The Joyful Stepmom
Posted on June 4th, 2019

I wrote this piece for a past Better Than Blended newsletter. Check out their website for great blended family resources!

Summer! It should make us think of sunshine, lazy days, the ice cream truck and family vacations! In a blended family, there's a little something extra that comes along with summer. Whether this season feels like warm sand between your toes or your popsicle is melting, let’s kick back in the beach chair and talk about it.

It can also be a little overwhelming. What are we supposed to do while we are together? Nobody is used to the same routines or house rules. It is big adjustment for both kids and adults. Let's walk through a couple tips to keep summer smooth and fun for everyone.
Post house rules for everyone to follow. Your family is a team. Do not expect kids coming and going to remember everything between two homes. Keep it simple and full of grace.
Make a plan for fun and flexibility. When my stepson was little, he came home for one or two weeks at a time. We planned a few activities and some stay home days. Most of the time, he just wanted to be home and do normal everyday things with his dad. Create memories and remember that quality time spent together is most valuable.
Stepmoms, make space for the kids to have one on one time with Dad. Give visiting children a chance to build that relationship. Tell them how awesome he is or how much Dad loves them. Remember, you may be the only one who tells them and they need to hear it.

Parents who send the kids to another home for the summer, I see you. You made it through the school year! But while many are excited for the pool, summer camp, and lazy days, your house is too quiet. You thought the break would be nice! But it's also filled with anxiety. What are you supposed to do while the kids are away?
Pray for them. When my stepson is away, I go in his room and sit on the floor to pray for him. I pray he's having a good day, that he's surrounded by good people and friends. Ok, maybe I cry a little. It's ok to miss them! Entrust them to the Father while they are gone.

Take care of you. Get that manicure, call your girlfriend. Maybe even call a therapist for a little emotional checkup.

Recharge your marriage! Marriage should be our top priority, but it takes a beating in stepfamilies. Get away for a weekend or check out a marriage retreat. Take this time to reconnect.

Are you a stepmom who is feeling anxious about summer? I want us to be stepmoms who tackle summer with no fear! This week I challenge you to pray, every day, for your summer. Listed here are verses on joy to prepare your heart for a season of Summer. Write them in your Bible or save them to your phone. Let's be stepmoms who love summer and embrace it with joy!
Psalm 61:2
2 Corinthians 13:11
Nehemiah 8:10
Galatians 5:22-23
1 Thessalonians 5:16
Proverbs 31:25

Posted on April 30th, 2019

I know it's hard, Sister. I know the days are rough and the nights are full of staring at the ceiling with worry. I've had seasons where things are ok...and I hold my breathe for that next shoe to fall. And I'm in a season now of just real deep frustration.

Sure, it's easy to say forget it. I can't do it, Lord. It's too hard. You picked the wrong girl!

Who am I to tell the Lord that He picked wrong.

Maybe I was chosen for this. Maybe I landed here and now He is working through me. Either way- I believe as Jesus Loving Stepmoms THIS IS YOUR MISSION FIELD.

Ask Him to give you strength for it. Even in my season right now, I know in my very soul that the Lord's plan is always good and I am sticking with it to see what happens next.

Don't dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.
Elisabeth Elliot

Posted on April 2nd, 2019

Yesterday we had a survey done of the yard. Two men came out to the house on a blustery, cold day and took the measurements. They stuck little pink flags at the corners of the lot. The pink flags let us know where our lot ends and the neighbors' property begins.

Most of us have a general idea where the line is between you and your neighbor. Maybe there is a clear division with a fence or sidewalk! Or the two of you can just work it out based on who mows the lawn and how previous owners kind of left things.

We moved into a home that had been empty for awhile. Our neighbors are amazing! But we have a pie shaped, hexagon lot. It's weird! There's no straight line to walk down and know your boundary. And one back corner of the backyard really had us stumped! We just could not figure out where the yard ended and our neighbor's began. So it felt worth the investment to define that boundary line. 

 We just could not figure out where the yard ended
and our neighbor's began.
So it felt worth the investment to define that boundary line.

Now these are our neighbors. And like I mentioned, they are amazing! We aren't staking out the yard and drawing lines to put up a barbed wire fence! We're finding the line to be good stewards of what we have.  We want to be friendly and take ownership. Not overstep where we are not intended to be.
Boundaries are just as important in blended family life. There is a LOT of togetherness. Sure, it's two different homes. But you share children. The spill over will surprise you. I know it surprised me!

You will need to find a boundary line for your self, your marriage and your home. So many of the posts we receive on The Joyful Stepmom from hurting women could be helped by a few boundaries. I admit, it's really hard! It takes discipline to put in place. But the rewards of peace are worth the patience and practice.

The pink stakes in my backyard are points. They show a boundary. Neighbors wave, children run through the yards. But at the end of the day, you tend to your own space. You respect the boundary that has been set.

So where do you need to set a boundary today? Maybe your husband sends a lot of messages to the other house and really struggles on how to balance that communication. Take it on together. Group text or reply together, and set a time for that to happen so it doesn't take over your home life.

Maybe you feel social media is taking over your phone. You feel the need to keep tabs but it also is raising your anxiety levels! The block button is your best friend, use it.

And let's talk about communication. Possibly one of the highest ranked complaints or requests we receive. Text, email and FaceTime have made communication between homes 24/7. That does not mean you have to reply to each message. PAUSE. Make your boundary the Pause. You will not respond until you pause, pray and consider if it requires your attention. Or you will respond when you have a well thought out and calm reply. I cannot emphasize the amount of strife you will save your family by slowing down in your communication. 

We're finding the line to be good stewards of what we have. 

Am I glad we staked the backyard? Was it worth paying a couple guys to come out and put some pink flags in the ground? Yes! That back corner that was so confusing is a different shape than I thought it was. I was about to plant a whole little garden in a space that was not mine.

Posted on March 9th, 2019

Picture it's your first time coming to small group at church. You picked a comfy chair, they leader has gone around the room to introduce everyone. And now we're digging into the material. The book study questions start with some verses to read.

And the leader asks YOU to read the first verse.

What?! Why! Can't we all just read it silently in our heads! We have the app on our phones, let's listen to the audio play. 

Bible Gateway gives us some tips on why reading scripture out loud has value. I really appreciated the points in this devotional. Let's look at the main takeaways:
1- Multisensory: We add hearing, not just sight
2- Retention: speaking the verse aloud improves our memory of it
3- Reading aloud slows us down: We are able to process the verse more thoughtfully

For your next personal time, try reading your Bible out loud. Slow down your reading and really hear the words. Bonus, you'll be extra prepared for small group. 

Posted on March 1st, 2019

In The Joyful Stepmom Facebook group we like to do Bible studies together. Right now, we are not formally going through a book. But so many of us are reading  "It's Not Supposed to be This Way" by Lysa Terkeurst that we are sharing our thoughts or snippets as we go.

I've written all over my copy and have so many things I want to share with you! I'd probably just end up typing out a whole chapter. If you haven't grabbed a copy, I highly recommend it. 

So I'll share one little clip from Chapter 3: Lysa writes "Jesus had many marked moments. We often read how Jesus got away to pray and be with His Father. He would face something and need a marked moment with His Father to trade His human desire for Gods will."

Marked moments. I love that. Yesterday I had a lunch with my parents. It's special because they recently moved back to the area and we can do this now. I had news, they had news. We marked the moment.

It's what we do! Even if the news isn't important, we call up our people and share. And we need to that with God, our loving Father. He's just waiting for us to share whatever it is! With Him. So let's be sure we are truly marking the moments in prayer and conversation with Our Father.