Love Renewed: Randy and Denise McGarvey
About the Guest
She’s free spirit artist with a couple of kids, He’s a computer programmer with a neat desk. Can they make this blended family work?
Can they make this blended family work?
Love Renewed: Randy and Denise McGarvey
Bob: When Denise and Randy McGarvey got married, Randy became an instant dad. Denise had children from a previous marriage. Randy quickly realized that blending a family was going to be more challenging than he thought.
Randy: I worked in downtown Rochester. We decided to go to a soccer game in downtown Rochester. We got pizza, ahead of time. Denise wanted to take a picture, and I couldn’t just kind of sidle over to Forrest and put my arm around him and get a picture. I look back at that—I feel so foolish now. It’s tough to balance that with Denise’s role as the mom and me, as the step-dad—trying not to alienate the kids. It can definitely be a challenge.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, June 21st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When you’re working, as a husband, to build a strong marriage and one of your goals is not to alienate the kids, you have your work cut out for you. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re actually kind of going back in time today because our listeners are going to hear something that we are recording as we are on the Love Like You Mean It™ marriage cruise. I’m just wondering if you did anything to prepare yourself for potential seasickness before you got on the cruise. Any patch, wristband?
Dennis: No. No, when we first started doing these, I did the patch, you know. Then, I weaned myself from the patch; and I went to some little tablets. I’m good to go this trip.
Bob: You’re good to go?
Bob: Have you got anything in your system?
Dennis: I took a—what—is it called Bonine® [pronouncing it as Boneen]—Bonine [pronouncing it as Bo-nine]?
Bob: What is it, folks? Boneen, Bonine? [Audience response]
Bob: Bonine? They don’t know either.
Dennis: We have a live audience here.
Bob: We do. Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Nice to have you guys joining us. [Applause]
Bob: These are some of our closest friends, who have joined us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise this year. We’ve gathered them together this afternoon so that they can hear some great stories. We’re going to introduce them to a couple—one of our guests who are with us on the cruise.
Dennis: We are. Randy and Denise McGarvey join us on FamilyLife Today. Randy and Denise, welcome to our broadcast.
Randy: Thank you very much.
Dennis: Randy and Denise have a blended family. Denise brought two children into the marriage relationship. They live in Rochester, New York. Randy is a computer programmer. You have a great story that we’re looking forward to hearing.
We brought along Ron Deal, who’s come aboard FamilyLife about a year ago, and heads up our Blended Family Initiative. Ron—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Ron: Always good to be on the broadcast.
Bob: Do you have a patch behind your ear?
Ron: No, I’m free and clear.
Bob: Are you good?—alright.
Ron: I’m doing alright.
Dennis: Randy, why don’t you tell us a little bit of the context of the home that you grew up in before you met Denise? What kind of marriage did your mom and dad have?
Randy: Well, I grew up in a Christian home from a long line of pastors. My dad is not a pastor—but still, a solid Christian home. My parents helped found the church—that they still attend—years and years ago. We were there—pretty much every time the doors opened, we were in church. So, that was Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night—just very faithful church-attenders.
Bob: Your personal commitment to Christ—did it happen at an early age?
Randy: Yes, technically.
Bob: [Laughing] I love these technical testimonies here.
Randy: Yes, technically. I mean, I made a commitment to Christ when I was quite small, but I really didn’t start living it until I was in college. To me, I feel like I was a bit of a false convert, really, until I was in college.
Dennis: Denise, what about you? What kind of home did you grow up in?
Denise: I grew up in a home that was not a Christian home. There were six kids. I think we were sent across to the Methodist church on Sunday mornings so my parents could sleep in. They’re going to kill me when they hear that! [Laughter]
Bob: We won’t tell them when you’re on; okay?
Denise: But my parents became Christians when I had just left the home at 18 or 19 years old. I was not a Christian then. I became a Christian, actually, through my dentist.
Bob: Was that while he had you with the drill? “Either trust Christ or I’m drilling down deeper.”
Denise: Yes. And he said, “Show me how you’re going to pray, now, girlfriend.”
Bob: How old were you when you made a commitment to Christ?
Denise: In my late 20s.
Bob: Okay, so this was after you had been married.
Bob: Tell us about your first marriage.
Denise: Well, the funny thing— if you want to call it that—about that first marriage is I eloped. We went to Niagara Falls and got married when I was like 21—very young. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do. And we’re, now, leading the Niagara Falls Weekend to Remember. [Laughter] So, I thought that’s kind of odd.
We went through that marriage—had two children. One of them was after about five years. We had a really tough time getting pregnant; but we did, and we had a girl. Then, I had a boy almost four years later. But throughout that entire time, we thought we were doing well. We didn’t know any different because neither one of us were Christians. As a matter of fact, my ex-husband didn’t believe in God at all.
