The Humbled Stepmom

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I was reading “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers today. He wrote, “The Holy Spirit reveals that God loved me not because I was lovable, but because it was His nature to do so. ‘Now,’ He says to me, ‘show the same love to others’—“Love as I have loved you.” ‘I will bring any number of people about you whom you cannot respect, and you must exhibit My love to them as I have exhibited it to you.”

What a great reminder. God loves me even when I’m unlovable. Despite all of the ugly things I have done or thought, God loves me. That’s humbling! That’s undeserved. And then He commands us to love how He has loved. Not how we might prefer to love, but how He has loved. 

He doesn’t say to love those who are loveable and easy.  He doesn’t say we should love people, except the ones who wronged us. He doesn’t tell us to love the people we like. He says we should love as He loves. He loves those who are messy and imperfect; the sinners and prostitutes. He keeps open arms for the prodigal sons. 

So who is a stepmom to love? Is it an ex-wife who has been less than friendly or even interfering  or undermining? Is it a stepchild who is disrespectful or rude?  (By the way, I don’t think loving someone is synonymous with being best friends or being a doormat. But love certainly has no room for hatefulness, unkindness, gossip, disrespectfulness, or dismissiveness.). 

John 15:12(NIV) “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Today I’m thankful that God helps me understand how to love others. 

What are you thankful for?


Happy Mother’s Day, Stepmom!

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Today is Mother’s Day, so I’m thinking about the women I love and admire.  Thinking of my friends who have lost their mothers; friends who have biological children; friends who are not able to have children; those who have lost children; friends who are pregnant; friends who have fostered and those who have adopted.  My heart aches for some because they are experiencing such deep grief.  I celebrate others as they are having great days with their children or happily expecting a baby.

And I think of stepmoms.  I so admire stepmoms.  It takes a special person to love someone else’s child.  Especially if the love is not returned.

So if you’re a stepmom who parents someone else’s child 50% of the time, 100% of the time, two weekends a month, or just in the summers, here’s to you.  Maybe you’re a stepmom with so much parental alienation going on or so much conflict, that you rarely see your stepchild(ren).  Whether you show love on a daily basis (cooking, cleaning, packing lunches, doing laundry, being the taxi cab, saying encouraging words, speaking the truth in love) or if you don’t have the opportunity for tangible things but instead, you have a special place for your stepchild in your heart where you keep hopes, dreams, and prayers for him…either way, you are an amazing example of God’s love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 (NIV)  Do everything in love.

Happy Mother’s Day, Stepmom.

The Hateful Stepmom

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It’s no secret that stepfamily life can be stressful.  There can be  battles over whose day it is, whose holiday it is, who gets to pick vacation dates first, exactly what time pick up is, who has to pay for what.  Of course the fall out of these things is that you might not get to see your whole family on a holiday or vacation, or you might have chaos as you juggle your schedule trying to exchange the kids.  Your date night could get cancelled while you try to figure out logistics.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, right?

During stressful times, I have been tempted to go to a hateful place.  I hate to admit it (pun intended), but I have struggled with questions like:

* Do I hate my husband’s ex-wife?

* Do I hate my husband for getting me into this?

As a Christian this was concerning to me because the Bible is clear that “ Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20 NIV).

We live in a society where we “love” lots of things and we “hate” lots of things. These words are tossed around a lot.  I love cookies!  I love ombre hair!  I love that new TV show.  Or I hate my hair.  I hate skinny jeans.  I hate working out.  You get the point.

In this blending process I have learned that there are things and situations I dislike, but not people I hate.  I am more careful now to dissect situations and realize that people may choose to engage in behaviors that I might not like or make choices that would not be my first choice, but that doesn’t mean that I hate the person.

I have asked God to give me a soft heart.  A heart that has compassion for my husband as he navigates tough situations.  And a heart that recognizes his ex-wife is a precious child of God, with many lovely qualities.  And God keeps his promises.

In Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV) it says:  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

Today I am thankful for the work He has done in my heart, that only He could do.

What are you thankful for?

The Bestie Stepmom

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I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely young lady recently. She was probably in her late 20’s or early 30’s. She told me about her four parents. Her mom and stepdad; her dad and stepmom. She went on to tell me about her biological siblings, her half siblings and her step-siblings. She’s got a lot of people in her blended family. And she loves them all.

Not all of us are so lucky. Not all families work that way. Some families are high conflict and less blended. Some have more parental alienation, less cooperation, more narcissism…you name it. She and her family are very fortunate.

But wait…there’s more. I hope you’re sitting down. While she loves all four parents, she is closest with her stepmom in many ways. Yes, you read that right: her stepmom! Her stepmom is her go-to person. Her number one confidante. Her number one advice giver.

As a stepmom, this story delighted me. You mean a stepmom can go from The Evil Stepmom to Bestie? (Are pigs flying?)

I don’t mean to imply that I hope my step kids love me more than they love their mom. I don’t mean that I hope someday they will choose me over her in certain matters. But this is a beautiful story of hope, love, and healing. And this stepmom loved hearing all about it.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV): Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Today I’m thankful for the encouraging story a stranger shared with me. Such a blessing.

