Monday, February 8, 2010

Is it a new year already?

So seeing as it's been nearly a year since my last post, I realize that I need to get back to it! So much has happened in the last year. I really don't even know how to start. Please know that I am so thankful that God has given me this venue in which I can get my frustrations out there and try to find the positive and important lessons that can perhaps help others who may be in a similar situation.

The first thing that comes to mind is that I feel like you need encouragement. Everyone needs and longs to hear an encouraging and uplifting word every now and then. And stepmoms need someone to encourage them daily, not just on "Mother's Day" or the Holidays. We are in a world all our own. I've said this before but it's worthy of making the point again. No one will ever understand what a stepmom goes through unless they are a stepmom themselves. This past year has been for the most part, fairly stable. Yes, there has been the occassional passive agressive and defensive emails along with some thoughtless actions and words that we've dealt with the best we can. It is evident now more than ever that God is faithful in His willingness to give us the appropriate words and actions at the appointed time. Sometimes, it feels like it's one test after another! But I know with His help, we can always respond in a loving and caring manner if we take the time to let our frustrations subside.

I also want to encourage you today to show your love to your stepchild. I have recently discovered how much they long for your and especially your husband's love and attention. I have found little ways to be affectionate with my stepchildren. And if you are struggling with this, just begin to pray and ask God to give you opportunities and show you how to demonstrate your love for them. I've noticed that when we put the kids to bed and we read our Bible story, they really open up about their daily worries and situations that weigh heavy on their little hearts. We hear all about the yelling and the tempers that flair at the other house. We hear about the struggles they are dealing with in school. We hear about the adult issues that the kids have taken upon themselves as their own. I would encourage you to listen to them, sympathize with them, encourage them, and perhaps the most difficult to remember - pray for them and WITH them. They are going through so much more than they let on most of the time. Verbalize how much you care for them and how much they mean to you. Chances are, they don't hear it often enough. And you and your husband may be the only ones who can give them and teach them what they so desperately need. They need your love, your attention, your sympathy, your patience, your gentleness. And through all these things, they WILL see Jesus in you. Have a blessed day and know that I'm praying for each of you this morning.

Monday, February 2, 2009

It Can't Be All About Me

Well, I haven't posted in a while, mostly due to the holidays and some other things that have consumed my time. But it's no excuse. It's been far too long. I need this as much as you do!

So now that I have a few minutes to write, I don't have much to write about in the area of the ex or drama, or upset in any relationships at the present time. It's actually been a lot better and I know God has been at work even amidst my lack time spent with Him. I don't deserve His grace or love. How truly grateful I am for a Savior who works in His time even when I'm not faithful.

I recently got to spend some time with a friend of mine and we were able to get out some frustrations we're both experiencing in our lives. We've both sort of hit the reality of being married, settled in our lives, I guess just the reality of life. And on top of my own personal struggles, I feel like the kids are more clingy and needy now for some reason, maybe it's just their age. I can't even walk from one room to the next without someone following me! But I know I need to be compassionate and put their needs ahead of my own. So I asked my friend, "Is it me? Am I just extremely irritable or is this normal?" I continued on my rant, "It's just so hard to go from being myself - not having kids to worry about and then suddenly shifting gears to mommy-mode." I go from doing what I want, when I want to suddenly washing clothes, reminding them to pick up their junk, finding ways to entertain them without tv, fixing their hair, cooking something they'll like for dinner, making sure they're dressed appropriately, taking a bath, brushing teeth, washing hands...the list goes on and on. Being a stepmom is a hard job. No one will ever understand what we as stepmoms face everyday. Not only when the kids are with us but when they're not. It's such an unusual situation to experience first hand and everyday might bring something different or unexpected.

