Posts Tagged 'hope'

God Uses Imperfect Stepparents

The early morning text surprised me. I don’t hear from my young adult stepson a lot but sensed he needed to talk based on what I read. I picked up the phone and engaged in a lengthy conversation with him regarding his year-long relationship with his girlfriend.

It was a great time to impart words of encouragement and support for his recent decision to take a step back from the relationship. I heard his feelings of discontent and sound judgment about whether they could make it long term. I heard words of wisdom that I knew were partly due to his upbringing in our home.

I will forever be an imperfect stepparent. I could spend days relaying countless ways that I messed up with my stepchildren. My stepson, Payton, and I had a strained relationship much of the time during his adolescent years. I didn’t know how to raise a son and didn’t spend enough time “studying” Payton so I could parent him better. But God used my imperfect efforts and continues to redeem a less-than-perfect relationship.

If you’re struggling with a stepchild relationship that feels it’s on a downward spiral, don’t give up. God redeems relationships every day. We don’t have to have all the answers. But we do need to do our part in apologizing when we’re wrong and seeking to improve our stepparenting ways to foster a healthy relationship.

The stepparenting journey often includes one step forward and two steps backward, particularly in the early years. But don’t underestimate your value with your stepchildren. Stepparents who choose to stay the course, through the good times and bad, will make a difference in the lives of their stepchildren.

Do you agree? How is God using you as an imperfect stepparent?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

Finding Success Through the Bumps on Your Stepparenting Journey

As I listened to my husband on the other end of the phone with his daughter, I knew something bad had happened. He handed the phone to me and said, “She wants to talk to you.”

1170300_important_callThrough tears, my stepdaughter, Adrianne, relayed that her boyfriend of six years had broken up with her. When she was home over Christmas, she had told us she thought they would be getting engaged in 2013. Obviously, that’s not going to happen.

My heart is breaking for her. I know she’ll work through her sadness but at 27 years old, she’s invested a lot of time in a relationship that’s come to a halt.

I’m thankful she has reached out to us during her difficult hour. She asked if she could come spend next week-end with us. Of course, we’re happy to have her drive the three hours to our place and visit any time.

Here’s the paradox of stepparenting. During her adolescent years, we had the typical stepmom-stepdaughter relationship — highly strained the majority of the time. Research shows the stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is often the most difficult. Our relationship was no different.

However, as she matured through her young adult years, Adrianne began reaching out to me more often.  She began asking my opinion on issues and calling us more regularly. She made it a priority to attend family vacations with us and create stronger relationships with her stepsisters.

Well into the second decade of our marriage, Adrianne and I have a wonderful relationship. I’m thankful we’ve been able to connect and can now enjoy our time together, instead of walking on egg shells when she’s around.

Does it have to take that long to bond with your stepchild? No! Some stepparents connect easily and find stepparenting a joy. But many do not.

The adolescent years of stepparenting are tough. It’s easy to slip into thinking that the relationship will always be strained.

The teen-age years may take a heavy toll on your relationship. But kids do grow up and often recognize the value of their parents when they leave the nest.

Don’t give up on finding success on your stepparenting journey. Maybe you won’t find it in the first decade of your marriage. Maybe it won’t happen until your stepchildren leave home.

But it’s never too late to enjoy the success of a thriving stepfamily relationship when it happens.

Is it taking longer than you hoped to find success on your stepparenting journey? Will you share about it?

Related Posts:

Learning How to Love my Stepchildren

Is It A Privilege to be a Stepparent?

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

 

What Stage of Remarriage Are You In?

I was recently talking to a stepmom who’s struggling in her role with her stepdaughter. In hearing some history of the relationship, I could see the normal progression that often happens in stepfamilies with various stages of integration. How a stepfamily navigates the stages of remarriage determines the success or failure of long-term relationships.

monkey fami

As noted in Dick Dunn’s booklet, New Faces in the Frame, most stepfamilies work through a progression of stages.  We start out in the infatuation/honeymoon phase and everything is grand. Many couples at this stage are blind to the difficulties they will encounter as a stepfamily. They negate their children’s feelings about their relationship and refuse to listen to others’ opinions.

But it’s not long before things begin to change and we move into the questioning phase and begin to wonder, “What have I done?” “Why did I think this would work?” During the questioning stage of my remarriage, I reflected on how it seemed easier to be a single parent than cope with the daily challenges in our new family. I had committed to my new marriage, however, “for better or for worse,” and endeavored to continue the journey. For many remarriages, the questioning stage will make or break a family.

