“Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9
According to Merriam-Webster, a family is “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children; also, any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family.” What a cold, insufficient definition of a word that means so much, and that God created. There is nothing basic about a family formed with God’s grace and blessing, and that puts God first in their relationships with each other.
A Christian definition of family written by Auburn University says, “The family is the foundational institution of society ordained by God. It is constituted by marriage and is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.” Even this definition does not quite seem to adequately define the term, family.
Family: people brought together by the grace and blessings of God. Family: people who live together, grow together, make mistakes together, focus on God together, forgive each other, and who love unconditionally. Family: people who learn from each other. Family: people who support and encourage each other. I could go on and on!
Steve and I were blessed with parents that gave us homes with families much like I described above. Our parents set wonderful examples for us in our Christian faith, and we both witnessed the love and devotion our parents had for each other. We were both blessed with extended families who felt the same way, so our childhoods and teenage years were filled with love, laughter, acceptance, forgiveness, and prayer. Neither of us could ask for more than the parents and families God blessed us with.
When Steve and I met in 1988, we already had children. We also knew that not only did we have children, but our children also had other families that would be a part of lives, not in terms of being a part of our immediate family, but they would still be a part of Stacy and Patrick’s lives. Our coming together as a family would impact those families as much as it impacted our immediate families.
I remember the first night we introduced our parents to each other. It was a simple dinner at my house, and I was a nervous wreck. I loved Steve’s mother, and wanted so much for my parents to love her also. I stressed all day long with cooking, cleaning, and making sure everything was perfect. Yet, when it came down to it, I had nothing to worry about. Our coming together was God’s plan, he was bringing them together too. It was a perfect evening, and from that point the relationship between our parents flourished.
From the beginning our parents did an incredible job of making sure Patrick and Stacy felt welcomed and loved in their homes. Mrs. Murrell was an incredible grandmother for Patrick. How many children get the privilege of having three grandmothers who just want to love you and spoil you? What a blessing! And Stacy, from the beginning there was an instant connection with her and my parents. My daddy loved her from the first moment, he even came up with a nickname for her (like he did with his other grandchildren). “Troublemaker”, which was as far from the truth as it could be, but it stuck.
It was not long before we introduced our siblings to each other as well, and we chose my parents’ house to do those introductions. What better way to introduce brothers and sisters, grandchildren, and anyone else but with basketball, good food, a game of Scrabble, and even some singing around the piano. Again, God placed us all together.
There was one more family that I was concerned about telling them about Steve and that we had decided to get married. I knew they needed to be told because they were Patrick’s grandparents. They had lost their son a little over a year before, and I was not sure they were ready for this news.
“Do not be afraid. Do not be silent. Keep on speaking.” Acts 18:9
“God can restore what is broken and change it into something amazing. All you need is faith.” Joel 2:25
Pep talks to myself did not really work, but when I went to God in prayer and asked for guidance and wisdom, His words were exactly what I needed.
- Christ will give me strength
- I will not be afraid because Christ is with me, and He will give me the words to speak.
- Christ can do all things, He can restore what is broken, and HE DID CHANGE IT INTO SOMETHING AMAZING! All I needed to do was have faith in Him.
As I got ready to make the phone call to the McGinnis’, I remembered another night I had to make 2 phone calls I will never forget. This call was different, but I was hypersensitive to making sure I had just the right words. From the moment Mrs. McGinnis answered the phone, the words came, and as usual she was the perfect Southern lady. She wanted to meet Steve, so did Mac. I understood their thoughts and reasons. He was going to be the father of their first grandchild. He was going to step into the position that Mike once filled. They needed to be reassured and comfortable with him too. So, we planned a weekend trip to Burlington, NC so they could meet. Stacy went with us because they would be a part of her life too. Once again God showed us how this was all part of His plan, that He was in control, and with faith everything would work out according to His will, and it would be amazing. There was an instant connection between all of them. After a weekend of getting to know each other, Steve and I headed home with our children, knowing we had their blessing as well. Their only concern was that we might want to change Patrick’s last name when we were married, and we assured them we had already discussed that, and we had decided Patrick would keep his daddy’s name. It was extremely important to everyone. Over the years, the relationship between Steve and Mrs. McGinnis grew to be something incredibly special. She would even write him letters, just to let him know she was thinking of him. We had become a family!
I have told people over the years that blending a family, with small children and other families, is never an easy journey to travel, yet I have learned that it is the most rewarding journey to travel. I would not trade the last 32 years for anything. We have had our share of tears, frustrations, laughter, accomplishments and setbacks, growth, and blessings untold. There have been days I have wanted to just get down on my knees and cry out for wisdom and strength to lead three children, children who are so different from each other, yet knowing we needed to lead them to know Christ, have faith in God, and to love one another. Again, this verse was my solace:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
Christ does strengthen us! He gives us strength beyond measure. Yes, we are a ‘blended’ family! But we are so much more.
- We are a family! We are father, mother, sisters, brother, with two daughter-in-laws, and three grandchildren.
- We love each other, we recognize each other’s differences, we understand that we are each unique.
- We support and encourage each other.
- We are strong because we love each other, support, and encourage each other, and we know our strength comes from God.
- Over the years, we have come together many times in crisis and walked away stronger as individuals and a family.
- We are just a family – no stepsisters, stepbrothers, or stepchildren, no half-sisters, no step-grandparents, aunts, or uncles, just a family!
“Joyful, are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1
“The Lord is Good, a strength and stronghold in the days of trouble; He knows those who take refuge and trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7
God knows! He knows each one of us. He created us, so how can He not know each one of us in the very core of who we are! He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He knows when days are going to be hard, and He knows when days will be smooth. God’s plan was for Steve and me to come together and make our two families ONE, God’s plan included the struggles we have faced and the laughter and tears we have shared with each other. Following God’s plan gave us blessings beyond measure.
Following God’s plan for my life gave me strength and wisdom to face every road I have traveled, and hopefully to travel those roads with strength and dignity.
“She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25
I laugh, I love, and I cry but none of these are with fear of the future in my mind and heart; I laugh, I love, and I cry knowing God is my strength, and He knows my future! I will not be afraid!