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Cheryl Shumake: Loving before You’re Loved as a Stepmom

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
September 1, 2022 8:00 pm

Cheryl Shumake: Loving before You’re Loved as a Stepmom

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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September 1, 2022 8:00 pm

At the end of the day, someone has to lead with love. Author Cheryl Shumake takes on the challenge of loving before you're loved as a stepmom.

Show Notes and Resources

Cheryl Shumake's website: Step Mom Sanity

Cheryl Shumake on FamilyLife Blended.

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Have you ever heard the phrase, when are you going to give me your pants? That's a phrase?

What do you think it means? When are you going to give me your pants? I've heard the phrase, hold on, hold on to your pants. When are you going to give me your pants?

I've never heard that phrase. I don't know. But we need to ask someone who might know. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. Ron deals with us, our director of blended here at Family Life Today. Ron, do you know what that means? When are you going to give me your pants? I have no idea.

You know, actually, I'd never heard that phrase ever before, but I learned it by talking with Cheryl Shoemake, which people are going to hear today. And, you know, I'm not going to tell you. They're going to have to listen to the broadcast to find out. Well, you're not going to tell us? We got to wait for this? Hey, our theme is waiting. Yeah, so we got to wait. So I'm going to make you wait.

All right. So she's going to explain in her story. So who is Cheryl? I know we talked about her yesterday, our listeners. And if you missed yesterday, go back and listen, because this is a continuation of her story.

So Cheryl is a teacher, a stepmom, coach, life coach. She founded Stepmoms Sanity. She's written a book that we're talking about in this particular podcast that we're sharing with our listeners today.

The book's called Waiting to be Wanted, a stepmom's guide to loving before being loved. So we jumped into that conversation yesterday and we're going to continue that today. And this really funny phrase popped up and I didn't know I didn't have any idea what she was talking about. So I made her explain it and our listeners will finally get to that. Now, yesterday, you may have noted that this conversation took place in October of 2021.

That's when I was talking to her. We were still in the middle of the pandemic at that point in time. And I just want to say, you know, step parenting is a little bit like living in a pandemic. Sometimes you're waiting to be loved. You're waiting to be appreciated. You have lots of questions, just like in the pandemic.

We had lots of questions, some of which still are not answered even today. But we do the best we can and we try to trust in the Lord. And that's really the heart of this conversation. So let's pick it up there.

The problem here in waiting, what's happening is you clearly want more of a connection or relationship than the other person wants with you. And whoever wants the least wins. Isn't it such a power struggle? That absolutely is the truth.

That is it. Whoever wants the least wins. Now, let me just put this into context, because this is true in any relationship. And a lot of people listening right now went through a marriage where you wanted more than the other person wanted and they wanted you less than you wanted them. And they won. That's the end of the relationship.

Whoever wants the least wins. They have the most power, the most say. They get to dictate whether there's intimacy or closeness or what have you. That's true in a marriage. That's true in a work relationship. If you've ever tried to make a sale to a company who doesn't really care about your product, you lose, right?

I mean, they win. They get to dictate the terms of any relationship that may or may not happen. It also is true in parent-child relationships.

And it's really true with step-parents. You're eager. You have a high desire. You want to move toward these kids and close the gap, so to speak, and they get to decide whether that gap gets closed or whether it stays really wide.

That's frustrating, especially when you're large and in charge. And like Cheryl, you've got a good relationship with your daughter. And as you said, that's easy. You know what closeness is. It doesn't take a lot of work to manage all of this. And then you have hard.

There's easy and there's hard. And talk about that for a minute, the desire to escape into your own children and away from stepchildren. I realize that's a momentary thing, but if you do that too much, I would think that could have some real negative impact.

It definitely can. It will set up a dynamic in your family of us versus them. You're trying to bring your family together, and you're creating a line in the sand, if you will. And you're stepping across the line with your children, and you're leaving your spouse and his children on the other side of the line. It is detrimental to bringing a family together.

Again, like I said, I don't recommend escaping too often. This is when we really have to, for lack of better vernacular, put our big girl pants on and stand up and take the hard along with the easy so that eventually we can lead our family to better. That's the ultimate goal, to bring this family to a better position where we're relating better to one another. Even if we're not 100 percent bonded, we can be better tomorrow than we were today. And at the end of the day, somebody has to go first, right?

