FamilyLife Blended® Podcast

67: Blended with Grit: Widowhood and Forming a New Family

with Ryan and Jessica Ronne | October 25, 2021
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Remarriage after widowhood creates unique struggles.
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Remarriage after widowhood creates unique struggles.

67: Blended with Grit: Widowhood and Forming a New Family

With Ryan and Jessica Ronne
|
October 25, 2021
| Download Transcript PDF

 

Jessica: When I married Ryan, he brought loads and loads and loads of paraphernalia from his previous life into my new home.

Ryan: You’re welcome.

Jessica: I would look at the stuff and just want to vomit—and in particular, these bright red Teflon pots. So one day, I packed them up in a Goodwill box and he saw them, and an argument ensued. I said, “I don’t like them.” Your house should be a sanctuary of peace and it didn’t feel like that for me because it wasn’t my stuff.

Ron: Hi everyone. Welcome to FamilyLife Blended. I’m Ron Deal. This donor-supported podcast helps blended families, and those who love them, pursue the relationships that matter most.

It’s great to have you along. Welcome to Episode number 67: Blended with Grit: Widowhood and Forming a New Family. Hey, if you don’t know, you can listen to this podcast online, on your favorite podcast app, or through the new and improved FamilyLife® app where you can actually access the transcript. You can get contact links. You can even take notes while you listen. How cool is that? That’s the free FamilyLife app available in your app store.

You know because most stepfamilies follow a divorce, many of our guests come from a divorce situation. But today, we’re talking about blended families formed after becoming a widow. Now, if you’re a post-divorce stepfamily, hang with us because there’s always something to learn and I really believe this interview is going to inspire all of us.

Jess Ronne is an author, a speaker, and a caregiver advocate. She is founder and executive director of The Lucas Project—a non-profit dedicated to providing respite opportunities for special needs families. She and her husband, Ryan, have eight children, including their son Lucas who has profound special needs. Her story of beauty from ashes has been shared on The Today Show, Daily Mail, and the Huffington Post and is detailed in her first book called Sunlight Burning at Midnight. 

Her latest book though, Blended with Grit and Grace, is a book for blended families and the subject of our conversation today. Here, now, is my conversation with Ryan and Jessica Ronne.

Ron: Tell us a little bit about your family.

Jessica: I guess it all started in 2010 when we both lost our first spouses to brain cancer. I blogged from Michigan—Ryan blogged from Oklahoma—and a stranger who followed both of us from Pennsylvania reached out to me and said, “Hey, there’s this grieving widower. He has three young children. I just think you could really be a source of encouragement to him,”—and the rest is history. 

We started emailing and we met, and we were married within a year. He moved to Michigan. We adopted each other’s kids and we thought we were going to just live happily ever after—however— [Laughter]  

Ron: Then there’s the “however.” [Laughter]

Jessica: There’s a lot more to the story when you are a blended family or probably any family really. We ended up moving to rural Tennessee a couple of years after we were married—had another baby together, our Annabelle.

Ron: She makes number eight; right—child number?

Jessica: She does; yes—eight children. We lived what we thought was a simple life out in rural Tennessee until it wasn’t all that simple anymore. We have a child with profound special needs and autism and as he aged it just became more and more difficult. We moved towards Nashville thinking that would help remedy the situation and there would be more resources and support for him and just found, really, that the South is really lacking in anything for special needs families. 

We are in the process of moving back to Michigan right now. We’re actually in a temporary home and building an accessible home for our family to live in in the future. 

Ron: So, listener, you just got a snapshot of this family story, and we have a lot to unpack; don’t we? Let’s just back up and start unpacking a little bit at a time. 

Jessica, in your book you say that you met Ryan—you were drawn to him—and then you realized one day that you were grieving one person while simultaneously falling in love with another. I bet both of you were going through a similar journey there. I’d like for us to just unpack both sides of that—the grieving one-person side and the falling in love with the other person side. Let’s just start with, “Who were you grieving?” and “What’s that backstory?”

Jessica: Well, I was grieving my late husband, Jason. He had gone through his cancer journey for three years. In the middle of that we were raising four children—actually had an unexpected pregnancy in the middle of all of it as well and raising Lucas, our son with special needs. Honestly, I had kind of worked through a lot of the stages of grief—I believe—by the time he actually passed away because it had been such a long, painful journey for our family. 

There was a deep sadness when he passed away, but I think there was also something in me that was at peace that he was no longer in pain and suffering, and that cancer wasn’t a task master in my life anymore because that’s really, really hard when you have four kids under six. I think I was in a healthier place than Ryan was—and I’ll let Ryan dive into that a little bit—by the time my husband passed away because it had been so long. 

But I think I jumped into a relationship with Ryan feeling like my grieving was pretty much all wrapped up in a nice little bow and I was ready to move on in life. Parts of me were ready but there were also parts that would spring up out of the middle of nowhere. Like, one example I can think of—brushing my teeth at night and looking over at the other sink thinking that sink would never be used again because that that was Jason’s sink and like there sat his toothbrush and his toothpaste. 

It was working through some of that. All I can say for myself is we probably should have gotten some therapy. I know we used each other as therapists early on and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that. It brought out a lot of feelings of insecurity and jealousy as we talked about these people we had loved, but yet we were falling in love with each other. It was just a really strange place to be.

Ron: As you’re talking, I’m reflecting on all those different elements. Again, so much there to unpack—and we will—we’ll slow down and take a look at each of those little elements but, I think for the listener the observation that I just want to make is that any significant loss, like the loss of a spouse, has so many layers to it—there’s so much involved in it. 

The length of time that you were grieving actually before he passed away versus somebody whose loss is a little bit shorter or sudden—all of those things influence you, the kids, the journey and they all have to be unpacked. Sometimes, when you’re listening to somebody else’s story, you’re thinking, “Well, that’s sort of like mine, but not completely like mine.” Well, yes, nobody’s story is exactly like yours and so it’s okay to absorb what you’re hearing today and grab the elements that you can really relate to. 

Ryan, it sounds like your story of loss was different than hers.

Ryan: Yes, it was very different. With my first wife we had our third child in December of 2009 and just a month after she started getting headaches and feeling really uncomfortable. We just thought it was pregnancy related—you know, just had a baby. But just a week after her 30th birthday, they diagnosed her with a brain tumor and within weeks, it hemorrhaged, and she was never the same. She was diagnosed middle of March and April 1st she had the hemorrhage, lost a lot of her cognitive skills, and in and out of the hospital just for what four months, and then she passed away in August. 

I had an eight-month-old. I hadn’t even taken a breath or even thought about that or what’s next. It was like I was living—trying to help raise the three kids and basically be a caretaker and a caregiver for my late wife—and then it was done. I was kind of lost. Honestly, when Jess and I started talking, I was looking for an ear to try to get through this because I really was struggling and not understanding why and all of the questions that you have for God.  

