Cheryl Shumake: Waiting to Be Wanted
About the Guest
- Cheryl Shumake's website: Step Mom Sanity
- Cheryl Shumake on FamilyLife Blended.
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Cheryl ShumakeCheryl is a certified Master Life Coach, Stepfamily Educator, and founder and director of Stepmom Sanity, a Christ-centered, sister circle of support providing hope and help for women on their stepmom journey. She is the author of 4 books, including Waiting to Be Wanted: A Stepmom’s Guide to Loving Before Being Loved and its companion workbook.
Ron DealRon L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series
Stuck between your hopes as a stepmom and your reality? Author Cheryl Shumake gets it. If you’re wanting to be wanted, she knows it’s a battle you can win.
Cheryl Shumake: Waiting to Be Wanted
Dave: So you know you sort of have a blind spot.
Ann: Oh, great! I probably have a lot of them.
Dave: Every time I bring it up, you deny that it is true; but when you drive,—
Dave: —you drive really fast because you hate waiting. You don’t want to be late; you don’t want to—
Ann: Does anybody like waiting? I don’t; do you?
Dave: I know I’m even a worse driver.
Ann: You are.
Dave: I mean, I can’t even believe I’m—but you were like, “You whip around people, and you go in the passing lane,”—I’m like, “Have you ever watched you drive?” [Laughter] We are two people who do not like to wait.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I don’t know if we’re like everybody else; but I think we might be a little bit like Ron Deal, who is with us today. [Laughter] Ron Deal is our director of Blended, here at FamilyLife, and Ron’s/he is with us. Ron Deal, welcome.
I’ve got to ask you a question: “Are you a good waiter?” [Laughter] I don’t mean waiter, like waiting at the table; but I mean: “Are you good at waiting?”
Ron: No, I’m not good at waiting. I don’t know anybody who is good at waiting. [Laughter]
Dave: That’s what I figured.
Ron: What’s that line from Princess Bride?—that wonderful movie—“Wait; wait. I hate wait.” I have said that so many times.
Dave: Yes, it’s definitely not—I don’t know; I’m sure some people are good at it—but most of us aren’t. And we’re going to listen to an interview you had on [FamilyLife Blended®]. I’m guessing it has something to do with waiting.
Ron: It does; Cheryl Shumake was a guest on my podcast. She has written a book called Waiting to Be Wanted: A Stepmom’s Guide to Loving Before Being Loved.
Now, just let that soak in for a minute: like that’s a lot of stepparents’ experience. They are loving, and they are eagerly waiting to be loved, and embraced, and accepted in return. What do you do in the meantime?
But here is the thing I want all of our listeners to hear me on this: “This is not just about blended family waiting. This is about life waiting; this is about faith and our walk with God.” That’s one application [for stepparents], but there is something in this conversation for everybody.
Let me tell you about Cheryl. She is a life coach; a stepfamily educator; she founded a network for stepmoms called Stepmom Sanity—that’s another great little title there. She has written four books, including this, Waiting to Be Wanted, that we are talking about in this podcast. She and her husband have a yours-and-mine blended family situation. They live in Michigan.
Recently, we had her as one of our guests on a “Women & Blended Families Facebook Live” that our team put on. It included Gayla Grace, who is on our team; and Sandi Patty; and Lori McGregor. Let me just tell you: Cheryl was making so many great mic drop moments that Sandi Patty, right in the middle of their conversation, said, “Wait a minute; I’ve got to write that down.” She was taking copious notes, so Cheryl is a woman who has got some things to say. I just know everybody is going to learn something from this conversation.
Ann: Ron, I’m guessing, based on the topic, this is a topic that is not just for blended—
Ann: —since we all are in situations, where they are waiting. Will this benefit all of us?
Ron: It will. If there is anything in your life that you feel like you are waiting on, this conversation is for you.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: Cheryl, in your book, Waiting to Be Wanted: A Stepmom’s Guide to Loving Before Being Loved, you say that waiting is not something that most people do well. Why is that? [Laughter]
Cheryl: Well, I mean waiting is very hard. There is the interval/the gap—between what I have and what I want—is often painful, and unsettling, and exhausting. The hoping for something that remains unfulfilled is honestly exhausting. Isn’t that what the Word of God tells us?—that a hope differed makes the heart sick.
I know for me, all too often, my response to waiting is to do whatever I can do to hasten its end—you know, I want to end the inconvenience that the void causes—so my go-to’s are to: fix it, fill it, or finance it. None of that brings it to an end; so then, I end up frustrated on top of the pain, and the unsettling feeling, and the exhaustion as well. Waiting is extremely hard.
