FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

135: Growing Up Blended: Kim Walker Smith’s Story

with Kim Walker-Smith | April 8, 2024
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Singer/songwriter Kim Walker-Smith grew up in a blended family with multiple stepparents, instability, abuse, and isolation. She shares her story with Ron Deal in this podcast episode, beginning with her mom’s first divorce when she was a young child. It didn’t take long for her mom to marry again, divorce, and marry again.

Eventually, her mom married a stable, loving man who wanted to be a father to Smith when she was a young teenager. Hungry for his love but scared it wasn’t real, Smith rejected him over and over again. But this stepdad kept coming back, faithful and steadfast in every way and, eventually, a stabilizing force for Smith.

Although Smith experienced hardship and adversity as a child, as an adult, she came to know a loving, redeeming God, who she now sings about all over the world, testifying of His love.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ron Deal

    Ron L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series of books including the bestselling Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart (with Dr. Gary Chapman), The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family, and Preparing to Blend. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist, popular conference speaker, and host of the FamilyLife Blended podcast. He and his wife, Nan, have three sons and live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at

Singer/songwriter Kim Walker-Smith grew up in a blended family with multiple stepparents, instability, abuse, and isolation. She shares childhood stories with Ron Deal, lessons she’s learned, and how, as an adult, she came to know a loving, redeeming God.

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135: Growing Up Blended: Kim Walker Smith’s Story

With Kim Walker-Smith
April 08, 2024
| Download Transcript PDF

Kim: From a very young age, I kind of took it upon myself that I needed to take care of my mom. At one point, my third stepfather, who was really stable, a really incredible man who kind of changed everything for us, but maybe two or three years into their marriage, my mom had to sit me down and say to me, "Kim, it is not your job to take care of me. You don't need to do that anymore. George is here and George will take care of me."

She did need to say that. It was good she said that. But at this point, my world kind of spiraled out of control a little bit more. I got very angry and very hurt because it suddenly felt like what I had taken on as my identity was just gone. And that left me going, "Who am I? Am I even in this family? Am I even part of this family?" That was actually a really tough time for me.

Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm so glad you could be with me today. I have long said that stepfamily living done right is redemptive in the lives of both children and adults. We've also said that stepfamily living done poorly just adds more pain and heartache to those who have already tasted some of that. This episode of FamilyLife Blended may give us a little sample of both of those realities. More on that in just a minute.

But before we jump in, I've got to remind you, Blended and Blessed is this month. Our worldwide annual livestream for blended family couples is happening Saturday, April 27, 2024. We're going to be live in Dallas-Fort Worth.

And by the way, if you live in that area, come see us. We'd love to have you be part of the live audience, but of course, it's live streaming around the world. You can watch sitting in your home. You can just be sitting on the couch enjoying the day or your church can host this for couples in your community.

You've heard us talk about it. Now it's time to register; jump in. We really want you to be with us. We'll be in McKinney, Texas. Again, Saturday, April 27, 2024; don't miss it. You can go to to learn more, or just look in the show notes for a link.

Okay, many people listening grew up with stepfamily relationships. Some people are tuning in because they're kind of dealing with the life they're living now, and others are processing the life that they had when they were a child. Either way, I think there's value for both in today's conversation.

This episode of FamilyLife Blended is another installment in Growing Up Blended, in which we talk to both of those audiences. People who grew up in a blended family; if that's you, we want to help you maybe make sense of some of the things that you lived in your life, put words on it, maybe help you see it from another person's point of view.

And if you're living in a stepfamily right now, or perhaps you love and care for somebody who is in a blended family, we want to help you make sense of what's going on with the kids—their inner world, their experience of life—whether they're a biological child in the home, or stepfamily child, part time, full time, whatever their journey has been to this season of their life. We just want to help you get some perspective on that, help you step into their shoes for a few minutes and see life through their eyes, so you can understand them a little better and hopefully understand your role as a parent or stepparent or grandparent or family member so you can understand that role a little better.

Now, if you followed this podcast for a while, you know that we revisit this theme, Growing Up Blended, from time to time. We have different persons, different topics, different narratives because hey, kids live different lives. But if this is your first Growing Up Blended conversation, please know that there's many, many more. You can just scroll back through our episodes, and you'll find a lot to learn from those who have been there, done that.

Kim Walker-Smith is my guest today. She's an American singer, songwriter, worship leader, and recording artist. She's best known as the worship leader for the group Jesus Culture. Kim, thank you so much for being with me today.

Kim: Yes, thanks for having me.

Ron: I appreciate it so very much. Hey, I've got to ask you a quick question before we kind of jump into your family story. As someone who has been in ministry for nearly 37 years, I know that nothing insulates us from the world. Just because we're on stage doesn't mean that we don't live real life, that we don't have real problems or difficulties or suffering. But sometimes people who are not on the stage sort of assume that we're immune to some of that. Have you found that to be true?