Just a couple of weeks, I think, after she passed away, my oldest son actually said to me, “Dad, when are we going to get a new mom?” Like he already knew that that space needed to be filled and I hadn’t—it hadn’t even crossed my mind. I think I prayed that night and just said, “God, you’re going to have to help me because I’m not looking to that at all.” When Jess and I met, it was like God just opened this door in my heart that said, “There’s room for one more.” 

As we got married and got closer together, it’s like—you can’t really share that. I can’t share those feelings with her and at some point I’ve got to let that go. That was really hard. Our first year of marriage we did try to be each other’s therapist and there was a point when we finally just said “No more. Let’s go seek somebody else out to share this stuff with because this isn’t fair to each other.”

Ron: At this point—ten years looking back at that first year—you were looking for something in the other that you now feel like was inappropriate. What were you looking for? What were you needing the other person to give you? 

Jessica: I think, in a lot of ways we’d often seek validation even—we shared everything the good, the bad, the stuff that we didn’t necessarily like in our first marriages and seeking validation for—“That was kind of strange in that marriage; wasn’t it?”—that sort of thing. 

Like for one—I can think of one example—we would both go to bed without our first spouses and entering the new marriage neither one of us particularly liked that trait in our previous relationships. We kind of discussed it and we were like we don’t want to bring that to this relationship. Let’s always try to go to bed together type of thing. 

We overshared. Like I know way too much about her and Ryan knows way too much about Jason. Those should have been sacred memories to that relationship, but we just went too far and that would kind of haunt us in the coming years. Ten years in, we’re over it.

Ron: So there’s an upside and a downside to sharing. 

Jessica: Right.

Ron: The upside might be in the immediate you get that validation that you’re looking for about some feeling you had about the previous marriage, but the downside is then it sort of burdens the current relationship with now thoughts of seeing the other person with their former spouse—that type of thing?

Jessica: Right; yes. I mean looking back to it it’s all tied to insecurity. He and I didn’t have enough time to have a shared history together so what our conversations tended to gravitate towards were these shared histories we had with these other people which does bubble up these insecurities. Then you have the whole rest of the world who has this model of never speak ill of the dead. 

So us sinful people in a sinful world in a relationship that we’re trying to figure out and everybody else in the whole world is looking at these two people who passed away and they’re now on pedestals of perfection which we can never live up to. It’s just all of this stuff that, had we had somebody come alongside us and help us work through some of that, I think it would have been really beneficial.

Ron: If you were talking to somebody, Ryan, right now, who’s listening, who is widowed, perhaps single, or perhaps in a new marriage—blended family situation, what advice would you give them about sharing regarding previous spouse? 

Ryan: I think that’s really a difficult question. I think therapy is really key to that because when you first meet somebody, they’re more open-minded to, “Yes, sure, I want to know everything. Then it’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, no. I didn’t want to know that. No, no, no except for that.” So I think—

Jessica: Or it gets thrown back into your face in an argument like, “You said she did this.”

Ryan: That’s where the difficulties come in is when you have to—you feel like, “Well, I’m not good at that”—what he was good at. Or it’s vice versa and it’s like, “Now I have to try and live up to that” or “I’m going to be constantly compared to that.” I think the best thing is to communicate early on in those relationships and just be cautious. 

You wouldn’t talk about your exes before you got married the first time very openly. But I think as we were married—and happily married—we felt like permission to share all the good stuff and it’s like, “Oh, well, they’re sainted now, and they can do no wrong” and they can’t even defend themselves—so it was a challenge. 

Ron: One of the things I’m hearing you say—this is something we’ve talked about on this podcast before—I call it the color of your “us.” If I could just give you a simple illustration, and then I’d love for you guys to just react to what I hear you saying. So the color of your “us” is a combination of who two people are when they get married. 

So, if you’re yellow and you marry red, well your “us” is orange; right? It’s some combination of the two of you—your personalities, your temperament, your giftings—and then your “us” is that working out of, “how we do life together.” It’s not only our togetherness and our passion and our connectedness—but it’s also our style and our ritual and just the little details of life and how we work out—how we go to bed together. 

Whether you go first, or I go first—that’s all a part of the color of your “us.” Well, you’re used to orange because you were yellow, you married red, and you had orange. You’re still yellow when you move into a second or subsequent marriage, but this time you married blue. Guess what? Your color of your “us” is green—and it’s different—and green is not orange. 

Sometimes that’s really good because—as you said—there’s things you didn’t care for in a previous “us” that you can change now—but sometimes there’s other things you did like. Then there’s the comparison thing—“Well, wait a minute, are you saying you still want orange—because we’re green and we’re not going to be orange—and so does that mean you’re unhappy with our us?” That’s what I hear you saying. React to that.

Ryan: It is; yes.

Jessica: Yes.

Ryan: I think even—let’s say—me and my first wife were green. I was the blue one and I kind of melded towards the green a little bit so I’m not blue anymore. So whenever—when I lost her and met Jess, I thought, “I can redo this. I don’t have to be dark blue—or I don’t have to be green—I can be whatever it is I want to be.” 

I think my personality and some of those things I held back in my first marriage came out in the open and Jess—I’d have to give credit to for a lot of that stuff because I didn’t communicate it very well at all in round one, but I learned how to communicate with her because it wasn’t an option. But I think yes, that’s a tough one like trying to meld those colors the first time around and then you have to kind of regroup and reboot and start over. What do you think?

Jessica: You have always been extremely adaptable which has worked well in our relationship because I’m not. [Laughter] I’m like I’m pretty even keel and have always like what you see is what you get. I didn’t force him to communicate but it was highly encouraged. Like, “You need to open your mouth and start telling me how you’re feeling, or this isn’t going to work,” so you did. But I would say I was blue in the first marriage and I’m blue in this marriage. [Laughter] I don’t know where you are now.

Ryan: I’m like, up and down. I do vary. I’m like a chameleon—sometimes good—sometimes bad.

Ron: Yes, this is good. I think the takeaway is every “us’ has a color to it—has a hue to it. There will be things that are similar to a previous relationship—things that will be different—but it’s the comparison and the contrast—that’s a space where insecurity can thrive is in the comparisons, so you need to guard against sharing too much information.

Don’t you think it’s also an internal thing? Like, you also have to guard against comparing—in your own head—this relationship—that person—versus the other person?

Jessica: We say—when we got married—it was the two became one—not the four became one. Ten years later, we don’t have these problems at all. Like I said earlier, I think it’s those first couple of years where you’re not sure of your place in the relationship you have all these insecurities. As time goes on, we have such a shared history now and we’ve been through everything together at this point. 

We just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. I was married to Jason for ten years as well so now I have as much time with Ryan as I had had with Jason. I would just say to anybody listening time does heal a lot of those insecurities and wounds, but you have to give it enough time.

Ron: Keep working at it.