Ron: I think what I just heard you say was: “Waiting is hard, so we try to take control; because we don’t have any control when we are waiting for something. But when we try to take control, then we discover we still don’t have control;—
Cheryl: We still don’t have control; right. [Laughter]
Ron: —“and we’re more frustrated now than ever.” Is that what I just heard?
Cheryl: That’s exactly what you heard; yes, it is. [Laughter] Isn’t it such a vicious cycle?—isn’t it?
Ron: Oh, yes, yes. And you’re right—that Scripture: Proverbs 13:12—I love The Message version of this; it says: “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick.”
Ron: It’s that unrelenting aspect of waiting that just—saddens your heart; empties your heart—makes you heartsick. Man, I love the way you said it: it is exhausting.
Cheryl: Yes; yes, it is. I often find that, when I am heartsick, that I don’t respond well to the circumstances that are involved in me waiting; because again, my heart is/I’m focused on relieving the heart sickness.
You know, I think, too, Ron, that when we rush to end the waiting, that we deny ourselves the pleasure of unwrapping this amazing gift. As frustrating and heart-rending waiting can be, or unfulfilled longing can be, there really is an amazing gift that God has given us in the waiting.
Ron: Okay; you’ve got to unpack/we’ve got to talk—because yes, from some spiritual, eternal standpoint, I totally agree with what you are saying—[Laughter]—but the experience is, day in and day out: “This stinks!”
Cheryl: Right. [Laughter]
Ron: Okay; so I’m waiting—it’s like a kid waiting for Christmas—yes, it’s going to get here one of these days; but it’s not now!
Cheryl: Right; right. [Laughter] But you know what? I find, though/what I found in my own journey is that, while I was waiting, God used that time; He used that time to transform me/to transform my heart to draw me closer to Himself—to refocus my attention so that I was no longer panting after the unfulfilled longing—I panted more after Him. And that my hopeful expectation was—no longer fixed on fulfillment; it was no longer fixed on desire—it was fixed on Him. Waiting is really a tool.
I love Isaiah 30:18; it says: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice,”—then it says—“Blessed”—happy, to be envied, favored—"are all those who wait for Him.” He uses waiting to shift our attitude from just waiting to, now, waiting upon Him; and He never disappoints. He never, ever leaves us wanting for what we truly need—not necessarily what we desire—but what we truly need.
Ron: Let’s just go one step further with what you just said: “So shift what you are waiting for—from the thing/whatever that is that you are chasing—to waiting on the Lord; and that is something that helps you in the meantime.”
Cheryl: It does.
Ron: What does that look like, practically? Like for somebody, who is listening right now, and [they’re] going, “Okay, so what do I do? How do I do this waiting on the Lord thing?”
Cheryl: Right; well, let me say, up front, that waiting on the Lord is not a passive enterprise at all; it definitely is very active. What you are doing is you are determining: “God, what is it You are asking me to do in this moment?” and “I am going to obey You,”—be that:
- Pick up the phone and call my bonus child, and tell them, “I love you”;
- or I’m going to spend a moment in prayer;
- or “This incident that just happened really hurt me, and I need to talk it out.” Maybe, I need to go and find a therapist, and talk through that, and work through some of these issues that I am going through.
Waiting on the Lord to change the heart of another individual is not passive; it is not this time where you are just sitting by with inactivity. You are very active in your waiting, but all of it is directed by His Holy Spirit.
Ron: Okay: so being active, turning to Him, trying to trust Him while you wait.
Cheryl: —while you wait.
Ron: You know, it occurs to me, while you were talking—“Everything in our world trains us not to wait,”—I mean:
- We’ve got 5G, for crying out loud.
- We’ve got fast food everywhere.
- We’ve got apps.
- You can order stuff so that, when you drive up, it’s waiting on you when you get there; or it arrives from Amazon® the very next day.
- We have internet-based church. You don’t even have to drive in a car to go to church if you don’t want to anymore.
All of that sort of, really, programs us, like, “The world, almost, should wait on us”; doesn’t it?
Cheryl: It does. It really/we’ve created this very self-focused idea of how to be in this life/how to interact with individuals. We despise inconvenience—and waiting is a huge inconvenience—it certainly is. We despise all that comes along with waiting, the uncertainty, and so on and so forth.
Dave: You’re listening to FamilyLife Today. We’re actually listening to a portion of the FamilyLife Blended podcast, with our FamilyLife Blended® leader Ron Deal, and a conversation he had with Cheryl Shumake.
You know, Ron, it is interesting that, as she walks us through her journey, her focus of her hope changed.
Ron: Yes, it did. As I had this conversation with her, I sort of had a realization: “Waiting is sort of like fasting.” It’s one of those things that we do that helps us divert our attention away from all the things of life that we put our hope in: our schedules, and the possessions that we have, and the money we have. Fasting is that: “I’m not even going to eat food—I’m going to focus on God—I’m going to wait on Him.” That concept of waiting is just like that, like, “I can’t trust in anything else; I need to just quiet my soul, focus in on God, and trust Him.”
