Randy and I have been married 23 years (in October). When we married, we each brought 2 children to the marriage. My girls were 3 and 5 and his kids (son and daughter) were 5 and 10. We both had custody of our kids and quickly learned that trying to blend 4 kids from different homes, learn to parent together, and have harmony with one another was not an easy feat! When we settled into stepfamily life, six years later, we had a child together, our son Nathan. Our five children are now 17-33, with only our son Nathan still at home.
In the introduction, you mention your “unique needs” as a young stepmom when discussing why you chose to write this book. Can you elaborate?
Since I was a biological mom when we married, I assumed I would play a similar role to my stepchildren. I was wrong. They had a Mom in their lives and made it clear they didn’t want or need another one. My stepmom role felt confusing and it brought anxiety for me. I didn’t know other stepmoms who I could confide in or ask for help. I was lonely and discouraged much of the time during our early years. I was raised in a traditional family, so I didn’t understand stepfamily life, and found limited resources to help.
In the book, you reference your husband Randy’s insight into why he believes that remarriages with children often don’t work. Will you share with us what Randy shared with you?
After we had been married several years and had weathered some difficult storms, we were talking one day about the high divorce rate in stepfamilies. When I asked Randy’s opinion on why, his answer was simple: “They quit too soon.” It’s not unusual for stepfamily life to be very difficult during the early years. But if we commit to persevere during rocky seasons, find tools through good Christian resources to help, seek a united front as a stepcouple, and trust God to give us answers to our challenges and comfort us during our time of need, we can move through our hard days to happier times.
Too often, we focus on stepparenting challenges. Are there blessings to being a stepmom? Where do you look for them?
There ARE blessings to being a stepmom. In the early years, the blessings could seem small and insignificant. In fact, we might completely miss the blessings if we aren’t looking for them. Laughter at the dinner table, a stepchild asking for advice, an unsolicited hug, or a text in the middle of the day are all blessings of stepfamily life. As the years go by, blessings often become larger. I received a hand-written note of thanks with a nice gift mailed to me on Mother’s Day one year from my young adult stepson. My husband was asked by his stepdaughter to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. It might take several years for stepchildren to recognize and acknowledge our value to them, but as they grow older and more developmentally mature, they often reach out in various ways and let us know how much they appreciate us.
How much of stepfamily struggles are due to unrealistic expectations?
A lot! It’s not unusual to set out on our happily ever after again with white-picket-fence illusions of our new family. We aren’t prepared for the bumpy roads and overwhelming emotions that show up at times. We oftentimes have very good relationships with our stepchildren while we’re dating, but things change when we marry and we’re all living together. As we learn to navigate a new normal with realistic expectations, relationships have a chance to blend.
What has been your greatest joy as a stepmom?
My greatest joy is knowing I contributed positively to the lives of my adult stepchildren, now ages 28 and 33, during their upbringing. I didn’t do it perfectly, but my stepchildren have accepted me anyway, and I’m thankful for our loving, thriving relationships.
How do you see this book being used in the stepfamily community?
As a young stepmom, I longed for a devotional book; more than 20 years later, there are still few Christian resources for stepfamilies. I understand the needs and pray this book helps stepcouples find contentment in thorny circumstances, peace in disharmony, and clarity in confusion, while they move toward a daily pursuit of grace for themselves, as well as those in their stepfamily.
Veteran stepmom, Gayla Grace, a well-respected writer and coach in the stepmom community, is the author of the newly released “Stepparenting with Grace: A Devotional for Blended Families.” Those of you active in the online stepmom community know that Gayla has a heart for stepfamilies. However, those of you who have not had the privilege of reading her writing and seeing her faith in action have a treat in store. She has done the hard work and is here to help those in the stepfamily trenches. Though my own stepchildren are now adults, I find that the concepts and values in these devotions can still be applied in my daily life as I continue to influence in my role as a stepmom, not just with our own children, but with the greater stepparenting community.
Realizing that blended family dynamics are complicated and the demands are many, Gayla set out to write a devotional that could provide both a soothing salve and a holy nudge of daily encouragement for the thousands of other stepparents navigating the rocky terrain of creating a blended family. Beautifully written and easy to understand, each devotion focuses on a separate stepfamily issue throughout each of the 90 devotions. Whether you are questioning your calling as a stepparent, dealing with the angst of co-parenting, or discussing an “our” baby in your family, Gayla speaks to the importance of placing God first in your decision-making process and assures readers that keeping an eye on the long view is the vision for Christians. With a range of sources including famed authors and poets, coaching clients and her own life experiences, Gayla provides heartfelt, meaningful commentary on what grace looks like in a stepfamily.
Through scriptural support and the wisdom gleaned from her own experiences as a stepmother, Gayla offers much-needed companionship, encouragement, and understanding, along with biblical inspiration stepparents desperately need. She understands that the dynamics of a traditional family don't come close to the complications of stepfamily life. Whether used as a tool singularly, as a couple, or as part of a larger communal group, this devotional will comfort you in your role as a stepparent. It provides insightful Scripture verses, a thought for the day based upon the subject matter and a prayer to bring to God. This book will strengthen your faith and encourage you in your pursuit of stepfamily success.
*Worthy Inspired provided the advance copy of this book, however no compensation was received. The opinions contained in this book review are those of the blogger, Gara Hoke Lacy.
A couple of weeks ago I shared this photo for a previous blog post. It's a family photo from my stepson's recent medical school graduation. But I failed to tell the story behind this photo.
Along with my stepson, husband, two stepdaughters and their husbands, grandbaby, and me, there are two important people in this picture that I want to point out. Standing behind me is my stepchildren's maternal grandfather. Standing beside my husband is their grandfather's wife.
Yes, their mother's family is in our family photo.
From the beginning of my marriage, Steve and Ginger have been nothing but kind and welcoming to me. They live in Texas and travel to West Virginia for all of the big occasions. When they are in town, we get together for church or a meal. They came to visit our new home when we first moved in 11 years ago. And since Steve and I share a birthday, we have even celebrated that event together.
What's important here is that they get it. You see, they are part of a blended/stepfamily themselves. Steve has three daughters from his first marriage. His wife Ginger has a daughter of her own. They did the work. They know what it means to deal with the challenges of a non-traditional family. Their acceptance of our family was a welcome event in my stepchildren's lives. It ensured that, at least in this instance, the kids didn't have to compartmentalize their lives to stake claim to loyalty to one parent or the other.
I'm grateful for the support that Steve and Ginger have provided through the years. They have been interested in not only the kids' lives, but our lives as a family. They acknowledge the acrimony that occurred in the divorce between their daughter and former son-in-law yet remained open to sharing his life and for the past 13 years, mine too.
I share this story as some encouragement for those of you struggling in your stepfamily. A kindness shared can create a little more harmony in a situation which isn't always. You may not be fortunate enough to experience the situation I've described above. But maybe you have the opportunity to extend that kindness to someone in your family/stepfamily. Whatever the scenario, know that creating an amicable environment for the kids is most assuredly the goal. And sometimes amicable can become even more.
Everyone is on their own faith journey. God is working on each of us in His own way, in His own time. So we shouldn't be surprised when some aren't following the same rules as we are. Maybe we aren't where they are. Maybe they aren't where we are. But that's no matter. Our job is to keep our eyes on the prize. Keep our hearts open. Lift up one another. And pray that others are willing to do the same for us.