Jessica: Keep working at it because if you check out at year five or six, you have no idea how much better it could have really gotten at ten, eleven, twelve years.

Ron:  Yes; I think that’s a good word. We say that to our listeners all the time. Most blended family couples quit before it ever has a chance to get good because they don’t give the cooking process enough time to really get there.

Jessica: We kind of laugh with eight kids. Like we’ve threatened, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and I’ve stormed off. Then it’s like, “Hmm, but I don’t want to do eight kids by myself,” so honestly, like the eight kids almost kept us together— [Laughter]

Ryan: It helped. 

Jessica: —to a place where we’re now in a really good place.

Ron: Being persistent and—

Jessica: Right.

Ryan: I think we learned how to talk about that stuff too. When we did share things, we finally did decide that I had 14 years of experience with that person before I met her, and she said I want to know more about you. Well then, if you want to know more about me, you’re going to have to know about those last 14 years. So what we learned to do is instead of saying when we were in this place or that place or doing this, it was just I. 

When I was over there doing this, and then it felt better. Like, it wasn’t just everything I—my whole identity wasn’t with my first wife—I still had my own identity.

Ron: That’s really good. 

Okay, I want to wrap back around to where we started this conversation. It was in the midst of loss that you guys met and, if I’m hearing you right, you really attached to one another quickly because you were hurting. In that sorrow, it pushed you towards this new relationship. Then one day you sort of woke up and said, “Whoa, there’s a lot going on here and we’ve got to now deal with it”—because at some point you were already married, and it went from there. 

I want to kind of go back to the sadness and grief narrative again. Again, Jessica, yours was a little different. You had three years prior to your husband passing. Ryan’s was a shorter period of time—compact. I don’t know if you guys know this about me—I have a little perspective about this. I didn’t lose a spouse, but I have lost a child. My 12-year-old son passed away and start to finish for us was 10 days. So it wasn’t like sudden—get a phone call, there’s been a car wreck or something, but 10 days is not a long period of time; right?   

So I really get the, “Now, what do I do? How do we cope? How do we move forward? What do I do with this?” I’m trying to process all of this, and life demands that you sort of do life anyway and you have other children and they’re grieving and you’re trying to help them, but you don’t know how to help yourself. I don’t know if that’s a part of your journey but there’s a lot there that is just heavy and hard and thick and deep. It’s like walking through mud. That’s what I used to tell people, “I’m up to mud in my eyeballs. I’m not making much progress.” You’re not making good time when you’re walking through mud. 

And yet, there’s this new thing out there—this person who gives you something to be hopeful about. So talk about that dynamic there. Is that part of what added to the rush into love do you think?

Ryan: Looking back it’s a simple answer. I lived by faith up until that point and I wanted to just trust that God would work it out. It took me a little bit of time to accept that, but I’ve always lived that way and I think Jess has too. You live in faith. You either believe it or you don’t believe in it. God doesn’t want us to be sad—He doesn’t want us to be mournful all the time. Ecclesiastes talk about there’s a time for that and then there’s a time for joy and I didn’t like being sad—I don’t want that. 

So when I prayed it was very specific, “God, I don’t want to be sad. I don’t want to mourn. I want to get past this, and I want to find happiness.” I got a lot of feedback from other widowers as well. They actually just said, “You take care of you and everything else will work itself out.” I think that’s what I did as I focused on, “What do I need to make me happy?” I sought that out and I trusted that God would work it out and He did. 

I’m not saying there weren’t mountains to climb in the meantime. I fell back—often—into depression and sadness. It does work itself out and in time—if you do trust and believe in God—He will work it out for you. He wants you to be happy one way or another.  

Jessica: I would say—yes, we did know God’s hand was on all of this, but there was still a level of using each other as giant band aids through our grief. If you have the choice, do you want to sit around and cry all day and wallow in bed or do you want to have these happy endorphins racing through your body over this new found love?

Ron: Yes.

Jessica: We rode that for a while for sure. I’m just very black and white. Even after Jason’s funeral I remember driving home in the car and pulling into the driveway and looking down at my wedding ring on my hand and going, “I’m not married anymore. This is a lie.” I took it off and put it in my jewelry box and never put it back on. 

I’m not willing to wallow in mistruths that I try to tell myself—I need to face reality and then I can begin movement forward. It was a very slow movement forward, but Ryan was part of that movement forward. We did a lot of things wrong, but God was in the middle of it all and we knew that. 

Ron: And that’s the game changer. I mean when you’re faithful and you trust, and you just hold on to Him. I mean, it’s an ugly ride. For a lot of people, it’s just hard. I know my grief journey has been ugly—ugly—and yet God’s still in it. 

The experience of sadness and sorrow doesn’t necessarily mean that God’s not there—it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care—it doesn’t mean any of that—although, sometimes we tell ourselves that, but that’s not the reality at all—He is there. So it comes back to again, “Lord, You’re my rock in the middle of this raging river that I can’t control.” 

Jessica: And isn’t that life? 

Ron: Yes.

Jessica: This constant push and pull between sadness and struggle and joy and pain—that’s just life. We have so much of that sadness and struggle now, too, but there’s also joy.

Ron: Again, grief is so individual. The way a listener responds to their grief journey can be totally different than yours. They may not be as black and white. It just may not be as simple. The ring has stayed on their finger for a really long time. There’s a lot of good ways to grieve. I think that’s one of the strange things about grief is that any new grief journey has a life of its own. 

But, if you don’t know how to grieve, you kind of question how you grieve—then you’re like, “Am I doing this right? Should I be doing this? Should I be doing that? Should I be feeling this? Should I not be feeling that?” It’s like well, that’s not the point. It is your journey. You just try to hold on to God in the midst of it and stay faithful with Him. That’s the one thing you definitely need to try to strive for—but the expressions of grief are going to vary so much. 

I’m wondering about your children. We’ve already heard from Ryan a little bit in terms of one of your kids said, “When are we going to get another mom?” By the way, I’m wondering—I’d love for you to speak at some point whether that made you feel permission to move on—like, how did you interpret that whole thing? —But what about the other kids?

Jessica: Obviously. Here I am. [Laughter]

Ron: Yes, that’s right. Somewhere in there that felt okay.

Jessica: Right.

Ron: But what about the other kids? How did they grieve? And what were their responses to a new person coming into their world—all that change and transition?

Jessica: Well, Caleb had asked me the same thing, “Mom, when do you think you’re going to get us another dad?” And I was like “Honey, it’s not like I can just go to Walmart and pick out a dad for you.” [Laughter]

Ron: I’m glad you told him that. 

Jessica: Like one, I’m a 33-year-old widow with four kids. I’m not a hot commodity [Laughter] but apparently there was a guy out there. Honestly, our beginning years it was not that challenging.

Ryan: The kids were really young.

Jessica: They were really young, and I think that worked in our favor.

