|Publisher:||Focus on the Family|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)|
Read an Excerpt
But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother!
By Kathi Lipp, Carol Boley, Brandy Bruce
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley
All rights reserved.
God's Plan for Stepmoms
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.
I remember the time (And how can I not? My family never lets me forget!) when my best intentions and eagerness to please my family backfired, resulting in an epic fail. I was still adjusting to being the stay-at-home mom of a six-year-old. Before I married Jim, I had been neither stay at home nor a mom. Part of my new role included planning and preparing dinner for people who wanted it every night. One afternoon, thinking I'd better decide on something for supper, I surveyed the contents of our fridge and pantry. My family loved any kind of Mexican food, so the ground beef, salsa, cheese, and refried beans sounded like the makings of a delicious Mexican casserole.
Abby was eager to help. "Will you get out the tortilla chips, please?" I asked. She couldn't find any in the pantry. Really? They were a staple in our house. I went over to double-check. Yep. She was right.
I stood staring into the pantry, as if that would cause tortilla chips to mysteriously materialize, and spotted what looked like the perfect solution.
Soon after Jim got home, we all sat down to eat. Everything went well ... until the first bite. Jim, usually so complimentary, didn't say a word. Abby wrinkled her nose. Jim looked at her, sympathy in his eyes, and shook his head ever so slightly as a warning not to say anything and just eat it.
They seemed to fill up much sooner than usual and wanted dessert almost immediately.
After clearing the table, Jim hugged me and said, "Thanks for dinner, darling."
"You're welcome," I answered, pleased with myself. "I tried a little experiment. What did you think of the casserole?"
"Um, it tasted a little ... different tonight."
I quizzed him on the mystery ingredient. "Something salty. Something chip-like. Something delicious. Want to guess?" He couldn't even imagine. I felt such pride as I proclaimed, "Wheat Thins!" Jim just stared at me, unable to speak.
Apparently my family didn't love any kind of Mexican food. What? They especially didn't love Mexican food made with Wheat Thins. I learned they're picky that way.
I've also learned that some things are so good, there's just no substitute for them.
That story not only reminds me of all the adjustments of our early days as a blended family; it also illustrates for me God's plan for stepmoms. Knowing I am loved, I can risk doing my best for my family, and whenever I fail, there is grace to cover me. And there's grace to cover you. Grace. It's God's plan for stepmoms. There's just no substitute for it.
But how do we receive grace for our own lives and share it with others? Some of us need help with that. Just ask Joyce.
"My biggest frustration is not finding anybody who admits that her stepfamily is not 'one big, happy family,' " Joyce lamented. "I think they are either in denial or lying, but it makes it so difficult to talk to anyone about my problems. I need a stepmother mentor."
Joyce is right. It is hard to find a stepmother who will honestly discuss her struggles and challenges. Fear of being judged and rejected keeps many stepmothers from speaking truthfully about their feelings and circumstances. You, too? We wonder how we can share our problems and concerns, speaking the truth in love about our husbands, their ex-wives, our ex-husbands, our kids, and our stepchildren without sounding critical, judgmental, or downright wicked. Sometimes it feels as if we, as stepmoms, aren't allowed to say the same things some biological moms say.
"If they're all alive at the end of the day, then I did my job!" a biological mom can say, and everyone laughs. Let a stepmom say the same thing, except to another stepmother, and eyebrows shoot up.
It's also difficult to describe just how frustrating and challenging the job can actually be. Nobody but another stepmom gets it. Stepmother mentors are hard to come by. But God's plan for us is not to be alone and isolated. Part of our prayer for this book is that it will open up conversation between stepmoms and provide a community where we can be safe to express our feelings, receive support and encouragement, shed the shame, and know we belong. A place where we aren't outsiders.
I want to know others have walked this path before me. I want to know how they did it. I want to know I'm not alone. Thinking perhaps the Bible provided a "good stepmother" model, I searched Scripture for someone with whom to identify. Thankfully I found someone who also stood in unfamiliar, hostile territory. I found someone who faced circumstances that threatened to take down not only a family but a nation. I found someone else who also inherited the fearful position of leadership. I found Joshua.
