Posts

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?

Have you considered joining us at our next stepmom retreat? Come find help, healing, hope, and camaraderie with other stepmoms. A past attendee said, “I gained friends and tools to help me on this journey.”

I’d love to meet you there! Details here: www.SisterhoodofStepmoms.com

Gayla Grace on how our thoughts impact our family life

Our Thoughts – We Are What We Think

“I talk to my clients five days a week about negative thinking. Our thinking creates problems for us!” said my friend, a professional therapist.

Our thoughts have more power over us than we may think.

Do you find yourself thinking any of these thoughts?

  • My stepchild will never like me so why do I bother trying to have a relationship with him/her?
  • No one understands these feelings of rejection as a stepparent – I’m living on an island by myself.
  • My husband has no idea how difficult this is – it’s useless to talk to him about it.
  • Re-marriage is just too hard – looks like I’m headed for divorce again.

You may have had these or other negative thoughts from time to time. It’s easy to get caught up in a web of negative thinking, especially when it concerns our blended family lives.

We CAN control how we think, but it requires intentional effort.

And doing so will have positive outcomes.

Gayla Grace on how our thoughts impact our family life.

Essentially, if we dwell on the negative parts of our life, every aspect of our being will reflect negativity.

Conversely, if we focus on the positive nuggets of our situation, we create positive surroundings for ourselves.

In his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking,” Norman Vincent Peale supports this thinking when he states, “Conditions are created by thoughts far more powerfully than conditions create thoughts. Think positively, for example, and you set in motion positive forces which bring positive results to pass. … On the contrary, think negative thoughts and you create around yourself an atmosphere [favorable] to the development of negative results.”

Conditions are created by thoughts far more powerfully than conditions create thoughts. I love that!

Dr. Peale is suggesting that we influence our situations with our thinking. So, if we want our stepchildren to respond positively toward us, then we need to create that scenario in our head. When we think positively toward them and expect positive behavior from them, they will begin to respond that way.

Our demeanor reflects what we are thinking.

When we have negative thoughts circling through our mind, we give off negative vibes toward those around us. Our stepchildren can feel our negativity and will react accordingly.

I’ve seen this happen with my own stepchildren. If I choose to dwell on negative thoughts toward them, I respond to them with an insensitive spirit and critical remarks. Even if I don’t say anything, my nonverbal language speaks volumes. They can sense my negativity and respond in anger or frustration.

On the other hand, if I choose to think positively toward them and my verbal and nonverbal language reflects a like demeanor, they feel loved and accepted. It’s easy for them to respond favorably toward a loving spirit.

Are you up for a challenge? Think only positive thoughts about your stepchildren and re-marriage today. If something negative creeps into your mind, turn it around and find a positive twist. See if it makes a difference. I can almost guarantee it will!

I’d love to chat about this in the comments.

Let’s Talk Stepfamily Realities, Not Myths

There are almost as many legendary stories about stepmoms, stepdads, and stepfamilies as there are stars in the sky. Yet, many of these stories are myths. Simply not true. Like the myth that stepmoms are wicked (think Cinderella!) or that the stepfamily is the same as the first marriage family. Who makes this stuff up anyway?

I think many of us believe these myths, then bring them into our new marriage and family. How long does it take us to realize they are myths? That they are not true and they do not dictate how our stepfamily will grow and develop. Believing these myths creates discontentment and unhappiness in your stepfamily.  Today I’m sharing some thoughts from one of my favorite stepfamily resources The Smart Stepfamily by Ron Deal.

1. Love will happen instantly between all family members.

Really? Have you found this to be true? I did not. My reality was watching our kids have a difficult time during our dating. My husband would say, “We’ll just love ’em through it.” But that will not always (if ever) work. Deal says, “Love in the sense of ‘love your neighbor’ is attainable; love in the sense of deep family bonds may or may not be achieved.” Deep family bonds will take time and may always look different that biological bonds.

2. We’ll do it better this time around.

It is easy to think, “I’ve been married before, I know what to do this time.” Marriage, while never easy, is made more difficult with kids. And in a stepfamily, we all have a history. Don’t compare your current marriage to a previous one. Accept the good and the bad of marriage. Live in the reality of your current marriage, recognizing it too will have challenges.

