Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When Plan A Fails

(Note from Becky: Today, I welcome Diana Brandmeyer to Talking Among Friends. She not only discusses her own blended family story, but shares details about the book she's co-written called "We're not Blended, We're Pureed - A Survivor's Guide to Blended Families". The title alone is great! Welcome, Diana and thank you for being here today).

When Plan A Fails
Diana Lesire Brandmeyer

Once upon a time…

Yes, it’s true. I thought I had it all, the story book life-the picket fence, husband and 2.5 children. Or at least it was a version I liked. No fence; instead a historical two story stone farmhouse, two boys, two horses, two cats, two dogs and a fish named Nebrekanzer –the reason? He ate the others in the tank.

Then Plan A broke when my husband died of a brain tumor. Dreams were dashed and once upon a time turned into Nightmare in the Stone House.

Did I really think I had it all planned out? Yes.

Did I think I would survive this huge loss along with the baby Copperhead snakes that had found a way into the kitchen? No.

God knew differently. He had a back-up plan for me. His very own specially written for me Plan B. I remarried and instead of 2 sons now had 3, lovingly referred to as Moe, Larry and Curly as they resembled those characters more than the Brady Bunch children.

This marriage, this family was going to be an anomaly. We were not going to end up as the blended family that unraveled. It was not an easy journey, and I often felt alone. There couldn’t be any other families going through upheavals like we experienced: rebellion of new rules, siblings fighting and a screaming mom. Yes, I said it. I screamed. I also cried. Then I figured it out.

The secret.

I wasn’t getting through this like a Hallmark commercial. I needed God. I fell to my knees and begged.

Guess what? I found out I wasn’t alone. God was and is with me always. He’s there for you too when the family stuff gets too much but wait, look and listen. He’s there in the sweet hugs and “thanks Mom”, too.

There are many moms –not just stepmoms—going through the exact issues you are. Ask them. Maybe they feel alone. From one mom to another, reach out, share God’s love and His peace as you survive your blended family. With Him in the center of your family, the boat may get rocky but remember He walks on water and He’ll keep the water out of your nose.

About Diana's book: We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families

Can two families learn to cohabitate?
In peace?
Are you terrified that you've turned into a version of the fairy-tale wicked stepparent?

Do you paste on a smile and pretend your family is a vision of 1950s Main Street America while at home the battle lines are etched in the driveway and signed with the kid's initials?

Don't dismay. God is with you. Discover how others have dealt with the difficult issues of blending two families. Find real-world advice to help you when your own words fail.

This engaging readable book is held together with humor, liberally peppered with information, commentary, and includes clinically sound information and proven communication tools.

Both authors provide practical methods for dealing with tough subjects. Short captivating chapters are perfect for those rare moments that parents have to themselves. Readers will enjoy stories and testimonies as they prepare their own families for success.

Christian author, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, writes historical and contemporary romances. Author of Mind of Her Own, A Bride's Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee and We’re Not Blended-We’re Pureed, A Survivor’s Guide to Blended Families. Once widowed and now remarried she writes with humor and experience on the difficulty of joining two families be it fictional or real life. Along with her website, you can reach Diana via her blog or Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Bunny in the Blend

(Becky's Note: Today I'm thrilled to welcome Angela Ruth Strong to "Talking Among Friends." She shares a wonderful story about blending her family...with a bunny. Enjoy!)

By Angela Ruth Strong

My youngest daughter Lauren has always loved her stuffed animals. Especially her rabbit named Steve. He became a source of security for her when her father left me and moved out of state.

Apparently she thought Steve needed to protect me, too. The first time Lauren saw me talking to a member of the opposite sex in church, she held up her bunny and said in a wee-bunny voice, “My name is Steve, and I like to murder people.”

Thank goodness I was the only one who heard her. But for the first time I realized how scared she must have been at the idea of me falling in love with another man. We talked about it. And it eventually became a joke. Steve got his own Facebook page where he displayed pictures of himself doing things like wearing a surgical mask at the dentist office when Lauren got her teeth cleaned and he posted comments about his crush on the babysitter.
But if any men tried to ask how Steve was doing, Lauren would respond with something like, “He has a chainsaw.”

