A Glimpse Into One Stepmom’s Story: The Good and the Bad

She was looking forward to some time alone as her husband left for a business trip to India. With three stepchildren in the throes of the teen years, life wasn’t easy. Married for less than two years, she had no idea the challenges that would erupt when she wed.   

But she had signed up for the journey. When she said, “I do,” she committed to be a part of her stepchildren’s lives and wasn’t going to give up now. As a corporate executive, she had been through tough times before.

So how would she counter the hard days in her stepfamily? How would she keep going when her stepfamily relationships were struggling?

She educated herself to deal with the challenges. She read stepparenting books. She attended Ron Deal’s stepfamily conference. She sought counseling. She united with her husband to stay afloat. She read God’s word. She prayed.

And she stayed active in her stepchildren’s lives, even when it might appear they didn’t want her there. Soccer games, dentist appointments, band rehearsals, and a host of other kid activities made their way to her calendar. She sought to show love and support to her stepchildren in whatever way possible.

She altered her work schedule to allow more time at home when her stepchildren were there. She stepped off the corporate ladder and chose to work from home as much as possible.

And she committed to a new life that included love and rejection, smiles and glares, happiness and exasperation, and contentment and doubt.

Would she trade it for a different life? Some days, yes.

But will she quit? No

Although she yearned for time alone with her husband out of town, she opted to spend time with her stepchildren. When her 16-year-old stepson called and offered to mow the lawn, she welcomed him. After he finished, she offered to take him to dinner and  asked if he would go to church with her that evening and he agreed. At dinner, they carried on meaningful conversation about  his goals and future opportunities. She encouraged him to steadily work toward his aspirations.

When she dropped him at his mom’s that evening, her stepdaughter came out to say hello. After a brief hug and a few remarks about her first week of school, her stepdaughter retreated inside and she returned home for the evening, thankful for a good day as a stepmom.

A caregiver book I’m reading, Strength for the Moment, tells the story of a man who volunteered to care for an aging man–one who was a hermit and hoarder. The caregiver bonded with the man, Howie, and adjusted to a daily routine of caring for him. After dementia and Parkinson’s disease took control of Howie, he was forced to be moved to a nursing home. But the caregiver continued to visit him, unable to neglect the love he felt for the man. After leaving the nursing home one day, distraught that Howie was still alive when he was such a burden on others, he asked God why He didn’t take Howie home.  Suddenly he realized, “Howie was there for me! God was teaching me how to love someone even when he offerered nothing in return.”

As stepparents, we all face days when our stepchildren offer nothing in return. We want to turn our backs and start down a different road. But as one caregiver discovered,  God can teach us how to love others, even on days they offer nothing in return.

And God can teach us to be thankful on days our stepchildren offer love and laughter too – because those are the days that keep us going.

I applaud my sister, Jan, for continuing a stepmother road that has not been easy. The good and the bad – it’s all part of the stepparenting journey. But blessings abound for those who persevere. Love ya sis!

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Do you agree? What blessings have you experienced as a stepparent? I would love to hear about them.

Related Posts:

As a Stepparent, You’re An Olympic Champion!

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

Are You Willing To Go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Back to School – Five Tips for Success with Stepchildren

Our youngest son started middle school last week as a 6th grader and has had some intimidating moments at his new school. He started off in the wrong classroom for homeroom but didn’t discover it until the teacher called roll. He left to go to the correct classroom and finally entered the right room–tardy.

The next day he innocently walked through a circle of 8th graders on his way to class and was belittled by the older kids who insisted he “Go around next time!” And later that day he discovered the bus he rides home includes a few high school students who aren’t always nice to the young ones!

bus School is tough for our kids. Their days are stressful and intimidating, especially for those starting new schools. But we can help make their school year a success. Here are a few tips I suggest:

1. Pray regularly for your children and stepchildren. In her book, The Power of a Praying Parent, Stormie Omartian says, “The battle for our children’s lives is waged on our knees. When we don’t pray, it’s like sitting on the sidelines watching our children in a war zone getting shot at from every angle. When we do pray, we’re in the battle alongside them, appropriating God’s power on their behalf.”

2. Evaluate your schedule – have you left room to help with homework? It’s easy to inundate ourselves with too many commitments. I evaluate my schedule regularly to see if I need to change/add/delete anything. Raising children requires time and energy.  Our role as stepparents is even more demanding, mentally and emotionally.  If we give all  our energy to outside commitments and demanding careers, what do we draw from to deal with the inevitable crises and unexpected irritants that will surely come our way?

3. Resolve conflict as it occurs. Our children are impacted every day by what happens in our home. If we refuse to be cooperative with an ex-spouse regarding a new school schedule or negotiating activities, our children suffer. Here’s what Ron Deal says on this issue in The Smart Stepfamily: “An old African proverb says, ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ Biological parents who fight and refuse to cooperate are trampling on their most prized possession – their children. Elephants at war are totally unaware of what is happening to the grass, for they are far too consumed with the battle at hand. Little do they know how much damage is being done.” Someone has to be the bigger person and work to resolve conflict – will it be you?

4. Expect the best of your children. And let them know you love them. Our kids will live up to the expectations we set – they’re looking for someone to believe in them. As I drove my son to school this morning, I told him, “I’m proud of you for keeping a good attitude, even though I know your first days of middle school have not been easy.” Our stepchildren need our support. On days they’re not easy to love, ask for God’s help. “I am with you; …I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

5. Get to know their friends. Make your house the hangout.  If we don’t know our children’s friends, we can’t help them in their relationships. Friends can directly influence what kind of school year our stepchildren/children have. If you’re raising teens, keep food around – it always works. And gently talk to your kids about friends you don’t approve of and why. Childhood friendships are a breeding ground for teaching  what healthy relationships look like.

