Blending Family Movies

220px-StepmomThere are lots of ways to start discussions with your children about remarriage and blending your family. One way is to watch some of the following blending family movies* together and then talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of the characters’ experiences. Take some time this summer, or all year long, to learn and talk together.

The Brady Bunch Movie: Thought I’d get this out of the way from the get go. While rather unrealistic, the Bradys are one of the first “blending families” on screen. The movie will give you some laughs, some groans, and some things to talk about.

Yours, Mine and Ours: The original version with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda and the newer version with Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo both share the story of the chaos, struggles and emotions that blending families often face. There are lots of laughs but also some touching moments that will give you fodder for conversation.

StepMom: This movie is a story about the struggles faced between a biological mom and a stepmom that helps the viewers understand how difficult it is for parents, children and stepparents to find their roles in the blending family transition. The poignant story and its ending might help everyone in a blending family learn about their journey. (Rated P-13 for some language and some adult content.)

Mrs. Doubtfire: The challenges of custody is front and center in this funny and touching story of a father who wants to see his children so badly that he pretends to be a female nanny. Lots of issues can be addressed by watching this movie together.

One Fine Day: Even though this sweet movie is not so much about a blending family as about single parents trying to balance work and children and relationships, it can help kids see how difficult it is to juggle it all and may help them understand the complexities we all face.

The Parent Trap: Another good movie that shows how divorce leaves children longing for connection and how they’ll do just about anything to get parents back together. This movie can start discussions about missing a parent, the longing to get parents back together, and the need to work through it all together.

*Please review movies first and/or check out or other reviews before viewing movies with your kids.

What other blending family movies would you suggest? I’d love to know!


Reading Me

Portrait of romantic young couple spending time together outdoorsBen is a salesman. He’s a verbal processer, a people person, and an extrovert. Jennifer is a journalistic processer, loves her time alone, and is more of an introvert. Even though their communication styles overlap and generally work well together, communication still takes a lot of effort.

“We’re both very affectionate people,” Jennifer says, “but Ben is really good at reading my body language. When I try to hide an irritation or something, he can see right through me. And he calls me on it.”

“Other times, we can miss or misinterpret those nonverbal signals,” Ben says. “Either I won’t see it in myself, or I’ll miss it in Jennifer. But all of this is so important in communication.”

As Ben affirms, in order to have healthy communication, open and honest transparency is necessary. You must walk your talk—your behavior, your facial expressions, and the tone of your voice must match what you say. “You’re right” can mean you are mad, sad, happy, afraid, humble, proud—depending on the way you say it and your body language.

Messages can get confusing when you say one thing but the inflection of your voice and your body signals say another. Statistics say that communication is thirty-eight percent tone, fifty-five percent body language and only seven percent words!

“When a situation with his girls is grieving Ben,” Jennifer says, “I’ll see that it’s weighing on him by his body language or other things. He might be quieter or more uptight or less engaged. During moments like that, I try to find a way to diffuse the situation and help him through it, whether that means talking about what’s going on or sending him off for a hike. Knowing what the other person needs and giving him the freedom to do what he needs to do is important.”

“Jennifer’s really good about helping me through things that I can’t even articulate,” Ben says. “I try to find balance to know what I can, and can’t, solve. And I try to let go of the things I can’t fix, which is really important in any divorce situation. I do what I can but put the rest in God’s care.”

Good communication is conveying what is in your heart and knowing that your future spouse lovingly receives it. When you express your thoughts and your future spouse listens and responds with feedback and understanding, you both become successful communicators and will grow closer in your relationship.

What tips do you have for deepening your communication? I’d love to know.

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.


Committed for Life

639fc9224cfb913d79174064fa92cbc6In our living room is a symbol Dale and I used in our wedding. It’s a 3-fold cord of red, white and gold. For us, it symbolizes that commitment we made to marriage was not just between the two of us. The covenant is between three of us: with God at the center. The scripture says “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” Ecc. 4:12. That’s how we want our commitment to be and that takes making daily choices to do so.

Of all the major decisions we make in life, making a commitment to get married is one of the most important and for some, the hardest. Hopefully, this decision is far more important than buying your first car or house or deciding where you’ll go on vacation.

A commitment to marry is more than just signing a contract. Marriage is a sacred covenant, a plan God created for our benefit. In the Bible, God made covenants with His people, but people like Jonathan to David, Ruth to Naomi and others made covenants too. They were committing to love, serve and care for each other. Covenant promises are unconditional—there is no escape clause and/or no money-back guarantees. It is made on the foundation of faith and love—and it is permanent.

Permanent is a word seldom used today. In our culture, everything seems disposable—even relationships. Everything seems like it’s based on what makes us feel good or is convenient for us personally. But God’s plan is so much bigger than that. Just as He has never left us or forsaken us, even in our worst sinful state, so He wants us to know and enjoy the permanence of an intimate relationship with our mate.

We all know couples, maybe even our own parents, who divorced. Maybe they just grew tired of each other. Maybe one of them “found someone new.” Whatever the reason, they broke the commitment they made to each other, and the painful consequences of their choice affected many others besides them. And that’s not God’s plan for any of us.

