The holiday season is chaotic enough. Add in the drama of co-parenting (or in our case, NON co-parenting) and you have a ripe atmosphere for conflict.
Then there’s the custody agreement. The custody agreement should make holidays with your kids and stepkids a little easier, right? The tension can be just as bad as if there weren’t time parameters at all. Having to drop off your child by midnight on Christmas Eve, by noon on Christmas Day, or ANY time during the festivities can make the time together feel truncated and more like an appointment than quality time together.
Who struggles the most during this time? Our children. Imagine you are a six-year-old with divorced parents and essentially two homes. You love both of your parents and your stepparents. You want to be able to actually SAY how you love everyone in the stepfamily. That brings up some important Do’s and Don’ts for the holiday season.
DO for the sake of the kids:
Help your kids pick out a present for other members of the stepfamily. Young children who can’t drive or make their own money cannot buy presents on their own for mom, dad, stepmom, or stepdad. Use common sense and help them buy a present for other family members. Put your ego and any negative feelings aside. This isn’t about YOU. The big plus? The kids will remember you being the bigger person at Christmas, and they will be very grateful adults.
Show appreciation and gratitude when your child comes home with extra gifts. Don’t unleash drama in front of the children when the stepmom, stepdad, mom, dad, cat, dog, etc. buys your child a gift. Again, this isn’t about you. Be an adult. Be happy that someone loves your child and took the time to buy them a present. Children can’t have too much love.
Be flexible (if possible) with drop-off and pick-up times. Yes, the times stated in the divorce/custody decree should be adhered to. However, life happens. If your co-parenter is running a bit behind and makes the effort to tell you that, be kind. YOU might need the extra time in the future as well.
Speak to the co-parenter with civility. Your kids are observing how conflict is handled. Be a good example.
DON’T for the sake of the kids:
Please don’t ever, under circumstances, EVER bad mouth the co-parenter in front of the children. When you bad mouth the other parent you also are badmouthing one half of your child. At one time you thought enough of your ex to have offspring with them. Don’t throw shade in front of the kids. It’s just plain hateful.
Don’t make your kids open presents from the other co-parenters alone, in a different room, outside, etc. Be mature and be happy for the love expressed. Again, be grateful that your child is loved!
Don’t buy gifts for your child that are passive-aggressively sending a message of spite to the other household. Kids are smart, and they see right thru it.
Please allow your child uninterrupted time with the co-parenter. There’s no need to call and/or text unnecessarily. Your child will remain happy and balanced when they don’t feel like they have to “report” back to you while they are spending time at the other household.
Thankfully, Santa understands that many children in the world do not live in “traditional” families and households. He loves all the kids regardless of where (or who) they live with.
And most importantly, Jesus loves all of us while knowing the shortcomings of our minds and hearts. He also knows we are capable of incredible love, forgiveness and acceptance. Let’s show that love, forgiveness, and acceptance to EVERYONE. Do it for the kids. 🙂
We have been at Oak Leaf Church in Canton, GA for a year! We are so uplifted by our church family. Keegan, my stepson, is very involved with the youth ministry.
My husband has stepped up this year as the spiritual leader of our home. His HUGE accomplishment of 2018 was reading the Bible cover to cover. This created a solid foundation for many other personal successes in his life.
Our sweet old rescue dog Kobe is doing very well after having a cancerous tumor removed from his little body. I am so thankful to our veterinarian, Dr. Adams, for catching this early and performing a successful surgery.
I am honored to serve alongside an extraordinary group of people at Kingdom Racing. Our meeting that hot May day was no coincidence. I look forward to 2019 and our service and ventures together!
My parents were sparred a life-changing legal battle. So much prayer went up during 2017 and the beginning of 2018. I am humbled by the love and answered prayers. Receiving that text from my mom, “It’s over!” that spring day was the best text of the year.
We are all moved in and settled in our new home in Canton, GA. This Florida Bay Area gal really loves the sweet and proud Peach State.
My stepson is thriving with us here in Canton. He is almost a year into a promising career in the banking industry.
I finally completed training to be a certified stepfamily coach! My trainer and mentor is Dr. Jeanette Lofas, founder of the Stepfamily Foundation in NYC.
Today I completed my ESL Level 3 Certificate with VIP Kid! I will be teaching Chinese children English as a second language.
Last but most certainly not least, we stayed in good health this year. My asthma is under control the best it can be. My father who struggles with COPD, emphysema, and liver disease jut might see 2019. He’s a miracle. He can still walk and his mind is very sharp. I love my Dad so much. Mom is still able to care for him to the best of her ability. She is a real blessing to my life, and I love her with all my heart, too. I praise you, Lord.
I don’t know how old I was in this dream, but I felt young. However it could be late 20s to recent history. A young man who looked to be anywhere from 25 to mid-thirties lived in my house. He was either a roommate or lived with me and my family. I did not recognize the house. I did however know in my dreams that he lived with me and was a friend. I did not feel a romantic attachment to him but one of great concern for him as a person.
I would describe the man as very tall with shoulder-length curly dark hair. He was very handsome and healthy looking. He had bright eyes, beautiful skin, and charisma.
My dream interaction with him was brief but one I never will forget. I walked into the hallway to check on him (or maybe he had called me to his door). When I got to the hallway and looked in his room he was in the process of removing his white bedsheets from the bed. My eyes immediately noticed a shocking sight. His sheets were askew and they were covered in fresh, bright blood. I was so worried for my friend. What had happened to him? As he was shuffling with the sheets I noticed another overwhelming and distressing sight. His back was covered in deep crimson wounds. They looked bloody to the touch and painful beyond comprehension. The gashes were long and they cris-crossed each other. It looked like he had been beaten with a whip or belt containing a nail as the striking point. My poor friend had bled all over his sheets and he clearly needed some medicine or something to soothe the pain.
As I stood there in shock, he approached the doorway where I was standing. He had a look of urgency in his eyes yet seemed to be unusually calm to have such intense lacerations.
(At this moment in my dream, I realized who this man was. It was Jesus Christ. Remember it’s a dream and dreams can be odd with all kinds of interpretations. But realizing that Jesus himself is your roommate must be very exciting whether in REM sleep or not.)
I wanted to help Him so very much.
“Jesus, my friend, please let me wash your sheets. You have bled all over them!” I asked Him as tears welled up in my eyes.
“No Lynnette, it’s ok. I can clean them up for you.” Jesus said.
I pleaded with Him to let me help Him. He shook his head with a bit of exasperation and then looked at me with so much urgency. He then placed both His hands firmly on my shoulders and looked right into my eyes.
“No Lynnette, I’ve got this part. I’ll be ok.”
He looked even deeper into my eyes and I could tell He had something else to say. I will never forget this next sentence.
“But I need your help.”
The dream ended with that simple sentence and Jesus’ intense gaze. Jesus needed my help.
But with what? What could I possibly do for Him? Does he need help with a particular mission? A person? Why did He ask me?
Almost a year has passed since I had that dream. I don’t know if I’ve “helped” Jesus with what He requested. I hope I’m at least making an effort in His holy eyes. Maybe, hopefully, I am.
I could list here dozens of blessings, trials, births, deaths, unimaginable joy, and indescribable grief over the last year. I can think of many examples of light and love, darkness and a deep valley. We’ve come through it all with the love of Jesus, and I know that EVERYTHING works together for His good.
But back to my dream, I’ve yet to have such a vivid dream again. It’s my most memorable to date. Someday Jesus will reveal the meaning, the why, and the result. For now I will get back to helping Him and all the while trusting that He’s got the rest.
We model the mate we want our child to have and to be.
We exemplify forgiveness
We speak words of life
We let our stepchildren catch us reading the Bible
We never say disparaging words to them about their biological parent
We take good care of ourselves
I believe all of these are important habits, but I have to categorize my own list somehow. I will end my list with the habit I think is most important, but none of them are truly “least”. The order is truly a matter of opinion.
7 We need to find our “tribe”! I have a network in the community and online of about 50 stepmoms. If I count all of the social media followers, church friends, family, and co-workers who support my effort as a stepmom, the number would in the thousands. But there are only so many hours in the day and I only have time for so many quality relationships. There are about 40-50 of us who stay in regular touch with each other, comment on each others pleas for advice, and share recommended books and ideas. I have been building this wonderful network of stepmoms for about 11 years.
