Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex'es - This week we'll begin talking about the prickly subject of dealing with ex's. Over the next couple of weeks we'll discover some things that may improve relationships so you can better co-parent your children and find out how to respond biblically when he or she isn't willing to work with you. In this post we'll look at some of the precipitating factors and talk about where to start.

Blended Families Part 11: How to Start Dealing with Ex’s

 

In last week’s post, “Behavior Contracts,” we talked about two tools for more successful and biblical parenting, “behavior contracts” and “think papers.” By the way, both are great tools for any family, not just blended ones.

This week in “How to Start Dealing with Ex’s,” we’ll begin talking about the prickly subject of dealing with ex-spouses. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll discover some things that may improve relationships so you can better co-parent your children and find out how to respond biblically when your ex isn’t willing to work with you. In this post we’ll look at some of the precipitating factors for this kind of conflict and talk about how to start working through the issues.

Click here for previous posts in this series.

 

A Lethal Combination of Guilt, Anger & Bitterness

 

Dealing with relationships with ex-spouses is often one of the most difficult challenges for a blended family. Although some formerly married couples are able to work out their differences and successfully co-parent their children, many find their attempts filled with conflict.

These conflicts can result in arguments over visitation, rules at each others’ homes, child support, and a host of other issues. Children are often expected to take sides, carry messages back and forth, and report back about what’s going on when they are with the other parent. Children can become casualties in a war that seems to never end.

Depending on who wanted or caused the divorce (at least in the eyes of the other person), ex-spouses can be filled with bitterness or guilt, anger or hurt or any combination.

A person who left may suffer guilt that causes them to continue trying to prove they were right in leaving. This results in constant complaining and criticizing.

The person who’s been sinned against may be angry and begrudge the other any happiness. He or she may hope the other one will finally realize what a huge mistake they made or somehow have to pay for their “crimes.” Their anger may not just be about how they have been hurt, but about how their children have been hurt, too.

Sometimes the conflict began during the former marriage, possibly even going on for years leading up to the divorce. Sometimes conflict comes to the surface when a former mate remarries.

In some cases, the anger, bitterness or guilt drains energy that should be going into a new marriage. In other cases, one spouse may spend a great deal of time and effort trying to appease the former spouse and keep peace at any cost. Both can create problems in a new marriage.

Guilt and anger can both cause problems in relationships with children and step-children. Guild may cause a biological parent to over-indulge their own children and/or be cold and indifferent, even harsh to their step-children.

Anger can be directed at children who want to live with or spend more time with the other parent. Some ex-spouses lay a big dose of guilt on children who start building a relationship with their step-parent.

No matter what combination of guilt, anger, bitterness or jealousy are driving the conflicts, God expects us to do our part to resolve the issues and respond in ways that are pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5.9).

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5.23-24).

 

Where do you start?

 

It starts with you!

First, get your heart right. No matter how you’ve been sinned against or how often, God intends to use it for good in your life.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).

When Joseph was reunited with his brothers after years spent as a slave and in prison because of their sin, he said:

19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50)

 

Do Some Self-Examination

 

Second, examine yourself to see where you may be guilty of causing or aggravating conflict.

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7)

Make a list of your own logs. Pray for God’s help, be brutally honest with yourself and Him. To do this effectively, you can’t minimize your part, blame-shift to your ex, or justify your sins.

Some possible logs:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts + LINKUP

Blended Families Part 10: Behavior Contracts

 

In last week’s post, “A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting,” we talked about beginning to plan for more effective step-parenting, starting with better communication between you and your spouse and working on a “behavior contract” for each child when age appropriate. Today we’ll talk about how to have a family conference and introduce the behavior contract to your children. We’ll also discuss how to get older children and teens to use a “think paper” to examine their own hearts and actions. (By the way, “behavior contracts” and “think papers” are great for all families, not just blended ones.)

Click here for previous posts in this series.