It may seem odd to use a man as a model stepmother, but stick with me. He provides us with a powerful example.
Scripture records that "after the death of Moses ... the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: 'Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them' " (Joshua 1:1–2).
Joshua, Moses is dead! Big changes in your life require major adjustments. Be brave.
Stepmom, these children are now part of your world. Big changes in your life require major adjustments. Be brave.
Take these people and cross the Jordan River. I will be with you.
Take these people and make a stepfamily. I will be with you.
Those are encouraging words. God knew that if Joshua focused on his circumstances, they would overwhelm him. God wanted Joshua to focus on the fact that God was with him, and that fact guaranteed Joshua's victory. God wants us to know the same thing is true for us as well.
Challenges threatened to discourage Joshua, yet he obeyed God's command to step out in faith, crossing the Jordan River into enemy territory, ironically called the Promised Land.
Accepting reality and acting in spite of our fears is part of our job description too. The theme of ordinary, flawed human beings overcoming great odds because God is with them echoes throughout the pages of Scripture—and now it's our turn. If there were a Hebrews 11:41, that's where our names would fall. A verse could read, "By faith (your name here) served her family, facing challenges with grace and courage. She showed them the love of Christ, and the joy of the Lord was her strength."
We also stand, like Joshua, on the bank of a Jordan River we must cross. Panic threatens to paralyze us, but God tells us to get going. As stepmothers we begin our journey across the Jordan by embracing the reality of our circumstances—not denying or wishing them away—and acting with courage.
But how do we act courageously when we don't feel brave? Like Joshua, we remember that God is with us, and He will supply everything we need (Philippians 4:19). He is the brave One. He is delighted to share His courage with us when we ask. Our job is to receive what He supplies, including courage.
It's a formidable thing to step into the lives of someone else's children. We wonder in what moment of madness we thought we could manage this job, and at times we're not even sure we want to.
But God doesn't want us living in discouragement, depression, or distress. His plan for stepmothers involves living lives of fulfillment, contentment, and joy. And in His grace, He shows us how—often in spite of our circumstances and current relationship status.
In the New Testament story of Mary and Martha, while Martha was "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made," busy being "worried and upset about many things," Jesus reminded her—and He reminds us—that "only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:40, 41-42). I love that Jesus didn't condemn Martha for her service to Him. Instead, He gently pointed out that, in her service, she was worried about many things because she didn't first do the one thing He considered necessary, the one thing that her sister Mary had chosen to do—sit "at the Lord's feet listening to what he said" (verse 39).
Only one thing is necessary? we wonder. As stepmoms we face dozens of demands. How can there be only one thing?
Because God knows how to take care of us. And when we sit at His feet and listen to Jesus, we receive from Him wisdom, guidance, and self-control. He enables us to serve Him and others with joy, without worrying and growing overly upset, even when others complain about us. God's design for us as stepmothers begins with "one thing"—to sit at His feet and receive from Him all He delights in supplying us to live the abundant life, a life characterized by peace and joy in spite of our circumstances.
As a stepmom, you know "the rule" is to love your stepkids. Jesus will show you how when you sit at His feet and listen to Him. He will prompt you with just the right words to say, or He'll clamp a hand over your mouth. He is a good Shepherd.
When Abby was in junior high, we carpooled with neighbors to her school, twenty minutes away. I appreciated those mornings, especially in the winter, when our neighbors drove and I could let my other daughters, Andrea and Allison, ages one and five, stay in their pj's a little longer.
One morning I met Abby at the kitchen door to say good-bye when her ride drove up.
"Got your coat?" I asked.
"No, I won't need it," she answered.
"It's supposed to be the coldest day of the year," I said. "Better get it."
