The Stepmom Who Shared

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Our son is four and he’s at the age when he’s learning to share.  He loves sharing his toys with his sister and teaching her about taking turns.

Tonight I came home and saw that my husband and son were snuggling in our giant bean bag chair.  They were having a great time watching a movie, eating popcorn and ice cream too!  When I tried to horn in on their boy time, my husband jokingly objected.

My husband:  “No, you can’t join us.  I’m snuggling with him, this is OUR time!”

My son:  “Daddy, share!”

Me:  “Daddy did share, honey.  He shared this movie with you, the ice cream and the popcorn.  You guys had a great time sharing all of this.”

My son:  “no Mommy, I mean Daddy should share ME with you.”

And of course we assured him that we would. He’s our “ours baby” and we definitely share him.  But part of me couldn’t help but wonder what this scenario is like for stepkids.  How often must they wish for their parents to share them more nicely?  How often do they feel they have to choose one parent over the other?  And how well can they really experience the joy of having their parents share in their lives when their parents are not in the same house or if they can’t get along for five minutes?

And so I stepped out of my Me-ness and remembered what their experience might be like, or should I say imagined what at least a sliver of what their experience might be like.

Today I’m thankful for the lessons I learn through being a stepmom, those of empathy and remaining tenderhearted in a fallen world.

Romans 12:15b (NIV)  “…mourn with those who mourn.”

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) “ And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

What are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

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The Beautiful Stepmom

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Today I am inspired by words that our Lord speaks to us in Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

“and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes, the oil of joy
    instead of mourning, and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

Beauty for ashes.  Isn’t that so blended-family-like?

Think of the “ashes” we have in our families.  From the adult perspective, maybe it’s the loss of a past marriage; the loss of our hopes and dreams about our first family and the way life was supposed to work out; the loss of a love; maybe a betrayal in our previous marriage; costly court cases; or loss of time and relationship with our children.  From the child perspective, maybe it’s the loss of family as he knew it and maybe even resulting depression and anger.

And yet, when we focus on the way God wants us to selflessly love our current spouses, children and stepchildren…there can be beauty from these ashes.  Sure it takes time (the average stepfamily takes 4-7 years to blend).  But nevertheless, there is beauty from ashes.    Who could take such an ugly, heart-breaking situation and make something beautiful from it?  Only God can perform that miracle.  And maybe, if we focus on the ashes so much, we miss the emerging beauty.  So today I’m thankful for the beauty in our imperfect family, and appreciative that over time it gets more & more beautiful (if I pay attention).

Today I am thankful that only He can bring beauty out of the ashes.

What are you thankful for?

 

The Stepmom Who Was in Denial

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You may have heard of the Stages of Grief & Loss developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  The stages are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These stages are something we can encounter when we go through a variety of losses.  For example:  a loved one dies, we experience divorce, there is a diagnosis of a serious health issue, our company down-sizes and we lose a job, or we are in the messy process of a blended family.  Everyone progresses through these stages in their own time, in their own order.  We can’t hurry someone along, pushing them through the stages.  There is no standard linear progression here.  At one point you could be in Denial and then jump to Depression, then slide back to Anger.  You (stepmom) could be in Denial while your husband is in Depression, and your stepkids could be in Anger. Sometimes I hear of families where the spouses have come to a place of Acceptance but the stepkids remain in Anger, Denial or Depression.  Each person and each situation is different.  No wonder it takes stepfamilies so long to “blend” or adjust.

Here are some stepmom examples:

  1. Denial (“This can’t be happening…this is not the marriage I signed up for!” or “I’m going to pretend our past marriages never happened, this is a new life and the old life doesn’t impact us.”)
  2. Anger (“I cannot believe my husband isn’t supporting me more, doesn’t he know what I’m going through?” or  “I cannot believe how disrespectful my stepkids are to me, I don’t deserve this!” or “This isn’t fair!”)
  3. Bargaining (“If we can just make it through this court date, we will be ok.”  “If I’m just nicer to my stepkids, surely they will love me and life will get easier.” or “If my stepchild moves out of our house, surely everything will be ok then.”)
  4. Depression (“Our marriage will never survive this stress.  We are bound for another divorce, I just can’t take this stress any longer.” or “I can’t bear to be home when my stepkids are in my home, I have to walk on eggshells the whole time.”)
  5. Acceptance (“This may not be the marriage I envisioned, but it can be even better than what I hoped for because God has good plans for me.” or “My worth is not based on whether my stepkids or their mom like me.” or “My stepkids and their mom may choose to mistreat me, but I can still choose to love.” or  “It’s not so much that my husband isn’t supporting or understanding me, but rather, he is trying to balance a lot of people, emotions, and consequences of whatever decision he makes.”)