6 We take care of our minds and bodies in addition to our souls. It is so important that we fill our own buckets. We spend so much time filling the emotional buckets of others that we sometimes forget our own bucket is dry. This is a common theme with stepparents. Whether it’s taking even 15 minutes a day to read, a warm shower or soothing bubble bath, a trip to the salon or a walk while listening to our favorite music, we need to nourish our own hearts with joyful things.
5 We don’t hide our spirituality from our stepchildren. I remember seeing my grandmother read the Bible each morning. I knew it made me feel good to see her immersed in God’s Word, but I didn’t know why it made feel good. As an adult I understand now. Seeing her filling her “spiritual” bucket each morning made me feel loved, protected, and peaceful. She was equipping herself with God’s armor of perseverance and mercy. This not only affected her life but it encouraged generations after her to follow her gentle example of grace.
4 We exemplify forgiveness. Oh my sisters and brothers of Step, we collectively have SO VERY MUCH in common. The struggles seem to come in roaring, crashing waves. We are treated “less than” by many in society and even by well-meaning people. Our motives often times are questioned by a high-conflict biological parent (if that’s what you deal with like we do). Our spouses sometimes expect us to react to trying situations with perfect grace. We know the painful depths of all these emotions, yet we FORGIVE. Successful stepparents know that forgiving is as good for the giver as the receiver. We leave all of the bitterness at the foot of the cross. When forgiving is especially hard, we know that it might be necessary for some quality time reading the Word, taking care of ourselves with some time alone, or telling our frustrations to a Christian confidant.
3 We don’t speak unkind words about the biological mom or dad to the step-kids.Ever. If you want to ostracize the young minds in your blended family and create a distance for days or decades, badmouth their Momma. However if you want to create an accepting and peaceful environment, allow them to talk about their other home and share the other half of their lives as well. Be their safe zone. Don’t cringe at names. Don’t roll your eyes when they bring up “Mom”. Don’t snicker under your breath when they bring up “Dad”. My stepson recently informed me he never was allowed to mention my name to his Mom. He had to refer to me as “her”. We never imposed such Godless, silly rules. He felt free to mention his mother and places they went, shows they watched, etc. The end result? He is appreciative that we respected his Mom and we have a deep level of trust and respect as a stepfamily. Nobody can take that away from us!
2 We speak words of encouragement and love. Hate and bitterness has no place in my home. I’m going to be blunt here. If your step-kids hear you being hateful about their Mom, their Dad, their dog, etc. you will face some hardships with them. Vitriolic words don’t accomplish anything but confusion. If you are a bio mom or dad reading this and you speak ill of the stepmom or stedad to the child, see No. 3 again and seek some counseling.
1 We exemplify a loving and Godly wife. I speak words of life to my stepson, treat him with respect, and gently correct him when he needs it because that’s what he deserves. He deserves kindness, warmth, and understanding. Hopefully he will seek out a spouse who treats him the same. His life has meaning and value, and I want him to seek out a LADY who loves the Lord first and him next as her partner for all of life.
God Bless You all today! I hope this list is helpful. Please feel free to send me YOUR list as well. I love new ideas and perspectives.
Jesus Christ teaches us that discontent comes when we linger on the affairs of men, BUT contentment comes when we linger on the goodness of GOD.
Psalm 73:3-7 more specifically states: “For I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.”
The chapter ends with verses 25-26 with a powerful promise from the Lord though. Let these words really sink into your heart. “Whom have I in heaven BUT YOU? And there is NONE upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; BUT GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER.”
We can get so caught up in the injustices slain upon us by mortal man. We linger on the hurt and let it leave deep scars, scars that still bleed fresh blood because we pick at them. We wallow in the pain almost like a drug. We point our finger at our enemy and say, “You did this to me.”
Jesus could have been that way about humanity. He could have lashed out at the world as he experienced the most unimaginable pain any flesh has or EVER will experience.
Instead, he begged God to forgive the sinner. Even in the depths of anguish he refused to blame the sinner, the sure cause of His sacrifice.
In his greatest suffering, he lingered on the goodness of God.
As you go about your day today, Raise Your Gaze.
Linger in the promise of goodness prevailing because of a merciful Savior. Linger and bask in His warmth and light.
Lingering on things above keeps our eyes on Him and not on the world.
I am super grateful today. I feel God moving in my life more and more each day. He’s firing up the parked ignition of my soul and moving it to great places. Sometimes I feel like we are moving at 100 m.p.h., but in the recent past I felt “stuck” in a quagmire of an unfulfilling to-do list.
BE READY WHEN YOU ASK THE LORD TO MOVE YOUR SPIRIT! HE’S ABOUT TO DO MAGNIFICENT THINGS.
My most favorite journey (besides my daily walk with the Lord) is being a wife. Steve and I have been together for nearly 17 years, and MY GOODNESS what a storied trail of joy, tears, love, hope, travels, homes, change, and renewal the years have been! I KNEW the moment I met him he was going to be someone special in my life, but I never imagined how wonderful God’s plan was going to be.
Being a stepmom to Keegan is my next favorite path of life. I might be odd, but I LOVED the teen years and I know I’m going to enjoy the exciting decade of his 20’s just as much. Yes, I am a parent to him, but YES we are entering into another fantastic era as well. I don’t believe we should be friends with our children, but the adult years provide more depth and understanding.
God has opened the gate to some more paths for me to traverse throughout my day and possibly for the rest of my working life. The only obstacle is…me.
I don’t like change. When it finds me, I want to run straight back to cozy blue and floral baby blanket.
My comfy home routine is shaken up with caring for aging parents once a month, 500 miles away. My predictable daily schedule of coupon cutting and playing with my dogs is now a running list of book writing, church activities, Bible study groups, studying to be a stepfamily counselor, researching the characteristics of PAS for future clients, maintaining a growing social media, helping with the communications for a wonderful faith-based race team, and trying to read the Bible in its entirety (along with about three other books at the same time.)
But change is refreshing and exhilarating! I wake up to greet the day with a child’s wonder.
I didn’t realize I missed human interaction while I’ve been out of the workplace. I didn’t realize I had so many unused and untapped talents.
I forgot how good it feels to be needed.
My dear blog friends, I pray you feel needed today, too. I pray that you know how important your life is to someone. I pray that you keep finding yourself, keep discovering new talents, and pray that you ask God to just keep moving that parked car broke down on Stuck Street.
I saw this catchy sentence on an office decoration at Hallmark today. Our living room, bedroom, and maybe another room or two are filled with a steady dose of daily affirmations. I usually pass up this one and opt for a Bible verse instead. However I really was “feeling” this one today.
Much of my life has been a struggle in believing in myself. That’s my own fault, and I know better.
I was raised by a loving and encouraging family. My husband gives me all the support in the world to chase my dreams. My stepson encourages me with wisdom beyond his 19 years. I am surrounded by uplifting friends in my daily walk of life. My personal and professional accomplishments over my 44 years are great blessings, but I wonder sometimes if I deserve them. It’s been quite the struggle. I’m ready for this struggle with self-confidence to end.
My devotional reading a couple of days ago really spoke to my heart. God meant for me to read His words at 6:29 a.m. this past Sunday morning as I sat in silence surrounded by the dim light from the rising sun.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
How many times have I read those words and not let them truly sink in? How many times have I thought, “That’s meant for HER future, not mine.” Or, “HE will prosper. I’m meant to be ordinary.”
As I sat there and let those words envelope my quiet moment, I realized something that I should have known all along. Those words were meant for ME as well.
I can imagine God letting out a big sigh and shaking His head at me. “Finally, she gets it.”
See, God wants my life to be far from ordinary. He wants YOUR life to be far from ordinary. He has given each of us unique and special gifts of the spirit. My gift is different from yours. Yours is different from mine. When we stop comparing our gifts and talents to those of others, we experience such a confident freedom. My light does not dim yours, and your light does not dim mine. Same as trying to extinguish your light does not make mine brighter. When we embrace the fact that God wants EACH of us to LEARN our talents, USE our talents, and CELEBRATE our talents, we experience a joy like no other.
