FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

133: Remarrying After Loss

with Rod and Rachel Faulkner Brown | March 11, 2024
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Remarriage after widowhood carries unique challenges and unwanted transitions. Expectations that aren’t realistic often show up, creating even more grief and heartache. But hard dynamics in the beginning can move toward bonded relationships and family unity with time and effort. In this podcast episode, Ron Deal talks with Rod and Rachel Faulkner Brown about their blended family challenges after Rachel was widowed twice, had two children with her second husband, and then married Rod with two young children in tow.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Ron Deal

    Ron L. Deal is one of the most widely read and viewed experts on blended families in the country. He is Director of FamilyLife Blended® for FamilyLife®, founder of Smart Stepfamilies™, and the author and Consulting Editor of the Smart Stepfamily Series of books including the bestselling Building Love Together in Blended Families: The 5 Love Languages® and Becoming Stepfamily Smart (with Dr. Gary Chapman), The Smart Stepfamily: 7 Steps to a Healthy Family, and Preparing to Blend. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist, popular conference speaker, and host of the FamilyLife Blended podcast. He and his wife, Nan, have three sons and live in Little Rock, Arkansas. Learn more at

Remarriage after widowhood carries unique challenges and unwanted transitions. But hard dynamics in the beginning can move toward bonded relationships & family unity with time & effort. Listen to Rod & Rachel Faulkner Brown discuss their family with Ron.

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133: Remarrying After Loss

With Rod and Rachel Faulkner Brow...more
March 11, 2024

Rachel: I was left with a five-month-old little girl and a two-year-old little boy and widowed twice but I mean, this time was insanely different. It was epic. If I thought Todd's death was seismic, I mean, this was like an earthquake around the world. This was like tectonic plates shifting in my life.

Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, pursue the relationships that matter most. You know a growing number of our listeners and viewers were widowed before forming their blended family, and you've been asking for more conversations that pertain to you and we've been listening to that. We've got you covered in this episode of FamilyLife Blended. 

And by the way, I just need to add, nearly every episode includes something for whatever your backstory is, whether it's post-divorce, post-breakup, or post-widowhood, so listen for those nuggets of gold in every episode.

But I also want to say something to those of you that who were widowed. I want you to know that we've done a number of episodes specifically about that blended family journey. For example:

  • Episode 127, Preparing for Later Life Marriage; that was with Jim and Shirley Mozena.
  • Episode 117, Trusting God in Difficult Times with Davey and Kristi Blackburn.
  • Episode 98, Dating and the Single Parent with Sabrina Beasley McDonald, who was widowed and then started dating again.
  • Episode 85, Terrible Loss, Unexpected Love with Bill and Evelyn Thompson.
  • Episode 67, Blended with Grit: Widowhood and Forming a New Family with Ryan and Jessica Ronne.
  • Episode 45, Adult Stepfamilies: Joys and Challenges with the Holidays with Bob and Vicki Maday.
  • Episode 17, Grief and the Blended Family with Brian and Diane Fromme, who specializes in stepparenting children who have a deceased parent; written a book on that subject. It was a great episode; that's Episode 17, Grief and the Blended Family. 

And we've done a number of episodes in our Growing Up Blended series—you know, when I talk to an adult who grew up in a blended family, where that person's experience was having a parent pass away before they became part of a stepfamily. So why am I going through all of this? The moral of the story is: go back through our episodes. 

A quick reminder that Blended and Blessed 2024 is coming up next month, Saturday, April 27th. This is our annual worldwide livestream for couples in blended families. You can attend from anywhere. And by the way, if you're on the other side of the planet and your clock doesn't work well with our clock, it's okay. The video is available for a week. You can watch it at your convenience. 

And if you host this for groups of couples in your church, which by the way, only costs $99. You can access it for up to a year. You can do it at another time of the year. You can make it a small group study. You have access to the livestream. It's yours to do with as you choose. 

We'll be broadcasting live from Dallas-Fort Worth area so if you live anywhere near there, come be part of our live audience. You can worship with us. You can hang out with me, Gayla Grace, and all the other speakers. And you can be part of a tribe; people just like you; families just like yours. The show notes will tell you how to get connected, Blended and Blessed 2024. 

Rachel Faulkner Brown is an author, Bible teacher, who speaks to women and widows through Be Still Ministries and Never Alone Ministries. Her husband, Rod, is the lead strategic consultant for Irresistible Church Network, and he's been in ministry for over 25 years. Rachel brought two children into their marriage, Davis and Campbell. I am so pleased to have the two of you with me today. Rod and Rachel, thanks for joining me. 

Rod: Thanks for having us. We're excited.

Rachel: —such an honor. Oh my gosh, we love you, Ron. We have such a long history with you. [Laughter]

Ron: Well, speaking of which, you know, I met the two of you at a, I believe, at a WinShape Marriage Conference Center in Rome, Georgia. You guys came and attended a seminar I did a number of years ago for stepfamily couples. I’ve got to start here. Rachel, as I recall, you told me once you really didn't like what I had to say. Is that right? [Laughter]

Rod: She did not like it at all. You ruined her entire weekend. [Laughter] Which ruined my weekend, Ron. 

Rachel: It was special. Let's just say that. Yes, I mean— [Laughter]  I was so distraught. You said it would take five to seven years. I was like, “No, that is not our story! I refuse; I reject that. I mean, I was just so like, you know, Pollyanna about the whole thing. I was like, “No, that is, that is not—we're just not going to struggle like this. We're just not.” Oh my gosh, five to seven years. Oh, seven plus, yes, for sure. I mean, every bit of it. You were like all crockpotting, and I'd already blended us in the Blendtec, and it was like over. I mean, we were blended. [Laughter]

Ron: How long had you guys been married at that point? 

Rod: I think we were in our first year. If we weren't, we were in our first 18 months.

Rachel: No, it was like that first summer. I think it was that—

Rod: No, no, no. I think it was the first fall and winter. 

Rachel: —fall, okay.

Rod: They only do them in the fall and the winter. 

Rachel: Okay, yes, it was early, really early but I knew we needed you. You know, I think that was the thing. I was like, “God, we need help. We don't know what we're doing.” But in my head, we had it done really well. You know, it was over. 

Ron: Yes. The blending process, the integration of the family members was going to go quickly in your heart. And when I suggested that maybe it wouldn't, that— 

Rachel: That was so offensive. [Laughter]

Rod: She's fast on everything Ron because she's thought the oneness in marriage would happen before we made the—I think when we got engaged, she thought, “Oh, that's going to start now.”

Rachel: Yes. Yes, oneness has always been our joke. Well, I mean, we're one so—and you know, we were like one from the moment that we walked down that aisle. In my head I was just like—again, everything in my head is like mock one speed and it's just not. I mean, it's just not. 

Rod: —was like the oneness is going to take a little while. [Laughter] So we've been married ten and a half years.

Rachel: Yes. 

Ron: —ten and a half years, and so looking back, what would you say about the crockpot approach now? 

Rachel: Oh, my gosh, yes. I'm a real big fan of the instant pot so that says a lot about how I roll—

Ron: [Laughter] —got you.

