God is Enough for the Stepfamily Struggle You Face

I just finished reading God Enough: Trusting God when Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Kasey Lowery Ewing. It’s a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness through a horrific loss as Kasey tells her story of losing her two-year-old son in an accident.

But it’s not an easy story to read. As a mom and stepmom, I can identify with Kasey’s raw emotions and personal struggle over a situation she can’t control. I understand her need to make sense of something she can never make sense of. And I admire her courage to heal her broken heart and look to the Lord for guidance for her tough questions and comfort for her pain.

Kasey writes about a close childhood friend who watched her daddy die of cancer and offers a statement her friend wrote in her grief: “It is well with my soul, but I am not alright.”

Kasey says, “This one quote resonated very deep inside me and describes how I felt that summer after Jake’s death. I was not okay, but it was well with my soul. There was a deep underlying trust that God was going to get us through.”

I’ve felt that same way with our stepfamily struggles many times – I was not okay but I trusted God would see us through. The future was uncertain but I knew God had a plan.

Can you relate? Are you facing a struggle in your stepfamily that you don’t have answers for? Trust that God will see you through. Ask Him the tough questions, expectantly waiting for answers.

As we look to a new year it’s easy to identify what went wrong last year and what we want to change this year. But if we do it on our own accord, we will fail. Only as we seek and trust the Lord for answers will we find the right answers for our struggles.

Do you believe God is enough? Did you see God’s hand in your stepfamily struggles last year? Will you encourage others and share them with us?

Related Posts:

“Will You Trust Me?” said the Lord

Making Resolutions that Count

Let Go and Let God

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

Our family leaves on an extended holiday trip in just over 2 weeks and I keep wondering how I’m going to get everything done. So, here are a few tips I’ve created to help myself maintain balance during this busy time of year – I hope you find them helpful also.

1. Prioritze your schedule to include activities most important to you. Say no to everything else and to obligations someone else can manage.
For me, that includes attending my son’s Christmas party at school, special church services, a holiday piano performance in our hometown, a few Christmas parties, and various other events. However, it doesn’t include ladies bunko night, the symphony performance, or lunch with each of my girlfriends to exchange gifts – there simply isn’t time for all that. 

2. Start each day with a spiritual act – prayer, devotional, Bible reading, listening to songs of praise, etc. to center your mind and soul for the day.
When we start our day with God in control, it allows for a God-centered day instead of a  man-centered one.  

3. Don’t allow someone else power over your emotions (i.e. ex-spouses, children/stepchildren).
Commit to staying in control of your emotions instead of allowing someone else to take that power from you. Walk away from volatile emotions or heated conversations. Engage in communication via e-mail or texting if necessary.

4. Stay faithful to healthy eating patterns and a regular exercise routine.
Get up earlier than usual if you need to, but don’t skimp on exercise and sensible eating. You will feel better and manage your demanding schedule more competently if you maintain healthy habits through the season.

5. Break down consuming tasks into chunk-size actions that can be completed a little at a time.
For instance, I easily become overwhelmed when I think about shopping for our five children in addition to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. However, if  I choose one child to focus on until I’m finished and then move to the next child or a parent or whatever, the task seems less daunting.

6. Commit to making each day positive.
We have so much to be thankful for and if we choose to focus on the positives in our life, we will manage our schedule with greater ease. If we have a bump in the road one day, we can choose to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward instead of allowing negative thoughts to set in.

7. Read Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide to Success – Unwrapping the Gift of Peace (an easy-to-read e-book) to find additional tips on maintaing balance and creating a peaceful season.  

There they are – 7 tips for finding balance during holiday chaos.

Do you another tip to add? Would you please share it with us?

Related Posts:

Holiday Tip: Balancing Your Time as you Consider What’s Important

Holiday Tips for Stepfamilies: Live One Day at a Time

The Holidays Are Upon Us – How Will Your Blended Family Manage?

As we turn the calendar to November next week, we begin to think about the holidays. As a blended family, holidays bring additional stress: heightened expectations, scheduling conflicts with the ex and children or stepchildren, financial burdens, increased communication with ex and ex-in-laws, and time constraints, just to name a few.

So, how do you cope? How do you find peace through a stress-filled holiday season?

I have a resource to help you. I have teamed up with a fellow stepmom, Heather Hetchler, and we have written an e-book titled, “Thriving at the Holidays: A Stepparent’s Guide To Success – Unwrapping the Gift of Peace.

