THIRTEEN. I cannot even begin to wrap my head around it. I am still over here trying to wrap my head around the fact that you are as tall as me!
You know, this past summer, your dad and I sat in a parking lot and counted down the summers we have left with you and cried like babies. FIVE. Five summers.
How can this be? The other day I actually found myself googling ‘How to slow down time.’ Yep, I sure did.
Sometimes I think back to those early years. Oh, how many days I wasted longing for you to grow up so I could escape the heartaches of stepmotherhood. How could I have known that by the time it actually happened, the pain would be but a distant memory? How could I have known that those long, hard days of early stepmotherhood were what I needed to grow me up, too?
I can vividly remember thinking I would never miss those days, and now I would give anything to go back, even just for a day. Even for just one bedtime story. Even for just one ‘Wachel.’
I am so sad you are growing up.
There are so many regrets. So many things I wish I could do and say differently. Many days, I was so blinded by my own pain I couldn’t even recognize yours.
I wish I could have understood then what I understand now, so I could have been the consistent safe place you so desperately needed. Please forgive me, daughter.
I decided a long time ago I would spend the rest of my life making it up to you by being your beacon of light and truth amidst the stormy sea of life that you are constantly being tossed around in. Thank you for trusting me with your heart, despite all of the careless and ignorant ways I have unknowingly handled it in the past.
I wish I had taken more pictures. Back then, I trusted that someone else was capturing all of your special moments, so I didn’t feel the need to. Now I wish I had more of them to scroll back through and reminisce on. I want to replay every moment, the special ones and the regular ones.
I don’t know if I have ever told you this, but I still have the voicemail you left me from your dad’s phone when you were three. You had not met me yet, and this was your dad’s first attempt at introducing us. God bless him, it took every ounce of courage he had to make that phone call and then I missed it!
When I listened to the voicemail, I could so clearly hear the insecurity in his voice as he passed the phone to a bubbly, blue-eyed little girl who squeaked out the words, ‘Hey Miss Wachel.’ Okay, maybe I still listen to it and cry sometimes.
Gosh I miss the days when your mind still believed you were free to love anyone you wanted to, as much as you wanted to. I miss your tiny little voice, and your tiny little arms around my neck.
I miss you smacking me on the cheek with those pouty little lips and telling me how much you love me, without a single thought of what anyone else might think about it. I miss how unguarded your innocent little heart and mind were, before you were old enough to understand that you were already carrying the weight of the world on your tiny little shoulders.
And that’s why… I am so glad you are growing up.
For so many years, I have reminded you that while your situation now is unbelievably difficult and unfair, one day you will get to have a happy, healthy family of your very own – the family you have always wanted. With every day that passes, you are one step closer.
I know it probably gets annoying, but I will never stop reminding you God can and will redeem every single thing you have been through, and that He will do what He has promised, and that is to use every single hard thing for YOUR GOOD and HIS GLORY. None if it will be wasted, beloved. I know it’s hard to fathom right now, but please trust your stepmom on this. I know His heart, and I am certain of His faithfulness.
I am so proud of the young woman you have become. I love how you already think about the kind of mother you want to be. I love that you already understand that you want to be for your kids what you needed when you were little. I love that you already can’t wait to nurse your baby for the first time, and my gosh, I can’t wait to see the huge grin on your face and listen to you tell me all about it.
I love how you pull out your Bible and prayer journal and pour your heart out to Jesus on paper, just like you have watched me do for ten years now. To know that you want to follow in even just a few of my footsteps is all I could ever ask for as your stepmom.
You know, people like to point out that kids don’t ask for a stepparent, but they were wrong. Some do. I will never forget the day you and I were coloring on the floor together, and you suddenly hopped up and grabbed your dad’s hand and took him in your room to tell him a ‘secret.’ Later that night, he told me you asked him if he would please marry me.
I know you were young and naïve, and like me, had no idea what you were getting yourself into, but I also believe that like me, you still wouldn’t take it back.
I know having a stepmom has made your life harder in so many ways, but I pray that when you are older, you will look back and see it as one of your greatest blessings. God places the lonely in families, and I am so honored He used me to give you the big, loving extended family most people only see in movies.
I am so honored He chose me to give you the only two siblings you will ever have. I am so grateful that your dad and I have been able to give you the closest thing you will ever have to a ‘normal’ family. Most of all, I am overjoyed that we have gotten to show you what a happy, healthy marriage looks like, and I am even more ecstatic that you believe it is possible and actually get excited about having one of your own someday.
You know, when you were little, I used to peek my head in your bedroom door while everyone was sleeping, and I would just stand there and cry.
I would cry over the guilt I felt for all of the negative thoughts and feelings I battled as your stepmom. I would cry over the innocence I saw on your sweet little face and the relief I felt when the love that I knew I had for you deep down would swell up in my heart and come to the surface once again.
For many years, those nights are what revived my burned-out stepmom soul. For many years, that was the only time the chaos of our blended family life would quiet down long enough for me to hear the voice of truth. These days, the truth is always right there in my heart, my mind, and my soul, ready to tackle anything that comes our way. And that truth is this – being your stepmom may not always be easy, but it is absolutely worth it.
As you step into womanhood, I want you to know…
True beauty cannot be attained by makeup, good hair, or stylish clothes. It is a glow that radiates from within- from a heart of kindness, humility, and compassion.
Your achievements have nothing to do with your worth. The only achievements that will ever really matter or last is the one Jesus accomplished on the cross 2,000 years ago and there’s nothing you could ever do good enough to be deserving of that.
The only person’s feelings you are responsible for are your own, and no one is more deserving of your love and care than you are. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is let people face the consequences for their choices.
You need to know…
I see you for who you are, not for who you think you’re supposed to be.
I love you for who you are, not for your accomplishments.
I believe in you, because I believe God has a purpose for your life that is so much bigger and more beautiful than anything your mind could ever imagine. And I believe that if you could catch even just one glimpse of His plan, then you would understand why it all had to happen this way. I have been claiming this over your life for ten years now, and I will not stop until I see it fulfilled.
There is literally nothing you could think, feel, say, or do that would make me stop loving you. Even if you stopped loving me.
I think we both know there is so much more I could say… so much more I want to say…
But I will stop here, because we both know that for some, this will already be ‘too much.’
This is the burden we must carry as stepmother and stepdaughter.
So, Happy 13th birthday to the girl who loves me even when I am unlovable, the girl who always makes me feel understood, even when she is misunderstood, the girl who has taught me what unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace really mean.
Your best days are ahead girlfriend, and I CANNOT WAIT to watch it all unfold!!!!
Love Always and Forever,
This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Dunne, The Spiritual Stepmom. You can follow her on Instagram and her website. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.
Read more from Rachel:
‘My stepdaughter exploded a ketchup packet all over herself, me, my antique rug, and a dining room chair. If my five-year-old had done this, I would have FLIPPED.’: Woman shares realization about step-motherhood
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