“This is my story.
Or at least the first three years of it.
I’m sharing the post I made on social media for our third anniversary. This post is special to me because it was the very first time I got the guts to share the intimate details of my life as a new wife, mother, and stepmom in a blended family. It is even more special to me because of all of the people who reached out to tell me how much my post meant to them and how much it encouraged them.
People I didn’t even know! For months! It was also the first time I realized just how big of a need there is for transparency and authenticity as not just a stepmom, but as a human being in a world obsessed with looking perfect. This post inspired me to start my blog and I am so grateful God gave me the push to share my struggles and my victories!
‘Three years ago today, I became a wife. On my wedding day, I also became a full-time, 7 days-a-week stepmother. Almost three weeks later, not thinking it scientifically possible, I got a faint positive on a pregnancy test. I laughed out loud when I saw it. Literally. I laughed until I cried with God, telling Him, ‘I know this was You! I mean, seriously. I did NOT see this coming!’ I also couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Why now?’
For the first eight months of our marriage, my new family would be involved in an emotionally draining, high-conflict legal dispute that would eventually come to an end that next summer. Just weeks before the birth of our son, I got to be alone with my new husband for the first time in nine months. I admit I spent more than a few nights during that time, crying out in emotional torment to God from the shower floor, asking Him, ‘WHY? Why did you let me marry this man and get into this huge mess?’ I begged Him to turn back time and give me a chance to redo my decision. I thought about divorce. We talked about divorce.
I didn’t see any other way out of the chaos and dysfunction that was consuming our newlywed life; a far cry from the ‘honeymoon stage.’ I watched all of my friends get in their ‘normal’ marriages. I was in way over my head and drowning more and more every day and the new hormones didn’t help. Over time, disappointment and disillusionment gave way to resentment and bitterness, and they slowly crept their way into the hidden, dark corners of my heart where they began to fester and bubble up inside of me like a volcano gearing up for a devastating explosion.
My new marriage and family felt like a total sham and I was completely miserable. (If at this point, you start having the thought, ‘Well you knew what you were getting into when you said yes,’ just stop. Stop right there. Put your phone down and lift your hand up. Now take that hand and slap yourself with it. On behalf of stepmothers all over the world.)
In those intense moments of pain, I was desperate for God in a way I had not yet experienced and the Lover of my soul gave me just enough strength each day to keep fighting for my marriage, even when I knew no one, including my husband, would blame me if I ran for the hills. Along the way, our sweet Father gave us glimpses of glory to encourage us, some big and some small – all glorious. The day Seth and I found out we were having a boy was one of the most special God-moments we have ever shared.
When I say God was in the ultrasound room, I mean His presence was so heavy it was undeniable. I will never forget the look on Seth’s face when she said, ‘Looks like a little boy!’ Only God knew just how deeply we both desired a son and it was the most incredible reward from Him during such a trying season.
Tears of joy and gratitude flowed! Right before Eli was born, God also gifted Seth and I with an entire month to be alone as (not so) newlyweds and it really did feel like a honeymoon! It was such a special time for us and we were able to rest and reconnect and just act like giddy lovebirds with no outside distractions. It still makes me smile so big to think about that July.
On August 14, 2015, God blessed us with our beautiful son, right on time! My water broke just minutes after midnight on his due date. Three hours earlier, Seth had prayed over my belly, (politely) telling God we were ready to meet our son and asking Him to please let my labor begin soon. Seth was at my side the entire time, rubbing my back through contractions, feeding me snacks and water, and keeping a cool rag on my forehead.
He was my rock and it was a bonding moment that will always, in my mind, transcend time. Watching my husband hold his firstborn son was definitely one of the proudest moments in my life so far. Although my labor and delivery experience was dang near perfect, by this point, I had been in flight or fight mode for nearly a straight year and my mind and body were completely drained.
Once my hormones crashed, I just couldn’t cope. I had nothing left. And so I began my battle with Postpartum Anxiety. I lost all hope and felt no joy. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I trembled in fear every single second of the day for five weeks. I couldn’t even enjoy the precious, tiny angel in my arms.
After about five weeks of this, I knew I was starting to worry the people around me and I felt immense guilt for not being a more capable mother and wife. I was so disappointed in myself. I was at the end of my rope. I had exhausted all of my resources. I tried everything to come out of it. Books, therapy, devotionals, medicine, you name it. One night my angel of a mother came over to check on me and told me to go get in the bathtub, so I grabbed my Bible and tried to relax in the hot water.
I opened to Psalm 116 and began to read out loud. I will never forget when I came to the words, ‘LORD, save me!’ I remember sobbing those words in desperation, and as I continued to read, I experienced the comfort and presence of God in the most supernatural, yet tangible way. I got out and told my mom before she left something had just shifted. The next morning, I didn’t wake up gasping for air for the first time in 5 weeks and felt a very small, but encouraging flicker of hope inside of me. Every day, the light got a little brighter and the darkness began to fade as I sat at the foot of the throne, literally on my knees many days, clinging to His Word and depending on Him to get me through the next day.
I vividly remember a particularly rough night and how I sat so broken at Seth’s feet with my head in his lap as he held Eli in the rocking chair, begging him to please pray for me right then and there. I will never forget the words he said and the powerful way God used him to strengthen me. I will cherish that moment for the rest of my life. You know, there’s something about being in the valley that brings so much perspective and clarity. When you are stripped of every single ounce of pride, God’s truth slowly starts to unveil itself and He gives you wisdom in those moments you could have never even comprehended walking in your own strength.
