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Finding Faith and Hope When Circumstances Look Bleak

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla GraceWhen it comes to the stepparenting journey, the path is often full of potholes. Some so deep they’ll swallow us whole if we let them. In my own journey, there have been times when I wanted to give up.

To quit.

To move on.

But I didn’t.

I chose to continue. I chose to find a way to navigate the path and press on through the valley.

Today I share a resource on how to live by faith with courage, passion, and purpose, even when life is hard.

When I Lay My Isaac Down, by Carol Kent, is a story of overcoming. Of moving on. Of doing more than just enduring the difficulty and existing.

Stepparenting has challenges and we want to do more than just endure and exist. We want to overcome.

To thrive.

Learn how to live and grow in our faith.

In her book, Kent shares her story of growing in her faith after her son, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a man with an impeccable military record was convicted of murder. Kent chose to accept the unwelcome event that abruptly changed her future, and walk by faith.

To find purpose in her suffering.

She shares how this life-altering event brought her to a new understanding of faith.

She writes “I have found that the greatest power of faith lies not in how we think we might use it to conquer challenges we’re sure a loving God would not put in our path,

but in how we live–with courage, passion, and purpose–in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable, obstacles.”

Sadly, her story doesn’t have a happy ending. Her son is serving a life sentence for murder. But Kent chooses to live with passion and purpose anyway.

As stepparents, we often live in the midst of unresolved, and sometimes immovable obstacles. At times, we experience unhappy endings.

Change knocks on our door as an unwelcome visitor through custody battles, unending schedule modifications, parental alienation, or many other difficult circumstances. But we can choose to live with “courage, passion, and purpose” as we face unwelcome change with a steadfast faith.

Finding Faith and Hope When the Circumstances are Bleak by Gayla Grace

Kent has a new book, Unquenchable: Grow a Wildlife Faith that Will Endure Anything. One reviewer of the book said, “You will find joy and peace even in the midst of the most horrific storms. The book is full of stories of people who’ve traveled through the darkest of days, and found peace, forgiveness, and hope.”

If you’re burdened with the circumstances in your stepfamily, I encourage you to pick up one of Kent’s books and find Hope!

How do you cope with unwelcome change or challenge in your stepfamily?

Join our community on the Sisterhood of Stepmoms Facebook page for additional support.

Change is Inevitable. Can We Learn to Trust God and Adapt?

One phone call. That’s all it took to change our stepfamily forever.

“I just got the news. She passed away earlier today,” my husband said. The finality of the words stung.  I thought about my teenage stepchildren facing life without their mom. Saddened, my heart ached.

I knew it would affect all of us. Like the ripples after tossing a stone into a lake, the effects would soon make their way into our home.

We had weathered some rocky storms as a stepfamily in the nine years my husband and I had been married. We were finally settling into a comfortable relationship, finding what worked for our family. I felt blessed for our newfound harmony.

Losing their mom created left a cavernous hole in the hearts of my stepchildren. My relationship with them suffered as they dealt with their grief.

It’s easy for me to trust God when things are going well. Yet, when I face circumstances I don’t understand and that I cannot change, my faith tends to waver. You too? My husband and I had been praying for his ex-wife to be healed. That was not God’s plan.

Change is inevitable. Can we learn to trust God & adapt? by Gayla Grace

My mind was bombarded with questions that had no answers.

  • Would the children move across state lines and come live with us?
  • Could our home accommodate two more?
  • How would they cope as they struggled to accept their mom was gone?
  • What could we do to help with their troubled emotions?

The path before me was uncharted and unknown. I would have to trust God with what lay ahead.

Solutions were not easily or quickly found.

Tension mounted in our home.

Tempers occasionally flared.

We waded through months of confusion and anxiety.

At times, my husband and I did not see eye to eye.

Yet, when we let go and surrendered to God’s plan, peace engulfed us.

Soon after her mother’s death, my stepdaughter began college and didn’t relocate. My stepson lived with his stepdad and younger half-brother for a while longer before moving in with us. For healing to begin, we had to give up control and trust God with the outcome. Then and ONLY THEN did we begin to experience peace and begin to see positive changes.

It’s been more than ten years since my stepchildren lost their mom. Now, as young adults, both of them live out of state and are thriving. I’m thankful for healthy, loving relationships with them.

These days my own mother’s health is waning as she struggles with late-stage dementia. My stepchildren understand the sadness that accompanies the loss of a parent and offer compassion toward me.

I still struggle with God’s plan at times, particularly as I watch Mom suffer.

I want it to be my way, and I have a hard time letting go of control. But I know His ways are sovereign.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Trusting God’s plan is hard. Have you learned to trust His plan with your stepfamily? Will you share it with us? 

Gayla Grace on Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies

Birth Order Angst in Stepfamilies: How to Help Step Siblings Adjust

 

“I don’t have to mind you!” The comment spewed from my oldest daughter, Jamie, to her older stepsister, Adrianne. Jamie had been the oldest child in our family before I remarried and refused to take direction from another sibling.

