Archive for the 'stepparenting heartache' Category

When Stepparenting is Messy

I sent my son to bed last night with consequences for his lack of obedience on a homework issue. He wasn’t happy with me and barely said good night as I left his room. But as his mom, seeking to raise a responsible young man, I knew I needed to address the issue, even if he didn’t like it.

He bounded out of bed this morning with a smile on his face and a big good morning. The night before had become a thing of the past that he wasn’t going to hold a grudge about because as my biological child, he doesn’t stay mad at me long, even when I dole out consequences. He’s quick to forgive and let go of ill feelings toward me.

It isn’t always the same with stepchildren. I expressed my opinion several weeks ago with my young adult stepson on an issue I didn’t agree with and he let me know he didn’t like it. He hung up the phone mad and called his dad to fill him on the details, hoping his dad would side with his opinion. For two weeks, my stepson and I had little communication. I knew the conflict would strain our relationship for a short period of time.

I try hard not to compare my stepchildren and my biological children but it’s easy to notice differences in how they respond during and after conflict. The blood bond that exists with biological children gives them a connection that doesn’t easily break. But the fragile thread that exists with stepchildren, particularly in the beginning stages of relationship-building, can easily be severed.

Stepparenting is messy – there are not black and white answers. It’s easy to say we need to defer issues of conflict and let the biological parent handle them but that can’t always happen. My stepson had called me on a different issue that naturally led to the issue that caused conflict. Did I overstep my bounds in how I expressed my feelings with my stepson? Maybe. Would I have expressed it the same way to my biological child? Yes.

How do you cope when it seems you’ve been misjudged in your stepparenting role? For me, I remember that I’m more than just a stepmom seeking affirmation from my stepchildren. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a loyal friend, and a child of Christ. God’s love for me is unending. I cling to His promise in Ephesians 3:18 that says, ““And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may  have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Isn’t that beautiful? We can’t escape the love of Christ.

If we allow our worth to be dependent upon how our stepchildren treat us or feel about us, we set ourselves up for hurt. But if we remind ourselves that God’s love for us is everlasting, even if we fail or others mistreat us, we make room for peace.

How do you cope when stepfamily relationships seem messy? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection as a Stepparent

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Trusting God’s Plan on a Difficult Journey

It’s easy to trust God’s plan when the journey is easy and comfortable. But it’s much harder when the days are long and the circumstances don’t make sense.

That’s the journey my husband and I found ourselves on several years ago. The events of our stepfamily didn’t make sense. I wanted to understand it. But I learned to live by faith, trusting God on the journey.

I included this story in our e-book, Stepping with Purpose. Feel free to download the book for more encouraging stepmom stories.

Trusting God’s Plan

 by Gayla Grace

During his sophomore year of high school, my stepson, Payton, suffered a back injury at an end of season football game that sent him to the hospital. As he was leaving the Emergency Room with my husband, Randy, he confided to his dad with tears in his eyes, “I’m thankful to be living here and be given the care I need.”  Unfortunately, that had not always been the case.

Two years prior, Payton stood by his stepfather in a custody hearing against his dad and boldly stated his desire to continue living with his stepfather and older sister.  His mother had passed away after a year-long battle with cancer, and his stepfather sought legal custody.  We lived more than 300 miles away, but longed to provide the stability and support Payton needed.

Fighting a custody battle came as a complete surprise after Payton’s mom died. But as his biological father, Randy felt certain he would be awarded custody of his son. However, we were unprepared for the accusations and false representation of our family. After hours of testimony at the pre-trial hearing, the judge ruled in favor of Payton residing with his stepfather until a complete custody trial could be scheduled.

We were baffled. We didn’t understand the judge’s decision. But we knew God was in control and sought His divine plan for Payton. I trusted in the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: “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.”

In the upcoming weeks Randy and I agonized over the reality of fighting this battle. We had three other children at home and knew they would be exposed to negative and stressful surroundings. We didn’t want to alienate Payton and finally opted to give up our right to a custody trial, focusing on our long-term relationship with Payton rather than a short-term fix.  We sensed God’s hand at work and wanted to surrender to His plan.