Rachel: —and so I'm like pressure cooker, and honestly, crock pot is the best description of what we've had to do. I would say even the marination process. We marinated for like three and a half years and then we cooked. There was even like more to that story, you know, cause it's not—a lot of times you don't just throw the stuff in there. I wanted to just pressure cook it the day we got married. It's accurate; it's insanely accurate and honestly, Ron, you get a better flavor in a crock pot. I know that’s taking that a little bit further, but you do—

Ron: No, I love it.

Rachel: —you do get more flavor when it takes longer. It's like cooking on a green egg. You know, this is— 

Rod: It just gets better and better.

Rachel: It does; it does get better and better. Then you weather hard things; you learn how you weather hard things as a blended family, and so I think that piece of it, you have just more experience under your belt. You like know how he's going to react. I know how I'm going to react, and we can meet each other in that versus like struggling through that, you know, because we struggled through hard things. 

Rod: Yes, and I think it's so important for people to know because you know, you, based on your expectations, right? If you have high expectations and thinking, “Hey, we're going to blend really quick and we're going to be perfect right off,” you're going to be frustrated for so long when that's not happening. So to really understand, “Oh, that is going to take a while. We're not going to be where I want us to be for a while,” if you can settle in there, I think everything is a little bit—you know, the waves are smaller versus the waves being really big of having this expectation that everything is going to be smooth. 

Ron: Yes. No, that's good, Rod. I want to back up a second, so set the stage for our listeners, if you would, Rod. What led up to you guys meeting? What came together? What's the backstory for you— 

Rod: Sure. 

Ron: —for Rachel? Eventually what I want to do is wrap back to what you just said and ask, so how did you as stepparent have to settle into “This is going to take a while”? But let's just start with, what led to the two of you coming together?

Rod: Yes, I was single for a long time and never had been engaged; dated, you know, quite a bit over the years. I've always traveled a lot in my job, and yes, never got to that place where, you know, went and bought the ring and said “Hey, let's get married.” 

I met a friend of Rachel's probably a year and a half before she and I met and a couple of times she was just like—I'd see her every now and then and she'd say, “Hey, I have this woman I'd like for you to meet. I have this woman I'd like for you to meet.” Every time I was like, “Sure.” I always took the approach if somebody knew me and loved me, why wouldn't I want to meet one of their friends? You know, why wouldn't I meet somebody that they wanted to introduce me to? 

And so finally she made the introduction and I think it was over email. Rachel in the email back to me was like, “Hey, did she tell you anything about my story?” And I said, “No.” She's like, “Well, watch this video.” I was like, “Wow! I get to watch a video about her story.” [Laughter] “Who doesn't like to watch a video?” It was a video that her church did in Columbus, Mississippi and it basically, her, with her sharing about having lost two husbands. You know, losing a husband at 23 and then being widowed again at 30. I responded with, “Wow, that's a lot, but I'd still love to meet you.”

She likes to joke with me, and I understand why, but I was like, “I don't want to do a lot of telephone. Let's meet sometime.” I had been in situations before where you got to know someone over email or phone and then you spend time with them and you're like, “Oh man, this is not a great match.” I kind of pushed that off and just like, “Let's wait till we meet each other.” 

Yes, the first day we met we probably spent six or seven hours together. We met near where I live and did a walk and coffee and breakfast and another walk and another walk. Yes, I think that day I was just like “Man, I'd love to see this woman again. I'd like to get to know her better.” That began, I think in October and in March we got engaged, you know, went pretty fast. 

At the point, I was 45 when I met her, 46 when we got married. It went really fast. We were in separate cities, all except for the last month. We bought a house together and she moved into that house. Which was nice to at least start getting the familiarity of like, “Okay, I'm going to be a dad. I've got two kids,” you know, and all that. 

Ron: How old were the kids when you guys got married? 

Rod: They were— 

Rachel: —five and seven. 

Rod: —five and seven. 

Ron: Okay, so just a little younger than that when you first met.

Rachel: Yes, four and six, yes. Yes, definitely.

Ron: Yes, so we'll definitely come back to that transition into oneness as Rachel would call it, [Laughter] but Rachel, expound a little bit on being widowed twice. 

Rachel: Yes, I mean, gosh, Ron, it's one of those things where you never think this is the way your life's going to turn out. I mean, I was, you know, starry eyed, dating my college sweetheart. He has a massive aneurysm when I'm 23; he's 27. It's just, you know, shocking doesn't even capture, like that word is just so minuscule to what that is. It’s seismic; that's probably a better word. And it was seismic. I mean, he was my everything. It was the only guy, really, I'd ever been serious with. You know, we were—his family was my family. I mean, we'd been together almost eight years when he died and, you know, I remarried two years later.

Fortunately, Todd and I—I say fortunately because I genuinely mean it—we didn't have kids. It was so different. You know it was so different just moving on. I just became the single girl at 24, 25. I mean, it was just like, yes, that happened, but I very much compartmentalized it. I mean, as someone who's very emotionally unhealthy would do and of course, I had no idea that word even existed. I don't think Pete Scazzero had written the book yet. [Laughter]

Ron: Yes, so you're saying when you were widowed the first time, you didn't have children and you just compartmentalized that, didn't grieve? I mean, what does that look like?

Rachel: I mean, not really. Rod would probably say 100 percent you didn't grieve.
I mean, I did. I missed him, but I didn't know—I mean, who knows how to grieve at 23? 

Ron: Right.

Rachel: I mean, let's be honest. 

Ron: Right, right, exactly. 

Rachel: It's like, I'd lost a grandparent. That was the hardest thing that had ever happened to me at that point. She died when I was a junior in high school. We were very close, so I had experienced loss of a grandparent so that did help. I'd had my best friend lost her dad to cancer. He died like six weeks after he was diagnosed so I went through that with her. But again, it wasn't like my inner world. I didn't see my grandmother every day. I think I let people off the hook who are young, and you know, it's just like you don't know what you don't know. I mean, I was literally clueless.

I also was a seven on the Enneagram; didn't know that either. I was just looking for the next fun thing to do. Like, what's the next trip? My in laws were very much travelers. They invited me. We just kind of kept planning the next thing. I didn't have a counselor.
I mean there were like two counselors in my city. One of them was a psychiatrist and I surely didn't need that yet. I think when you do have—I have a really large prefrontal cortex. You know my mom—and I tell people this—she suffered with infertility and so when she got pregnant with me, she was taking clomid and it was the greatest joy of her life. So her entire pregnancy, she was so happy to be pregnant and it changed my brain. I mean, so I have a huge capacity for joy. Well, I mean, it's hard for people like me to grieve. It really is. I think, and I hate to say it, but I think God knew that. I think He knew the call of my life. He knew that I would implode at 35 after, you know, two deaths and all these other things that had happened to me because it will—you know there is a beach ball that we're all trying to push underwater, and it doesn't work. And at some point— 

Ron: —especially when the beach ball keeps getting bigger. 

