Finding Faith and Hope When Circumstances Look Bleak

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla GraceWhen it comes to the stepparenting journey, the path is often full of potholes. Some so deep they’ll swallow us whole if we let them. In my own journey, there have been times when I wanted to give up.

To quit.

To move on.

But I didn’t.

I chose to continue. I chose to find a way to navigate the path and press on through the valley.

Today I share a resource on how to live by faith with courage, passion, and purpose, even when life is hard.

When I Lay My Isaac Down, by Carol Kent, is a story of overcoming. Of moving on. Of doing more than just enduring the difficulty and existing.

Stepparenting has challenges and we want to do more than just endure and exist. We want to overcome.

To thrive.

Learn how to live and grow in our faith.

In her book, Kent shares her story of growing in her faith after her son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a man with an impeccable military record was convicted of murder. Kent chose to accept the unwelcome event that abruptly changed her future, and walk by faith.

To find purpose in her suffering.

She shares how this life-altering event brought her to a new understanding of faith.

She writes “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.”

Sadly, her story doesn’t have a happy ending. Her son is serving a life sentence for murder. But Kent chooses to live with passion and purpose anyway.

As stepparents, we often live in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable obstacles. At times, we experience unhappy endings.

Change knocks on our door as an unwelcome visitor through custody battles, unending schedule modifications, parental alienation, or many other difficult circumstances. But we can choose to live with “courage, passion, and purpose” as we face unwelcome change with a steadfast faith.

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla Grace

Kent has a new book, Unquenchable: Grow a Wildlife Faith that Will Endure Anything. One reviewer of the book said, “You will find joy and peace even in the midst of the most horrific storms. The book is full of stories of people who’ve traveled through the darkest of days, and found peace, forgiveness, and hope.”

If you’re burdened with the circumstances in your stepfamily, I encourage you to pick up one of Kent’s books and find Hope!

How do you cope with unwelcome change or challenge in your stepfamily?

Join our community on the Sisterhood of Stepmoms Facebook page for additional support.

But I’m Not a Wicked Stepmother!

It’s easy to feel like one some days, isn’t it? Especially when our stepchildren treat us that way, despite our best efforts.

My friend, Carol Boley, and her co-author Kathi Lipp wrote a resource for stepmoms, But I’m Not a Wicked Stepmother! Secrets of Successful Blended Families that gives great advice on how to thrive in your role and overcome the evil stepmom stigma. Read more

Why Reality Triumphs in Your Stepfamily

My son has an upper respiration infection.  As he whined about his symptoms while picking at his breakfast, I didn’t want to believe him. My to-do list for the day didn’t include a trip to the doctor, a two-hour wait with screaming children sliming their germs beside me, and another trip to the pharmacist.

But it didn’t matter what I was imagining in my head. My son was sick. If I had denied his symptoms, the virus lingering in his body would have continued to attack his healthy cells, creating more and more symptoms of illness. We leave for a seven-day cruise tomorrow and that’s a disaster in the making!

It’s the same in our stepfamilies. Maybe your stepdaughter doesn’t want to acknowledge the marriage of her dad to you — her stepmom. Maybe she’s fantasizing that her parents will get back together. Maybe she’s believing the lies her mom is putting in her head about you. But the truth is… reality wins!

Eventually, your stepchild will accept the reality of your presence in his or her life. Even if the biological parent in the other home is bashing you on all fronts, reality will win. Eventually, your stepchild will recognize that you’re not going away and she needs to squelch her fantasies and begin to develop a relationship with you. At some point, your stepchildren develop a mind of their own, separate from the garbage the other biological parent is feeding them, and form their own opinion of you!

It’s not easy. There may be some squirming and squealing in the process. There might be one step forward and two steps backward. But from my own experience, I can assure you — even if it seems hopeless…it’s not!  Even if there’s a lot of conflict in your stepfamily right now, it eventually subsides. I promise. (If you don’t give up).

I love Dick Dunn’s words in his book, “New Faces in the Frame.” He says, “At first you may see little or no progress. Remember that as children mature, their capacity to understand matures also. True maturity is a life-long process. In time, fantasies give way to reality, and children move on with their lives. Fantasies attach us to the past–letting go frees us for the future.”

Be gentle with your stepchildren as they learn to put aside their fantasies and live with reality. It’s not an easy process, but it will change your relationships over time. Reality triumphs every time.

Do you agree? Is your stepfamily living in reality or still struggling with fantasy?

