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Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday's Fav Scripture - "Faith is Being Sure of What We Hope For"

Today I want to share one of my favorite songs by Kutless, "What Faith Can Do." I hope you will take the time to watch the video and listen to the lyrics. Here are a few phrases from the song that resonate with me:

"Impossible is not a word. It's just a reason for someone not to try."

"You will find your way. If you keep believing."

"Don't you give up now. The sun will soon be shining."

"I've seen dreams that move the mountains."

"That's what faith can do."

Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

How does your faith impact your stepparenting journey?

Related Posts:

Healthy Stepparenting: Walking with God Daily

When God Says Wait

Live Out Your Faith in Your Stepfamily

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Making Your Remarriage Work: Be an Encourager

My husband learned some difficult news this week regarding his employment. As plant manager of a cabinet manufacturing company, the downfall of the housing industry has taken a toll on the company he works for. The news we've been dreading to hear from corporate was delivered on Monday.

My husband is an upbeat, positive person. But he's had moments of discouragement as we now face an uncertain future. I've committed to making it a priority to encourage him regularly in the weeks and months ahead.

If your spouse is a stepparent, he/she needs encouragement often. In an unappreciated role, surrounded by stepchildren who may show disregard and distaste for them, it's difficult to continue on the stepparenting journey. But with thoughtful words of, "I appreciate you" or "thank you for your willing heart," the stepparenting road seems more manageable.

In Chicken Soup for the  Couple's Soul,  "50 Ways to Love Your Partner" (or encourage him/her), has some good ideas.  Here are a few suggestions I liked:

- Compliment freely and often
- Appreciate--and celebrate--your differences
- Live each day as if it's your last
- Seek out beautiful sunsets together
- Apologize sincerely
- Let her cry in your arms
- Tell him you understand
- Respect each other
- Be your partner's biggest fan
- Do the other person's chores for a day
- Calm each others' fears
- Put your partner first in your prayers

"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." (I Thess. 5:11)

How can you encourage your spouse today?

Related Posts:

Making Your Remarriage Work: Steps for Success

Making Your Remarriage Work: Don't Settle for Mediocrity

Making Your Remarriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

Making Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marital and Parenting Issues

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Your Remarriage Work: Separate Marital and Parenting Issues

"I refuse to get on that bandwagon and stay consumed with his problems. It's a tough situation but I don't want it to ruin every aspect of our lives."

I recently spoke with a new stepmom who is dealing with some tough issues with her 16-year-old stepson. She recognizes the critical place her stepson is in but refuses to allow the strain of his problems to interfere with her marriage to his dad. I told her I was proud to see her separate the difficult parenting issue from the new marriage she and her new husband are building. It's not an easy thing to do.

When we're raising children in a blended family, we often get consumed with the negative issues surrounding the kids and allow it to interfere with our remarriage. It's crucial for us to be aware of how an unfavorable stepchild situation can bleed over into resentment toward our spouse. If we see that happening, we need to make a conscious choice to separate the parenting issue from our marriage, and talk with our spouse about our feelings.

When I blamed my husband for difficulties with his children in the early years of our remarriage, he would tell me, "I'm your friend in this marriage, not your enemy. We can work this out together. But we have to be on the same side and I don't sense you're on my side."

He was right. I was allowing my stepparenting struggles to interfere with my feelings toward him and create a strain in our relationship. I'm thankful he didn't allow me to stay stuck in those feelings.

There will naturally be some overlap between our stepparenting role and our remarriage. But when we let negative feelings toward our stepchildren interefere with our feelings toward our spouse, we need to evaluate the situation and separate the stepparenting struggle from the marriage relationship.

Do you have difficulty separating marital and parenting issues? Does it affect your marriage relationship?

Related posts:

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part One

The Power of Boundaries as a Stepparent: Part Two

Nurture Your Marriage

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday's Fav Scripture - "I Will Strengthen You and Help You"

Friday's Favorite Scripture this week is Isaiah 41:10: "So do not fear, for I am with you;  do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you wth my righteous right hand."

In my last post I shared the traumatic incident my stepson recently experienced. Our family has encountered some fear as a result of that happening. But God has reminded us of His faithfulness and His willingness to help us work through our fears as we rely on Him for protection and guidance. 

