Finding the Beauty of God’s Grace in Your Stepfamily

Nathan, 2010

“Mom, I’m sorry my friend was talking like that in front of you,” my nine year old son, Nathan, said as I put him to bed last night. He was referring to some crude language a neighbor was using while playing at our house. My son knew the comments were offensive to me.

I appreciated my son’s sweet attitude toward my feelings. I was reminded of the blessing of his sensitive spirit because I haven’t always experienced that with my other children. Nathan is the only child my husband and I have together, and I believe God gave me a caring, affectionate, I’m-gonna-take-care-of-my-momma boy to make up for some of the hurt and agony I’ve experienced with my stepchildren.

When I married my husband, my stepson was five. Because I had two girls, I didn’t know much about raising a son but I dreamed of cheering him on at ballgames, hearing about his first girlfriend, and enjoying big hugs snuggled on the couch. Unfortunately, most of those dreams have not come true.

My stepson’s mother was an active part of his life as a young boy and she didn’t like me being involved. My authority was undermined and my behavior was criticized. It seemd as if I was on trial constantly regarding what I said or how I disciplined my stepchildren. If I made a wrong move, my husband would hear about it.

I didn’t know how to stop feeling like I was competing with my stepson’s mother in every arena. When I attended ballgames, all I heard was, “Way to go son. Stike him out son. Hit it over the fence son.” My insecurity in my stepmother role kept me from actively participating at ballgames or school events when his mom was there.

The loyalty my stepson showed toward his mother was obvious. I was kept at arm’s length because it was too complicated to show love toward his stepmother.The risk of hurting his mom’s feelings was too great.

I learned to live with little expectation in my relationship with my stepson. It wasn’t the way I wanted it, but it became a survival technique for me. As he grew older, the relationship showed signs of developing, but when his mom died unexpectedly when he was 15 years old, the loyalty issues returned, preventing him from moving forward in a relationship with me.

God has seen every struggle with my stepson. He knows my heart and acknowledges my hurt from years’ past. When I was expecting our youngest child, I wanted another girl. I had been through so much pain with my stepson that I couldn’t imagine starting over with another boy.

But God knew what I needed. He has used our sweet son, Nathan, to heal my hurts and bandage my wounds. Through His grace, He gave me a gift I can’t replace. Nathan is affectionate and loving toward me every day. He is not a perfect child but he shows me unconditional love and emotional attachment like no other child. I can only explain it through God’s grace.

I would not appreciate Nathan’s unconditional love for me without the pain of the past. But with God’s redeeming love, I can enjoy a relationship with my son that I could only dream of before.

Have you seen evidences of God’s grace in your stepfamily?

Related posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

Healthy Stepparenting: Don’t Keep Score

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting: Offer Grace

When God Says Wait

“Wait, Wait, Wait on the Lord.” That’s the title of the most recent blog post I was reading that updates the recovery of my friend’s daughter who was in a terrible car accident recently. The brain injury she suffered is taking longer to heal than anyone wants. The days are long while her family waits and watches, wondering if she will ever fully recover. 

Wait. God requires that of us often.The circumstances change but the conditions remain the same. Wait.

Relationships in stepfamilies require constant waiting. We wait for them to develop, we wait for them to move forward, we wait for them to heal when hurts occur, and we wait for them to mature. It takes time. And it takes waiting.

In her book, The Stepfamily Survival Guide, by Natalie Nichols Gillespie, the author talks about the difficult wait she and her husband have been through with her oldest stepdaughter, Lorra. “Lorra has chosen as an adult not to continue her relationship with her father and me for now, and Adam (husband) and I  have sobbed on many occasions over her decision. The family all know that I have had nightmares on many multiple occasions that one of my stepdaughters is getting married and I am standing outside watching through the windows because I am not allowed inside the church!”

Natalie and her husband are enduring a terrible wait. An unknown future of whether her stepdaughter will allow them to be part of her life again. An agonizing wait.

There are no easy answers on enduring difficult waits. But as believers, we can stand on God’s promises. He will walk with us through the wait.  He will stand beside when we can’t find answers. He will guide us when we don’t understand the outcome. And He will sustain us when the wait seems unending.

We have a choice. Will we resist the wait and agonize over answers on our time table? Or will we wait on God, trust His sovereignty, and allow Him complete control of our destiny?

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you seeking His presence while you wait?

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Coping with Stepfamily Storms

Some Days are Harder Than Others as a Stepparent