Recently, I was on a website for stepparents who struggle with their issues, need encouragement and are dealing with heartache. I don’t read the stories to get stuck in each individual encounter, nor do I read them for feelings of affirmation for myself. I read them to remind myself that my own situation as a stepparent has grown remarkably in the last three years, and the family I’ve been a part of, for over five. It helps me to celebrate the small milestones and to thank God for what He is doing/has done.
This past spring, I completed a study on forgiveness and began to put into practice the steps necessary to release the hurts/anger/offenses. The change in my heart was proof of Christ’s conviction, release and freedom. I couldn’t shut up about the changes, the prayers, the weight lifted! It was no surprise that when our class ended, I was asked by the leader if I would teach the study out of my own home, for the benefit of women who struggle with areas of unforgiveness in their lives, not just stepfamily situations. Without hesitation, I said yes, and I can truly see God’s hand in it. It’s been amazing! And I pray it continues.
In reading the post for this particular day, one of the moms who was sharing her heartache was at the end of her rope. Normally I would skip past and move onto another topic, but I felt compelled to share some hope with her. Below is my response. Keep in mind I have no idea of the woman’s faith or lack of, and am just sharing my heart with a complete stranger.
As a stepmom of a little over three years, and dealing with the BM for over five, I want to share hope. I still deal with painful moments, and heartache. I’ve got many moments of ambushes, intended public humiliation, childish behavior in my memory, and am praying forgiveness through them. I have learned/am learning that my reaction to intended hurt says a lot to those who watch: primarily the children I’ve come to love as my own, and to my husband who chose me as part of his journey, and extended family, friends, extras. Ladies, we aren’t machines, so pain still hurts. But I’ve found my faith in the Lord is my mainstay. I keep praying to Him for strength He has willingly given, and I keep the long-term in my focus. When my girls are a little older (they’re 20/17 now), I know in my heart, they will know that I kept myself from retaliating, spoke kindly of the BM even when she didn’t deserve it, and put them first MANY TIMES over my own happiness.
As stepmothers, we end up on the backburner many times. IT HAPPENS (much more often that we feel we deserve), but we chose to enter into an already existing family, with hurts/damaged feelings/ high emotions, etc. It’s not as much about being the bigger person, as it is about remaining strong in the commitment between your husband and yourself, and your value in Christ.
Remembering every incident that created a wound had begun to make me bitter and hurtful. Having learned to give my hurts to Christ who died for these moments and asked me to let them go so I can live, I am finding it easier by saying, “Jesus, take this moment from me. Help me to love with Your love and remember this moment no more. Thank you for the grace you freely give that I don’t deserve. Help me to continue to give it to those who hurt me.” Does it take away the wound? No, it leaves a scar. Does it remove the memory? No, sometimes seeing the repeat offender makes the memory more vivid. But I have to continually give the hurt to Jesus. He has helped me heal and look at my scars lovingly. In the palms of His hand are the scars I’ve given to Him that He didn’t deserve either.
With time, comes healing, and with Jesus, the freedom to not stay in bondage to bitterness, but to free ourselves to love those who hate us, and to show our children how to be overcomers. All of the children have pain we can’t imagine, and loyalty issues we wish they could move past. We have to be mindful of that and allow time to work in their lives too. But I do know from Scripture that LOVE heals a multitude of sins.
When I let my guard down and began to treat the BM like another human being, even when she didn’t want to acknowledge my physical presence, I saw Jesus at work. Over a few months, she began to talk to me like a human being, and I kept praying for Jesus to soften her heart as well as mine. I believe in miracles because I see evidence of forgiveness everyday. My prayer for all of you is the same. Go to God and let go…continue to love the kids, and your hubby, and even your enemies. It changes you, and you can still live. The ex, if she wants to remain in the past, chooses bondage. You CAN be free!”
I proofread it and hit send.
And then I read it again.
And I read it once more.
And then I cried.
Happy tears for the growth in my heart and faith,
and sad tears for the moments I’ve given up to the BM that I couldn’t be a part of.
Happy tears for the girls who are loved regardless of their behavior toward me at times,
and sad tears for the bad moments I pray they forget.
Happy tears for the man who loves me and whispers words of encouragement and praise when he sees my growth,
and sad tears for his heartache at missing his girls at times.
The life of step-anything is hard, rough, rewarding.
I know when I was younger, I never thought, “I’ll grow up and become a stepmom. I’d love to be name-called, made fun of, judged, slandered, alienated, pranked, stalked, brushed aside, etc.”
I wanted children of my own, a small version of Gracie who would love books like me, and show off wit to impress me and make me belly laugh, and have a heart of selflessness that would be evidence of Christ in her life. My dream daughter would exhibit a love of working in the garage with her daddy, and run the mower for him, and tinker with electronics like he does. She would love to write, and snuggle.
And I don’t have that.
At least from my own blood.
I have two girls who came prepackaged, with their own abilities, humor, mindsets, and gifts.
I had schematics and formulas for the child I was supposed to have, but God has been changing my heart to show me what He did give me.
The booklover I wanted happens to be BOTH of my stepdaughters. They are relentless readers who escape for hours with huge books. Their memory retention blows my mind. And I’m amazed at their lack of having to study.
The wit I throw around at family gatherings happens to also be in both of my stepdaughters. The youngest is always pushing the envelope to get me to laugh (and she succeeds) and I love to return the favor. When she throws her head back and silently smiles, it makes my heart beam. And it’s even better when she emits sound! That really makes me happy!
Selflessness is coming…I can see it. 😉 Kids and these darned electronics…
Our youngest does work in the garage with her father, is mesmerized by helping him take things apart and put them together. She’s never been afraid to make sure that things work and if they don’t, she wants to know why.
The writer is our oldest. For Christmas, I got her a real leather-bound journal with fresh, paper. If she gets it wet, it’s TOAST! It even has a really cool emblem on the front, like it’s from the Hobbit or something… 😉 Since I’ve known her, she’s had notebooks, diaries, journals and paper somewhere on her person. I don’t know what she writes, or about what, but just cultivating that practice is healthy.
Snuggling…well, I’m settling for sidehugs and leg pats. Both girls have an issue with personal space, so I respect that. My nieces fill my love tank with their hugs, “I love yous” and lap-sittings. And my husband is an incredible snuggler. Even at night, when he’s dead asleep, he still reaches for me.
I am also entranced by what they are capable of. The youngest loves tennis and finished her varsity tennis career this Senior year. I’ve sat through almost every match, watching her do her best, and watching her get upset with herself when she blew it. The oldest is in school for nursing, and where she lacked motivation in her high school senior year, she now prioritizes things for her classes, meets deadlines and even changed schools to get the program done faster.
So, in a way, I do have what I’ve prayed for. Either through osmosis, or through the power of God and what He is able to do, or both, these kids have somehow embodied the essence of me, and I am content.
Could there truly be light at the end of the tunnel? Or maybe better yet, instead of looking to the end, I should enjoy the journey itself.
When I said this life is rewarding above, I meant that it is truly rewarding.
I dish out time and money like crazy, but I would have done the same with my own children. I can’t imagine missing something that is important to them, because I know it matters to them, and it matters to me. And it makes me feel extra special when they ask me to be a part of something. I easily would slip into the shadows, but they don’t make that happen.
Time has healed, and is still healing. Forgiveness is a practice that must be utilized daily. Assumptions have to go out the window. Judgment has to take a backseat. Humility is forefront. And Christ MUST BE the head. The enemy would love nothing more than to keep us hating and playing games. But I refuse. We have lives to live, and so do the kids. And honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way.