I'm realizing that I need to work on my tolerance and pray that God will help me to do everything with out complaining. That's so hard isn't it?! But I know that I can do this and make the best out of everyday with God's help. I'm learning that it's not about me. But how do we get past that feeling of - no one understands. No one recognizes or acknowledges what we do on a regular basis for someone else's kid. Where's my encouragement? Where's my pat on the back every once in a while? Where's my reward? The answer is ALWAYS in Jesus. He sees the hurt and the frustrations that we continually push to the side to manage our everyday reality. Although we can't touch him right now, He's here. Even though we can't physically run to his arms, He's surrounding us now. He's with us in every moment of our day. He's our reward. And perhaps the hardest part for us to grasp - may that be enough for us. I'm praying that He would sustain you in your journey today. That God's peace and love would surround you like never before. May you be consumed with His encouragement and trust that He alone is all you need.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Attitude Adjustment

So we had an altercation with the "ex" a few weeks ago. I won't go into all the details because quite frankly, they don't matter. I've just come to realize that her actions are usually all hinged on her mood swings and her compulsive desire to make things all about her. So we did what we knew Christ would want us to do. Take the high road. Our intentions were pure and our reactions to her were pure yet honest. God revealed just a little piece of Himself to me and I have to share it with you. A song in my workout mix helped me change my views and thinking.

However long our feet have walked on this world
We've all lived long enough to know
That sometimes life will go our way
And other times it won't
But still I've got this joy inside of me
With each new dawn I do believe to

Say hey, it's a good day
Even if things aren't going my way
Jesus is Lord and I am saved
So, say hey, it's a good day

Circumstance and situations change
You know life can turn on a dime
But there's a constant hope and peace
That I have come to find
And it's all because of who God is
And that He is alive and I am His, so

Say hey, it's a good day
Even if things aren't going my way
Jesus is Lord and I am saved
So, say hey, it's a good day

We are all as happy as we make our minds up to be I have just decided that nothing's gonna take this joy from me

- Artist: FFH (Far From Home)

I highly suggest you download this song on iTunes. At least go listen to a sample before you make up your mind not to! Click the iTunes link above and it'll take you directly to the song. It's a great upbeat song that will lift your spirits when you've had a rough day. Sometimes you can't stop thinking about things like this and it can really clouds your head, darken your outlook and even ruin your day.

I'm going to remember that every time something like this happens. I'm going to make up my mind that I will be as happy as I can be and nothing is going to take this joy from me! God is the giver of all peace and joy. And NO ONE can take that from you if you are a believer in Christ! As soon as I heard this song and I returned from my workout, I was determined! And God did give me an incredible joy for the rest of the day! I was amazed at how my day turned out! I am so thankful for a Savior who loves us so much even when we've done nothing to deserve it. So stand strong, don't let Satan have a foothold on you, pray for joy and peace during those times of difficulty and say hey, it's a good day! Love you all and I'm praying for you tonight!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Chance Meeting or Divine Intervention?

So I ran into the parents of a guy I dated in high school last weekend. I was out shopping with some family and had to take my niece to the bathroom. Upon my return, I was pleasantly surprised to see them talking with my my mom. In any normal situation, this would probably be a little bit of an awkward exchange. But not with them. They were and still are such wonderful people. And excuse the phrase, but really salt of the earth.

So, here's a little background before I go any further. He lived with his dad and stepmom. And I remember that he called her mom which I always thought was so sweet. Every other friend I had with a stepmom either hated her or just didn't connect with her in any way. So it was apparent that they all really seemed to make their family "work". Now I'm not saying they didn't have ever have problems, I'm sure they did. Any blended family will undoubtedly have their share of problems. And I don't know what kind of relationship they had with his biological mom. But from what I observed, they truly tried to make things work.

I remember every time I went to their house, she would greet me with a hug and just ask all kinds of questions about how I was and what I had been up to. She had such a genuine heart and knew how to make someone feel loved and comfortable from the minute you walked through the door. I've always remembered how that made me feel and I still try to this day to take an active interest in getting to know people and not just give them a "How are ya today?" and call it a day.

