I sat by my phone anxiously, watching every text that came across. My niece was having a baby, and I wanted to know the details. Was it a boy or a girl? What was the name? How big? How was my niece doing?
The baby was delivered, and all seemed to be fine. A beautiful baby girl. Eleanor Joy. My niece was doing great.
But without warning, another text crossed my screen. Something wasn’t right. A diagnosis no one suspected had surfaced.
Beautiful Eleanor Joy had Down Syndrome. The doctor was certain of it.
I shuddered as I reread the text. No! It can’t be! I thought. The extensive ultrasounds. The routine prenatal visits. How was it never discovered? How will my niece and her husband cope with this unexpected turn?
Questions without answers. They dominate life. How do you handle them?
In our stepfamily journey, we had an unexpected turn eight years into our marriage. We had moved past the hard transitions, and our family was beginning to enjoy more peaceful relationships. Our four children could sit at the dinner table without fighting (on occasion!) and hope was on the horizon.
But the call from my husband’s ex-wife with unexpected news shook our family to the core. She had colon cancer—late stage.
One year later, my stepchildren lost their mother. Payton was 14. Adrianne was 19. A critical period in their young lives to experience such a loss.
The tragedy threw our family backward, changing relationships in ways we never anticipated. We experienced a season of turmoil that proved hard to recover from.
But during that difficult period, I learned a lot about how to cope when the unexpected happens. Here are a few suggestions if you’re walking through uncertain times in your stepfamily.
1. Trust God. He isn’t surprised by unexpected events. He wants to walk with us through the valleys. It’s our choice how we respond. We can turn our back in anger when things don’t go our way, or we can embrace His love and sovereignty. I pounded my fist in the air asking God to change my circumstances. But I found peace only when I accepted that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). I chose to believe I served a loving, faithful God even when I didn’t understand what was happening.
2. Live one day at a time. An old AA slogan, living one day at a time, makes sense—regardless of our circumstances. Why? Because it allows us to let go of the guilt and confusion of the past and the anxiety and fear of the future. Faith and fear can’t coexist. If we walk confidently through the present day, focusing on one step at a time, we find answers to the unknowns of the future when we need them without living in fear.
3. Run toward unity in your marriage. Nothing tears a marriage apart quicker than uncertainty and unresolved struggles. My husband and I struggled to stay above the current in the midst of the custody battle that followed after the death of his ex-wife. But we never quit trying. Sometimes it takes professional counseling or pastoral help during times of crisis. Do whatever you need to help your marriage withstand the fire.
4. Find support. Attend a stepmom retreat. Find a stepcouple support group. Begin counseling or coaching with a stepfamily expert. Read good resources for stepfamilies. Don’t just sit back and hope things will get better. It doesn’t often happen that way.
5. Remember: there are better days ahead! It’s been 12 years since our stepfamily crisis. With only an “ours” child still at home, my husband and I enjoy harmony and contentment most days. Our stepfamily isn’t perfect, but our relationships are good. During that difficult period years’ ago, I memorized a verse that still speaks to my heart on difficult days. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4).
Life is hard. The unexpected happens. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose hope.
As I write this, my niece’s baby girl, barely over a week old, remains in NICU. Thankfully, other than typical complications of Down’s, she is healthy. My niece and her husband are adjusting to life that took an unexpected turn. They’ve found support and encouragement from a sweet friend in their church who has a 2-year-old daughter with Down’s. And they’re trusting God as they walk their unexpected journey one day at a time.
What unexpected turn have you experienced in your stepfamily? Do you have other suggestions? Please share in the comments.
I hope you’ll consider joining us at our upcoming stepmom retreat Sept 16-17 in Dallas, TX at the beautiful Cooper hotel and spa. We offer a variety of workshops including:
- When the ex is challenging
- Legal aspects of stepfamily life
- Traumatized or hurting kids
- The full-time stepmom
- The childless stepmom
- Setting boundaries
- Adult stepkids
- How to keep the romance alive
- How to pray for your stepfamily
- And More!
Get all the details of our upcoming retreat here: http://sisterhoodofstepmoms.com/dallas-texas-2016/