Nine years ago, I woke up knowing that I would be sharing the rest of my life with an incredible man who loved me, not in spite of, but because of all my shortcomings – the obvious ones and the ones I may go to great lengths to hide. He sees them before I recognize them, and yet, he never uses them as a weapon. He only offers me grace, love, and compassion – every single day.

Today is more than the anniversary of our marriage. It is our Fami-versary. 3,287 days ago, The Engineer also entrusted me with the role of mom to his 5-year-old and 11-year-old sons. I literally studied for this role. It scared me more than stepping back into the arena of marriage (I’d done marriage once before and failed, so I went back and did an After Action Report to improve my odds of success!)

Never had I been given the gift of step-mothering. I was not afforded the role of being a biological or adoptive mom, so for me mothering in any capacity was an opportunity I did not take lightly. I didn’t dream of being a step-mom when I was a little girl – Disney didn’t portray that role as one to be admired. I know now that the emotional turbulence of step-mothering is much too complicated for Hollywood to encompass in a 2-hour time frame!

Being a step-mom hasn’t always felt like the gift I believe it to be. There have been plenty of days – and weeks – when it has felt like a battlefield and I am the enemy in my own home. Yet, just when it feels like I’m ready to pull out a flag of surrender, there is the familiar feeling of love and connection with one of my sons and I remember this situation is much more difficult on them than it is on me. They didn’t choose this type of family as children. They, too, have experienced the struggles – but even more so because they have two step-families to navigate!

I would not trade this journey of tears, joy, hurt, laughter, and humility for anything. The three of these Milligan men make me a better woman – they stretch me to grow in ways I never thought I could.  I am blessed to be the wife of such an amazing man. I have a bonus blessing of being a mom to two amazing young men.