

I don’t know what pain you’re facing in your stepfamily but I pray you don’t allow it to overshadow the joy of the holiday. I want to offer the privilege of praying for you if you share your concerns with me. I’d love to hear from you. “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

I love Lysa TerKeurst’s quote from Unglued: “We can’t always fix our circumstances, but we can always fix our minds on God.”

Are you facing stepfamily pain? Will you commit to a positive perspective and intentional effort to keep it from overshadowing your holiday joy?

Related Posts:

Your Holiday Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Meaningful

Trusting God’s Plan on a Difficult Journey

Is the Heartache of Stepparenting Worth It?

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?

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

 School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  our energy to outside commitments and demanding careers, what do we draw from to deal with the inevitable crises and unexpected irritants that will surely come our way?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

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 11 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.

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:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Count Your Blessings

Will You Commit to Unwavering Effort and Prayers on Your Stepfamily Journey?

“Observe the ant,” the great oriental conquerorTamerlane told his friends. In relating a story from his early life, he said, “I once was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a dilapidated building,where I sat alone for many hours.

 

Wishing to divert my mind from my hopeless situation, I fixed my eyes on an ant carrying a kernel of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I counted its attempts to accomplish this feat. The corn fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the insect persevered. The seventieth time it reached the top. The ant’s accomplishment gave me courage for the moment, and I never forgot the lesson.” (Quoted in Streams in the Desert devotional, from The King’s Business.)

Tamerlane was a Central Asian conqueror and a brilliant military leader in the late 1300s who fought without wavering and gained control of a vast region including Iraq, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Georgia, Russia, and parts of India. He died on an expedition to conquer China.

So how do we relate Tamerlane to our stepfamily journey? Stepparenting requires unwavering effort. And we may not accomplish all that we desire in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we quit.

We may not see the rewards that Tamerlane did either. We might see very few earthly rewards. But God recognizes our efforts and will reward us.

I’ve been praying for a precious two-year-old girl, Stella, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her parents lost her sister, Charlotte, a few years ago to a different illness and were devastated when yet another child was handed a dismal prognosis. Yet, despite the overwhelming odds, their prayers for their daughter’s healing are unwavering.  

As I read the mom’s CaringBridge post this morning, her raw emotions tugged at my heart, but she doesn’t stop asking for a miracle for her baby. Here is an excerpt:

“So it seems the cancer cells are putting pressure on the brain causing Stella to have seizures. They currently have her heavily sedated while they attempt to control the seizures. As far as I am concerned nothing revealed on the current MRI will change that this is a setback and we have to push on. Dr Saylors confirms this and we are not quitting hoping and praying that our final result will be the complete healing of our Stella Rose.

We are battered but not broken. So many parts of this are reminiscent of watching our Charlotte and I can say this is difficult for everyone who sees her. She is hooked up to a lot of tubes right now, had many fluids and is swollen because of this. …

Pray for the seizures to get well controlled with medications, pray we get to start chemo as planned and pray we get our Stella back before the next step begins. As always ask God for a miracle.

Does your stepfamily need a miracle? Will you commit to unwavering effort and prayers on your stepfamily journey?
 

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Parenting From Your Knees

Stepfamily Detours – Where Are You Headed?

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


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