Monday, May 4, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Blended family relationships and true love


Forget that evil stepmom: On loving my stepkids like Jesus would
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

The clichés abound: wicked stepmother, the evil “other woman” who only wants to push away these children of the past so she can have her man, their dad, all to herself. I’ve lost count of how many fairy tales and fables start with some poor princess who’s lost her mother tragically, only to have her replaced by a jealous rival for her father’s affection.

I knew this all too well when I walked down the aisle and married my husband five years ago. We were both entering rocky territory: He would be stepdad to my two biological children, and I would be stepmom to his two. It didn’t matter that we each loved each other and all the kids fiercely. We weren’t naïve—we knew the negative expectations, the strange new roles we were walking into.

And as Christians, we also knew another twisted truth: The devil wanted us to fail.

Five years later, I’m happy to report I am a blessed woman. I am blessed to have four wonderful kiddos, two stepkids, two biological kids, all loved deeply and fully by two parents trying their best to do right by all of them. We call ourselves a “blended family,” and I like the term.

Of course, it’s not all butterflies and sunshine. It’s a daily process to shove our egos aside and understand we can’t take anything personally. We just need to love the kids the way they need to be loved—for the people they are, not for the people we want them to be.

We try our best to love them as Jesus would have us love them: with patience and grace, with compassion and mercy, always pointing to God and as selflessly as humanly possible.

Our family is what many call a “stairstep” family. Each of the kids is a year and a grade level apart. My son is 14, my stepdaughter is 13, my daughter is 12, and my stepson turns 11 this month. We battle both teenage hormones and preteen angst—times four! Dinner time humor… well, let’s just say it’s not always ladylike. Our friends call us the Brodie Bunch, playing off the sitcom “The Brady Bunch.” They’re not far off.

Five years in, I’ve learned there is such beauty in the role of stepmom. I strive to exemplify the kind of stepmom Jesus would want me to be so other stepmoms have a positive example to follow. I want to shove all those nasty stepmom clichés in the trashcan where they belong!


Remembering a few key things helps keep me on-course:

Give up control

Loosening one’s grip is hard but necessary if you want to live a full life. After all, even children can be idols if we let them. So can the myth of an “ideal family”—the illusion of what things are “supposed” to look like.

But God’s plan for our family is far better than anything I’ve dreamed up. When I give up control, step aside, focus on Him, and trust His plan, we are all happier, and I can love all my kids—biological and step—far better.


Be kind

Awhile back, I started thinking about the distant future: How would our kids reflect on their childhood? How would they remember me as a mom or stepmom?

I want to be remembered as someone who treated people with sweetness and love. So I try to follow Paul’s advice for the early church: Clothe myself with humility, gentleness, forgiveness, love, unity(Colossians 3:12-14).

Rarely do fairytales or movies portray loving, authentic “step” relationships. But that’s fantasy, not reality. We can’t let fairytales dictate what agape love looks like. As Christians, we live a different way; that means modeling it in our families, too.

I let the kindness of Jesus rule my heart, which directly impacts how I love all the kids.


Team spirit

Even in non-blended families, kids like to divide and conquer. If Dad says no, ask Mom; maybe she’ll say yes. Sometimes in stepfamilies, kids and parents, too, deliberately or unintentionally try to play one side against the other. If mom is being “strict,” stepmom might see that as the opportunity to swoop in and be “the nice one,” and vice versa. But we choose not to play those games. We choose to be a team.

Acting as a unit makes us an unstoppable force—me and my husband as a team, in tandem with their other parents (my kids’ dad and my stepkids’ mom), all with Jesus at the head. Our kids thrive, and everyone wins.


Pray

Every day, I pray for strength and patience to be a good mom and wife. And every two weeks when we get my stepkids, I pray an extra-special prayer: that God helps me be the best stepmom possible.

In our me-first culture, sometimes we take our make kids’ misbehavior personally, make it about us, not them. In a blended family, these me-centered thoughts can escalate, as we might be inclined to read all sorts of unnecessary things into the equation, like, “He wouldn’t be doing this with his ‘real’ parent.”

But parenting isn’t about “me”; it’s about the kids. When conflict arises, we cannot take their behavior personally. It’s not easy curbing oversensitivity, but it helps to intentionally pray for the ability.

As the apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (NIV).

Conclusion 
No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. But at the end of the day, striving to be the kind of parent, stepparent, and wife Jesus calls me to be makes a huge difference in our family dynamic. With hard work and a focus on Jesus, we can get rid of those stepparent clichés and embrace a new example of love in a stepfamily.

~*~
Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden.

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism, and a member of the Wholly Loved Ministries team.

Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com.

18 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful message for every family. Whether we have step children or biological children or adopted children or children we know are like who are like own, we have the ability to show God's love to them. I love all the key things you list. We should use those key things in every relationship. Have a blessed day! :-)

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  2. Thank you for a beautifully written, insightful article.
    God Bless you.

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  3. Such a good and helpful testimony for other families!

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  4. Pray is the key to everything. Lovely post!

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  5. These are helpful suggestions, Jessica - for non-blended families, and really any relationship or group. I especially like the team spirit suggestion. We have to be together in our parenting. I know I often say, "What did mom say?," and that usually stops the conversation.

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  6. I love the godly example you provide for step parents. My step father stepped up when my biological father couldn't and continues to point me toward the father heart of God.

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    1. That is so awesome, Candice! What a blessing.

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  7. Blending can sometimes be difficult while dealing with four adults who may all have different child rearing philosophies. God bless you in this endeavor.

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  8. Greatly Godly example of turning a blended family into something beautiful. Thanks

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  9. Ahhh, Jessica you share so much wisdom here. Blending two families into one new one holds many challenges. It sounds like your mindset is spot on for a good long-term outcome! I especially appreciate the reminder to pray. We are not a blended family, but prayer is still essential! :)

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