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5 ways to promote harmony in stepfamily relationships by Gayla Grace

5 Ways to Promote Harmony in Stepfamily Relationships

5 ways to promote harmony in stepfamily relationships by Gayla GraceI didn’t walk to the altar with my first husband with intentions of divorce. Unfortunately, the demands and strain of his profession as a physician pushed him to unhealthy means to cope. Alcoholism reared its ugly head.  Near the end of our 11-year marriage, I began to attend Al-Anon, a support group for families of alcoholics.

I memorized the AA slogans and used them to help me face everyday challenges.

After I divorced, I realized that AA slogans didn’t have to be confined to problems in alcoholic relationships.

I recognized the value of them in other ways when I married into a stepfamily.

Here are 5 of my favorite AA slogans. Powerful sayings, they can help promote harmony in your stepfamily relationships.

1) Let go and let God

To most of us in stepfamilies, problems are part of life. My stepfamily is not exempt. I recognized  I could not fix the problems myself. Oh, I tried! I wasted precious time trying to control the situation or find a solution. Peace came when I let go and let God handle the situations. The key—when I LET GO. Answers to our challenges don’t always come quickly, but waiting on God’s solutions is always better than forcing mine to work.

2) Let it begin with me and Be part of the solution, not the problem

It’s easy to point out how everyone else is contributing to a problem. Instead, I need to step up and be the example for forgiveness, kindness, patience, and goodness toward our stepchildren. Our actions speak louder than our words.

It’s also our responsibility to work toward a solution, not become part of the problem. I’m the first to admit I sometimes talk about a problem instead of look for an answer. We become what we focus on. Will you choose to focus on the problem or a solution?

3) How important is it?

Too often, we make things bigger than they really are. I clearly remember a conflict ten years ago that I created. I insisted that all our children attend my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. My stepdaughter, who had a strained relationship with me at the time, was living with her mom and didn’t want to go. I was angry when my husband didn’t force her to be there. I made a big deal out of it, creating further conflict with my husband.

Fast forward ten years to my parent’s 60th-anniversary celebration. My stepdaughter and I had mended our ways and she wanted to participate in the celebration! I’ve finally learned that many of the battles we choose to fight will resolve themselves over time.

4) One day at a time

Building trust takes time, change takes time, healing old wounds takes time; there are no immediate ready-made solutions. This day is all I have to work with, and it is all I need. If I am tempted to worry about tomorrow’s concerns, I will gently bring my mind back to today.” (Courage to Change: One Day at a Time in Al-Anon)

Living one day at a time allows us to focus on the problems at hand, let go of the problems of yesterday and trust God with the problems of tomorrow. We can’t change the past OR the future. We can only make a change in today.

5) Keep an open mind

Stepfamily relationships evolve over time.  Sometimes they get worse before they get better. If the solution you are trying doesn’t work, keep an open mind. Remain flexible. Try to embrace the change with an eye toward long-term success in your relationships, not ready-made answers. Be open to their thoughts and ideas of your spouse. Try to stay united with your spouse.

Other slogans of AA that can be applied to the stepfamily journey include: Easy does it, first things first, just for today, keep it simple, listen and learn, live and let live, and think. 

If you’re interested in learning more about their slogans, go here.   Al-Anon resources (for families of alcoholics) are helpful also.

I love AA slogans and can find ways to apply them every day.

How will you use an AA slogan to create stronger relationships in your stepfamily or have you applied one already? Will you share it with us?

I have a printable to share with you. Click here to download and print Steps for Dealing with Difficult Situations.

 

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.

Gayla Grace on praying for your stepfamily

Resolutions for Your Stepfamily: The Power of Prayer

 Gayla Grace on the importance of praying for your family

I was in a neighborhood prayer group for almost seven years before moving to Louisiana. We met weekly (at 6:00 am!)  to pray for the needs of each family represented. I joined the group when my husband and I were fighting a custody battle. It was a very difficult time—my stepson had lost his mom to cancer and his stepfather applied for custody. These ladies became my support group.  I cried when I left them, sensing I could never replace their friendships. It seemed only natural to start a new prayer group after we moved.

Year after year of praying diligently for my stepfamily has resulted in some amazing healing. My stepson has changed from an angry adolescent who wanted to isolate himself from our family to a maturing young adult who loves and cares for each family member.

This year my birthday card from my stepson had this personal inscription: ““Happy birthday. Happy to call you a part of my life and supportive figure, with all your wisdom. I love you and thank you for everything you do. May your day be blessed.”  (As the kids get older, I am getting smarter! *wink*)

 I don’t write this to brag about my relationship with my stepson. I write to encourage you and give you hope. Strained stepparenting relationships are not unique. You should know you are not alone. I’ve been there. I’ve had many days that I wanted to quit my job as stepmother! But as my stepchildren reach their adult years, they show me their appreciation more and more.
I am convinced that the hours I’ve spent praying for my stepfamily and our relationships have made a difference. Our family was broken when my husband and I married 21 years ago. Only God could have put the pieces back together.
I believe we need to spend more time talking to God about our children than talking to our children about God. I firmly believe we should talk to our children about God, but we can’t underestimate the power of praying for our children and stepchildren.

 Prayer is a powerful discipline that we often neglect.