Ron: Yes, I think it did.

Jessica: We did get them into grief groups with other children. We got them into therapy. Then we moved to rural Tennessee and it just kind of felt like everything was good. Like this is our new family. We relied really heavily on one another. We had a lot of fun. I would say as the kids are aging, we’re going through so many things that we had never anticipated as they’re becoming teenagers and having questions about their identity and raging out about real mom—not real mom—those types of realities. 

In the past couple of years, it has been far more difficult where the kids are concerned than it ever was in their younger years.

Ryan: Yes, and I think we started off—we didn’t necessarily want to be a stepfamily, we just wanted to be a family. We talked to them about changing their name—her kids—and let them make that decision on their own when they were ready and if that was something they wanted to do. We just wanted to be one and we just let them talk. We let them tell us whatever they felt. We were emotional in front of them. We didn’t hide behind anything, so I think they did better, like she said, when they were really little. They just acted like this was normal. Like, “Okay, good.”

Jessica: Like this is our new family.

Ryan: This is my new mom. This is my new dad. This is our new house.

Jessica: And all these new friends to play with because I brought siblings and he brought siblings—

Ron: Right.

Jessica: —so it was like fun.

Ryan: They meshed so well.

Ron: Okay. By the way, young children, that’s pretty common for them to do. If the kids were talking to me right now—if you guys were not in the room—and the kids were just talking to me and I asked them, “So, as of late, I hear you guys have started asking new questions and having new feelings, what commentary would you give me on this whole family journey?” What would they say now?

Jessica: We’ve point blank asked some of them. Our two oldest graduated a few weeks ago—that’s when they graduated. I asked our oldest, “What did you think of your childhood? I’m just like—my own insecurities—, “Did you feel like we gave you a good childhood?” “Yes, it was great.” 

Ryan: Shrug.

Jessica: “Anything you would do different, or did you feel like we gave you enough time?” “No, it was a good childhood, Mom. It was good.”

Ryan: He was the easiest one.

Jessica: He was the easy one. Our teenage girls would probably have a lot more to say to you—there’s big feelings there right now.

Ryan: I think, honestly—to me—it’s all outside influence. I don’t think—I think they’ve handled it very well. It’s when everybody else steps in and finds out. Their new teacher is like, “Oh, I didn’t know your mom died,” and then they want to feel sorry for them. Then our kids are part of a big family and they’re going, “Wait a minute, can I benefit from this somehow?” So if I make this more than it is—more than I feel—will I get more attention? A few of them have really embraced that. 

Then with grandparents who try to reach out and remind them, “Hey, don’t forget, don’t forget about this person.” We don’t—we don’t allow that either but we’re not going to bring it up to try and make them sad. I think a lot of the outside influence has done that.

Ron: So the girls are processing fresh—new—in this season of life. That is definitely something we teach. Grief is developmental and kids will continue to grieve at every season of their life and there will be a new filter on it—a new dynamic around it—other people speaking into that. It is what it is. It’s never going to go away. That will always be the case in every season of their life and in your life. 

One of the things we generally advise people—and I’d love your reaction to this—is just keep the grief conversation going. Whenever something pops, you go with it. 

Jessica: Yes, I think we do. We’re back to looking at therapy again and some grief groups again and it’s just sticky dynamics. With our girls, too, my biological 14-year-old falls in between his bio 16-year-old and 11-year-old. So that can get tricky. We’ve seen too as they’ve aged more of this loyalty towards the bios that when they were younger they all just meshed and they had fun and they played, but we’re seeing that movement towards the bios who feel safe now. 

Then both of our youngest have absolutely no recollection of this person who was their father or mother and I think that’s really painful that they’re trying to work through that. One other thing—all of the kids everything they think of in terms of late mom or dad is also again through that lens of sainthood, so if I ask them to clean their room or I get upset about something or whatever, its— 

Ron: “My mom would have never done that.”

Jessica: —“my mom would have never done that.” It’s like, “Hmm, she would have.” [Laughter]

Ryan: Right.

Ron: Yes, yes.

Jessica: She would have been a mom and he’s taken the reign with those conversations. I don’t necessarily feel like that’s my place, but he’ll sit down and say “No, your mom would have busted you too.”

Ron: Blood talks to blood; that’s a good principle.

Jessica: Yes, yes.

Ron: So it’s even more strange to think about the youngest children who don’t have any memories of their biological parent so they don’t really know where their loyalties lie and their siblings may be going, “Hey, aren’t you on our team?” “Well, I am.”

Jessica: That’s exactly what’s going on.

Ron: “But I’m also on their team like, I don’t really know—” I can totally see how that would create some—

Jessica: Then you throw some attachment issues into the pot as well.

Ron: I mean this is the journey of grief. If there’s a big takeaway for our listener, its blended family does not repair what was lost. It creates something new—something different—that has its own life—its own set of relationships and you have to continue to grieve what has been lost developmentally along with children—different seasons of life—it just is. 

It’s not a statement about, “You did it wrong,” or “You shouldn’t have done it this way or that way,” or the timing—don’t do that to yourself. I think far too many people start unraveling their own story when they experience hiccups. That’s not helpful and it’s not accurate. Everybody experiences this in one form or another. It’s just, “Alright, God, how do we handle this? Let’s walk through it.” 

Let me turn a corner and talk about ghosts for a minute. You’ve got a whole chapter on this, and I really appreciated it a lot. I talk about ghosts a lot in my previous writing. Often though, it’s connected to a divorce narrative where you have that ghost of pain and heartache, sitting on your shoulder, of how the relationship came apart. 

This is a little different when it’s the ghost of a relationship that was good, that was happy, that was—family was complete. There was something there. I’m not saying it was a perfect marriage. I’m just saying it was alright. It didn’t unravel. You had a family. 

 

So let’s just talk around those sorts of things that haunt you as you move into a new relationship. Jess, you tell a story about red cooking pots. [Laughter] Could you tell our listeners? I thought it was a great story.

Jessica: Well, when I married Ryan, he brought loads and loads and loads of paraphernalia from his previous life into my new home.

Ryan: You’re welcome.

Ron: Paraphernalia. [Laughter]

Ryan: Lots of it.

Ron: Lots of it.

Jessica: Lots of it. He’s a bit of a hoarder. I didn’t like most of it to be honest. It’s nothing against her. She liked loud bright colors—red, orange, yellow. I don’t. I’m more of a neutral Pottery Barn type of girl. I would look at the stuff and just want to vomit. I didn’t like it. It was all over my house. In particular, these bright red Teflon pots that he had bought her for her birthday. It was one of the nicest gifts he had ever gotten her. He put them up in our new cupboards. 

He doesn’t cook or bake anything in our family.—that all falls on me. So every time I’m baking a nice dinner for my family, I’m using these red pots that I don’t even believe are a safe product because I don’t believe in Teflon, and I think they’re ugly. [Laughter]

Ron: You had lots of reasons to really not like these things.

