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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When Stepparenting Isn't What You Expected

I have a cracked tooth. I went to the dentist this morning and heard some unexpected news. Because it's one of my front teeth and it has small cracks throughout the tooth, I was told I will eventually need to crown the tooth or consider veneers.

Instead of a simple filling to fix the tooth, I have to consider a completely different alternative - not a bad solution, just different (and much more expensive!) than what I anticipated.

The scenario reminded me of a poem my sister (stepmom of  three) mentioned to me recently. It was actually written for parents of autistic children, but is just as applicable for stepparents.

It illustrates the point that when we find ourselves in a situation that's different than what we want, we can learn to appreciate the good about it or spend our time regretting what we wish we had.

If we're constantly comparing our family to those around us in traditional families, we will never learn to appreciate the value and uniqueness of our stepfamily.

I hope you enjoy the poem as much as I have.

Welcome to Holland

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum, the Michelangelo David, the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!" you say. "What do you mean, Holland?" I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy.

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to some horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

The pain of that will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

Written by Emily Perl Kingsley

Can you learn to appreciate Holland or are you stuck in regret about Italy?

Related Posts:

Overcoming Difficult Feelings as a Stepparent

Is it a Privilege to be a Stepparent?

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Saying Good-bye is Never Easy

We've sold our home in Conway (Praise the Lord) and recently put a contract on a home in Bossier City, Louisiana. We will be moving in just a few short weeks. And the good byes I find myself in the middle of are harder every day.

The church choir I've played piano for the last three years gave me a nice send-off tonight. I have some wonderful friends who I've cried with, laughed with, and sung with. It's hard to say good-bye to long-term friends as we move.

But it reminds me of good-byes that we sometimes have to deal with in stepfamilies. Good-byes that are not our choice but are driven by someone else's decisions.

In her book, The Stepfamily Survival Guide, Natalie Nichols Gillespie talks about some difficult good-byes her family has endured with her stepdaughter, Lorra. "Lorra has chosen as an adult not to continue her relationship with her father and me for now, and Adam and I have sobbed on many occasions over her decision. The family all know that I have had nightmares on 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!"

That's a difficult good-bye. But Natalie Gillespie can't change the decision her step-daughter has made. She can simply pray that she will have a change of heart someday.

Good-byes are never easy. But with God's sustaining strength, we can endure them.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Phil 4:13)

Related Posts:

Stepparenting Heartache

Stepparenting Heartache Part Two

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Prayer Changes Relationships

This picture is my neighborhood prayer group I have been part of for almost seven years. We meet weekly at 6:00 a.m. (just rolled out of bed - no make up or hair fixed) and pray for the needs of each family represented for an hour.

I joined this group when my husband and I were fighting a custody battle for my stepson after his  mom died and his stepfather had applied for custody. It was a very difficult time and these ladies became my support group.

Year after year of praying diligently for my stepfamily and its relationships 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.

The Mother's Day card  my stepson gave me this past Sunday brought tears to my eyes. The comments he wrote said, "After this last year, I've needed a mother the most, and you have been outstanding. Thank you for putting up with all my crazy ways and being a great mother to me!!"(exclamation marks included).  

I don't write this to brag about our relationship but only to encourage you if your stepparenting relationships are strained. I've been there. I've had so many days that I wanted to give up on my stepmother role. But as my stepchildren reach their adult years, they show me their appreciation more and more.

The rewards of stepparenting don't come during the early or middle years, they come at the end - probably after your stepchildren leave home.

But I'm 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 15 years ago, and only God could have put the pieces back together. 

With tears in my eyes, I said good-bye to my neighborhood prayer group last night. As  my husband and I and youngest son move to Louisiana, I'll be in search of another prayer group to join. Or perhaps, I'll start a neighborhood group where we move. But I can assure you, I won't quit praying for my stepfamily. Because prayer changes relationships.

Are you praying regularly for your stepfamily?

Related Posts:

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Have You Seen Our New Ebook for Stepmothers?

How was your Mother's Day? Do you need a pick-me-up after a difficult day?

I hope you'll consider downloading our new ebook for stepmothers that Heather Hetchler and I compiled, "Stepping with Purpose: Stories of Strength and Faith for StepMothers." It can  be downloaded FREE from my website home page.   

