The three four-letter words blended families would benefit from never using again.

Let me tell you something – biological or otherwise, if you are a good mother/father, your title will never matter or require clarification. Being a biological parent doesn’t exalt authority over another parent except in cases of the law, and even then only if acting in the best interest of the child – when the parent can’t manage it on their own. The title or biology of a parent doesn’t make someone a parent anymore than standing in a garage makes them a car.

Words matter. I’m sure some of you think they don’t but respectfully I disagree. Just the same, names matter too. When a parent first learns they are expecting, they spend countless hours researching origins, meanings behind, and deciding on the perfect name. I’m curious if you have researched the origin of the word “step” in terms of a child or parent? Sure, mostly being called a stepparent, stepfamily or stepchild is harmless in the grand scheme of identifying family having gone through divorce and remarriage. But would you call the child you gained through marriage, orphan-daughter, orphan-son or call yourself father of an orphan or mother of an orphan? I doubt that you would. Unless you are a blended family, which treats each other like orphans. And, if so, that’s a whole other blog post.

The word “step” originates from the old English word – steopcild which means orphan. Not having parents and that is not the case with stepchildren as they belong to one spouse now remarried.

The word parent means: brings forth, offspring and relates to DNA. The act of parenting means: bringing up, caring for, promoting and supporting. There is a clear difference. One can be a parent in the word’s sense and not be a parent by definition of actions. The ones requiring clarification are the parents, not the children. And, when all are acting in the best interest of the child, why some refuse to acknowledge and celebrate even that another person cares for, loves, and supports their child just blows my mind. I’ve never understood it.

At first, the word “step” never occurred to bother me, the meaning or otherwise. In fact, when I first started writing about being a “step” mom, I playfully used the term in my title, “That’s Mrs. StepMom to you!” and I loved it. Being both a biological mother and now gaining a son through my husband, the way parents treated, spoke of and disregarded stepparents disgusted me. It still does to be honest. The only time I reference being a stepparent is when someone needs clarification or when writing on this topic.

Now when I hear it, I cringe. It is like cusswords for blended families. Step, mine, and your are all words that blended families should limit or not use entirely when speaking of/to a child. It discredits, disregards and makes it known they don’t belong to you or come from you. Why would that be necessary or even a desire? It surely is not a loving or kind desire. Let’s be real here for a moment, there are some families who fondly speak of each other with “step” and this is not for them. This is solely for the ones who can’t figure their own feelings of inadequacy and insecurities out. And who furthermore places those feelings onto their children who innately want to be loyal.

Saying “your child” does more harm than good. Using terms such as “my child” and “your child” are used to separate the child, parent, fault, and involvement. Why not just tell your spouse their kid sucks and yours is better? I mean, that is what your actions are doing and saying. Because when they are pleasing and doing something we are proud of, we wouldn’t say your child is smart, or your child played great in their game – that is how you talk about someone else’s child in another home, not someone in your own family and home.

When I speak of my sons, I speak of them as my sons, both of them. I do not address one as my husband’s son, or as my husband’s ex-wife’s son, or as my stepson – just my son. Our children call us both Mom and Dad, because we are both a Mom and a Dad. Children can have multiple parents without the need to differentiate. That need for differentiating comes from hidden insecurities in other parents and people unfamiliar with how blended families work. With the utmost respect and kindness for those who don’t understand blended families, it is not our job to make them more comfortable because they either don’t understand and cannot see themselves calling someone else aside from a biological parent, Mom or Dad.

The hidden or even visible insecurities that some parents have gives them this need for the world to know that they were the parent first. Let me tell you something – biological or otherwise, if you are a good mother/father, your title will never matter or require clarification. Being a biological parent doesn’t exalt authority over another parent except in cases of the law, and even then only if acting in the best interest of the child – when the parent can’t manage it on their own. The title or biology of a parent doesn’t make someone a parent anymore than standing in a garage makes them a car. And yes, I know that some judges and lawyers put ridiculous clauses in orders such as, – the child cannot call the stepmother, Mom. I’ve read these orders and they are ridiculous and assumptions lead me to two things. First, the mom was insecure and felt entitled to her role, and second, the child will resent one of these parents at some point.