Last week I said that many parents in blended families (and all families) spend too much of their time putting out fires and dealing with bad behavior. Let’s look at our two parenting verses again:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Col. 3.21).

More than merely dealing with bad behavior, parents should be instructing their children in right ways of living and responding. Rather than just trying to control their behavior, we should be teaching them to control themselves.  “Bringing them up” means helping them understand how to live under God’s authority and gain a desire to please Him.

Last week I introduced a “behavior contract” as a tool that can be useful in that plan.

Remember, God gives us clear instructions. He spells out how we should live and the consequences of disobeying Him (Gen. 2.16-17; Deut. 28; Gal. 6.7-8). We should do the same for our children so we don’t exasperate them with unclear expectations and inconsistency.

I suggested you start by making a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each child, list character qualities that need to be developed, and come up with appropriate rewards and consequences. From those lists you can work with your spouse to develop a behavior contract for each child.

Example for a 15-year-old boy:

behavior-contract

Notice, rewards are not always material things. Remember, the goal is to learn to live under God’s authority with a genuine desire to please Him.

 

Introducing the Behavior Contract to Your Children

 

Once you and your spouse have worked up a behavior contract for each child (you may have to simplify it for younger children), sit down as a family. If necessary, confess your own failures to be consistent, provide clear expectations, or any other way that you have sinned against them.

Let them know that you have confessed your failures to God (providing you have) and that you have a plan to change with His help. Explain the goal of parenting and that you will answer to God for your faithfulness in this area. Take a few minutes to pray as a family. You may want to read Ephesians 6.1-4 together.

teen-girlThen meet with each child and review their lists of strengths and weaknesses. Spend as much time praising them for their strengths as you do talking about their weaknesses. Explain the behavior contract and go over each item.

If the child has some suggestions to which you can agree, make those changes. But this is not a negotiation, you are the parents and you are not required to make changes that you don’t believe are beneficial.

Post the contract in a prominent place and take a few days to teach and implement it before beginning the consequences. When it’s necessary to give consequences, remind the child that consequences result from their choices. Forgetting is not an excuse. Consistency is key. It’s not the severity of the consequences, but the certainty of correction that brings results.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting - We've all heard the saying, "Fail to plan; plan to fail." In last week's post, "You're not my dad!," we talked about the challenges step-parents face when children don't recognize their authority or when step-parents refuse to get involved in parenting issues. Today we'll talk about a plan for successful step-parenting.

Blended Families Part 9: A Plan for Successful Step-Parenting

 

We’ve all heard the saying, “Fail to plan; plan to fail.” In last week’s post, “You’re not my dad!,” we talked about the challenges step-parents face when children don’t recognize their authority or when step-parents refuse to get involved in parenting issues. Today we’ll talk about a plan for successful step-parenting and a great tool for parents called a “behavior contract.”

 

Last week I said that God has a blueprint for marriage (Gen. 2.24) and because it involves a one flesh relationship, both biological parents and step-parents have a responsibility to bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4) and to not exasperate them or provoke them to anger (Col. 3.21; Eph. 6.4).

So how do we apply those principles to real life step-parenting?

 

Make a Plan

 

Some suggestions for getting started:

For the Biological Father:

  • Spend more time communicating with your wife. What are her concerns?
  • Work on a behavior contract for each of the children (more in a minute).
  • Communicate to your children that you support your wife, that she is their authority, and that they must obey her.
  • Have zero tolerance for disrespect toward her.

For the Step-Father:

  • Sit down with your wife and work out a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Allow your wife to be the initial up-front person when both of you are present.
  • When you disagree with your wife, discuss it in private.
  • Remember that you are still the leader of the home and ultimately responsible for what goes on in the home, including parenting the children.

For the Biological Mother:

  • Recognize you husband is the head of the home.
  • Work with your husband to establish a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Explain to the children that your husband is the head of the home. Explain they must obey his authority.
  • If you disagree with your husband, discuss it in private.