Jessica: The issue was much deeper—I mean, we all understand that. So one day I packed them up in a Goodwill box and he saw them, and an argument ensued. “Why would you get rid of these? They were hundreds of dollars. Your pots were crap when you entered this marriage,”—and they were. I shopped at garage sales. I said, “I don’t like them. I don’t like all this stuff all over my house that doesn’t make my house feel homey.” 

It doesn’t—your house should be a sanctuary of peace and it didn’t feel like that for me because it wasn’t my stuff. It was all tied to another woman who he had an intimate relationship with, and I didn’t feel like that was fair.

Ron: Is that the deeper issue for you?

Jessica: Oh yes, for sure.

Ron: Yes, yes.

Jessica: And I didn’t like it either.

Ron: So you needed to get rid of them.

Jessica: Yes.

Ron: And he didn’t want to get rid of them. Did you interpret that as he doesn’t want to get rid of her?

Jessica: Yes.

Ron: Yes; that will take you to a hard place.

Ryan: It was a pretty nasty fight, but it did work out later on because what it did is it brought attention to me that I was unaware. I had no idea what she was doing. It was like, “You just want to get rid of all of my stuff.” Like it had nothing to do with she didn’t like it or whatever. I was totally oblivious to the meaning behind it, and I honestly don’t think it came out in that argument. I think it came out later where it was—I’m not even sure she knew deep down why she wanted to get rid of them so badly. 

But on my side of it, I grew up with nothing growing up. My dad was gone, and my mom raised me and my sister. She got married later on as I became a teenager. It was hard. We had to work from the time we could.

Ron: You don’t throw away good stuff when you’ve got it.

Ryan: You don’t throw away good stuff. I spent a lot of energy and time figuring out exactly what to buy her and all that stuff. So it was important to me, but it had nothing to do with the intimacy of it that Jess felt from it. It was just more about that’s good quality stuff. Don’t just give it away.

Ron: There’s good and bad in red cooking pot arguments; right? I mean the bad is we’re having an argument and a fight and we’re against each other in this moment, and the good is this reveals something that really has to be dealt with. It reveals insecurity, questions, the meaning of the red pots and where the attachment lies, and our future. It sounds like that, eventually, revealed that to you guys and you figured it out.

Jessica: Yes, we did. I think it came down to we had so much stuff—so much stuff when we got married—and it kind of stole our peace, too, because there was so much stuff. It came down to recognizing if we’re maintaining all this stuff all the time, we’re not putting our energy into our relationship or our children because we’re so busy maintaining all this stuff. That led to a lot of purge sessions which were really helpful and then he’s not really attached to any of that stuff anymore. I hope we don’t have much of it. 

Ryan: It all disappeared. I don’t know what happened to it. [Laughter]

Ron: Goodwill is really happy.

Ryan: Goodwill did really well with that.

Ron: Yes, they did.

Jessica: It doesn’t matter anymore but that was part of his grief too I believe. Like, holding on to that a little bit longer whereas once you recognize that it doesn’t bring the person back because you’re holding on to the pots you gave her. Instead it’s making this person I now married and love really miserable.

Ron: Yes. When it comes to symbols and meaning like that, I just invite our listener when something like that rises up inside you and you have a red cooking pot argument, ask yourself, “What’s going on with me? What is underneath this? What is driving me to really be worried about this and concerned about what this means to the other person? What does that reveal in me?” Usually there’s something there. Whatever that strong emotion is—that pain or fear—that’s something you have to learn how to deal with and invite God to help you with it. 

It sounds like you guys have discovered a new truth about pots. Sometimes they are symbolic of prior relationships, but it doesn’t necessarily have an implication for whether or not you have a strong relationship. Have you gotten kind of around that?

Ryan: Yes, I think so. 

Jessica: Yes.

Ryan: I held onto that bitterness for quite a while though because I accepted it, but I didn’t like it. I still didn’t understand it completely way back then and even in that book I got to write my take on it. It brought up emotion. It did even when I was writing about what I really felt about that. It really wasn’t tied to my marriage; it was just something I didn’t want to let go of and that’s right and I didn’t know why. Honestly, I still don’t really know deep down exactly what it was about.

Jessica: You told me it was kind of tied to your marriage though because it was like one of the very few nice gifts you had bought her.

Ryan: It was something that was of value to me not necessarily to the marriage. It was like I put forth effort and really thought this through. I think the gift was really appreciated and maybe that’s more about what it was about is I was appreciated for it. But yes, I held onto it for a while but that’s not Jess’s fault; that’s my own insecurity. That’s something I had to really face, and I did later on. I think that’s why it’s easier for us to communicate those things now.

Jessica: I don’t think it’s fair to ever ask a woman who you want to marry to live in like a shrine to their late wife or ex-wife or whatever. If it makes her uncomfortable, I would say those feelings need to take precedence over your feelings.

Ron: What I love, Ryan, about what you just said is that you got to what was underneath that for you. You got to the insecurity that was there and you made a decision about whether or not you were going to hang onto that insecurity. Oftentimes, what we do when we get to these moments—and everybody listening right now has got a red cooking pot thing in your marriage. Everybody does. It’s what reveals some insecurity in you about you in your relationship. 

We could list a thousand different cooking pot little arguments—or moments. At the end of the day, we have to decide what am I going to do with that insecurity in me? Am I going to let that rule me? Or am I going to figure out a new path around this? Or am I going to walk through this insecurity and trust you in spite of my insecurity? That’s the moment where we grow up in relationships, I really believe that, and there’s all sides and every side has to be considered.

So yes, Jessica’s got a point. If there’s a shrine and I’m living in this shrine, boy is that uncomfortable. At the same time, what’s the reason for the shrine? Is there a reason? Is there something valid that led to the symbolisms being held onto in the first place? All of that has merit—and it takes a lot of patience, I think, for us as couples to listen to the other person—to hear their point of view, to try to give consideration to the need within it. 

And then, at the same time, to give voice to what’s troubling us and to do so in an environment—in a way that, ultimately—we can come together and say, “Our “us” matters and how do I honor you in this red cooking pot conversation?” It’s not always easy.

Jessica: No, and early on it led to explosive arguments. I would say now, when we feel something, we’ll say to each other, “What’s this really about?”

Ron: Good question.

Jessica: And then it’s a pause—what is this really about? Have the kids been like driving me crazy today and I’m lashing out at him? Or am I feeling stress because I took on too many projects? Or whatever it may be. We don’t really have those shrine arguments anymore. What we have is what we have and some of it’s from his previous life, some of it’s from mine, but we’ve accepted it as our stuff now. But we don’t tend to have those explosive arguments over that kind of thing anymore.