Rachel: Oh yes! Oh, the beach ball just kept getting blown up more and more and so I was constantly, you know, in Christian circles, trying to push that underwater and make it work. That just doesn't work for a long time. And then you just get tired and you're like, “Okay, well, whatever. I'll just, I guess I'll heal.” I mean, something happens, and you get to rock bottom, so I didn't grieve Blair or Todd. I really didn't, not until I was 35 and Rod met me in that. You know, I think 33 was the implosion. Anyway, bottom line I remarried two years later still very unhealed, still carrying a secret, and I just take all that stuff that it compiled into my marriage with Blair and gosh I mean he— 

Ron: You had two kids, Davis and Campbell, and that new marriage starts and then what happens when you’re 30?

Rachel: He goes out on a beautiful sunny day to fly his beloved T 38, which is a fighter trainer and, you know, ready to go Mach 1; gorgeous blue-sky day with a student pilot who was 22 and his wife was seven months pregnant in the backseat. They took off with a full tank of gas and both were instantly killed because the cable in the wing broke. I was left with a five-month-old little girl and a two-year-old little boy, widowed twice, but I mean, this time was insanely different. I mean, you know, it was epic. If I thought Todd's death was seismic, I mean, this was like an earthquake around the world. This was like, you know, tectonic plates shifting in my life. 

I did a lot of things well. I did a lot of things really wrong and so, I—you know, that's why I started Never Alone. I was like, “Well maybe I can help one or two widows to not make the same mistakes. I was so desperate to make Todd's death—I was so desperate to like, assuage those deaths by meeting someone who knew those husbands. I was so determined to marry, like, Todd's best friend, you know, and like, just to keep this, you know, just a part of Todd, a part of me. I see that a lot with widows. We so want to take a part of what was into what could be. And I did that with Todd, and I did it with Blair, and I'm just like, “Oh wow, I wish I wouldn't have done that.” 

So really, I mean, it was like, I wish I wouldn't have done this and let me go help somebody else not do that. And you know, not make, as I say, red flags pink. [Laughter]

Ron: Right, right; scale down the significance of those things. 

So, let me get the timing right. How old were you when Rod came into your world?

Rachel: I was 34, yes, yes.

Ron: So you've already hinted that at 35, you kind of had your own crash. 

Rachel: Yes, yes. 

Ron: And were you already married? Were you in the process?

Rachel: No. No. Well, so we were, I was healing, like 33 was like the wheels kind of came off the bus, you know, and I, and it happened actually in a Kroger.
I was—this is horrible.

Ron: [Laughter] Hey, where else? That's a good place. 

Rachel: Well, I had an observer—my dearest friend from Columbus was there and this woman on a scooter—this is such an embarrassing story, but a woman on one of those little ride along carts was in there and I was buying microwave popcorn and she starts railing on me that I'm going to get cancer from microwave popcorn and I'm like, you know, knee deep in diapers and I'm like, I don't even care right now. I mean, honestly, I just really want my microwave popcorn. I lost my cookies on this woman with an oxygen tank on a scooter in Kroger. And my friend observed it. I just went postal on her. I really did. [Laughter]

Rod: I wish I had a video.

Ron: That's the video you would have—had you seen that, you would have never gotten together.

Rachel: Oh no, he would have not even touched me with a ten-foot pole. And so, we, my friend got in the car, and she was like, “I think you might need a counselor.” And I was like, “Really? I'm fine. I mean, she's the problem.” And Rebecca was like, “Honestly, you're the problem.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh, really? I've never been a problem in my whole life.” [Laughter]

Ron: Oh man, we all need friends to help us look in the mirror and see— 

Rachel: Yes, yes, and I called Lisa Peck, who you know—

Ron: That’s right.

Rachel: —Lisa and Carl Peck in Huntsville. I called Lisa and spent two years on her couch trying to learn to feel again. That was really the problem, Ron, was I just had not had an emotion that I acknowledged in 25 years. I just shoved them all down and just kept on, soldiering on, onward Christian soldier. I was like a professional, and I just thought doing the next Bible study and learning more about the gospel was the answer. And that's just not the answer.

Ron: I'm 57, and I just now feel like I'm beginning to really know what I'm feeling; put words on it, to be able to anticipate it, and actually kind of know how it works within me. I know what emotion produces what action and some of those actions are horrible. And, you know, it is on me to constantly be putting on my new self and taking off my old self.
And if we just don't even know how that works within us, if we don't even know how to put words on what we're feeling or experiencing, you can have all the knowledge in the world about the Bible and scripture and who Jesus was and wanting to be like Him. But when the chips are down, you won't be like Him because that stuff will take over and run your life. The old self rears its ugly head every single day. 

So, for you, that was a moment of, to renew your mind means you're going to have to do some work and look deep. And somebody's listening right now, and you're going, “Yes, and I'm already married. I'm already knee deep or up to my chin in this new family experience, and I'm supposed to slow down, and kind of figure out me?” Well, yes. I mean, that's always a good place to start. I'm sure there's other factors and other layers and different things you need to eventually kind of work through, but that is always a really good place to start. 

Yes. So you guys meet, you start to date, you're on this journey of beginning to figure out grief and sadness and sorrow and all that. Rod, I’ve got to turn to you and go, okay, so she brought all this to the table. I'm wondering what you saw, what you didn't see in hindsight, what did you miss? How was your attitude and heart about meeting her as it related to the grief that she was carrying? 

Rachel: Oh yes, Rod, please share. [Laughter] 

Rod: Wow, great question. I don't even know how I can, if I can, answer that adequately. You know when I met her, I just saw a really strong, awesome woman— 

Ron: —survivor. 

Rod: Yes, yes, and I saw somebody who was super positive, loved adventure, loves, you know, just surprises. Well, maybe not surprises, but getting out there and just doing things she wasn't planning on doing. You know, just being open to the world. Yes, I just saw these positive things. I think for me what I always wanted was a partner. I dated women and I felt like that I kind of maybe for lack of a better term, took care of a little bit emotionally or this or that or whatever. 

I met Rachel and she was just like immediately partnering with me even in dating. I just was like, “Wow, this is something I always wanted.” I knew that; I knew that in me there's like, “I want a partner.” I'd verbalized that before—you know, partner in ministry, partner in life and so I think I just really saw all the positive things in her at that time. 

I think we talked a little bit about the other things, but it just seemed most of the time she was just excited and ready to roll in life, that our relationship was fun and great, and I enjoyed the children. I've always wanted to be a dad. So that was, you know, a huge bonus for me to get two beautiful, awesome kids. I couldn't wait to be a father. I think we're both probably looking at mostly the positives.

Ron: Yes; yes.

Rod: Looking back, what did I miss? I don't know whether I'd say I missed this in her, but I think what we missed was sitting with a couple that had maybe been through what we were about to go through. You know, had a blended family and could kind of sit down with us and say, “Hey, these are some things you might want to think about.” Maybe somebody who'd been single for a long time, like me, somebody who'd been married before, like her, and just like walk through with us of what we could potentially expect because I think we had no idea what to expect. I think we both went in positively and believing like, “God has us for each other, so this is going to be great. This is going to be fine. We're going to work this out,” and then you get into things that are like, “Whoa, okay, I didn't think about that or this or all those things.” 

