Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Nathan, 2010

“Mom, I’m sorry my friend was talking like that in front of you,” my nine year old son, Nathan, said as I put him to bed last night. He was referring to some crude language a neighbor was using while playing at our house. My son knew the comments were offensive to me.

I appreciated my son’s sweet attitude toward my feelings. I was reminded of the blessing of his sensitive spirit because I haven’t always experienced that with my other children. Nathan is the only child my husband and I have together, and I believe God gave me a caring, affectionate, I’m-gonna-take-care-of-my-momma boy to make up for some of the hurt and agony I’ve experienced with my stepchildren.

When I married my husband, my stepson was five. Because I had two girls, I didn’t know much about raising a son but I dreamed of cheering him on at ballgames, hearing about his first girlfriend, and enjoying big hugs snuggled on the couch. Unfortunately, most of those dreams have not come true.

My stepson’s mother was an active part of his life as a young boy and she didn’t like me being involved. My authority was undermined and my behavior was criticized. It seemd as if I was on trial constantly regarding what I said or how I disciplined my stepchildren. If I made a wrong move, my husband would hear about it.

I didn’t know how to stop feeling like I was competing with my stepson’s mother in every arena. When I attended ballgames, all I heard was, “Way to go son. Stike him out son. Hit it over the fence son.” My insecurity in my stepmother role kept me from actively participating at ballgames or school events when his mom was there.

The loyalty my stepson showed toward his mother was obvious. I was kept at arm’s length because it was too complicated to show love toward his stepmother.The risk of hurting his mom’s feelings was too great.

I learned to live with little expectation in my relationship with my stepson. It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but it became a survival technique for me. As he grew older, the relationship showed signs of developing, but when his mom died unexpectedly when he was 15 years old, the loyalty issues returned, preventing him from moving forward in a relationship with me.

God has seen every struggle with my stepson. He knows my heart and acknowledges my hurt from years’ past. When I was expecting our youngest child, I wanted another girl. I had been through so much pain with my stepson that I couldn’t imagine starting over with another boy.

But God knew what I needed. He has used our sweet son, Nathan, to heal my hurts and bandage my wounds. Through His grace, He gave me a gift I can’t replace. Nathan is affectionate and loving toward me every day. He is not a perfect child but he shows me unconditional love and emotional attachment like no other child. I can only explain it through God’s grace.

I would not appreciate Nathan’s unconditional love for me without the pain of the past. But with God’s redeeming love, I can enjoy a relationship with my son that I could only dream of before.

Have you seen evidences of God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Related posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

Healthy Stepparenting: Don’t Keep Score

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting: Offer Grace

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting

During my stepson’s adolescent years, he often lashed out at me with hateful looks and angry words. I was caught up with feelings of injustice and couldn’t see his emotional pain.

When a friend said to me, “Hurting people hurt people,” it began to make sense. My stepson had situations in his life that he didn’t like and couldn’t control and therefore, took his feelings out on the nearest target: me.

I couldn’t always offer forgiveness readily but I would find a way to get to that point. I knew our relationship would never develop if I couldn’t act as the adult and do the right thing, regardless of his actions.

Our pastor offered some insightful thoughts on forgiveness today that I think are worth sharing. It doesn’t make forgiveness any easier but it does remind us of our role.

1. Forgiveness is always the responsibility of the person who is injured. When my stepchild offends me, I can’t wait until he offers an apology to forgive him. It is my responsibility to offer forgiveness, regardless of his actions.

2. Forgiveness is usually based on grace. I love this one! We don’t forgive others only when we think they deserve it. They may never deserve our forgiveness. But I didn’t deserve the forgiveness Christ offered me on the cross either.

3. Forgiveness might bring mutual peace. But then again, it might not. Offering our forgiveness doesn’t guarantee it will be accepted. The relationship may not be reconciled through our amends. But we can find peace through our forgiving actions.

We often become so focused on our own problems that we don’t recognize the loss and pain our stepchildren are suffering.

It isn’t easy being a stepparent. But it isn’t easy being a stepchild either.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Do you need to offer forgiveness to someone today?

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

My youngest son just came back from his first overnight church camp. He told me story after story of the fun he had with his friends and the memories he made on the campground.

But then, with tears in his eyes, he told me of the many talks they had of what Jesus has done for us and the love and grace He offers us, undeserved.

As we come to the end of our posts on creating a stable stepfamily, I am reminded of the most important element of creating a stable stepfamily: offer love and grace freely to your stepchildren. Even when they don’t deserve it.

Stable relationships are formed as we show our stepchildren we love them on good days and bad, offering forgiveness to them, undeserved. It’s not easy to do and can only be accomplished through God’s strength, but will make a long-term difference in our relationships.

How can you show love and grace to your family this week-end?

Have a happy 4th of July and spend some quality time with your stepchildren!

Healthy Stepparenting #15: Don’t Keep Score


Today I conclude my series on Healthy Stepparenting tips. I want to focus on an intentional action we can take to stabilize our relationships during and after periods of conflict. It’s a simple suggestion that carries a lot of weight: Don’t keep score.

When we’ve been hurt or wronged by someone else, it’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts toward that person. If we don’t forgive them, bitterness will creep in as we start tracking every misdeed.

What do we gain by keeping score when our spouse or stepchild wrongs us? Will it change their behavior? Does it offer any positive result for us?

Keeping score allows a prideful spirit to insist our way is right. It gets in the way of reconciliation as it airs an attitude of self-righteousness.

When we’ve been wronged, we can choose to forgive and let it go.

Perhaps we’re keeping score because we can’t overlook minor offenses. Or maybe we tend to be overly sensitive and react with anger or hurt feelings to every irritation we encounter. Some people like to dwell on other’s faults because it keeps them from looking at their own faults.

Keeping score is a dangerous game in relationships. It may offer a temporary sense of satisfaction but leads to long-term bondage. When we hold a grudge and keep track of other’s offenses, we invite disharmony into our home.

Forgiveness offers freedom. It’s an intentional choice. And it’s a choice worth making time and again.

Healthy Stepparenting #10: Offer Grace Freely

If you have biological children and stepchildren, you may find it easier to offer grace to your biological children than you do your stepchildren. But the truth is, our stepchildren greatly need and deserve our grace.

It’s easy for our biological children to feel unconditional love and acceptance from us. It’s natural for us to offer grace to the children we bore. But it may feel uncomfortable and unnatural to offer love, grace and acceptance to our stepchildren. We may not feel love toward them. We may not believe they are worthy of our grace. But we have been offered grace we don’t deserve either.

Christ offers unconditional love and never-ending grace on a daily basis. In fact, I believe Christ knew how badly I needed to feel His grace after my divorce. As a result, he gave me a second husband with the name “Grace,” allowing me to carry that name for the last 14 years. It’s a daily reminder of His grace that surrounds me.

You are probably familiar with the common acronym for Grace – God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. But I recently heard another one I like as well – God’s Radical and Complete Embrace. What a sweet picture that paints of God’s love for us. And what a great reminder of the grace we should offer our stepchildren – radical and complete embrace.

Are you up for it? I know it may not feel comfortable or natural. But just because something isn’t comfortable for us, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.