God's Amazing Grace Show Up in Stepfamilies

God’s Amazing Grace Shows Up in Stepfamilies

As stepparents, we often feel defeated in our circumstances. We play out our role the best we can, but it doesn’t seem good enough.

Relationships stagnate.

Disharmony rules.

Tempers flare.

Guilt follows.

Grace God's Amazing Gift Shows Up in Stepfamilies by Gayla Grace

We beat ourselves up for the discord in our home.

We allow Satan to bombard our minds with negativity.

We convince ourselves that, as stepparents, it’s all our fault when our stepchildren don’t love (or even like) us.

Perhaps we do contribute to the strife. The role of a stepparent is hard.

We don’t always get it right. But we can’t wallow in our mistakes. God offers grace to try again.

We don’t deserve the grace God offers us—nor can we earn it—but He wants us to receive it anyway.

Ephesians 2:8–9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

We find examples of grace throughout the Old and the New Testament.

Adam and Eve deserved eternal separation from God after disobeying His commands but experienced God’s grace instead.

King David committed adultery and murder yet earned the label of a “man after God’s own heart.”

Peter denied Jesus three times but experienced grace and redemption afterward.

God showed me the beauty of His grace years ago in a way I’ll always cherish. Married for eleven years with two young girls, I chose to walk away from my vows. Addiction had overtaken our home despite the recovery efforts of my then-husband. Following my divorce, I experienced feelings of defeat, failure, and guilt. My Christian beliefs and parents’ long-term marriage had taught me that marriage was forever. How could I go down the road of divorce? Yet I did.

I never saw God’s grace more clearly, however, than when He brought a new husband into my life with the last name of Grace. Randy graciously accepted my daughters as part of the package when we joined families with Randy’s two kids. Humbled, and forever thankful, my last name is a constant reminder of what God offers His children.

Grace. Second chances. New beginnings. An opportunity for a better ending.

 

Where have you experienced God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Will you share it with us in the comments?

 

 

 

 

Finding Postive Ways to Deal with Toxic People by Gayla Grace

Finding Positive Ways to Cope with Toxic People

Toxic people can invade our lives and create havoc on relationships. But we can find positive ways to respond to them.

I experienced a toxic person last year who wrote an unkind comment on my blog after I posted about National Stepfamily Day. I had highlighted what being a stepparent is all about and affirmed stepparents for the important role they play. The comment came from a mom I didn’t know who was offended by my terminology. This mantra immediately came to mind:

I considered how to reply to her comment:

Being a stepparent involves knowing your role and not over stepping your boundaries!!!! Being a stepparent does not involve calling the REAL PARENT BIO. I would be very disgusted if my child came back calling me BIO MOM. You need to stop that. You’re a stepparent. It’s not your place to give the Parents names other than MOM or DAD.”

I read the comment again, wondering why she had capitalized momdad, bio, and real parent. Perhaps she wanted to emphasize the importance of being a “real parent” over a stepparent. It’s not the first time I’d seen unkind comments on my blog toward a stepparent. I don’t like them. But I can choose whether I’m offended by it. And I can do my part to promote peace in the midst of it.

When confronted by toxic people, remember:

You don’t have to give another person power over your emotions.

Mahatma Gandhi reportedly said it this way: “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

Finding Postive Ways to Deal with Toxic People by Gayla Grace

Stepfamilies often foster tense relationships as a result of unhealed hurts. If we spend our time trying to change our stepchildren or fretting over an ex-spouse’s behavior, we end up frustrated. With intentional effort, however, we can promote positive attitudes and behavior with unreasonable people.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” If our spouse’s ex learns we’re not going to fight back when he/she invokes drama, the game ends. If we don’t react to our stepchild’s unreasonable behavior, it’s more likely to stop.

Our peace of mind is too valuable for us to allow a toxic person’s words to offend or anger us. Someone needs to be the reasonable one in an unreasonable person’s life. I’m not saying taking on that role will come naturally or that any of us would get it right every time. But with God’s help, we can take the high road.

Remember the apostle Paul’s words: “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13.

 

If you would like a free 8×10 printable of the “I am in control of my emotions” image, you may download it by clicking here.

Blended & Blessed a livestream event

Event for Blended Family Couples—April 21st: Join us!

Are you looking for a few tools that might make your blended family journey a little easier? Would you like to hear how other stepfamily couples have found success along the way?