Pic by Victor Habbick

Have you heard of our Stepmom Retreat? Come join us in Dallas September 25-27, 2015 and find hope, camaraderie with other stepmoms, and fun! Details here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/

 

 

The Privilege Of a Stepparent

“Please pray for our marriage. I’m afraid my husband is about to walk away.” My heart sank as I listened to the voice mail. The woman and her husband had been in our stepfamily class and I knew there were a lot of struggles. But I didn’t expect her spouse to quit.

The challenges of stepfamily dynamics cripple step couples who don’t have the tools they need to succeed in their relationships. The statistics of divorce are staggering for remarriage when children are part of the package. But divorce doesn’t have to be the answer.

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Yes, it’s hard. It’s overwhelming. And it’s not unusual to feel like your stepfamily relationships will never be where you’d hoped. But if you quit, you’ll never experience the rewards that accompany the later years.

Read more

How to Cope as an Outsider in Your Stepfamily

Today I’m including a devotion I wrote recently that will be included in a new stepmom devotional book Laura Petherbridge, Heather Hetchler and myself are working on. Enjoy!

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“…We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

“I feel invisible in my own home.” I could see the pain in my friend’s eyes. “My husband and stepchildren know how to do life without me and I often feel excluded. I don’t know how to break into the inner circle that surrounds them.”

Nodding in agreement, I reflected on my own feelings as an outsider in our early years. I remember my heart aching when my family told jokes I didn’t understand, reminisced about past experiences I wasn’t part of, or left me out of their activity.

Feeling Like an Outsider in my Stepfamily

Finally, I decided I would accept that some days I had to cope with the outsider role. I couldn’t force my stepchildren to let me into their insider circle. But I could take care of myself when the familiar feeling of loneliness set in. On those days, I would call a friend to go to coffee, catch up on my Bible study, or hit the gym for a workout with my buddies. By engaging in activities outside the home, places where I had my own identity, I better coped with the loneliness I felt at home.

I’m thankful to call myself an insider in God’s family. I’m unconditionally loved and accepted into God’s kingdom. I’m also an insider as part of a couple relationship with my husband, my family of origin, my biological kids, and my profession as a writer. If I recognize my insider status in other areas, I cope better when I’m left out of the circle at home.

Thought of the day: I can’t force my stepchildren to let me into their inner circle. But I can be content in the role I play, finding gratitude in other places of acceptance.

Dear Lord, thank You for accepting me into Your kingdom as Your child. Help me focus on You when I feel displaced in my home.

What Makes the Stepmom Role So Hard?

Have you experienced hard days as a stepmom? Do you wonder why stepdads seem to have an easier time bonding with their stepchildren than stepmoms?

Not all step-relationships are the same. In our own family, the relationships I have with my stepchildren are very different than those of my husband and his stepdaughters.

When my girls began to call my husband Dad a few years into our marriage, I knew it reflected their growing relationship with their stepdad. But I was jealous of the bonds they’d formed and wondered what I was doing wrong as a stepmom.

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There are countless variables that contribute to step-relationships and the blending process.

One variable that remains constant, however, is the uphill road of a stepmother.

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal explains what makes the stepmom role so hard.

“Stepmothers are at an even greater disadvantage than stepfathers for a number of reasons.

First, children tend to maintain more frequent contact with their noncustodial mothers.

Second, children’s attachment to their biological mother is believed to be stronger than their attachment to their father, making the acceptance and bonding with a stepmother even more difficult.

Third, because society expects women to achieve a higher relational standard than men, stepmothers feel greater pressure to build a strong attachment with stepchildren. Despite societal changes in women’s roles throughout the world, women still bear the primary responsibility for child care, maintenance, and nurturance of children. Stepmothers are not excused from these responsibilities, and they try to fulfill society’s expectations by working hard at building a relationship–only to discover a strong loyalty to the biological mom standing in the way.”

Can you relate? Are you trying to build a bond with your stepchildren that simply isn’t possible?

When I realized the variables I was competing against as I struggled to bond with my stepchildren, I better understood where I was headed. I didn’t quit trying to grow a meaningful relationship with them, but my guilt was lifted as I quit expecting the same kind of relationship I saw between my husband and his stepdaughters.

It’s not easy to create close bonds with your stepchildren as a stepmom but it isn’t impossible either.

As I spent my birthday recently with my  husband and stepdaughter, I was reminded of how far we’ve come. Our early years were very difficult, but the blessings I enjoy now outweigh the challenges of years’ past.

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Don’t give up if you’re experiencing some bumps on your stepmom journey. Expect them! But get up again and keep forging forward to find blessings in the end.

Has your stepmom journey been difficult? Can you share encouraging tips on how you’ve kept going on hard days?

Pic By Stuart Miles