But I did have some background because of the Methodist church. So, I knew that there was something there. But we made a great effort because, at that time, I was starting to feel God moving in my life. I didn’t want to break up the home, but it just wasn’t a good situation.
Dennis: How long after the divorce did you and Randy start dating?
Denise: Well, I was separated for a few years. I met Randy at church. We did start dating, against our better judgment, when I really wasn’t divorced yet. We were separated and going through the process. Along the way, we sought counseling about that whole issue—“Should we be dating?”, at that point. That made the divorce go more quickly, on my end, just because he was in the wings!
Bob: Randy, you guys look back on that season—and if somebody came to you, in the same situation—you would say, “Do not do what we did;” right?
Randy: Yes, that’s correct. We definitely would have—I mean, looking back, we should have done a full separation of Denise and her previous husband before we got involved—absolutely. In our case, it did work out because they had been separated for several years already. So, there had been an extended separation—an emotional separation, as well.
Denise: We had tried to work things out through counseling and things like that. Actually, after that—it’s amazing how God uses your experiences to help other people. I have been able to counsel with women in Divorce Recovery and things like that. That is the first thing I tell them—is, “Do not get involved with somebody else.”
We didn’t introduce the children to Randy for quite some time.
Ron: I just want to point out the emotional maturity and the spiritual maturity that they’re just representing here. That’s a hard thing to say to other people, “Don’t do as I did,” but what that represents is them listening to God, and growing, and learning, and looking back on and saying: “Yes, you know what? That really wasn’t a wise choice. I want you to learn from that mistake.” I think that’s what we do, as Christians. We fall on the grace of God to have the courage to own that, in front of other people, and encourage them, in their walk, to make a different choice—I think is a very powerful thing.
Bob: Randy, you had, undoubtedly, not grown up thinking, “Boy, when I get to be older, I’d like to meet a nice girl who has two children and marry her.” [Laughter]
Randy: That’s true, but I met Denise at church. Where else would you want to meet your future wife; right? We already had our faith in common. We kind of grew our friendship, just based on our faith; and then, continued on from there.
Bob: But was it hard for you to entertain the idea of not just marrying a bride but becoming a part of a new family?
Randy: It can be very intimidating. Even though our kids were young, when I first met them, it’s still intimidating. I look back; and there are so many things I would do differently, now. I just try to learn from that and do things differently, going forward.
Ron: I’m curious. Can you tell me more about intimidation? What was that like for you, as a man? What were those intimidating factors for you?
Randy: The first thing that comes to mind—there is one of our first dates with the kids. I worked in downtown Rochester. We decided to go to a soccer game—Rhinos soccer game in downtown Rochester. We got pizza, ahead of time. Both kids were there, and this was the first time we had really gone out. We got pizza. We kind of sat on the Genesee River, there, and had pizza. Denise wanted to take a picture. I couldn’t just kind of sidle over to Forrest and put my arm around him and get a picture. I look back at that—and I feel so foolish now, but I didn’t—
Ron: You weren’t sure what your role was. You weren’t sure how to do that.
Randy: And even moving forward from there, it’s tough to kind of balance, “What is my role?” I’m, obviously, not the kids’ parent. I’m a form of discipline, to some extent; but trying to balance that with Denise’s role as the mom, and me, as the step-dad—trying not to alienate the kids. It can definitely be a challenge.
Dennis: You’re a computer programmer?
Randy: I am, yes.
Dennis: So on a one-to-ten point scale, ten being very prepared and one being, “I didn’t know what I was doing,” where would you put yourself on that graph?
Randy: I would have to say I’m like a two—maybe, a two. I’m one who—I like to be prepared for things. That’s my nature. I’m an engineer. That, alone, says things to a lot of people. [Laughter]
Dennis: But love is powerful. The emotions of falling in love can overwhelm logic.
Randy: Yes, absolutely; absolutely.
Dennis: How long before the sparks began to fly?
Randy: Not very long. We had pretty strong differences on how kids should be raised.
Bob: How did the engineer think kids should be raised? [Laughter]
Randy: Well, the engineer had been brought up in a very strict environment. I have four brothers. So, a family of five boys tends to need some strict discipline to maintain peace and order in the house. That’s how I saw things run, and that’s how I thought things should be run.
Bob: How had things been run before Randy came into the picture?
Denise: [Laughing] Well—Can I say our DISC profile? He is definitely the engineer—the cut-and-dry. Our second time, that we went to a FamilyLife event, we were alumni. They did the DISC profile. I was the one that loaded the dishwasher, got everybody involved, and had a really good time in a party. He loaded the dishwasher so every dish had the maximum potential of getting cleaned and dried, to the best of its ability. That’s the way I was parenting and he thought parenting should be.