Enter Mr. Strong.

Jim knew about Steve before he met Lauren. We’d gone out a couple times, and he wanted to take the kids and me to a ghost town in the mountains of Idaho, so I had to warn him. This could have been one dangerous date. But something amazing happened…

The kids didn’t want it to end. I’d learned to follow their lead, and they wanted to hang out at Jim’s house when we got back to town. He ordered Chinese food and my son played on his Xbox while the girls got artistic in his art studio. One of the girls came down with a sketch she’d drawn of the restaurant where we’d eaten in the Idaho Hotel—the only establishment still running in Silver City. Above the bar in the restaurant hung a sign with a gun. It read: We don’t call the police. Jim pointed to the sign in the sketch and said, “It should read: We don’t call the police, we call Steve.” The kids laughed and laughed.

Steve and Jim became great friends. Jim would pretend to let Steve drive his truck or help him rock out to music. He even once held him for ransom, doctoring a picture of the bunny to make him look scared. The kids loved such entertainment. And apparently they had no more need for protection with Jim around.

We bought Steve a tux for the wedding and Lauren tossed him to us during our first dance. Maybe to keep an eye on us … but we considered it a sign of acceptance.

Blending families is one of the toughest things we’ve ever had to do. It takes hard work with sometimes little to no reward. We don’t do it perfectly. But I’ve never had any doubts that Jim and I were supposed to be together. And I owe a lot of that to Steve.

That rascally rabbit helped bring us together. He’s a much loved member of our blended family.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Re-Writing the Evil Step-Mom Story

Note from Becky: I'm so pleased to welcome fellow ACFW member, Julie Arudini to "Talking Among Friends." Julie shares her own story about faith and blending a family together:

My prince came a few years after college graduation. What set him apart from the fantasy I heard growing up and claimed as my own was a couple things.

He was ten years older.

And he also was divorced with minor children.

There wasn’t a story or Disney movie I could consult, a least not one where the step-mom scenario was a positive one.

Couldn’t there be a happy blended family story?

Our family is proof that there can be.

We’re going on 17 years of marriage.

When we first met, his kids weren’t even teens. The week we started dating he learned they were moving to Wisconsin. We lived in New York State.

That was my first challenge, and we were so new as a couple marriage wasn’t on my radar. But I put one thing into practice right from that first week that has seen us through all these years.


I believed God. I prayed (and still do) for my husband, his children, their mom, and every member of their family in Wisconsin. That was something God asked me to do, and I never made a big deal about it, nor did I guilt my husband into doing the same. I was emotionally separate enough that I could daily pray for their safety, unity, peace, health, and hunger for God in their lives. If I prayed bad things for their family, that would hurt the kids, and no one wins. I truly prayed for everyone to prosper. I prayed over my words and actions, as well as my husband’s. When God asked me to do something, I did, and I was intentional about obeying with no expectation of a blessing in return.

I prayed over our times with the kids, and school events. I prayed over every child support check I sent.

Not too long after my step-son graduated from high school, their mom became very sick. That’s her private journey but it was a dire situation. I kept praying. Thankfully, she is doing well.

Then it became the season where the children became adults and his daughter was set to marry. I knew this would be the first time all of us—him, her, their kids, our kids, their sister, her husband, and the extended family he once knew as in-laws would reunite. He was nervous. How would they treat him? Me? Us? Our kids? He came right out and asked for prayer.

And this time, I started proclaiming. All those years I sowed a lot of prayer, and I sensed it was time to proclaim a harvest. I thanked God for the favor I believed He’d give all of us. I praised Him for peace and kindness, believing in my heart every single thing would come to pass.

When we arrived at the church, the very first person to greet us was their mom. She welcomed us with warmth, and knew our kid’s names and was so gracious to them, to all of us. She walked us down the church steps to where she had cold cuts and drinks, knowing we traveled a far distance. We met their daughter, and said hello to her husband.

