Growing up I never anticipated becoming a stepmom. The wretched, ugly stepmother depicted in most films, including cartoons, did not exactly win me over and cause my little heart to dream of the day when I too could make some innocent creature’s life miserable. While this may be the image that the world puts forth as a stepmom, this is not God’s picture. You see, while I may not have expected to become a stepmom, God did expect it and in fact planned it.
When I was in high school I was at a camp service where the speaker told us to ask the Lord for a name for our future children. He said that names have profound meaning and can indicate God’s purposes for our kids. As he gave us time to pray I had a strong feeling that I would one day have a daughter who was not my own, but I would love her as if she were. In the weeks following this moment my heart raced with thoughts. Would I adopt a daughter from another country? Would I not be able to have children, and was this God’s way of preparing me? Isn’t it funny how the enemy sneaks in and tries to put fear and lies into the promises of God? Years went by, and I occasionally thought about this promise and wondered what would come of it. It wasn’t until I was dating Andrew and we were talking about getting married that this promise leapt to the forefront of my mind, and the Lord whispered to my heart reminding me of what He had told me so many years before.
Little did I know that this promise would be in the form of a stepdaughter named Madeline. Looking back I have learned that God had an assignment for me to love his daughter Maddie through an incredible loss in her life. He is the God who redeems the broken and mends them through his love and grace, and He had chosen me to play a part in that mending.
Whether or not God spoke to you about having children or a stepchild is not the point. God in his infinite wisdom knew the children that He would assign for you to steward. Whether they are your children or stepchildren, they have been entrusted into your care. It is from this stance that we are to parent our kids. It is from this stance that we find grace for the moments that are incredibly difficult to navigate. We must constantly pursue the Lord’s heart for our children and ask the Lord how He would have us handle each moment we have with them.
Being a stepmom to this sweet child has been amazing and yet one of the most challenging experiences of my whole life. She brings a lot of joy into our family. I love seeing her and Lincoln play together; there is no one who can capture my son’s attention like she can. Yet within all these blessings there are also many difficulties with having a blended family. I wouldn’t say that Maddie is difficult. I would say that helping her navigate one of the most fragile places of her heart without taking it personally is one of my greatest challenges. As a stepmom you sit in the hot seat. I was not a part of the decision that brought about her parents’ separation, but a lot of the frustrations of that separation get aimed at me simply because I am not her mom. When Andrew and I were engaged someone gave me a book called The Smart Stepmom. This was one of the best gifts someone could have given me. It helped me peek into a world that would soon be mine. The author talked about perspective and that as a stepmom I would have to learn how to remove myself from taking personally emotions and attitudes rooted in frustrations about her parents’ divorce. Do I do this perfectly? Absolutely not! I take things personally all the time, but this gives me the boundaries that are necessary to collect myself and move forward with love and purpose. I can require respect and at the same time know when to let go and defer to Andrew.
Now does this mean that all friction between Maddie and myself is not my problem but hers? This could not be farther from the truth. Many times friction comes because of my lack of patience or my bad attitude. Let’s face it, ladies: as moms we are not perfect. But what I have learned is that my attitude sets the tone of the home. What I mean by this is that if Mom is happy, the rest of the household generally follows suit, and if she is not, watch the storm begin to brew. As a stepmom to Maddie, I am the hinge point that either makes room for her within our home or creates division and causes her to feel out of place. As mothers we must daily submit our emotions, thoughts and attitudes to the lordship of Jesus Christ. It is only from this place that we can love selflessly and create an environment for our little ones to flourish. Being a stepmom can be difficult, but I know that the Lord is using this seat to refine me to look more like Him.
I pray that you find strength in knowing that God has assigned you the children in your home for a purpose. You are meant to help them find victory and wholeness in Christ. Whether they are your biological children or stepchildren it is our assignment to lead them to Him as the author of their salvation. God has a story of redemption written out for your family as well. Grab onto it and believe that the Lord can redeem all things no matter how tangled they may seem. Set your eyes on Jesus and allow Him access to your heart. And as He does a redeeming work in you He will work through you in the lives of your children. If you are a mom/stepmom who feels discouraged or hopeless, set your eyes on Him, the Author of Hope. He has a great plan of redemption to play out in your life. If you are a stepmom, I would like to propose that you begin to see yourself as a tool in the hand of the Lord to bring healing and wholeness to the heart of your stepchild. Let us as the church begin to redefine what the world says should be and declare the promises of God to redeem these sweet children in our lives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After graduating from Life Pacific College with her BA in Biblical Studies and Early Childhood Education, Nicole Henneforth came on staff at The Fathers House as the Children’s Pastor. Nicole and her husband Andrew are currently assisting pastors and have been serving the church for the past six years. Andrew and Nicole have been married for four years and have three children, Madeline, age 8, Lincoln, age 3, and Isla, who is 8 months old.