Join stepfamily authority Ron Deal and other trusted experts in the field on Saturday, April 21st, for a livestream event, Blended and Blessed, in your home or at a host church. Blended and Blessed will challenge, inspire, and encourage you as you learn key strategies that are crucial for stepfamily success.

If you cannot see the video below, then please click here.

See all the details about the event here: www.blendedandblessed.com.

If you live in the Bossier/Shreveport area, join us at First Baptist Church, Bossier City. We’ll be hosting the event from 9:00-4:30 pm and it includes lunch. The event is free for attendees!  To register or for more information contact sam@firstbossier.com; 318-752-6120.

I hope you won’t miss this opportunity to gain valuable tools and be encouraged as a stepfamily couple!

 

Blended & Blessed a Livestream Event for Blended Families

 

Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

I talk to stepparents all the time who blame themselves for a poor relationship with their stepchild. “If only I had more patience with my stepchild, if only I had more time to spend with him, if only, if only, if only.”

The truth is, it probably wouldn’t matter if you were the perfect stepparent. You might still have a disjointed relationship with your stepchild.

Why?

Because there are so many other variables that help determine what kind of relationship you and your stepchild will have.

That doesn’t take you off the hook. It’s important that you continue to work toward a loving, meaningful relationship with your stepchild. But it also helps to recognize that you don’t control the whole picture.

Dear Stepparent: Chase After Progress, Not Perfection

Outside Influences

Your stepchild has other people and circumstances that influence his or her relationship with you. Here are the most common ones:

  • If the biological parent in the other home is discouraging a relationship with you as the stepparent.
  • If your spouse isn’t supporting you in your stepparenting role.
  • If your spouse is a passive parent and as a result, you step into the parental role too soon.
  • If your stepchild has lost their biological parent to death, there are likely ghosts in the closet that affect your relationship.
  • If the biological parent in the other home is dysfunctional, your stepchild feels pulled toward that parent.
  • If you married while your stepchildren were in their teen years, they’re more interested in seeking independence than bonding with new family members.
  • If you had a short dating period with your partner, it’s likely your stepchildren didn’t have enough time to process their feelings of loss, which will impact your relationship with them.

Down the Road

After we had been married several years, my two girls had bonded well with my husband and began calling him Dad. I was jealous of their relationship. It looked different than the one I had with my stepchildren. Convinced I was doing something wrong, I didn’t realize how the variables affecting my stepchildren—like a mom who discouraged a relationship with me—kept them at a distance.

We try to do everything right as a stepparent, thinking that will create the relationship we’re seeking.

The reality is, we aren’t responsible for and cannot change many of the variables that influence the relationship with our stepchild.

Time is on your side. I’m thankful today for healthy, thriving relationships with my adult stepchildren.

Chase after progress, not perfection and you’ll experience rewards down the road.

Have you seen rewards on your step journey? Share them with us!

3 Tips for Overcoming Fear on Your Stepparenting Journey

I remember the scene of years’ past. I couldn’t stop the tears that spilled down my cheeks as I hugged my daughter goodbye. Saying goodbye for eight months as my 22-year-daughter left to carry out her calling in Mozambique had left a knot in the pit of my stomach.

As we drove away, I wondered how I would cope with my fears. Concern of the environment in Africa escalated in my mind: the prevalence of AIDS and malaria, the less-than-ideal medical care, the language barrier, and the comforts of home that were gone. She had barely left my arms and I already longed for her return, wishing I could shield her from the dangers of what lay ahead.

As my husband and I sat silently in the car, God began to speak to my heart. Although it wasn’t audible, I couldn’t deny His words.

3 tips for overcoming fear on the stepparenting journey by Gayla Grace

“Will you trust me?”

It’s easy to trust God when we can control what’s happening around us. But trusting God with the unknowns isn’t easy. When the custody battle looms. When your stepchild’s defiance escalates. When your spouse talks about leaving.

Fear. Uncertainty. It can envelop us.

If you’re facing fear on your stepparenting journey, don’t let it defeat you.

Here are three steps to help:

1. Live one day at a time.

An AA slogan that alcoholics rely on during recovery, “live one day at a time” takes away the fear of tomorrow. “If I thought about never having another drink,” an alcoholic once told me, “I would never stay sober.  But focusing on getting through one day without a drink is manageable.”