Bob: You’re fun—he’s rules.
Randy: Yes. I’m a “C” “D”; she’s an “I” ”S”.
Bob: Got it; okay. I don’t know how many of you guys know what the DISC profile is; but the “I” ”S” temperament type is relational, and the “D” “C” is all task-oriented.
Dennis: So this is a set-up; isn’t it, Ron? [Laughter]
Ron: It is. Essentially, they have to begin to try to cooperate around rules, and structure, and how things are going to work. Then, you add another layer onto that. She’s the mom—they’re her kids, they have a history, the kids are used to that certain system and how things work. That mother-bear kind of protective instinct kicks in a little bit when he’s kind of worried about detail.
You’re thinking: “Okay, that’s not important. What’s important is that we get the dishwasher done and not where everything is placed inside the dishwasher.” He’s saying, “Yes, but it is important.” If you speak to that effect and, then, she kind of says that’s not a big deal and dismisses it, then you feel dismissed and disrespected.—
Ron: —Then, you’re an outsider again. “I’m just trying to be an insider in this thing, and you kind of keep pushing me to the outside.”
Ron: I’m curious about something. I don’t know if it happened for you guys—but other parents, who find themselves kind of naturally in different places about how to do parenting—they accidentally push each other to the extremes. It’s kind of like the more he insists that there be a high-degree of structure or something, then the more fun-loving you tend to get because it’s kind of like you have to counter—it’s kind of like a see-saw: “He’s way up. I have to be way down to keep this thing from going….” The more down she goes, then you’re going: “Oh man! I’ve really got to stand up.” So, you kind of go even further. Did you guys experience that?
Randy: I think we did, initially. It was extreme, early on; but the more we talked about it and tried to kind of understand what my role was, we kind of came to the point where we agreed that Denise would be the disciplinarian because they were her kids. I didn’t want to step on toes; but I had input, behind closed doors, to just say: “Hey, we really need to do this. We need to steer this direction.”
Now, that didn’t mean it always worked out great. Sometimes, I’m a bit of a “stuffer”, as far as issues go. Sometimes, I’d just be stuffing things; and I would have to kind of come out and say: “Hey, can we really do things differently? Can we approach things a little bit differently? Can we steer them in a more constructive path instead of just a friendly path?”
Bob: You guys eventually found yourselves at a Weekend to Remember®marriage getaway. In a blended situation, did the basic principles you were learning about marriage make sense in your blended context?
Denise: Oh, I think so. We were at our first Weekend to Remember less than one month after we got married. It was a gift. That really helped us understand, I think, communication was a biggie because we are so different in that way. We had to sit, behind closed doors, and really talk about things.
We also had to remember that the children—no matter what their father was like—what I was like—that was their father. We have to understand that the kids will never think differently. So, for him—he’s my husband—he’s not their dad. I mean, of course, as we all grew up and matured, it changed; but definitely, the Weekend to Remember helped.
Ron: I’m applauding a bunch of things I’m hearing in these two. Obviously, they went behind closed doors. They started talking—they started figuring out, “Okay, we have to play to our strengths.” “She’s mom; I’m not.” “Here’s the role you can play.”
You showed willingness, obviously, as his wife, to hear what he had to say and include him in that process. You worked hard at that; did you not?
Ron: And that brought success. I’m applauding. The journey is a very common journey—to say: “Wow! We’re on opposite ends of things. We’re not sure how to do this,”—but to seek out the information, and to have lots of conversation, and say, “We’re dedicated to helping support each other in this process.” There’s where you can find the answers.
Bob: One of the things I think is cool in your story is that, in addition to getting help, early, at a Weekend to Remember, you guys continued to go. In fact, didn’t you tell me that it’s kind of—if there’s one in town, you’re there; right?
Randy: We’re probably volunteering, somehow; yes.
Bob: And beyond that, you guys have hosted Art of Marriage™ events in your community. Speak to the fact that you don’t have to have marriage down perfectly to be able to lend a hand in doing something like The Art of Marriage.
Randy: I think it really helps if you don’t have marriage down pat to help others. You can learn from their experience.
Ron: You sure can. Amen!
Randy: We did attend our first Weekend to Remember a month after we got married. That was a gift certificate from my brother. We thought that was such good material that we wanted to go again. So, we volunteered the following year.
It really helped to be a part of the prayer team and see how other lives were being changed in that one short weekend because, as part of the prayer team, you get to see the people that are really struggling, coming into that weekend. By the end of the weekend, you have people, signing their names, saying, “Hey, this has really changed our lives.”
We saw that pretty early on, with the Weekend to Remember. That’s why we continue to be involved in that. That’s why we volunteer because so many lives are changed through that one short weekend.