When I started writing this post my intention was to share some exciting projects I’m working on. That will come in time. I can say I am thankful but choose to remain grateful and humble. I am a work in progress, and so are you. It is most important to me that you take away from this message you are someone AMAZING in the eyes of God.
You are like no other, and you are PERFECT to Him.
Those words are never promising. Why is the dog free? Is he laden with fleas and infectious diseases? Does he chew up every piece of fabric he can fit in his mouth? Is he incontinent by choice and loves to mark up every inch of the house? So many reasons floated around in my head. However, I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful black puppy on my computer screen.
My friend and co-worker, Tanner, sent out a company-wide email asking for interest in her black lab-mix puppy she needed to re-home due to personal reasons. She said “Kobe” was a healthy and well-behaved two-year-old lab/pit/pug mix. She bragged on his manners and sweet disposition. He was great with other animals and kids. He sounded pretty perfect. So, what was the catch? Certainly there had to be one. I was very intrigued by this pup with the soulful brown eyes and the ears that didn’t quite match his head.
Steve and I had been looking at local shelter websites and the Atlanta Humane Society. Our home was a little too quiet when Keegan wasn’t with us, and we both enjoyed the company of a small dog. Still, I was cautious because I knew he didn’t want us to get too far over our heads with an expensive or time-consuming animal. I took a chance and sent Steve the black puppy with the soulful brown eyes. I was anticipating him to say I was crazy for wanting a dog and we just couldn’t afford it time or money-wise.
Within about two minutes my email queue “dinged” with his reply.
“We can look at him tonight if you want.”
It was 4 p.m., and I got off work at 5:30 p.m. This was going to be a painfully slow 90 minutes! My stomach started to get butterflies. Steve’s simple but affirmative response made me giddy. Oh my, how I wanted the companionship of a sweet little dog to fill our life and home!
BUT, Kobe had to be a good fit for us AND us for him.
We stop for dinner after work and discuss the pros and cons about pet ownership. IF Kobe was a good match, he would be the first pet we adopted together. Would our work schedules realistically accommodate an animal? Would he be ok alone at home for 8 hours or more? Were there any behavioral problems? Would my allergies and asthma stay irritated all of the time? So many things to think about. Still, those eyes danced in my mind. Those Kobe eyes.
We arrived at Tanner’s and were greeted by her other dog, a collie mix named Suki. Suki was up for rehoming as well but already had several inquiries. Steve sat on the floor in his work suit and played with him. Kobe, on the other hand, was wagging his tail with shy curiosity.
“Kobe, come!” Tanner called to him. He immediately bounded over to her and put his little paws on her knees.
“He’s such a great dog. I really hate to let him go.” Tears welled up in Tanner’s eyes. She had such a tender heart. I knew this was hard for her.
“What’s his story, Tanner?” Steve asked while rubbing Suki’s ears.
“He’s a rescue from Fulton County Animal Control. Literally, a rescue from death row.”
Kobe was in the very last kennel in the back row of kennels. He had been passed up for adoption for several days. He wasn’t fluffy, fancy, or attention-seeking. He didn’t do special tricks. He was just a black dog who sat patient and quiet. He even held his pee for hours and hours. He refused to make a mess.
And those eyes…
A friend of Tanner’s who worked at the shelter called her with tearful desperation in his voice one Saturday.
“Tanner, please PLEASE come get this dog. I beg of you,” Her friend pleaded.
“I already have one. Why do you want me to get this particular dog?”
“Tanner, you’ve GOT to see this sweet boy. His name is Kobe. He’s the BEST DOG I’ve seen here. He’s got these eyes. They stare right through you. He’s got the most gentle spirit. He’s just special.”
He paused, wiping away tears before he continued.
“I have to put him down today if you don’t get him. Please Tanner. Just get here.”
Tanner DID save precious Kobe’s life, thank God. One look at those eyes, one soft touch of that trusting head and those velvet ears and she was in love. But life was changing for her quickly as a young professional woman, and she wanted to make sure Kobe had all the love he deserved if she couldn’t give it to him.
“Hi Kobe! Hi buddy!” Kobe trotted excitedly over to Steve and put his cheek next to Steve’s hand. We both gently played with him and the bond was so instantaneous that it was almost spooky.
“Wow, those eyes for sure.” Steve knew we’d found our new four-legged companion.
Kobe is 13 now, and we wish we could freeze time. He’s our mascot in many ways. He’s traveled the country going to Steve’s shifter kart races. He gets the first bite of hot dog off the grill. He loves the smell of sweet Southern pines. A favorite destination is the Blue Ridge Parkway with Mommy and Daddy. He loves a good car ride. He also loves to come home. He will wake up from a deep sleep and almost anticipate every turn when he smells our Georgia neighborhood.
He’s my companion when Steve is out of town. He’s Steve’s constant little teddy bear when he’s home. He loves to cuddle on Steve while we watch TV, watch the snow fall on a winter day, or while quietly reading a book.
He’s an ambassador of sorts. He knows when you’ve had a long and frustrating day. He gives you the most special cuddles then. He also can tell when other animals need a little extra TLC. He refused to leave the side of our sick cat during a thunderstorm one spring night. The next day our cat passed away. Kobe knew. He also would stay near and look terribly concerned when our other dear rescue dog was struggling in his last days. Kobe knew then, too.
He loves everyone he meets. He wins over the crustiest of curmudgeons with his soft brown eyes. There’s a common phrase we hear that will indeed follow him into the lap of Jesus. We say all the time,
“Everybody loves Kobe.”
Probably most memorable, we adopted Kobe during a time when Steve really missed his little boy. Keegan was in elementary school at the time, a very tender age. We wanted more time with Keegan, but life and the court system are cruel dictators of when many men can see their kids. An animal can’t replace a child by any stretch of the imagination, but Kobe helped ease the sting of the pain a bit. It’s as if…Kobe knew.
“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers and sisters, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10 GNB
It must be human nature to keep track of the wrong things done to us. A friend of mine takes this so seriously that he vows to ALWAYS return a wrong for a wrong. I couldn’t help but think that takes a whole lot of effort and eventually creates a calloused heart.
All of us have a “history”.
We either have an ex boyfriend/girlfriend, wife/husband, former place of employment that wasn’t a good fit, a sibling we don’t always get along with, or a friend who betrayed us. We could fill restaurants, bars, or coffee shop conversations will long and descriptive tales of all the woes we’ve experienced at the hands of other imperfect people.
But remember, we are ALL guilty of causing our fair share of pain.
As a second wife and stepmother, my mind is prone to wander off to the “How I’ve Been Wronged” thought soap opera. The characters excitedly display their prowess and abilities right before my eyes, dazzling me with their cunning smiles and malicious sideways glances. They LOVE to perform for me when I replay their dramatic scenes.
I started recalling one of those “scenes” while I was folding laundry on Father’s Day. In 2013 my husband Steve, my stepson and I were coming back from a weekend getaway when Steve and I were informed of a very hateful post on social media by his ex-wife. It was unkind, untrue, and malicious. I felt my heart pounding in my neck and I became angry all over again. I started thinking about all the lies said about my husband and I through the years. She said things about us that attacked our characters and questioned our ability as parents. Many of these things were posted while my stepson was WITH us, which brought on a whole new level of fury.
Meanwhile, Satan was doing a jig. He had taken my eyes away from the beautiful sun streaming into the window. He had taken my senses away from the pancakes my husband was so graciously making for my stepson and I. He had planted these thoughts of bitterness and I dwelled on them. I reveled in them. How dare anyone attack my family? Satan sought out to create strife in my mind, and he succeeded.
As I’ve grown closer to God, I can catch the devil in his tracks.
I more easily can identity his attacks of mental destruction. What I did next was unthinkable, unimaginable in my former thought pattern.
I started praying for her.
Yes, praying for her.
Another fellow stepmom blogger talks about praying for the parents of your stepchildren. At first I thought it was a nice thing to say, and she must not have the patterns of parental alienation we face. I was oh so wrong. When I read her bio I became aware of her struggles. She faces everything we do, and them some more. But she finds peace in her heart and CREATES peace and love within her household by replacing damaging words and actions with prayer. I was apprehensive but very intrigued.