Somebody has to lead with love, and it's often that high motivated person, which means it's you as the step-parent. So take me inside that for you. You go back, you find your distance, you recalibrate, and you go, okay, let's be a big girl.

Let's go back and try to love them, even though they're not yet fully loving and embracing me. What does it take for you to find the strength to do that? That's hard.

Yes, it is very hard. For me, it really took understanding that, again, I was called to this role by God. My life isn't by happenstance. For those of us who have faith in Jesus Christ, we were led to this point in life. And as God walked us into this place, He fully equipped us to handle the ups and downs of our blended family life.

It's a matter of us looking to the Lord for strengthening in that. I also, very practically speaking, I talked to people. I talked it out, and sometimes when you say something, it lessens its sting. So I was able to say, this hurts, or I don't understand this, and can you give me some perspective? We have to get out of our own heads and allow other people in to speak truth and to speak life. And quite frankly, there were times I just had to grin and bear it.

I had to get a straw and suck it up, honestly. Listen, I am here. I have chosen this.

I said yes to this. I've accepted loving these children, even if they do not love me. And so what does that mean? And lastly, Ron, I will say this, and again, not to be impractical at all, but when you get a picture of how Christ loves us, that love is very, very active regardless of reciprocity or feelings of affection or emotional connection. And I understand that I am loved despite having been an enemy of God. I was loved to friendship with God. That helps me learn how to love before I am loved, because it's the same way that I was loved. And it is that love that God has given, that He has shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Spirit. So it's in there.

I just have to allow the Spirit of the Lord to activate it. What does 1 John say? We love because He first loved us.

You know, that's the story. If somebody's listening right now and you're just really not familiar with the Christian story, the story of the Bible, the overarching narrative of Scripture is a God who pursues us in love in spite of our frailties and failures and sin that creates this gap. He's constantly trying to close the gap. And when God comes in the form of Jesus Christ, we see it over and over and over again with the people that He pursued and how He closed the gap with the disenfranchised and the outcasts of society and the people who were forgotten and left behind and pushed down. He often closed the gap with those people, even people who really made a lot of mistakes and done a lot of sinning in their life. His love overcomes that. That's the story of Scripture. And yes, I think we can find inspiration for moving toward the people who are having a hard time loving us, the people we value. It's difficult. It doesn't mean it's easy.

It is wrought with a blow here and there and makes you rethink, and every once in a while you need to retreat and go recalibrate. I love the way you said that. And then go, wait a minute, God did this for me.

All right, here we go. Lean in. Hold on to Him. Hold on to Him, yes. And just try to love. Not overlove, love in a strategic way. I guess what I'm trying to say there is not push so hard that it makes it really difficult for that child to receive it, but just in a way that's palatable for them, but just to gently continue to press in. You know, I always advise stepmoms to look for organic opportunities to set the stage for connection. And whatever happens in that moment, the outcome belongs to the Lord.

The results belong to Him. Could you give me a good example of that, maybe of a story from your own life? Absolutely, absolutely. There was a time with one in particular that I had a very hard time, and she was very connected to mom.

And not that the others weren't, but she struggled more than anyone with conflict of loyalties. I know that we are all familiar with that terminology. And I set up an opportunity for us to go out to a play. And I know that's something she enjoys, and I invited her along. And of course she went, and she had just a ball, and it opened the door for conversation as well. I didn't initiate the conversation. I did not initiate the conversation. She did. I let her talk about whatever it is that she wanted to talk about, and some of those things were very difficult for her. Some of those things were very easy and very light and very on the surface. But by opening up the opportunity, she walked right into it, and I didn't rush in.

Let me say this to the listener. I didn't use that as an opportunity for me to then rush in and say, here I am, super stepmom. I really kind of laid back and allowed her to lead the relationship and lead in our conversations and lead how close she needed to be, which changed over time. Sometimes she was closer.

Sometimes she was not. There is so much wisdom in what you just said. It's almost like, okay, I can't push this any farther than they can go. So I really need to let them feel like they're leading the dialogue and the conversation and try to meet them where they are. That's so strategic. You're still leading with love because you're creating the opportunity, but you're pacing with the child.

Exactly. You're listening to Family Life Today, and we're listening to a portion of the Family Life blended podcast with Ron Deal and Cheryl Shoemake. Ron, there's a lot of wisdom in that last story she told, and it's really wise of her, but really difficult to be waiting in pace with your child.