We are excited to offer this new resource for less than the cost of a Startbucks! It will be available October 31st for $2.99 through Amazon and other retailers. I will give you more information once it’s officially launched.
Heather and I have 11 children between our two families and understand the dynamics of blended family holidays. In our book, we offer eight tips for blended families to not just survive the holidays, but thrive through them.
It includes a foreword by stepfamily authority, Ron Deal, that says, “Heather and Gayla want to help your family unwrap familial peace. From stepparent’s living in the trenches, this booklet is packed  full of practical advice, encouragement, and perspective for your holiday challenges.”
I will include thoughts from the e-book on my blog during the holiday season but I hope you’ll consider reading the complete e-book to help you unwrap the gift of peace this holiday season.
More details to follow…
What are you concerned about this holiday season? Do you need some encouragement for your journey?
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Expect the Unexpected on Your Stepparenting Journey

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?

Let Go of the Guilt – Part Two

As a stepparent, do you carry around unnecessary guilt? Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake or don’t have a perfect day with your stepchild?

Guilt is a harmful emotion. It keeps us from enjoying present-day peace and sets us up for self-defeating behavior. Unless the guilt is justified from wrong behavior, it’s time to let go of it.

I think that as stepparents we expect too much of ourselves and can never measure up. Then, we feel guilty because our expectation doesn’t match reality.

My husband, Randy, and I are both stepparents in our family. I always compared my role as a stepparent to his two kids to his role as a stepparent to my two kids. But, everytime I contrasted the stepfamily relationships, I came up short. Randy’s relationships with my children were stronger than my relationships with his. Following my comparison each time came guilt.

What I finally realized was there are completely different dynamics in the relationships. My two girls call my husband Dad and consider him their primary father figure. Their natural father has proved unstable and unpredictable during their years of growing up. Therefore, they’ve embraced Randy as their stepdad and have a healthy, loving relationship with him.

On the other hand, my stepchildren had an active mother in their lives until she passed away. I sensed that she competed with me in every way, discouraging any kind of relationship with her children.

My stepdaughter went to live with her mother as a young adolescent, creating less of an opportunity for me to bond with her. My stepson also lived with his mother for several years during the period of her terminal illness and death. Since her passing, it’s easy to recognize the loyalty conflict he struggles with that prevents him from forming an intimate relationship with me.

So, I finally decided that if I was doing my best to demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance with my stepchildren and continuing to strive toward a healthy, growing relationship, I would not feel guilty over less-than-perfect bonds with them. I realized that my stepchildren and the dynamics in their “other home” also play a role in what kind of relationship I’m allowed to develop with them.

Stepfamily dynamics are different in every home. Some stepfamily relationships form very close bonds and some never get past an acquaintance stage. But if you’re doing your part to develop healthy, loving relationships, regardless of what your relationships currently look like, let go of the guilt. It serves no constructive purpose.

What are you feeling guilty about that you need to let go of?

Related Posts:

Let Go of the Guilt – Part One

Take Care of Yourself Spiritually, Physically, and Emotionally

Setting Boundaries as a Stepparent

Let Go of the Guilt

Five inches of snow fell in Central Arkansas yesterday. We rarely get to experience the fluffy white stuff so our town always enjoys a break from the routine when snow appears. You could find kids on every corner making snowmen, sledding down the biggest hill in town, and sipping hot chocolate around a fire.

I spent the day with the kids in the snow but kept feeling a nagging sensation I needed to be inside working toward my writing deadlines, tackling my to-do list, or checking off completed chores. I finally gave myself permission to enjoy the day, free of guilt, but it required an extra effort of self-talk.

Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we insist we must be perfect in all our efforts as a mom, stepmom, wife, employee, or volunteer? How do we change those negative messages of guilt that barrage us?

I think we create guilt by comparing ourselves to others. We see a family that appears to have it together all the time and wonder why our family continues to struggle. But what we often forget is that we compare how we feel on the inside what what we see on the outside. Read that statement again. Appearances don’t usually match reality.

Another easy way we create guilt is by assuming we must do everything the way the experts tell us.  I read an article recently on how to teach your children about money and as I finished it, I felt guilty. There were many things mentioned that we hadn’t done so I assumed we had done a poor job in teaching our older children about money, even though they’re managing their money well (most of the time, anyway).  

An important thing to remember is that every family is different. Particularly in stepfamilies, we can’t compare how we do things with how another family does it. Our children have influences from outside our home that we can’t control. We have to accept their input and the reality of their influence.

My stepson was never taken to church when he stayed at his Mom’s house. He lived there for three years during his adolescent years and had very little exposure to a Christian life. As a young adult, he rarely steps foot into a church and seems to have little regard for living for Christ. Although it saddens me, I refuse to feel guilty over it. My husband and I did our best to expose him to Christian principles and teach him how to walk with the Lord daily when he was in our home.

Some guilt can be good and convicts us of how to live. But too often, mothers and stepmothers, carry around unnecessary guilt. We beat ourselves up regularly for less than perfect parenting.

In my next post, I will offer a few more ideas on the subject.

What do you feel guilty about? What will you do to let go of self-defeating guilt?

Related Posts:

Living in Peace While Blending a Family

How Do You Find Balance?

Let Go and Let God