Ron: One of the other subjects you write about—and I just so appreciate it—in your book, about Lucas, a unique aspect to your blended family story is you have a special needs child. It occurred to me as I was reading that when a family member gets a serious illness, as your former spouses did, everything orients around that one person. That stressor, if you will, dominates your family’s calendar—your schedule. It becomes the focal point of attention and energy. It has to and of course, it does.  

So everybody in the family has to accommodate to that thing. To a degree, a special needs child brings a similar dynamic to any family. It’s big. It at times dominates decisions, calendars, schedule, the emotional climate of the home, parenting decisions, on and on it goes, and it requires, if you will—if I could use that word—like, everybody has to accommodate around it to some degree. Some people are more willing than others. 

You have siblings, you have step siblings in your case. Let’s just unpack that for a minute. I’d love to hear what your learnings and takeaways have been, now, ten years in a blended family with a special needs child.

Ryan: It has a lot of challenges. I think the easiest way for me to explain it as a caregiver is 90 percent of our energy goes toward him and then we have to divide the 10 percent amongst the rest. That’s not fair to them but it is what it is. So we have to make decisions on a daily basis: where’s that 10 percent going to go, because the 90 is taken no matter what. 

As he’s gotten older, he’s gotten more and more difficult to raise and to handle because his aggression has gotten worse and he’s bigger and harder to manage. All the kids have to be part of it. They’ve accepted him from day one. I’m sure they don’t like it but kids struggle with lots of stuff. I think it’s been good for them to witness, and it gives them compassion and they’re less judgemental when they see other kids that are different from them. I guess they don’t approach it as normal kids would.

Jessica: We have lots of conversations about this is just your story. You can wallow in the unfairness and injustice of it or you can make something good out of it. I think most of them don’t resent Luke outside of the moves that we’ve had to make for him. I don’t know that that percentage is quite accurate now that we live in Michigan because we are surrounded by friends and family. 

We moved to Michigan because Luke would have full time summer school and we wanted to be able to spend more time with our other kids while Luke was in a safe, fun environment for him. So I think most of our decisions in life have been driven by, “What does Luke need? What does our future look like if we don’t get Luke what he needs?” But I don’t think the kids resent him. They just maybe resent— 

Ryan: —the decisions we’ve had to make.

Jessica: Yes, the hard decisions we’ve had to make. But I think the blame probably falls on us not him.

Ron: That’s interesting and yes, you do carry it. I mean, how could you blame him—but at the same time, their life is affected dramatically by him. I imagine that’s just a tough place for the other kids to maneuver and work through. You’ve obviously had some conversations with your kids because you asked them, “How do you feel about this and what’s the impact?” 

I was thinking about the ten percent comment that—Ryan—you made. How do you talk to the kids about these realities? Do you just make it a practice to talk on a regular basis? Does it only come up every once in a while? I mean how does that flow? 

Ryan: It usually comes up in anger.

Jessica: Right, when they’re being mouthy. Come here, we’re going to have a talk with you in your bedroom. [Laughter]

Ryan: Honestly though, from the very beginning, we’ve had open communication with our kids about everything from the death of our spouses—we talked about how—what exactly happened and what it means—and the moves—we present to them as a family and say, “Hey, we want all of you to understand this. This is why we’re doing it. You don’t have to like it. You can be mad about it, but this is what it’s going to be. We’ve already made the decision.” 

We have family meetings pretty regularly and just sit down when something’s not right and say, “Okay, this is what we’re seeing. You guys tell us if it’s different than what we see”—you know what’s going on—and let them open their mouths—and they typically do. They’re pretty open—

Jessica: Yes.

Ryan:  —about what they’re feeling with us.

Jessica: The emotional climate right now is pretty fragile just because this move is fresh. Some of them weren’t super excited about it—had to leave friends behind.

Ron: In their teenage years

Jessica: Yes. So it’s touching base a lot and trying to have that one-on-one time where we can touch base and see how everybody is feeling and doing. I don’t have any problem with honest feelings. My problem comes when you’re not talking. Like what are you feeling? What’s going on? You got to talk to somebody. You don’t even have to necessarily talk to me, but you got to get that stuff out of you because we can’t heal if we’re just bottling it all up into in our hearts and not talking about it.

Ron: Anytime a transition, some stepfamilies find even 10 years—15-20 years into their journey—that bio parents really need to stay extra connected to their biological children. I’m not saying stepparents can’t be an asset—please don’t hear me saying that—I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying there seems to be something kind of a salve there that gets applied when that happens. How do you guys balance that? I’m just wondering if you have found that to be something that’s helpful for you, or how do you balance it with all the other demands?

Jessica: There’s guilt because it does feel different—bio versus adopted. You can’t deny that fact. I feel like my bio kids just innately know that I love them and would do anything for them. Whereas the adopted, they’re kind of always asking that question like, “Are you going to leave? Do you still love me? Did I do something that made you so mad that you don’t love me anymore?” There’s this constant reaffirming. “No, I still choose you. I choose this family. I wanted you.”

But there’s guilt for me—a lot—just in how easy those bio relationships are and how difficult the other ones are and then constantly feeling like you’re having to plug into the ones that are more difficult and then taking time away from the easy ones. 

Ron: The easy ones you don’t want to take those for granted either.

Jessica: No you don’t.

Ron: You don’t want your kids to feel just dropped off and abandoned because you’re spending so much—yes, so there’s guilt all the way around.

Jessica: There is, especially with eight kids. We do try to have—we recognize when we have a child that’s really struggling, and bio mom or bio dad tries to have those conversations—steer them back on track. 

Ron: What is the average person listening right now not really understand about having a special needs child? I don’t know Lucas—sounds like he’s mid to high maintenance.

Jessica: Yes, he is.

Ron: So what does the average person not know? The other side of this question is what would you like for them to know?

Jessica: I think the isolation and exhaustion. We don’t get out much just because it’s so difficult with him at this stage of life. I know we’re not the only family in the world who’s kind of hiding out behind closed doors because it’s easier. It’s just easier than if we make the effort to bring him and the kids out, we know we will be wiped out within two hours because one of us will be on all the other kids and one of us will be on Luke exclusively. It’s a huge endeavor. 

What I just want the general public to understand is these families are everywhere. They’re probably not showing up in church because it’s so exhausting, but anything you can do to lighten their load a little bit—like drop off a meal or a pizza or a card, I’m praying for you. Just to see us behind our closed doors makes all the difference in the world.

Ron: That’s good. I wanted to pointedly ask you, “What could the body of Christ do better to support special needs families?” and you just gave me one and that’s good.

Jessica: That and I just wrote about this the other day, too—Vacation Bible School. I’d scour all the local listings for my younger children. Well, these special needs teenagers are sitting at home bored out of their minds and their families aren’t going anywhere. If churches would start to offer something like this for special needs teenagers, you would bless the socks off of these families because even like a two or three hour break is huge—and nobody wants the teenagers.