We opened up by talking about how any relationship, whoever wants the least, whoever cares the least about the relationship is the one who has the most power. So she is a stepmom recognizing that, in this case, her stepdaughter was not very interested in developing their relationship. So what did Cheryl have to do? She had to wait on her stepdaughter. She had to be available.

She had to love. She had to be near enough that when her stepdaughter turned around, so to speak, I'm right here. But even then, I can't just jump in and go, okay, let's go. You have to let that child lead, and that's so difficult. It's more waiting.

Like, you have a little of her, but you don't have a lot of her, so you have to wait and wait even more. That, I think, was so much wisdom that everybody listening has a relationship where they can apply that. Well, Ron, we're going to get back to your conversation, but before you do that, remind us about the summit. Yeah, Summit on Step Family Ministry is our ministry-equipping event, two days in person. This is not a virtual event. You've got to show up. This year it's in Phoenix, October 13 and 14. We'd love to have people come learn how they can be and their church can be more relevant to the blended families in their community.

Visit us at summitonstepfamilies.com for all the information. Okay, Dave and Ann, while we jump back into this conversation, let me just tell the listener, it's really, really nice if you're a stepparent in a struggling situation to have, you know, home base. And in this case, it's her marriage. So when we jump back in, I'm asking Cheryl, how is your marriage supporting you in your struggles as a stepmom? One of the things that I think is a backdrop to this whole, how do I, you know, pursue this child who's not quite interested in pursuing me back? I think, you know, the context of the marriage in the blended family is the backdrop to this.

If you're feeling connected with your spouse and there's a good foundation there and a trusting relationship there, then, you know, somebody's got your back in this space that's hard with the child. But on the other hand, if you're feeling a little insecure in that space, wow, how do I press in here when I'm not even sure I've got you helping me, you know, coaching me, supporting me in the backdrop? You talk about something in your book that made me think of the ghost of marriage past. It's that, boy, I've been burned before, I've gone through the difficulty of a previous marriage that failed, and then how now do I trust you? How now do I put my heart in your hands and feel confident with that?

So let's just back up for a second. I'm curious how that whole ghost of marriage past thing, did you protect your heart when you were dating and early in the relationship before you guys married? Well, I wasn't as protective of my heart. Honestly, at that time, Jonathan and I were friends.

He actually was a guest at my first wedding. We were friends in high school and in college who had reconnected some three years or so after my divorce and some five or six years after his. So initially it was me reconnecting with a friend. But when it moved beyond that and I recognized what was happening, then yes, I got a little bit more protective because I'm giving up independence. I was down this road for 17 years with someone before and look how it ended.

Do I really want to give myself over into this relationship? This is a different kind of relationship. It's not our first marriage. On and on and on. So I struggled initially in our marriage to let go. Something very innocuous happened. I was talking about a couch and what I needed to do to get this couch. I need to save and I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that. And my husband, I don't think he would mind me saying this because he said it before.

He teared up and he asked me, when are you going to give me your pants? I know. Could you interpret that for me? Just hold up. What do you mean by that? When are you going to let go and understand that I'm here, I am here with and for you?

I've got to say, that's a very unique way of that expression I've never heard before. Yes. You and me, we both can't wear the pants.

When are you going to give me your pants? I got it. Now I've got the reference. Yes. But I realized that I was hurting my marriage. I was hurting him and I was hurting any potential that we had to have a connected marriage as long as I held on to my independence in that way.

Okay. So he felt the lack of trust. He made a comment. It brought it to your attention. Now you're aware of it.

What did you do? I mean, because somebody's sitting out there right now going, yeah, I don't trust my wife, my husband. I am self-guarded.

I am protective. I am not sure I really, really can trust deeply again. How do I press through this? It was a slow road. It was a giving up of the ground inch by inch. And at every turn I was praying and I really had to learn how to trust God again in a relationship, within the context of a relationship that I can let go. And as I gave up inch by inch and I saw his consistent response, not perfect, but consistent response, it enabled me to give up more. So I really had to, again, take a deep breath and just began giving up little areas and spaces of my life that I held on to. I so appreciate that. I just want our listener to catch it.

There's so many little pieces there. You had to press in and give up a little, trust a little more, surrender a little. When that was met by steadfastness and faithfulness in your husband, that just added more confidence on your part. You give a little more, get a little more. You know, it's that back and forth to and fro, but you still have to take risk even when you're unsure. Love is risky, isn't it? It is absolutely risky, but it is so rewarding.

