Posted in Faith, Stepfamily

Open letter to stepmoms and some reflection

Recently, I was on a website for stepparents who struggle with their issues, need encouragement and are dealing with heartache.  I don’t read the stories to get stuck in each individual encounter, nor do I read them for feelings of affirmation for myself.  I read them to remind myself that my own situation as a stepparent has grown remarkably in the last three years, and the family I’ve been a part of, for over five. It helps me to celebrate the small milestones and to thank God for what He is doing/has done.

This past spring, I completed a study on forgiveness and began to put into practice the steps necessary to release the hurts/anger/offenses.  The change in my heart was proof of Christ’s conviction, release and freedom.  I couldn’t shut up about the changes, the prayers, the weight lifted!  It was no surprise that when our class ended, I was asked by the leader if I would teach the study out of my own home, for the benefit of women who struggle with areas of unforgiveness in their lives, not just stepfamily situations.  Without hesitation, I said yes, and I can truly see God’s hand in it.  It’s been amazing!  And I pray it continues.

In reading the post for this particular day, one of the moms who was sharing her heartache was at the end of her rope.  Normally I would skip past and move onto another topic, but I felt compelled to share some hope with her.  Below is my response.  Keep in mind I have no idea of the woman’s faith or lack of, and am just sharing my heart with a complete stranger.

As a stepmom of a little over three years, and dealing with the BM for over five, I want to share hope. I still deal with painful moments, and heartache. I’ve got many moments of ambushes, intended public humiliation, childish behavior in my memory, and am praying forgiveness through them. I have learned/am learning that my reaction to intended hurt says a lot to those who watch: primarily the children I’ve come to love as my own, and to my husband who chose me as part of his journey, and extended family, friends, extras. Ladies, we aren’t machines, so pain still hurts. But I’ve found my faith in the Lord is my mainstay. I keep praying to Him for strength He has willingly given, and I keep the long-term in my focus. When my girls are a little older (they’re 20/17 now), I know in my heart, they will know that I kept myself from retaliating, spoke kindly of the BM even when she didn’t deserve it, and put them first MANY TIMES over my own happiness.

As stepmothers, we end up on the backburner many times. IT HAPPENS (much more often that we feel we deserve), but we chose to enter into an already existing family, with hurts/damaged feelings/ high emotions, etc. It’s not as much about being the bigger person, as it is about remaining strong in the commitment between your husband and yourself, and your value in Christ.

Remembering every incident that created a wound had begun to make me bitter and hurtful. Having learned to give my hurts to Christ who died for these moments and asked me to let them go so I can live, I am finding it easier by saying, “Jesus, take this moment from me. Help me to love with Your love and remember this moment no more. Thank you for the grace you freely give that I don’t deserve. Help me to continue to give it to those who hurt me.” Does it take away the wound? No, it leaves a scar. Does it remove the memory? No, sometimes seeing the repeat offender makes the memory more vivid. But I have to continually give the hurt to Jesus. He has helped me heal and look at my scars lovingly. In the palms of His hand are the scars I’ve given to Him that He didn’t deserve either.

With time, comes healing, and with Jesus, the freedom to not stay in bondage to bitterness, but to free ourselves to love those who hate us, and to show our children how to be overcomers. All of the children have pain we can’t imagine, and loyalty issues we wish they could move past. We have to be mindful of that and allow time to work in their lives too. But I do know from Scripture that LOVE heals a multitude of sins.

When I let my guard down and began to treat the BM like another human being, even when she didn’t want to acknowledge my physical presence, I saw Jesus at work. Over a few months, she began to talk to me like a human being, and I kept praying for Jesus to soften her heart as well as mine. I believe in miracles because I see evidence of forgiveness everyday. My prayer for all of you is the same. Go to God and let go…continue to love the kids, and your hubby, and even your enemies. It changes you, and you can still live. The ex, if she wants to remain in the past, chooses bondage. You CAN be free!”

I proofread it and hit send.

And then I read it again.

And I read it once more.

And then I cried.

Happy tears for the growth in my heart and faith,

and sad tears for the moments I’ve given up to the BM that I couldn’t be a part of.

Happy tears for the girls who are loved regardless of their behavior toward me at times,

and sad tears for the bad moments I pray they forget.

Happy tears for the man who loves me and whispers words of encouragement and praise when he sees my growth,

and sad tears for his heartache at missing his girls at times.

The life of step-anything is hard, rough, rewarding.

I know when I was younger, I never thought, “I’ll grow up and become a stepmom.  I’d love to be name-called, made fun of, judged, slandered, alienated, pranked, stalked, brushed aside, etc.”

I wanted children of my own, a small version of Gracie who would love books like me, and show off wit to impress me and make me belly laugh, and have a heart of selflessness that would be evidence of Christ in her life.  My dream daughter would exhibit a love of working in the garage with her daddy, and run the mower for him, and tinker with electronics like he does.  She would love to write, and snuggle.

And I don’t have that.

At least from my own blood.