Being in a stepfamily means that each person is inherently dealing with a loss of some kind, on their own time table.  How can we give each other grace?  Maybe the first step is acknowledging what a huge loss this can be for each person.  For the kids:  the loss of their family as they knew it.  For Dad:  maybe it’s the loss of the first family he had dreamed of, and the loss of influence as a parent.  For stepmom:  maybe it’s the loss of the idealized relationships she had dreamed of having with her stepkids, or the loss of the peaceful  fairytale re-marriage she envisioned. For the bio mom:  maybe it’s the deep loss of not seeing her children on a daily basis, and the loss of some parenting time to not only dad but also another woman.

Today I’m thankful that our Lord has given us such underserved grace so that we can try to extend grace to each other in the way He has done for us, time and time again (grace upon grace).

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV) says, “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”

What are you thankful for?

(for more info check out “On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 1997).

 

 

 

The Polygamist Stepmom

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Ok, I’m not a polygamist but sometimes it kinda feels like it.  At times I have wondered how many people are in this marriage.  Sometimes it feels like more than two.

God is clear that when we get married “and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8 NIV).

Notice it doesn’t say, “and the two will never become one in a remarriage because he had another wife first and has to spend half his time with his ex still.”

Nor does it say “and the two will not become one in a remarriage because he has children from his first marriage that he has known longer than his new wife and he will be one with the kids, and his new wife will be the third wheel.”

Nope, we second wives, lowly little stepmoms that we might be perceived to be, we still get to be one with our man.  God couldn’t be any more clear on how marriage is supposed to look.

Authors Cloud & Townsend talk about “intruders” in marriage in their book “Boundaries in Marriage” (Chapter 12 “Three’s a Crowd: Protecting Your Marriage from Intruders”).

So what might be intruding in your marriage?  Here are some common “intruders” that Cloud & Townsend mention:

  • work
  • kids
  • church
  • friends
  • in-laws

In blended family situations I might also add to the list:

  • ex-spouses
  • lots of types of kids (his, hers, “ours kids”, stepkids)

A strong marriage is a great antidote to a stressful blended family environment.  I’m thankful that I have an awesome husband who seeks to ensure that we have a solid marriage based on what God says.  He knows full well that there are to be only two of us in our marriage (despite the pressures he gets from “intruders”).  From day one, he has positioned us this way and protected our union.

What are you thankful for today?

 

 

The Stepmom Who Waited in Line

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The other day at the post office, while waiting in line, I  began watching a mom and her two young children.  I found it interesting that her kids were doing a lot of the same things that my bio kids do, and she was saying and doing a lot of the things that I say and do.  It was like looking in a mirror.  Or like watching a movie of me and my kids.

“Stop hitting your brother.”

“If you put that in your mouth again, I will take it away!”

“Do you need a time out?”

“Say sorry to your sister right now!”

“Stop rolling around on the dirty floor and get up!”

“Do not pick your nose.”

Ok, I’m not gonna lie, I secretly found delight in watching this (I know that’s so wrong!)  But for once my  kids were not here causing the scene in public, and I wasn’t the frazzled mom with some kids food all over the front of her pretty blouse.  It was someone else’s turn.  (Trust me, I knew that when I picked my kids up from daycare in 20 minutes, it would be my turn, but hey, right now I was getting a few minutes of respite!).  Finally I asked her, “how old are your kids?”  She replied, “Two and four.”  I told her that my kids were exactly the same ages, do the same things, and we have exactly the same conversations.  Another lady commented that her kids were all grown now, but we as parents were all there once, and she had been too.  Somehow I found relief in this, knowing that as moms we go through similar things.

And as stepmoms we do too.

I had heard that re-married couples get their honeymoon after the stepkids launch.  Well this is our first year with all of my stepkids in college and out of the house.  I can say that it’s been sort of sad.  I guess that’s the “empty-nest” part.  We truly miss their energy, smiles, and excitement they brought to our daily family life.   We are learning to watch from a distance as they go through life lessons at college and in young adulthood.  Certainly my 2 and 4 year old miss them tremendously.  But at the same time we have significantly less stress and drama.   And there’s no outside party pulling strings in our house. As a result we are a happier couple, we argue less, we enjoy each other more, we have simpler less complicated moments.  We waited for this time.  I think we have started our honeymoon.

I am thankful that during our turbulent “blending years” my husband and I chose purposely to use the stress to make our marriage stronger, realizing that if we did not, it might break us.  And now we start our honeymoon.

I hope the same is true for other stepmoms and dads out there too!

Galations 6:9 (NIV) says:  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Amen, sister.

What are you thankful for today?