For the Step-Mother:

  • Ask your husband what responsibilities he wants you to handle.
  • Work with your husband to develop a behavior contract for each of the children.
  • Be consistent to follow through with your husband’s decisions.
  • If you disagree with your husband, discuss it in private.

 

What is a behavior contract?

 

A behavior contract is merely a tool to help you define your expectations for each child and the resulting consequences and rewards.

Many parents in blended families spend most of their time putting out fires and dealing with bad behavior. But God’s instructions involve much more. Let’s look at those two parenting verses again:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart (Col. 3.21).

Disciplining for wrong behavior is only one part of parenting. Just as important, maybe more so in the long run, is instructing children in the right way to go.

God gives us clear instructions. He spells out how we should live and the consequences of disobeying Him (Gen. 2.16-17; Deut. 28; Gal. 6.7-8). We should do the same for our children. Too often children are exasperated because parents are inconsistent or unclear about their expectations. This is where a behavior contract can help.

 

Writing Out a Behavior Contract

 

Start by working together with your spouse to make a list of the strengths and weaknesses of each child. Examples might be:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 8: “You’re not my dad!” + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 8: "You're not my dad!" - "You're not my dad!" "I don't have to listen to you!" "You can't tell me what to do!" I wonder how many times those statements have been made in step-families. Or how about these, "They're your kids, you deal with it!" or "They're my kids, I'll handle it!" How does God expect us to handle these issues?

Blended Families Part 8: “You’re not my dad!”

 

“You’re not my dad!” “I don’t have to listen to you!” “You can’t tell me what to do!” I wonder how many times those statements have been made in step-families.

Or how about these, “They’re your kids, you deal with it!” or “They’re my kids, I’ll handle it!”

How does God expect us to handle these issues? Should the step-parent back off and let the biological parent deal with his or her children? Should we get into a power struggle and make sure the child knows who’s boss? Are children the sole responsibility of their natural parents?

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and some of the ways their struggles are common to us all.

In previous posts we’ve talked about favoritism, the goal of the blended family, how to love biblically, and the importance of right priorities, among other subjects. In the last two weeks we’ve talked about angry children and how we sometimes provoke them to anger.

Today we’ll talk about the challenges step-parents face concerning their involvement and authority in their step-children’s lives.

 

“You’re not my dad!”

When a child or teenager makes this statement, the implication is, you have no authority in my life.

And when a step-parent says to his or her spouse, “It’s your problem,” he or she is saying I’ve got no responsibility in this. When the parent says, “Let me deal with it my way,” he or she is saying, “It’s not your place.”

But, is any of that true? Does God’s blueprint for marriage change simply because a couple has been married previously?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2.24).

When a man and woman marry, they become one flesh. What she has is his and what he has is hers and not just material things. They are to serve God and do life together (Gen. 2.15-18). And that’s a good thing! In fact, it’s the reason many choose to remarry.

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up (Eccl. 4.9-10).

But it means that neither of them can abdicate responsibility when the going gets tough. The commands given to parents is for both of them.

Ephesians 6.4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And Colossians 3.21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

Those commands are:

  • Don’t provoke them to anger (see last week).
  • Bring them up.
  • Discipline them.
  • Instruct them.
  • Don’t exasperate them.

Notice that while because of the one flesh relationship those commands are for both of them, God spoke directly to fathers. Many husbands believe parenting is primarily their wife’s responsibility, but God says dads and step-dads have the ultimate responsibility (Eph. 5.23) and God will hold them accountable just as He did with Adam in the garden (Gen. 3.11).

 

“But the kids hate me!”

I know some of you are thinking, how is that possible when the kids seem to hate me for marrying their mom or dad. And sometimes the other biological parent appears to be doing everything he or she can to undermine your relationship with the children.

It may be true that God has allowed you to be in a difficult situation, but He promises to give you the grace and wisdom to deal with it.