Ann: Well, Ron, before we get back to this episode of FamilyLife Blended podcast, tell us about the upcoming Summit.
Ron: Yes; so the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry®, every fall, is a two-day, in-person event for ministry leaders; and by that, I mean, anybody who cares to invest in blended families and their children. Our theme this year is about grace and loss; we’re going to be unpacking grief in a blended family, and what role it plays in bonding, and how the family moves forward through time. Then we’re going to talk about what we can do and how the church can respond.
As you guys know, blended families make up a very large portion of our nation. More and more churches are coming on board, realizing they need to be in tune with helping stepfamily couples and their children; and that’s what the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry is really all about. SummitOnStepfamilies.com: you can learn all about it and how you can be a part.
Dave: Sounds good. Let’s go back to your conversation with Cheryl.
[Previous FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: It seems to me that many people in stepfamilies—and stepparents are really a good example of this—they are always waiting for somebody to open up to them.
Ron: I’m wondering about your experience in waiting to be wanted/in waiting for somebody to open up. What happened in your journey?
Cheryl: Well, I definitely was on the waiting end, with one stepchild in particular, on the longer end of waiting. I do want the listener to understand that: “Don’t be surprised if one child turns toward you before another,” or “…if one child turns toward you and then turns away from you,”—that’s a very common phenomenon in stepfamily life.
But my experience, initially, was very disconcerting—I think that’s a good word—disconcerting to me. I thought I was well-prepared; we had read your book, The Smart Stepfamily. So of course, I know what I’m going to do when—
Ron: Of course!
Cheryl: —of course. [Laughter]
Ron: You had all the answers at that point.
Cheryl: I had all of the answers; right? But reality has a way of crushing our expectations. [Laughter]
Ron: Yes, yes.
Cheryl: It really does. The reality of my family was that it was not so easy to blend. My daughter had recently lost her father, so we have a grieving child—grieving the death of a parent—and we had bonus children, who loved me when we were dating and having fun—but now, that I’m another adult in the home, didn’t know quite how they felt about me. They let their trepidation be made known; they were very obvious with it,—[Laughter]—
Cheryl: —for lack of a better term.
I had to learn how to be very flexible and adjust my expectations/manage them, and really learn how to depend on the Lord, and be honest with myself about what I was feeling, and honest with my husband about what I was going through. Thank God for a supportive spouse; they make all the difference in the world. He was very supportive in my own journey.
Once I learned what waiting was doing for me—not to me but for me—then it became easier. I didn’t do it perfectly, and it certainly was still very hurtful at times; but the journey became easier when I recognized that this was a God-thing. God had called me to this role and that He would meet me in the waiting; and while He met me in the waiting, He taught me how to love children, who were acting out of their own hurt, without absorbing all of the pain of their hurtful actions.
Ron: Okay, there is a whole lot in what you just said. Let’s slow it down just a little bit.
Ron: How old were the kids?—the bonus children?
Cheryl: My bonus children, when we got married, they were 12 and almost 9 at the time. I call our family a super-blended family, because—
Cheryl: —because my husband had a stepdaughter from his first marriage. She is right in the fold as well—she is the oldest—and at that time, she was 21.
Ron: Okay; so 21, then 12, 8, and—
Cheryl: And my daughter, at the time, was 14.
Ron: Got it; got it. Okay, so there it is; everybody has got their own journey. We all know that; we’ve talked about this—
Cheryl: —different stages of life.
Ron: —on this podcast many times before—right—different stages of life, different developmental issues going on with children and stages for children—so different levels of openness to stepparents and stepsiblings and all of that.
In the beginning, when those expectations—and by the way, I love this quote in your book: “Waiting on the heart of your stepchild to turn towards you is a graduate level course in unmet expectations,”—
Ron: —that’s really good. While you’re waiting, and you’re realizing, “This is not happening the way I thought or hoped that it would,”—at first, you are feeling that angst: “What did you do?” “What were you feeling the most?”—I guess that’s really what I want to know. “What were those key emotions that you were feeling?—was it rejection? What was it?”
Cheryl: It was definitely rejection; I felt out of place. I knew what my own role was in my own conventional family; and even after the divorce, I was still the head of the household—I was the mom in the home—my place was very secure.
I certainly was feeling a little unsteady as well, which was not usual. I felt not always connected. You know, we don’t like disconnection at all—I don’t—I want to be connected to the people, who are around me. That was very hard for me.
There was actually a time I actually ran away. That’s how—[Laughter]—we kept two homes, initially, so that my daughter could finish high school in the community that she grew up in; they were 60 miles away. It was/there was one weekend, where she was at our other home with my mom; and I was here with my husband and my bonus children. They were ignoring me—I felt invisible at times—they were ignoring me. I announced—very haughtily, I might add—[Laughter]—“I’m done with this; I’m going home.”