 

 

The Stepmom Who Wanted to Grow Up

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I have been studying the story of Tamar.  When I grow up I want to be more like her.  Oh, don’t get me wrong…I hope I never have to endure the hardships she had to live with.  But in many ways, I want to be more like her.

Her story is influenced by some really tough blended family dynamics.  You think your blended family is tough?  Remember Joseph and his coat of many colors?  Well, Joseph’s half-brothers hated him and planned to kill him, but then his brother Judah suggested they sell him into slavery instead.  Judah lived with shame, regret and grief over what he had done.  The choices he made in his blended family had a profound effect on his own family later when he became married and had children.

But, back to Tamar.  Her lot in life was filled with abuse, disrespect, and mistreatment at the hands of family members who should have protected her and loved on her.  When she was still a child, her father arranged for her to marry a horribly unkind man (Judah’s son Er).  She was abused, mocked, and mistreated by Judah’s family.  Eventually, God struck her evil husband dead, and her next one too.  Then Judah sent her in shame back to her father’s house.  She had become a shamed  widow through no fault of her own.  And on top of it all, she had no children (and thus no status or worth in her society).  She was doomed.

And yet, she remained faithful to God, patient, obedient, and respectful to those around her…even to those who mistreated her.  (note:  I’m not suggesting anyone stay in an abusive relationship).

Then as if things couldn’t get worse, she became pregnant outside of wedlock.  When her father-in-law Judah found out, he issued an order that she should be killed.  Imagine, her own father-in-law wanted her killed.   But then, Judah found out that he was the father and Tamar was not put to death.

God rescued Tamar from death.  She gave birth to not only one baby, but to twins, and through her line eventually our Savior Jesus Christ was born.

For many years, her life was filled heartache. But God had great plans for her, in His timing, and He was faithful.  He brought healing for Judah as well when Judah was restored with his brother Joseph.  And healing for all of the brothers in the blended family when Joseph forgave them.

Isn’t it amazing the goodness and beauty that God can create from a seemingly hopeless situation, even a tough blended family situation?

I want to be that Tamar-like Stepmom who is patient, respectful, and kind even if others mistreat me; the one with that unwavering faith in God.

Check it out:  Genesis Chapters 37-38.  Author Francine Rivers sheds more light on Tamar’s story in her book “A Lineage of Grace:  Five Stories of Unlikely Women Who Changed Eternity” (2002).

Today I am thankful for this story of Tamar and the things I can learn from her as well as the reminder of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

What are you thankful for?

The Stepmom and Her Prodigal Son

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Parents in blended families can benefit greatly from being in community with those who are in similar situations.  No one understands your family like another stepmom.  Or imagine the empathy when two bio dads can talk about the alienation they experience.  The other day a stepmom told me that she and her husband view one of the stepkids as a Prodigal Son.

It’s heart-breaking for a blended family to have a Prodigal Son.  And at the same time, there is so much I appreciate about this comparison.  Whether you have a Prodigal Son or not, there’s so much good stuff in this parable that we can learn from. (Read the parable that Jesus told in Luke 15:11-21 (NIV).)

In stepfamilies we can struggle with setting boundaries and consequences for our kids.  Sometimes we let our stepkids get away with misbehavior because we are worried that if we set a consequence they will run to the other parent’s house and we may lose contact with them.  This is a reality-based fear for many bio parents & stepparents.  This fear can handicap us as parents.  As parents we want to do the right thing for our kids, but we don’t want to lose them.  It’s also hard to enforce consequences (e.g. you ground your kiddo but as soon as he gets to the other parent’s house he is un-grounded; guess who’s the favorite parent then?).   In this parable, the father did not say “oh here’s all of the money you are demanding, and by the way you can stay in my house and live a “wild life”, be disrespectful, and disobedient.”  No, the prodigal child took the money and left to pursue bad behaviors and a “wild life” elsewhere.   This story doesn’t give us detail about the consequences the father set, but we know that it does not say “The father gave the child all of the money and the go-ahead to behave however he wanted in his house.”

In this parable the parent didn’t shun the child.  No, to the contrary.  If the father started running to his returning child when he was “still a long way off”, then that father had hope that his child would return, he didn’t lose faith, and was watching and waiting with hopefulness.  He saw the child coming back from a long way away because he was watching for him.

My husband and I talk often about which battles we should choose, which behaviors we can let slide, what will happen if we set a consequence, and if we’re prepared for the intended and unintended consequences of the consequence.  We want to be the kind of parents who set consequences when needed for the child’s own good. And we also want to wait like this father did for the child to return to obedience.  We want to be filled with this hope while trusting in God.  And then we want to throw a huge celebration for the “lost” child who was “found.”

Today I am thankful for this parable and the lessons I can learn from it, and of course thankful to the stepmom who shared this perspective with me.

What are you thankful for today?