Kim: [Laughter] Yes, definitely. But you know, I figured out a long time ago, if I can just be vulnerable and if I can be just myself and be—like, I would love for it to be said of me, "Oh, she's the same person on and off the stage," and so I actually really fight to keep that at the forefront of my thoughts and how I'm coming across to people in hopes and efforts that I will be perceived as just another person making my way through life, like everybody else.

Ron: Yes, and because that's the truth; that is true about all of us. Thank you for that. I appreciate that. There's a humility in that and I really value that. I think, unfortunately, a lot of people who are on the stage, if you will, this day and age within the Christian community are there because they want to be a celebrity, not because they want to humbly walk with God. And here you are as a worship leader, trying to emulate the humility that we sing about, that we're called to so thank you for that. Thank you for being with us today and just sharing real life.

Kim: Yes.

Ron: I don't know a lot about your story. I think you were pretty young when your parents divorced.

Kim: Yes; I was four years old when my parents divorced. My mom, she got married at 18, really young. She turned 19 the next month and had me a few months after that. She turned 19 in March and had me in December.

My dad had been in a really tragic motorcycle wreck. He lived through that, but he was never really the same person after that. He was recovering from very, very serious head trauma. Back in that time it wasn't required in Oregon where I grew up to wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle. He wasn't wearing a helmet and sustained a really bad brain injury.

I think just in her being very young, it was just more than what she could cope with. I don't think she felt safe with him. I think it was just more than she could handle and so they ended up divorcing. I was four. I had a sister, and she was two at the time.

Ron: Did you have other siblings eventually?

Kim: Yes. I had a total of three stepfathers after that. My second stepfather, my mom and him had a little boy, my little brother. Eventually later, my third stepfather adopted him. He was really young, and he actually grew up so different from me and my sister with a mom and a dad who are married, who love each other, who have this really beautiful marriage, and that was just kind of all he knew. There's a nine-year age gap between us, so he had kind of a different upbringing than us, which I was actually really thankful for, really.

Ron: Wow. Okay, so I got to tell you, my head's going in a lot of different directions. There's so much I want to ask you about so I'm going to try to get to little pieces of it. I want to go back to your dad. You were four. He had an accident. It changed him. That changed your home. It changed the stability in the home. I know you were really young. Do you remember any of that? And really, what I'm particularly wondering about is how did that tragedy, if I could use that word, how did that impact you? How did you try to make sense of what was going on?

Kim: Yes. You know, actually, I know this might be kind of hard for a lot of people to grapple with, but my earliest memory that I have is actually at two years old, going in to see him in the hospital when he was in a coma. I know that it seems wild to think that you could remember as early as two years old, but I think because it was a little bit traumatic because at two, I didn't understand what was going on. My dad is in this hospital room. He's lying in a hospital bed. I'm talking to him and I'm trying to get him to talk to me and he's not responding. He's not opening his eyes. He's just laying there.

I couldn't make sense of that, and then when he did come home, and he was not the same person, that's when the instability was there. I think that there's something—now I couldn't have verbalized this obviously at the time, but looking back, I think that there was just something in my personality of, "I'm going to figure this out."

And I kind of think that in that time, the instability in the home, what my mom was dealing with, watching what she was kind of coping with—I do have memories of seeing my mom cry. I don't feel like my mom necessarily tried to hide her emotions from us of what she was feeling and dealing with, but again, being so young and not being able to understand exactly what was going on, I think this is where it kind of started inside of me, "I want to help fix this," or "I want to do something to make this better."

From a very young age, I kind of took it upon myself that I needed to take care of my mom. It didn't feel actually upsetting to me. I actually, I wanted to do that. I think in just my love for her, I wanted to take care of her and so I think that actually started all the way back then in me trying to make sense of what I was seeing and just going, "I should help. I should do something," like, "I know things aren't quite right. I know things are hard and I should do something to help this."

Ron: You know, that is such a common experience for kids, actually. I would want our listener to recognize that; that kids will fill the gaps. They look around and they care for mom, dad; they care about younger sister and whatever is going on and they want to try to make it better. And in part, that's about them. In part, it's about their well-being and them being seen and recognized and affirmed. But in part, it's about them just being sacrificial with who they are. Did that sort of become just something in you?—that "Hey, if there's a problem, I can help."

Kim: Yes, I would say that only grew into me kind of assuming this identity of: "This is my job, to take care of my mom." And, you know, as an adult, as a mother myself, I look back and I know that that's not healthy. I know that that's not the job of the child to take care of their parent. And my mom never put that on me. I just assumed that role in my wanting to help and wanting to take care of the situation.

And I do think that there was an element of, you know, when she, the two men that she married after who were really abusive stepfathers, that role just became even more solidified in me of, "I want to take care of, I want to protect" because I was looking at the situation feeling very out of control. I developed a pretty high need for control and so I thought, "Well, if I can take care of my mom, if I can take care of my sister, if I can protect, if I can," again, "do something to make this better," that also was kind of helping me feel a little sense of control in my very out of control situation.