Hopefully, we also know couples who have been married for decades and are happy, despite the challenges they’ve faced through the years. Our friends just celebrated 55 years together! Bob and Gayle love each other dearly, are the closest of companions and deeply committed to each other. As Dale says, “When we grow up, let’s be just like them!” These are the kinds of couples who can give us hope for our marriages. As you journey through your marriage, find one or two couples who you can look to as a model of what marriage should look like, especially if healthy marriages have been rare in your life.

Who are your role models for marriage? Tell them what a blessing they are to you, and I’d love to hear more about how they made a difference in your marriage.

Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.


Making Time For Each Other

couple-walking-togetherCouples tend to get so busy running the kids here and there that they let their private couple time fall to the wayside. But that’s not healthy for your marriage.

“We have to be intentional about making time together,” Gayle says. “But instead of expecting a certain amount of couple time, we have to be creative and find time together when we can. Sometimes it’s a lunch or when the boys are sleeping or at sports practice, but we find the time to be together. Because life is so busy, we have to let it happen when we can.”

“One of my favorite times is when just the two of us,” Steve says, “go to a restaurant at 9 o’clock at night and share an appetizer. That’s just how it is in this season of life.”

Gayle says, “We also need to make time to get away as a couple. It’s different for every couple, but for us, a yearly vacation is best. Whether it’s a weekly date night, a once-a-month get away, a quarterly weekend away, or a longer yearly vacation, we know we have to do something and take that time to wind down, de-stress, spend quality time together, and reconnect.”

Gayle and Steve learned to reduce their conflict over time together by adjusting their expectations for this season of their lives. Yet they were also proactive in finding time together when they could. In a blended family, this is a critical thing to do.

How have you made time for each other? I’d love to know!

Adapted from The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness and Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.



A Servant’s Heart

images-8The presence of a “servant’s heart” tells you much about your mate. But the lack of it can be a real problem. If he or she is overly self centered, selfish, or inconsiderate of you and others—or if he or she always wants things his or her way, watch out! You may be in over your head and need to get some help.

A control freak—that’s what you’d call Steve. Married once before, this macho man saw his wife, Amy, as his servant, but not in the good sense. Every morning, he wanted his coffee while he showered. Every night, he wanted his dinner as soon as he got home from work and then expected to enjoy a night of watching sports while Amy caught up with the housework. Amy wanted to be a submissive wife, but his increasing demands and unkind manners became unbearable.

One servant in the family was one too few, and something needed to change. When Steve’s brother came to visit, Paul confronted Steve with how he was treating Amy. Fortunately, Steve listened to his big brother and learned to treat Amy with more respect and care. Though he still tended to be controlling, Amy found safety to speak up when it happened.

It takes two people serving each other to make a marriage healthy. Once you know a person’s heart, you will know who that person really is. This is often overlooked during courtship because we’re usually so enthralled with our own warm-fuzzy feelings of love that we tend to forget to deeply look into the heart. During courtship, we often put our best foot forward, masking the inner self. So if you’re dating, it’s critical to look past that outward show and discover who that person really is deep down.

That’s where perseverance comes in—and be sure to add a healthy dose of faith and hope. We’re all imperfect people, struggling to do our best—to love well, to work well, to be successful at whatever we do. We’re all a bit selfish sometimes; we’re often moody or insecure; we sometimes get angry or become a little inconsiderate.

But these should be the exception, not the norm. What you’re trying to assess before you marry is if your future mate has a pattern of negative, selfish or self-centered behavior, which will hurt your marriage…and hurt you. If some negative patterns are present after you marry, they must be evaluated carefully as to the seriousness and regularity, and then be weighed against the positive attributes. Then it’s wise to work on correcting them, whether through counseling, mentoring, or good old fashion communication.

What are some ways you serve each other in your marriage? I’d love to know.

Adapted from Countdown for Couples: Preparing for the Adventure of Marriage. Copyright © 2013, all rights reserved.



Marvelous Mothers

DSC_0022My two favorite mothers are a special part of my life—on either side of me—my 90-year-old mother who has been a gift in my life and my precious daughter who has blessed me with her love, marrying a wonderful man, and giving me two wonderful granddaughters. Both of these fine women have brought me so much joy and love that I can hardly contain it.

My mom has journeyed through so much—from growing up on a farm in northern New York, raising five children, serving and burying two husbands, and loving God all along the way. My daughter has been on her own special journey too—called to be a missionary when she was six, enduring some pretty tough years when her dad left, starting Paradigm Shift with her amazing husband, moving to South Africa, having her two babies in a foreign country—and loving God through it all.

Both of these women have trusted God through so many things, and I think therein lies the power of their lives. Neither of them bailed when times got tough; both of them clung to the One who could lead and guide them through the challenges and changes that came their way.

As mothers, these two women have shown a steadfast love and commitment to being the very best mothers they could be, and they loved their children well. I am the recipient of a lifetime of love, thanks to a Mom who hung in there through thick and thin and still does with every phone call and visit we get to enjoy together. And I am a recipient of abundant love, thanks to a daughter who shares her life and her children with me so willingly and extravagantly with every Skype visit and Facebook post and email and our all-too-infrequent time together.

So on this Mother’s Day, I send accolades and boatloads of love to my two most treasured Moms, and I give them my own personal Mother of the Year award! Who would you like to give a Mother of the Year award to? I’d love to know!