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When you think of fasting what comes to mind?

No Food!

Limited Food!

Jesus fasted and was tempted by the devil!

This isn’t bible trivia but do you know why so many people in the Bible fasted?

Well, for several years, we attended a church that always began the year off with a corporate Daniel’s Fast. Up until this point, we weren’t familiar with corporately fasting but learning more about it certainly peaked our interest. When the time came to fast, we decided to join in and give it a try.

Each year that we fasted, proved to be life-changing!

We were able to see God’s hand in so many areas of our lives. We were able to see him strategically orchestrate situations around us to work out in our favor and align our hearts with his will. The years we didn’t start off strong with fasting, proved to be some of the most challenging years of our marriage to date.

We don’t believe this is because we didn’t fast, but instead because we didn’t take the time to hear what he was saying about that year through intentional fasting and prayer.

In order to hear what God wants to speak to and through us, many times we have to silence the noise around us and remove the distractions. Fasting does just that!

As we sacrificed our physical wants and desires, we created space for God to speak which resulted in things like increased wisdom, spiritual authority, power, and favor.

Who wouldn’t want those things to get them through the year ahead?

The Bible frequently talks about fasting. Esther (Esther 4:16), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) and Ezra (Ezra 8:21-23) all corporately fasted and other key people in the bible including Jesus, fasted in groups or individually.

In our own lives, we have found that fasting has been a valuable way for us to draw closer to God and learn more about his heart for us and situations around us.

Now we aren’t theologians or experts by any means when it comes to all of this. We’re just a remarried couple that desires to see God move in our lives, marriage, and family in unimaginable and unexplainable ways. We don’t believe there is a magic formula to the heart of God, but we do believe that if we model Christ as closely as possible, we can become partakers in the blessings he wants to bestow upon us.

Blessings such as Peace in our home, Love unexplainable, Joy within our marriage, answered prayers and much more. Many of these things have proven to be given in abundance when we sacrifice through fasting. And we believe that if Jesus fasted (which he often did), then our lives should consist of the same disciplines. They may be carried out differently, but they (prayer, study of the Word, and fasting) should all be a part of our Christian walk.

It’s also important to note that fasting has so many other benefits. Outside of the spiritual benefits we talked about, it can also help to rid the body of pollutants, break negative life patterns, create unity in relationships and much more.

Fasting as a family is life changing!

Although we have never forced our children to fast, we do invite them into the process as we model it in front of them. We believe that them learning the discipline of fasting is just as important as them learning to study the word of God and daily prayer.

Although we do fast individually throughout the year, there is a considerable difference in the experience when we fast as a couple and even more when we do it as a family. Our children will typically fast from their phone, tv, tablet or they will do the Daniel’s fast with us. We allow them to chose something that is age appropriate.

As we all prepare for the fast, we encourage everyone to share what they may be specifically fasting for so we can all stand in agreement. Sometimes everyone shares and sometimes there are certain things in their heart that they desire to keep between them and God. We honor that and pray that God would speak to them concerning whatever it is.

We have learned that one of the most important things to remember about a fast is that God is not looking down from heaven waiting to strike us if we mess up, he is gracious. So we remind ourselves of this and teach this to our children. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

So, why are we sharing this with you?

We would like to invite you and your family to join us as we fast from January 7-28th.

Your fast can look however you feel led, it’s about sacrifice and intentionally seeking the Father’s heart concerning the matters of our hearts.

What if nothing changes?

Well, then you lost 21 days of whatever you sacrificed. But even in that, you still will honestly have gained something. Perseverance and confidence that you and your spouse can complete a hard task (because fasting can be so hard at times). You’ll be healthier and will have started your year off strong.

But we truly believe that when our hearts honor the heart of God through simple acts of intentional, consecrated, corporate prayer and fasting, we can reach heaven and experience His love for us in unimaginable ways

So why not give it a try?

