Posts Tagged 'faith'



As a Stepparent, Some Days are Harder Than Others

  I knew my stepson had been having gastrointestinal problems for several weeks and we encouraged   him to make a doctor’s appointment. Since his mother died of colon cancer,  he knows his risk factors for that disease.

But  it hurt my feelings to learn he had  gone to the doctor and never even  mentioned it to me. As a mom, I’m usually the first one to instruct the kids on insurance cards, co-payment amounts, etc. when they go to the doctor. But instead, my stepson confided only in his dad regarding details of the appointment.

In the early years of our marriage, I would have berated myself for doing something wrong that was keeping my stepson at a distance. But after several years of stepparenting, I no longer blame myself when my stepchildren choose to leave me out of what’s happening in their lives. I know I have done my part to be an involved and loving stepmom along the way but cannot force positive reactions from them.

After a recent disagreement with my stepson, he said to me, “I love you Gayla, but you’re not my mom. My real mom would have given me her approval on this.” I had voiced my opinion on a choice he was making that I didn’t agree with, and he let me know that my opinion didn’t matter. The disappointing words still ring in my ears.

Loyalty issues run deep with stepchildren and can keep them from loving a stepparent because it feels disloyal to their biological parent. Sometimes as kids grow older, they work through those feelings, allowing a close relationship with a stepparent. But sometimes they don’t.

If you’re having a hard day as a stepparent, don’t lose hope. Persevere in your relationships even when your stepchildren don’t. Draw near to the Lord for guidance and comfort. Be assured that He sees your efforts and will bless them.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8)

Are you experiencing challenging days as a stepparent? Where do you look for hope?


Related Posts:

Hope for the Future in Your Stepfamily

When Stepfamily Life Gets Messy…

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Struggle You Face

Five Steps for Healing Stepparenting Wounds

I’ve been nursing a bee sting on the bottom of my foot for weeks. I ignored it at first, thinking it would heal on its own. But it hasn’t.  Now,  I’m annoyed at the nagging pain I feel when I’m on my feet too long.

My sister suggested I puncture the wound and look for a stinger that needs to be removed. I’m not a good patient but I carefully inserted a sterile needle close to the wound and removed a small skin-like material I found. Optimistic that would help, I thought — let the healing begin.  But the nagging pain continues. I’m now soaking it daily with espson salt and keeping it covered  with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid. If that doesn’t help,  I’ll have to consider my last resort – a trip to the doctor.

I would prefer wounds heal on their own. But that doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a physical wound or an emotional wound, the steps we take determine how quickly our wounds heal.

Stepparenting wounds come in all shapes and sizes. They occur when someone hurts our feelings or our expectations aren’t met. In the beginning stages of blending a family, wounds occur frequently.

 Some wounds resolve on their own, but most require special attention. Nagging wounds occur   repeatedly, leaving us vulnerable to anger and resentment.

So how do we resolve our stepparenting wounds? How do we prevent our wounds from negatively impacting our relationships?  Here are a few steps I suggest:

 

1. Forgive your stepchild.

You may be justified in your anger, but it’s hard to find peace when you refuse to forgive an offense. The relationship with your stepchild suffers when you hang onto your hurt. Take the high road. “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

2. Don’t allow your feelings to fester.

I allowed my bee sting to fester for weeks before I did anything about it. As a result, the wound will take longer to heal.

Emotional wounds fester when we let our feelings take over our mind. Instead of addressing the issue, we compound it by complaining to others, acting out in anger, or  stuffing our feelings deep inside.

Festering wounds erupt. Deal with the offense so healing can begin.

3.  Commit to pray daily for your stepchild and strive to think only positive thoughts about him/her.

I know that’s not easy. When my stepson made piercing remarks about me in a custody hearing years ago, I didn’t want to consider praying for him or try to think positively about him. But when I made a conscious choice to dwell on his positive aspects and pray for his well-being, my wounds began to heal.