As a stepparent, I depend on the Lord's help daily. I fail miserably in my stepparenting role without Him. I  become dismayed if I look at our circumstances and attempt to make sense of them on my own. I need to be reminded that He wants to "uphold me with His righteous right hand."

What about you? What Scripture helps you on your stepparenting journey?

Related Posts:

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Making Your Remarriage Work: Embrace Flexibility

My husband and I returned from a five-day anniversary trip yesterday to learn some disturbing news. My stepson, a college student living on his own with a roommate, was robbed and held at gunpoint a few days ago at his apartment. In broad daylight, the door to his apartment was kicked open, and two men ransacked his place while threatening him with his life.

I'm thankful my stepson wasn't hurt and we believe God protected him. Feeling unsafe to stay there, we're now faced with a decision concerning where he will live. We offered him the chance to move back home, realizing it would be an adjustment for all of us. But we want him to heal from his traumatic experience and be able to move forward without fear.

Change is an inevitable part of life. Stepfamilies encounter more change, on average, than traditional families. As children move back and forth between homes, relationships with ex-spouses and extended family members change, and jobs change to accommodate family needs, transitions seem never-ending.

If we choose to embrace flexibility, our remarriage will fare better.  We may not like the changes that occur, but if we accept them and deal with them the best we can, we will find contentment. If we fight change, we become bitter and resentful with our circumstances.

We can also be assured there will be more change as years pass. Children/stepchildren grow up and leave home, demands of the family change, and new responsibilities surface as our own parents age and the parenting roles reverse. Embracing flexibility offers a healthy outlook for our remarriage as we cope with everyday change.

What change are you currently encountering? Can you embrace a flexible attitude?

Related Posts:

Coping with Change

When a Stepchild Changes Residence

Nurture Your Marriage

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Making Your Remarriage Work: Don't Settle for Mediocrity

It's easy to set a marriage on autopilot and make little effort toward a dynamic relationship.  One day you wake up and realize your marriage has headed down mediocre lane. With the complexities of stepfamily life, mediocrity can lead to divorce from unresolved issues and complex circumstances.

In a remarriage with children, it's not uncommon for the primary focus of the home to shift from a couple relationship to a kid-centered relationship, particularly during the early years. When there are ongoing challenges with stepchildren, the couple relationship gets lost in the forest, causing the stability of the stepfamily to suffer.

If we want a dynamic marital relationship, we must determine we will not settle for mediocrity.  It requires intentional effort on our part to develop and nurture a healthy marital relationship, but it's worth the effort.

In her book, Stepmonster, Dr. Wednesday Martin gives sobering statistics on the divorce rate for remarrieds. "Divorce researcher E. Mavis Hetherington suggests that the divorce rate may be as high as 65 percent for remarriages in which one partner has children from a previous union, and a sobering 70 percent when both partners bring their own children to the picture."

Dr. Martin outlines several factors that create complexities within stepfamily life. She then emphasizes the necessity of prioritizing your relationship. "With the cards stacked against it, your marriage needs more than mere tending. Battered by issues and dynamics not found in a first union, yours will not survive unless it is given special priority by both you and your husband.

Remarriage requires ongoing, intentional effort to resist mediocrity and achieve dynamic relationships. Rearing children who are not your own takes an exhausting toll on your marriage. Will you commit to the challenge of putting your marriage first and teaming up for success in a committed relationship?

Have you settled for mediocrity in your marital relationship? What steps will you take to prioritize your marriage?

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Making Your Remarriage Work: Steps for Success

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Be Anxious for Nothing

Note to Readers: I'm starting a new format with my Friday blog entries. I will post a favorite Scripture, quote, or song video every Friday and how it applies to stepfamily life. I will continue my post series on tips for a successful remarriage with my next post on Monday.

One of my all-time favorite Scripture passages is Philippians 4:6,7: "Be anxious for nothing but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Stepfamily life has brought a lot of anxiety our way. Some days I handle it better than others, but the only way I handle it with confidence and peace, is through prayer and supplication.

Our biggest anxiety currently centers around financial concerns. My husband's job has been unstable for more than two years because of the economy and we don't see much hope of it getting better. We are facing decisions of whether he should look for other employment, which could involve relocating, or continue to hope and pray for his current position. The stress of increasing financial obligations also looms overhead with two children currently in college and a third one to start next year.

It's not unusual for stepfamilies to face financial crises. When there are several children in the mix, financial strain can become a burden. But we can trust that God will take care of our needs and give us the peace we need when we "let our requests be made known to God," and trust Him with the answers.