Rachel: Yes, we were usness—you know, what is it?—usness that you talk about. And familyness, like we were like professionals on that. I had, you know, early on I had really limited how much Rod saw the kids because I had introduced the kids to another man that I was dating and it was like, “Ooh, I'm never doing that again unless I'm like walking down the aisle.” But hindsight, living in two different cities, that was even hard. I was talking to Campbell last night. I said, “What would you have done different?” She was like, “I wish we could have spent more time together before y'all got married. I wish we could have done more family dinners.” I'm like “Me too, but he lived in Atlanta, and we lived in Huntsville.” You know, there's things I wish, and that's such a—it's so tricky for widows, especially because you don't want to like commit and go move somewhere if you're like—just to try it out. Oh my gosh, like there is such a trust factor with blending. I mean it is like I trust God. I trust God financially. I trust God, like, “This is who you've planned for me,” because you can doubt that upside one down the other. Once we committed to each other, and I will say for us, we were very committed from pretty much January on. I never thought Rod was going to bail. I never doubted that. At the same time, I mean, once we were engaged, it was as good as if we were married. I mean, not—yes, I mean, that wasn't the truth. We were in different cities, but at the same time, we were—like that was—the ball was rolling. Engagement was really too late. I mean, it's kind of like, once you're engaged, it's like, we're on. Rod's like, “Oh, there was always an out.” [Laughter] 

Rod: She doesn't know what I did the day of; you know I drove my car a long way. 

Ron: Well, I just want to add a little comment there for our listener and viewers is, you know, when your kids are really, really young as yours were, Rachel, it really is wise to go slowly in introducing them to a dating partner because they can fall in love with that person, you know, deeper and wider and with more intensity than you are or have and so that's important. 

If they're over the age of five, then there's this sort of gradual, you know, general recommendation is a gradual introduction, building relationship, but spending more time. The more time they can spend together, the more everybody has confidence that there's something here we have to work with. Not that we've got everything formed before the wedding. That never happens because crock potting doesn't start until the wedding. I'm a firm believer in that. Whatever time you've invested is beneficial. It's adding some heat, if you will, to the pot itself. It's readying everybody to begin to cook, but the cooking doesn't really start until it's real.

Here's the thing. We all do the best we can with what we know and what we know to do. And there's always hindsight. There's always looking back. There's always, and some regret will come along with that. Okay. Alright, but what do we do with it now? I'm sure everybody listening right now thought, “Yes, there are things in me I didn't know before I got married again. There’re things in you I definitely didn't see before we got married again. I had no idea, for example, how that grief was going to come out of you in different moments or how grief was going to come out of the kids. 

You know what? Let's talk about that for a second. I'm curious. Now, they were really young—

Rachel: Yes. 

Ron: —but that doesn't mean they're not grieving, one. Number two, and the way children grieve is over time, so, you know, when they're ten and when they're sixteen and when they're— new layers of life and new things pop up in their mind. They have to think back about how life was or would have been. I'm just curious, as you guys have looked over the last ten years, what have you seen in the children that you would just say, yes, that was grieving, that was transition, that was adjustment. 

Rod: Yes, I think with Davis, I think we saw it early on. I traveled our whole marriage, and he was, they both were so excited to have a father.
I mean, I would get emotional even thinking about like what Davis was saying as we're up there, you know, getting married.

Ron: And he’s like four or five? 

Rod: He was six— 

Rachel: —seven. 

Rod: —seven at the time.

Ron: —seven when you got married. 

Rod: And he’s like “Thank you, Mr. Rod. Thank you, Mr. Rod” as we're like praying and doing our vows, you know, so it’s overwhelming, even thinking about that much less being there. Being there, it was really overwhelming, in a beautiful way, in a beautiful way. But it seemed like when I would leave town, he would miss his dad. We started realizing it was only happening when I would leave. We were thinking maybe that is him, you know, kind of in this in between space, like grieving his dad and then somehow me in there because he grieved a ton growing up from what Rachel's told me. I mean, a lot. 

Rachel: Well, when we moved; you know, moves are like setups, but by God, to like, upset your routine, upset your utopia, and that happened when we moved to Huntsville from Columbus. We left the house that Blair and I owned, and we moved to Huntsville. Davis was four and so he really grieved moving, leaving his friends. He went through this initial grief, had not really grieved before that, but that move really and then, of course, marrying Rod which was a good bit later.

Rod: And then, never saw Campbell really grieve or talk about any of that until she was probably around ten or eleven. I began to sense like a little anger in her towards me and towards anything that was related to me. I just didn't know what was happening and I probably felt it for three or four months and then one day Rach said—I don't know if it was through a counseling session or they're just talking. I can't remember—but she's like “Hey, she's just really, she's grieving. She's like grieving her dad, trying to figure out, ‘Okay, now I have this dad,’ and now grieving her real dad for the first time.” 

I'll never forget, I was in Rhode Island, and she called me after a counseling session and just said, “Hey, I got some things to tell you.” I'm like, “Okay,” you know, given this is a ten or eleven-year-old. She's a tiny little thing. She said, “I realized I'm not going to probably call you dad for… I have a dad and even though he's dead, I still think of him. I'm not sure how I can love him and love you.” And she just told me all these things that were obviously heartbreaking but at the same point I was like, “Hey, whatever you need.” At the end of it, I say, “Man, whatever you need Cam, that's fine. If you don't need to call me Dad, you know, I love you and I'm here for you and that's, it's okay.” I just, God had put me in a place. I honestly, Ron, was so excited that she got it out and told me.

Rachel: Yes.

Ron: Really?

Rod: I was just so grateful. I got off that phone and I literally was going, “Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God, that she is getting this out of her into me so now it's no longer a secret between her and I. It's out there.” And then she—

Ron: Okay, hold on, hold on, man. Dude, there's a lot in there. And so here she is, you know, afraid to say this and unpacking and getting it out there. And it had to be, there had to be a sliver of your heart that was sad— 

Rod: Oh my gosh, for sure.

Ron: —just grieving over. But there was another part of your heart that was happy and joyful for her.

Rod: Yes, yes. 

Ron: And then, say a little bit more about, glad it was out, because that what?—took the pressure off the two of you or what?

Rod: I think, well, probably, and it wasn't between the two of them anymore. I feel like more than anything, “Now she has told me so this thing that's been between us, that's been unsaid, is no longer unsaid between us.”

Ron: Yes.

Rachel: It's like a splinter, you know, it's like causing infection.

Rod: Yes, so now she shared this, and I was just so grateful. I mean, I just, I remember exactly where I was, and the parking lot I was in, and just thanking God for that. Well, then five minutes later I get a call and she's like, “Hey, I wasn't emotionally satisfied with your response.” Again, 11-year-old.

Ron: Well, okay.