To give you a few ideas, here are a few Creative ways to fast:

  • From Social Media or emails
  • From everything but fruits and vegetables. (Daniel’s Fast)
  • From everything but vegetables (Daniels Fast)
  • Fasting from sun up to sun down (very common and helps to focus less on food)
  • Fasting from texting or excessive phone conversation
  • Fasting from specific food items or drinks (sweets, pop, juice, etc.)
  • Fasting from all food

Here is a resource that really helped us during our fast:

Fasting Edge Book by Jentezen Franklin

Fasting Edge Audiobook by Jentezen Frankin

Jentezen Franklin Offical Site

Remember it’s not about the fast itself, but truly spending more time in prayer, meditation, and his word. The level of sacrifice will determine the level of temptation but don’t allow this to discourage you. Let temptation become your reminder for the true purpose for fasting. Whatever you choose to remove, be intentional about praying or reading your Bible!

*If necessary, please consult with your physician if you will be eliminating any foods from your diet.

The post Join us for our 2019 Blended Families Fast! appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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For blended families, summer may mean more than just summer vacation… bring on the summer custody schedule! For our family, this schedule switches from every other weekend to every other week. Though there is great value in having the kids for a longer period of time, there is also a much greater cost!! But, our child support commitment still reflects the 80/20 arrangement. As you can imagine, paying as though we have them 20%, but actually having them 50% can cause a bit of financial strain. To some, that may mean NO is the most common word of the summer or you’re already sweating over your credit card bills come September. But alas, there is hope for your blended family! Here are some of the ways we have successfully navigated these slightly skewed months. 

  1. What’s for lunch? Check with your local school district, library, community center, YMCA – odds are there’s a free lunch program near you! We have two that I am aware of – one run by our city and another hosted at our local library and funded by a local elementary school. Not only is lunch provided, but so are activities! 
  2. Did someone say FREE?! Summertime is when FREE is out in force! Block parties, parades, festivals, local farms, state parks, (uhh, PLAYGROUNDS!!) – this is a perfect opportunity to get out and explore your town or city to see what is going on. Check in at your local grocery stores for a community bulletin board. Libraries are also a HUGE hot spot for free actives and they keep kids fresh for the following school year.
  3. I’ll take the family discount! Sometimes big families mean big savings! Places like community pools or bowling alleys may offer family discounted rates. We cash in big time for locally run 5k’s – it’ often only a few dollars more to register ALL of the kids along with us and we get the added benefit of spending time before and after races hanging with friends, enjoying free food, and receiving awards. And who could forget summer day camps? Multiple kids may mean discounted rates! Groupon and Living Social are also great resources for getting into popular places for a fraction of the cost OR discovering new, sometimes off the wall, adventures. We’ve found a few local places we had never even heard of that offered great (cheap) experiences. 
  4. Short and sweet! Due to custody or child support, a week-long vacation may not be in the cards for you… but that’s ok!! Day trips are where it’s at! Start with your community, then venture out! Check and see what is within an hours’ driving radius of your home, pack some snacks, and hit the road. Believe it or not, destination playgrounds are a thing – seriously, go search “destination playground” and see what comes up in your area. We have at least 2 within an hour’s drive of our house – one is a CASTLE!!! 

Frugal living can be quite the adventure – it requires a lot of creativity, research, planning, and organization. It also provides a built-in teaching opportunity for your family. Your kids are watching. Listen to the difference between these two phrases: We can’t afford that vs. That’s not in our budget this week. One displays lack and hopelessness, the other displays forethought, planning, and possibilities. Framing your speech positively about how you manage money (or take advantage of free opportunities!!) will not only help children see the value of hard work and money management but will also give them a sense of security and stability. This is not a common character trait in our world today! As you navigate all of your summer activities, commitments, and custody changes, look for ways you can positively communicate financial responsibility to your children. As my husband says, FREE is his favorite F word! 

ARE YOU READY FOR THE 2018 BEYOND BLENDING CONFERENCE?

October 5-6, 2018 we will be hosting our first ever, Beyond Blending Couple’s Conference with many dynamic speakers and various topics that we find are common challenging areas among blended families. Purchase your tickets today to ensure you and your spouse have a seat! If you are experiencing financial difficulties and are in need of sponsorship for the conference click here to submit a request for assistance and be added to our waitlist.