The most critical stage: the crisis stage comes next. Levels of crisis vary from minor bumps to major explosions, but this stage represents a turning point in which family members seek change. Challenges build until someone reaches for help. It’s a productive stage if families confront the problems and begin to find solutions. Unfortunately, many couples give up and call it quits at this stage.

The last three stages usually occur somewhere between the second and fifth year of remarriage. Complicated stepfamilies that include children from both partners will likely take longer. It’s also not unusual for stages to be re-visited. But as families reach the latter stages, hope begins to surface and tensions begin to ease.

The possibility stage offers positive thinking toward improved relationships. Following the crisis stage, the stepcouple emerges with renewed energy to seek family harmony. After struggling for years, the family begins to unite. Broken relationships begin to heal and day-to-day life appears easier.

The growth stage follows on the heels of possibility. Although there has been some growth from the beginning, families in this stage recognize a steady pace of growth, with more steps forward than backward. Family members feel accepted by one another and problems are resolved quickly when they arise. Stepparents feel comfortable in their roles and tension with ex-spouses has eased.

The last stage: the reward stage is reached only after years of intentional effort. For many stepfamilies, it is never reached because they give up. But for those who persevere, the reward of harmonious relationships and sense of accomplishment from a united family outweighs the burden of what it cost to get there.

Stepfamilies offer children a chance to heal from broken relationships while learning how healthy relationships relate to one another. Researcher James Bray published results from a ten-year study with stepfamilies that indicated a healthy, stable stepfamily can help overcome some of the negative psychological effects of divorce. And while remarriage with children may be challenging, intentional effort and commitment can lead to satisfaction and reward in the long run.

To see my complete article on the stages of remarriage,  published in Calgary’s Child Magazine this month, go here.

What stage of remarriage is your family in? Have you successfully navigated some of these stages? I would love to hear about it!

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marital and Parenting Issues

Debunking Stepfamily Myths: Do You Get Caught in Their Web?

Don’t Settle for Mediocrity in Your Remarriage

New Beginnings Offer Hope for Stepfamilies

 

I watched the reality show, “The Biggest Loser,” for the first time last night. I found myself fascinated with the contestants, the trainers, and the hope of a new beginning. I watched in disbelief as the contestants were scoffed, humiliated and screamed at. I caught myself wondering how much money they’d paid to put themselves through days and possible weeks of emotional torture. But then I saw the look of victory when each one stepped on the scale. The reward. The sense of accomplishment. The hard times that were no longer  for naught.

biggest loser

I saw parallels with what we go through on our stepparenting journey. We are given a new beginning and walk into re-marriage with a sense of hope. We come from defeated pasts – perhaps dysfunctional ways. But just like those battling obesity – we refuse to let our past define us.

But we don’t realize how hard the journey will be. As one contestant on the show, Nikki, said, “I knew it would be tough but I wasn’t ready for the emotional part. It’s more emotional than anyone can imagine. ” The 2 1/2 hour workouts, the controlling environment, living with strangers in small quarters. It proved too much for Nikki. After a workout that turned confrontational with lead trainer, Jillian Michaels, Nikki was given a choice: “What do you want to do? There’s the door or will you do the workout?” Jillian asked. With tears streaming down her face, Nikki quit.

Have you felt that way as a stepparent? I know I have. But unlike Nikki, I’m thankful I didn’t quit.

How do you keep from quitting on hard days? Here are some words from experienced trainers on the show that can apply to us  as stepparents:

– You have to dig deep and make a choice

– “I quit” cannot be in your vocabulary

– Push through the terror of failing because it’s so worth it on the other side

– Lose the victim mentality

– Shake it off. You can do this!

– It’s never too late to discover what’s holding you back

– As rough as it gets, you must keep moving forward

New beginnings offer hope. But we must embrace the challenges and do the work to get to the finish line. Just like weight loss, the reward is at the end of the journey but worth every ounce of effort when you get there.

If your stepfamily is struggling, commit to a new beginning. Dig deep and make a choice to march onward, against the waves of turmoil into a sea of hope. Begin anew each morning with your focus on the positives. You can do this!

“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Do you need to make a new beginning? The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to commit to a fresh start in your stepfamily relationships.

Related Posts:

Is Your Stepfamily in a Season of Challenge?

Looking for Hope on Your Stepfamily Journey?

Hope for the Future 

 

 

 

 

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?

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?


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