by Jenelle Garden
Almost every little girl loves a fairytale, and the story of my youth has all the conventional characters you’d expect to find in one. There’s a Hero, a few villains, and, eventually, a handsome prince. There’s also a stepmother, but she may be the least “conventional” character, because, truly, there’s not a wicked bone in her body.
I met my step mom, Lisa, when I was three years old, shortly after my parents separated. My Dad introduced Lisa to me as his “friend,” and right away, I was determined to make her mine too. I promptly took Lisa by the hand and walked her to my bedroom to show her my most prized possession, a Fischer Price record player. Lisa acted like my toy was the most marvelous thing she’d ever seen, and since she gave it its due praise, I decided that I liked her immediately. Fortunately, she liked me too.
My dad and Lisa eventually got married and had two children of their own. Looking back, I can still remember their wedding day. Lisa looked like a Barbie doll in her wedding gown and my dad looked happier than ever. Best of all, I got to be the flower girl. As I was approaching the altar, I’m sure I was thinking more about my pretty pink dress than Jesus, but looking back, it’s my first memory of being in a church and I know I was in the presence of God, because I felt so much love.
I hadn’t seen that kind of love before between my own parents. Though I’m sure there were happy times in their relationship, all of my early memories of their marriage were of the strife that existed in it. But neither of them are the villains in my story. They both did their best, loved me tremendously, and had every intention of making their marriage work when it started. Still, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians (1Cor 7:28), “Those who get married will have troubles,” and having not yet given their lives and their relationship over to Christ, they weren’t ready to face those troubles alone or as a couple.
The two weekends a month that I got to spend with my dad went from “party of two,” to “party of three.” The pastures seemed greener when I got to leave the monotony of everyday life at my mom’s house, and spend two days in paradise with my dad and step mom. I often cried when my Dad and Lisa brought me home to my mom after our weekend visits. I begged my mom to let me go and live with them, and I know it must have broken her heart. Finally, at the age of 9, my mom succumbed to the pressure and I was in the care of Lisa and my dad for a year. I thought all of my dreams had come true! I was catapulted into the greener pastures of my dad and Lisa’s life, but, I quickly realized that even greener pastures have rules, chores, bedtimes, and homework. The pastures were also missing something I’d never had the chance to miss before; my mom.
I remember standing in the shower, just sobbing and asking God, “Why?” I felt so angry. I was angry at myself for missing the mom I had tried for so long to escape from. Lisa heard me crying and stepped into the shower with me, fully clothed and held me tightly, as I wailed, “I want my mom!”
I didn’t say it to hurt her and I knew she was doing her best to fill my “empty spaces”. But she knew she couldn’t ever take my mom’s place and she didn’t seek to. As our relationship matured, I learned that Lisa’s only motive was to be a loving example to me and a friend when I needed one most. As a woman of God, she understood the principle of love being patient, kind, enduring, and hopeful. She was a true example of loving people like Jesus did, because like Him, she loved me when she didn’t have to.
Today, I am pleased to say that Lisa and I remain very close. My mother and her have a friendly, mutually respectful relationship. They’ve both been amazing examples to me, as I strive to emulate their best qualities in my relationship with my own daughters.
If you find yourself in the position of loving an imperfect young girl (or even a boy) who isn’t your own biological child, I encourage you to follow my step mom Lisa’s example. Love them like Jesus did, without judgment, condemnation, or conditions. Bring your blessings, experiences, and gifts to the body that is your blended family. For as Jesus tells us, we are one body with many parts, functions, and gifts (1 Cor 12:12). I pray that we all might be such examples of God’s love to others in need.
Are you a step mother or a woman who has a step mother? If so, how have you worked through the trials that you may have experienced? Share your comments below!
Jenelle Garden is a first grade teacher, mother of 2 beautiful girls and married to her high school sweetheart. Jenelle recently joined the Beautiful Ministry as a small group leader and enjoys sharing her love for Jesus with other women and feels most blessed as she draws closer to God through fellowship.