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Monday, February 13, 2012

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Gayla Grace

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Somedays It's All About Perspective

"The toilet's overflowing Mom!" My son's words echoed down the hall from my room. I walked into the bathroom to a small stream of water running onto the floor. My son was holding a plunger, prepared for action. But as we watched, the water began to subside and we decided to flush. That was a mistake!


Water poured over the toilet lid, out the bathroom and down the hall. I couldn't stop the gushing water! I  began plunging furiously, water spilling out on all sides. Thankfully, the clog was quickly relieved and  water began moving in the other direction - down the toilet!

As the clean up effort began, my son and I both lost track time of time (my husband was already at work). Before we realized it, the clock reminded us we were running late. As I drove my son to school, I knew he would be tardy.

I reflected on my week as I drove home with a heavy heart and deflated spirit.  Just days before I had learned one of the few friends I have in our new town was moving soon. That same day I dealt with our leaking swimming pool that had an unknown source and was requiring water every other day to keep it full. I began thinking about the tuition bills piled on my desk for a new semester with our three college kids. My spirit began spiraling to match the dreariness of the weather.

When I arrived home I read a prayer request from my aunt concerning a custody battle her son is enduring with his two daughters. Her son's heart is broken as he's restricted from being a part of his children's lives. It's a bitter battle with little hope of a fair judgment.

It prompted me to be thankful for the part I get to play in my children and stepchildren's lives. Our relationships aren't perfect and our family interactions aren't always harmonious, but I'm thankful for the role I have. We've been down the custody battle road, and I'm thankful we're not there today.

With four children living outside our home as young adults, I don't know all that is happening every day. But I do know if they need something, they will call. Somedays it's a shoulder to cry on, somedays it's an opinion on a pressing issue, somedays it's a little extra money to get by until their next paycheck. But today, I'm thankful for unrestricted visitation and communication with our children.

Life is hard. Life is stressful. But, somedays it's all about perspective. Now please excuse me while I go wash towels.

How is Your Perspective? Does it Need an Overhaul Today?

Related Posts:

You Don't Have to be Super Stepmom

When Stepparenting Isn't What You Expected

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Nuggets of Wisdom from Laura Petherbridge, co-author of "The Smart Stepmom"

I had the privilege of attending the first "stepmom retreat" this week-end in Dallas, hosted by with Laura Petherbridge speaking. It was a wonderful time of connecting with stepmoms from around the country, meeting stepmom friends I talk with on Twitter and FB, and hearing some nuggets of wisdom from long-time stepmom Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom.

I want to share a few thoughts I came away with that spoke to my heart in hopes of encouraging you in your stepparenting role. Many I had heard before but they were good reminders for me.

1. God can teach me how to love kids who are hurting me. I ask Him to help me see them through His eyes and He does. "Chosen" love is still love. I can choose to love my stepchildren.

2. Children are fiercely loyal to a biological parent, even if the parent is unkind, abusive, detached, or emotionally unstable. The more dysfunctional the other biological parent is, the less likely the stepchild will bond with the stepparent. I can't control that.

3. All stepfamilies are formed due to loss. Re-marriage is viewed as another loss for children and the children are at least two years behind the parents in the grieving process. Give them time to heal.

4. Money is going to be tight. My husband is OBLIGATED by God to support his children (I Timothy 5:8). They didn't chose a stepmother or more siblings.

5. The children who do the best after divorce are those who maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. Stepchildren need alone time with their biological parent, without the stepparent.

6. God will reward your efforts. "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

There is so much more I could share, but instead I encourage you to read Laura's book. She has walked the path and offers reality with encouragement through her writing.

Do you need encouragement today? What nugget of wisdom spoke to you?

Related Posts:

Marriage is Not Always Blissful, Especially in Blended Families

Tip for Healthy Stepparenting: Learn to Cope with Rejection

Mantra for Stepparents: Don't Take it Personally

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Will You Commit to Unwavering Effort and Prayers on Your Stepfamily Journey?

"Observe the ant," the great oriental conquerorTamerlane told his friends. In relating a story from his early life, he said, "I once was forced to take shelter from my enemies in a dilapidated building,where I sat alone for many hours.


Wishing to divert my mind from my hopeless situation, I fixed my eyes on an ant carrying a kernel of corn larger than itself up a high wall. I counted its attempts to accomplish this feat. The corn fell sixty-nine times to the ground, but the insect persevered. The seventieth time it reached the top. The ant's accomplishment gave me courage for the moment, and I never forgot the lesson." (Quoted in Streams in the Desert devotional, from The King's Business.)