I left the home, and I—honestly, the further I drove away, the worse I felt and the better I felt—it was such a dichotomy going on there. That is the other thing: you are so/your emotions are all over the place.
Ron: Yes, yes. So you went into fight, flight, or freeze; you went into flight.
Cheryl: I went into flight; yes. [Laughter]
Ron: “I just can’t stay in this environment, where I’m isolated; I’m an outsider. They are keeping me on the outside, and I’m being rejected. I need to break from this.”
By the way, I want to say to the listener: that is understandable, especially, when you just feel overwhelmed in a significant way. For you, you took off; and the further you got away—am I hearing you say, “In one way, you felt relieved; and in another sense, you felt even more disconnected”? Is that the way it was?—kind of a double-bind there?
Cheryl: It was definitely a double-bind. I felt relieved in that I didn’t have to deal with the pressure; and I was going towards the one person, at that time, in my life who was steady, and who brought consistent joy—that was my daughter—right? But I also felt very disconnected and very hurt by that; because I am leaving this man I have pledged my life to, and these children whom I really did want to love and open up to; but it was very difficult.
The pressure got to me in that moment. I don’t necessarily recommend it; but every once in a while, we need—I always say, “Get a stepmom a Bug Out Bag, and have a safe place to go [with] your bag; get there, recalibrate your emotions, and then you can go home a better you.” [Laughter]
Dave: So we’re listening to a conversation Ron Deal, who is with us, had with Cheryl Shumake about a really interesting blended family situation. But you know, as well as anybody, Ron, that’s probably pretty common, where you get to the point—
Ann: I’m just going to say—
Dave: —where you need a break.
Ann: —I’m just going to say every mom can feel that, where I just/I need to pack a bag like that—I like that idea—and she got away for the weekend.
Ron: She did. You know, you’ve got to do some self-care and refresh every now and then so that—you know, you don’t just do/a lot of people today will say things, like, “I’m doing self-care,” which means, “I am not being responsible for anything anymore,”—no, that’s not really the way it works. It’s self-care for the purpose of being able to rejuvenate and bring back a better you, as she said there in that last statement, so that you can come back and serve again.
Really—you know, guys—that’s the hard part. For anybody, who is listening—mom, dad, married/not married; whatever the case may be—we all have situations in our life, where more is required of us than—really, we feel like we’re not being fed: “This is a one-way street. I’m giving, giving, giving, giving. How do I continue to do that?” Sometimes, we’ve just got to pull back, wait on the Lord, and have Him rejuvenate who we are and help us go forward.
Dave: I know I’m not good at this. I don’t know about you, Ron; but I can run and run. When I feel tired—and I even know I need a break—I just can keep running. Ann will look at me and say, “You need to stop; you need to take a day,” “…take an hour.”
Ann: Well, you can run—do you know what I can do sometimes?—I just want to Netflix® binge. I think we can just all numb out in some way; but I like that idea of going to God, of really calling out to Him, asking Him for wisdom too. I feel like that is what she did.
Ron: As I talked with her, it made me reflect on Psalm 25—listen to this—“O my God, in You I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” You know what? We all feel we have some sort of enemy. For Cheryl, it was that moment in her family, where she felt overwhelmed, and didn’t know what else to do.
But listen to this: “Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous towards us. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all day long.”
Now think about that: there is a lesson to be learned in waiting. There are moments, where we just have to say, “I don’t know, Lord; it’s all You. I’m just trusting in You to see me through/to build my strength,”—whatever it is we need to know to find my path.
I just want to say, as we continue this conversation with Cheryl tomorrow, she is going to talk about some of the things she learned in her waiting, and the practical things that came to her so that she could, in her situation, be a better stepmom.
Dave: Yes, and the truth is—and we know this—that would have never happened for her if she wouldn’t have taken the break.
Dave: I’m escaping; but in some sense, when she was able to get away—and it’s true for us as well—when we get our eyes off, often, of the situation we are in, and take a break and go vertical—like Psalm 25, and we get our eyes on the Lord—we come back renewed/refreshed with a new perspective. It can change everything, just like it did for Cheryl.
Shelby: You’ve been listening to Dave and Ann with Ron Deal on FamilyLife Today. Now, coming up on October 13 and 14 is this year’s Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. This is the premiere ministry equipping event to help church leaders learn about healthy blended family living and the essentials of local ministry. Find out more at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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Now, tomorrow, we’ll hear more from Ron Deal’s conversation with Cheryl Shumake as she gives us perspective on her hardships, as a new stepmom, and how she found the strength to love before she was loved. That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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