Ron: Absolutely. Again, wow, this is just so helpful. I just want everybody to recognize that's a natural course for a kid, especially that you were the oldest. You know, there's a strong tendency there to fill those gaps. "Mom's not doing well. I can step up. Oh, now there's things happening that are scary," but you just wanted to try to add some measure of control to an out-of-control situation. I'm wondering if, how your mother received that from you.

Kim: I can't really speak for her, but I will say that I did feel that she did depend on me a lot, but in a way of like, she knew she could depend on me. Whether it's like, you know, "Can you take care of your sister at your dad's house when you're there on the weekends?" And "Can you look after her after school?" or, you know, like she knew that she could depend on me.

And I think that we were also a source of love and strength for her in what we were going through. The abuse was not just—my sister and I were not just suffering that abuse. She was going through that abuse as well. I think that it wasn't that she put that role on me of, "I need you to take care of me," but I think that in her out of control environment her children were the stable thing for her as well. And so I think she was actually depending on that love and that comfort that we brought as children. And for me, that only solidified that role even more for me of, "I want to do this for my mom."

And, you know, in fact, at one point, my third stepfather, who was really stable, a really incredible man who kind of changed everything for us, but maybe two or three years into their marriage, my mom had to sit me down and say to me, "Kim, it is not your job to take care of me. You don't need to do that anymore. George is here and George will take care of me." And she did need to say that. It was good she said that, but at this point, I'm a teenager—

Ron: I was going to say, how old are you, and you've been doing this a long time, and did that feel like you got fired?

Kim: It did. I was about 13 or 14 and she said, "Kim, you're a kid; just be a kid." And that's when my world kind of spiraled out of control a little bit more. I got very angry and very hurt because, first of all, I felt like I stopped being a kid a very long time ago. I was really frustrated that she didn't acknowledge that. And what does that mean?—just be a kid. I don't know what that means at this point. It suddenly felt like what I had taken on as my identity, like, "This is who I am," was just gone. And that left me going, "Who am I? I don't know who I am. I don't know my role in this family anymore." Cause I always thought this was my role. And so suddenly not knowing my role, I felt like, "Am I even in this family? Am I even part of this family?" That was actually a really tough time for me.

Ron: Identity is a word that keeps coming up. And again, I want people to hear that. Your identity had taken shape, taking the form of being somebody who could take charge when there nobody else was, being somebody who could protect and care for those who needed your protection. And the day you got relieved of that, shall we say, it left you going, "Well, then I don't know who I am, and I don't know where I fit."

Kim: Yes.

Ron: And teenage years are, you know, a huge identity struggle for everybody, and so I can just imagine that left you floundering, not knowing where to go, who to follow, what to chase.

Kim: Yes. It did and actually, that's where I kind of spiraled a little bit, where I went searching for answers and searching for identity. I didn't have any healthy coping skills. I hadn't learned that. I had just been in survival mode, I think, for my whole life. And so, I just didn't even know where to look or where to begin to deal with the emotions and the things I was feeling. And one of the biggest things I felt was anger. I just didn't even know why I was so angry or where that anger was coming from. I just knew my world just felt really upside down.

Another conversation that my mom and my stepdad had with me in that time was they could see that I was really bound up by the past. I knew in their hearts that their desire for me was good in that they wanted me to be free from that. They wanted me to be free from the past. But I think they weren't even sure how to help me exactly. I remember at one point they said, "You just need to get over it." Like, "We've all moved on. You need to move on."

And that actually filled me with more anger because I said, "Well, you married a new person and that was your moving on. But I'm still stuck back here, and I don't know how to move on. I'm kind of still little Kim; young, little Kim that's still back here, kind of spinning from the confusion of things." And I felt like I was just trapped in the past, which made me feel a little bit more alone and isolated because I didn't know actually how to get free of that.

Ron: This is so good for our listeners and viewers right now, Kim. I just want to thank you again for being so honest and real with it because this is a journey that I hear so much with kids in the counseling room and through the years working with blended families. It's a common, "I thought my identity was here. I thought it was there. There's more transition within the home. Now there's new people. There're new relationships. Turns out this guy's great as a stepdad and that means I'm out of a job. Oh no. Now what do I do? And it's easy for you to say, 'Just move on,' because you have something that is pulling you forward but for me, I feel lost."

Kim: Yes.

Ron: "I don't know what to go to, and I don't know where it's going to leave me." I mean, let's cast that into, and there's a lot of years in between. We kind of jumped to your teenage years. Let's back up a little bit, shall we; just help us understand. Stepdad one, stepdad two, abuse. What does that mean? What were those transitions like? And what did it, if I could say it this way, what did it cost you?

Kim: My mom, she married pretty quickly, like, once she divorced and then got married right away to the next one. It was pretty quick in between. I remember actually being at my grandma's house and saying to my grandma—even as a young child, I could perceive. I said, "Mom thinks that she can change these men, but I don't think she can.

I don't think that we can change people. I think people can change, but I don't think we can make that happen." And my grandma was, you know, asking me, "What do you mean?" I think she probably wondered where these deep thoughts were coming from in my little child brain—

Ron: Yes; exactly.