I love Stormie Omartian’s words in The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children,

I have found that only God can give you the wisdom you need. And He will give it to you when you ask for it. But prayer is not telling God what to do. Prayer is partnering with God to see that His will is done.

Prayer changes relationships.

 What resolutions are you making for the New Year? I hope you’ll include prayer. 

If you are on Twitter, connect with me @GaylaGrace. I’d be happy to pray with you about your stepfamily needs.

Here’s a picture of our kids from my daughter’s wedding this September. I’m thankful to see our kids lock arms with big smiles. (My stepson is on the far left).
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Encouragement for the Stepparenting Journey

 Words of encouragement from Randy & Gayla

If you have trouble seeing the video, please click here.

My husband, Randy, and I recently celebrated 21 years of marriage. We’ve made it more than two decades together!

During our first year of marriage, I would have told you I wasn’t sure we would make it past year two. The challenges of blending four children together, ages 3-10, were harder than we anticipated. We did a lot of things wrong. But we did a few things right, too.

We were recently asked to share some tips and encouragement with families in our church who are walking the stepparenting road. I hope it encourages and empowers you also as you listen to what we’ve learned over 21 years as a stepfamily.

Points to remember:

  1. Be committed for the long haul.
  2. If it’s not life or death, let mercy prevail.
  3. Make the marriage relationship a priority.
  4. Manage the ex-spouse with grace and mercy.
  5. Recognize that your needs count too.
  6. Pray for wisdom…daily.
  7. Don’t take everything personally.
  8. Remember that rewards often come at the end of the journey, not the beginning.

You’ll notice at the end of the video I mention a class we’ve started here in the Shreveport area.

If you live close, we’d love to have you join us!

Do you have other tips or nuggets of encouragement? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

 

 

 

 

The Unexpected Blessings of Stepparenting

“Who will walk the girls down the aisle when they marry?” I cringed at the awkward conversation my ex-husband had started. Concerned about the relationship that had developed between my two daughters and their stepdad, Randy, my ex-husband raised the question. “We will do what the girls want to do,” Randy replied. A brilliant response, I thought. 

Fast forward ten years later. My daughter, Jodi, married this past weekend. A few months before the wedding, Jodi approached the subject with Randy. “Dad, I’d like you to walk me down the aisle. You’re the one who’s been there for me.”

Wow!

My steady-Eddie. That’s what I call my husband. Randy has walked through the good and the ugly with my two girls. Temper tantrums, sassy attitudes, adolescent meltdowns, controlling boyfriends, parking lot fender-benders, late night phone calls, teenage drama, failing grades, bad decisions, and so much more.

Randy never walked away. He wanted to. He talked about it a few times. But perseverance won out.

And now… after 20 years of stepparenting, an unexpected blessing.

Blessings of stepparenting

Well-deserved by a man who’s given unselfishly to his stepdaughters.

Not perfectly, however. Randy will be the first to tell you he’s done a lot of things wrong as a stepdad. But the girls see his heart. As young adults, they recognize his well-meaning intentions.

I know it doesn’t always happen this way. Stepfamily weddings can be awkward and less-than-joyous. If you’ve experienced that with your stepchildren, I’m sorry.

But there are blessings amidst the challenges of stepparenting.

Simple things. A smile from across the room. A request for your opinion on a sensitive issue. A light-hearted evening that includes laughter and hugs with your stepchild.

Your blessings will look different than mine. Or my husband’s. Sometimes they’re disguised and hard to find.

Expect them. Look for them.

Live in the now. Experience the joy of today. Don’t hold onto regret or I-wish-it-were-different.

Above all, let grace and mercy prevail in your home.

And you’ll find your own unexpected blessings of stepparenting.

“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3, NIV).

What unexpected blessing have you experienced as a stepparent? Will you share it in the comments? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Stepdad: Don’t Quit

With Father’s day just a few days away, I’m posting an essay I wrote a few years’ back to encourage and honor stepdads.

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Dear Stepdad: Don’t Quit

My husband, Randy, will be the first to tell you he has done a lot of things wrong as a stepfather. He has been a stepparent to my two daughters for 20 years. His stepdaughters love him dearly.

But it hasn’t always been that way.

My youngest daughter, Jodi, was almost three when we married, and Jamie was five. Randy had a difficult time with Jamie from the beginning. She didn’t want another dad in her life, and she made that clear to him.

He overheard a conversation between the two girls one night during our first year of marriage. “I hate him too; I can’t believe Mom married him,” Jamie told Jodi. There was little love, or even like, between Randy and the girls in the beginning.

During our second year of marriage, Randy left the house one evening and called from a nearby hotel. “I’m not coming home tonight. I’m not sure I’m coming home again. I can’t cope with the ongoing conflict between you and me and the kids.”

It was a tough season. Randy brought two children to the marriage also and attempting to blend our four kids, ages 3-10, while learning how to stepparent and parent together proved harder than we anticipated. But neither of us wanted to endure another divorce. Randy and I began counseling that year to work through the bumps.

During her teenage years, Jamie challenged us on every turn. If Randy punished her in the slightest, she threatened to call Child Protective Services. She ran away more times than I can remember (but thankfully never went far). After one particularly difficult day with defiant behavior, Randy took Jamie’s cell phone and threw it to the ground. As it busted into several pieces, Jamie began yelling at us both. The night didn’t end well. And I wasn’t sure the sun would come up the next day.

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