All that to say, we started talking about what I was doing and I told her that I was now a stepmom and that it hasn't always been easy but that I knew God had everything under control. I told her that I remembered what a wonderful stepmom she was and how I knew how much her stepson adored her. I told her of this blog that I started to help encourage other stepmoms who may be going through the same things that I've gone through. And just like I remember, they were both very supportive and encouraging. Although it was a relatively short visit, it was a truly meaningful one.

It was only a day or so later that I really grasped the importance of this "chance meeting". God had given me an incredible example of the role He knew I would eventually take on more than 10 years later! I had always known what an amazing and caring woman she was. But it was only now that I began to realize that this was truly someone who was clearly put in my life to be a role model! I began to thank God for bringing her into my life, for being an encouragement and for always painting the picture of a loving and kind-hearted stepmom. I know she must have endured tough times and dealt with pain and frustration as every stepmom does. But she persevered and made it through.

From the moment I knew I was going to be a stepmom, I wanted to do everything right. I wanted to deal with any situation with love and kindness. It hasn't always been easy to keep these emotions in the forefront of your mind and heart when dealing the the struggles of being a stepmom. But just like this incredible woman, I will still try, I will not give up. I will trust that God will always carry me. I'm so thankful that He revealed this to me over the last week. I don't deserve His love or His hope, but He continues to give it in spite of my sin.

God puts people in your life for reasons you may not be aware of now. Ask Him to begin to reveal those reasons to you. Ask Him to help you learn from the wonderful stepmoms who have been there, dealt with the pain, lived with the struggles and wanted to throw in the towel at one point or another. May we be encouraged by your stories, your lessons, and most of all, your love. If you are reading this, I just have to say again - thank YOU! You've been a light in my journey although I didn't fully recognize it until now!

I forgot to get your email but please email me so we can stay in touch!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Exercising Empathy for the Ex

Just the title of the post brings up a slew of emotions. Most of which are so hurtful you wish you could erase them from your memory. How is it possible to exercise empathy for his ex? Shouldn't I just be pleasant and put on my happy face when I face her? Can't that just be it for me? You may be thinking that's all your capable of anyway or that's all that can be reasonably expected of you. I hate to be the one to break it to you but that's not what we as stepmothers are called to do.

Let's just assume for a moment that your husband's ex is a wonderful person and is decent to you and your husband. Maybe she hasn't done anything to sabotage your marriage or your relationship with her kids. Maybe you consider yourself blessed to have such a good relationship with her. This would be the ideal situation for most people. However, even if things are good now, the "hurt" still has to be dealt with. It's extremely difficult to work through the feelings of marrying a man who has had a relationship with a woman and has had children with her. After all, you didn't know him then (more than likely:), you didn't know her, you didn't know if they were truly in love or not, you don't know all the things they went through together and the anger, hurt and pain that was associated with the downfall of their relationship. When you start to think about their past, it's extremely hard to process. It's hard to imagine the man you love being with someone else, not to mention the physical intimacy part. Managing these feelings are hard enough when you're dealing with a bearable ex. But dealing with an ex who's bitter and hurt and possibly out to get you puts you in a different league full of more complex and difficult emotions.