Kim: —but I was just constantly watching, and I was trying to make sense of: why does she keep marrying people? And then I said, "Why can't it be just us? Why does she have to marry someone? Why can't we just be just us and her?" I couldn't wrap my head around, you know, maybe what she was feeling as a woman with kids and going, "I don't know if I can do this alone. I don't know if I can raise them alone."

She was raised Christian, and these men were not that way. One was an alcoholic and had major issues with alcohol. The abuse in the home was—with the second one it got really violent. I would typically, when he was kind of in his moment of rage, I would take my younger sister and hide her and tuck her away in a, like a cupboard or under a bed. I would purposefully go and put myself in front of him, like, "Take it out on me. Please don't hurt my sister; don't hurt my mom." I still chose to want to try my best to protect and to take care of.

What it ended up costing me was probably the brunt of his rage and his being out of control, and it cost me my childhood. You know, it cost me my innocence. It cost me—I had to kind of learn to shut down a little bit just to cope with what I was dealing with in that time. And you know it's interesting because you know this stuff is painful when you talk about it, like in the family when we talk about it. I know my mom—so many of us mothers say, "I'm doing the best I can," and it's the truth. Like you're given a certain set of tools and you're doing the best that you can and hopefully you're trying to gain some new tools and gain some wisdom outside of maybe what you have.

I think that when we talk about as a family, even my sister's perception and what she remembers and what she—you know, there's a lot of gaps, things that she doesn't even recall or remember. I often would wonder, you know, maybe those were the moments she's just hidden away somewhere because I hid her somewhere and she's just checked out. She doesn't recall what was going on or what was happened, so we all kind of have these different perceptions.

I think one of the other things in talking about costs that was painful for me later on was I needed the acknowledgement of: just because you perceived and experienced it a certain way, different from me, does not make mine invalid. You know what I mean?

Ron: Yes; right; right.

Kim: My even talking about things wasn't an attempt to point a finger or accuse or anything else. It was me going, "I lived a different experience. I perceived things different. I saw it different." And that's probably been a harder challenge to cope with. I feel like when we talk about costs, like, what this costs you, I feel like—that's something I feel now as an adult. Like this is still a difficult thing to kind of wade through within the family.

Ron: If I'm hearing you right, it sounds like there's a little gap between your experience of all that season of life and your sister's; and maybe even other family members. And so, when you're looking back on it, you have a different feeling about all of that. They may even disagree with some of the things you said or did or that kind of thing, so it leaves you isolated from one another, even today.

Kim: Yes, I mean, I just feel like we have to put a little bit more effort into having grace for each other in that. And even an example; like my sister, she has memories of feeling like a closeness to God and to church or Christianity and all of those things. I don't remember that. I didn't feel that. I actually wondered if God was real. I wondered if He was aware of me and the situation I was in. I wondered if I was being punished. I wondered, you know, my, again, we were living the same life, under the same roof, having somewhat of the same experience, but our perceptions of God and Christianity and stuff, it was very different.

Which just speaks volumes to me of, well, every child is completely different and they're going to feel very different about what they're experiencing. And even their brains trying to interpret it are going to interpret it completely different.

Ron: That's exactly right. I was just going to say, we've said on this podcast before the old quote: children are good observers of their world, but they're poor interpreters of their world. And one of the things that all of us did, whether we realized it or not, is interpret our value and our place in the world in light of what was going on around us.

So here you are, protector, lioness—I have this image of you defending your sister and mom and kind of taking the brunt of the rage that was going on from your second stepfather. There's a part of you that's embattled in those moments and of course you remember it as battle. Of course, you remember it as you standing up and, you know, heroines, doing something to guard and protect those that you love. Whereas your sister was hiding and that was just a totally different—you know she could even hide from her own memory of it in some ways.

And so two totally different experiences, same moment. What does that mean? What does that say about you? She, you know, through her God lens was saying, "God was here." He was maybe even protecting, or I don't know how she made sense of that. But for you It was "Well, where is God?" You know, "Why am I having to be the one taking this abuse and enduring this," and "If you cared about me Lord, I think you would have showed up by now." I don't want to put words in your mouth, but does that sort of capture what you were experiencing?

Kim: Yes, and you know later on, you know going back to my teenage years with my really awesome stepfather, this was like the big ugly that kind of came up in me was this question of: "God, if you are real, if you are loving, if you are good, if you are kind, well, then why? Why did those things happen to me? I was an innocent child." And "Were you really there? Were you, did you care? Did you see?"

And those are really hard questions that, you know, much later into my early twenties when I did finally give my life to God and decide I wanted to be a Christ follower, I had a condition when I said, "Okay, I will give my life to you, but here's my condition. You've got to set me free. I don't want to live in this pain and this anger anymore." But that big question of the—you know, "Where were you?" and that sort of thing was still there, and I had to wrestle through that with God. I had to hear from God directly on that. And that was a process of years wrestling. That wasn't like a "I heard a pastor say one thing in a message and it was done for me." It was not that. It was I needed to wrestle through this to get kind of on the other side of it, really, truly.