Are you struggling with anxiety over circumstances in your stepfamily? Have you taken your requests to the Lord?

Related Posts:

Trusting God With Our Finances

Finding Peace in Your Blended Family

Live by Faith, and Not By Explanation

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making Your Remarriage Work: Steps for Success

As my husband, Randy, and I celebrate a 15-year milestone in our marriage this week, I've been reflecting on how we've managed to stay married during some difficult years. So, for the next few posts, I want to highlight steps for success in a remarriage.

In their book, The Remarriage Checkup, Ron Deal and Dr. David Olson talk about the challenges of remarriage. "It is worthy to note that 88 percent of remarriage couples expect to have difficulties with stepfamily issues, but expecting difficulties and knowing how to manage them are two different things. Our clinical experience shows that despite an awareness that stepfamily issues will prove problematic for their marriage, most couples don't fully anticipate the magnitude of the stressors they will face and often are not equipped to deal with it."

Success in remarriage takes intentional steps toward healthy choices. The first and most important step that Randy and I took was committing to a united walk in our faith as we married and blended our familiesWe were from different denominations of faith that were similar in beliefs, but different in rituals. So, during our dating years, Randy and I committed to a spiritual journey together that included raising our children in a Christ-filled home. We then began church shopping until we found a church we could worship in as a family. We joined the church before we married. I'll never forget the pastor stumbling over his words as he introduced our families to the congregation, trying to avoid the subject of divorce as we stood with our four children!

If I'm not willing to surrender to a Christ-filled life, I assume the position of having all the answers. Remarriage and stepfamily life is complicated. If I rely on my own understanding, I fail. However, when I rely on guidance from the Lord and His Word, I have greater success in  my relationships. I also need God's love and mercy daily as I relate to others in my stepfamily, particularly during difficult periods.

Without our faith, I firmly believe Randy and I would not have survived 15 years of blended family life. But as we lean on the Lord for strength,wisdom, and perseverance, we find hope to continue on our journey.

What do you think? Do you consider your faith an important part of success in your remarriage?

Related posts:

Looking for Hope on Your Stepfamily Journey?

Nurture Your Marriage

Healthy Stepparenting: Walk with God Daily

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Stepparent: Never Underestimate Your Value with Your Stepchildren

My husband, Randy, and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage this week. My youngest daughter, Jodi, (pictured above) was 2 1/2 years old when we married. I had no idea what an influence my husband would be with Jodi.

Jodi bonded easily with Randy from the beginning. She wanted to call him "Dad" at an early age, but my ex-husband forbade it. So, she called him by his first name until she got old enough that she didn't care what her dad thought. Then, she began to call him Dad.

Jodi's biological dad floated in and out of her life because of poor choices with addiction. There were many months that we didn't know where her dad lived or even if he was still alive. But every step of the way,
 Randy was there for her.

Randy will readily admit that he hasn't been a perfect stepparent. As we blended our four children, we experienced emotional melt-downs and parenting collisions. We faced ex-spouse pressures and co-parenting conflicts. But Randy stayed the course, through the good and bad.

During Jodi's elementary years, Randy taught her to ride a bike, helped with homework, and carpooled her to sleepovers and birthday parties. During middle school, Randy was Jodi's biggest cheerleader as she tried out for the track team - running with her during her training season, and attending every meet he could. And through her high school years, Randy has stayed close by her side - counseling her through boyfriend dilemmas, challenging maturity in her faith, and encouraging wise choices in her every day walk.

So, it was only natural when Jodi was selected for Homecoming Court as a high school senior, that she asked Randy to escort her on the football field. It was a proud moment for him this past Friday night to walk arm in arm as her dad, a reward for many years of faithful stepparenting.

The stepparenting journey takes a different route for each of us. Some get to play more active roles than others. But we can each have a positive impact on our stepchildren if we commit to the journey, persevering through the challenges, celebrating the victories, and cherishing the relationships that are developed along the way.

Have you affirmed yourself lately for the important role you play as a stepparent?

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

When You Fail, Don't Give Up

Character that Counts

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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Finding the Beauty of God's Grace in Your Stepfamily

Nathan, 2010
"Mom, I'm sorry my friend was talking like that in front of you," my nine year old son, Nathan, said as I put him to bed last night. He was referring to some crude language a neighbor was using while playing at our house. My son knew the comments were offensive to me.

