Posts Tagged 'faith'

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

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?

As a Stepparent, You’re an Olympic Champion!

Are you watching the Olympics this week? What’s your favorite sport? I love the gymnastics. The athletes make it look so easy to throw themselves across the floor in beautiful tumbling techniques and hoist their bodies in ways that seem impossible.

                                                                      Robert Deutsch – USA Today

As I listened to some of the gynmasts’ stories, I couldn’t help but compare them to the challenges of stepparenting and the champion role we play every day. Here are a few parallels I see:

1. It’s emotional. Often.

I’ve seen a lot of tears since the Olympics started. Some are tears of joy – many are tears of defeat. But as one coach said, “Without the passion and the emotion, you wouldn’t have an Olympian.”

The same is true of stepparenting. If we didn’t care deeply about our stepchildren, we wouldn’t feel the intense anger, sadness, and anxiety surrounding their choices and their reactions toward us. But our emotions speak loudly of the significant role we play in their lives. We’re champions because we take on the role of parenting someone else’s child, and endure the emotions that follow.

2. Investing time and energy doesn’t always lead to the success you desire.

Gymnast Jordyn Wieber invested years of practice and agonizing work toward an anticipated gold medal in the all-around at the 2012 Olympics. But that dream was shattered when she failed to qualify for the final event. Beat out by two of her teammates, she disintegrated into tears following the final scores.

Our view of success as a stepparent doesn’t always follow the time and energy we invest toward it. But that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Variables beyond our control can keep our stepchildren from developing a relationship with us. Loyalty conflict toward a biological parent often plays a huge role in keeping a stepchild in a guarded position. But God sees our heart and measures our success as a champion by the effort we make, regardless of the final result. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7)

3. It requires special techniques to cope with the stress involved.

After qualifying for the all-around finals, gymnast Gabby Douglas told the commentator interviewing her that she meditates on Scripture to help calm her nerves and deal with the task at hand. The stress surrounding Olympic athletes is unbearable at times, but Gabby has found a successful way to cope.

Stepparenting also involves stress that seems unbearable at times. The relentless demands on our time, society’s pressure of what role we are to play, the emotional tug-of-war with the biological parent, and the unending mind games stepchildren often play with us, can lead to  discouragement without hope. But when we seek faith-filled solutions such as prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and fellowship with other healthy stepparents, we find the energy to cope and succeed as champions.

4. Good coaching is mandatory. 

Many Olympic athletes speak of changing coaches when they begin training for an Olympic event. Success will not be attained with mediocre methods or inexperienced coaching.

Stepparenting challenges also require coaching/counseling during difficult seasons. Coaching needs to be attained from an experienced professional who understands stepfamily dynamics. Traditional family methods with stepfamilies doesn’t lead to success. If you’re stuck in your stepfamily difficulty, check out my coaching page to find hope. Champions turn to good coaching when they need help.

5. Champions don’t quit when they fail.

If you follow the stories of Olympic athletes, many of them compete month after month for years before attaining the success they’re striving for. It would be easy to quit, but quitters don’t succeed.

When you fall down as a stepparent, you must get back up. If you haven’t read my most recent blog post, it speaks to that:  The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent. We become champions in our stepparenting role when we keep trying, even though we want to quit. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there.

I applaud your efforts as a stepparenting champion. I wish I could visit with you over a cup of coffee about your biggest struggle. But remember: God sees every effort, even if the results aren’t what you’re hoping for.

I love the Olympic Creed and think it can be applied to stepparenting as well:

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take  part, the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.  The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Do you agree? I would love to hear your comments.

Related Posts:

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

My husband, Randy, turns 50 years old today! He has been a stepparent to my two girls for 17 years.

He will be the first to tell you he has done a lot of things wrong. But his stepdaughters love him dearly.

It hasn’t always been that way.

Jodi (left) was almost three when we married and Jamie (right) was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life and she made that clear to him.

He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night in the bathtub during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too, I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.

During our second year of marriage, Randy left the house one evening and called from a nearby hotel. “I’m not coming home tonight. I’m not sure I’m coming home again. I can’t deal with the ongoing conflict between me and you and the kids.”

It was a tough season. Blending four children ages 3-10 and learning how to parent together was harder than we anticipated. But neither of us wanted to endure another divorce.  Randy and I began counseling that year to work through the bumps.

During her teen-age years, Jamie challenged us on every turn. If Randy punished her in any way, she threatened to call Child Protective Services. She ran away more times than I can remember (but thankfully never went far). And after one particularly aggravating day with defiant behavior, Randy took Jamie’s cell phone and threw it to the ground. As it busted into several pieces, Jamie began yelling at us both. The night didn’t end well. And I wasn’t sure the sun would come up the next day.