I’m curious how many parents speak to their children and ask their feelings, opinions and desires about the other parents and really listen to their hearts. If a child wants to call someone else, Mom/Dad that is something that requires attention and consideration. A child desiring inclusion in something created by division of something which directly impacted them takes guts. It comes from a personal desire for connection and being part of a family, and that is beautiful.

We will never have a role superior to one-another because of marriage or biology. Countless times people have told us that a decision or action being made by us was the “main” parents’ place in our home. And, we smile and disregard it every time for two very good reasons: first, most often this advice comes from non-blended families and respectfully the will never understand, and second, we are the main parents in our home, as one united family.

I guess for me; I choose my son as my son. I choose him on the days he acts in such as way that screams he has other parents that raised him differently. I choose him on the days it takes the act of love and patience to love him. And I choose him on the days he acts just as I have raised him both good and bad. The moment he asked to call me Mom, I made a conscious decision to treat him as a mom would, as a mom to her own children would. The same goes for my husband and the way he loves, treats, supports and raises the two children he gained through our marriage – as his own; a daughter and a son. Not as orphans or steps – one united family acting in the best interest of raising our children with love and to love whoever they choose.

Comparison

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

This year I went to a Christian women’s conference, it was the first one that I had ever attended, and to say I was excited was an understatement. As I opened the flyer to read about the speakers, I did the unthinkable; I compared myself. It was unintentional at first, I was searching for any connection – something that would validate my past. Reading the snippets of their bios beside their head-shot, I stopped dead in my tracks. All I could focus on was their qualifications. The things that qualified them to be a speaker, to stand on the stage doing exactly what I want to do and what disqualified me. And, it is ironic because I am very aware that God does NOT work through “qualifications” and that the enemy was leading me to believe the lies that I was disqualified.

Each one of these women stood up on stage and shared stories of vulnerability, stories of fear and stories of how God had shaped or changed their lives. Truly beautiful and honest accounts of transformation in some form. The trials they had suffered were difficult, terrifying and significant. As I sat there listening to them 75% of me admired and respected them and the other 25% told myself “your dream is over, sister! You can never do this. You have too many.” Too many of this, too many of that – just too many!

They had been married for 10 to 25 years. All appeared to have a godly marriage, no mention of divorce or remarriage. There was not a testimony of addiction, sexual sin, anything that would carry a sin-shock once revealed. What would my bio read? Jessica Griffiths. Married & Divorced. Re-married & Re-divorced Again. Blended Family. Sex before marriage … oh ya, I can see the empty arena now. No thanks, I am good!

What impacted me the most though was watching one woman in particular ramping herself up to share her most shameful truth. It was crushing because of the heaviness of her shame, the things that made her feel unworthy or fearful were so minor in comparison to my own past. It showed me that we are so unforgiving of ourselves for the slightest infractions. And, that even someone with her qualifications, her education, status etc. was still fearful to some degree of judgment.

Sitting there impatiently waiting for her to work up the courage to share whatever carried such humiliation and embarrassment for her, I prayed. I prayed for her past to be even the slightest of something that mirrored my own. Is that awful? It sounds terrible to me to pray for something like that – but it was for a good reason, kind of. I wanted her to say something that would pull me into her heart, something that screamed – you’re one of us and welcome here. My need for it to be significant, something that would whisper “I’m just like you” was vital to feeling human, and still worthy of being a christian.

I prayed she would share something that proved that I was not disqualified. That I could share my story with other women, encourage and motivate them, become an author and not just be a flawed woman. But when she shared her truth and testimony, it was nothing like my past, and nothing I would have ever faulted her for nor condemned. In fact to me I would not have even categorized it as a sin. I honored her vulnerability, but dishonored Gods promise to myself. I ended up leaving the conference feeling disqualified. And, my heart broke.

