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We’re so excited to present our very first Stepmom Sanity Moment. It’s our new video blog, offered to better communicate with you.  Check it out. If it blesses you, please share. If it doesn’t, please let us know how we can improve. We look forward to your comments, questions, and feedback.

To Your Stepmothering Success,

Cheryl

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Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Peter 4:8

You have heard, more than you needed to, how difficult it is to be in a stepfamily. People in step contend with “bratty kids”, “mean stepmoms”, “interfering in-laws”, “angry exes”, and “harsh stepdads”. We fight against statistics which tell us the odds are stacked against us. After all;

  • It takes four to eight years for a remarried family to “gel” and feel like a family.
  • The divorce rate for remarriages with children is almost 65%, with most divorces occurring within the first four years—before the family has had time to bond.
  • Nearly 50% of people in Christian church congregations are in a stepfamily situation but stepfamilies remain one of the most overlooked demographics in terms of ministerial support.

If that weren’t enough, those of us who live in step experience more daily stress as a normal course of doing “stepfamily life” than any other family category. Every day we navigate roads full of marriage derailing potholes like; disparity of treatment between natural and step children, shock of realizing instant love is a myth, co-parenting issues with former spouses, financial strain due to child and/or spousal support obligations, loyalty conflicts, extended family acceptance, legal issues related to the care of stepchildren and so on. These partners in crime conspire to kill our dreams of happily ever after.

Yet, with all of these challenges and problematic dynamics, thousands of people take the plunge into stepfamily living every day. Why? Some might say it’s because we’re crazy. Actually, we are people full of hope; and rightly so. Jeremiah 29: 11 states: “’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.’” We do not serve a careless God. He pays attention. He’s intentional about our lives.  Nothing is beyond His power to use for His glory and our good. Including our stepfamily relationships.

Like most things in life that are challenging, there are blessings that come with being part of a stepfamily. Lifting weights is challenging but the blessings of being stronger, and healthier, with a higher metabolism are worth the effort. Completing your college education is challenging but the blessings of achieving a goal and increasing your options are worth the effort. Stepfamily life is challenging but the blessings that make the effort worth it are:

  • You are a walking, breathing testimony of God’s ability to heal, redeem, and recover dreams. John 1: 12-13 reads, “Yet to all who received Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
  • You probably have a great sense of humor. The only way to survive living in step is to develop a keen sense of humor and a self-deprecating manner, which makes life fun. (Bonus blessing: humor and humility moves you up 30 points on the 100-Point Attractiveness Scale!)
  • You live in an environment that’s ripe for entertaining stories.
  • The work of grace abounds in your heart and home.
  • You’re in good company. Luke 3: 23 reads, “Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph…” Jesus was a stepson!
  • You are living proof that you and your spouse are courageous individuals.
  • You are becoming much more patient than you ever thought you could be.
  • There are tons more interesting people around to get to know and, eventually, lean on.
  • Your understanding of unconditional love in the face of rejection makes you all the more aware of God’s great love for you.
  • You very quickly learn how to rely on God for family success.
  • You become a much more grateful person as you begin to thank God for the small gains.

This is the short list! While the challenges can be perplexing, the benefits are worth facing them.  Every day we wake up and ask God for strength. Every day we extend grace, patience and forgiveness because we know the blessings far outweigh the difficulties.

My husband and I gladly walk this precarious road of stepfamily living because we have our eyes on the prize: a truly bonded family. Am I being realistic? I would not have thought so had it not been for the faithfulness of God, my partners in building this family, and my husband’s stepdaughter (the daughter his first wife brought into their marriage, also known as “our oldest”).  One Mother’s Day she handed me a gift and said, “It’s wonderful having two moms.” Which leads me to my personal favorite blessing; a heart kept young by surprising acts of love.

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Hi there, Sisters! It’s been a whirlwind 3 weeks with trips and family stuff. I’m so glad to be back.

As we are preparing for the holiday and the rush of activity and emotions that typically accompany this time of year, I thought, for today, let’s talk about something over which we have a bit more control…our money. We all know about the need for budgeting and debt management but I wanted to take us beyond the basics today.

Under any circumstances it is important to adopt good money habits. Since how we handle money can greatly ease or complicate our lives, it is especially important for step-couples to adopt money strategies that will make their already complicated lives easier.