I appreciated my son's sweet attitude toward my feelings. I was reminded of the blessing of his sensitive spirit because I haven't always experienced that with my other children. Nathan is the only child my husband and I have together, and I believe God gave me a caring, affectionate, I'm-gonna-take-care-of-my-momma boy to make up for some of the hurt and agony I've experienced with my stepchildren.

When I married my husband, my stepson was five. Because I had two girls, I didn't know much about raising a son but I dreamed of cheering him on at ballgames, hearing about his first girlfriend, and enjoying big hugs snuggled on the couch. Unfortunately, most of those dreams have not come true.

My stepson's mother was an active part of his life as a young boy and she didn't like me being involved. My authority was undermined and my behavior was criticized. It seemd as if I was on trial constantly regarding what I said or how I disciplined my stepchildren. If I made a wrong move, my husband would hear about it.

I didn't know how to stop feeling like I was competing with my stepson's mother in every arena. When I attended ballgames, all I heard was, "Way to go son. Stike him out son. Hit it over the fence son." My insecurity in my stepmother role kept me from actively participating at ballgames or school events when his mom was there.

The loyalty my stepson showed toward his mother was obvious. I was kept at arm's length because it was too complicated to show love toward his stepmother.The risk of hurting his mom's feelings was too great.

I learned to live with little expectation in my relationship with my stepson. It wasn't the way I wanted it, but it became a survival technique for me. As he grew older, the relationship showed signs of developing, but when his mom died unexpectedly when he was 15 years old, the loyalty issues returned, preventing him from moving forward in a relationship with me.

God has seen every struggle with my stepson. He knows my heart and acknowledges my hurt from years' past. When I was expecting our youngest child, I wanted another girl. I had been through so much pain with my stepson that I couldn't imagine starting over with another boy.

But God knew what I needed. He has used our sweet son, Nathan, to heal my hurts and bandage my wounds. Through His grace, He gave me a gift I can't replace. Nathan is affectionate and loving toward me every day. He is not a perfect child but he shows me unconditional love and emotional attachment like no other child. I can only explain it through God's grace.

I would not appreciate Nathan's unconditional love for me without the pain of the past. But with God's redeeming love, I can enjoy a relationship with my son that I could only dream of before.

Have you seen evidences of God's grace in your stepfamily?

Related posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Offer Love and Grace Freely

Healthy Stepparenting: Don't Keep Score

When Our Stepchildren are Hurting: Offer Grace

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Monday, October 4, 2010

When God Says Wait

"Wait, Wait, Wait on the Lord." That's the title of the most recent blog post I was reading that updates the recovery of my friend's daughter who was in a terrible car accident recently. The brain injury she suffered is taking longer to heal than anyone wants. The days are long while her family waits and watches, wondering if she will ever fully recover. 

Wait. God requires that of us often.The circumstances change but the conditions remain the same. Wait.

Relationships in stepfamilies require constant waiting. We wait for them to develop, we wait for them to move forward, we wait for them to heal when hurts occur, and we wait for them to mature. It takes time. And it takes waiting.

In her book, The Stepfamily Survival Guide, by Natalie Nichols Gillespie, the author talks about the difficult wait she and her husband have been through with her oldest stepdaughter, Lorra. "Lorra has chosen as an adult not to continue her relationship with her father and me for now, and Adam (husband) and I  have sobbed on many occasions over her decision. The family all know that I have had nightmares on many multiple occasions that one of my stepdaughters is getting married and I am standing outside watching through the windows because I am not allowed inside the church!"

Natalie and her husband are enduring a terrible wait. An unknown future of whether her stepdaughter will allow them to be part of her life again. An agonizing wait.

There are no easy answers on enduring difficult waits. But as believers, we can stand on God's promises. He will walk with us through the wait.  He will stand beside when we can't find answers. He will guide us when we don't understand the outcome. And He will sustain us when the wait seems unending.

We have a choice. Will we resist the wait and agonize over answers on our time table? Or will we wait on God, trust His sovereignty, and allow Him complete control of our destiny?

"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)

Are you waiting on the Lord? Are you seeking His presence while you wait?

Related Posts:

Creating a Stable Stepfamily: Commit to the Long Run

Coping with Stepfamily Storms

Some Days are Harder Than Others as a Stepparent

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