3. Everything will fall quickly in place.

Seriously? Has this been your experience? My guess is no it hasn’t. Let’s remember that “quickly” is a relative term and I am fairly certain quickly does not happen in stepfamilies. Deal says, “The stepping-stone of patience is critical to stepfamily development. Becoming disillusioned with how your family is progressing is an almost universal experience because progress never happens on your timetable. Remember, the average stepfamily takes seven years to integrate.” Seven years? Let’s bookmark that in our brains!

4. Our children will feel as happy about the remarriage as we do.

Often stepchildren are not happy about their parent’s remarriage. You need only attend a few re-marriage weddings,  to find children who are not happy about their “new family”. Stepfamily experts say kids are often a year behind the adults in accepting and progressing with a new family. Children deal with things differently than adults. We shouldn’t rush our children to catch up with us emotionally. Deal says, “What a blow it is for parents to realize that remarriage is a gain for them, but another loss to their children.” Remember, time is your friend.

5. Blending is the goal of this stepfamily.

We call ourselves blended families because we are combining people from two families into one. Think about what happens in a blender when we make a smoothie, this is NOT what we want to happen in our stepfamilies. Deal says, “More realistic is a process by which the various parts integrate, or come into contact with one another, much like a casserole of distinct parts. For example, biological parents and children will always have a stronger bond than stepparents and stepchildren, even if all goes well. This is not to say that different members of a stepfamily cannot be close. Many will develop deep emotional bonds, but there will always be a qualitative difference.”

Have you read Deal’s book? Are there myths you believed or still believe? I’d love to about chat about this in the comments.

Related Posts:

A Glimpse Into One Stepmom’s Story: The Good and the Bad

Learning How to Love My Stepchildren

 

Gayla Grace on the price of forgiveness

The Price of Forgiveness

Gayla Grace on the price of forgiveness

After my first marriage ended, I held onto unforgiveness. I had been mistreated and I justified my actions from a wounded soul. I didn’t want to consider how my unforgiveness contributed to my lack of peace and affected my daily walk with others and with the Lord.

Communication with my ex-husband was strained. Co-parenting seemed impossible. One day I realized how I contributed to the difficulty with my unforgiveness.

Wounded from hurtful words from our stepchild or misunderstood by our spouse, we hang onto unforgiveness, hindering our relationships. We feel justified because we’ve been wronged. As a result, tension in our home co-exists with every interaction.

The price of unforgiveness is a burden of resentment, a poison of bitterness, and strained relationships. The price of forgiveness is love, freedom, and peace.

Why do we choose poison over freedom?

Because when we’ve been wronged, forgiveness is hard. It doesn’t happen naturally. We have to seek the Lord’s help and make an intentional choice to go against our human nature and forgive.

Christ paid a huge price so we could experience forgiveness. His death on the cross is a powerful reminder of the sacrifice He offered us. But even Christ struggled with doing what the Father asked of him. Matthew 26:39 says, “He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Some days we’d rather say, “Not your will but mine.” My will includes justifying my hurt and wallowing in my wound. My will seeks to take care of myself instead of considering others’ needs. Unfortunately, my will also leads to a life of heartache and disappointment.

Our pastor’s words recently spoke to my heart, “Unforgiveness is demanding that other people be perfect, and that’s a standard You can’t meet!” If I fail to forgive my stepson for an imperfect action, I’m expecting he’ll never have to forgive me for a wrong. I make imperfect choices every day. Why, then, do I hold onto unforgiveness?

Forgiveness provides the key to unlock the tension in stepfamily relationships. We’re called to forgive, even when it’s not our fault.

It’s not easy, but

.

Have you held onto unforgiveness or experienced the peace that comes from forgiving? Let’s talk in the comments.

When You Don’t Feel Love Toward Your Stepchild

I’ll never forget the day my stepson shot back at me, “You’re not my mom, Gayla. My mom would support my decision.”

I disagreed on an important decision he was making and voiced my opinion. I chose not to respond to his hurtful words and for a few days following, I didn’t feel love toward my stepson.