Ron: Yes, and I believe that. I know that's the case and I love what you just said. I appreciate that because I think a lot of times we do want to just say, "I heard one sermon, and everything was fine" or prayed one prayer. That's not the way our mind, body, soul works. At least not for most of us. I'm not saying God can't do miracles. He can do whatever he wants, but for most of us, it is a journey.

Kim: Yes.

Ron: Wow. You had to confront God and say, "We've got to figure this out." Was that journey with counselors, friends? How did that take place?

Kim: I had a mixture of both. I had like counselors be, you know, like the licensed kind of people I met with. But I also, there were people who had gone through their own journeys, very similar, who are just really skilled in praying and helping that inner world, inner healing, that could sit with me and ask really great questions and help kind of lead me in prayer and kind of keep pointing me towards Jesus and helping me kind of get there. So I was really blessed, actually, to have incredible people that I felt like God just kind of dropped in my life who were there to kind of help me get through that.

And, you know, coming out on the other side of it, the other thing that was really eye opening, but great, was I figured out, man, I have to kind of relearn some things because, well, how do healthy people deal with anger? How do healthy people deal with an argument—you know, a disagreement? How do healthy people, because I, kind of growing up in the chaos, the out of control, the violence, the anger, the abuse, I had learned unhealthy ways of dealing with life and coping with life.

Ron: I've already heard two coping methods: control and occasionally escape when you didn't know what else to do; escape into something that took you away from the pain. If you're like most people, Kim, the good news and the bad news is that those two things keep showing up in your life even today. [Laughter]

Kim: Yes.

Ron: I mean, that's most, that is the way we are wired and actually that's neurological. I'm writing a book about this very thing right now and so the good news is you're normal—

Kim: Yes. [Laughter]

Ron: —and the bad news is you're normal. [Laughter] We get to spend the rest of our lives submitting that stuff to God because the control and the escape can be really good tools, but not when they're out of line, not when… right, so everything comes with a, "Yes, Lord, I got to release this to You and You got to help me balance those pieces of my life." That's exactly what we would expect. For anything that we learn when we're young, we're really, really good at it, and it gets little neurological ruts in our mind, body, soul that just keep repeating. That's the way it works.

And by the way, stressful times is probably when you see those things in your life. Becoming a mom, you know, might bring out some of those things—

Kim: Oh yes.

Ron: —in just moments where you feel out of control with your kids because "I know that road." I'm saying this all for our listener and our viewer because I want you reflecting right now on: what are those coping things that you learned to do as a kid to deal with hard things? And can't you just trace it back and go, "Gosh, yes, I still do that, especially in times of stress or when relationships maybe feel a little 'I'm anxious about a relationship.' That's when that stuff shows up." And of course, it will because that's how we're made, and it's okay, and we keep submitting that old self to God and keep trying to put on the new self every single day.

I want to go back and ask you about your biological father. We sort of lost him in the conversation, around all the transitions. I'm going to make an observation to our listeners and then ask you a question.

My observation is, yes, that's exactly what happens sometimes when all the transition for kids—in and out of a parent's new marriage, a divorce, a breakup, living together, now apart, whatever that story is, death of a parent, you know, new household, single parent home, all kinds of transitions—it's easy for a parent relationship to sort of get lost, but it's never really lost. I mean, in your heart of hearts, I can only imagine that you still wanted a relationship with dad and maybe you had a good one. I'm just curious. How did that go for you?

Kim: My relationship with him; it has always been very complicated; partly because he was never the same after the brain injury and so we—let me back up and say, through their divorce agreement, it was decided that me and my sister would see him every other weekend. They were real consistent with that. We were with him every other weekend and sometimes maybe a little bit longer in the summer, like a week or whatever, camping, something like that. And there were unhealthy and upsetting things there when we were with him.

It always feels unfair. I never really talk about some of those dynamics because it feels unfair to him who he doesn't even remember so much of it because later on when I was a teenager, he got in another motorcycle wreck and had another brain injury. And again, was in a coma. This time even longer. The doctor said, "There's so much deterioration in his brain from the first one that we don't have much hope of him waking up from this coma. And if he does, he will most likely not speak or walk and not really have much of a life."

He shocked all of the doctors. And again, he woke up. Again, he learned to walk. Again, he learned to talk. But again, just not the same person. His short-term and long-term memory is very affected. I will say one of the good things that—probably the only good thing that came out of the second motorcycle wreck was he kind of did a turn where he was suddenly a more tender person. And so a lot of things that were not good before that, that were hard and upsetting, it wasn't so anymore.

Ron: Wow.

Kim: The one thing that I can say though is that as frustrating as the relationship was with my dad, I never doubted his love for me. He, when my mom moved us over four hours away, he would drive the long drive, pick us up and drive us all the way back just to have the weekend with us. He went out of his way a lot for us. I saw that as a kid and it did make it a little challenging to go, "You know what, I don't think this relationship is healthy, but I do see you doing things that matter." [Laughter]

And so that was another like really confusing for me as a kid going, "I don't doubt that you love me. I see you really making sacrifices for me, but the way that you're treating me is not okay, like not right." So I couldn't really make sense of that. It was after high school, after that second wreck and how he softened and changed that everything became really different. Actually, years later—this is after I'm married. I have kids—he marries a woman who is just incredible. She's so kind and sweet and loving. They were high school sweethearts.

