“Will You Trust Me?” Says the Lord.

As I sat in the unfamiliar church service with strangers on every side, I felt the tears begin to roll down my cheeks. “I miss my church back in Conway,” I told the Lord. “I miss my friends. I miss my kids. Why did we have to move out of state? Starting over in a new community feels overwhelming to me. I’m not sure I can do this.”

“Will you trust me?” the Lord said to me. “Will you trust my ways, even if you don’t like them?”

I’ve considered that conversation with the Lord almost every day the past few weeks. I wish I could say that my heart and attitude about our move has been transformed since hearing the Lord speak to me. I wish I could say that I’ve quit questioning why and simply accept our circumstances. But as hard as I’ve tried, I’m still struggling with contentment surrounding our move many days.

I recognize my anxious feelings and questioning ways from previous stepfamily challenges. I recall questioning the Lord on more than one occasion as I sought to understand what was happening in our family.

“Will you trust me?” the Lord said, when my stepdaughter went to live with her mom over 300 miles away. “Will you trust my ways?” the Lord said, when my stepson was allowed to stay with his stepdad after his mom died instead of immediately moving to our house. “Will you trust me to provide?” the Lord said, when I lost my job shortly after my husband and I married.

And in every challenge we’ve faced, I’ve seen the Lord’s faithfulness. I’ve felt His presence most on days I was forced to lean on Him for answers and comfort.

So I’ve learned to trust Him. I trust His ways. I trust His plan. I trust His direction in my life. Even when I don’t like the direction He sends me. Even when I don’t understand the outcome. And especially, when I don’t see the big picture. I trust Him. Do you?

“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.”
(Isaiah 55:8,9)

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Unexpected Stepparenting Moments

*Note to Readers: Our out-of-state move begins next week. My blogging will be sporadic for the next month but I hope to return to a regular schedule by late summer.

Yesterday was my 50th birthday. A milestone. I had great plans for a leisurely morning on my son’s first day of summer, while considering a movie before going to dinner with my girlfriends. (With my husband working out of state, I planned my own celebration). But my plans went completely awry.

“I’m headed to the Emergency Room,” I heard my stepson, Payton, say on the other end of the phone as I scrambled out of bed. “I’m in severe pain in my lower back and don’t know what to do.” I sensed panic in his voice and tried to calm  his fears. “Let me call the doctor and try to get you in. You will sit for hours at the ER,” I said. “Come to the house so I can help you.”

Less than an hour later we were waiting in the doctor’s office, my stepson barely able to sit on the exam table.The doctor explained that it appeared he had a kidney stone and would need to wait it out, pushing fluids and surviving on pain meds while praying the stone would pass on its own. I suspected that was the diagnosis we would hear and I think my stepson was relieved it wasn’t anything more serious. But kidney stones are not fun to deal with.

I dropped Payton at our house to rest while I picked up his pain medicine. Upon returning, I found him curled in a fetal position, trying to cope with the pain. He took the medicine and began a steady intake of fluids. As the medicine began to take effect, he dozed off quietly.

He stayed at the house most of the day while I encouraged fluid intake and resting. He expressed sincere appreciation for my help during his time of need. He knew it was my birthday and apologized for the inconvenience. But I was thankful I could help.

I reflected on the day later with my sister and she remarked, “That’s just how life goes, isn’t it?” It was okay that I didn’t get to enjoy a leisurely morning or make it to the movies. I did enjoy a special dinner with dear friends that evening as we celebrated my birthday. And I cherished the fact that I was able to help my stepson through a difficult day.

Critical stepparenting moments occur when we least expect them. But if we take the time to rise to the occasion, those are the moments most appreciated by our stepchildren.

Have you experienced unexpected stepparenting moments lately?

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Expect the Unexpected On Your Stepparenting Journey

I have a good friend who is raising her step-granddaughter because her stepdaughter has proven too unstable for the responsibility. I have another friend who could be assuming full custody with her husband of her three stepchildren because their biological mom continues to struggle on the road of addiction.

Difficult happenings on the stepparenting journey that cannot be predicted. They’re all around us. As a stepparent, will you muster the effort and energy to go the extra mile when your family road takes a turn of events?

I believe we are called to do what we can to keep our family intact if we sign up for the role by saying, “I do.”  (Aside from abuse, of course). We unite with our spouse as a team and commit to minister to our stepchildren through the ups and downs of stepparenting. It doesn’t mean the road will be easy, but God will give us the strength and power to sustain us on the road He allows us to walk.

In their book, The Smart Stepmom, Laura Petherbridge and Ron Deal acknowledge some of the complex issues that can show up unexpectedly on the stepparenting journey and how a smart stepmom deals with them. Here are a few thoughts to ponder:

“A Smart Stepmom:

– discovers the things she can control and releases the things she can’t.

– is prepared. She isn’t naive or ambused by complex stepfamily issues and is flexible to cope with matters that she didn’t see coming.

– is constantly growing and learning about wise stepparenting and parenting techniques.

– has a strong support system with other women who share her values.

– recognizes that there are limits to her contributions to decision-making regarding her stepchildren’s lives

– accepts that sometimes being a stepmother is going to be unfair and lonely.

– acknowledges that she may not see the fruit of her sacrifices until the children become adults.

– believes that her value is determined by the price Jesus paid for her and that she is precious in God’s eyes. This awareness offers her enduring peace even in challenging circumstances.”

Has your stepparening journey taken an unexpected turn? How are you coping?

Holiday Tip: Live By Faith, Not Fear

What are you fearful of this holiday season? Managing the visitation schedule with a difficult ex-spouse? Coping with uncooperative stepchildren over a prolonged stay? Socializing with ex-in-laws?

The holiday season brings all kinds of opportunities for anxiety. But we can choose every day whether we will live by faith, or be controlled by fear.

In her book, Calm My Anxious Heart, Linda Dillow gives these thoughts on faith: “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 enables us to be content even when life doesn’t make sense.”

Contrast that with fear. Fear is a self-defeating force that cripples positive action. Fear controls our mind and elicits unstable emotions. Fear drives us to an admission of defeat, giving up before accomplishing  an attainable goal.

Why would we choose fear over faith? Perhaps it’s because our faith isn’t strong enough to sustain us. We carry around a head full of knowledge about faith but we don’t allow it to penetrate our heart. We’re satisfied with a superficial level of faith.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can commit to growing our faith through Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. We can choose to rely on the Lord for wisdom, strength, and comfort every day.

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 support and encouragement.

So, as you face difficult situations this season, will you rely on faith or be controlled by fear? It’s a choice.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)

 Are you allowing fear to creep into your heart instead of focusing on faith to overcome your struggles?    

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