4. Give yourself grace for your part of the offense.

Each of us plays a role in conflict. Nonverbal communication speaks loudly. Stepchildren sense disapproving thoughts and critical looks. Words fly out of our mouth we can’t stop, contributing to conflict.

But if we choose to stay defeated in our guilt, we won’t find victory with our wounds.  Recognize your part and ask for forgiveness. Then give yourself grace and move on – imperfect people make mistakes.

5. Seek help when necessary.

It’s not unusual to get stuck nursing a stepparenting wound without healing. Some wounds go deep and wide, requiring professional help. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of courage.

If you’re considering stepparenting coaching, my fees for the summer are reduced. I would love to help you heal your stepparenting wounds and restore your relationships.

What other tips can you offer to help with stepparenting wounds? I would love to hear from you.

Related Posts:

Coping with Loss in a Stepfamily

Offering Forgiveness

When Stepparenting Feels Too Hard: Four Ways to Overcome Discouragement

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

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

As I continue my stepmom stories from our Stepping with Purpose e-book, I’m including one today from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom. I think you’ll find her story encouraging.

“If I’m being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn’t even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband’s family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. This was the total opposite of the extremely strict, “children are seen and not heard,” single parent home in which I was raised.

  But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing. My heart’s cry was to be a loving stepmom who had a positive influence on my husband’s sons. So I prayed, and sought God’s wisdom.

The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn’t view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy.

Plus, I had to accept that just because I was raised in a stern home with firm rules didn’t mean that was how my husband or his former wife wanted to raise their children. I was not the parent – they were. Therefore, unless the kids were being disrespectful or harmful to me, it was not my place to interfere. For a control freak like me it was extremely  hard to do, but if my marriage was to survive I had to step back, and let go of the things I could not control.

The second discovery I made was that God would use the good and the bad in my life for His glory, if I let Him. He wanted to transform my painful childhood into a channel to love. My dad remarried twice after the divorce from my mom. Therefore, I knew what it felt like to be the child who moved from the front seat in my dad’s car and life, to the back seat. This revelation stirred in me a tremendous compassion toward my stepsons. I understood it wasn’t me they were rejecting, but the circumstances. And they were afraid of more change.

Thirdly, I encountered the “Daddy Wound” to my own soul. One of the things that used to infuriate me about my stepsons was the way they treated their dad. I felt they were neglectful, rude and unappreciative. My husband was diligent to visit his kids and to pay child support on time. He would get excited and make plans for visitation, but at the last  minute the boys would cancel. I’d watch him break down and cry saying, “They don’t believe that I love them, they don’t want to spend time with me.”

I was enraged and would think to myself, “I longed to have a dad who wanted to spend time with me, but he was always too busy. You have a loving father who is willing to give his time and resources and this is how you treat him. How dare you?” The toxic thoughts would brew inside of me, until one day God broke through my wall of pain. He revealed that my fury was a “knee jerk” reaction to my own deep seated feelings of abandonment.

As my Heavenly Daddy revealed all of these things, I surrendered my anger, frustration, and the need to be in control. He began to heal the wounds in my little soul, and filled the hole of shame and loneliness that had resided there for so long with His unconditional love. The freedom and peace that followed flowed into a love for others, including my stepsons.

Each stepfamily has its own hurdles, ours is no different. Choosing and learning to love my stepsons didn’t automatically fix every problem. But it did teach me how to see them through Christ’s eyes, and  not my own. And that transforms everything.”

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t,” and a featured expert on the DivorceCare DVD series. Her book The Smart Stepmom, is co-authored with stepfamily expert Ron L. Deal. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com

Can you relate to Laura’s story? Have you had to learn how to love your stepchildren? What tips would you offer?

Other Posts You Might Like:

Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Stepmom

Affirming You in Your Role as a Childless Stepmom

Sick of Stepparenting?

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?

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

 


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