For the next week I wrestled over my feelings. I wrestled with the idea of truly being disqualified. Would God call me to write and share my testimonies if I were truly disqualified? And as soon as I said that out loud, I realized I’m not sharing my testimony. I’m sharing how I survived, how I am saved by Gods grace and how he loves me. But I haven’t told you my actual mistakes. I’m safely tucked behind a computer, a quote or a blog post saying, “I’m a Christian”, “God is real” and that I know that I’m forgiven but I’m not sharing why or how I know this.

Here I am dreaming of the day I am able to speak life into women who are needing validation, desiring acceptance, and deserving of forgiveness – and I am already letting them down because my testimony is incomplete. And, God called me on that, right there in my car. He said, “Show them why and how YOU are NOT a disqualified Christian. Show them what disqualified you before the grace of God. Show them what qualifies YOU and THEM in my heart and that my mercy never fails.”

It was in that moment my heart softened, that overwhelming feeling of clarity and joy overflowed and replaced any ounce of doubt I had. It was in that moment the enemy was silenced and the series – The Disqualified Christian, was created.

There are times what God speaks to us it not meant for sharing, but there are also moments when it is meant for others to know. God is very active and alive within me and I would be disobedient if I did not share this with you today.

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

 Romans 12:6 (MSG)

“Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” 

Empty me of me, and fill me with you; I got baptized.

As we were turning into the church this morning I prayed aloud in the car, “Dear God please let this be a good service” because sometimes the message just doesn’t hit us the way it’s intended, you know? I needed a good message today, because I crave the holy spirit and thrive on the word hitting me in just a way that invigorates and encourages my soul to keep fighting.

God knew what I needed, as he always does.

Today is the last Sunday of my thirties. It’s the end of a decade which I began lost, angry and hurting. In the midst of heartbreak & failures, when everything was falling apart, and everyone was walking away – I was still so richly blessed. I know that was God. This decade is also when I found myself, forgave those who hurt me, became a better person, a better mother, the wife I always wanted to be and re-dedicated my life to Jesus.

In January, God spoke to me very clearly and the holy spirit filled me with a desire for God that I can’t fully explain. At first, I thought I was losing my mind and I was in a state of immense joy and excitement. I actually contemplated that maybe I was Bi-Polar, coming from such lows at times to this new high, felt unreal! That’s how intense this was. During my morning commute to work shortly after – it hit me that what I was feeling was salvation. As I sat in my car with tears streaming, asking forgiveness for every sin I could remember one by one, he reminded me that was unnecessary. I was forgiven as a whole. In that moment I felt an actual physical and emotional shift and a release that changed my life.

When we walked into church today, the baptismal tub was by the stage. As we found our seats, I told Gracie, “if they are doing baptisms today, I’m doing it.” I’ve been wanting to be baptized for months now and signed up once only to back out. Baptism is a public declaration of a very private relationship, and the thought of standing in front of strangers felt uncomfortable and honestly I felt unworthy of their time and attention.

Today was different. Today, I knew what God was doing, I knew this was the “service and message” I needed to experience in order to thrive in this new life with God as the head of my table. Being baptized was about Jesus and I, not anyone else, although I understood that it was an open request for those who witnessed to hold me accountable in my future as a christ follower. I was choosing to dedicate myself to him and I finally wanted everyone in the room to know I was proud and confident in my decision and acceptance of his love and forgiveness.

Thanks to my cousin, BJ, Kayla and our Pastor, I got baptized today without notice, without any planning or even a change of clothes. It was perfect. A little cold, but still perfect. I can’t imagine a better way to welcome 40 and the beginning of a new decade than to be emptied of the dead weight of the old me, and filled with the holy spirit, a new heart, a new name and cleansed soul.

Gossip

We need to remember that church is a hospital, everyone there is needing healing in some manner or another. We all have wounds, scrapes and scars – those are reminders of our mistakes, our imperfections and what leads to humility and acceptance. They are pieces of our testimony which are meant to draw people in, to encourage them in having a closer relationship with God, and understanding his mercy and forgiveness.