Here's an introduction taken from the book: 

"Stepparenting is a hard role.We're given parental responsibilities but have no parental rights. We perform parental chores but get few parental rewards. We offer love and acceptance to our stepchildren but may receive pain and rejection in return.

That's why we've created this e-book. We believe stepmothers need the support of one another for strength and encouragement. We also believe stepmothers who rely on their faith for guidance and perseverance for their stepparenting journey will find greater peace, fulfillment, and success.

So, we've compiled eight stories of strength and faith from seasoned stepmothers walking the trenches of stepparenting to help you. We don't pretend to have all the answers but hope to offer ideas and suggestions that have worked for us."

I hope you'll take a look at the encouraging stories submitted by some wonderful stepmoms when you download the ebook here. And then check back with me and let me know what you think!

Related Posts:

A Sampling of Stepmother Stories from Ebook  

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Friday, May 6, 2011

New ebook for Stepmothers available today!

I'm excited to announce a new e-book a fellow stepmom, Heather Hetchler, and I compiled that can be downloaded for FREE from my website home page. It's a collection of  personal, real-life stories and struggles from seasoned stepmom authors that are designed to encourage and support you on your journey.

Here's a sampling from a story titled "Learning how to Love," by Laura Petherbridge, co-author of The Smart Stepmom:

"If I'm being totally honest there were times in my early years as a stepmom that I didn't even like my stepsons, much less love them. To me they appeared spoiled and pampered, plus everyone in my husband's family seemed to tip-toe around their wants and whines. ... But as a Christian I desired to learn how to love them. I knew Christ could teach me, if I was willing."

"The first thing God revealed to me was that I had a tainted view of the boys. They were hurting kids, not bratty villains. Their sharp, stinging comments were merely an angry response to their circumstances. They didn't view me as a wonderful new addition to their family; to them I was the new woman rocking their boat of security. In their eyes, I was taking away their Daddy."

Here's another sampling from a story titled "Acceptance," by Jackie Brown:

"Having my stepdaughter 24/7 was not what I had planned. My life became a roller coaster of angry, sad, unhappy, and at times, depressed feelings. The reality is that I suffered a loss ... a loss of the way things were and the way I wanted them to be.

I learned first-hand that there are many things you have to accept in the role of being a full-time stepmom:

Accept that your time, space, and privacy are different from what they once were.
Accept that being a stepmom is unfair and lonely at times.
Accept that you may not see the fruits of your sacrifices until the stepchildren become adults.
Accept that there will be many sacrifices that often go unnoticed."

There are great stories in this e-book. I hope you'll hop over and download this free ebook today. Then, come back and let me know what you think.

Happy Mother's Day!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celebrating Mother's Day as a Stepmom

With Mother's Day only a few days away, you may be thinking about how your stepchildren will handle the celebration. It tends to be an awkward holiday for many stepmothers, including myself at times. We don't know whether to expect anything from our stepchildren or let the biological mom get all the attention for the day.

Personally, I believe if we've played an active role as a stepmother, we deserve some recognition. But that doesn't mean we will get it from our stepchildren. We may need to ask our spouse (the father of those children) to honor and acknowledge us on Mother's Day for the difficult role we play.

Stepfamily authority Ron Deal includes a statement from a stepmom in his article, "I Dread Mother's Day." The stepmom says, "I get all the grief of parenting, but I don't get to enjoy the pleasures associated with being a mom." As a stepmom, I've had days I feel that way too. But thankfully, it's not every day.

I've learned to enjoy Mother's Day with no expectations from my stepchildren. If they offer me a gift or choose to honor me in some way, I'm thrilled. But if they don't, I know my husband appreciates what I do and lets me know that regularly. I also believe God put these children in my life to care and nurture and I want to be obedient to His calling.

In my next post I'll talk about a free e-book that will soon be available on my website in honor of stepmoms. I hope you'll check back to find out how to get your copy.

How does your family celebrate Mother's Day? Is is meaningful day or a difficult one?

Related Posts:

More Mother's Day Thoughts

Overcoming the Pain of Rejection

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