Rachel: She had said “emotionally satisfied.” [Laughter]

Rod: We just went back through it. I said, “Well, you said you weren't going to call me Dad for a while.” I was like, “Hey, I want to support you. I mean, I just want to be what you need. I'm okay with what you need to do as you grieve this and as you figure this out.” At some point she abruptly hung up the phone and then I tanked. So I went from, like in ten minutes, like really praising God to tanked. I was like tanked for 24 hours. I wasn't coming home for three more days and so I—you know, there was a big part of me was kind of dreading coming home.

Ron: What was it she didn't get from you that she needed?

Rod: Yes, that's a good question. I don't know. I don't know. Maybe she needed me to fight for her a little bit more.

Rachel: Yes, I think she was mad that he wasn't mad that she was mad. You know what I mean? 

Ron: Yes.

Rachel: I think it was like, “Well, I want you to kind of fight back and reject me calling you Rod,” you know, almost… And I will tell you, she was about to start her period. I'm sure her estrogen was like out of control. I mean, she was very prepubescent, and I think that is like a really—like, knowing the times and seasons of your kids, you know? 

Ron: Yes; guys, this is so important for our listener, and I just want to add a little commentary. I don't know what was going on for Campbell in that moment. I can't even begin to jump inside that and explain that for her. But here's what I think I can say on behalf of many children, and that is that her back and forth, her hot and cold, her “I need to not call you Dad, but I need you to fight and want me to call you Dad” is so exemplary of the confusion that children feel about biological parents and stepparents. 

I can't tell you how many times; I've said this so many times in seminars. I've had kids sit in my counseling room and say, “I like my stepdad. That's my problem.”

Rachel: Oh wow.

Ron: “I don't know what to do with him. I don't know where to put him. If I love him too much, it feels like I'm moving my dad out of my heart, and I can't stand that idea. I feel guilty and sad about that and so liking you is part of the problem.” Like if they're drawn to you and at the same time, they don't know what that means for the other caregivers in their world that they appreciate and value. 

And so, you can be thoroughly confused on the receiving end of that as a stepparent going, “What in the world is going on? I don't understand this messaging.” What you just need to know is it is confusion, trying to work itself out of the heart of a child who's 11, who's pretty sophisticated, emotionally satisfied, but at the same time, very, very unsure of herself and really doesn't have a good perspective on all of that.

Rachel: No, and I will tell you I did a little interviewing Campbell just preparing for this last night. We sat at the dinner table, and I was just like, let me just ask you some questions. And she said to me—

Ron: Way to go, mom.

Rachel: Yes; she said, “I was afraid that you love Dad more than me,” meaning Rod. She said, “I think that was the problem.” 

Rod: Yes. 

Ron: There you go. 

Rod: So yes, it was a moment, or the time there that, you know that 36 hours, it was like this beautiful thing happened. And then, now I'm in the tank, just like, I really thought I—I mean, that was my heart towards her. It was like, “Hey, I'm patient. I love you. I'll wait, you know, I'll be here with you grieving.

Rachel: And pause. This is five years into our marriage. She's been calling him Dad for five years. Like what?

Rod: Yes. She started calling me Dad before, way before we got married and so I was on the trip. I knew I wouldn't go home for three days so I was really nervous about coming home. I think within two days of getting home we went on a—I was taking her to school or taking her somewhere, just her and I, and we just started talking. She just kind of revisited that call, not in a negative way, but just in a way—you know, just sharing it.
We talked about it and then talked again the next day, had another chance to talk, and then it just seemed like all of a sudden, we started ramping up—you know, just having the best relationship we've ever had over the next years. 

But it was just really obviously very important for her to process all that, very important for her to grieve, and really important for her to tell me those things. I'm glad she did. And I'm glad that it was short lived. [Laughter] I'm glad that it was quickly back to calling me Dad and all that.

Ron: I want to point out some things you did right, buddy, okay? [Laughter] Way to go. 

Rod: Thank you. 

Ron: A, you didn't pull away from her. You moved toward her. You kind of got back into the routine, driving her to school, the simple little rhythms of life, and yet, emotionally available and connected and not afraid of her anger or rejection. I think that's mistake number one: you don't love me, then fine, I'm not giving you, whatever. That's no, especially adults got to manage their pain a lot better than that. And your just unknowing could have made you vulnerable to rejecting her and it didn't. So, way to go; that's the right move. 

I'm also imagining somebody's listening right now going, “Yes, so Ron, what do I do? My kid's confused and they're saying, ‘I don't want you to be my dad anymore.’ How do I respond to that?” I don't think there's a way to cut the baby in half and satisfy everybody and have this magic moment where you do exactly the right thing. I think what's most important is that you can try to talk to both little parts of their heart. Something like, “You know what, if I were you, I get it. I can see how calling me Dad just feels weird. And if you need a break from that, that's okay.” So you give permission to that child needing to use a different term, which you did, by the way. 

Rachel: Yes. 

Ron: And then, you try to talk to the other half of the heart and say, “But I want you to know that I love you like crazy and this doesn't affect our relationship. You're my daughter and in my life and I am going to continue to be family with you. Nothing's changed as far as I'm concerned. I'm still just as crazy about you as I was before. And will be, no matter what you call me.” So, you're sort of talking to both sides of their confusion, if that makes any sense.

Rachel: Yes, yes.

Rod: Yes.

Ron: And you're giving permission to what they need to do, and at the same time, you're pursuing and saying, affirming their worth and value to you. 

Now, at the end of the day, I'm not saying—please don't anybody write me and go, Ron, that didn't satisfy my 11-year-old. I'm not saying it's going to make an 11-year-old okay.
I'm just saying it's messaging that eventually, I think, they can hold onto and find their way through with; but no, it doesn't fix, but it does represent your heart and moves you toward them.

Rachel: Yes. Well, and I think, you know, for me, any conversation I'm having, Ron—it doesn't matter if it's my kids or anybody—in the back of my mind, if I'm feeling rejected or alone or whatever I'm feeling, it's never about flesh and blood, meaning it's not about this person. It's about this pain that happened to them when they were little. There's a lot of things in the spiritual realm that are going on that you can't see and it's really not about us as a receiver of that pain. It's not about the flesh and blood in front. There's so much—there's such a bigger story at play. 

And remembering that in my head, I mean always helps me when I'm talking to the kids, even when I'm dealing with Campbell today. I'm like it's not about her, essentially. It's about things that have happened to her and I'm just getting the result of that. 

Ron: Right, and again, the message is grief goes on. We walk with it. We carry it with us. Well, you know, into the sweet new family, there is also bitter. They come side by side. There's no way around it. This is what we have to do and so as parents and stepparent, you're constantly, you know, when you see that little bitter, sadness, sorrow thing coming out, chase it, give room for it, make space for it because it's not going to go away on its own. 

Rod: Yes. I rented a basement apartment from a widow in my early twenties who had three daughters and one of the daughters came home. I got to know all of them and one of them came home and just said she was really down. I said, “What's up?” And she said, “Man, I was at school today and one of my good friends was like, ‘What's wrong with you?’ And she's like, ‘I'm just missing my dad who died like seven years earlier.’
And she's like, ‘Well, I thought you'd be over that by now.’” 