What would you think if I told you that the majority of people who don’t go to church not only know but love God? Being unfamiliar with Jesus isn’t what is preventing a closer relationship with him; it’s us and our tongues. You’ve heard the saying ‘bite your tongue’ and I think we should be doing more of that.

The other day a feeling came over me that the reason most people don’t get connected with a church is that they fear judgment. The most obvious assumption would be God’s judgment, but it is not his judgment that is keeping people away, it is ours. For me, that was true for many years, especially living in a small town. The things I had worked on and began healing from, others were quick to rip the bandage off the wound – exposing my scrapes and scars to whoever would look.

We need to remember that church is a hospital, everyone there is needing healing in some manner or another. We all have wounds, scrapes and scars – those are reminders of our mistakes, our imperfections and what leads to humility and acceptance. They are pieces of our testimony which are meant to draw people in, to encourage them in having a closer relationship with God, and understanding his mercy and forgiveness.

This excerpt below explains gossip ingeniously and how detrimental it truly is:

“Who am I? I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cruel and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I’m nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and ruin marriages. I destroy careers and cause heartache and sleepless nights. I wreck churches and separate Christians. I spawn suspicion and generate grief, make innocent people cry on their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am gossip.”

Charles Kimball

WOW! If that is not enough to make you take a step back and think for a minute, I don’t know what is. Take Kanye for example, the moment he shared he was saved, a moment that most people are overjoyed and even encouraged to share – was ruined by hypocrisy. Many people took to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs even to say – it was a crock. He was being interviewed not for the incredible transformation, or the power in our Lord and Saviors blood but the validity of it. Now, I understand the importance of discernment and knowing when someone is a false teacher or not – but that was not the basis behind any reports, interviews, posts, etc., the basis was a disqualification. The last time I checked, we aren’t who disqualifies.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew to focus on our issues, pasts, shortcomings, faults, and sins. Once those are remedied only then should you help your brother. Help him, not condemn him, there is a big difference. It is a sleight of hand trick in a sense that deflects a flaw normally worse than the individuals flaw you’re so eager to reveal. Why do we do this?

Gossip is likened to a tasty morsel and without gods help in taming our tongues, it is near impossible to break the habit. Judgment goes hand in hand with this also because one feeds off of the other. So, how can we limit this nasty package duo? Here are five ways I think could help:

  1. Sometimes the gossip comes to you. When this happens you should be able to identify it rather quickly, change the subject or defend the person.
  2. If what you are whispering involves tragedy, a plot of evil, discouragement, disgrace or someone else’s secret – let it die and not leave your lips.
  3. Disengage. You can do this by identifying why you feel the need to share something negative. There is most likely something underlying within you that is feeding that unhealthy desire.
  4. Pretend that either the person you are speaking about or Jesus is standing beside you. If you can still share it, go right ahead.
  5. Last but not least, we were created in Gods image and with that comes his reputation. Each time we judge, criticize or condemn another person, we make our father look bad. We were taught love, mercy, and grace – that is what he uses with us, why would we treat others any differently?

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV

Divorce

Being divorced again rocked me to my core. All I wanted was a family and it caused me to hide from God, I was humiliated and shameful. It would take me some time before I realized that I didn’t need to hide what he already knew. Divorce to some is not a big deal. Being divorced again rocked me to my core. All I wanted was a family and it caused me to hide from God, I was humiliated and shameful. It would take me some time before I realized that I didn’t need to hide what he already knew. Divorce to some is not a big deal.

“So you’ve got a past, who doesn’t? What I need to know is if there is a place for me in your future?” – Andrew Hennings, Sweet Home Alabama.

That is one of my favorite quotes from the movie Sweet Home Alabama. The southern twang, the idea of first loves being our once in a lifetime love and the idea that what’s meant to be will find it’s way. That and I like to imagine that this is God talking to me as well, asking if I have a place for him in my future, regardless of my past.