And the risk and the reward kind of go hand in hand and we just won't have the other without the other. If you're listening right now and you're the spouse, you felt some distrust coming from the other person. You know, whether you've deserved it or whether it's sort of leftover ghost from marriage past for them, and they're just projecting that onto you. Please hear how difficult it is to take those risks and move toward you in trust.

It's really helpful when you are patient, long suffering with them, and when you can understand why they can only give you a little bit, not as much as you would like necessarily. And also hear the importance of you loving well in return and how that does help to build confidence and grow their relationship, your relationship together over time. I'm wondering about this as how it impacted then your relationship with your stepchildren. I mean, again, the backdrop is marriage. So if you're kind of, if you've got questions in your head about that relationship and now you have questions about your stepchildren, you can get lost as a step parent and go, what am I doing here? Like how do I, like every relationship seems to be demanding more of me than I knew I'd have to give.

How do I do this? Yes. I want to backtrack to something you said about the spouse. The one thing that did help me, Jonathan had a saying from the beginning of our marriage, it's you and me against the world. And he would include the children. And I would say even these children, because one day they're going to grow up and they're going to have lives on their own.

And I want to be sitting across the table from you 50 years from now. So his support made all the difference in the world. But to answer your question more directly, I would say that what I found, again, along with Jonathan's support is I had to make a decision. Of course my heart was going to be guarded.

If it's guarded with him, and this is the foundational relationship in this family, it's going to be guarded with the children as well. As I gave up ground with him, I found myself more willing to open up, more willing to be vulnerable to the likely rejection and likely misjudgment and misunderstanding that I was going to receive from the children. I fully expected that that was going to be the outcome, that I was going to open myself up to more, which means I was going to feel more. But because I had his support, that made a huge difference. But I think it really just came down to a decision.

I had to make a decision. How do I want to be in this marriage? How do I want to be with my stepchildren? How do I want my daughter to view this opportunity that we have to see the redemption of God, to see restoration? How do I want her to remember how her mother modeled herself in this situation?

So you were mindful of the example you were setting. You want to show your kids that love is risky and takes risks. Love never fails is the way 1 Corinthians 13 puts it. It keeps moving forward, even in the face of difficulty, of risk, of challenge.

That's a lot. And when you said I had to make a decision, you know, I thought of another word. I think you could say faith.

I had to have faith that if I love, there will be payoff. We've been listening to part of a Family Life Blended podcast with Ron Deal talking with Cheryl Shoemake. And by the way, that's just part of the conversation. You can go to familylifetoday.com and hear the rest of that conversation. But, boy, what she said there at the end, Ron, is really home base. The foundation of our marriage, the foundation of our family, is where life comes out.

I mean, it's the rock. If that's not something you're taking care of, the rest of your life is shaky. Yeah, you're exactly right. And she made a decision to stand in faith and keep loving. And I love that part about her husband.

Like, he sort of made a decision, too. I'm with you. You and me against everything else.

Like, let's do this. He was her support during those difficult seasons of their life. And, you know, for those who are married, you know, marriage is meant to be that rock, like you said. It's the thing that holds us up. And sometimes one of us has got to do more of the holding than the other one.

But that's the partnership. That's what God invites us to be able to do for each other. I love the idea that we are a team. Because so often I think we get divided. And especially with our kids and blended and we just can take sides.

But I like the idea of saying, I'm for you and I'm fighting for you. That means a lot and it's motivating for all of us. You've been listening to David Ann with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. You can hear the rest of Ron's interview with Cheryl Shoemake when you search for Family Life Blended wherever you get your podcasts.

Look for episode 73, Waiting to be Wanted in Your Blended Family. The link is also in today's show notes at familylifetoday.com. Coming up on October 13th through 14th is this year's Summit on Step-Family Ministry. This is the premiere ministry equipping event to help church leaders learn about healthy blended family living and the essentials of local ministry. You can find out more at familylifetoday.com.

You know, we all long for homes where we can thrive and flourish. But what does it take to have a spiritually vibrant household? Don Everts will be joining Dave and Ann in the studio to talk about just that. That's coming up next week. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-14 09:52:18 / 2023-01-14 10:02:30 / 10

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