I'll never forget that conversation because I don't think I'd ever thought about it. I mean, I was even thinking in that, “Well, shouldn't you be or not or what,” you know, but now I've realized in life losing my own father, gosh, 20 something years ago and other friends and all, you grieve the rest of your life. 

It looks different, you know, and it's probably less, you know, less big or I guess you'd say it's smaller grief, but you grieve the rest of your life. And it's like you forgive somebody for the rest of your life, right? [Laughter] That pops up again too. You know grief pops up; you grieve. Forgiveness—you need to forgive because you've remembered that thing that somebody did to you and it's raging up in you again, so you've got to forgive. I just remember that really impacting me and making me really think through grief and think about how things have impacted me.

Ron: I'm curious. Let's talk about Campbell's sibling, Davis, older brother. Has he had some similar kind of back-and-forth stuff, or has it been different?

Rod: No.

Rachel: [Laughter] No, it is crazy. Davis is really fascinating. He has—I mean, Rod is his dad as if he were the sperm donor. I'm not even kidding. Like it's very odd how—he said, “It throws me off when people call Rod my stepdad.” He was like, “He is not my stepdad.” He was like, it almost makes him angry that people refer to him that way so it's like really interesting. 

Davis was—I mean, you were Dad, like pretty much from the beginning, but you were Dad in his heart and in his mind where Campbell kind of in her mind you were Dad but, in her heart, she was still… And it's real interesting because you would think Davis would have maybe struggled more with a male—you know that male to male, like, “I miss my dad.” But anyway, it's been—Davis is such an anomaly.

Rod: He was he was actually angry at Campbell during that time when she was kind of rejecting me and I had to talk to him through that. “Hey buddy, you grieved back here. She never did so this is her time of grieving.” Because he'd be like, “You’re the best thing that's ever happened to us.” You know, all this stuff. I'd be like, “Hey buddy, just relax. It's okay. She just needs to go through this. It's okay.” And then, “She's going to work through it, and you grieved a lot. She never got to do that and so here's her grieving.” 

Ron: Again, another attaboy, Rod, because, you know, something, if you're like me, something in you would have been tempted at that point to say, “Davis, say that again, a little bit louder.” [Laughter]

Rachel: —for the people in the back. 

Ron: So the reason I brought this up is because I sort of suspected that it might be like that. There's something about stepsons and stepdads, that bondedness can really fill a gap for a young boy. But you can't narrow it down to gender. It's just within a sibling group. You could have one child that's on this journey, and another child's on a different journey. Sometimes they're walking side by side, sometimes they've parted ways, and there's conflict between them because of that, just like that happened there with Davis. 

So, you know, to our listener and our viewer, like wow. Each child is an individual, right? And they're going to be on their own path, and you just can't make any assumptions about where any particular child is going to be. And we always teach, go with that child, pace with each child, not pace with the sibling group as a whole. No, pace with that child. 

So, Campbell says “I need to pullback.” “Okay, that's what we'll do. I'm still loving you. I'm still here, taking you to school in a couple days but you can use a different term for me right now. But Davis is like, nope, 100 miles an hour forward. We're not slowing down. Hit the accelerator. No brake. Okay, pace with that child and go with that. It can be confusing as a stepparent because some days you don't know whether you're coming or going depending on who's in the room. That is the journey.

Rachel: It is and as a biological parent, you're a little upset that he's not gr—I mean, but it's all also like he was two. You don't know anything at two. You don't even have any memories. I mean, so it's almost like, but you're the boy and you should miss your dad more. He was such a hero. I almost feel guilty that he doesn't miss it. And I'm like, “Rachel, oh my gosh, like let yourself off the hook. You are not the maker of grief.” [Laughter] “You are not the, you know, you are not the author of like how they grieve.” I mean, you know, but that's just like for my own heart. 

Some people are like, “I wish my kids would grieve less” and I was like “Gosh, I mean, is he grieving enough?” And then you start—it's so bizarre. I mean, oh my gosh the things that go through our head. It's like, “Oh my gosh.”

Ron: I can so relate to that Rachel. [Laughter] You guys may or may not know we lost—

Rachel: Yes, a child.

Ron: —our middle son Connor when he was 12. And so, as we have journeyed now for, gosh, almost 15 years without Connor, we've watched our other two boys. They each have their path. They each have their way, their style, their personality, their expression of their sadness and grief. And there have been plenty of moments where I had an anxiety about how they were doing it. And, you know, you do. You have to talk to yourself. You have to go, “Wait a minute. Is this my need, or their need or how do I meet them where they are?” And, you know, sometimes I do want to offer a little perspective and guidance but, yet, at the same time, it's got to be their journey, not mine. It's all hard, right? 

Rachel: It is.

Ron: At the end of the day, it's, you feel like you're shooting at a target that's moving and you're just unsure. So, lots of prayer, lots of prayer, talking to other people—you know, getting community around you with folks that maybe have a little more experience with it than you do, and just trying to find your way.

Rachel: Yes; and I don't create opportunities for my kids to feel sad. [Laughter] I see that—

Ron: Alright kids, we're going to have a meeting. [Laughter]

Rachel: I see that happen a lot with widows though. They want to manufacture things to help their kids grieve and I'm like, “They are going to grieve. They are and I don't—you know, I mean, some of that may be good. I don't know. That's just not my personality. I'm like the last thing I want for people to do is feel sad. [Laughter] And so, you know, that's part of my personality but I've seen people manufacture things. For instance, we went and did a balloon release and both the kids like lost their mind because they lost the balloon. It had nothing to do with, we're sending a letter to dad on the card and all these grief things they try and, you know, make these moments. I'm like, “Oh my gosh, we're never doing balloon releases again [Laughter] because y'all missed the whole point.” I'm just kind of like, why do I need to go manufacture something for them to be sad about? If they're okay, they're okay. And that's okay. 

Rod: I think the most important thing in those things is just providing the space when they are, right, and not trying to talk them out of the grief when they're grieving. “Oh, but your life is so good. Your life is good now,” whatever. I think it's just getting in the well with them and being that, you know, grieving with them as best we can. 

And unfortunately, I don't know how much role I can play in that over the years except for just be okay when they are. I just had like these two points coming together when Rach said “I wanted them at some points to miss their dad more and talk about it more.
Cause there was some points in our marriage where she's like, “I want you to get to know more about Blair and tell them about Blair.” I was like, “Gosh, I don't know how to do that.” I feel like it's, you know, grandfathers and all that kind of thing, but that was probably your desire for them to do. And that makes total sense to me. 

I would want them, I want them to know all they can about Blair, their dad, but I just knew that I wasn't the person that was probably the best to do that with them. Now I like I get it like that you were feeling that and that you were like, “Oh, this is a way I can tie that together and they can maybe miss him more,” is maybe knowing more about him or something but yes, that's I think just create space for them.

Ron: I want to turn a quick corner. I know that Campbell has had a season struggling with an eating disorder. If you could just give us maybe a 30 second sort of quick overview of that story and where it sits for you today. But what I really want to talk through is how did that stressor with one of your children ripple itself out in terms of your blended family? 

