Learning to Accept the Things You Cannot Change

“Mom I have mono. The doctor thinks I’ve had it six or seven weeks. He says I might need to quit my job so I can finish out the school semester while trying to get well.”

My daughter’s words were distressing. A 21-year-old college student living in another state, I knew she had been sick but never guessed it could be mono. I felt powerless as to how I could help.

A few days later I received another call from my 21-year-old stepson, also a college student living out of state. “Gayla, I have bronchitis. The doctor put me on an antibiotic but says I need to take a few days off work and get plenty of rest.”

Again the feeling of helplessness came over me. Accepting my role as a mom living 250 miles from three of our children has been agonizing for me at times. But I can’t change it.

It reminds me of the years my stepdaughter and stepson lived with their mom more than 300 miles away and how helpless I felt about their circumstances. My stepson suffered from severe allergies and asthma but lived in a home with two parents who smoked. When he came to visit, we went to the doctor, refilled prescriptions, and sent instructions back home regarding the need to keep him isolated from smoke.

But the instructions were often disregarded.

I couldn’t change his circumstances. I couldn’t change the behavior that took place in their home. I could only control my reaction to it.

The stepparenting journey will inevitably bring unpleasant circumstances and difficult behavior we cannot change. Maybe it’s an ex-pouse. Perhaps it’s a rebellious teen-ager. Or it could be an unforeseen circumstance that disrupts your home, like my husband’s job loss that resulted in an unwanted re-location.

Regardless of the situation, we find peace when we accept what we cannot change, and choose to focus on our reaction and ability  to change what’s within our power.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’ve had my share of pity-parties when I’ve cried out to the Lord about living so far from our children. I’ve pleaded and bargained with Him to change our circumstances.

But I don’t find peace there. I don’t find answers to my struggles. I find discontentment and hopelessness.

I find peace only when I go back to the Serenity Prayer and sincerely pray:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,                                                                                                             Courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.”

What about you? Are you trying to change a circumstance you need to accept? Or have you found peace through acceptance? I’d love to hear from you.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Creating Healthy Boundaries with your Ex-Spouse

Coping with Stepfamily Drama

Coping with  Stepfamily Drama Part Two

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?

Count Your Blessings

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”                  Count Your Blessings by Johnson Oatman

I used to sing this hymn to my two babies after my divorce, when I was learning how to parent alone. Life was hard and I didn’t know what was around the corner, but I refused to allow my circumstances to keep me from recognizing God’s blessings in my life.

My girls are now 18 and 21 years old but they remember me singing this old hymn as I rocked them to sleep, and are familiar with its special meaning to me.

I still count my blessings every day. Today I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to counsel my 25-year-old stepdaughter about a difficult circumstance at work. I’m thankful my college-age student dropped by to say hello and share what’s happening in her life this week. I’m thankful I was able to stay home with my 10-year-old son yesterday when he woke up with 101 fever and a horrible-sounding cough.

But I’m especially thankful this week for a new job God has provided for my husband. If you read my blog often, you will remember my recent post on The Valley of the Unknown.  Thankfully, we didn’t have to wander long in the valley of unemployment. My husband secured a new job last week and is excited to begin his new journey April 4th.

However, the job is in another state, forcing us to quickly begin the relocation process. My husband will go before us to begin employment while the kids and I stay behind to sell the house, finish the school year, etc. It creates a stressful situation, but one in which I will remember to count my blessings.

We’re thankful for the new location because it lands us closer to our home state of Texas, where our oldest daughter resides in addition to a great deal of extended family. As we move from Arkansas to Louisiana, we leave three kids behind to finish college, but we’re thankful we can see them within a four hour car ride. It will be a significant change for all of us, but we know God is in control and trust His guidance, while we count our blessings.

Life presents challenging circumstances almost every day. As a stepparent, it’s easy to lose sight of the good things happening around us because we’re consumed with the negative. But if we remember to count our blessings, we will see God’s goodness in the midst of difficulty.

Have you counted your blessings today?

Related Posts:

Giving Thanks for Stepchildren

When Our Thinking Becomes Distorted

New Beginnings

Seeing God’s Mercy on Difficult Days

My daughter shared this beautiful song with me recently – “Blessings” by Laura Story. I was having a hard day and was stressing over how we were going to survive the long days of unemployment that were upon us after my husband’s job ended.

Tears began streaming down my face as I listened to the words of the chorus:

What if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?”

Laura Story wrote this song after her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and after multiple surgeries, didn’t get the healing he had hoped for. They began to question whether they had an accurate picture of God’s mercy.

As the song says, “We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep.   We pray for healing, for prosperity.We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.  All the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.”

We want our life to be comfortable, prosperous and easy. But God is more interested in the journey than the ending. He develops and matures our character through hopeless circumstances. But we have to choose to draw close to Him as we travel our challenging path.

The stepfamily journey has difficult days and sleepless nights. Defiant teen-agers, belligerent ex-spouses, confusing emotions and shattered dreams contribute to hopeless days. We search for God and beg for His mercies. But as the song suggests, perhaps our blessing comes as we seek His face for comfort, compassion, and answers during our trials.
Will you consider that God could be showing His mercy through unexpected ways?

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

There’s Beauty After the Pain

The Valley of the Unknown

My husband’s job ends next week. We moved to Conway, AR eleven years ago for my husband to assume the position of Director of Operations with a manufacturing company. His job has provided a comfortable living for us here as we’ve raised our children. But, unfortunately, the downfall of the housing industry has taken a huge toll on the company and Corporate has chosen to close its doors.

We are facing the valley of the unknown. It’s a scary place. We have complete faith he will land another job but that job hasn’t shown up yet. So, in the meantime, we wait.

The valley of the unknown appears more often than we like on this journey of life. It has reared its head in various ways on our stepparenting path. And each time, although it was difficult to deal with, we came out successfully on the other side.

Here a few of my thoughts on coping with the valley of the unknown:

Surrender to God’s plan. Give up control of the situation and ask for God’s guidance. Don’t try to find the answers alone. God is seeking a relationship with us and will guide our steps if we ask Him.

Unite with your spouse. Be on the same page with your spouse through the difficulty. Communicate frequently and brainstorm together for solutions. Lean on one another on the hard days and seek to find laughter through the trial.

Wait. Many times, God calls us to simply wait. I strongly dislike this one, but have endured it frequently. A beautiful illustration of how God works through the wait can be found here: Wait Poem, by Russell Kelfer. 

Take the next step. As you sense answers to your dilemma, take a step of faith. Start with small steps as you overcome your fear of a new direction. Continue to seek God’s plan and follow His lead.

Rejoice in new beginnings. Adopt an attitude of thankfulness as you move from the valley of the unknown to a heighth of unchartered territory. Embrace the change that accompanies a fresh start. Leave the past behind with any regrets of what could have been.

Press on. As Selah’s powerful song says, “In Jesus’ Name, we press on.” View Selah’s song.
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).

Are you in a valley of the unknown? Do you have other suggestions to offer?

Related Posts:

God’s Timing is Different Than Ours

Let Go and Let God