Dennis: Yes. You went on to help with a HomeBuilders® couples’ series, one of the small group Bible studies; and then, you also led a Stepping Up™ event—or was it a small group?
Randy: We’ve primarily been involved in small groups. After the Weekend to Remember, we did that for quite a few years—using the HomeBuilders material.
Ron: I want to know when you’re going to lead The Smart Stepfamily™. [Laughter] That’s an eight-session DVD. We’ve got The Remarriage Checkup—a nice follow-up. You guys would be perfect for that. Again—what they were saying earlier—sometimes, you don’t feel qualified. That’s when you are qualified—by God’s grace—getting couples together.
The power of the Weekend to Remember—the power of The Art of Marriage—is the same power that comes into the Smart Stepfamily study—for couples that are living in blended family situations.
Dennis: Ron, I couldn’t agree more. We are cheerleaders for champions like them because I really believe that—out of great woundedness, and hurt, and disappointment, and maybe grief, and sadness, and all kinds of things that have occurred in your life—God’s using that to turn you into a trophy of grace.
Dennis: Not that you’re perfect, but you’ve decided to allow your imperfections to allow the light of Christ to shine outward to people’s lives. You’re doing that and reaching out to people in your community.
Frankly, that’s what we’re praying and dreaming about—that there’d be, literally, a million folks, like you, who say: “We’re tired of seeing families self-destruct. We want to go make a difference where we live—with our friends, in our community—and really push back on this culture of divorce and provide help and hope for marriages that we know.”
Thanks for being heroes, and thanks for being on FamilyLife Today.
Denise: You’re welcome.
Bob: Yes, let’s thank these guys. [Applause]
Bob: You know, you listen to a story like the one that Denise and Randy shared with us on the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and you would think, “This is a couple that’s dealing with enough of their own issues that they probably don’t have the energy, or the capacity, or the information to be able to reach out and help other couples in their community.” But the truth is—if you have the desire, if you have the inclination, if you realize that there are people around you who need help and who need hope—even if you don’t feel like you have the answers, there are tools you can use to provide help and hope for folks you know.
I’m thinking of our Art of Marriage video resource. It’s a Friday night/Saturday six-session video event that has been viewed, now, by more than 300,000 people in the last couple of years. It’s been seen in communities, all across the country. Our team is hoping that this summer—in July, August, and September—there might be as many as 1,000 events that couples, like you, would host—where, together, you invite folks to come to wherever you have a screen and speakers—to your living room, to your church, wherever you want to host it.
Invite couples in to join you and go through this material on a Friday night and a Saturday. In fact, if you’ll agree to do that—if you’ll agree to host one of these events in your community—we’ll send you the kit for free. Here’s how it works. All you have to do is let us know the date and location of your event. We will post that on our website so that other folks can see that you’re hosting an event, and they can join you at your Art of Marriage event. Then, you host the event. We have a host kit that explains exactly how you do that. If you’ll agree to host one of these events this summer—in July, or August, or September—agree to host it by the end of September—we will send you the host kit for free. All we ask is that you cover the cost of the shipping and the handling.
Call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or if you’re ready to go. If you have the date and location picked out, and you can cover the cost of the shipping and the handling, we’ll send you the DVDs, the workbook, the host guide—everything you need so that you can host one of these events in your community. Today is the last day we are making this offer available. If you’re ready to go, now is the time to call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “We’ll host an event.” Give us the date and location, cover the cost of shipping, and the kit is on its way to you.
By the way, you can ask for English or Spanish. The Art of Marriage is now dubbed in Spanish. So, it can be used in Spanish-speaking settings. The workbooks are in Spanish, as well. Just call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. Then, pray with us that there would be more than 1,000 of these events take place in July, August, and September—over the course of the next three months; alright?
And before we’re done: “Thank you,” to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. We are listener-supported. Between our Legacy Partners, who make monthly donations, and those of you who get in touch with us, from time to time, to help support the ministry—you help us pay the bills for producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We’re grateful for your financial support.
Today, if you’re able to help with a donation, of at least $25, we’d like to send you a six-CD set, featuring messages from the very first Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. You’ll hear from Crawford and Karen Loritts, Shaunti Feldhahn, Dennis Rainey, Kirk and Chelsea Cameron, and others. The six CDs are our way of saying, “Thank you,” when you help support the ministry. We appreciate your support. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button that says, “I CARE”. Make a donation of at least $25 to receive the CDs. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and you can make your donation over the phone. Again, thanks for your support of the ministry.
And I hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us again on Monday. We’re going to hear from Voddie Baucham about how a man can be the spiritual leader in his household—a great message. Hope you can tune in for it.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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