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in allpoints tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4).

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4.13).

 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1).

We can count it all joy, not that we’re happy for the problems, but we can be joyful because we understand that God is using it to strengthen and mature us. And when we need wisdom in the midst of it, we can ask and receive it.

When was the last time you went to God in prayer before responding to a challenge to your authority? When was the last time you asked God to give you compassion for that rebellious son or daughter and for wisdom to reach his or her heart?  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 7: Provoking Children to Anger + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 7: Provoking Children to Anger

 

Blended Families Part 7: Provoking Children to Anger

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and some of the ways their struggles are common to us all.

In previous posts we’ve talked about favoritism, the goal of the blended family, how to love biblically, and the importance of right priorities, among other subjects.

Last week we talked about angry children. But we can’t talk about angry children without asking ourselves if there are things we might be doing, intentionally or unintentionally, that provoke our children to anger.

Ephesians 6.4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And Colossians 3.21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.”

While each of us, including our children, is responsible for his or her behavior, we can’t read those two verses without admitting we can make it easier for our children to become angry or exasperated.

Last week, we talked about the seed of hurt that can grow into anger, bitterness and, even, full-blown rebellion in our children. While the hurt can come as a result of wrong perceptions, assumptions or misunderstandings, it can also come as a result of sin on the part of one or more parents or step-parents.

Lou Priolo in his book, The Heart of Anger, lists 25 ways parents provoke their children to anger. Most of these apply to blended families, biological families, single parent families, even grandparents or others who are raising children. Here’s Lou’s list:

  1. By a lack of marital harmony
  2. Establishing and maintaining a child-centered home
  3. Modeling sinful anger
  4. Habitually disciplining while angry
  5. Scolding
  6. Being inconsistent with discipline
  7. Having double standards
  8. Being legalistic
  9. Not admitting you’re wrong and not asking for forgiveness
  10. Constantly finding fault
  11. Parents reversing God-given roles
  12. Not listening to your child’s opinion or taking his or her “side of the story” seriously
  13. Comparing them to others
  14. Not making time just to talk
  15. Not praising or encouraging your child
  16. Failing to keep your promises
  17. Chastening in front of others
  18. Not allowing enough freedom
  19. Allowing too much freedom
  20. Mocking your child
  21. Abusing them physically
  22. Ridiculing or name calling
  23. Unrealistic expectations
  24. Practicing favoritism
  25. Child training with worldly methodologies inconsistent with God’s Word

While these can and do apply to children and parents in all kinds of families, what might they look like in a blended family? Let’s expand on a few:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 6: Angry Children + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 6: Angry Children - We’ve all seen them, or experienced them, blended families with angry, resentful children or teens. And parents who are just trying to “live through it” until the kids are old enough to leave home. In some cases, the children aren’t only angry, but are in full blown rebellion. I don't have to tell you this falls far short of God's best for families. How does this happen when couples start out with such high hopes for their marriages and families?

 

Blended Families Part 6: Angry Children

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and some of the ways their struggles are common to us all.

In previous posts we’ve talked about favoritism, the goal of the blended family, how to love biblically, and the importance of right priorities, among other subjects.

Today we’re going to talk about angry children.

 

We’ve all seen them, or experienced them, blended families with angry, resentful children or teens. And parents who are just trying to “live through it” until the kids are old enough to leave home. In some cases, the children aren’t only angry, but are in full blown rebellion. I don’t have to tell you this falls far short of God’s best for families.

How does this happen when couples start out with such high hopes for their marriages and families?

 

It starts with a seed.

 

It starts with a seed and that seed is a hurt.

… who can bear a broken spirit? (Prov. 18.14b)

The hurt often comes as a result of sin on the part of one or more parents or step-parents, but not always.

It can be real or, sometimes, only imagined. Things like:

  • A step-father trying to take a father’s place.
  • Unfair treatment by a parent or step-parent.
  • Desertion or rejection by one or more parents.
  • Favoritism toward a sibling or step-sibling.
  • The loss of friends or extended family.