She just—I had a talk with her, you know, before they got married and said, "Hey, you know he's not really the same person. He's had multiple head injuries, and this could be like a big thing. I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into." She's like, "He's my Johnny. I love him. He's always been my Johnny." It was just really sweet. She married him and I will say she has been the most incredible godsend for our family. She has a way of just kind of balancing him and she has actually helped us to have a better relationship with him now and him even have relationship with his grandchildren.

So when we, three years ago, moved our whole family to Montana, everyone followed me. My siblings and their families, everyone followed me. They're all there in Montana. And then he came because he said, "Well, I want relationship with my grandkids. I want to be here," and so there he was. I don't know that he even would have done that before, except that she said, "These are your grandkids. Don't you want to be close and get to see your grandkids grow up?"

And so actually, she's kind of brought a lot of redemption to that relationship since that time. You know, the past and the stuff in my childhood is hard and confusing but there's a lot of redemption now simply because of this woman who came in and said, "Let's fight for this." She's been incredible. And she kind of knows like, "Okay, I think it's time for me to take him home." [Laughter] She'll go "Let's go ahead and go now. Let's go back home. We'll come back in a few days and say hi." She's just, she's incredible. She's really perceptive and great that way and so that's actually been awesome.

Ron: Okay, so your journey with your dad, I've got to make this observation. When he loved you and you knew it, but you didn't know if you could rely on him. He wasn't trustworthy in the sense of, will you treat me well? Is there something here that I can depend on? So love, yes, but trustworthiness, no, until after the second accident, oddly enough, and all of that part of him softened and changed. But then there was another grace brought into the picture and that was your stepmom. And so now the trustworthiness seems to be there with her help and the addition of her guidance, if I should say it that way. And what—

Kim: I would say it's still growing.

Ron: —an incredible gift. Still growing, okay.

Kim: Yes, yes.

Ron: And so I'm sitting here going, okay, you had two really, really, really hard stepparents that brought a lot of pain, and you've had two redemptive stepparents that have brought peace.

Kim: Yes.

Ron: Wow.

Kim: Yes. George, my third stepfather, he passed away about eight years ago from Parkinson's disease. He was this very handsome, very stable man with a good job, no issues with alcohol or anything like that, had been a Christian like his whole life, like very go to church, consistent in that. And he chose my mom with all her baggage and her wild children who were kind of a mess with a lot of trust issues.

Their first week of marriage when they came home from their honeymoon and we all move in together, I was terrible. I said to him, I said, "I don't trust you I don't like you. You're not my dad. I don't want anything to do with you. Don't look at me. Don't talk to me. You can't tell me what to do; stay away from me." Like this was what I said to him. I was very—at this point, I'm a teenager now. I'm 13 and I'm saying, "You know what, I'm not going to put up with this anymore. I'm not going to let these men do it anymore. I'm a big girl now. I'm just going to say what I want to say." I kind of felt like this is how all men are. They hurt you and they leave you.

Ron: That's right.

And this is—I expected that this is what he was going to do. This was all I knew and all I'd experienced, and George just kept loving me. He never even got flustered at my flat-out hatred towards him. He would get up every morning with the sun and I would be getting up, getting ready for school and he would be out in the living room. So out in the open—it's not even private, which offended me so much—and he would turn on worship music. I would hear him worshiping God and praying, and he'd pray his prayers out loud. He would say, "God, show me how to love my girls. Teach me how to love my girls. Help me to see what my girls need."

I'd be like from the kitchen yelling, "I'm not your girl." I knew he was praying for me. I heard him praying out loud for me. I was so hurt but I was also just so scared to let him love me. I was so hungry for that love, but I was so scared that it wasn't real or that it wouldn't last, or it wouldn't stay and so I just kept rejecting him over and over and over.

He brought such incredible stability to our home. We never went hungry. We never went without. He always took care of us. He put me in sports. He cheered me on. He, I mean, he just, he did all the things that no one had ever done, and I still was so angry and so hurt. It wasn't until at 18 when I gave my life to Jesus and kind of began my journey of getting healing and getting help that I began to see what an incredible gift he was. I saw that he actually was showing me the love of Jesus before I even knew who Jesus was, and the way that God loves us; how He loves us even when we're rejecting Him. He was showing me this.

I think the most incredible thing about him was just that he never reacted to how terrible I was. It's like he just had so much patience for me and that maybe somewhere in him, he just, he knew like I was a product of what I had just been through, and he just had mercy on me. It took me a long time to, once I got through the healing and the counseling and kind of came out on the other side, then I was like ready to build relationship with him. And the tragedy was that at that point is when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's, and he just started deteriorating and so I didn't have as much time with him as I had wanted.