What are you thankful for?

The Busy Stepmom

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They say that stepmoms spend way too much time thinking about their husband’s ex wife.  I find I spend way too much time  thinking about all things stepfamily related, such as:

* should I be doing something else to help my stepkids adjust?

* should I be extending more olive branches to my husband’s ex wife so the children can see we don’t hate each other?

* should I be supporting my husband more?

* should I be planning more family events to help solidify our blending process?

* should I be creating new rituals for our family so we blend more?

*what should I do???

I can be pretty good at convincing myself that if I just do more, if I’m a better stepmom, then my family will be more healthily adjusted.  My husband will have less conflict in his life.  My stepkids will have less loyalty conflict.  We will all be one big happy blended family when I wave my magic Stepmom wand!  I convince myself that I have control over this whole thing…if I could just do more.  And then my sinful little well-intentioned heart realizes, that God is in control, not me.  Sometimes I stop and realize that all of my “doing” is getting in the way of God’s doing.  And maybe all of my “doing” and my busyness is because I’m not trusting Him enough.

Today I’m stopping and resting in His promises.  I’m really believing that He is in control, that He has good plans, and that He is taking care of us all.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV):  Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV): Be still, and know that I am God.

Psalm 91:4a (NIV):  He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.

I’m thankful that He is in control, not me.  Today I will rest in this.

What are you thankful for today?

The Sober(ing) Stepmom

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Today is the final day of 2014.  It was a year filled with joy, blessings, and difficulties for our family.  In our blending process, it seems we take a couple of steps forward, then a couple steps backwards.  We seem to be going along great, then someone throws us a curve ball.  I suppose like any life process, this is normal.  They say that it’s never a linear process to go through things like the stages of grief or the blending of a family.  But still those steps backwards are painful, unanticipated, and tough, especially when forces outside your home impact things that occur in your house.  And is it my imagination, or do the holidays seem to bring out some drama…perhaps because it’s an emotion-filled time.

It’s sobering to pause and be thankful for our blessings (rather than focus on the temporal crises where we sometimes get stuck).  We have so much to be thankful for. We have our family, wonderful friends, health, shelter over our heads, and we have food on the table.  We have amazing promises from our Savior, like these:

Isaiah 54: 10a (NIV):  Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken

Isaiah 54: 17a (NIV):  no weapon forged against you will prevail

Today I am so thankful for the Lord’s eternal promises.

What are you thankful for?

The Frazzled Stepmom

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Today I’m reflecting on the stress we stepmoms face and how we come through it.  Seriously, how do we bear the stress and not fall to pieces (more than occasionally)?  It’s a miracle really.  And I find that once again I am thankful for my husband. My hand picked by God, just for me, husband.

I’m thankful for the many “closed door talks” we have had, especially in our early years of marriage.  (Ok, let’s get real, we would not only close the door, but then we’d lock it, and then go sit in the back of our walk-in closet…or little ears heard everything.  And even then, we would whisper.).  And to be really honest, we still do this.

I’m thankful that we were firm about the importance of our “closed door talks.”  This has been foundational for our marriage and our family.  Behind closed doors, we have had many discussions about the possible ramifications of our actions as well as our nonactions.  And then after discussing these things together, we chose a path to take.

Things like:

If we choose to do or say X, what will the children learn about a daddy’s role?

What will this demonstrate to them about how a father should act?

What will this demonstrate to them about how a husband should treat his wife (even though she might not be his first wife) and his children?

If we choose to do X, what will this teach them about the importance of marriage?

If we choose to take no action, what will this teach them about a Christian spirit?

If we choose to do or say X, the children won’t be happy and we won’t be the favorite parents, but what’s more important?  Making the healthy parenting decision or being popular?

If we choose to do X (or not do X), how will this impact the kind of mate they choose some day?

If we choose action (or inaction), will it teach them that parents (even step parents) can take care of kids?  (or would they feel that kids have to take care of parents?)

The list goes on and on.

Bottom line, I’m grateful that God provided me with a mouth big enough to voice my opinions and a husband big enough and humble enough to listen to me, and brave enough to share his heart and thoughts with me.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9 (a)-10  “Two are better than one…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

What are you thankful for?

The (Un) Balanced Stepmom

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I think it requires a lot of balance to be a stepmom.  Maybe it’s something we stepmoms learn along the way because we have to.  Maybe we never master it.  I’m not sure.

I have been reflecting on stepmoms a lot this holiday season.  Several stepmoms have shared with me their stressful Christmas and holiday stories.  The central theme seems to be difficulties with parenting plans (in other words, “mom’s days” and “dad’s days” as decided by the court or the parents, this is the “parenting plan.”).  Stepmoms have been telling me about the lovely Christmas plans they made for their families and then finding out last minute that the stepkids would not be there because the ex made other plans for the kids even though it wasn’t her day.