Tamerlane was a Central Asian conqueror and a brilliant military leader in the late 1300s who fought without wavering and gained control of a vast region including Iraq, Armenia, Mesopotamia, Georgia, Russia, and parts of India. He died on an expedition to conquer China.

So how do we relate Tamerlane to our stepfamily journey? Stepparenting requires unwavering effort. And we may not accomplish all that we desire in our lifetime. But that doesn't mean we quit.

We may not see the rewards that Tamerlane did either. We might see very few earthly rewards. But God recognizes our efforts and will reward us.

I've been praying for a precious two-year-old girl, Stella, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her parents lost her sister, Charlotte, a few years ago to a different illness and were devastated when yet another child was handed a dismal prognosis. Yet, despite the overwhelming odds, their prayers for their daughter's healing are unwavering.  

As I read the mom's CaringBridge post this morning, her raw emotions tugged at my heart, but she doesn't stop asking for a miracle for her baby. Here is an excerpt:

"So it seems the cancer cells are putting pressure on the brain causing Stella to have seizures. They currently have her heavily sedated while they attempt to control the seizures. As far as I am concerned nothing revealed on the current MRI will change that this is a setback and we have to push on. Dr Saylors confirms this and we are not quitting hoping and praying that our final result will be the complete healing of our Stella Rose.

We are battered but not broken. So many parts of this are reminiscent of watching our Charlotte and I can say this is difficult for everyone who sees her. She is hooked up to a lot of tubes right now, had many fluids and is swollen because of this. ...

Pray for the seizures to get well controlled with medications, pray we get to start chemo as planned and pray we get our Stella back before the next step begins. As always ask God for a miracle."

Does your stepfamily need a miracle? Will you commit to unwavering effort and prayers on your stepfamily journey?

Related Posts:

God's Timing is Different Than Ours

Parenting From Your Knees

Stepfamily Detours - Where Are You Headed?

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned about Stepparenting from Tim Tebow

If you're a football fan (or even if you're not), you've likely heard the ongoing publicity surrounding Tim Tebow. Tebow is currently the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos and has made a name for himself with his unorthodox QB skill set and frequent display of religious devotion.

He's a guy that's easy to like with his tenacious spirit and committed attitude toward living for the Lord. But in addition to being a good guy, his life demonstrates some takeaway thoughts related to stepparenting. Here's a few:

1. Prayer can turn bad into good.  Tim Tebow's mother contracted amoebic dysentry while a missionary with her husband in the Phillipines, and was treated with strong antibiotics before realizing she was pregnant. Her doctors advised her to abort, assuring her the baby would be severely disabled due to the drugs.

She refused to abort because of her faith and, instead, prayed for a healthy son. Tim Tebow was born August 14, 1987, reportedly malnourished, but healthy. Nothing is too big for God.

2. There's more than one way to reach success. Tebow has been criticized for his awkward throwing motion, his inaccuracy in passing completions, and his unorthodox method of playing. But you can't deny his quarterback success as his team heads to the AFC Divisional Round this Saturday night.

In similar fashion, stepparenting success is reached in different ways. There's not only one way that works. Determine the techniques that will bond and strengthen relationships in your stepfamily and execute them.

3. Don't give up, regardless of what others are saying. If Tebow had listened to his critics at the beginning of the season, he would have never won a football game. Instead, he continued to believe in himself and work toward his goals, despite the opposition.

Stepfamilies are given a bad rap. Statistics tell us that 60% of second marriages and 73% of third  marriages end in divorce. But those statistics don't have to apply to us. Believe in yourself and your ability for long-term success in your stepparenting relationships and don't look back. Refuse to quit even when it's hard.

Tim Tebow is not perfect but his example gives some thoughts to ponder as we relate it to stepparenting challenges. 

Do you agree? What are your thoughts?

Related Posts:

Character that Counts

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

When Stepparenting Isn't What You Expected

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Stepfamily Life Gets Messy...

Do you have triggers that send your emotions over the edge quicker than you want to admit? Unfortunately, I do and one of them is the emotional struggle with my ex-husband.

I've had a difficult week as a result of  his out-of-town visit with my daughters. The girls get caught in the middle between trying to do the right thing but honoring their embittered feelings toward him due to the unstable history of their relationship.

As a parent, I still feel responsible for helping them make wise choices when they call for advice, as my 18-year-old did the night her dad arrived. I was not malicious, but honest, when I explained to her that she needed to take care of herself and not get caught in an unhealthy situation, despite the poor choice her dad was making. Unfortunately, because of a history of addiction, drama and misshappenings surround him, but I have always sought to keep the girls from being entangled in it.