Are you looking forward to a new school year or dreading it? Will you commit to do your part in helping your children/stepchildren have a successful year?

What other tips do you offer? I would love to hear from you.

Pic by scottchan

Related Posts:

Back to School Routines and Your Stepfamily: Peaceful or Chaotic?

The Myth of the Perfect Stepparent

Change: A Friend or a Foe in Your Stepfamily?

Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

Will You Commit to Unwavering Effort and Prayers on Your Stepfamily Journey?

“Observe the ant,” the great oriental conquerorTamerlane told his friends. In relating a story from his early life, he said, “I once was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a dilapidated building,where I sat alone for many hours.

 

Wishing to divert my mind from my hopeless situation, I fixed my eyes on an ant carrying a kernel of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I counted its attempts to accomplish this feat. The corn fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the insect persevered. The seventieth time it reached the top. The ant’s accomplishment gave me courage for the moment, and I never forgot the lesson.” (Quoted in Streams in the Desert devotional, from The King’s Business.)

Tamerlane was a Central Asian conqueror and a brilliant military leader in the late 1300s who fought without wavering and gained control of a vast region including Iraq, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Georgia, Russia, and parts of India. He died on an expedition to conquer China.

So how do we relate Tamerlane to our stepfamily journey? Stepparenting requires unwavering effort. And we may not accomplish all that we desire in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we quit.

We may not see the rewards that Tamerlane did either. We might see very few earthly rewards. But God recognizes our efforts and will reward us.

I’ve been praying for a precious two-year-old girl, Stella, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her parents lost her sister, Charlotte, a few years ago to a different illness and were devastated when yet another child was handed a dismal prognosis. Yet, despite the overwhelming odds, their prayers for their daughter’s healing are unwavering.  

As I read the mom’s CaringBridge post this morning, her raw emotions tugged at my heart, but she doesn’t stop asking for a miracle for her baby. Here is an excerpt:

“So it seems the cancer cells are putting pressure on the brain causing Stella to have seizures. They currently have her heavily sedated while they attempt to control the seizures. As far as I am concerned nothing revealed on the current MRI will change that this is a setback and we have to push on. Dr Saylors confirms this and we are not quitting hoping and praying that our final result will be the complete healing of our Stella Rose.

We are battered but not broken. So many parts of this are reminiscent of watching our Charlotte and I can say this is difficult for everyone who sees her. She is hooked up to a lot of tubes right now, had many fluids and is swollen because of this. …

Pray for the seizures to get well controlled with medications, pray we get to start chemo as planned and pray we get our Stella back before the next step begins. As always ask God for a miracle.

Does your stepfamily need a miracle? Will you commit to unwavering effort and prayers on your stepfamily journey?
 

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Parenting From Your Knees

Stepfamily Detours – Where Are You Headed?

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

Offering the Gift of Prayer

Our three college children have been taking semester finals last week and this week. I’ve been praying for them diligently as I remember how overwhelming final exams can be.

As I was finishing my Christmas shopping this week, I ran across a merchant inside the mall who was selling hand-made gifts from Bethlehem. It was intriguing to look at the beautiful hand-carved pieces. When I spotted one of praying hands, I knew immediately I would purchase it. And not only did I purchase one, I purchased six of them.

My idea is to place one of the praying hands inside each of our children’s stockings and my husband’s stocking. I want each of them to keep it as a reminder that I will be praying for them daily in the upcoming year and if they have a specific need, they can always ask me to pray about it.

Four of our children are young adults, ages 18 – 26, and are making life-changing decisions at this juncture. I’m vividly aware of the mistake I made at 23 years old when I married a man that was a complete mistake, ending in divorce after years of heartache and pain. My hope is that none of our children make a dreadful decision like mine.

So I’m offering the gift of prayer to my family this year. It may not seem like a big gift and I know some of our children will appreciate the gift more than others, but it’s a gift I feel is important.

What do you think? Will you consider offering the gift of prayer for your family?

Related Posts:

Prayer Changes Relationships

Parenting From Your Knees

Commit to the Lord

Prayer Changes Relationships

This picture is my neighborhood prayer group I have been part of for almost seven years. We meet weekly at 6:00 a.m. (just rolled out of bed – no make up or hair fixed) and pray for the needs of each family represented for an hour.
I joined this group when my husband and I were fighting a custody battle for my stepson after his  mom died and his stepfather had applied for custody. It was a very difficult time and these ladies became my support group.
Year after year of praying diligently for my stepfamily and its relationships has resulted in some amazing healing. My stepson has changed from an angry adolescent who wanted to isolate himself from our family to a maturing young adult who loves and cares for each family member.
The Mother’s Day card  my stepson gave me this past Sunday brought tears to my eyes. The comments he wrote said, “After this last year, I’ve needed a mother the most, and you have been outstanding. Thank you for putting up with all my crazy ways and being a great mother to me!!”(exclamation marks included).  
I don’t write this to brag about our relationship but only to encourage you if your stepparenting relationships are strained. I’ve been there. I’ve had so many days that I wanted to give up on my stepmother role. But as my stepchildren reach their adult years, they show me their appreciation more and more.
The rewards of stepparenting don’t come during the early or middle years, they come at the end – probably after your stepchildren leave home.
But I’m convinced that the hours I’ve spent praying for my stepfamily and our relationships have made a difference. Our family was broken when my husband and I married 15 years ago, and only God could have put the pieces back together. 
With tears in my eyes, I said good-bye to my neighborhood prayer group last night. As  my husband and I and youngest son move to Louisiana, I’ll be in search of another prayer group to join. Or perhaps, I’ll start a neighborhood group where we move. But I can assure you, I won’t quit praying for my stepfamily. Because prayer changes relationships.
Are you praying regularly for your stepfamily?
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