But it did. And Randy didn’t give up on his stepparenting role with Jamie.

When she came into driving age, Randy wanted to teach her to drive. She tested every ounce of his patience. They would come in from a driving session hardly talking to one another–Jamie’s anger brewing over. But the next day, they were at it again.

During her high school years, Jamie participated in competitve cheerleading. Randy would jokingly say, “Do you call cheerleading a sport?” The ongoing drama with other cheerleaders, out-of-town competitions, and continuous suction cup to his wallet threw Randy into stress overdrive. His grumpiness overshadowed his joy at times. But he didn’t quit supporting Jamie and the things that made her tick.

Do you have to be a perfect stepparent to have a meaningful relationship with your stepchildren? NO!

Randy’s stepdaughters, Jodi (19) and Jamie (22), love their imperfect stepdad.

Why? How did that happen?

Randy never quit. He got up when he fell down. He sought help when he needed answers. He cried. He  prayed. He struggled. He fought. He apologized. He forgave. He smiled with gritted teeth. But he never quit.

When he fell down, he got up. He prayed some more. He sought help again. He struggled harder. He cried again. He forgave some more.                        But… he got up when he fell down. 

Is it a cycle? Yes. You take one step forward and two steps backward. You celebrate a season of growth, then start a season of despair. You gain the insider status one day and feel like an outcast the next.

Does that mean you failed?

No.

You fail when you quit.

The easy road is the quitter’s road. The majority of stepparents take that road.

But if you signed up for the race, your stepchildren deserve a finish.

I know it’s not easy. I know you want to quit. But you’ve been given an opportunity to influence a young child’s life like no one else can. In an imperfect way.

Will you take the challenge? Will you commit to the journey? Will you get up when you fall down? I hope so.

Because my husband will tell you: there are rewards to stepparenting, even when you’re not perfect…but they’re at the end of the journey.

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

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Stinkin’ Thinkin’ Creates Bitter Quitters in Blended Families

As A Stepfamily, You Can Expect Challenges

You Don’t Have to be Super Stepmom

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?

Is Your Stepparenting Role Tougher in the Summer?

In browsing search terms that determine how people find my blog, I notice periods of time–such as long, summer months–when stepparents reach out for help more than others.

Below are some of the recent search terms listed by stepparents. Do any of these feelings resonate with you?

– stepparent feels like an outsider

– want stepkids to go away

– why is it so difficult to accept my stepson

– how do you love unloveable stepchildren

– sour feelings toward stepchild

– how do you cope being a childless stepmom

– not easy being a stepmother

– wish stepchildren didn’t exist

Tough statements. Do you relate to any of them? It’s okay to admit your feelings–stepparenting isn’t easy! And for many stepparents, the summer months are especially difficult.

Stepfamily vacations, extended visits with stepchildren in our home, unavoidable dialogue with an ex-spouse or extended family members, or simply experiencing the “unexpected” can contribute to additional stress during the summer.

My husband and I spent four hours in the Emergency Room last night, anxiously awaiting a diagnosis we finally received at 1:30 am: two broken ribs. He collided with a man twice his size in an innocent game of Ultimate Frisbee and his rib cage took the banging. Staring at blank walls with no regard for wasted  time wasn’t how I intended to spend my evening. But the unexpected happens.

When summer days drag on, I know I have a choice. I can focus on living one day at a time, handling the difficult moments as they come and cherishing the pleasant ones that surprise me, or I can agonize over what is yet to come, projecting long and hard days until summer ends.

In her devotional book, Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes words of encouragement as if penned from the Lord Jesus speaking to us. I especially enjoyed these empowering words from a recent devotion:

“You gain confidence through knowing that I am with you–that you face nothing alone. Anxiety stems from asking the wrong question: ‘If such and such happens, can I handle it?’ The true question is not whether you can cope with whatever happens, but whether you and I together can handle anything that occurs. It is this you-and-I-together factor that gives you confidence to face the day cheerfully.”

There are not easy, tidy answers to long summer days, unexpected happenings, or difficult stepchildren encounters. But we can face each day with positive anticipation when we allow the Lord to walk beside us. Our days may still be long and our challenges appear overwhelming, but we can walk confidently through our days, knowing we are not alone.

How is your summer going? What tips can you offer other stepparents through tough summer months?

Related Posts:

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

There’s Beauty After the Pain

Looking for Hope on Your Stepfamily Journey?


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