If it’s not dealt with in a biblical way, the seed will grow into a root of bitterness.

 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.15 NLT).

The child cultivates that seed by playing the offense over and over in his or her mind. He thinks about how unfair it is, how he wishes things were different, or how he wants his old life back. As he does he’s nurturing and watering it. The seed grows into a bitter root and that root, if not addressed biblically, will spring up into an ugly bush.

We’ve all tasted something bitter. It’s sharp to the tongue and leaves a bad taste.

A bitter person, child or adult, is sharp with others, even when the other people are trying to be kind or loving. Pretty soon other family members are avoiding unnecessary interaction, fueling more anger and bitterness.

Bitterness, if not dealt with grows into anger. This kind of anger is not the occasional outburst that comes from various provocations, life events, or frustrations, but an angry disposition that begins to characterize their lives.

Allowed to remain, it can quickly grow into stubbornness or what some might call insubordination. Imagine the proverbial donkey with her front hooves dug into the ground while her master tries to move her forward. A stubborn son or daughter is uncooperative, often refusing to take part in family events, interact with others, or obey her parents.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry (1 Sam. 15.23a).

Stubbornness is idolatrous because the stubborn person thinks she is god of her own life. What makes her happy is getting her own way.

But sadly, stubbornness is not the end of the road for someone on this downward spiral. Stubbornness can lead to the next step, full blown rebellion. A rebel is someone who has become a fool in God’s eyes. He or she refuses to be under authority, especially, the authority of his or her parents.

Look at some of the characteristics of a fool from the book of Proverbs:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 5: Favoritism and Other Four-Letter Words + LINKUP

 

We've been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we're going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one ... favoritism. - We've been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we're going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one ... favoritism.

 

Blended Families Part 5: Favoritism and Other Four-Letter Words

 

We’ve been talking about the challenges blended families face and also some of the ways their struggles are common to us all. Today we’re going to look at one of the biggest issues parents, step-parents, and children face when two families become one … favoritism. We’ll also look at the need to view the blended family as one and how to avoid having a child-centered home.

In the last blog, I said the overarching goal of blending a family and for all of life is to please God (2 Cor. 5.9)—not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appreciated, but to please God.

I also discussed the importance of biblically loving one another, rather than merely getting along or even liking each other (Blended Families Part 3). And last week I started discussing the priority of the husband and wife relationship (Blended Families Part 4). Today we’ll look at some specific ways we can strengthen the marriage relationship, even while handling tough parenting issues.

 

Joe’s & Liz’s Story

 

Do you remember Joe and Liz (Blended Families Part 4)? Week-ends were rough with the added dynamic of Joe’s son from his previous marriage. How might they plan to have a better week-end the next time Joe’s son is with them?

 

Praying Together for God’s Wisdom

 

James 1.2-8 says:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

God promises to give wisdom to those who ask in faith and have a heart that’s willing to obey. And later in his epistle James added, “You do not have because you do not ask God” (Jas. 4.2). Parents in blended families need wisdom and, yet, how often do we actually stop and ask?

Failure to ask for God’s help and wisdom is foolishness, at best, and more often a form of pride, since we’re really saying, “Lord, I don’t need Your help. I can figure this out for myself!” It’s so easy to think the way that seems right to us is the right way. But Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14.12). Whether we’re faced with a stressful, potentially mine-filled week-end or just day-to-day events, we should be praying regularly for God’s wisdom.

 

Family Not Families

 

It’s important to see your family as one and your children as yours jointly and to prayerfully make decisions as a team. Practice taking time to talk over issues, in advance, considering the needs of all the children and your family as a whole. It’s especially important not to make special rules for children who aren’t in the household full time or to favor your biological children over your step-children.