Rachel: Yes, yes, yes. Well, the enemy planted a lie in fifth grade. We had no idea. She got wet at a friend's house and had to put on new clothes and her friend’s clothes didn't fit. She had to go upsize to the sister’s clothes and it planted this little lie that we knew nothing about. Fifth grade, you know ten years old, and she became the fat girl. I mean, really, like in her head, she was overweight, couldn't run as fast, not as athletic, and it just perpetuated. She looked just like I did in fifth grade. I mean, it was all that prepubescent, normal stuff, and yet at the same time, you know, the world is loud, and kids who have phones. 

We didn't give them a phone until they were almost in ninth grade. We thought we were “doing everything right” according to Tim Elmore and all the people that were trying to help us parent. And at the end of the day, you know, this was just part of her story, and she ended up in 8th grade restricting. She went gluten free. It just transpired into orthorexia and anorexia.

And, you know, I own part of that. I was just trying to educate them on health and wellness. Sissy Goff and I were together a few weeks ago and she was like, you know, “I always tell parents just don't talk about food.” And I didn't do that. I was trying to limit their sugar. And I mean, cause, oh my gosh, like everywhere you turn, it's like they're offering cupcakes and candy for rewards. I'm like, “Y'all just try and limit to one.” But you know, in my what I thought was helpful was really making, you know, someone who had that switch turned on, which we don't know which kid has it turned on.

Ron: I was going to say, again, you don't know the lies there, and it's misinterpreting all of those different things. 

Rachel: A hundred percent. And then you've got trauma on top of it.

Ron: Yes; right. I'm noticing there's a little bit of, she was 11 when she came and had the conversation with you about being a dad.

Rachel: Yes, same. 

Ron: I don't know, do you see any connections in the grief journey and sadness? I don't know.

Rachel: I mean, I think it's just, you know, Campbell read a statistic that before 18 months when there's massive trauma with one or more parent, like the exponential statistic with eating disorders, if it's pre 18 months, like somehow that switch gets turned on. I don't even know what the statistic is, but I was like, “Wow.” She said, “You know, Mom, that was definitely my story.” You know, like when someone is removed from the home or there's divorce or trauma or all those kinds of things and it just clearly affected our kids very differently.

So bottom line is she ended up going to the—we ended up checking her into the hospital, which she said is the day that she felt the most loved, which is so ironic because she got to let go and heal. And she didn't know that was happening, but I asked her probably not even six months ago. I said, “What's the day, what's the time in your life when you felt the most loved by us?” She said, “The day you took me to the hospital.” I'm like, “What?!” That was like the most traumatic day of our entire life. She ended up staying for two weeks, came out with a feeding tube and ended up in a treatment center for three months and was not in our home from October of last year until December 14th. So we're just coming out of recovery and the fog and man, did we ever see how blended of a family we were during that time? 

Ron: Tell me what you mean by that. Rod, do you have a sense of what Rachel is referring to?

Rod: Yes, I just thought we were one going through it. You know, her and I, I think there was one moment where we weren't one, which was the night before she was coming home about a phone. And it was like, scared me to death because I was like, we were one all the way through this, which my friends would ask and I was like, “Man, I'm just praising God. Rach and I are one. We're on the same decisions. Praise God that in the very beginning of this, we didn't know what we were doing and so really all the options came to one option, so it was like, we didn't even know— 

Rachel: —because of the feeding tube.

Rod: Yes, because of the feeding tube. We didn't even have any options with that, so it was like we were so overwhelmed with having to make so many decisions in a place with an illness that we have no idea about and how to do this, but fortunately we just had some really great people come alongside us at the right time. I mean just really at the right time and that really helped guide us, but I thought her and I were together—which I'm so grateful for because I got frozen out by Campbell during that whole time. She never wanted to talk to me on the phone. 

Now, we'd go visit and we would interact, but it wasn't like the others. It's just like I got the frozen treatment. I spent the night with her two nights in the hospital and that's just, you know, out of desperation for Rach, like “I got to be out of here. I need a break.” I would have loved to have been there more. It just was where she was at and just really wanting Rachel to be there and not me.

It was hard. We'd listen to a lot of the phone conversations together. I really wouldn't say hardly anything. I'd just be there listening with Rach. She'd have it on speaker phone, and we'd go through it together and we, you know, I'd encourage her through that or whatever we could to help each other. But yes, we just, I think we faced it really, really well together. I want to say as best we could. If not, we're in the 90s, you know, it was in the 90s—somewhere we get a 95 grade. I don't know, somewhere in there. I thought we did—yes. It just went really well. 

Ron: And so how did your heart handle her freezing you out?

Rod: Oh, devastating, yes. 

Ron: Yes. 

Rachel: —still devastating.

Ron: Of course. 

Rod: Oh yes. I mean, I cried so much during those months. Number one, because of her illness. Number one, because of the pain she was in, and I could see it. If you had even spent a few hours with her in the hospital, it was horrible and so I was grieving for that and then just like grieving the relationship because we had such a sweet relationship. I mean, leading up to that, we would go for a walk five out of seven days a week. We would always spend time together. It was about probably ten days before she went in the hospital that it just kind of was like, whoop, you're out. 

Rachel: I think it was just her heart, like, it's that whole thing when you're sick, you want your mom.

Ron: Yes; right. 

Rachel: It was like, blown up, 100x, and I think she was just like, “I just need you to make this better, and I'm not sure that he can really fix it.” In her head it was like “You can fix this, and you can help.” I'll never know. We've never really broached it because we're still—I mean we could talk about it, but we're still kind of coming out it.

Ron: I think everybody can relate to when we're in our most frightening moments in life, we want to zero in on the absolute safest people or persons in our world for whatever reason, whatever adds up to safety, emotional safety. That's who we zero in on. Life and death situations, that's who we zero in on. When the chips are down and life is hard, that's who we zero in on. That's what it sounds like to me.

Rachel: Well, and I think she knew she could be as mean to me as possible. I mean, she had a hate wall for me when she was in treatment. She was ripping pages out of the Bible. I just want to say to any parent who's like, “My kids have just lost their way.” I'm like, “Oh, ours has lost her way.” She was like, “God has just done this to me.” She had this wrong view of God and ripping pages out of the Bible, flushing them down the toilet, hate wall for me because she knew I can't go anywhere, but he could. He could run in her head.

Ron: That's right. 

Rachel: I think she knew, like, “Well, you can't detach from me. We're like, we're blood. He can run.” I don't know. I still am like, I don't even know that she could articulate why, but it always felt like mom gets the brunt a lot of times of their pain and you know, we're just in a lot, probably more conversations.

Rod: Yes, 90 percent of the time she's tougher than I am. I mean, I say that in a positive way.

Rachel: Oh no. Yes, 100 percent. I am Nurse Ratched. [Laughter]

Rod: Yes, so I think maybe Cam just needed that. 

Ron: Yes. At the end of the day, we're just guessing, right? 

Rachel: Yes. 

Ron: We don't really know. 

Rachel: No. 

