Dare to Love in Your Stepfamily

Words from the voice on the radio played over in my head, piercing my heart. “We must dare to love those who hurt us.” The hurt from my gaping wound lay open. A friend I thought I could trust had let me down. I didn’t want to consider that I should dare to love her again.

Dare to Love in Your Stepfamily

I recognized the feeling from another time. Hurt by words of one of my stepchildren, I found it easier to guard my heart than make myself vulnerable to love again. I learned that a heart with walls around it, however, never experiences joy or peace.

With the Lord’s help, I reached out to my friend and offered forgiveness. Recognizing God’s grace of my own sin softened my heart toward my friend.

God’s power overcomes our weaknesses. We can dare to love again.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

 

 

 

Is Your StepCouple Marriage Worth Celebrating?

My husband and I celebrate 18 years of marriage this week! We consider it worth celebrating because in the early years, we weren’t sure we would make it to our next anniversary!

Blending four kids and managing difficult ex-spouses didn’t make for an easy start with our stepfamily. 

But today, we feel so blessed to celebrate how far we’ve come in our stepfamily relationships and the love we share as a step couple.

Are we perfect? No! My husband and I still squabble at times and might even disagree about how to handle a situation with one of the kids. But we no longer get defensive when we talk about each other’s children or question the motive behind one another’s actions.

The love we feel for our stepchildren has grown deeply through heart-wrenching experiences we’ve worked through together. I would never want to walk many of those roads again but overcoming challenges cemented our relationships as a stepfamily.

Our kids are now spread across three states, and two countries, but we stay in contact with each one of them almost weekly. It’s hard to get them all together but my husband and I still devote a lot of time to nurturing the relationships in our stepfamily.

family pic

Would I change the hard times? No. I’m stronger as a result of them. And that strength will carry me through what lies ahead.

Our challenges are different now. My husband and I travelled 1200 miles this past week-end to make some hard decisions regarding care for his dad. Our parents are aging and we’re facing painful emotions as we care for them in their last season of life.

Our young adult children don’t always make choices we’re proud of or want to support. But as a step couple who has weathered a lot of storms, we will face whatever comes down our path and work through the challenge together.

If you’re struggling on your stepfamily journey, don’t give up. There are better days ahead. Some day your stepchildren will leave home and be out on their own supporting themselves. And life gets easier!

But in the meantime, nurture your marriage so it can stand the tests that come your way. Don’t let your stepfamily challenges smother your love for one another. Your stepcouple marriage is worth celebrating!

If you need some extra hope today, check out this video and lyrics to a great song: The Words I Would Say by Sidewalk Prophets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bItzgw7OAU

What will you do this week to nurture your marriage? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

Loving Your Stepchild Won’t Happen Naturally

If you’ve been married or living with a stepchild longer than six months, I’m sure you recognize the truth in this statement. As much as I wish it to be true, loving a stepchild doesn’t happen naturally.

I talk to stepparents every day and I hear stories of how everybody got along so well until they married or began living together. Then relationships began to change.

It’s not uncommon for a stepparent to begin a stronger role as a parent when stepkids are living in the home, often creating friction in the relationship. And naturally, there’s no hiding who we really are with one another when we live together. Suddenly we begin to see a different side of our stepchild.

What do you do if you feel less than loving toward your stepchild? Don’t panic. And don’t berate yourself for it either. It’s natural.

Give yourself permission to grow a relationship with your stepchild over time. Don’t put expectations around the relationship or define what it’s supposed to look like. Your relationship with your stepchild is YOUR relationship. Don’t compare it to someone else’s or feel guilty for your feelings. Loving a stepchild takes time and effort.

If you’re doing your part to reach out to your stepchild and bond through relationship-building behavior, then accept whatever stage the relationship is at. Some days you might feel love for your stepchild and the next day feel not-so-loving 🙂 But time is on your side and as you build experiences and memories together, love follows.

It may never be the same type of love you have for a biological child. And depending on other variables (age of child, influence of other bio-parent, etc.) there might a degree of distance that you can’t change. But don’t give up. Continue to do your part to grow a loving relationship with your stepchild.

The rewards of stepparenting don’t appear early in the journey. But they’re far more rewarding down the road because you know you earned those rewards–they didn’t happen naturally just as a love for your stepchild won’t happen naturally. But it can happen!

Cherish your relationship today. Not the relationship you wish it were or the relationship you expect it to be next year. Where are you at today? It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Acceptance is the first key to change.

And if you want to grow a deeper love for your stepchildren, accept them for who they are and offer grace more freely for their shortcomings, expecting nothing in return. I know it’s  not easy but you’ll be blessed in the process!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Other thoughts on learning to love your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them!

Pic by Stuart Miles

 

Great New Resource for Stepmoms: “Recipe for Joy–A Stepmom’s Story”

I love introducing new resources for stepmoms because as you know, if you’ve been a stepmom long, the journey isn’t easy. I’m participating in a blog tour this week and can’t wait to tell you about a new book, Recipe  for Joy: A Stepmom’s Story of Finding Faith, Following Love, and Feeding a Family by Robin Davis.

Recipe for Joy: A Stepmom's Story

Davis has been a food writer for almost 20 years and promised herself there were three things she would never do: move back to Ohio, get married, and join an organized religion. The book cites a compelling story of how her life took a turn she would have never predicted.