And the situation becomes more complicated now that we live four hours away and I can't rescue the girls from their dad's inappropriate behavior. But I can still coach them through sticky circumstances, teaching them how to protect themselves from others' bad choices.

I wish it didn't have to be this way. But it is. Life is messy. But I refuse to give in. My children may have unhealthy influences in their lives, but my current husband and I can continue to offer stable influences that overshadow others. Healthy role models are hard to ignore and will have a positive influence in the long run.

I have spent years teaching my daughters, 18 and 21 years old, the dangers of addiction and the consequences to bad choices. They are now seeing painful consequences played out in a defeated life. But I rest on the hope that my words and behavior have not been wasted and am thankful to watch healthy lifestyle choices played out as my daughters navigate their young adult years.

In what area is your stepfamily life messy? Will you make a commitment to sort through  the messiness? If so,will you please share about it?

Related Posts:

It's Always Too Early to Quit

Dear Stepparent: Never Underestimate Your Value With Your Stepchild

Coping with Stepfamily Drama


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Five Practical Tips for Successful Stepparenting

Because it's the first week of the new year, I see ideas on how to better ourselves at every turn. So it made me think about what practical tips I would give for someone hoping to better their stepparenting  relationships.
If you read my blog often you probably know that the first tip I would suggest is to center your life around God and seek His guidance for you and your family. Take practical steps toward spiritual growth - consistent prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers - to allow for spiritual maturity that will benefit all of your relationships.

The second tip I offer for successful stepparenting is to maintain a united front with your spouse. Don't allow disagreements over the kids to impede on your marital relationship. Discuss "kid issues" in private and reach a mutual decision over behavior before addressing a child. Allow the biological parent to address disciplinary actions of his/her child whenever possible.

The third tip I suggest is to learn how to resolve conflict. Research shows that stepfamilies have more conflict, on average, than traditional families so it's important for you to know how to manage it. If you need help in this area, seek outside services. Don't resort to using intimidation, manipulation, or avoidance. Learn the skills you need to properly address conflict and resolve it or it will haunt you and your relationships.

Tip #4 for successful stepparenting is to commit to do your part to create peaceful relationships. I don't have to define what "your part" means in a peacemaking role. Each of us knows what we need to do to promote peace in our home. The decision we must make is this: are we willing to do the "hard stuff" in our relationships? Are we willing to be the bigger person? Will we commit to take the high road, regardless of how our stepchild behaves?

The fifth tip I suggest is to maintain a separate identity of who you are outside your stepparenting role. This might seem like an odd tip for successful stepparenting but it's an important one because it allows for better objectivity in your stepparenting role.

I didn't grasp this for a long time and it almost destroyed me in the early years of our marriage. My identity centered on being a good mom and stepmom. Therefore, on difficult stepparenting days (which were often in the beginning) I felt like a complete failure. But when I learned to recognize that my stepparenting role was only one part of who I was, I could walk away from difficult stepparenting interactions and objectively identify what went wrong and how to fix it. It also enables me to recognize that my stepchildren play a role in what kind of relationship we have and I am only repsonsible for my part.

Five practical tips with a meaningful punch to enable successful stepparenting in 2012 and beyond.

Do you agree? Do you have other tips to offer? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Related Posts:

Steps for Successful Stepparenting

Positive Thinking Elicits Successful Stepparenting

Is It a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God is Enough for the Stepfamily Struggle You Face

I just finished reading God Enough: Trusting God when Life Doesn't Make Sense by Kasey Lowery Ewing. It's a beautiful story of God's faithfulness through a horrific loss as Kasey tells her story of losing her two-year-old son in an accident.

But it's not an easy story to read. As a mom/stepmom, I can identify with Kasey's raw emotions and personal struggle over a situation she can't control. I understand her need to make sense of something she can never make sense of. And I admire her courage to heal her broken heart and look to the Lord for guidance for her tough questions and comfort for her pain.

Kasey writes about a close childhood friend who watched her daddy die of cancer and offers a statement her friend wrote in her grief: "It is well with my soul, but I am not alright."

Kasey says, "This one quote resonated very deep inside me and describes how I felt that summer after Jake's death. I was not okay, but it was well with my soul. There was a deep underlying trust that God was going to get us through."

I"ve felt that same way with our stepfamily struggles many times - I was not okay but I trusted God would see us through. The future was uncertain but I knew God had a plan.