This is one of the ugly realities that stepmoms live with.  If you are not a stepmom and you’re reading this, brace yourself.  We stepmoms plan lovely meals, family days, birthday parties, Christmas dinners, vacations, and so on…and then our stepkids aren’t always allowed to attend.   When these things happen, even the most balanced stepmom can feel unbalanced. It’s deflating and deeply sad for stepmoms.  It’s like the rug gets pulled right out from under you. It’s a struggle to be upbeat or joyous during a family time, when only part of your family is allowed to be there.

Some of us deal with parental alienation where the other parent purposely plans something more fun on that same day to lure the kids away.  Others have exes who just don’t cooperate with the parenting plan.  And we all know that it’s easier to let it slide than to retain the lawyer for several thousand dollars again.

So today I’m thinking about the sweet stepmoms who have shared their stories of holiday disappointment with me.  I have been there, I know that pain too well.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

John 16:33 (NIV)  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Today I am thankful for God’s comfort in this fallen world and for the girlfriends God has placed in my life.

What are you thankful for?

The Scrooge Stepmom

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Let’s face it.  If ever there was a time when stepmoms have to balance a lot, it’s Christmas.  We have to balance:

* Expectations from our stepkids.

* Expectations from our husbands.

* Our feelings as an “outsider” at a time full of rituals that we may not be included in.

I’m about to share something with you.  But first, please remember rule number 1 in the Stepmom Club:  no judging!

Christmas gets dicey in our house too.  Yes, I have heard my stepkids proclaim with glee “I get two Christmases!”  And we have fun decorating our tree together.  I’m always wow’d at how amazing my stepkids are at decorating the outside of the house. But still, we have those moments.  You know the ones.  Where you feel like you’re not being treated well, not really visible, and kinda like a doormat.  Christmas can be tough for stepmoms.

And here’s the don’t-judge-me-part.  I admit that on more than one Christmas I have threatened to return all of the Christmas presents under the tree.  Yep, take them all back to the store.  That’s me….Scrooge.  Evil Stepmom.  Grinch?  The truth is, I have felt like I wasn’t treated well during a couple of Christmases.  And here I had been shopping for months, trying to make sure that Christmas was special for my stepkids.  I realized that there was a real inconsistency between the way I was being treated and my stepkids’ excitement about the gifts.  It wasn’t that I wanted to teach quid pro quo or tit for tat, but I did not want the lesson to be that you can treat someone unkindly and feel entitled to gifts.  After all, I am trying to help raise healthy kids who will someday be healthy grownups.  So I explained to my stepkids that if our relationship is so impaired, if this is the way you want to treat me, that’s fine.  It’s your choice.  However, when you treat someone this way, the other person doesn’t usually give a bunch of Christmas gifts to the person who is mistreating them.  So the Christmas presents can go back to the store.  This caught their attention.

In the end, each year we had apologies, reconciliation, and more humble hearts.   Every year things go more smoothly.  And I will never ever forget the first Christmas that one of my stepkids bought me a gift with her own money.  I treasure that.

So while I don’t recommend threatening to return all of your stepkids’ gifts, I do acknowledge that Christmas is hard for stepmoms.  I wish us stepmoms peace in the true meaning of Christmas.  Jesus was born on Earth to the Virgin Mary.  He came to rescue us.  That is true love from our Heavenly Father.  I am thankful that this is where I get my peace from, not from the status of my earthly relationships or the number of gifts under the tree.

John 14:27 (NIV):  “ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

What are you thankful for today?

p.s. this year we are focusing less on gifts and more on the real meaning of Christmas.  We are doing 3 gifts per person (wish us luck).

The Zookeeper Stepmom

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You know the story about the people sitting in the room with the elephant?  It goes something like this.  People were sitting all around the elephant.  Each with a different view.  Someone sitting in front of the elephant marveled at the beautiful head, the huge ears, and the magnificent trunk.   She began to talk about how beautiful it was as she described its features.  Then the person sitting behind the elephant exclaimed, “That’s not what the elephant looks like at all!  It has a large backside, and a tiny little tail.  That is what an elephant looks like.”  How interesting that to each person, the same elephant looked very different depending on where they were sitting.

I ponder my beautiful, ever slowly, but steadily, blending stepfamily.  At times I wonder if I am seeing a beautiful long trunk but someone else is staring at the big bu– and not enjoying the view as much.

As a stepmom, I have learned (with time) that in a blended family we don’t all share the same view.  Take for example, the joy that a newly married couple experiences when after a hard divorce they find a new love to spend the rest of their life with!  This overwhelming joy can be experienced by many stepmoms and dads when their marriage begins.  But at the same time, the stepkids can be experiencing mixed emotions.  They can experience confusion and deep sorrowfulness at the time their dad marries their stepmom.  For them, the focus might not be a joyful union, but the deeply sad end of their family as they knew it.

Romans 12:15 (NIV) says:  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Sometimes I feel like I’m a zookeeper stepmom, making sure each unique “animal” is ok and taken care of.  And I try to remember that someone might have the view of the elephant’s backside today, that it’s not pleasant, and they need all the extra grace and kindness they can get.  I am thankful for God’s direction to walk along side those who are rejoicing or mourning.

What are you thankful for today?