I turned off my wayward thoughts and intentionally prayed for my husband’s ex-wife and mother of my stepson. I asked God to give her a good day and for Him to fill her mind with peace. I didn’t melt. I didn’t recoil at the words. I, in contrast, felt the tension leave my body. I even will admit it felt good to pray for her.
Sometimes we don’t feel like those who wrong us deserve our prayers. Well, news for ALL of us, we didn’t deserve the gift of salvation either. None of us deserve forgiveness paid in full by a loving God. But, He loves ALL of us that much. ALL of us.
Praying for others doesn’t excuse harmful words or actions, but it releases us from being judge and jury of perceived wrongs.
Prayer places all that heavy stuff at the foot of the cross and back into the capable hands of God. We also start to look at circumstances not selfishly, but selflessly.
To dive into this a bit further, check out my blog post, Jesus Loves Her, Too.
Need a prayer partner for your blended family? I would love to pray for you. My personal email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello Friends! It’s been a full week, but I praise God for many things to do. My hands are never idle!
Picking up our story around May 18, Steve and I finished up a wonderful (but blazing hot) afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We love the weekend before the 500. It definitely has an energy all its own! Drivers and teams are busy practicing then vying for the “pole” (1st starting position) for the 500. Drivers want to qualify well of course, and preferably in the top positions, A.K.A. “the fast nine”.
Only 33 Indy cars are allowed on the coveted Indianapolis 500 starting grid. This year, “bumping” returned, and that is SUPER drama filled and exciting to watch as 35 teams were competing for those 33 spots. There’s only so much time on “Bump Day” to get your ride qualified. Once the gun fires at 5:50 pm (it was 6 pm in the past, which is a controversial topic all it’s own), qualifying is OVER. If you get the chance to experience the weekend before the 500, I encourage you to jump at the opportunity. It’s a wonderful time to walk around the garages (“Gasoline Alley”), possibly meet a few drivers, observe the frenetic but methodically detailed team preparation, and watch the strategies played out before you in the qualifying lanes on pit road. True fun for true fans? Yes. Will you be totally geeked out as an open wheel fan? Most definitely.
We get back to the hotel room and relax our tired legs. I start editing some pictures I took on my phone earlier in the day and Steve is listening to the latest Marshall Pruett podcast. While wrapping up our day I kept thinking about the interaction with the strangers at the picnic table today and the fellowship they were sharing. I reached into my purse and pulled out the business card Mr. Tim Carrie, Outreach Director for Kingdom Racing had handed me that afternoon. Curious, I look up the Kingdom Racing website. (Please check out the entire team and the collective mission of KR at kingdomracing.net)
Again, I had heard of KR, but I didn’t really know much about them. Their mission statement is, “Kingdom Racing is a 501(c)(3) non-denominational Christian team with a mission to Deliver God’s Word Through Motorsports. We have been competing in IndyCar races and other motorsports since 2007, and we’re the first faith-based team to compete in an IndyCar race. Our team combines IndyCar races and other motorsports along with our outreach ministry programs: Miles of Smiles, Fan Festivals, and KR Ambassadors. Our goal is to use motorsports as a platform to reach 1,000,000 men and women for Jesus Christ!”
Wow!! Talk about a breath of fresh air in our secular surroundings. Reaching souls for Christ through racing? Talk about a MISSION we could support and believe in!
I wanted to know more but I’m shy. I don’t like to “bug” people, and I knew Tim must be terribly busy this week. I did the soft version of interaction and sent him a friend request on Facebook. A while later I get a message back from him, and he asked if I was the lady at the picnic table from earlier in the day. Yup, that was me! I replied back and told him I was quite moved by his platform, and my husband and I were enjoying learning about them. He replied back and said he would be at IMS the next day, and we were welcome to call him and meet up with him when we have some time.
The next day was full of so many blessings only Christ himself could orchestrate. The morning started with Steve and Tim officially meeting, and we were able to meet Christy, Tim’s lovely and sweet wife. Have you heard phrases like “be evenly yoked” and “marry someone who complements your character”? Well, this is Tim and Christy.
When you surrender ALL to our Savior, the answers, blessings, and joy just seem to flow forth. Tim and Christy are a testament to this. While talking to them and sharing our collective walks of faith, they were very open and honest about the state of their marriage a few years back. The devil loves to attack marriage because he knows it is the second most powerful union with God we can enter as human beings. If Satan succeeds at tearing the fiber of our home, he can attack us in many other ways. Tim and Christy said they had reached a low point in their lives together and almost got divorced. One day they turned all of the strife over to God and asked Him to repair what was broken. The result was a renewed love that is stronger than EVER. You really can feel the joy resonate from them. They aren’t just spouses, they are each other’s best friend.
Tim also shared with us that he had questioned his own worth in those dark days. He had asked himself questions like, “What is my purpose, Lord?” “Why would you want to choose ME?” “Where are you leading me?” Tim reached out to God and surrendered his human doubts and questions. The Lord is now using Tim to reach thousands of people and to show them there’s hope in a Loving God.
Tim asked if we had a few extra minutes to meet someone very special to them. Of course we did. Steve and I both were thinking to ourselves that this was one of the most important and fulfilling spiritual experiences God had placed in our path in a long time.
He led us into the race garage of Indy Car driver Sage Karam. I had been in a Gasoline Alley garage just one other time, and that was to meet Helio Castroneves the weekend Steve proposed to me. (I MUST share this story with you all one day.) The garages are buzzing with activity and become quite small when many people are milling about. I never want to be in anyone’s way while they are working, so I was a bit nervous.
Tim introduced us to Sage, and Sage was remarkably calm amidst the chaos around him. Sounds of electric tools filled the air, rubber mallets hammered away, and the “ping” of metal striking metal was sharp to the eardrums. It was a beautiful cacophony of sound, though. I could have stood there for hours.
Sage and Steve talked briefly about wing adjustments and downforce. I’m still learning these intricacies and I do find the physics of it all quite fascinating. After some technical racing conversation, Tim mentions to Sage that we had been praying for him. Let me briefly explain why.
Sage has a storied and vibrant career as a racer. His racing resume started when he was just 7 years old. It didn’t take long for him to be a consistent leader on the track. He earned 91 National Karting Podiums and 36 National Karting Championships. Being the wife of a World Karting Association Champion myself, I can attest that accomplishments such as these are no easy tasks! It takes time, financial obligation and dedication, sweat and HARD work, and a gigantic, passionate heart. This heart and drive to win led him to an Indy Lights Championship in 2013 and then every racer’s dream job, a ride with Dreyer Reinbold and a position on the starting grid for the 2014 Indianapolis 500. This just touches the surface of his accomplishments. He’s EXTREMELY talented. (Check out his resume on the KR site when you get a chance. We are so proud of this young man.)
Fast forward to 2015 and life changed in a matter of seconds. (It’s an incident Tim and Sage refer to as “Pocono”, not by the names of drivers or any other identifiers.) Sage’s car hit the wall so violently on Lap 179 that he worried at first if his body or head were severely injured. After an accident adrenaline is pumping so hard that you might not feel the sting of injury at first. Thank goodness though, he was OK. However a piece of the car struck fellow driver Justin Wilson. The injury Wilson sustained eventually was fatal.
Steve and I were watching this race live. Steve could tell the situation was pretty dire. The news began to unfold throughout the evening and later we learned Justin had died. I remember Steve saying, “The person we need to pray for the most in this situation is Sage.” Over the next several weeks and months we would mention Sage and pray that he was doing OK emotionally. We saw ignorant and hurtful things said on social media from people who couldn’t possibly fathom what Sage was going through. It sickened us. We had so much compassion for Sage and just wanted the best for his young life.
Through the help of Godly parents, friends, counselors, and confidants, out of tragedy came renewed faith and trust in the Lord. Sage is open about his walk with God and how prayer and the Bible got him through the most difficult period of his life. He “gives God all the glory” for lifting him out of depression and setting him on a new foundation of hope and mercy.