In a transparent, authentic voice, Davis relates a journey that begins as one seeking fulfillment through an interesting food and writing career–while running from God, but ends as one finding meaning in life through a relationship with God and two roles she would have never anticipated: a wife and stepmother who moves back to Ohio!

It’s a beautifully written story, in an easy-to-read fashion, that offers hope and inspiration for blending families. I especially related to her quest to seek perfection as a stepmother and frustration in her ability to do so. Here are a few quotes from the book I couldn’t resist sharing:

“I knew, just knew, that if I tried harder, worked harder, and loved harder, I would be a perfect straight-A mom. What that search for perfection actually gave me was an A+ bout of anxiety that turned into something more serious.”

Advice from her husband, Ken: “They don’t expect you to be perfect. They love you just the way you are.”

“Prayers. Daily prayers. …became a ray of light. I don’t mean that my prayers were answered. … But my prayers changed, and my attitude changed.”

“You need to live in the moment, not rehearse the future,” Julie [her counselor] told me. “When you try to live in the future, you’re destined for disappointment. Life will never be exactly the way you imagine it.”

Words of wisdom for anyone doing life in a blended family:

We don’t have to strive for perfection in our stepparenting role to find success.

We can learn to live in the present, enjoying the blessings of today instead of striving for something better in the future.

We can find peace and light for our journey through our daily prayers.

A Must-read book for blended families with words of encouragement and hope offered in a refreshing format. In addition, each chapter closes with a family-tested recipe to try.

Learn more out this great resource here:  Recipe for Joy–A Stepmom’s Story or visit Robin’s website at http://robincdavis.com/.

 

When You Don’t Feel Love Toward Your Stepchild

I’ll never forget the day my stepson shot back at me, “You’re not my mom, Gayla. My mom would support my decision.”

I disagreed on an important decision he was making and voiced my opinion. I chose not to respond to his hurtful words and for a few days following, I didn’t feel love toward my stepson.

When You Don't  Feel Love for your Stepchild

Does that make me a bad person? No. I’m human. I needed some time to consider what he said and ask God to help me love him, despite my hurt.

I knew there was more behind my stepson’s words than his disagreement. What he was saying to me was, “I miss my mom. I wish she were here so I could have this conversation with her.” But she wasn’t. She had passed away just a short time earlier after a fierce battle with colon cancer. He was reacting toward me in anger to his loss.

It’s not always easy to live with the behavior of our stepchildren and feel love toward them. Here are a few things to consider on those days:

1.  Recognize their loss. Stepfamilies are born of loss and your stepchild might be dealing with layers of loss. As they go through life transitions such as adolescence, graduating from high school, etc. their loss is resurrected from years’ past and felt again. Try to be empathetic toward the feelings that are impacting their behavior.

2. Be the adult. Yes, it’s easy to stoop to the level of one attacking you, but someone needs to act like an adult.  I’m not saying it’s easy – on more than one occasion I had to withdraw from a conversation to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. But if we say hurtful words back, it  compounds the ill effects.

3. Take a time out when you need one. No one expects you to withstand painful happenings without taking time to recharge yourself. Determine what works for you to refresh yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s coffee with a girlfriend, a long afternoon walk, or a week-end away with your spouse.

4. Let the biological parent be in the charge. When you’re struggling with less-than-loving feelings toward your stepchild, step back and let the biological parent handle everyday situations. Our emotions get in the way of healthy reactions when we’re hurt, making it more difficult to address misbehavior or parenting decisions.

5. Pray for resolve. Allow God to soften your heart and pray the same for your stepchild. Look past the hurt toward a long-term relationship that’s willing to make sacrifices. It’s not unusual to have days you don’t feel love toward your stepchild. But if you’re in it for the long run, you want to work through those days and seek a long-term loving relationship.

Do you have other thoughts to offer? I would love to hear them.

Picture by Stuart Miles

 

When You Fail as a Stepparent, Don’t Give Up

I’m including a devotional today I wrote recently for stepparents. I hope you find it helpful.

When You Fail as a Stepparent, Don't Give Up

                “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  Hebrews 12:1

With tears in her eyes, the new stepmom described her recent trial. As she entered her home after a stressful day at work, her teenage stepson welcomed her with a disrespectful remark. She reacted in fury, saying words she wished she could take back before slamming the door as she exited the room. The fragile relationship spiraled further downward.

None of us like to admit that we fail from time to time. But, as imperfect beings in a sinful world, we can expect we will fail. What matters most is how we react when it happens. If we ask for forgiveness and seek a new direction, relationships can be mended. If we choose to learn from our failures and move forward, we gain strength and wisdom on the journey.

There are multiple accounts of human failure in the Bible, but the Apostle Paul’s description of failure resonates with me: “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)

I have failed miserably as a stepparent at times.  I have reacted with impatience, anger, and selfishness. I have allowed my needs to come before my stepchildren’s needs. But I refused to give up on my stepparenting journey when I made mistakes. I have chosen to move past my failures, asking for forgiveness from God and from my stepchildren, while seeking to change my ways with God’s strength and guidance.

Dear Father, give us the courage to keep trying when we know we’ve failed. Give us wisdom and perseverance to continue the course you have set before us. 

 

Picture by David Castillo Dominici