I have two girls who came prepackaged, with their own abilities, humor, mindsets, and gifts.

I had schematics and formulas for the child I was supposed to have, but God has been changing my heart to show me what He did give me.

The booklover I wanted happens to be BOTH of my stepdaughters.  They are relentless readers who escape for hours with huge books.  Their memory retention blows my mind.  And I’m amazed at their lack of having to study.

The wit I throw around at family gatherings happens to also be in both of my stepdaughters.  The youngest is always pushing the envelope to get me to laugh (and she succeeds) and I love to return the favor.  When she throws her head back and silently smiles, it makes my heart beam.  And it’s even better when she emits sound!  That really makes me happy!

Selflessness is coming…I can see it. 😉  Kids and these darned electronics…

Our youngest does work in the garage with her father, is mesmerized by helping him take things apart and put them together.  She’s never been afraid to make sure that things work and if they don’t, she wants to know why.

The writer is our oldest.  For Christmas, I got her a real leather-bound journal with fresh, paper.  If she gets it wet, it’s TOAST!  It even has a really cool emblem on the front, like it’s from the Hobbit or something… 😉  Since I’ve known her, she’s had notebooks, diaries, journals and paper somewhere on her person.  I don’t know what she writes, or about what, but just cultivating that practice is healthy.

Snuggling…well, I’m settling for sidehugs and leg pats.  Both girls have an issue with personal space, so I respect that.  My nieces fill my love tank with their hugs, “I love yous” and lap-sittings.  And my husband is an incredible snuggler.  Even at night, when he’s dead asleep, he still reaches for me.

I am also entranced by what they are capable of.  The youngest loves tennis and finished her varsity tennis career this Senior year.  I’ve sat through almost every match, watching her do her best, and watching her get upset with herself when she blew it.  The oldest is in school for nursing, and where she lacked motivation in her high school senior year, she now prioritizes things for her classes, meets deadlines and even changed schools to get the program done faster.

So, in a way, I do have what I’ve prayed for.  Either through osmosis, or through the power of God and what He is able to do, or both, these kids have somehow embodied the essence of me, and I am content.

Two amazing young women who challenge me every day
Two amazing young women who challenge me every day

Could there truly be light at the end of the tunnel?  Or maybe better yet, instead of looking to the end, I should enjoy the journey itself.

When I said this life is rewarding above, I meant that it is truly rewarding.

I dish out time and money like crazy, but I would have done the same with my own children.  I can’t imagine missing something that is important to them, because I know it matters to them, and it matters to me.  And it makes me feel extra special when they ask me to be a part of something.  I easily would slip into the shadows, but they don’t make that happen.

Time has healed, and is still healing.  Forgiveness is a practice that must be utilized daily.  Assumptions have to go out the window.  Judgment has to take a backseat.  Humility is forefront.  And Christ MUST BE the head.  The enemy would love nothing more than to keep us hating and playing games.  But I refuse.  We have lives to live, and so do the kids.  And honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Marital statistics

If you’re like me, you hate stats. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out.

I don’t like them simply because I believe people can beat odds, no matter what the numbers are (I’m a Christian-miracles happen daily and often). I’m not a math whiz, and never figured out a really cool formula, so I’m pretty sure that THAT fact alone may keep me out of the statistical nerd bracket. If you’re a bean counter and love numbers, formulas and theorems, I do envy you, but my strength has always been more in language.

However, something interesting to me was a few stats I read from a stepmother blog. I’ll share with you an excerpt from the “Stepfamily Love Maintenance” edition from February 25. The blog opens with numbers, then shares a few practical ways to stay in touch with your mate, and make time for each other, because obviously life and other things can get in the way.

Let me state that our children are not an interruption in our lives in any way, but they do take time away from quality spouse time. Hence, one of the obstacles marriages have to overcome; how to NOT lose each other when family takes precedence. Christ says spouse first, then family, then yourself.

“Most of us know that the divorce rate in the U.S. hovers around 50%. For every re-marriage one has, the divorce rate goes up. So second marriages are in greater danger. Third marriages in even greater peril, etc. If one or more partners has children from a previous marriage the divorce rate spikes to 75%. There is very controversial research that says if a brand new stepmother enters a family with stepdaughters ages 12 to 17, the divorce rates shoots up to 99%. This research does not include families in which the stepmother entered the family when the children are young.

Scary numbers, right?”

http://becomingastepmom.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/stepfamily-love-maintenance/#wpl-likebox

The hardest stat to accept was the one about a remarriage that has two teenage daughters. Guess which bracket I fall into? Unfortunately (yet fortunately for me), Kevin is on his third (and last) marriage to me. I’m on my second. He has two teenage daughters, so if I believed what I read above, I should be closing out a bank account and looking for someplace to live. Seriously…99%!?!?

However, I feel empowered by this statistic. Truly empowered, challenged and motivated more than ever before. And here’s why: I dated Kevin, knowing that he had earlier issues that have been dealt with, he didn’t truly know Jesus (he was raised Catholic and felt something was missing) and he longed for the intimate, caring part of a relationship that he had never had. All he kept telling me was that he wanted a best friend.

