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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? 

Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do

It’s been a tough week in Bossier City, Louisiana, where I live. Life-threatening storms swept through our community with 20 inches of rain over a two-day period and flooding that left many families homeless.

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School dismissed for three days while displaced families from mandatory evacuations of heavily-populated neighborhoods sent families in 3500 homes away from the comfort of their usual surroundings.

As I thought about friends coping with the devastation this morning, I reflected on Robert Schuller’s book, Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do, that I read many years ago. It is a tough time for a lot of people right now.

But there is always hope for better days. Within a few hours of hearing about yet another young family who lost everything in the flood, I learned that Samaritan’s Purse was headed to LA for rescue relief. What a blessing to read their plans to help:

“Our teams bring in equipment and as soon as the water recedes, they roll up their sleeves to help flooded families get the mud out of their homes, sort through water-damaged personal belongings, and pull out damaged sheetrock, flooring, and insulation. Our Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Chaplains will be alongside to pray with and encourage flood victims.”

Samaratan's Purse

Sometimes in the midst of our challenges, it feels like there is no hope. But tough-minded people are created in the midst of tough circumstances if we don’t give up.

Maybe you’re in a tough season right now as a stepparent.

Perhaps you feel invisible in your role as a stepmom and no one notices the constant sacrifices you make.

Maybe you face another day of rejection from your stepson.

Maybe your spouse refuses to support your stepparenting efforts.

Perhaps the biological parent in the other home undermines the relationships you seek you build.

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Why Healthy Boundaries Matter in Your Stepfamily

I didn’t realize I was in an emotionally abusive marriage. But I was. Married at 23-years-old to a man chasing the dream of success as a medical physician, I was along for the ride.

But all too soon, the ride got very bumpy.

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Arguments turned into character-attacking rants. Nights of alcoholic rage became the norm.

Convinced it was my fault, I tried harder to be a better wife. Nothing changed. My self-esteem plummeted under the weight of shame.

I wish I could tell you I recognized the dysfunction in my marriage and sought help. But I didn’t. At least, not until far-reaching damage had been done to me emotionally.

Eleven years after saying “I do,” I finally gathered the courage to walk away. With two young daughters to raise, I refused to subject them to the emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse I was experiencing. Al-Anon—an organization dedicated to families of alcoholics—gave me the tools I needed to set healthy boundaries that enabled me to start a new life.

Unfortunately, boundaries couldn’t save my alcoholic marriage that included a history of relapse and destructive patterns. But I learned life-changing lessons on how boundaries impact relationships.

As a result, I’m sensitive to others in emotionally or physically abusive relationships. I quickly recognize fuzzy or negligent boundary setting. And I see it often in stepfamily relationships.

Sitting across the table from a stepmom in tears, I suspected a boundary problem. As the conversation continued, I listened to her describe her stepson’s fits of rage and disrespectful language toward her and her husband.  At 17-years-old, he was controlling their home with his behavior. But she didn’t know how to change it.

“How does your husband respond to his son’s actions?” I asked.

“It becomes a yelling match to see who can get in the last word,” the stepmom responded. “I often leave the house and take our daughter with me. I can’t stand to watch it unravel. But the real problem exists when my husband isn’t home and the behavior gets directed at me. His outbursts are becoming increasingly more violent and I’m scared to confront his anger—he’s bigger and stronger than I am.”

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Parenting Resolutions for the Not-So-Perfect Stepparent

Happy New Year! What are you doing to make 2016 your best year as a stepparent?

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Can I give you a few thoughts to consider? Start here—don’t insist on being perfect.

We set ourselves up to fail when we try to do everything perfectly, expecting that will create the relationship we’re hoping for with our stepchild.

This year, instead of making resolutions on how to be a better stepparent, I encourage you to make room for imperfection and second chances.

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Experiencing Peace in Your Stepfamily Holiday

The countdown to Christmas is upon us. How are you doing? Are you surviving the hustle bustle or  looking for ways to flee from the chaos?

ID-100216742Blended families have unique challenges that make holidays complicated and often stressful.

But we don’t have to succumb to the chaos.

We can savor the moments of joy and remember the Reason for the season.

We can make an intentional choice to focus on the positive when negative happenings occur or conflict erupts.

