Love is Sacrificial

We started off our week with a car problem. Ugh! My husband’s car had to be towed to the dealership first thing this morning. After coming in from church last night, he couldn’t get the motor to shut down when he turned the car off. He finally disconnected the part that runs to the fuel pump to stop the engine.

The technician from the dealership said he would give it a good check up and let us know the problem and what needed to be fixed.

While waiting on the diagnosis, I began thinking about areas in my life that needed a good check up. It’s easy to recognize that there’s more than one place that could use some “fixing” from God’s healing hand.

My most glaring need today centers around how I allow my personal agenda and selfishness to keep me from loving others and treating them as I should. I don’t always feel loving toward those around me and I allow my feelings to dictate my actions.

 It’s easy to be loving and kind toward my stepchildren when they’re being respectful and obedient. But it’s a lot harder to continue to love them when they’re rude and offensive. 

However, I’m frequently reminded of the commitment I made when I married my husband. I married him “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.” I committed to loving him and his children, even on days I didn’t feel like it.

So today I will ask for the Lord’s help to show sacrificial love to my stepchildren. It doesn’t mean I will like their behavior or agree with their choices, but I will seek to honor the Golden Rule with them: “Do for others what you would like them to do for you” (Matthew 7:12).

I will expect nothing in return but know that God sees my heart and my desire to honor Him.

Does your heart need a check up today? Are there areas that need God’s healing hand?  

 Related Posts:

When Love is Not Enough

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

Healthy Stepparenting: Don’t Keep Score

Back to School Tips, Part Three – Resolve Conflict as it Occurs

I was shocked to learn of a family today whose son has left for college and his mom hasn’t spoken to him in several weeks. There was a conflict within the family while they were on vacation and the conflict was never resolved. So, now several members of the family are not speaking to each other.

That is tragic to me! How do you allow your son to leave for college and expect him to have a successful year when there is unresolved conflict and hard feelings with his family?

But, could it be that we do that in our own families and don’t realize it? Is there unresolved conflict with an ex-spouse that impacts your stepchildren/children every day? Are the children in your home expected to go to school and function at 100% when they left a battlefield back home? 

Our children are hugely impacted by what happens in our homes. If there is unresolved conflict, it will carry over into their lives and affect every aspect of their day. We owe it to our children/stepchildren to work through angry words and hurt feelings with direct communication.

As a new school year begins, it’s a great time to evaluate how well we’re doing with the parent in the other home. Are we doing our part to cooperate with them regarding a new school schedule, the kid’s needs, and any issue that came up during the summer months? Do we need to offer an apology or show mercy toward them for unresolved conflict?

In his book, The Smart Stepfamily, Ron Deal offers advice on what happens  when we refuse to work with an ex-spouse. “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.”

Our children need to be able to go to school and concentrate on their school work without worrying about conflict among relationships in their homes. We must do our part to resolve conflict as it occurs.

Are you using healthy communication to work through conflict?

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!

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

“I learned that if you want it bad enough, no matter how bad it is, you can make it.” Gale Sayers

Stepfamily researchers tell us that the first decade of stepfamily life is the most difficult. The first decade – ten years! That is a long time.

But if we want success in our stepfamily, we must be willing to commit to the long run. And we must make that commitment from the beginning.

My husband is a marathon runner. When he begins training for a marathon, he maps out weekly runs and cross training workouts. He methodically puts a plan together to train his body to complete the grueling distance.

But the most important component of the training is his commitment to go the distance, even when it gets tough. He has completed training runs in the brutal heat and piercing cold. He has completed training runs when he didn’t want to and didn’t feel up to par. But he understands the commitment to the training if he wants to be successful in the race.

As stepparents, we must recognize our commitment to the process if we want to be successful in our relationships. We must be willing to endure the good times and the bad. We must engage in our stepparenting role on days we don’t want to and days we feel less than optimal.

But we can trust there are rewards for our efforts. Just as training for a marathon leads to race day success, investing in long-term commitments leads to stepfamily success, creating stable relationships that last.

“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

The Sting of Hurtful Words

My stepson compared me, in a negative sense, to his biological mom this week-end. His mom died over five years ago and the wounds are evident everyday. The words he spoke pierced my heart. I wish I could say it didn’t matter to me, but it did.

I have been an active mom in his life for almost 15 years and I would like to believe I have positively influenced him. But he made it clear to me that my opinion of the choice he was making didn’t matter because his “real mom” would have been fine with it and it was time I butted out.

Since my stepson turns 20 years old this summer, I recognize his disregard of my opinion. But I believe he is making a choice with negative long-term consequences and I couldn’t let it go without expressing my thoughts on the subject.

My stepmother mantra immediately came to mind, lower your expectations for now. In other words, get off your pity pot and let it go. If he chooses to ignore your advice, it is his loss. You cannot control his hurtful reaction but you can control yours.

The challenges of stepparenting seem to ease up at times, only to resurface at other times. It is not uncommon to take a step forward and two steps backward. It feels like my stepson and I took a step backward this week-end. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to start again, continually striving for a positive difference in my stepson’s life.

Have you experienced hurtful words lately? How do you cope with it?