At the end I was in Brazil on a tour with the band and my mom called and she said, "Kim, you need to come home. George is in hospice, and this is it. You need to come home." I made it back home. I felt like he had been waiting for me and I finally got to say the things that I had not had the courage to say before, which was to say, "Thank you. Thank you for loving me even when I was just so terrible to you. Thank you for giving me a chance. Thank you for being steadfast. Thank you for praying out loud for me, even when I was so mad about it." I said, "I'm a worshiper because of you. I follow Jesus because you taught me how to do that."

I mean, he so radically changed my life, and I was so thankful that I got to say that to him. And you know, after he passed, my one regret that came up later, besides like not having more time with him, was just I never got to ask him, why did he marry my mom?

And not that, I mean, I think my mom is awesome, but I just couldn't wrap my brain around someone who just seems so great without issues. You know, I know he wasn't perfect, but that he would choose to marry someone who had multiple marriages and these kids that were just kind of out of control.

I brought this up to God and I felt like God said to me, "I sent him for you," and that just broke me. Again, just that God would love us enough, but it also said to me, "So You did see me, and You worked out a plan and You sent someone to our family that changed our whole family, changed our lives. And maybe took longer than I wanted it to take but we got there.

Ron: Man, what a beautiful story, what a beautiful redemptive story. We said at the front of this conversation that, you know, stepfamilies done well, it's redemptive in the lives of children and adults. And you've lived both of those: stepfamilies done poorly, and blended families done well. You know, I'm sitting here and I'm thinking, my little observation, for whatever it's worth, I think the conversation you have with God is far more important than what I'm about to say but asking him why, you know, why would he come and choose you guys and your mom and you. You know that's a question that's really more about you. Inside that is that girl who didn't think she was worth much—

Kim: Right.

Ron: —so it didn't make sense. But what he saw is what God sees in all of us. And that's, "Oh, but you are worthy because I'm going to make you worthy by the way that I love you." And wow, what a tangible, amazing experience that you have had; just a little, little, little taste of how much the Father loves all of us. Fantastic; love that.

Something about the not trusting men; that makes a lot of sense too. Quick little observation for, and you can react to this, just when you get hurt and over and over again your walls go up—you had tall walls by the time you know, third stepdad showed up—of course you don't want to come out from behind those walls. Of course you don't want to, you know, move toward anybody.

But what he did—I just want to make sure every stepparent listening right now captures—is not only love you—that's the cool thing. He loved you—but he was faithful. You said it a minute ago: steadfast. He was steadfast. That's that quality that we see in our Heavenly Father that makes His love so amazing. It's in spite of us. We let Him down. We fail. We're not adequate. All those things are true and yet He shows up over and over and over. And that's the thing that will win the heart of most stepchildren.

I'm not promising, listener or viewer, every time, every situation, but you as a stepparent, it's the combination of that loving heart, embracing, accepting. You can still discipline. You can still teach and train. We're not saying that; but showing up over and over and over and over and over and not being defeated by the walls that the kid has wrapped around them. Did that fit your experience?

Kim: Yes, definitely. I mean, that, the fact that I could even be so hurtful in trying to reject him, and he still, he wasn't going anywhere. It's almost like I was actually trying to get rid of him and couldn't. It took me time, but eventually like I saw I could trust him, and I could trust that he is going to follow through.

But you know, he also did something else that no man had ever done before, which was he apologized. And what I mean is there was one night he had met with a counselor and there was something that he was working through from his own past and something painful came up and he was feeling the pain of that. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and I heard him and my mom arguing in their bedroom. I immediately flew into a, "This is it. I told you this would happen," and I went running down the hallway and burst into their room and—

Ron: Protector.

Kim: Yes, yes. I mean, totally inserted myself into business that was not my own. But I just reacted to "You're hurting my mom. I know it. Like, you know, something's going on." And he was so upset of, you know, whatever it was they were dealing with, he left. I was so shaken up and convinced "He's going to come back and hurt us." My mom is like, "Why are you going to this extreme?" I was like, "I told you. I told you he's just like all the rest. He's like all the other men."

But he came back the next morning after he'd worked out whatever it was that he was needing to work out. He sat down. He brought the pastors of the church that we were going to. He brought them in, and he sat us kids down and with tears, just genuine, he said "I am so sorry that I broke your trust last night I was dealing with something that had nothing to do with you and I reacted, and I want you to know I will never do this again. I will never let that happen again. I will never …" and he asked our forgiveness, which I was just so stunned. I mean, no man had ever admitted a wrong and then apologized.

I can tell you he kept his word. He never, ever had any kind of response or reaction like that again. I think he kind of brought the pastors as like a witness and maybe to help us feel a little bit better and safe, but that actually stuck with me. That's actually something that I took into my life as a parent because it meant so much to me for an adult to say, "I was wrong. I overreacted and I'm so sorry."

I do that with my own kids. If I have an overreaction, or I snap at them, I will immediately stop and go, "I am so sorry. I'm so sorry I snapped. I should not have done that," and "Will you please forgive me?" It made even a difference to me that he said, "Will you forgive?" me versus just saying "I'm sorry." It felt like more than "I'm sorry." I needed the, "Will you forgive me?" And that felt like more of a, "I'm putting value on you," meaning me, by saying that.

