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   If you’ve ever experienced divorce in one form or another, I’m sure you’ll agree, it creates shaky ground for all involved. The debris from such a quake can leave damage or as in our case, my sisters, my mom, and I found ourselves stepping out of ground zero and into a new life. We moved forward with hope, healing, and a new stepdad.

   At the ages of fifteen, twelve, and nine–we anxious girls entered into a life-altering place when our mom remarried a Christian man. She was now all consumed with making their new marriage beautiful. Our stepdad however, leapt into the craziness of hormones, sisterly arguments, clutter, constant noise, and four females looking to him for something they never had before–stability. We didn’t know we needed it. We didn’t know our way of communicating, our habits, or our laziness were an issue until our stepdad entered our lives. Sharing our mom, left us feeling nervous, feeling distant from her, and at times we felt jealous. Their smooches alarmed us, their I love you’s gagged us, and we three learned way to much about the honeymoon period.

   Our bumpy adjustment to this new man in our home continued throughout all our teen years. We bucked his standards and rules at first without even knowing it. We spoke freely on Sundays while he distanced himself and watched car races, football, and golf on the television after church. We thought–he’s crabby but didn’t consider he was an only child growing up and felt overwhelmed. On the evenings we were all home, we laughed and bantered around the kitchen counter as he came home from work until the time we went to bed. We thought–he doesn’t like us but didn’t consider he had huge pressures at work to decompress from. We three wanted gerbils, and when we got them, he wasn’t thrilled but he didn’t say a word. We girls welcomed our new fur babies; not knowing one of our stepdad’s greatest fears in life consisted of both indoor and outdoor small furry animals. The reality of this unspoken fear came to a head in the wee hours of the morning one day. My blood-curdling screams made the man scramble out of bed and race to our bedroom–while I perched high on the bathroom counter pointing towards the bunk bed. His body shook not only from my screams but also my cry–

“There’s a mouse scratching under my bed!”

   It was now his responsibility to find the rodent. He didn’t know it would be his job when he married my mom–but it was. It was a test. The newlywed was diligent on every level. I watched him shuffle through the upstairs room searching until he found it–my loose gerbil. Oops. He never confessed his fear that morning. He never complained. He never told me to get off the countertop and help him. He never scolded me for not securing the screen on the cage. The man was a saint.

   So, as our thanks, we girls continued the bonding process with him by playing practical jokes. We spread petroleum jelly over his bathroom doorknobs; plastic wrapped his toilet for a middle of the night surprise, and wrapped his pretty little red sport car in toilet paper until it disappeared. We even slimed its door handles to complete the job. When his son and daughter visited, we girls snuck into the bedroom where the little guy slept. We tickled his nose and waited for a shaving creamed hand to splat upon his face. In hindsight, dressing our new stepbrother up like a girl and at one point provoking him to cry in anger might have been a mistake. In our eyes though, our stepdad had passed the unspoken second phase of the initiation process.

    As the oldest, I personally carved out more time for him over my last few years at home. My stepdad and I began to connect. Well, we did connect more often through my car accidents if that counts. Yes, I had more than one. In boiling frustration, he bowled a perfect 300 game because of me. (You’re still welcome Dad!) See, technically it wasn’t my fault, but I will take the credit for the perfect game. This is what happened­–I got lost while driving on my new license to my boyfriend’s house. In my defense, all the highway exit ramps looked the same to me. I drove hours north to Chicago and then once I got turned back around, I drove a few more hours south to central Illinois, giving him plenty of time to stew. So you see, he didn’t know I hadn’t intended to ruin his bowling night out with the guys. As it would seem however, by my track record up until that point, I very well could have. The poor guy was livid. I was a teary, stressed out, misunderstood, and embarrassed seventeen-year-old hiding out in her room.

   As you can see, I’m not seventeen any longer. After over thirty-seven years, my stepdad and I have had many years to bond, forgive, and grow up. He has a crown of silver hair now and has become the most patient, loving, caring, and sacrificial man I know. I am grateful to God that He knew just the dad I needed in my life, at just the right time. In honor of his seventieth birthday–I had to make a statement for the record. I love him. One of the best decisions I ever made was to adopt him as my Dad as I entered adulthood. He earned it. He proved his love. He endured all our family craziness and stayed. He’s such a gift to us. Thank you for loving my mom, my sisters, our family and I. Thank you Dad for not being what I wanted but what I desperately needed. Thank you for being consistent. Thank you for being reliable. Thank you for both saying and listening to the hard to hear things. Thank you for giving me boundaries. Thank you for calling me out on my self-centeredness. Thank you for giving me work to do. Thank you for giving me your example to follow. Thank you for your faith and allowing God to use you to tame my wild heart when no one else wanted the job. I love you bunches! Always.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 ~ Matthew 11:28-30 ~