Updated: Jul 8, 2021
When I was in high school, our youth group did a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ death for Easter. The local newspaper came out and took our picture while we were “in action”. I played the role of John - who was given the responsibility of caring for Jesus’ mother, Mary, while He hung on the cross. Little did I know that this was God’s way of preparing me for a different (and more important) role twenty seven years later - where God asked me to care for another family. I had been married to Kelly for 23 years when she went Home to Heaven after battling Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. We had three sons - Dylan, Caleb, and Nathan. Some time after her death, a beautiful, blonde-headed bombshell named Lana came into my life. She and her husband Jason had been married 17 years and were blessed with three children - Hallie, Griffin, and Collins. He also went Home to Heaven - after a bout with Duodenal Cancer.
As we started dating and then got married in 2017, these two families of four suddenly became one family of eight! You are probably singing a song right now in your head that comes from a popular show of yester-year. I never cared for that show, but I do love caring for this family. Now that we have started our journey as a blended family, I am learning some helpful and interesting things about this new life.
BLENDED FAMILIES COME IN ALL SHAPES AND SIZES They can come through licensed foster parents, relative/non-relative caregivers, and adoptive parents. They come through people who open their home to college students, when parents are no longer with their original partner and decide to start over with someone new, when people decide to live together, or like our family - when the death of a parent brings about re-marriage. For us, this meant blending our family and adding extended family - more cousins, aunts, uncles, and four sets of grandparents (who all support and celebrate this journey we are on).
FAITH COMMUNITIES SHOULD PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN FAMILY LIFE A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work in the foster care system in the Prevention Unit. Part of our work was to take Prevention calls, where people in the community could reach out to our unit and ask for assistance in several areas. When those calls came in, we would get all the background information we could - in order to link them with helpful community resources. One of the questions we would ask is “Do you have a faith community that you can reach out to?” Sadly, many people would say no!
When people need comfort, support, and wisdom, a faith community should be the first place they go. This is where they should find people who love them, support them, accept them, help them, motivate them, and even pray for them. We want to be people who offer those things to other blended families - where we can pass along our faith to those who need it to face the challenges life brings their way.
OUR FAMILY SHOULD HELP OTHER BLENDED FAMILIES...BECAUSE WE BELONG TO A BLENDED FAMILY As a man, a husband, a father, a new stepfather, and a Pastor, there are many places in the Bible that tell me I am part of a larger Family that I should approach with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. It teaches us to “Bear with each other and forgive each other if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). I have to wonder - What difference could we make in our world if we actually lived that out?
Blended families do not get to pick-and-choose who becomes a part of this family, and that can sometimes create conflict. You can have conflict over house rules/chores/values (doesn’t EVERY family deal with this?) or you can have conflict when you try to balance time with your spouse and your children. You can have conflict between family members that are not the same age (but still live under the same roof), and you certainly can have conflict with other family members that do not live there (but still are involved).
Since God has helped our blended family become a blessed family, He is now leading Lana and me to help others in the same way. So, what you are reading now is the first of many blogs called “Blended & Extended” - where we will give you an inside look at our family, allowing you a front-row seat to our life. Some parts of it are funny and other parts are painful, but all of it is true. Names will not be changed and stories will be told with raw emotion (but always with permission). We will be sharing topics that God leads us to share with you. Why? Because if you haven’t had it happen to you yet, you will likely meet a family that needs this. I hope you will share this with them, and I can only hope that some of our words and experiences will help them find rest in the same God we have!
***UPDATE: Now we are a few years into this journey and I'm proud to say it is still going well! We don't have any secret formula for the healthy growth in our family; that is because we know we didn't get this far on our own. We are where we are because of God! He welcomed us into His family, and then called us to do the same:
"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:7) If you are going to make it in this world as a blended family, it will require a lot of grace, forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Accepting one another doesn't mean we take an "anything goes" approach, but it means we commit to working with one another to help you grow according to God's plan for you. And when we do, it brings Him praise. My hope is that these blogs help you find acceptance in Christ, and then that motivates you to accept others into your family - helping each of you becomes who God intends for you to be!