Ron: Kim, I don't know if you have any insight to this, but I have to believe that he had some awareness of what you endured with your previous stepfathers, because he was so wise to not just apologize. We all need to do that. You know, how do we teach our kids humility if we don't live it, if we don't demonstrate it ourselves?

So there's that, but he knew if he made a little mistake, it was going to be considered a massive mistake because of what you had experienced in the previous stepdads. He was savvy. I don't know if you have any information that would support that, but it seems to me either God completely gave him a great deal of wisdom beyond his years, or he had some information maybe your mom shared with him. I don't know what, but that is a pro tip for everybody listening right now. You do get graded, if I could say it that way, based on the people who came before you. And if you don't like that, well, I'm sorry, it's the truth; you better respond accordingly. Do you have any sense of that about him?

Kim: You know what, my mom, she never liked talking about the past, ever. And I don't know what, if anything, she said to him. I don't even know if she would admit a lot of it to him. I don't know. I have no memory of ever talking to him about that.

At one point, after the second stepfather, he had left us, and I was so scared he was going to come back. I think my mom was unsure if he was coming back or not. I said to her one day—we're driving the car; she told us that she found out he was not going to be coming back. I felt like it was okay to say out loud what I had been wanting to say out loud for a long time. I said, "Mom, he abused us," and she got really angry and pulled over the car and said, "Don't you ever say that. Don't ever say that. Don't say that he did that."

Now, again, I have so much grace for my mom. I kind of wonder was she scared? Was she scared I would say that out loud somewhere and someone try to take us away from her? I don't know. I think it was just fear coming out of her in that moment, but that really made it like almost like shame. Like you can't talk about the past. You can't talk about what's happened, so I never told him about what I had been through.

I honestly believe that all of those times of prayer, I really think that the Lord was just speaking to him and showing him, because he was—I heard him asking God, "Show me, teach me how to help these girls." I think he knew, like, this is a lot. I don't know that he knew the details. I don't really think he did know a lot of details, but I think that God just gave him wisdom. And I think that he was actually listening and being attentive to that.

Ron: Wow.

Okay, let's do something as we close. You're now a worship leader. On a regular basis, you're bringing people into the throne room and seeing how majestic and how great our God is and how wonderful His mercy and how vast His grace for all of us. Like your stepdad praying for wisdom in his confusion, in his not knowing, I'm curious if there is a, I don't know, a chorus, a song lyric, something that if you could offer somebody listening right now, and they're just in—they're confused, they're going "I don't know what to think. I don't know what to hold on to." Is there something you would offer them maybe from the worship that you do that could just be something they could hold on to?

Kim: Well, I have this song called On My Side. I actually wrote that song with friends shortly after he had passed. I was processing a lot of this stuff, and this song is speaking to, you know, we only see in part. We just see where we're at in the moment, or what we've lived in the past. We just see these glimpses and we don't always see the bigger picture.

One thing that I had felt and experienced in the healing that came later was that I felt like God gave me new eyes. That I was seeing from a new perspective so when I looked back at the past, I wasn't looking back on it and just seeing all the chaos and the mess, but I could see that God was working even in that and that He truly was on my side. And that song, that's what it's all about; that He's on my side; that He was there with me even in the worst moments, in the most painful moments.

In the bridge of this song it says, "You are on my side." In the pain, in the suffering, You are there with me. You've suffered with me. You experienced all of this. Jesus experienced all of this on the cross. That I was never abandoned; I was never left alone, but that He also worked things out for me.

And of course, we can't always see it in the moment. But while it's not really the life I would have chosen. [Laughter] I wouldn't have chosen it to be this way. I am thankful for what all of it has built inside of me. I'm thankful for the way that God has taken the mess, the ugliness, and He has turned it into something beautiful, and really something I'm thankful for. And I can see that now.

Again, it took me a while to get to that place, but it was worth that journey and worth that fight to get on the other side to be able to see that and to say that and to know He really is on my side. He doesn't leave us. He doesn't abandon us. That He is there with us through all of that.

Ron: Well, I know I'm going to be looking that song up as soon as we get done here. Thank you, Kim, so much for being with me today, and thank you for sharing your life.

Kim: Thank you for having me.

Ron: If you want to learn more about Kim and Jesus Culture, look them up. We've got them in the show notes. We've got a link for you. We'll get you connected. I'm sure you're going to be blessed by her ministry.

A quick reminder that Blended and Blessed is coming up very soon. Don't miss this groundbreaking live event and live stream for blended family couples worldwide. You can be anywhere and participate in this event. And if your time zone doesn't really work with the time zone of the event, that's okay. It's a livestream. Hey, you can watch it the next day or the day after or a week after. Just look us up. We'd love to have you get connected with that event. Maybe share it with some other couples in your church or community. Again, Saturday, April 27th, 2024. Look in the show notes or just go to

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