In the garage we had a POWERFUL moment with Sage and his father Jody. Tim asked if we could share a prayer together as Christians. We all placed our arms around each other’s shoulders and asked for God’s grace in our lives and for Jesus to bless the heart, mind, and walk of faith for Sage. We asked Jesus to continue to use Sage’s complete story as a testimony to others who may be suffering and struggling with something in their own life. Have you ever prayed and felt like you could almost feel the wings of angels fluttering around you, felt like you could feel the beams of light going right to the throne of the Father? This was one of those moments. I never will forget it.
The next day at the track we had the pleasure of meeting the Founder and Owner of Kingdom Racing, Mr. George Del Canto and his wife Maricarmen. George is a handsome man with a strong and sincere handshake. Almost always at his side is Maricarmen, a beautiful, tiny blonde with an adorable accent and gentle spirit. We enjoyed talking with them and sharing stories of our walk with God.
George is the vision and heart of KR. His is a story of success, loss, renewed hope, renewed faith, love, and a rededication to Christ. His personal testimony will touch you and really make you think about your own priorities. I am beyond humbled at the REALNESS of these men and women. Authenticity and transparency are so rare these days. They have it in spades and they aren’t ashamed to talk about the rocky path it took to get here. They are living examples of God taking what we think can’t be repaired and making it into a treasure. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Be the light”? They embody this saying and make it reality.
I will stop here for today, but I ask you to PLEASE read the book, GOD SPEED – Steering Through Triumph and Tragedy by Chad Bonham (with Team Kingdom Racing, foreword by Al Unser Jr.) The book is a devotional that outlines George’s path to starting Kingdom Racing and his sometimes challenging faith walk. Sage’s full testimony also can be found along with other unforgettable and moving testimonies. It’s a fantastic read!
The blessings aren’t over! I will be back soon with Part Three. The week before Indy included a cherished checkered flag and unexpected but welcomed fellowship with old and new friends.
“Thanks for the extra help today, Caroline! I really appreciate you.”
Those words were spoken by a stepmom in my office to the biological mom on the phone. I about fell out of my chair.
“Christy, was that your husband’s ex?” I asked.
“Sure was! We haven’t always been this good, but we’ve come a long way. I actually don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Christy explained to me their fragile beginning. It involved a divorce, new love, hurt feelings, and children. Christy was the new bride and Caroline was the ex-wife. There was tension and hardship for a couple years. One day Christy called Caroline to discuss some boundaries and maybe some common ground for civility.
“We need to at least try for the kids,” Christy said.
Those words really broke through the wall Caroline had built up. Do it for the kids.
From that point on, Christy and Caroline worked bit by bit on their relationship. Time and kindness brought healing and understanding. They actually became friends. Caroline would babysit Christy’s little girl when needed, and Christy would pick up the kids if Caroline had to work late. They also helped each other in other ways like picking up something extra while shopping or helping to feed pets when needed.
I was FASCINATED by this. Every time I heard their kind chatter and occasional laughter, I’m sure my mouth would fall open in awe.
My relationship with my stepson’s biological mom is, well, non-existent. I would welcome any olive branch, any kind of civility. I have tried with her through the years, but any action from me is met with hostility, downright hatred, or a passive-aggressive remark about my “motives”. We are 16 years in, and sometimes I feel like she just gets worse. For my sanity (and maybe safety) reasons, I finally had to stop trying and just let it be.
The struggle in the absence of co-parenting with her has taught me many valuable lessons. I could list dozens, but for our time today I will stick with five and share more in a later post. I believe these are pretty crucial though.
Be very careful and mindful of EVERYTHING you post on social media. The days of carefree posting are gone. Be bigger and better than the haters and KEEP YOUR DRAMA OFF YOUR FACEBOOK WALL! Do it for the children as well. They are embarrassed when we act like first graders. Vent to your spouse, friend, or a diary. But please, NEVER badmouth another parent online or in ANY public setting. I could go on and on about this one, but for our time today I ask that you think of the little eyes that might see your daily updates.
Be very mindful of texts and phone calls as well! My husband has a great saying for the workplace. He tells his employees, “Don’t put anything in an email that you don’t want to end up on company letterhead.” I think that applies well to the blended family. Even if baited, antagonized, cussed at, or falsely accused, don’t say ANYTHING in text or in a possible recorded phone call that is hateful or tacky. Answer questions directly but stick to the facts. Keep adult problems and emotions out of your questions or responses. A high-conflict individual would love nothing more than to break you and show your inappropriate responses to the kids. They will try in the cleverest of ways to pull you into the mud. Stay squeaky clean, my friends!
Don‘t be passive-aggressive about the biological parent to the children. The older, wiser, and more mature our stepchildren get, the more they recognize the truth. I promise you! That day does come. They will either see that YOU were the problem or the bio parent was. Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution! Hopefully time will heal our blended families where strife remains. In the meantime, rise above the situation! Don’t use a belittling tone about what must go on in the other household or make condescending remarks under the guise of trying to be “funny” or inquisitive. You only cause more hurt and confusion for your stepchildren when you are cheeky and snide.
Remove the word “mistake” from your vocabulary concerning the biological parent. Do you truly love your stepchildren? Their little lives have purpose and so much meaning. Yes, your spouse’s first relationship failed. But calling it a “mistake” is basically saying the children are mistakes. Imagine how that makes them feel? The TRUTH of the matter is, both biological parents were needed to create your unique and beautiful stepchild. We all have common sense to know that, but sometimes we don’t WANT to know that. The sooner you can be at peace with that, the more loving and accepting you can be of your stepchildren. BUT, please know that YOU can be JUST AS IMPORTANT AND NECESSARY in their lives as a biological parent! YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON AND YOU ARE A STEPPARENT FOR A REASON. I believe you are also reading this for a reason just as I am writing this for a reason. My faith as a Christian teaches me so.
You can’t control the actions of a hateful person, but you CAN control your reactions! Take GREAT care of yourself. Be patient with yourself. Be as loving and understanding of yourself as you are “stepping up” to be with others in your family. When you feel overwhelmed get out into the sunshine and take a walk, run a hot bath, make your best coffee, call your Mom or best friend, or just sit still and enjoy some silence. My stepparent Sister or Brother, this road is not easy. I understand and my heart goes out to those struggling. I want you to be the BEST VERSION of yourself though and not let tough situations chip away at the beautiful creation you are. Take good care of your body and mind. You are loved and needed.
I could talk about this topic for days! I will end here for now. Need a prayer partner concerning a high-conflict blended family situation? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me! Respond to me here or in a private message at email@example.com
I’m too old to say “I literally can’t even”. Well, it is my blog, so I’m going to go ahead and say, I literally can’t even begin to describe the hand of God and his amazing work in our lives over the past two weeks. I am going to certainly try though! I am going to try my human best to describe the POWER of our Heavenly Father and give you my very best recall of his promises fulfilled.
Many attendees of the Indianapolis 500 will describe the 2018 race as one of the hottest on record. Race day was mighty warm, and the entire week and weekend before the race were equally uncomfortable. The humidity was high as well and just seemed to sap the energy right out of my 44-year-old body.
Practice, Pole Day, and Qualifying are usually spent standing on the spectator line in front of the track wall. Steve and I usually stand there for hours and take pictures of the drivers and cars, all of which are just a few feet away from us. This year, I had a hard time with the near suffocating heat and I had to take breaks in the shade. I decided to walk to the infield Pagoda/food court area and sit under an umbrella at an empty picnic table. A few minutes later, a group of six asked if they could sit at the table with me. I say “of course” and they sit down with their lunch.
Before they start eating, the gentleman who asked if they could sit with me asks the group if they could say a quick prayer to bless the meal. Out of respect I bow my head as well. The prayer was heart-felt and Christ-centered. Very rarely do you hear others pray Christian prayer in public these days, especially when in the presence of a stranger. I was moved and intrigued. I have been a follower of Christ since kindergarten (Thank you Mrs. Haupt and Mrs. Gutekunst) but became passive about my walk with God for nearly two decades. My husband, stepson, and I have rededicated our lives to Christ, so hearing others share their faith makes me feel an immediate bond to them.