It’s the same for us. If we focus on how we’re going to survive with our stepkid challenges for the next ten years, we’ll never make it. But if we choose to look at what we can do today to make it manageable in our home, we can cope with the day. What step do you need to take today? Ask your spouse for his support of your stepmom role; set some boundaries with your stepchildren. Can you escape with a girlfriend for a relaxing evening?

2. Choose to stay positive in not-so-positive circumstances.

It’s especially important to be intentional about staying positive when you’re overwhelming or oppressive circumstances. We CAN control what we choose to think about. In Jan Silvious’ book, Big Girls Don’t Whine, Silvious writes, “Big Girls control what their minds dwell on. If you can’t control anything else in your life, you can control what you think about.”

In an interview with popular speaker Patsy Clairmont, she discussed her challenge with agoraphobia–a fear of open spaces and large groups of people. Clairmont emphasized that her release from the prison of agoraphobia began when she changed the way she was thinking. She focused specifically on Philippians 4:8 that says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Her thoughts began to improve by consciously “thinking on good things,” and “believing maybe I could be well.”

We can do the same—focus only the encouraging aspects of our situation, or perhaps thoughts that are worthy of praise, such as the positive characteristics of our stepchild. What we think about matters!

3.  Give up control and submit to God’s plan. In other words, let go and let God.

Here’s a poem I read recently on this topic in Courage to Change:

As children bring their broken toys, with tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God, because He was my friend.
But then, instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help, with ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried, ‘How can you be so slow?’
‘My child,’ He said, ‘What could I do? You never did let go.’”

We want to fix and control instead of giving to God. I often remind myself that  “His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8).

My daughter returned from Mozambique a new person.

More mature.

More sure of who she is.

More like Christ.

In the midst of it, I gained a deeper trust in God and His ways as I walked through my fears.

What steps do you need to take to walk through your fears confidently?
Can you share any other tips to help?

5 Things Stepparents Have in Common with Olympic Champions

Have you been watching the Winter Olympics? What’s your favorite sport? Mine is women’s figure skating. The athletes make it look so easy to throw themselves across the floor in beautiful techniques and hoist their bodies in ways that seem impossible.

As I listen to stories of the Olympic champions’, I find myself comparing them to the challenges of stepparenting and the champion role we play every day.

 

Here are a few parallels I’ve noticed:

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. 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. 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. Champions don’t quit when they fail.

Many Olympic athletes train year after year before achieving the success they’re after. Most experience significant bumps along the way with temptations to quit.

USA snowboarder Shaun White walked away from the 2014 Winter Olympics without a medal, although he was heavily favored. The next four years included questions and hardships. He fell during a training session at New Zealand three months ago and required 62 stitches across his forehead, lips, and tongue. Afterward, he questioned whether he wanted to go back out and face the dangers of his sport. But he wouldn’t give up the chance for another Olympic gold. And with a gutsy performance amidst stiff competition on the halfpipe, he secured another gold medal.

When you fall down as a stepparent, you also must get back up. My article, “Perfectly Flawed—Advice for Stepparenting,” describes my husband’s imperfect journey as a stepdad and his rewards from persevering. 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.

3. Investing time and energy doesn’t always lead to the success we desire.

Figure skater Nathan Chen, favored to win several events, had a disappointing debut with his first event. He finished fourth in the men’s short program after a fall and a couple other bobbles. He admitted to his disappointment, but put it behind him and excelled in later events.

Our view of success as a stepparent doesn’t always follow the time and energy we invest in it. Variables beyond our control often keep our stepchildren from developing a relationship with us. Loyalty conflict toward a biological parent can play a 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)

4. It requires special techniques to cope with the stress and strain.

Olympic athletes in Rio used “cupping,” an unusual treatment, to recover from the strain that accompanied the rigor of performing competitively. Described by WedMD as “an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction,” athletes turned to the unique method to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, and soreness. The most decorated Olympian of all times—Michael Phelps—used the special technique to cope with the strain of competitive swimming.

Stepparenting also involves emotional stress and strain 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, leads to discouragement. But when we use prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and fellowship with other healthy stepparents, we find the energy to cope and succeed as champions.

5. Good coaching is mandatory. 

Many Olympic athletes speak of changing coaches when they begin training for an Olympic event. They know that mediocre methods or inexperienced coaching will not lead them to an Olympic medal.

Stepparenting challenges also require coaching/counseling during difficult seasons. Coaching needs to come from an experienced professional who understands stepfamily dynamics. Traditional family methods with stepfamilies don’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.

 

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.