Approved waitlist applicants for sponsorship are not guaranteed a seat at the conference. Tickets will still be offered on a first come first serve basis, however as we secure funding from our Community Partners, Church Organizations, Businesses, and others we will notify once funding is available and you are eligible to receive your tickets. Couples must be able to verify financial ability to cover additional cost associated with conference (if needed) such as hotel accommodations, transportation, etc.

REGISTER NOW!!

The post Savvy Ways to Save This Summer! appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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My stepdaughter spent 42 days with us every summer, usually broken into two chunks.  That’s a lot of time with the sweet girl we only saw four days a month during the school year!  I don’t know about you ladies, but I was a bit anxious the first few years, wanting the time with her to be full of memories but also to feel “normal.”  I got lots of advice from mom and stepmom friends alike – including the gems below.  Let’s look at each of them, and what I learned from the experts – my stepkids.

  1. They’re just “visiting.” I know it’s called visitation, but that doesn’t make the kids visitors.  My stepkids have two different moms.  We were custodial with my stepson, and non-custodial with my stepdaughter…which presented its own unique set of challenges.  We always made sure my stepdaughter knew she was an equally valued and equally loved member of the family.  I always spruced up my stepdaughter’s room with new paint or bedding, put out her favorite snacks, and tucked in a surprise like lip balm or a new book.  Even if circumstances or finances mean that kids don’t have their own room, there are ways to carve out a space and make it feel like home.
  2. It’s summer vacation…no chores required. Um, no. Extra mouths to feed means extra hands to help, as my mama would say!  Whether you assign chores like laundry or dishes, or ask for help in the moment, having kids pitch in around the house creates a sense of ownership.  My husband always told the kids that it was their house too – meaning that they were responsible for helping take care of it.
  3. The kids have to be entertained every waking minute. It’s really okay (and in my opinion, really necessary) for kids to have regular downtime. In fact, we stopped planning things the first night that my stepdaughter arrived (including weekend visitation) so she could settle in and decompress.  I’m a planner by nature, so this was a hard lesson: kids need space on a physical and emotional level, just like adults!  I am not suggesting that they should hole up in their rooms for hours on end, and screen time isn’t the same thing as down time.  But giving kids space to talk to the other parent, catch up with friends, or just relax to a favorite show or book can help balance the busyness of summer activities.
  4. Don’t be Disneyland parents. I have always disliked this phrase, primarily because it’s always associated with non-custodial parents taking their kids on vacation…like that’s a bad thing?!  We could spend all day arguing about child support, and if one parent pays enough or the other parent gets enough.  The point is, whether you’re headed to an all-inclusive resort or a road trip to the Midwest, take time to catch your breath, get refreshed and bond as a family.  Some of my stepson’s favorite memories with his mom are on her family’s annual trip…and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
  5. The kids should be with you 100% of the time. I recently chatted with a new stepmom who mentioned how bummed out she was that she and her new husband wouldn’t get a date night for more than a month.  When I asked why not, she explained that his kids would be at the house for the first part of the summer.  Sweet friends, you have to make your marriage a priority.  I promise you, it’s okay to spend time as a couple during summer visitation.  (You can imagine this poor woman’s horror when I told her that my husband and I went out to dinner by ourselves at least one visitation weekend each month!)  The same goes with summer camps or weekends with the grandparents.  Here’s a good litmus test: if you had full or primary custody, would you schedule your time the same way?

“Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” – Psalm 119:18 (NLT)

My stepdaughter is turning 22 this summer, and I often bounce blog post topics off of her to get fresh perspective.  She shared that as much as enjoyed spending the time with her dad, brother & I during the summers, it was terribly hard for her to be away from her mom for that long.  As a non-custodial parent or stepparent, it can be hard to understand…unless you stop thinking about loyalty and start focusing on love.  If you are struggling to connect, or anxious about the extended visitation period, I encourage you to take a step back and ask the Lord for fresh eyes and an open heart.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE 2018 BEYOND BLENDING CONFERENCE?