On the wedding day you would have thought we were simply friends of this big family. A stranger would never have known this was a group of people affected by divorce. My husband had so much fun catching up with former in-laws, who came to him first and initiated fun conversation. They all introduced themselves to me and our kids. Things went so well that my husband’s former mother-in-law switched place cards at the reception so we could sit by each other. I absolutely adored talking to her. This matriarch ended up passing away less than a year later, and we were invited to share in celebrating her life. My mother-in-law passed away earlier this year, and one of the first cards my husband received was from his first wife.

When we pulled out of the church lot on his daughter’s wedding day, we weren’t even out of reverse when my husband turned and asked, “How did you know? You kept saying this was going to be an amazing day.” Without hesitating I replied, “I laid down too many years of a prayerful foundation for that to return void. God heard those prayers and met us all in an amazing way.”

If you are in a blended family situation, whether recent, or for a few years, it’s never too late to start laying down prayers and proclamations laced with believing God and His word. Re-write that evil step-mom story, and watch God do amazing things, in His time.

Julie Arduini is a writer and speaker who encourages audiences to find freedom through surrender. She knows it has to start with her, so she’s surrendering the good, the bad, and---maybe one day---the chocolate. She blogs for Christians Read, the Bella Women Network, and is working on her Adirondack based contemporary romance. Julie lives in Ohio with her husband and children.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How Do You Become a Family?

Last week we talked about blending a family with step-children and step-parents. Yes, I'm still amazed every day about how wonderful my kids are and how blessed I am to have this family.

It could've stopped there. But it didn't. As you recall, I am wife #2, after my husband's first wife passed away. I became an instant parent to two great kids, who made the choice to accept me into their lives. But the addition of me in their lives certainly didn't negate their Mom's family. Her parents lived the closest, and my kids saw them frequently, along with their aunt, uncle and cousins.

Family is a big deal to me and of course the kids needed some sense of normalcy in their world after losing their mother and gaining a step-mother pretty quickly. So these visits to their grandparents and family became even more important. But something else happened along the way.

My husband's first wife's family took the time to get to know me. If there were big family events that the kids went to, they invited my husband and me. I can understand them wanting their grandkids around, and even my husband, who was their son-in-law, but they could've kept me at arm's length. They only needed to be secure in the knowledge that their grandchildren were okay.

But as the kids grew and birthdays and graduations came and went, we continued to be thrown together. More often than not, at their invitation. Her family amazed me time after time with their warmth and openness. Our daughter got married a few years ago, and our son married last year. Both times,there was such a spirit of celebration and joy, and true togetherness...as a family.

My husband and I have been married 11 years. And in that time, we've seen both kids graduate high school, college and get married to wonderful people. This was done in 10 years... talk about fast-tracking through parenthood! And in that 10 years, I've come to treat my husband's first wife's family as my own... as they did a great job of sucking me in!

Was this easy? No, there were tough days.

I know I had difficult times, and I can only imagine their grief. Sometimes it was uncomfortable for me to sit in their home, in the place where their daughter should have been.

They NEVER made me feel that way or feel unwelcome. I think at times it was just my own insecurities. They've been warm and wonderful. We've created our own relationship together, out of mutual love for the kids. I look at fractured families at times and wonder what choices they may be making. In this incredible family I've married into and become a part of, we've made the choice to care, respect and love each other.

There's no way we could've come this far without making the purposeful decision to be a part of each other's lives. We've truly been able to celebrate the milestones in the lives of our kids (their grandkids) as a family. So, today, I pay tribute to the parents, sister, brother and nephews of my husband's first wife. I thank them for their open hearts, for their willingness to accept me into the lives of their son-in-law and children. I thank them for trusting me to love those children with my whole heart.

I know my daughter has said on more than one occasion how happy she was when the entire family be together. She needs to thank her grandparents for that.

Their example is something I will continue to take to heart in my relations with others.

So, how do you become a family? Blend together, mix well and add a dash of love.

And finally, make the choice to be a family.

Do you know of families who are successfully blending? Please share.

Do you want to write a blog post about your experiences? If so, please contact me at RebeccaVincentWrites at g mail dot com.