I tried not to eavesdrop on their lunch, but I could tell the man who led the prayer was a group leader of some kind and he was having fellowship with a family. I would discover later that the man who led the prayer was speaking words of hope, faith, and encouragement into the lives of a family who recently lost their teenage daughter to an automobile accident.
I tried to busy myself with apps on my phone, but I wanted to reach out to them. I wanted to let them know something about this prayer and the gentle words of compassion spoke to me as well. As they got up to leave I felt shyness come over me and I didn’t want to appear awkward and nosy. I shushed the nagging whisper in my head and I extended my hand to the group leader anyway.
“Sir, I overheard your prayer with the group. I just want to tell you how awesome it is to hear a fellow believer not ashamed of his faith.”
He shook my hand and introduced himself. He thanked me for my words and for allowing him and his guests to sit at the table with me. I told him it was absolutely no problem and I’m glad our paths crossed. I noticed the logo on his shirt, “Kingdom Racing”. I had seen the name in the racing community, but expressed that I didn’t know much about them. He handed me one of business cards and it read, “Tim Carrie – Outreach Director” at Kingdom Racing. We wished each other a pleasant day.
When I met up with Steve again I told him about my pagoda picnic table experience and showed him Tim’s card. Steve recognized the logo and knew a bit more about them than I did. He reads everything about Indy Car whether online or in print and he had seen the name pop up occasionally. More notably, as a Christian he was very taken with the humble interaction I had with them. We agreed to keep the organization in our prayers. Little did we know that God was going to keep our paths crossing with Kingdom’s over the next week…
Part Two coming soon! I can’t wait to tell you all about meeting Tim’s lovely wife, the Del Canto Family, and a powerful prayer with a young and popular renewed follower of Jesus who is also an Indy Car driver. ALL of this wonderful experience ties into our memorable Indy 2018 as a Blended Family.
I seriously disliked Mother’s Day for many years. I honored my own dear sweet Mom, the Godly lady who taught me about the mercy and grace of Christ. However, the bulk of the calendar “holiday” was tough for me. I did not physically give birth to my stepson so I thought that disqualified me from being his “mother”. Biologically speaking, that’s factual. I did not give physical birth to him, he doesn’t have my eyes and nose, and he doesn’t have my love of vanilla frosting or butter-soaked Brussels sprouts.
But is that the entire truth? I guess biological parents, stepparents, adoptive parents, grandparents with custody, etc etc could argue this topic back and forth. Does being a “parent” only include procreation? For sake of brevity I’ll get right to the point and say I believe being a parent, a Mom or a Dad, is a matter of the heart. Even if you aren’t bestowed with the label of “Mommy” or “Daddy” (labels being a great subject for another day) I believe YES, you are still a parent.
Since I have assumed the role of a parent figure for 16 years, I treat my stepson like my own blood. I love him like I love those in my family who do have the same eyes and nose as me. My instinct has been tested a few times, and I find myself giving of my comforts and sometimes even safety to protect him. We are alike in the spookiest of ways, too. We are sometimes selfish but forgiving to a fault. We are both “only” children. We laugh at the same types of jokes, and we tap our left foot when a good song comes on. We even like the same race car driver (Will Power). I attribute these similarities and common quirks to genuine admiration of each other and – God.
There was a brief time in the early years when I did not feel I was “worthy” of being included on Mother’s Day. I had so much growing to do in my faith. My walk with Christ was temperamental at best. The devil preyed on my young mind and twisted reality when I allowed him to. I allowed the enemy and destroyer of light to do that back then because it felt good to be a victim of circumstance. It was easy to wallow in self-loathing and revel in the supposed label of unloved.
Mother’s Day would come and go. No card from my stepson, no acknowledgement from my husband, nothing for poor me. I felt taken for granted, and the devil was doing cart-wheels like a jester at my pity party. Satan reminded me of all the care I gave, but told me I wasn’t worthy of the opportunity to be acknowledged. Sadly, I believed him.
Our God is the DIVINE CREATOR of healing. When we focus a reprobate mind on the agape love that Christ has for us, we are able to pour out this love to others. One day the prayers of a faithful mother and my grandmother struck my heart like a bolt of lightning. I felt disgusted by my thoughts. I felt spiritually unclean because of the darkness I was letting cloud my relationship with this precious little boy. I literally fell to my knees and wept and said, “Jesus, I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me and give me a new (spiritual) heart?”
One Mother’s Day, I would say about six years ago, my phone “dinged” while my husband and I were eating breakfast. My stepson’s mom would not allow him to get me a card or acknowledge me with a phone call, but he would “sneak” away for a minute and text me. He did this every Mother’s Day starting at 13-years-old until he moved out of her house.
This Mother’s Day, my stepson will be with us. It will be the first time we’ve actually been together for this day. I will graciously accept his hug and his wish for me to have a great day. I also will encourage him to pick up the phone and call his mother and acknowledge her place in his life as well. I can do this from my heart because I don’t want her to face the pain I did in the early years. Mostly, I can do this because love is what Jesus commands of us who know better. I know better now, thank you Lord.
Whether you are acknowledged or not, praised or not, you are WORTHY in the eyes of the LORD, and that is everything. It’s everything. It’s still just a day, “Mom” is just a label, and cards and flowers turn to dust like everything else. It is a good day to remember that you are the daughter of a king – a king who overcame all of the hurt, jealousy, toil, and hate this world could place on him. He overcame it all for YOU. Sister, your worth is immeasurable and you are loved beyond human comprehension.
Moment of Prayer:
“Father, sometimes my human instinct seems to encourage the cruel intentions and actions over the kind. The nearer I stay to you the more I seek out kindness and being kind. Truthfully Lord, it feels good to be a caring person. YOU know that, and that’s why you want me to love others as I love myself. Also, when my children see me showing compassion during the tests and trials of life, it is a wonderful example of your love shining through us. Today, Lord, I will strive to increase the kindness and watch the ripple effects of your grace all around me.”
“I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from his holy mountain.” Psalms 3:4 HCSB
We ALL could use a little (or a lot) of prayer in our lives. Every single person faces trials of life and stressful situations of varying degrees. As a parent in a blended family, I definitely understand this!
Are you struggling with what exactly to pray for? I will keep it simple and give us some suggestions. Here are a few ideas to pray about right where you are.
1. Pray for your husband as spiritual leader of your home. Ask God to feed his soul with light and love today. Ask the Lord to reinforce him with strength and energy as he faces many trying situations and demands for his time.
2. Pray for your YOURSELF. Your guidance and leadership in the home is SO important right alongside your spouse. Ask the Lord to fill your heart with patience and understanding when interacting with your spouse, and (step)children today. Pray for the Lord to renew your faith and hope in all areas of your life.
3. Pray for your (step)children. Ask Jesus to bless their young minds with peace and reassurance. They face much in the tides of change, and ask the Lord to cover them like a warm blanket of comfort.
4. Pray for ex-spouses and biological parents. Pray that the Lord gives them some unexpected joy today and a heart of understanding. May they feel love today and know that they never will be replaced in the lives of their children.
5. Pray for our community. Ask the Lord to heal hearts, to take away harsh words, and to open us to paths of healing. May we never forget to pray for each other amidst the chaos.
Moment of Prayer:
“There are times when stress seems so overwhelming and I feel I am just going to openly weep, Lord. When it rains it pours some days. When I feel buried in my struggles those are the EXACT times you want me to stretch my arms to the heavens and just let it all go. You hear my pleas of help and mercy, and you NEVER let me fall! I release ALL of my worries to you today, Lord.”
I can point out many good things about social media, and I’m sure you can as well. Think for a moment about the good aspects. Did you come up with at a few reasons why social media has been beneficial to your life or the lives of others? I believe I came up with a few reasons, too. My best friend from high school and I drifted apart when life became hectic in our mid-twenties. Addresses and phone numbers changed, babies came, jobs were demanding, and time slipped away from us. I turned around one day and realized almost a decade had passed since we last spoke. I was elated when I found her on Facebook. I sent her a message which started a beautiful reconnection. This story repeats itself with dozens of dear friends from school, prior jobs, and even family.