Adrianne was my husband’s first-born daughter—age 10 when we married. Jamie was my first-born daughter—age 5 when we married.  Both girls held the role of “the boss” of their younger siblings (or so they thought!)

Jamie was now the middle child in her new stepfamily. And Adrianne thought SHE was the boss.

Birth order struggles are real.

When you combine two families, it’s easy to forget the effects of birth order change.

We had never considered the birth order collision that would take place between these two. We expected them to get along, but how could they when both of them were fighting for the same role?

Jamie now had a big sister and Adrianne needed help learning to relate to a younger sibling. One that resented being thrust into the middle child position.

Dr. Kevin Lehman has written an entire book on the effects of birth order in a stepfamily, titled:  Living in a Stepfamily Without Getting Stepped Helping Your Children Survive the Birth Order Blender.

Here’s one important suggestion he gives:

When a child who is born into one birth order lands in another position in his blended family, do not treat the child as something he is not. He may have to take on different responsibilities or play different roles at times, but never forget who he really is.

Time helps with the adjustment of birth order changes, just like it helps with most other stepfamily adjustments. Jamie never stopped being the oldest, but she did learn to enjoy having an older sister.

In their young adult years, pictured below, Jamie and Adrianne have found love and understanding for one another that reaches beyond the tension of their early years.

Like many changes that have to be considered when families merge, the effects of birth order changes need to be considered also.

Do you have a birth order story to share from your stepfamily? I’d love to chat with you in the comments.

Gayla Grace with Three Reasons Stepfamilies Need Traditions

Traditions – Three Reasons a Stepfamily Needs Them

 

holiday-traditions-for-gg

“Family traditions are a great way for stepfamilies to connect with one another. Family members come together and work toward a common goal in a non-threatening environment. Traditions can be as simple as making paper chains to count down the days toward Christmas (one of my kids’ favorites) or more involved such as helping serve a meal at the homeless shelter. The goal is to find activities that the family enjoys and will look forward to doing together.”

It’s been seven years since I originally penned those words. Little has changed except now the kids are older and we don’t make a paper chain. Some of the kids are now married, so we’ve adjusted our traditions to include spouses and to accommodate the schedules of these new families. Well, now that I think about it, maybe more has changed than I realized. But I still believe family traditions are one of the keys to successfully navigating the holiday season as a stepfamily.

With traditions, everyone knows what to expect and works at accommodating their schedule to allow time to participate.

There are three benefits to creating traditions.

  1. Traditions create bonds. Bonds are strengthened as the family does something together. Think of the strands of a rope. One strand by itself is weak, but when woven together with more strands, the rope becomes stronger. Creating bonds makes your stepfamily stronger.
  2. Traditions provide a means of expressing love and laughter. These emotions help protect a family from brokenness and conflict. Working for a common purpose creates a sense of loyalty to each other and the family.
  3. Traditions create special memories. Memories that will be cherished long after family members pass on. Reminiscing of times’ past with loved ones can help ease the loneliness that creeps in when celebrating the holiday without that special someone.

Traditions are important and flexibility is key to making them work in stepfamilies.

Continuing traditions already in place also helps to provide routine and predictability.  Routine during the hectic holiday time just might offer some stability to otherwise unstable emotions that seem to surface this time of year.

It’s never too late to start family traditions. They offer a sense of belonging that can help cement relationships. Bring your family together and enjoy some new traditions this year!

What are some of your family traditions?

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

Step-Relationships Change as Time Passes

Our family enjoyed a long Easter week-end with four of our five children home. As I watched our kids interact, I couldn’t help but reminisce of times past when we encountered constant bickering and conflict among them. But now, with four of our children in their young adult years and only one child at home, the relationships have matured and grown beyond what I could have ever expected.

In the Easter picture of the kids, it’s interesting to take note of how they arranged themselves. My two biological daughters are on each end with my stepdaughter in the middle. In early pictures of our family, my bio children always stayed close to each other and stood side by side. But as years have changed their relationsips, they easily assume positions next to their step-siblings.

I would love to give easy, pat answers on how to mold relationships in blended families. But there are no easy answers.

It requires time, perseverance, and unending prayer. It requires constant nurturing of your marriage.  It requires going the extra mile when you don’t feel like it. It requires sacrificing some of your needs and wants for the sake of others.

But I can tell you from experience, the rewards are worth the effort.

I know there are days you want to quit. I’ve been there. Especially during the early years of our marriage, I remember thinking that single parenting was easier than trying to blend our family. If my first divorce hadn’t been so painful, I would have probably walked out. But after 16 years as a stepparent, I’m thankful I didn’t give up.

I’m also thankful that step-relationships change as time passes. It’s worth investing your time.

How have your relationships changed? Will you share it with us?

“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

Related Posts:

Are You Willing to go the Distance as a Stepparent?

Nuggets of Wisdom from Co-Author Laura Petherbridge: The Smart Stepmom

Coping with Change