Tag Archives: stepmothers

Merianna Harrelson: On Cooler Breezes and Bigger Bellies

As I let the dogs out this morning, my bare feet encountered cold kitchen tiles. I knew even before I opened the door that the weather outside was going to smell different and fell different. It was going to feel like fall. I smiled as I opened the door and was met with the cool breeze of a fall morning. My soul breathed a sigh of relief that the hot, sticky Columbia summer was coming to an end.


Then, I remembered that with the change of this season, it meant the change from being a family of four to being a family of five in just 8 short weeks. This weekend, we celebrated Baby H with our Emmanuel Church family as well as friends in Columbia. What a fun time for our worlds to collide as we anticipate Baby H’s arrival and yet another reminder that life as we have known it is changing.

Fall has always been a time of transition for me. As a teacher, it meant a new challenge in a new grade level (I never taught the same grade two years in a row) or a new country. When I started seminary, it meant the change from teacher to student with a full load of classes that would ask me to challenge what I had always known and who I always believed I was. At the end of seminary, it meant the change from pulpit supply preacher to pastor and from girlfriend to wife and stepmom. Fall has always been a time of new beginnings for me.

It’s getting harder and harder to ignore my growing belly and to ignore the fact life is going to change. I am going to change. As I organize onesies and diapers of varying sizes, it’s easy for me to pretend that after walking this road with siblings and friends, I have a good idea how life will change and then, I wake up from a dream in panic because in my dream I have forgotten to feed the baby and realize there’s no way to know for certain what lies ahead.

Although I am tempted to panic over all the unknowns, I breathe the cool breeze and remember every change in the previous falls has brought me here to this place. This place of partnering with the man of my dreams. This place of being who I was created to be. This place of laughing and crying and loving two beautiful girls. This place of walking with two huge pups who can’t help but be excited about the new smells of fall.

This place of the beautiful now that if I’m not careful I’ll miss if I don’t stop and savor.

Merianna Neely Harrelson: Saints and Stepfamilies

Friday morning:
“So, are you an evil stepmother or a kind stepmother?”

Sunday morning:
“After prayerful deliberation, we, of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship, in Lexington, SC have called Marianna Neely Harrelson as Pastor. Merianna began her pastorate with us on June 1, 2014. She is the third person and first female called to serve our community of faith as Pastor.”

I’ve officially been a wife for 9 months and each time my husband looks at me and tells me that he believes in me and introduces me as his wife and shares his life with me, I feel extraordinary that I’ve been invited and trusted to share a call with him.

I’ve officially been a stepmother for 9 months and each time our 6 year old or 4 year old looks at me and calls me Mama 2 or Merianna and shares a little bit of their lives with me, I feel extraordinary that I’ve been invited to share these important formative years with them.

I’ve officially been a pastor for 16 days and each time one of my congregants looks at me and calls me Pastor and shares a little bit of their joy or grief, I feel extraordinary that they affirm the calling God’s placed on my life.

Pastor, wife, stepmother: there is nothing ordinary about this new life I am stepping into. I know that as I preach during this ordinary time, there will be some aspect of the extraordinary woven into each sermon because of where I am right now. And I’m glad that this first ordinary time of my preaching life is filled with so much extraordinary.

It’s easy to fall into a routine of the daily responsibilities of being a pastor, wife, and mother and think this is just another ordinary day. Right now I’m having trouble believing there are ordinary days. Too often ordinary conversations with other pastors, stepmothers and wives have turned so wholly divine that I’ve been literally speechless.

How is it possible that there is someone who is willing to share their own fears about being a stepmother so openly to me, so that I won’t feel so alone?

Why have there been two groups of women who have lovingly offered to include me in their mentor groups, so that I have a sounding board and safe haven?

Because we do not live in an ordinary world. We live in an extraordinary world full of spirit-filled people who believe that Pentecost is not a once a year occurrence, but rather ignites a flame that carries us into a time that may seem ordinary, but is fire-filled.

Once we start believing we are ordinary, we stop believing that God is extraordinary.

As I looked at Mary Hudson and Laura Cooper sitting on the first row on Sunday and watching me, their Mama 2, as I was installed, I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe they will be able to see a God who is extraordinary, too, because of the women who are living into their calls and the spirit-filled people who are transforming the world.

May we live as passionate, spirit-filled lives during these ordinary times so the world may see that there is something extraordinary in every day.


Merianna Neely Harrelson is the Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship in Lexington, SC. As the other part of her bi-vocational position, she works as the Editor-in-Chief of Harrelson Press Publishing. She and her husband and daughters live in Columbia, SC with their two dogs Willie and Waylon.