Ron: There's a part of me that thinks, “Yes, this is the same song, second verse, when she was 11.” She's just sort of seeing whether or not you'll stay, if you'll fight for her. Who knows, we have no idea. And in the midst of really hard things, I get goofy when I'm super stressed and depressed and upset and can't see my way through life. I get really goofy. That's a clinical term, by the way, goofy. [Laughter] I kind of think most people do get a little goofy, and we do things that are nonsensical so to sit back and try to make sense out of the nonsensical, that's a fruitless little exercise. 

But here's the thing, Rod. I just want to say to you, as you were talking and telling this story a minute ago, my heart went out to you, and I also, here's what came to my mind, “Didn't you know I'd be in my father's house?” The moment where Joseph has been panicked for three days, looking for his son, only to have Jesus remind him, you're not my dad. I just thought, yes, wow; that's hard. Those are hard moments. And like Joseph, I think you're doing a fabulous job with the assignment you've been given.

Rod: Thank you.

Rachel: He's amazing. Tell Ron, just to put—you know, we're not there. We don't claim to be there. We're still in recovery. And yet at the same time, I think like the redemption in it is a month ago. We were sitting on the couch and Campbell looks over at Rod and she's like, “I want you to adopt me.” I'm like, “Well, where did that come from?” [Laughter] Like literally out of thin air, “I want you to adopt me, and I want to change my name.” 

Rod: Yes. Now whenever she gets, she cuts up about it if I don't give her something she wants. She goes, “Oh, don't adopt me or you can't adopt me,” [Laughter] laughs, you know, laughs every time. But it's not, you know, it's something we just always, I just early on was like, “Hey, I want that to be the kid's decision, not mine.” Like when we started talking to Davis about it after Campbell brought it up, he's like, “Why do we need that? We’re good.” It was like, “Yes, you're my dad and all that.” Yes, that was really beautiful and yes, super thankful for that. It's something that she brought up and wanted. 

Ron: Wow, guys, man, I appreciate it. I got one last question for you, Rachel. We don't have a lot of time. You work a lot with widows. That's part of the ministry that you do, which I think is just fabulous. I've had the pleasure of doing a livestream with your group and it was just so rewarding for me to be able to do that.

I'm just curious, as you've worked with widows, walked it yourself, but are there some themes that you see regarding remarriage and blending that you kind of wish widows understood a little better?

Rachel: Yes, I mean, I think for sure. I think one is if you aren't healed, you're not going to attract the right people. That's the bottom line. You attract who you are. We always tell the widows, “You can't give away what you don't have. You attract what you are and so go after your own healing,” as Rod says. “Look to your right and see who's standing there, and those are the people that you probably want to be with.”

Because I doubt people who are, you know—I mean, I love online dating. I think it's great. I think it's a way to help find people, but I'm not sure that those, you know, a lot of those people are going after the same things that you are. I mean, I feel like you're going to probably meet them through other friends, especially if you're really going after it and you're like, “I want to heal. I want to be the best version of myself,” because here's the reality. Your first and foremost is what you're giving to those kids. So ultimately, what you get, they get too. 

And so that's our whole ministry, is like go headlong after healing before you even think about dating somebody else. Because you don't want to repeat history. You know you had things in your marriage you're like, “Wish we wouldn't have struggled with that.” But you have a part to play in that. I mean, nobody's getting let off the hook here just because you're grieving. It's like, hey, we have a responsibility in this widowhood to go after our salvation, which is healed, whole and delivered. It's not just that ticket to heaven. Like there's, it's so much more. I mean, Sozo, salvation is just, it's so much bigger than ourselves. 

The theme is like, we want a quick fix. The whole world wants a quick fix and so do widows. I mean, we want to make it better. We want, we desire companionship. We've known that companionship and we do some goofy things a lot of times. I'm kind of like, “Can we share with y'all some of our goofy things, so you don't do goofy things.” [Laughter] I think that's the thing. 

I think the other thing is they just. Widows really struggle with trusting the plan.
You know, I mean, who wouldn't? 

Ron: Yes, sure.

Rachel: This doesn't feel like a good plan. I mean, are you kidding me? Jeremiah 29:11, that's—I'm exempt from that. And the reality is, is that you're not. And if the story isn't good, the story isn't over. I think that's the thing. It's like the pen is not in your hand.
And, you know, we love control. I mean, golly, we just love it. We crave it and that, you know, widows aren't exempt from that. We might be chief of all.

Ron: Yes. Well, Rachel, I just got to jump in and say there's some parallels there for blended family couples. 

Rachel: Yes. 

Ron: You don't always understand what's happening or why it's happening, and we fall back and trust God and do the best we can and continue to respond and be the persons that He's called us to be. That is always, always, always a great place to start. 

I've often thought in my marriage and my parenting journey, I don't know what else to do. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control is a pretty good place to start. And that's what we do. We try to lean in and trust that as best we can. 

Wow. Rachel, Rod, thank you so much for being with me today. We appreciate you guys sharing your life with us. 

Rod: We enjoyed it.

Rachel: We love you. Thank you.

Ron: To our listener, viewer, please check the show notes to learn more about the work that they're both doing, involved in. If there was anything there you want to know more about, we'd love for you to get connected to them. 

A quick reminder that this is a donor supported ministry. FamilyLife Blended is donor supported, and this podcast, FamilyLife Blended podcast, as well. You, of course, can make a tax-deductible donation to help us keep reaching more people, or just maybe that's your way of saying thank you for what we're doing. Again, check the show notes. 

If you haven't subscribed yet to this podcast, and yes, you could subscribe on YouTube and watch it if you'd rather absorb this podcast that way, please subscribe so you won't miss anything that's coming. 

You can always leave us a review or a rating. Hey, we heard on Facebook from Marilyn who gave us five stars. Thanks for that. And she said, “FamilyLife Blended is a much-needed ministry. I could have used this help when I brought two teenagers into a new marriage. I recommend it to others.” Good, appreciate that. 

And Ronald said—not me, another Ronald—“As a blended family, I've made many mistakes. Ron Deal and the FamilyLife Blended team have come alongside us to help lead us through and move us forward. Praying for our church family to embrace and reach out to other blended families as well.” Well, we certainly have that prayer. We're always trying to help ministry leaders and churches minister to stepfamilies and understand them better. 

And that brings me to the quick reminder. If you're looking for my speaking schedule, we do live events, we do training for leaders online. I'm doing events for couples.
You can get my full schedule at and click events. On a regular basis, I'm doing events for churches, training, as I mentioned, and for therapists who want to learn how to be better equipped to work with stepfamilies. I’d love to have you join me at any one of those trainings, especially be with us in McKinney, Texas for our next Blended and Blessed, Saturday, April 27th, 2024. But it's worldwide so you can just stay at home or get a few couples together at your church. Again, check the show notes. You can learn how you can be a part of that. 

And speaking of Blended and Blessed, next time on this podcast, you're going to hear a presentation. It was done by Cheryl Shoemake at our last Blended and Blessed. You don't want to miss it. That's next time on FamilyLife Blended. 

I'm Ron Deal. Thanks for listening or watching. And thank you to our production team and donors who make this podcast possible. 

FamilyLife Blended is part of the FamilyLife® Podcast Network. Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.




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