Growing up all I wanted was a family, a husband, children, sitting around the table eating dinner together each night. That is it. Sure I had thought about what I would do for a living but nothing mattered more than being a wife and mother. My grandfather also told me that I should never date someone who I couldn’t see myself marrying. Which now makes sense, but then it did not. So, I set off searching for my head of the table and my perfect relationship. Blindly, it was a path set forth by generational curses that I was unaware existed. A path littered with infidelity, divorce, deceit, abuse – everything that seemingly disqualifies a woman to herself, a potential spouse and God.

Being divorced again rocked me to my core. All I wanted was a family and it caused me to hide from God, I was humiliated and ashamed. It would take me some time before I realized that I didn’t need to hide what he already knew.

Divorce to some is not a big deal, but to me it was. It meant that I had failed more than once at making a vow to God, and a vow to my husband. It meant I lied, it meant I let the three of us down and under it all – it meant I was impossible to love.

Being divorced once or twice seems more socially acceptable these days. In fact some religions require you to remarry immediately. But it is no secret that God detests divorce, in fact divorce was created by man, not God. So for me it was easy to assume that God detested me as well and I was doomed to hell.

But I was so wrong. In fact for those of us who have faltered and lost our way only to be found and repent, Jesus shed his blood to cleanse us and our sins – ALL SINS not just a couple that he sees fit.

Divorce does not label you as a person. It does not disqualify or discredit you. Maybe your spouse left you and you feel like no one could ever love you – that is not true. Maybe your spouse cheated and you asked him to stay because you wanted to work on things, and the cheating never stopped. Maybe you were unfaithful, you just grew apart, both wanted different things, couldn’t manage finances, agree on children – maybe you had different faiths. There are a variety of reasons that lead to divorce. And, they are all emotionally destructive. Even the amicable ones, can still sting.

My advice to you is just take it to God. Release it and release yourself. God cannot heal what you don’t reveal. And God is the ultimate restorer. You don’t need to carry the weight of yesterday into tomorrow.

Our experiences that did not work out as planned are not a label you wear that reads unworthy, failure or unlovable. Those moments that our plans failed are actually full of love, mercy and grace from God. That was Gods way of saying, “Okay, I let you try your way even though it was wrong and now I’m taking over because I love you enough to close this door for you.” God does not label you as anything but worthy. You say those lies to yourself and allow when others say them to you, to matter. Just like the lies I said to myself each time I failed, “I’m a failure.” “No one will love ever love me.” “I’m too damaged.” “Who wants to marry someone whose been married before?” “God must be really punishing me.” Wrong sister, Wrong!

Try to remember these four important truths when you feel like you failed or are unworthy of self love, Gods love or love from a spouse.

  1. God does not punish, he loves you entirely. All he wants is your heart. All that time I spent hiding away in shame, he knew. It is so funny when you wake up and realize GOD knows EVERYTHING – and he still pursues us. Read Jeremiah 29:11
  2. You control your self-talk. My goal for other women is being the drunk girl in the bar bathroom at 2 am – minus the drunk, and the bar. Those ladies are kind, they compliment, they care, they talk – zero comparison and zero judgment. I want women to feel loved, empowered, and valued just as they are. I need to talk to myself the same way. Try it. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  3. Trust me, there are good men who marry flawed women and vice versa. Oh this one is true. I should know. It took me 14 years of brokenness to find the one person who could hold me together – God. And, then my husband. My husband could care less about my past. He just loves me. And, that right there is proof of Gods grace.
  4. It is important to heal, to sit in your pain for a period and process it. Don’t place a bandage over something that is hemorrhaging – it won’t hold. You can’t move forward when so much crap is holding you back. You want to sort it out, to feel it, to experience the emotions and all that go with loss, heartache, and anger even. It is okay to feel disappointed.

All of this to say you are not disqualified as a woman, in this world or in God eyes for being divorced once, twice or more. In John chapter 4, there is a story of a Samaritan woman at the well. She had been married five times and was living with a man that was not her husband. Jesus sought her out. Jesus spoke to her. And, for the first time in the Gospel of John shared that he was the messiah, to a woman no less, who had been rejected, disqualified and discounted. If Jesus spoke to her, you are no different my friend.