Here are my top 5 Beyond Basic Financial Strategies For Living in Step:

FULL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost… Luke 14:28-30

My husband and I rented a car on a trip to the Florida gulf last year. At some point the GPS went a little wonky and the screen showed us driving in a river in the middle of Tennessee. The now useless navigation system could no longer tell where we were, so it couldn’t direct us how to get to where we wanted to go.

Your individual financial condition has a direct impact on your family. You and your spouse need to know where you are financially so you can map out how to get to where you want to be. That means complete honesty about your financial status at all times. Including, but not limited to; credit score, indebtedness, retirement plans, investments, etc.

SEEK EXPERTS

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 ESV

Confession: WebMD makes me think I have a medical degree hanging on my wall. I’m not a doctor but I play one in my living room. I have diagnosed plantar fasciitis, tooth abscess, pinched nerve, and more. Quite proudly. And quite wrongly.  This was never more apparent than when I self-diagnosed a kidney infection, only to find out, when I went to an actual doctor, my back was out of alignment. I don’t know medicine and I don’t know as much as I should about finances. My husband has both an accounting and IT degrees, however, we still have an accountant, a small business consultant, an investment counselor, a retirement expert, and an estate attorney. Get advice. You don’t have to know it all. Just enough to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of. Go to the people who do know. Which brings us to…

MAKE AN ESTATE PLAN

True story… you inherited your great-great-grandmother’s table from the Civil War. You want to pass it down to your daughter. You die and all of your personal possessions become the property of your husband who dies 6 months later. Because you did not have an estate plan in place, all of his possessions, including your great-great-grandmother’s table, becomes the property of his only legal heir, an irresponsible, estranged son and the son’s snarky wife. Unfortunately, your daughter is at the mercy of her step-brother and the courts.

An estate plan is not only for the wealthy. My husband and I have an estate plan in place which includes a will, a trust, medical and financial powers of attorney, and a list of which child inherits which item. We’re not wealthy people. Just people who want to insure the appropriate decisions are made should we become incapacitated or die. One caveat: save up the money to use an estate attorney vs. an online fill in the blank form. An attorney will help you set up your estate according to your State’s regulations and give your family the best odds for avoiding probate court.

SET YOUR RECORDS STRAIGHT

The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

If you have been married more than a few months and haven’t done this yet, make it priority #1. Update the information and beneficiaries on all life insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc. I know someone who went through a horrendous 8 year court battle because her husband died after a few years of marriage without taking care of this. Be diligent to make sure the right names are on your financial instruments.

LIVE WITH BREATHING ROOM

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spends it up. Proverbs 21:20

I felt it best to lump the principles in these two scriptures together. Each wisdom practice feeds the other and allows us to live with leeway.

When we become indebted, our exchange of time for money belongs to someone else. Working for GM in order to enrich Chase, without receiving the benefit of our labor, is slavery.

Working for Company A in order to enrich Company B, without receiving the benefit of our labor, is slavery.
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It diminishes our ability to save, give, and live. Get rid of debt.

But, don’t wait until you’re done paying VISA off to start saving. Save now. Even if it’s only $10 a week. There will come a day when our earning power will diminish either through retirement, illness, or something else. The tire will get punctured by a nail. The refrigerator will have to be replaced. A family member will be in need. These things creep up on us but they are “predictable unforeseens”. Save so you can deal with them when they arise.

Becoming debt-free, diligently saving, as well as living beneath our means, will give us much needed breathing room.

There you have it. I hope this sparks conversation between you and your hubby about your financial health. I also pray this has blessed you. If it has, please share it.

Click here to download your free 5 Beyond Basic Financial Strategies infograph.

And, if you have additional strategies, comment below. We would love to hear from you.

Bonus:

CULTIVATE CONTENTMENT

Hebrews 13:5 says it in a nutshell: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
A lot of the financial pressure we find ourselves dealing with is because we are not content with what the Lord has decided is best for us to manage. This is not to say that you should not have nice things or adventures but it is not an entitlement in this life. God has promised to provide everything we need. When we trust Him and give Him lordship over our possession and lifestyle choices,  contentment will knock out the allure of “things” and “status”.

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Let’s let the air out of an over-inflated balloon – YOU’RE NOT CRAZY! It’s not all in your head. It is much harder than you ever could have imagined. Why? Because, no matter how vivid, our imaginations don’t have the benefit of actually living through a situation, or experiencing the accompanying emotions like hurt, panic, fear, mistrust, exhaustion etc.