Ryan: They’re scary.

Jessica: They’re scary or there’s diapers involved. Nobody wants to change a 16-year-olds diaper but it’s our reality and we need to serve the least of these and the caregivers who are caring for them.

Ron: I appreciate you saying that. You do write about that. You say to families, “Ask for help.” That assumes there is somebody who’s offering help.

Jessica: Right.

Ron: You say find community and take time for self-care. Well, that’s hard because you’re the one that has to provide care. So finding that with each other—within the household—boy, I would imagine that’s a lot of conversation between the two of you.

Ryan: Self-care means one of us is going to be in more pain. So if one of us has to take a break, the other one has to take on the extra load. So we again—back to guilt. No matter what we do—even if we’re trying to maintain our own health—you still feel guilty. 

Like, I’m not going to go play a round of golf because four hours and my wife having to be at home, it’s not fair. The same for her—if she wants to run get a massage or something, okay, I’m going to get a massage but I’m going to get groceries and cat food and all the things so I don’t feel as much guilt—so I accomplish something else. Then you come home and the other one is like, “Okay, now it’s my turn. [Laughter] I need to get out of the house now.” It’s very challenging.

Jessica: We’ve gotten creative though. We walk every day together two miles and I feel like that’s a form of self-care. We pray together every morning.

Ryan: We go on a date.

Jessica: We try to do a date night every weekend which is really quite the marathon session because we have to have Luke fed and bathed and in his jammies. 

Ryan: So she’s getting ready while I’m bathing him and then, “Alright, let’s go. Hurry, hurry.”

Jessica: Two hours and we have to be home to put Luke to bed, but we try.

Ryan: You do what you have to.

Ron: Yes, finding your way. I appreciate that.

Let me turn another corner and go back to something we were talking about earlier. You talked about finding a therapist for yourself in your grief journey, perhaps for your family, for kids, whatever is needed. 

I want to—for the first time, just say to our listeners—I’ve never said this before on this podcast—we now have what I call a recognized smart stepfamily provider list—and that’s maintained at my website, SmartStepfamilies.com/therapy.  SmartStepfamilies.com/therapy—where you can actually find people that have gone through additional training by me and working with blended family situations. 

I’m pleased to say we have a growing list and that will continue to grow as counselors want to go through that training. For the first time, Christian stepfamily therapist, you can find one around the country and many of them do virtual coaching and different things like that. You guys went and got counseling—how did it help? I’m not just asking what specifically were the personal issues that you talked about, but just how did that help you get some perspective about your family’s journey? 

Jessica: Well, we thought it was about our marriage, but it had more to do with our childhoods and dealing with a lot of stuff that we had never dealt with.

Ryan: Insecurities.

Jessica: Yes, and once we dealt with that stuff, it seemed like the marriage got a lot better.

Ryan: That’s a pretty simple answer, yes.

Ron: No, that’s good. Man, I’ve been in counseling a number of times in my life and let me tell you there’s always a family of origin element to it. It is. Because those are the things we carry with us that get deeply embedded in who we are and we carry them into relationships, into work relationships, into all kinds of situations. Parenting tends to really bring that stuff out.

Jessica: And your books and Kevin Lehman were extremely helpful as well. 

Ryan: We have them all.

Jessica: We have all your books. We have all Dr. Lehman’s books.

Ron: Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. I do know Kevin and he is a riot. If you ever get a chance to hang out with him, do it because you will never forget it.

Ryan: We’d love to.

Ron: One other thing that really caught my eye when I was reading your book is when you guys got married—tell me if I got this right—there were 22 grandparents connected to your, at the time, 7 children. Oh my goodness [Laughter] that math just blows the mind, but immediately, I go to navigating birthdays and holidays and people who all want a little piece of that family pie. How do you do that? What boundaries have you had to put in place to keep sanity?

Jessica: Well, that’s why we ran away to rural Tennessee. [Laughter]

Ron: Got it.

Ryan: I would say that was the number one biggest issue and the one we had the most arguments about in the beginning because everybody—like you said—wanted a piece of us. They didn’t want to lose the kids. They didn’t want to lose that connection—especially previous in laws that struggled with where is their identity? Where do they fit into this new mold? Oh, man, trying to divide that up and then, not hurt feelings. It was impossible so we finally just said, “It’s not about you. It’s about us.” So yes, we drew a line in the sand. This one is really good at boundaries. I’m terrible at boundaries. 

Ron: Well, she did say she was black and white.

Ryan: I used to be. I’m much better. [Laughter] She’s very black and white. It’s very “Nope, that’s wrong. This is right.”

Jessica: Well, because of all the books we have by the experts.

Ron: Okay, the listener doesn’t know. She’s really giving me the eye right now. [Laughter]

Ryan: No, I’m happy, happy that she has boundaries, and she sees things black and white because everything to me is gray. 

Ron: Yes.

Jessica: But I wasn’t great at it either. There’s a chapter about how we had people in and out of our house every month when we first got married. I had never hosted somebody in my house growing up because my whole family was from the same area. When I was married to Jason, we never had people stay with us either. He was going through cancer. We had Luke, a special needs child. So I marry him, and they have people through their house constantly. 

Ryan: We had a tiny three-bedroom house growing up and family from another state came through on their way to Disney World and 18 people slept in our den with sleeping bags. If you could get any broader, I’d like to see that—but that’s about as distant as you could get between the two upbringings.

Jessica: Then our first year of marriage we had somebody in our house almost monthly—like family, extended family, out of towners. I was just like, “Uh.” We’re dealing with our new relationships, seven kids, like, too much.

Ron: Of course, you can see it from their point of view—a former in-law—a grandparent who still wants to be connected to the kids—who still wants to be a part of the family story and yet, now, there’s this new step daughter in law— 

Jessica: —person, right.

Ron: I don’t know how you would say that.

Ryan: A new set of in-laws.

Ron: Right. It’s sort of like “Okay, so where are we?” So of course you can see it from their side, and the kids want to stay connected to their grandparents. Yes, and yet, 22, it’s just impossible to meet everybody’s expectations. So at the end of the day you’re right, boundary setting is important. I’m sure once you moved to Tennessee somebody was mad.

Jessica: Oh yes, I’m sure.

Ryan: I think everybody was mad. [Laughter]

Jessica: Right; because we didn’t move towards anybody.

Ryan: We moved away from everyone.

Jessica: But we needed that. We needed that time to figure out who we were as a family and to solidify our family bonds and like away from all the distractions and it was good for us.

Ron: And for that season—

Ryan: It was hard.

Ron: Yes, it was hard, but it does seem like it served you well, and now, you’re in a different season and you’re choosing to move closer to family.

Jessica: Right.

Ryan: Yes; to one half of the family.

Jessica: Right.

Ron: Yes, to part of it because how could you move closer to everybody? There’s one take away you have from this journey of moving away from family and trying to manage the boundaries—specifically about that—what would that be?