 

Favoritism … The Other F-Word

 

Favoritism is quite possibly the biggest destroyer of the blended family. It weakens the husband and wife relationship, hinders the step-parent’s relationship with the other children, and leads to anger and bitterness. And, ironically, it often hurts the favored child as much as anyone else. Trust me on this one; it will create chaos and can drive a wedge between family members faster than you can imagine.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life - When blending a family the goal of life is always the same, not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appeciated, but to please God.

 

Blended Families Part 4: The Goal of Life

 

In previous posts (see list at bottom) we’ve looked at some of the problems that are often present in blended families. We’ve talked about taking the logs out of our own eyes so we can see clearly. We’ve looked at some of God’s promises and, in the last blog, we talked about changing our goal from liking each other to loving each other with God’s kind of love. But there’s an even bigger goal that needs to become our number one priority. Paul talked about it in 1 Corinthians 5.9:

9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him.

Our primary goal individually and as a family should be to please God—not to get along, not to have our needs met, not to feel loved or appreciated, but to please God. We please God by becoming more like His Son (Matt. 3.17; Rom. 8.29), by obeying His Word, and by making His priorities our priorities.

Psalm 128.1-4 (NLT) says:

1 How joyful are those who fear the LORD—
all who follow his ways!
2 You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.
How joyful and prosperous you will be!
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful grapevine,
flourishing within your home.
Your children will be like vigorous young olive trees
as they sit around your table.
4 That is the LORD’s blessing
for those who fear him.

The Lord’s blessings are contingent on fearing God and walking in His way. Isaiah 43.7 says we were created for His glory. Whatever we do, including blending a family is to be done in a way that brings Him glory.

 

What is “His way” concerning the family?

 

It starts with the husband and wife relationship. Genesis 2.18, 24:

18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

The man and the woman are to leave their parents and be joined to their spouse in a covenant of companionship. The parent-child relationship is a temporary one. That means we’re not only to leave our parents, but we’re to be preparing our children to leave our home one day.

The husband and wife relationship is to be permanent and given priority. The one flesh relationship is much more than just sexual, it’s a bonding of two lives: physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and socially.

When the Apostle Paul gave instructions for the Christian family, he first addressed our relationship with God, then the husband-wife relationship, and then the parent-child relationship (Col. 3.16-21; Eph. 5.15-33, 6.1-4). The husband-wife relationship is to be second only to our relationship with God.

The husband and wife are to be a unit, functioning together as a team, making decisions and working to solve problems together.

But, sadly, in many blended families, biological parents side with their children in disputes, are more permissive with them, and grow to have an us versus him or her mentality.

A biological parent may believe the step-parent is harsh or lacks understanding. All of this can be complicated by shared custody, different parenting styles, angry or manipulative children, feelings of guilt over a divorce, or a general lack of understanding about biblical principles.

One step-mother’s experience (the names and some of the details have been changed):

“Monday through Friday things are pretty calm. But come Friday night when Joe picks up his son, Jesse, everything changes. Jesse is younger than my two children, so they’re expected to let him have his way. I’m not allowed to discipline him because his mother wouldn’t like it. He’s a picky eater, so he usually demands something special for meals, often requiring a trip to the store. The whole week-end is structured around what Jesse wants. He stays up late, is over-tired the next day, and whines when things don’t go his way. My children are hurt and angry and I usually end up taking them to the movies or out for pizza just to keep the peace. Joe and I both end the week-end exhausted. I got married so Joe and I could share the load, but I feel like I do everything I always did, plus trying to keep conflict to a minimum. On top of everything else our relationship is suffering. We don’t talk because we just end up arguing and we don’t have the energy to do anything else.”

Joe’s story:  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other -

So you met that guy or gal and you thought … “Life was going to be wonderful!” You loved each other, so you were sure everything else would just work out. You knew there would be some adjustments, but you weren’t prepared for what has happened. It seems like conflict has broken out on every front and no one seems to even like each other anymore to say nothing about love!