The following year was harder than we expected as we strove to support Payton through his grief while living hundreds of miles away. We were confused, anxious, and discouraged as we watched Payton live in a neglectful environment with unhealthy choices. The journey was hard, but we remained committed to draw closer to Payton and support him through the healing process.

As the months marched on, we noticed subtle changes. Payton began asking to spend more time with us. He seemed to enjoy hanging with his siblings and it appeared that healing and growth were taking place.

And then one day, a turn of events led to an unexpected call from Payton.  He confided in his dad about some drug-dealing activity his step-dad was involved in. Payton had temporarily retreated to his aunt’s house and didn’t know what to do. Randy determined he had to remove Payton from his step-dad’s home immediately. Surprisingly, without opposition or legal proceedings, Payton came to live with us the next week.  It was truly a miracle that only God could orchestrate.

It had been 18 months since his mother died, and Payton seemed relieved to come into our home. It was a smooth transition because he had been given the time he needed to grieve the loss of his mom with his sister and half-brother. He had worked through much of his anger and bitterness with a hospice counselor and could now allow others to reach out to him to further the healing process.  He settled in easily, making new friends and comfortably starting a new school.

Surrendering to God’s plan for Payton was humbling and disappointing at times. I wanted to offer my support as his stepmom through the early stages of his grieving process, but wasn’t given the opportunity.  I came to understand that he couldn’t have accepted my help in the beginning. God had a better plan that allowed Payton to grieve and heal with his stepfather and biological siblings who had suffered the same loss.

By trusting God’s sovereignty, our family gained renewed relationships with one another. I learned to seek God’s guidance and cling to His Word for direction. And although God’s plan might include a difficult journey that I don’t like or understand, I know I can trust it and commit to follow it.

How are you trusting God through a difficult journey? Will you share it with us?

Related Posts:

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

When Do You Seek Custody of a Stepchild?

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

I’m not a childless stepmom. But I have the utmost respect for those of you who are.

For many years, I didn’t give much thought to what it would feel like to be a childless stepmom. But after talking to several of you and watching how you do life, I realize the ultimate sacrifice you make as a stepmom without children of your own.

We know that a stepmom doesn’t get to experience the “firsts” of a biological mom. The first one to have a child with your husband. The first one to experience parenting with your spouse and your baby. The first one to make any kind of a decision regarding that child and a host of decisions later.

But a childless stepmom never gets to experience those events or realize the joy of having a biological child, even if it’s from a previous relationship.

Many childless stepmoms I’ve spoken with are not childless by choice. Infertility plays a role all too often. And the roller coaster of trying to conceive takes a heavy toll every time.

If you’re struggling with infertility or any kind of extended wait, you might find comfort from a devotion posted by Tracies Mills with Proverbs 31 Ministries, titled “Waiting for God’s Best.” It speaks of the 20 year wait Isaac endured before his wife, Rebekah, gave birth to their twins (Genesis 25:26). Waiting is hard. And waiting without answers can be unbearable.

A childless stepmom faces different challenges than a stepmom with her own children. She is misunderstood by the parenting community and perhaps not even accepted by other moms. She endures the same parenting challenges but receives little reward for her efforts.

So if you’re a childless stepmom, I affirm you in your role. God bless you in your efforts to make a difference in your stepchildren’s lives. And although others may not appreciate or recognize the important role you play, you can be assured that you, as a stepmom, have value.

Are you struggling in your role as a childless stepmom? Do you need to reach out to other stepmoms?  Will you share how you cope with the challenges you encounter?

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Heartache

Stepparenting Heartache, Part Two

Count Your Blessings

Saying Good-bye is Never Easy

We’ve sold our home in Conway (Praise the Lord) and recently put a contract on a home in Bossier City, Louisiana. We will be moving in just a few short weeks. And the good byes I find myself in the middle of are harder every day.

The church choir I’ve played piano for the last three years gave me a nice send-off tonight. I have some wonderful friends who I’ve cried with, laughed with, and sung with. It’s hard to say good-bye to long-term friends as we move.

But it reminds me of good-byes that we sometimes have to deal with in stepfamilies. Good-byes that are not our choice but are driven by someone else’s decisions.