What social media platforms do you use? If you blog, you might be a big fan of this site or Tumblr. Twitter is great for instantaneous news and the short side of rambling thoughts. Perhaps you like the spontaneity of Snapchat or the hip simplicity of Instagram Or, maybe you are like me, mid-40’s and still using Facebook (or as my brother-in-law calls it, “Faceless” Book).
I have a love-hate with Facebook. I’ve actually heard many of you say this exact same thing. Facebook transitioned many of us away from MySpace. (I personally liked MySpace and stubbornly refused Facebook until 2008.) I love it for the pictures of newborn babies and rescue puppies. I love it for the vacation pictures of palm trees and sandy beaches. I am inspired by the posts about improvement to health and the hype of a new Netflix series I might be interested in.
But I hate what Facebook has done to the blended family. I realize so many can tell woeful tales of social media negatively affecting their marriage and the horrible ramifications of online bullying and bashing directed at mere children and teens. All of that is HORRIBLE and could fill a season’s worth of blogging time. But for a moment I specifically want to focus on the “us”, you and me and stepchild makes three (or in other cases four, five, or six).
Are you friends with your spouse’s ex on social media? Social media has been a thorny offshoot of our touchy relationship with my husband’s ex as well. Of course our lives intermingle at various points and we have mutual friends. For many years (and some recent history), we have been informed that we are the hateful target of bitterness, jealousy, and caustic words. All of this has happened in an online setting where our son could see it. My loving husband was called a “bad father” and other untrue names in a public Facebook post on Father’s Day a few years ago when our son was WITH us. Our family photos have been picked apart and scrutinized with the harshest of critique. We have been wished tragedy, hell, and all kinds of suffering. It was pointed out in the past that specific names were not mentioned, but when an “ex” is referred to, names aren’t needed. Children are smart, and they know exactly who you are talking about. If adults pick up on the gist, kids certainly do after a while.
Imagine how painful that must be for a child. He or she is enjoying a quiet moment riding in the car or relaxing at Dad’s (or Mom’s or Stepparent’s) house and they read a vitriolic post about a parent or stepparent they LOVE in their newsfeed. That must really attack the heart and mind. (If you have read about the various forms of parental alienation, you see how damaging this behavior is.)
It should be common sense, but for your child’s sake, please DO NOT post negativity where the child can see it. We all have a bad day and we all have lackluster experiences, but be mindful of speaking ill about anyone in the blended family unit. It’s just not cool. Beyond that, it’s just not RIGHT. Go out with your friends and vent. Call up a wise and trusted family member to get you through the moment. Go for a walk and sweat it out. JUST DON’T BASH the other parent or stepparent because I PROMISE you it hurts the child(ren).
Three things to ask yourself before posting – Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?
I will give my humble opinion on the validation aspect of social media soon, but in the meantime here’s what the Bible tells us about hostile words:
Gossip – “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” Proverbs 13:3
Slander – “Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” Psalm 101:5
“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:8
“Brothers, do not slander one another.” James 4:11
Mocking – “Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance.” Proverbs 21:24
“Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.” Proverbs 22:10
Questioning the character of others – “Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” James 3:5
Innuendos – “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” Proverbs 26:20
Not doing the right thing – “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17
Moment of prayer:
“Father, I feel like you had the blended family in mind when you gave us these words! How easy it is to criticize, to compare, or to tear down. Please take those urges away from me RIGHT NOW, Lord. There’s no room for negativity in our home. There’s also no room for hateful words or bitterness towards others directly or indirectly related to our blended family. Lashing out, gossip, and vengeance solves nothing. Our children are watching us, too. Lord, help me to continually be a good example for their lives.”
Today I’m just going to go there. I need to go there for you, but mainly for me. What you won’t get from me is finger-pointing. What you WILL get from me is humility and the pointed finger right back at myself. I’m going to address the bright pink and polka-dotted elephant in the room. Here goes –
Jesus. Love. The ex.
I will start out by saying I don’t want to assume that all or even a majority of my readers have a bitter relationship with the biological mom (or dad) of their stepchildren. I also don’t want to assume that you met her for coffee this morning. However, I will assume that the relationship you have with the biological mom (or dad) has been a rocky path at times. Unless there are EXTREME levels of maturity, understanding, and kindness, the relationship between bio parent and step-parent is like navigating a minefield.
For our purposes here, I’m going to come to the conclusion that your relationship with the biological parent has difficult moments. Speaking for myself, the relationship with my stepson’s mom has been complex (and practically non-existent) for 16 years. That’s a long time to build resentments, make wayward assumptions, and just feel confused or hurt.
I’m not making excuses for an absentee parent, an alienator, a gas-lighter, or any form of child abuse or neglect that goes on in a given situation. We can discuss those topics much more in the future. Today I want to address something that’s been heavy on my heart for a long time.
We are upon Good Friday and the celebration of a Risen Savior. As a Christian, I can’t help but think often about the meaning of the cross and then the stone rolled away from the tomb. I think about it nearly every day as I’ve grown deeper in my faith. I can’t think about one without the other – the price paid for my sin and then the promises Jesus made to his followers when he appeared to them outside his empty grave.
I am reminded that I am not perfect, but Jesus loves me anyway. Had I been the only person alive that dark day on the hill of Golgotha, he still would have taken on the sin of the world for ME. (The depths of that adoration truly go beyond my human comprehension.) He was thinking of ME the night before he was crucified. His anguished prayers to God the Father turned his sweat to blood as he knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what he had to do for me to save my soul, and he did it for ME. He thought of me when he victoriously overcame ALL of the perils, battles, and sufferings of this world and hell below. For ME.
And – he did it, as well, for HER. Jesus gave his life for your husband’s (or wife’s) ex spouse.
Let that sink in for a moment. How does that make you feel? Be honest with yourself and let yourself feel the full range of emotion. Really allow yourself to absorb those words.
Jesus loved her so much that he died for her.
I will only speak for myself, but it truly humbled me to think about this. I look at my husband’s ex-wife and the mother of his child through a different set of eyes when the sacrifice of Christ enters the picture.
Our hearts can get stoney and cold during and after a bitter divorce and during the perils of a trying blended family dynamic. The world sometimes tells us to be competitive in the most petty of ways with the ex or to be outright hateful. Well-meaning but misguided friends prod us to “win” battles and to exert unnecessary gruffness.
But Jesus commands us to love one another. There is not a first or second place in the eyes of God. We are all winners in the eyes of the LORD. The sad reality is, our mired earthly actions can create losing situations, though. The pain and consequence of strife with a biological parent or stepparent will be felt by the children, and oh the heavy burden they carry on their young shoulders if we don’t grow up emotionally and act like adults.
Granted, “peace in the valley” of my situation will take a lot more time and prayer. But I never will stop praying for peace. I never will stop asking Jesus to destroy the walls of misunderstanding. I never will stop, because Jesus certainly didn’t give up on you and I.
What Jesus says:
“And whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:44-45 NIV
Moment of Prayer:
“Heavenly Father, I ask that you continue to heal the hearts of our blended family. I ask that you touch each life with your grace, mercy, and love. Live in my heart, Lord, take up permanent residence. Keep showing me the ways of forgiveness. Place your healing, nail-scarred hands on our lives. Make us great examples for our children. Make us more like you. May we love one another just as you love and forgive us. Amen.”
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I don’t take your attention for granted. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. I am, however, very passionate about helping other stepparents with prayer, inspiration, and hope. I care about you! Please leave me a prayer request and I will pray for you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope to be resourceful to your stepparent journey. God Bless You!
“Teach us to number our days, that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:12 ESV
Do you remember some phrases your parents or grandparents said that seemed to stick with you well into adulthood? I remember Mom saying throughout my youth, “Our lives are only a vapor.” It never made a lot of sense to me back then. When you are young you feel as if you could live forever. Your shoulder doesn’t creak and pop when you extend your arm. You can eat a fistful of peanuts, jalapeños and cheddar cheese without your stomach revolting. You can rise early and stay up late without suffering too much the next day. A “vapor”? Life felt like it always was just beginning when I was a child, teen, and young adult.