God humbled me in so many ways during that season and developed in me a sincere compassion for those whose emotional health and mothering skills I had judged harshly. It also produced in me an overwhelming joy and patience for every single moment with my child that far exceeded anything I had experienced before. Gratitude poured out of my soul even on the sick days and sleepless nights.
Now, I would love to tell you year two wasn’t as dramatic as the first, but I would be lying to you. It kind of felt like a bad dream where I am standing in a dark room, then someone suddenly rips the curtains open and shoves me on a brightly lit stage and I realize I am on the Jerry Springer Show. Hair and fingernails are flying everywhere and I am just standing there frozen, wide-eyed, waiting for someone to explain why I am here because I did not sign up for this.
No, the fiery darts never stopped coming from every angle, but we slowly learned how to hold our shields more effectively as we became a united front. God showed us the battle wasn’t between us; the war was raging outside of our home and we needed to build walls around us to protect it, and so we did. And for the first time ever, our marriage started to feel safe. So did our hearts.
Year three has been a BIG year. We had to make some really hard decisions. Decisions that not only felt counterintuitive, but just plain wrong. Decisions that made us feel like everything we had sacrificed for our family was for nothing. But we trusted God and it didn’t take long for us to realize even though the changes were hard, they were ultimately the best for everyone and brought a new sense of peace into our home. Over the course of a year, we have built a house, sold a business, started a new business, lost a family member, dealt with heart issues, cracked ribs, sprained ankles, back-to-back pregnancy losses, and more legal disputes.
Today, we celebrate death. Yes, death. The death of our old marriage. Death to expectations. Death to what ‘I deserve.’ Death to what we thought our life would look like. Death to pride. Death to SELF. You see, real love always costs us something. The last three years has been a terribly slow and painful death and we are still dying daily. But there can’t be a resurrection without death. Finally, the pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together and I can see so clearly how God has taken our marriage from the ashes and begun to paint the most beautiful, intricate portrait of grace and redemption.
Looking back, I see how God used every single thing that was meant to hurt us for our good. It’s cliché but true – what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. It turns out the breaking of our marriage was the making of our marriage as God took the scattered pieces and recreated it into something unbreakable. It’s in the trenches we find ourselves truly desperate for God and it’s in those dark moments He reveals Himself to us. And it’s through this revelation of who He is we find ourselves so overwhelmed by His majesty and love it moves our hearts. He gives us the desire and strength to pour into others the grace and forgiveness He has so freely poured into us.
While we were still His enemy, He died for us. He pursued us even when we didn’t want to be pursued. He forgave when we didn’t ask for it or even care. We brought nothing to the table. He brought everything. We deserved death. He gave life. This is why I can love my enemies. This is why I can forgive over and over again. This is why I can stop judging others. This is why I can love my spouse even when I don’t like him. This is why I can stay married when it would be a lot easier to leave.
There have been many times I have asked God, ‘Why did You let all of it happen?’ But this last year He has taught me WHY really doesn’t matter at all. I just need to trust the WHO and know nothing He allows is meaningless and there is no situation He can’t use for his glory and for my good, even if I don’t understand it. I realize now it is only through my pain and suffering I have found true purpose in this life. This marriage has brought me to my knees over and over again. It has exposed every insecurity and fear inside of my rotten heart.
Never in my life have I been made more painfully aware of my own brokenness and desperate need for a Savior. And not just for the eternal destination of my soul; I need a Savior who can save me every single moment, every single day, from MYSELF and the sin and destruction I inherently bring into every relationship and situation in my human life. And I could not be more grateful for this brokenness. He has met me in every single dark moment, revealing Himself in ways so real I could practically feel His breath on my face.
I know Him more. I trust Him more. I wouldn’t take back any of it because it brought me more of Him. This is why I can let the resentment and bitterness go. This is why I can be thankful for the good AND the bad. This is why I can say it’s all been worth it.
NOW I understand my marriage was never about me or my happiness. My marriage was always about Him and He is using it to draw us closer to Him and to make us more like Him every day. I’m so glad we didn’t throw in the towel. I’m so glad we trusted God with our marriage and pushed through the worst of times and made it to the other side.
Can I just brag on God and say I have never ever felt more grateful in my entire life?! Every breath I take, every morning I wake up to my son’s sweet face, every night I get to lay in the arms of my amazing husband, I feel overwhelmed with peace and joy and excitement for the future.
Thank you Father. YOU are the only reason we are celebrating three years today. Thank you. It’s who YOU are and your spirit inside of us that enables us to have a true loving marriage. Thank you for a husband who is truly submitted to you and Your will. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for this beautiful gift of marriage. Jesus, our hearts wait with excited anticipation for the day we get to meet our true Bridegroom.
Picture caption: Earlier this year I was in the shower complaining to God about not having a normal family and all the drama. I got out of the shower and stood at my dresser and happened to glance across the room and noticed the cross Seth had just hung on the wall next to our bedroom door with a hanging mirror. In the reflection was this picture from our wedding day that was hanging on the other side of the hall.
Immediately, I felt God say to my heart, ‘Don’t you see? This marriage is a reflection of the cross and what I did for you. I loved you so much there was nothing I wouldn’t give up for you, even my own life. LOVE IS SACRIFICE.’ In that moment I knew, I am right where He wants me to be.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rachel Dunne, the Spiritual Stepmom. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more from Rachel here:
‘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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