Once I fell in love with my husband and knew we would probably get married, I started to have some feelings that I couldn't shake. As a Christian and virgin, I felt like I had been robbed. Now I know it "takes two to tango" and if your husband and ex were married, maybe it didn't affect you as much as it would have if they had just been dating. But in my situation, I felt like she had
taken something that was meant for me. After all, I had kept my promises to the Lord to save myself for my husband. But SHE had taken that precious gift away from me. The nerve of her! I immediately blamed her. Honestly, this was one of the hardest feelings for me to work through. Here are some of the things I had to come to terms in order to change my thinking and thus begin to exercise empathy for her. When reading this, don't be overwhelmed. It took months for me to work through these things so don't expect this to magically change your thinking overnight.
  • I had to realize that they both had an equal share of the ownership in this situation. They chose to make those decisions and now had to bear the consequences.
  • I also had to mentally separate myself from their relationship. I was not a part of their decisions, I had nothing to do with their relationship in any way, shape or form. I could not have and cannot change the decisions they made.
  • I had to remember that all of that was in the past. I tried not to "take it personally" in a sense. My husband wasn't thinking about the future, he didn't know how things would play out later on. He didn't know he would meet me let alone marry me. The trick here was to remember God works things out for our good. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" - Romans 8:28
  • I had to FORGIVE them both. It was much easier to forgive him because I loved him. It's harder to forgive someone that you don't know who has hurt someone you love. Forgiveness was the beginning of the healing process for me. After all, I am commanded to forgive others, just as Christ forgave us. No one is perfect, including me and we've all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.
  • I had to try not to judge them or their decisions. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. - Matthew 7:1-2
  • I had to put myself in her shoes. She was dealing with the same hurt he was. She basically became a single parent since she gained sole custody. I tried to imagine what I would have done in the same situation. I would certainly be angry, bitter and hurt to say the least. How difficult it must have been to raise children by yourself and work all the while. She had valid reasons for being angry. I'm sure I would feel the same way. Once you realize this, you start to view things differently. I started to feel sympathy for her on many levels. This was God preparing my heart to work through these difficult emotions and take the necessary steps to becoming the wife and stepmom he wanted me to be.
  • I then had to begin praying for her. It was hard at first and I began doubting if I could do it. However, over time, it became easier and easier. God gave me a strength I cannot explain. I knew she needed prayer. Especially since I believed that she was probably not a Christian. I started praying for her salvation, for the child, for her to meet someone, for her anger and bitterness to subside. I simply prayed for things I would pray for if I was in her situation.
Once I worked through these emotions and feelings, I was better able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see the bigger picture. I saw that there are always two sides to every story. God had placed me in a situation where I could be a "peacekeeper" in a sense; a mediator or an objective party. I could maybe balance some of this awkwardness and allow each of them to see the other side a little more clearly and move on with their lives.

Most importantly though, I knew God wanted me to be a light in this negatively charged situation. A light to my husband, to his ex and also these precious innocent children. They needed someone to lookout for their best interest. The children in these situations are the victims. They didn't ask to be put in these situation. So I thought about what I would want if I were them. Would I want to know my father tried his best to work things out for my best interest? Absolutely. Would I want to know that he and my stepmom did all they could to make things peaceful and calm between my mother? Yes! I would be so honored and thankful for a father and stepmom who would put my interest first and make the best of their situation.

Ultimately, you have to keep God's purposes for your life in the forefront of your mind and heart. He has put you in a position to be a stepmom to children who need you. You may not see it now, but God has many reasons for putting you in their lives. He will reveal more and more each step of the way. Remember that truth each time you're dealing with the daily struggles of being a stepmom. God's plans are ALWAYS superior and He is faithful to carry you through each situation you may face on your journey. I am praying that the Lord will give you the strength you need to get through these difficult feelings and begin exercising empathy.

"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philipians 1:6

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thank You Friend!

Well, as a follow up to the encouragement post, I must tell you about a friend of mine who is very near and dear to my heart. We haven't known each other long...maybe 4 years or so, but I consider her a cherished friend. You know when you meet someone and it feels like you've known them for years? Well, that's her. She's sweet and fun to be around. She and her husband moved away a year or so ago but we still keep in touch. I have to share with you an email I received from her. And this is one of the only direct encouragements I've EVER received from a friend. She wrote:

"First of all, we miss you guys...secondly, i just want to take a second to encourage you and say thank you for being such a wonderful step-mom!! for real! I know it is not easy all the time (not just with the kids, but also with the extended family etc)...i thank God that i have a wonderful step-mom and am sometimes closer to her than my real mom, because of our relationships with Christ....but i just want you to know that your kind heart and gentle spirit in loving them do not go unnoticed....I just think, and i know God does too...that you are the ultimate servant in this and i admire you greatly!!!"