She marched back to her room, returning a few minutes later with a wad of denim slung across her shoulders. Only it wasn't her jacket; it was a pair of overalls. She had seen the denim in a pile on her bedroom floor and grabbed it. Now she had to return to her room a second time to get her coat, and she was irritated with me for not wanting her to freeze to death. The carpool driver started to honk, which added to my list of frustrations. This situation had the potential to go very wrong.
If I snapped at Abby, I would send her off to school angry and frustrated, wearing her bad mood like I hoped she would wear that jacket. That wasn't what I wanted. Irritation would hang between us like a fog all day until we could talk again when she returned home. That certainly wasn't what I wanted. It would poison the atmosphere in the carpool. I glanced at Allison and Andrea and saw two little girls in footy pajamas watching to see what their mommy would do.
And here came Abby, likely wondering the same thing. I gave her a smile and a hug when she returned from her room with her actual denim jacket; and then I said good-bye with my usual send-off: "I pray for Jesus to bless your day." And I meant it.
I turned and smiled at Allison and Andrea. They smiled back. Crisis averted. Thank You, Jesus. And when I thought about it, it was kind of funny, in a junior high kind of way. Looking back, perhaps I shouldn't have made Abby go back for the coat. If she had gotten cold enough that day, maybe she wouldn't need a reminder from me the next time the temperature dropped. Or maybe she really didn't need her jacket. People have different thermostats. And just because she took the coat didn't mean she actually wore it.
Nonetheless, sitting at Jesus' feet "listening to what he said" earlier that morning, before anyone else was up, had enabled me to control myself. And thank goodness there was grace for those other times when, sadly, I didn't.
When we face challenges that threaten to overwhelm us, God gives us the strength to persevere, trusting Him for the outcome. He knows we need specific instruction, so, thankfully, He gives us the formula for success in His words to Joshua:
1. Accept reality. "Moses my servant is dead" (Joshua 1:2). Life is hard, full of trouble, pain, and sorrow. Your stepfamily has been born of loss, either through death or divorce. Everyone has suffered. We know that.
2. Prepare for action. "Get ready to cross the Jordan River" (verse 2). Prepare for action. Get organized and make a plan. Kathi and I are here to help.
3. Know that you are not alone. "I will be with you" (verse 5). God and all of His resources are available to you; therefore, you can succeed. It's important to believe this.
4. Stand firm. "Be strong and courageous.... Be strong and very courageous" (verses 6, 7). It will be tough, but stay faithful to your task. Do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it. God will supply what you need to accomplish this.
5. Know God's heart. "Be careful to obey all the law ... do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go" (verse 7, emphasis added). Study God's Word, making it the basis for your thoughts, words, attitudes, and actions. This is what it means to be successful. This is the "one thing" Jesus considers necessary. Everything else flows from this.
In other words, "Stepmother, don't panic; stay focused on God and His Book of Instructions. You will need them. Remember, God is greater than your problems, and He will navigate you through them. Focus on Him, who is the answer to your problems, rather than on the problems themselves. This is the key to your success."
Scripture doesn't record it, but I wonder whether Joshua ever felt unappreciated, unpopular, and not the real leader because he wasn't the first to hold the position. (Sound familiar, stepmother?) Some of those stubborn Israelites probably resented Joshua's leadership because he wasn't Moses.
Do you feel inferior because you aren't your husband's first wife or his children's first—and only—mother figure? Many a stepmom tortures herself needlessly with comparisons to an ex-wife or her stepchildren's biological mother. Please don't.
Do you think some of the Israelites esteemed Moses more in death than during his life and forgot that they had openly rebelled against his leadership and authority?
Children often view their mother idealistically, even if she abandoned or abused them, simply because she is their mother. In their eyes, a stepmother never measures up, simply because she is their stepmother, and understandably so; we all know mothers are unique and irreplaceable.
But stepmothers aren't here to replace anybody. God made us with our own individual characteristics. We each bring God-given strengths into our stepfamilies. God wants us to do our part, not anyone else's, knowing He is with us. We hope that our stepchildren will come to appreciate us for who we are and the role we play in their lives, and they certainly may. But there is no guarantee. While each stepmother's "part" may look different from another's based on individual family circumstances, each one of us has received her marching orders, and like Joshua's, they are daunting.