Ryan: I would say make your family first. Start there and then, allow it to branch out from there because our identity starts within our family core and our values, and we worked so hard to make sure that we didn’t feel like a stepfamily. We wanted to just be a family and it takes a lot of effort, but I just wanted to make sure that our family was first and then, everyone else was second in line. I wanted our kids to know that. I wanted my new wife to know that. It took me a while to figure that out. 

I think she really struggled with me always catering to everybody because I was so flippant about it all. It was like, “Yes, sure, I’ll host. Yes, we’ll host. Let’s have it at our house.” I’d say “Honey, a bunch of people are coming over.”

Jessica: Right, and I’m in the bathtub bawling like, “Again?” There’s this perception—I had to put on this perfect perception as the new wife and the new mom. I’m doing great. Here’s your home cooked meal. The house is clean, and the kids are doing great. They’re not struggling at all. Then maintaining that was just exhausting.

Ryan: What advice would you give?

Jessica: Communicate. I think that’s been the biggest game changer for us—openly communicating. Like, “This isn’t working for me, so what do we need to do to make this work for both of us?” A lot of that has been even, “Yes, family can come visit but I don’t necessarily want them in my house with profound special needs and seven other children. Maybe they can rent an Airbnb or a hotel room because that’s just too much for me.”

Ryan: And we wrote letters to everybody involved and just said, “This is what we’re dealing with. Keep in mind you’re one of 22 grandparents and we want everybody to stay connected, but the way it’s going now, it’s not going to work.” So we gave them an option that this is the only way it’s going to work for us.

Ron: The book is Blended with Grit and Grace and now you know a little bit about the grit. [Laughter]

Jessica: Right. Hopefully, a little bit about the grace too.

Ron: And hopefully a little bit about the grace. I’ve got one last question for you guys. One of the really neat things in your book is that you sprinkle it with recipes all the way through and I just thought that was so neat. Often the recipes are kind of connected to the story or the chapter that it’s embedded in. There’s a reason for that. 

Let’s just pull back for a second and reflect—what is a recipe for faithfulness when life steals control and security and stability from you? What would you say? You guys have been through a lot of situations. Not just the death of your former spouses but the whole transition into a new family, a profound special needs child, stepsiblings, lots of kids, all kinds of demands from extended family—just a lot of situations have really stolen your control of life and stability.

[Studio]

You’ve been listening to my conversation with Ryan and Jessica Ronne. I'm Ron Deal and this is FamilyLife Blended. We’ll hear their recipe for faithfulness in just a minute. But before that, do me a quick favor. Would you give us a review?—five stars if this was helpful to you. I know that’s a lot to ask but that helps other people find us when you give us a review or a rating. Thank you so much for doing that.

Do you remember our discussion about the red cooking pots and how it reminded her of his intimate life with Kaci? She wanted to get rid of them, but he didn’t because they were good quality. Well, anyway, the pots meant very different things to both of them. The temptation for us is to see the conflict that they had as something to do with the meaning that they ascribed to the pots; or maybe who gets their way; or who should or shouldn’t keep possessions from a previous spouse. 

But that’s not really what the conflict is about. It’s really about feelings of insecurity. The feelings that even preceded their marriage and will likely continue beyond their marriage and how we cope with those feelings when we feel small in our spouse’s eyes. Really, this is something Jessica has to deal with. It’s not about pots. 

And I don’t know about you, but I think we all do this; don’t we? We have something inside us that we sort of make about some symbol and then we put our emotional well being into the hands of our spouse or our children or our parents and we expect them to take away our insecurity and feeling insignificant. Well, they can’t do that. 

I think instead what we need to do is find our worth in our relationship with God and in the truth about how He made us. Now, that’s easier said than done but let me tell you, this is a shorter road than the one you’ll go down trying to control your spouse into giving you the worth that you’re looking for. Find it in the One that loves you most—who is most faithful in His love to you. The One who made you.

If you’d like more information about my guests, you’ll find it in our show notes, or you can just check it out on the FamilyLife Blended podcast page at FamilyLife.com/blendedpodcasts. FamilyLife and our division, FamilyLife Blended, has books and videos and online courses and live events all around the country that are designed to strengthen the relationships in your life that matter most. 

My latest book in the Smart Stepfamily Series, now with over a dozen resources in it, is called Preparing to Blend and it’s designed for engaged, preblended family couples. If you’re getting married, it will help both you and the kids get ready for life after the wedding. If you’re a leader or a pastor, it gives you a plan for premarital counseling that is designed just for blended families. Check out this and all our other resources. The show notes will tell you how.

We do love your feedback if you’ll take a minute and give us some, we’d appreciate it. And if you haven’t subscribed to this podcast, you can on the new FamilyLife app, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search, FamilyLife Blended. 

Now, before we’re done, let’s get back to that recipe for faithfulness.

[Prerecorded Audio]

Ron: So what’s a recipe for faithfulness?

Ryan: I’ll steal your phrase, honey.

Jessica: I know you’re going to.

Ryan: Just keep living.

Jessica: Oh, that’s not what I was going to say. [Laughter]

Ryan: I live by it.

Ron: Ryan, what does that mean for you? Just keep living.

Ryan: Keep moving forward. Don’t let anything back you down. You’re going to run into all kinds of rough patches but there is greener grass down the road. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel especially if you live as a Christian—as a believer. No matter what happens on this earth, there’s always the ultimate goal of heaven. No matter what we’re going through now, there’s always something coming that’s going to be better than what I’m in now. 

Ron: Jessica, what would you say?

Jessica: I would say faithfulness is always tied to obedience. If the Lord calls you to it, it’s just your job to move forward step by step into obedience to what He’s called of you. I’m a big believer you may see the blessing this side of eternity or you may see it the other side of eternity, but the only thing we’re called to do is continue to obey what He calls of us. And He called us to this family. He called us to raise a special needs child and it’s our job to stay obedient.

[Studio]

Ron: Next time, we’ll hear from two engaged couples reading my book, Preparing to Blend, about getting ready to become a blended family. 

Jamie: I really felt like I was being pulled in two different directions because Marian’s here on one side telling me I’m not spending enough time with her and then the boys are over on the other side feeling like I’m not spending enough time with them.

Ron: That’s Preparing to Blend couples, Marian and Jamie, and Jonathan and Peta, next time on FamilyLife Blended.

I’m Ron Deal, thanks for listening. Thanks to our monthly donors—what we call FamilyLife Legacy Partners—for making this podcast possible. You can help too, if you want, by making a tax-deductible donation specifically for FamilyLife Blended. Just look in the show notes for a link. Believe me, it makes a big difference, and we appreciate it.

Our Producer—Marques Holt. Our Mastering Engineer is Justin Adams. Project Coordinator, Ann Ancarrow, and theme music provided by Braden Deal.

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

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