So, for the benefit of your mental stability, here are 5 “Normal” Stepfamily Antics That Have Been Driving You Insane:

  1. “Who’s on first?” is a question that gets asked with great regularity in stepfamilies. Or any family with children. But, especially stepfamilies because stepfamilies are typically formed after the people involved have suffered great loss and no one, especially children, wants to lose any more. So what are reasonable yet suffering folk supposed to do in this situation? Why, jockey for position of course! You, your spouse, your children and stepchildren alike want to know the same things, “Am I loved? Is it safe? Do I still matter?” The answer to all of course is, “Yes!” But, it takes time and consistent behavior for everyone to believe it and live like it. In the meantime, batten down the hatches, there are rough seas ahead and everyone needs to remain close to the Anchor.

PICK ME!!!

  1. “Us vs Them” sticks around way longer than you want. Surprise! Everyone is an outsider at some point in stepfamily living. You and your bio kids have a shared history that does not include your spouse or his children. When you talk about that shared history, as normal bonded people do from time to time, your hubby and/or his children are reminded of their “them” status. Like you are reminded of yours when the opposite occurs. NORMAL! One day, your family’s mutually shared history will have more memories than your “before step” history. However, there will still be conversations about experiences that did not include everyone. ***Breaking News*** – This same dynamic happens in conventional families too. Ask the college-student who comes home on break to discover family life did not stop when he decided to vacate his bedroom for months at a time.

  1. Your stepchildren like you – they just don’t always want to. Listen, you’re fun. You’re the parent who is more like the cool aunt – that is if you’ve patiently bonded with your stepchildren instead of coming on like a bulldozer. You’re the one whom they are not trying to please so they can be with you without a lot of pressure to perform or make you happy. They like you. They are growing to love you. Until they remember, “I have a mom who might not like me liking her.” No matter how old your stepchildren or how wonderful or horrible their mom is/was, she is still their mom and they feel the same depth of loyalty to her you feel to yours. They struggle with how much to let you in, how to honor you as another beloved parent. Especially if their mom sees you as a threat. As they become more comfortable with you and begin to trust you, questions like, “Am I hurting Mom by loving Cheryl?” will arise. Even, “I don’t want to hurt Cheryl but I don’t want to hurt Mom either. How can I love them both?” They feel guilty for liking you. They feel guilty for not. They’re in a tug-of-war. And you feel jerked around like a human yo-yo. Yep, normal too.

  1. Love is not enough. I know we wish it were. I know we wish we could just be nice, and huggy, and kissy, and shower everyone with ooey-gooey goodness and they will just hand over their hearts to be nourished and cherished by us. Wake up! Not going to happen! Along with love, we need to have a good dose of humor, be patient, kind, ego-less, thoughtful, respectful, trusting, hopeful, be…Wait a minute! According to 1st Corinthians, chapter 13 THAT IS LOVE! So I guess love really is enough – we just have to make sure we’re “doing” love even when we aren’t feeling love. Doing love is more than enough … and since our emotions follow behavior, eventually everyone will do and feel love.

Credit: Love Subway Art

  1. We need to come clean. Sometimes you’re not going to like your stepchildren. Gasp! Did I just admit that? But, really, what’s the big deal? Heck, sometimes you don’t like your natural children!!! Tell me you smile in adoration at your teenage daughter as she rolls her eyes for the 50th time, snippily accusing you of snooping in her room (in YOUR HOUSE) and informing you she can’t wait to be away from you. Mind you, this is after you caught her in a bold-faced lie when you searched her room for your 100% cashmere sweater, the one you told her not to take out of your closet (in YOUR HOUSE), the one she swore she never touched, only to find it rolled up in a ball at the bottom of her dirty clothes hamper. Tell me you don’t just want to choke her in that moment. Try to convince me of that – it might be fun. There’s nothing “step-ish” about getting on each other’s nerves. That’s called family bonding! Or, bondage. Take your pick.

There are many tools and solutions offered in the Bible and discussed in our community and other places to help you overcome these challenges. But, we wanted you to be aware so you’re not shaken to the core when these normal dynamics, and others, rear their ugly heads. Don’t let any of the above rattle your resolve. You are not without help or hope. Instead, be stirred up to fight for the health of your family! You are purposed for your family – to pray, to love, to stand, to win! Go, Stepmom! Go!

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