Our job, like that of both Moses and Joshua, centers on loving God and obeying Him, relying on His love and grace for us, and acting on His assurance that He is able to provide for us everything we need to succeed.
A big part of loving God involves loving others, even when it isn't easy. Just as God was with Joshua, He is with us, and He enables us to do what looks and feels impossible. In this book, we'll discover what that looks like for stepmothers. Like Joshua, we may be second (or third), but that doesn't make us second best, second choice, or second class.
We can be stepmothers who honor God and serve our families successfully (regardless of their response) because He is with us and will enable us as we first, like Mary, sit "at the Lord's feet listening to what he said" (Luke 10:39) and then step out in faith and obedience.
I discovered that neither Moses nor Joshua asked God for his job; in fact, Moses tried to talk his way out of it! I suspect you never set out to become a stepmother; you never considered it a life goal. I have met no one who said her dream was to one day become a stepmother. Yet here we are!
When the angel of the Lord showed up before Joshua's big battle, he told Joshua that he was there not to take sides but to take over (Joshua 5:13–14). In order to succeed as stepmothers, we need the Lord to take over our "battle plans" as well. Perhaps with pounding hearts and courage we don't feel yet, we say, like Joshua, "I accept the reality of my life. I face forbidding obstacles, but I know the Lord my God is with me, and He has given me a plan ... with the victory already won!"
What a mighty battle cry! Here we go, fellow stepmoms, here we go.
Excerpted from But I'm Not a Wicked Stepmother! by Kathi Lipp, Carol Boley, Brandy Bruce. Copyright © 2015 Kathi Lipp and Carol Boley. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 God's Plan for Stepmoms, 11,
2 Accept Your Reality—Your Situation, Your Stepkids, Your Husband, and Your Hope, 21,
3 It's Not (All) About the Kids, 31,
4 Setting Up Systems, 47,
5 Stepstuff, 59,
6 Define Your Role: Mom, Martyr, or Minister?, 79,
7 The Ex-Factor: Accepting Your Stepkid's Mom, 99,
8 Say This, Not That, 111,
9 At All Costs, Protect Your Marriage, 133,
10 Connected: Your Heart and God's, 145,
11 Building Trust, 161,
12 Forgiveness: The Cure for Your Hurting Heart, 171,
13 "What My Stepmom Did Right", 195,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Blending families can be a difficult period of adjustment, to put it lightly. Depending on how many kids, the reason behind the previous marriage ending, any on-going tension, etc can really play a role in this transition from yours and mine to ours. The book, But I’m NOT a Wicked Stepmother, by Kathi Lipp & Carol Boley, covers these situations and has great advice for moms who become stepmoms. I was a stepmom myself until I legally adopted my husband’s children from a previous marriage. It wasn’t easy, especially because in our case we not only got married but then moved from Florida to Ohio! So we were dealing with the whole family blending operation as well as getting the family settled into a totally new area with new schools, friends, and little family near by. Needless to say, it worked out in the end and most of my children live near by to us. But it was tough for a while, and I can’t imagine how some women do it when I hear their tales of drama. But this book seemed to cover most situations that I could think would come up for most of us, from dealing with finances, in-laws, ex-spouses, visitation, and much more! The authors are stepmoms themselves, so they know a lot of the problems that are inherent in the whole step-parenting situation. It’s filled with loving advice, light humor, examples of possible conversations and what not to say, as well as plenty of suggestions and resources as you continue to adjust to this new relationship of being a stepmother to someone else’s child. Throughout the book, Kathi & Carol, also help us turn to Scripture and the Lord to rely on for guidance, strength and peace to make it through. After all, there’s no problem so big that He can’t handle it, right? I’d recommend this book for any soon-to-be stepmoms or anyone now struggling with these issues once the child(ren) grow older and are rebelling, using the “you’re not my mom” argument. Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers as a member of their blogger review program.