In her book, The Stepfamily Survival Guide, Natalie Nichols Gillespie talks about some difficult good-byes her family has endured with her stepdaughter, Lorra. “Lorra has chosen as an adult not to continue her relationship with her father and me for now, and Adam and I have sobbed on many occasions over her decision. The family all know that I have had nightmares on multiple occasions that one of my stepdaughters is getting married and I am standing outside watching through the windows because I am not allowed inside the church!”

That’s a difficult good-bye. But Natalie Gillespie can’t change the decision her step-daughter has made. She can simply pray that she will have a change of heart someday.

Good-byes are never easy. But with God’s sustaining strength, we can endure them.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Heartache

Stepparenting Heartache Part Two

There’s Beauty after the Pain



Crocuses are in full bloom in the state of AR and it is a beautiful sight. Although the temperature is still cool outside, it’s a great reminder that Spring is around the corner and the harsh days of winter will be behind us.
As I gazed at our crocuses with a heavy heart this week-end, I was reminded that there’s beauty following the pain of my husband’s job loss. I know there are better days ahead and that hope sustains me during our period of uncertainty.
I’ve also seen the beauty that follows the pain of stepfamily trials. As my youngest son turned ten years old this month, I was reminded of the challenges we faced with my stepson at this age. As he headed toward his adolescent years, my stepson became rebellious and aggressive toward me. I could do nothing right in his eyes and I was constantly criticized and berated.
My husband and I sought counseling with my stepson to determine the root of his anger but simply uncovered selfish and defiant behavior. He refused to acknowledge his part of the relationship and how he was contributing to the volatile situation. After two years of unresolved conflict, he looked for greener grass by moving to live with his mom in another state.
Unfortunately, his mom was diagnosed with colon cancer the year he moved there and she valiantly fought the disease a little more than a year before passing on. The loss contributed to my stepson’s anger but through counseling with hospice services after his mom’s death, he began to sort through some of his hurt and anger.
My stepson returned to live with us and complete his last three years of  high school. Our relationship was mended as he grew and matured, allowing me a place in his heart. He still struggles with loyalty feelings toward his mom that prevent him from completing embracing a relationship with me, but the rebellious, aggressive behavior is no longer part of our interaction.
It’s easy to focus on the struggles in the midst of a trial and think they will never end, but just as we see the beauty of the crocus after a long, hard winter, we will also see the beauty of refreshment after hardship.  

Are you experiencing stepfamily heartache? Will you look toward the beauty that will follow the pain?
                                                                                                Photo by Jaqui Brooks
Related Posts:
  

The Valley of the Unknown

My husband’s job ends next week. We moved to Conway, AR eleven years ago for my husband to assume the position of Director of Operations with a manufacturing company. His job has provided a comfortable living for us here as we’ve raised our children. But, unfortunately, the downfall of the housing industry has taken a huge toll on the company and Corporate has chosen to close its doors.

We are facing the valley of the unknown. It’s a scary place. We have complete faith he will land another job but that job hasn’t shown up yet. So, in the meantime, we wait.

The valley of the unknown appears more often than we like on this journey of life. It has reared its head in various ways on our stepparenting path. And each time, although it was difficult to deal with, we came out successfully on the other side.

Here a few of my thoughts on coping with the valley of the unknown:

Surrender to God’s plan. Give up control of the situation and ask for God’s guidance. Don’t try to find the answers alone. God is seeking a relationship with us and will guide our steps if we ask Him.

Unite with your spouse. Be on the same page with your spouse through the difficulty. Communicate frequently and brainstorm together for solutions. Lean on one another on the hard days and seek to find laughter through the trial.

Wait. Many times, God calls us to simply wait. I strongly dislike this one, but have endured it frequently. A beautiful illustration of how God works through the wait can be found here: Wait Poem, by Russell Kelfer. 

Take the next step. As you sense answers to your dilemma, take a step of faith. Start with small steps as you overcome your fear of a new direction. Continue to seek God’s plan and follow His lead.

Rejoice in new beginnings. Adopt an attitude of thankfulness as you move from the valley of the unknown to a heighth of unchartered territory. Embrace the change that accompanies a fresh start. Leave the past behind with any regrets of what could have been.

Press on. As Selah’s powerful song says, “In Jesus’ Name, we press on.” View Selah’s song.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Are you in a valley of the unknown? Do you have other suggestions to offer?

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Let Go and Let God

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


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