I had weaknesses that grew out of insecurities and a verbally abusive first marriage. I, too longed for someone to be my best friend. I didn’t want to go down the “bar” road again, though. I knew the person I wanted to share my life with, would allow me to be myself, have faith in Jesus and let me worship with wild abandon. I need freedom to write, sing, and be worshipful, without being judged and scoffed at.

Kevin never laughed at my faith. He was encouraged by it, and often encouraged me to learn more so that we could talk about it.  I would read my bible and complete a bible study and then talk about it with him.  We grew in Scripture and learned how some of our behavior was unacceptable.  We learned of true repentance, asking forgiveness, and letting God renew our minds from the inside after we accept Him as Lord.

It is through these faith talks that God opened my eyes to his hurt and gave me a love for Kevin that I never imagined I could have. And Kevin saw in me, the best friend he’d always longed for. We are the other half of each other, yet wholly unique and full in Christ. It’s awesome!

Kevin and I overcame many obstacles in our five-year (so far) friendship. And we grew to love each other, love Christ, and give Him all the dark parts of ourselves. So, entering a committed marriage, knowing the ODDS were against us, seemed like nothing, since we gave our lives to Christ and are loving and supporting each other daily.  That’s not to say that there aren’t trials and heartaches.  We have them, but hardly ever with each other.  It’s usually other people in our lives that tend to put stress on us, but we in turn, TURN TO GOD AND EACH OTHER, and hold hands, knowing it’s all or nothing.

If one of us stands, so does the other.  We face things head on.  We don’t run, we don’t play ostrich, we don’t pretend things didn’t happen.  We are raw and real. And I think that the foundation we’ve built, in helping each other through some tough struggles at the beginning of our relationship, and the glue of Christ, will help us beat the statistic that the world is almost hoping we won’t make it.

I love my two teenage stepdaughters.  Are they perfect?  Absolutely not.  Am I? Goodness, no…not even close.  But do I live a life now that is honest, fair and forgiving?  Yes, and with Christ’s help, Kevin and I can last forever, until we are called home.

If you fall into one of the statistics above, I pray you are seeking Christ in your decisions.  Satan WILL try to separate the marital bond. Remember we are dealing with things unseen, not so much the humans that carry out some of the evil.  Satan hates unity, he hates love and he hates God.

Newsflash: If you represent God, then he hates you too.  He doesn’t want us to succeed.  But I’m aware of his lies and deception.

So, stand firm on the truth of the gospel, pray often and daily with your spouse, for each other, your loved ones and the lost, and never give up.

May God build a fortress around the THREE of you, and when you are called to serve, step carefully from your tower, knowing God has you in the palm of His hand.  He will not let Satan have you.

I believe in the power of prayer, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the love that Kevin and I have for each other. Nothing is getting through these walls!

Posted in Faith, Family, Stepfamily

Being a stepmother

One of my favorite authors, Jane Green, posted a question on her facebook page not too long ago, asking her readers to share their experiences as someone in a blended stepfamily.  Being newly married, I had to share my two cents.  Below is my response.  And I’m proud of every word.  I still need prayer daily, as it is not always easy, but I love my new life!

In the midst of beauty

“Truthfully being a stepmother for me, is a joy. The two young women that God has blessed me with, through the marriage to my husband, gives us three hilarious nights of laughter and love-the nights we have them over, in addition to our fun alone nights. That’s not to say there aren’t days where there are disagreements and heartache. There are many difficult situations with his ex-wife and miscommunications happen, but I’m willing to learn through the pain because I love my husband and my stepdaughters immensely.

I have accepted the idea that if I can be a good example in my words and behavior, that I will teach them much, and that through my lack of selfishness, they’ll become stronger women who can make good choices. I know my rewards may be small now, but I’m looking forward to the long-term payoff in their character. I also know that because I choose to spend time learning about them and listening to them when they’re in our home, that I’ll have a great relationship with them as they get older, which makes me love them even more.

I talk to God and my husband frequently about the heartache, and I pray about how to best represent Christ. I also am completely myself when they’re over, which is goofy and non-traditional, and that has allowed the girls to let their guard down. I accept that it’s a constant process, but something I ultimately agree with, is Ron Deal’s explanation that blended families are like Crockpots, slowly blending ingredients, and it’s something you don’t want to rush. Be genuine, love the kids, and love your spouse. Put God first and seek Him in all things, and there can be hope for stepfamilies. :)”

Posted in Family, Stepfamily

Newlyweds

Newlyweds

Had to share this picture!!

My best friend and partner in life asked me to marry him in August 2010 and we were wed on Friday, September 16, 2011 in Port Clinton, Ohio before a weeklong honeymoon at a wonderful resort in Cancun, Mexico.
We’re both excited to see how God is going to use us through this new covenant, and we’re honored to have found each other and to learn from each other daily.  I love him so much and am so happy!!