Can you relate? Are you facing a struggle in your stepfamily that you don't have answers for? Trust that God will see you through. Ask Him the tough questions, expectantly waiting for answers.

As we look to a new year it's easy to identify what went wrong last year and what we want to change this year. But if we do it on our own accord, we will fail. Only as we seek and trust the Lord for answers will we find the right answers for our struggles.

Do you believe God is enough? Did you see God's hand in your stepfamily struggles last year? Will you encourage others and share them with us?

Related Posts:

"Will You Trust Me?" said the Lord

Making Resolutions that Count

Let Go and Let God

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 - Making it Your Best Year Yet

"We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day." -Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? I usually make several but I can't say I'm all that good at keeping them.

So this year, I'm making only two and I'm writing them down so I can refer to them and see how I'm doing. 

My first resolution applies to my walk with the Lord. I want to seek obedience to God's call in every area of my life as I strive for a more commited walk. However, I must consider that success of my actions is determined by whether I'm obedient to God's request of me, not the end result of my efforts.

For example, if I believe God is calling me to strive for a stronger relationship with my stepchild, I will take small steps every day to show unconditional love and acceptance toward him/her. I will pray for my stepchild to soften his/her heart toward me and accept me as an additional parent in his/her life.

But, I won't weigh the success of my efforts on the reaction of my stepchild. My personal experience reminds me that sometimes my efforts don't matter because my stepchild is in too much pain or confusion to accept my gestures. But that doesn't mean my efforts are futile.

Although my stepson couldn't accept my attempts toward a loving relationship with him during his adolescent years, he now appreciates the efforts I made, and accepts me as an additional parent who loves and cares about him as a 21-year-old young adult.

My second resolution for 2012 is to banish negativity from my thoughts and behavior. 2011 was a difficult year for our family and I fell into a trap of negative thinking in more areas than I want to admit. I allowed my negative thinking to influence my behavior, manifested in selfish actions as a result of our out-of-state move.

I focused on my loneliness and feelings of displacement, instead of God's provision and guidance after my husband lost his job. I became entangled in a web of self-pity as I questioned God repeatedly on why He moved us four hours away from our three children back in college, instead of simply accepting God's plan and allowing Him to guide me through the difficult days. 

Negative thinking becomes a powerful motivator when we allow it to control us. I've seen it destroy stepfamily relationships when a stepparent focuses on the negative behavior of his/her stepchild instead of the positive potential that can be created through a loving relationship. I've seen step-couples allow negative thinking to tear down marital bonds when they give up on peaceful communication, instead of creating positive ideas toward harmony.

But it doesn't have to be that way. We can strive to banish negativity from our everyday thoughts and behavior. The choice is ours.

Simple resolutions with a powerful punch. That's what I'm striving for in the upcoming year. I think I'll start today.

What about you? Will you share your resolutions with us? I'd love to hear them!

Related Posts:

Making Resolutions that Count

New Beginnings

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Are You Celebrating the Beauty of Family this Holiday- Even if Yours is Imperfect?

I was on the phone this week with stepfamily author, Ron Deal. We were chatting about his upcoming move to assume a new position with FamilyLife as the Director of Blended Families Ministries. (Read press release here). I could hear his excitement of continuing his ministy with stepfamilies in a larger fashion through such a great organization.

But I could also hear his grief when he mentioned the upcoming anniversary of the loss of their son, Connor. Connor was 12  years old when he came down with a rare illness that took his life within two weeks of its onset. He was the middle child of three boys and his family will never be the same. It's a parents worst nightmare that leaves unfathomable pain in its wake.

Although the loss of a child may be the greatest loss anyone could experience, each member of a stepfamily has experienced loss too. Through death or divorce, relationships end and pain remains. But through healthy stepfamily relationships, family members can begin to heal and find joy in life again.

Although it may take longer than we desire, beautiful relationships can form if we don't give up. And our family becomes something to celebrate, even if it's imperfect.

So as you celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas this week-end, I encourage you to celebrate the beauty of family also. Although your stepfamily relationships may not be where you wish they were, celebrate the progress you've made. Commit to stronger relationships through intentional effort as you look toward a new year.

Life is short. We don't know what's around the corner that could alter our family dynamics forever. But we do know what our relationships look like today and can choose to celebrate the beauty of our family.

How will you celebrate the unique beauty of your stepfamily as you celebrate the holidays?

Related Posts:

Your Holiday Doesn't Have to be Perfect to be Meaningful

Stinkin' Thinkin' Creates Bitter Quitters in Stepfamilies

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