I’m 44 now, and it has dawned on me that I could be at my life’s half-way mark (or already lived beyond it). Mortality feels different now. Life can be random and cruel with its brevity. Yes Mom, you win. My first 44 years went by with lightning speed.
I also remember a lesson or sermon about “the dash”. This particular dash referred to is the dash on your tombstone or obituary, say 1974 – 20XX. Pastor asked, “What are you doing with your dash?” That stuck with me, too. A vapor. A dash. Both of these things sound so fleeting, fast…and short.
So what does a vapor and a dash have to do with being a stepparent? It has EVERYTHING to do with it. We already have a truncated period of time with our stepchildren since we have not known them since birth. Unless they live with us full time, we also have limited influence with them during the formative years.
We know in our blended family and co-parenting community that our role as a stepparent takes a lot of mental, emotional, and sometimes physical energy. Are we using that energy wisely? Executive Mentor and Coach Kelly Talamo teaches his audience, “There is an energy drain in everything you do. Choose wisely. ” Think about that for a minute. Everything we choose to direct our attention to saps a bit of our daily allotment of energy.
In this short amount of time that we are given to guide our stepchildren, are we focused on positive energy suppliers? For example:
Are we hung up on a title? Just because you aren’t “the” mom or dad does not mean you aren’t “a” mom or dad. Don’t get hung up on how your stepchildren address you. Let them call you what is comfortable for them. Anything forced only will cause resentment.
Are you LISTENING to your stepchildren during the valuable time you have with them? Allow them to SHARE stories about school, their new puppy, the vacation they took with mom or dad, their grandma’s awesome cookies, or ANYTHING they want to share. It is important that they feel comfortable talking about their life with the other parent without judgment. To discourage such conversations is destructive to their well-being, and is quite simply, parental alienation.
Is your precious time being wasted by the woes of online negativity? Be mindful of what you post on social media. My husband and I have a love-hate with Facebook. It is a great way to catalog pictures and share experiences with those who have the best interest of your family at heart. However, social media has become a tool of destruction to many, the blended family included. NEVER bad-mouth the other parent, even if you think you’re being “safe” and not using his or her name. Kids are smarter than we sometimes give them credit for being, and they know what you are doing. JUST DON’T GO THERE. Vent to others you trust in private, but don’t air your grievances on social media. (This can apply to other topics as well. Be a classy human being!)
There are MANY others, but I will leave you with these important three tips for now.
Allow Jesus to be magnified through you today. Use your dash wisely. We have this one earthly existence, these few seasons of life. Make it count!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I don’t take your attention for granted. This is a work in progress and I hope to share something with you every day. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. I am, however, very passionate about helping other stepparents with prayer, inspiration, and hope. I care about you! Please leave me a prayer request and I will pray for you. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope to be resourceful to your stepparent journey. God Bless You!
Moment of Prayer:
“Lord, please don’t let my valuable time on this earth be wasted on regret! I don’t want to waste a breath. None of us know how much time we have left to touch the lives of others and be an example of your love. Please don’t let a day or an opportunity to shine your light to others slip away. May I learn quickly from the lessons of strife. Help me to seek wisdom in all I do!”
“Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12 GNB
My husband (Steve) looked so tired at breakfast this morning. We try to keep somewhat of a schedule in our home, sleep time included. But this morning, he looked like an extra few hours would do him a world of good. It wasn’t just a physical tired with baggy eyes and pale skin. It was a deeper kind of tired. A soul tired.
So much is expected of him. He’s the breadwinner in our home while I help care for my elderly and sick father a state away. He balances so much on his weary shoulders, and he balances it all with a grace unlike any I’ve seen before. Granted, I take care of the home while I’m not working full-time, but much of what he balances can’t be checked off a list at the end of the day.
Steve juggles the needs of employees who call him at various hours of the day. He helps me with the perils of homeownership like a faulty power switch or a failing appliance. He notices my gas tank is near empty and he fills it up, also surprising me with my favorite soda. He loves couple time with me and surprises me with concert tickets on a random Tuesday afternoon. He makes our personal projects a priority. He’s planned in exquisite detail how our basement should be finished.
He does many selfless and thoughtful things for his son. My stepson is juggling the balance between adulthood and leaving the teen years. He’s doing pretty darn good working and growing up in this jungle of a world, but he still needs guidance. Steve makes breakfast for him in the morning, asks him about his work day with sincere interest (usually after working a full day of his own) and he spends lots of time throughout the week talking with him and teaching him much about finances, car maintenance and repair, what tie matches what shirt, etc. etc.
Steve makes it all look so easy, but some days it’s not.
He balances my emotional see-saw of knowing my father is dying. Some days I’m ok, some days I cry a lot. He is quick to offer guidance and help when our son needs new tires for his truck or needs deeper insight like which retirement plan would be best suited for him. He responds with civility when his ex sends a terse text asking for money. He is a Christian confidant to many in our family and friend circle. When called upon he will give of his evening to counsel someone in need. Sometimes all of this happens in the same day, and he handles it all with a positive, Godly attitude.
Have you looked at your husband today, I mean really looked at him? Have you looked in his eyes and told him how much you appreciate all he balances and gives of himself? In a world that wants to get rid of the word “man” from the dictionary, in a world that devalues Fathers Rights, in a world that wants to vilify a gender, it’s no wonder our good men and husbands of the world feel beat down.
Now, I know that there are exceptions to everything. I know many strong women. I know amazing, self-sacrificing single mothers. I know so many wonderful people of all ages. But for this moment I want to say…
Thank you, my incredible and remarkable husband.
Moment of Prayer:
“Lord, thank you for the gift of such a wonderful husband and father! I ask for you to fill his heart with hope, joy, and peace today. He means so much to our family. Please bless his life in continuous ways. May he feel your presence today in everything he does. I am so grateful for him.”
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I don’t take your attention for granted. This is a work in progress and I hope to share something with you every day. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. I am, however, very passionate about helping other stepparents with prayer, inspiration, and hope. I care about you! I have added a prayer request section. Please feel free to ask for prayer! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope to be resourceful to your stepparent journey. God Bless You!
“This God – How perfect are His deeds! How dependable His words! He is like a shield for all who seek His protection.” Psalms 18:30 GNB
Think back to a time of emotional vulnerability in your life. Recall the range of emotions you experienced. Every answer will be unique. Trials and tribulations vary person to person. For example it could have been a physical set back like a lengthy illness or injury. It could have been an overwhelming loss of a parent, child, spouse, or dear friend. It could have been a marriage that fell apart. School and work can bring varied levels of stress into our lives, too.
Often forgotten by our society is the challenge of being part of a blended family. Raising healthy and stable children (by healthy and stable I mean physically, mentally, emotionally, AND spiritually stable) is a task not to be taken lightly. God commands us to love and care for our children. Divorce, remarriage, and new family dynamics can affect the well-being of our children in visible ways, and often times, not so visible ways.
There are many ways we can show our children and stepchildren love. We can listen to them, hug them often, provide safety and security through a home and basic needs met, but what can we do first and then consistently? We can PRAY for them. We can ask for Jesus to be their shield against any form of harm and ill-will. We can pray for our blended family to hold strong during the tough times that surely will come.
Also, and very importantly, we should pray for ourselves as parents and stepparents. We still face many societal stigmas and doubts. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be “perfect”. We have a tendency to put our own needs and feelings aside.
Reach out to the Lord today and ask him to go before you as a shield! He is ready, and he is quite honored to do so.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog! I don’t take your attention for granted. This is a work in progress and I hope to share something with you every day. I am not a psychologist or a counselor. I am, however, very passionate about helping other stepparents with prayer, inspiration, and hope. I care about you! I will add a prayer request section in time, helpful articles, and other useful tools. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I hope to be resourceful to your stepparent journey. God Bless You!
Moment of Prayer:
“Lord, sometimes I try to handle the obstacles of this world alone. I fool myself into thinking I don’t need the help of anyone, even you. I’m pretty stubborn that way. Luckily, you know that about me. When I really tune my heart into you and ask for your loving hands to guide my family and I, I feel your infinite strength and shield of protection around every part of our lives. You are my fortress of light and peace, and I thank you Jesus.”