When You Don't  Feel Love for your Stepchild

Does that make me a bad person? No. I’m human. I needed some time to consider what he said and ask God to help me love him, despite my hurt.

I knew there was more behind my stepson’s words than his disagreement. What he was saying to me was, “I miss my mom. I wish she were here so I could have this conversation with her.” But she wasn’t. She had passed away just a short time earlier after a fierce battle with colon cancer. He was reacting toward me in anger to his loss.

It’s not always easy to live with the behavior of our stepchildren and feel love toward them. Here are a few things to consider on those days:

1.  Recognize their loss. Stepfamilies are born of loss and your stepchild might be dealing with layers of loss. As they go through life transitions such as adolescence, graduating from high school, etc. their loss is resurrected from years’ past and felt again. Try to be empathetic toward the feelings that are impacting their behavior.

2. Be the adult. Yes, it’s easy to stoop to the level of one attacking you, but someone needs to act like an adult.  I’m not saying it’s easy – on more than one occasion I had to withdraw from a conversation to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. But if we say hurtful words back, it  compounds the ill effects.

3. Take a time out when you need one. No one expects you to withstand painful happenings without taking time to recharge yourself. Determine what works for you to refresh yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s coffee with a girlfriend, a long afternoon walk, or a week-end away with your spouse.

4. Let the biological parent be in the charge. When you’re struggling with less-than-loving feelings toward your stepchild, step back and let the biological parent handle everyday situations. Our emotions get in the way of healthy reactions when we’re hurt, making it more difficult to address misbehavior or parenting decisions.

5. Pray for resolve. Allow God to soften your heart and pray the same for your stepchild. Look past the hurt toward a long-term relationship that’s willing to make sacrifices. It’s not unusual to have days you don’t feel love toward your stepchild. But if you’re in it for the long run, you want to work through those days and seek a long-term loving relationship.

Do you have other thoughts to offer? I would love to hear them.

Picture by Stuart Miles

 

When Stepparenting is Messy

I sent my son to bed last night with consequences for his lack of obedience on a homework issue. He wasn’t happy with me and barely said good night as I left his room. But as his mom, seeking to raise a responsible young man, I knew I needed to address the issue, even if he didn’t like it.

He bounded out of bed this morning with a smile on his face and a big good morning. The night before had become a thing of the past that he wasn’t going to hold a grudge about because as my biological child, he doesn’t stay mad at me long, even when I dole out consequences. He’s quick to forgive and let go of ill feelings toward me.

It isn’t always the same with stepchildren. I expressed my opinion several weeks ago with my young adult stepson on an issue I didn’t agree with and he let me know he didn’t like it. He hung up the phone mad and called his dad to fill him on the details, hoping his dad would side with his opinion. For two weeks, my stepson and I had little communication. I knew the conflict would strain our relationship for a short period of time.

I try hard not to compare my stepchildren and my biological children but it’s easy to notice differences in how they respond during and after conflict. The blood bond that exists with biological children gives them a connection that doesn’t easily break. But the fragile thread that exists with stepchildren, particularly in the beginning stages of relationship-building, can easily be severed.

Stepparenting is messy – there are not black and white answers. It’s easy to say we need to defer issues of conflict and let the biological parent handle them but that can’t always happen. My stepson had called me on a different issue that naturally led to the issue that caused conflict. Did I overstep my bounds in how I expressed my feelings with my stepson? Maybe. Would I have expressed it the same way to my biological child? Yes.

How do you cope when it seems you’ve been misjudged in your stepparenting role? For me, I remember that I’m more than just a stepmom seeking affirmation from my stepchildren. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, a writer, a loyal friend, and a child of Christ. God’s love for me is unending. I cling to His promise in Ephesians 3:18 that says, ““And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may  have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Isn’t that beautiful? We can’t escape the love of Christ.

If we allow our worth to be dependent upon how our stepchildren treat us or feel about us, we set ourselves up for hurt. But if we remind ourselves that God’s love for us is everlasting, even if we fail or others mistreat us, we make room for peace.

How do you cope when stepfamily relationships seem messy? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Related Posts:

Setting Boundaries with Your Stepchildren

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection as a Stepparent

Coping with Stepfamily Drama