 

Blended Families Part 3: Loving Not Liking Each Other

 

In part 1 I talked about the losses that many members of blended families have faced. Understanding those losses can increase our understanding and patience and lead to great gains.

Blended Families Part 1: The Losses & the Gains

And in part 2 I shared that while blended families have unique problems, the root issues are the same as those we all face. I also shared an incredible promise from God’s Word that applies to blended and biological families alike.

Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Different


Ready-Made Families

 

This week we’ll look at the incredible opportunity we have in blended families to demonstrate God’s love, beginning right now, even in the midst of the turmoil and strife.

In some ways it’s understandable that problems surface. You see … in biological families love grows naturally over a period time. Mutual attraction, shared interests, and loving feelings draw a couple together and, hopefully, continue to grow as the marriage progresses. Children arrive and their parents fall in love with them as they hold them, care for them, and nurture them through infancy and childhood. Children’s feelings for their parents form naturally, as well.

But in a blended family, couples marry and then realize their “ready-made” family has all the problems, personality issues, and pressures of other families, plus some, without the bonds of affection and loyalty that naturally form over time.

Instead, those bonds often exist only between the husband and wife. Children are expected to welcome new siblings and another parent into their lives without any real bonding, in many cases. And step-parents may find it hard to like children who are often hostile or indifferent. Before long it can even put a strain on the husband and wife relationship.  Continue reading

Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Different + LINKUP

 

Blended Families Part 2: The Same Only Differednt -

Blended families are everywhere. Maybe your family is a blended or step-family. If so, you know blended families face unique challenges and issues. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those individuals and all families face.

 

Blended Families Part 2: “The Same Only Different”

 

In part 1, we talked about some of the very real losses that members of step families face and the importance of examining our own attitudes, actions and desires. Understanding those losses can help us become more understanding and asking God to help us examine our own actions is vitally important and an essential first step in the process of growth and change.

 

Charlatans & Frauds

 

Matthew 7.3-4 says:
3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?(NLT)

Jesus was very descriptive in this passage, wasn’t He? My paraphrase is, “Who do you think you are, trying to get a speck out of someone else’s eye when you can’t see past that giant log in your own?” Then He starts the next verse with the words, “You hypocrite …!” (v. 5).

Two synonyms for the word hypocrite are charlatan and fraud. The Encarta Dictionary defines it as, “somebody who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise.”

When we preach doing right to our family members and then respond in sinful, unloving ways, we’re playing the hypocrite! We’re frauds!

 

Why is this so important?

 

James, chapter 1:
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

“Deceiving yourselves.” There is delusion, spiritual blindness, that occurs when we fail to examine our hearts and actions by looking into the mirror of God’s Word with a view to obeying it. We can respond selfishly and sinfully to others while believing we’re completely justified.

We face enough challenges in blended families, why add spiritual blindness to the list? But by looking into that mirror and being a doer of it, there is blessing.

And Hebrews 5 says:
14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

We have the ability to discern good and evil; that is we have wisdom, when we practice doing what’s right. So the difference between removing our own logs and being a doer of the Word, as opposed to being a hearer and not a doer, is the difference between delusion and wisdom.

By the way, James, the writer of the book by the same name, was the half-brother of Jesus. There were other siblings, too (Mk. 6.3), and Joseph was His step-father. That makes Jesus part of a blended family. More about His earthly family and other blended Bible families later.

But there is something else we need to understand about being a hypocrite or a fraud. When we tell others, particularly our children and step-children, they must respond one way (loving, kind, accepting, patient, etc.) and we do something else, we’re completely discrediting ourselves and end up provoking our children to anger (Eph. 6.4; Col. 3.21). It’s hard to imagine anyone not resenting a fraud and children are no different.

 

Unique Yet the Same

 

In part 1, I stressed the fact that blended families face some unique challenges, and that’s certainly true. But while our problems may be unique in their details, the heart issues involved are much the same as those all individuals and all families face.  Continue reading