After 20 years of blended family holidays, I could give a list of 20 tips to help you find peace amidst the chaos. But I’m going to give only one.

Manage your expectations.

I know—it seems too simple.

But… it’s often the root of conflict and disappointment through the holidays.

Are you struggling with expectations? Cleveland Clinic suggests you write down your expectations to help determine whether they’re realistic and what feelings are hidden behind them. Look for potential stressors tied to each one and what you can do to alleviate uncomfortable feelings surrounding the expectation.

Here’s an example:

Spend meaningful time with my stepchildren during the holiday break.

Is this realistic? Are your stepchildren teenagers who focus more on themselves than others? What constitutes meaningful?

A more realistic expectation might be: Look for ways to have conversations with my stepchildren in a relaxed setting.

This expectation can be achieved in most every home and builds relationships in the process. Instead of an elaborate expectation, you strive for an attainable goal.

And the end result is peace and contentment.

Now it’s your turn. What expectation is creating angst for you? How will you redefine it to lessen the stress you feel surrounding it?

Will you share it with us? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

If you’re looking for other ideas on how to manage stepfamily expectations and find support in your stepmom role, please consider joining us at our next Stepmom Retreat at the beautiful Winshape Retreat Center in Rome, GA (outside Atlanta). I’d love to meet you there!

And for a dose of encouragement every day, pick up a copy of our stepmom devotional, Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. 

Pic by vectorolie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coping with Difficult Emotions as a Stepparent

The memoir’s scene grabbed my attention.

Taya Kyle, widow of the American sniper, Chris Kyle, describes a fragile setting where her emotions run deep.  At her husband’s funeral, Taya prepares to say a few words about her beloved, fully aware it will be one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

To gain the courage and strength she needs, she reminds herself of her husband’s life-changing words, which get her through.

“When you think you can’t do something, think again. The body will do whatever the mind tells it to.”American Wife

Kyle’s memoir, American Wife, tells a tragic, but brave, story of love and loss amidst war and faith. A decade-long marriage survives long stretches of Chris’s absence while he repeatedly puts his life on the line in major battles of the Iraq war. Finally returning to civilian life, Chris and Taya work hard to rebuild their family.

But one day, the unthinkable occurs. While attempting to help a troubled vet, Chris is murdered. After surviving countless attempts on his life in war, his final breath is taken close to home in a way no one understands. Within moments, Taya becomes a widow and single mom of two.

Raw emotions spill out as she struggles to cope. Her authentic story-telling reveals depression coupled with fatigue and insomnia.

Amidst a heart-breaking backdrop, however, a beautiful story unfolds. Taya refuses to give up and begins to rebuild a life for her and her kids with faith, resilience, and determination to fight against her overwhelming grief.

I’ve heard it said that one never really gets over loss—you simply learn to cope with it. Taya’s story describes how she copes by finding meaning and connection to Chris through a shared mission of honoring those who serve others, especially military and first-responder families.

Stepfamily Grief

The poignant memoir reminds me of the anguish of stepfamily grief. Although not the same as Taya’s grief, it’s real. It’s often overwhelming. And it’s experienced differently in every home.

Maybe you’re grieving the white-picket fence life you yearned for that didn’t come true with remarriage.

Or perhaps your grief stems from a stepchild who chooses not to embrace you as a stepparent.

Maybe your loss comes from a deep place of hurt that your spouse refuses to recognize.

Stepfamilies experience grief. How are you coping with yours?

Will you choose to find joy and rebuild a new life with faith, resilience, and determination? Will you stand on God’s promises that He will walk with you through days that include loneliness, isolation, and grief?

Will you keep trying on days you want to give up?

If you need a lift today, check out Kyle’s memoir for encouraging words on how she coped with incredible grief.

Pick up a copy of our devotional book, Quiet Moments for The Stepmom Soul: Encouragement for the Journey.

Enlist a counselor or stepfamily coach.

Or come to our upcoming stepmom retreat at the beautiful Winshape Retreat Center.

But don’t get stuck in your grief. Reach out. Embrace your faith. Find hope for your journey. There are better days ahead if you don’t quit.

“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).

How do you cope with stepfamily grief? Will you share your hope with others?