I can't begin to describe the overwhelming gratitude I felt at the moment I read that. I'll always remember and be thankful to her for reaching out and taking a few minutes out of her day to encourage ME! I want to encourage YOU now to do the same for the stepmoms you know. Let's take some time to focus on building each other up. As a fellow stepmom, I know how discouraging and heartbreaking it can be when you don't feel supported or encouraged by your friends. If you are a stepmom, I am praying today that God will surround you with friends who will support and lift you up on a daily basis.

To my dear friend - Thank you for being such an incredible blessing to me! God knew I needed loving encouragement, support and hope for the future from a sister in Christ! Love you!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Little Encouragement Here?

So I had a meltdown the other night. It just all came rushing out. I've tried to be strong not let it get to me but I couldn't hold it together for one more second. It all started with a call to my mom about my frustrations with some family members. I'm talking about the non-supportive family members who don't encourage us in our journey as a blended family. Now I know they love us and want the best for us. But there's no "we're so proud of how you're parenting" or "we're proud of the way you've turned this situation around" or "we're so glad that you've stepped up and taken responsibility". Nothing. Not once. I can't even begin to tell you how much that hurts both my husband and I. Maybe they are proud of the way we've worked to make this situation work for us. But we'll never know how they truly feel if they don't tell us. I've tried to just block those feelings out and not think about how we've been hurt. But it's always there. I started thinking of how hard this whole stepmom life has really been throughout the years and the sacrifices I've made and why they don't seem to get that.

But I know those frustrations are doing me no good. I always want to know why. Why don't they support or encourage us? But I don't know if I'll ever know the answer to that so if I continue to dwell on these feelings, I'll be eaten up with bitterness and anger. I have to turn that over to the Lord EVERYDAY. I don't want this to create bitterness in my heart or make me resentful. It's incredibly hard to give up that anger and frustration each day. I want to scream and yell and shout it from the rooftops! "Don't you get it!? Don't you see what we've done for this child? Don't you see we've made the right decisions in this situation? Don't you see that we're trying our very best to be the Godly parents that this child needs and deserves?" But I can't. I can't control their thoughts or actions anymore than I can control the weather. I can only focus on the positive things I CAN do:
  • I can only PRAY for them. I think that is the hardest part. In fact, when you're angry, it's extremely hard to pray with sincerity. We first have to ask forgiveness of our anger because "a man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires" ...yes we all know that. Easier said than done.
  • I must ask God to help me FORGIVE them. Another truly difficult thing to do. As my grandmother says, "You can't truly forgive someone unless you can honestly say that you wish them well"
  • I have to LOVE them despite the actions and beliefs they may display towards us. I should demonstrate Christ-like attitudes and love them just as I love Christ.
  • I must TRUST in the Lord to take control of the situation. I have to ultimately trust that God can and will change their hearts if He so desires.
  • Last, I have to GIVE IT TO GOD. I am a selfish, sinful human and I have to "cast my cares upon the Lord" and leave them there!
If you have people who support and encourage you in your journey as a stepmom, be sure to thank them! Let them know how much you appreciate their support and what their encouragement means to you. Thank God for putting them in your life!

If you are dealing with unsupportive family or friends in your unique situation, I hope you will be encouraged by this post. If you have done all you can to make the situation with your stepkid(s) or ex-spouse work, God applauds you! If you are making the tough decisions that no one seems to notice, God is smiling down on you! Remember that our Father is the ONLY one we should be seeking approval from! He knows our hearts. He knows our desires. We just have to trust that He sees what we're doing and you can rest knowing that He will bless us when we make those tough decisions and sacrifices. Maybe not with earthly possessions or wealth, but He will give us joy in our journey... and that surpasses anything this world has to offer. May you be blessed today with all-surpassing joy as you seek to be the stepmom that God desires you to be.