October 5-6, 2018 we will be hosting our first ever, Beyond Blending Couple’s Conference with many dynamic speakers and various topics that we find are common challenging areas among blended families. Purchase your tickets today to ensure you and your spouse have a seat! If you are experiencing financial difficulties and are in need of sponsorship for the conference click here to submit a request for assistance and be added to our waitlist.

Approved waitlist applicants for sponsorship are not guaranteed a seat at the conference. Tickets will still be offered on a first come first serve basis, however as we secure funding from our Community Partners, Church Organizations, Businesses, and others we will notify once funding is available and you are eligible to receive your tickets. Couples must be able to verify financial ability to cover additional cost associated with conference (if needed) such as hotel accommodations, transportation, etc.

REGISTER NOW!!

The post Debunking the Myths around Summer Visitation appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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I have to admit, it was tough writing this month’s blog because…well, I’m selfish. Over the course of the past six years since I have been divorced and my girls have lived in two homes, I have truly focused on me and my house without any real regard for my first husband’s home or his life, really. At first things were very rocky. Communication between he and I was matter-of-fact. All business. I avoided anything personal. Things were so raw. I had to be strong. Maintain a job and be the best mom I could be, and take on the responsibilities of two adults at my house. It had been years since I had mowed a lawn. I had never weed-eated grass. I didn’t have the first idea of how to manage a house. What happens when the toilet overflows? Or the garbage disposal gets clogged? I had no choice but to “fake it till I make it”. And somehow, I did. But even thinking about those times honestly gives me a lump in my throat, as I never want to go back.

My first husband has made his home into a loving one for our girls. While he is who he is and really has not changed his stance on a lot of things, I always feel like my girls are safe at his house. And of all the things I suppose a parent may worry about in a shared custody situation, I imagine fearing for your child’s safety while they aren’t with you would have to be one of the worst. So, for the stability he provides at his home, I am grateful. At first, after we divorced, his mom moved in with him. She served as a motherly figure for the girls. Eventually, he got married to a wonderful woman who has two girls of her own. They have a new home and are all settled in. While he and I still maintain matter-of-fact communication, I feel like we are honest with one another and take care of the girls when they are in our care. Don’t get me wrong, we still disagree on things occasionally, but that is to be expected with anyone. The bottom line is, he is my daughters’ father. And they need him, regardless of what my relationship is with him.

Fathers are oh so important for their children. As mothers and stepmothers, we have to put our feelings aside and do our best to foster the connection our kids have with their dad and/or stepdad.

  • Fathers and stepfathers often serve as role models, caregivers, supporters, disciplinarians, and protectors of children’s hearts. I can typically count on the girls’ dad to emphasize the importance of studying and finishing their homework, especially when they don’t particularly want to cooperate with me.
  • Fathers prepare their children for the real world. He reminds them that life is not fair, and it never will be.
  • Dads interact with their children differently than moms, which potentially provides a contrasting perspective for kids to navigate. The girls’ dad definitely interacts differently with them than I do. I am a hugger, storyteller, story listener and silly-face-maker. He is a fist-bumping, very little chit-chat, serious, get-to-the-point enforcer.
  • Fathers build confidence in their children and might challenge them to try things they never thought they could. He challenges them to finish their reading assignments by a certain date and try to perform a skill they may have not yet done.
  • Fathers sacrifice for their kids, whether it be with time, work, or service. And children need their fathers. Just like we all need our Heavenly father, who sacrificed His son for us.

Thank you to all the fathers and stepfathers out there who teach their children how they should behave, those who provide for their families, and those who spend time with their kids. While none of us are perfect, I thank you for do your best to live out the things you preach and for praying for your children.

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

-Proverbs 22:6

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:

How was this blog helpful? What are some practical tools that you will utilize moving forward?

We are making a few changes!! Beginning August 1, 2018 we will no longer be sending out weekly blogs. Due to the great responses that we have seen from the Digital Magazine we will be shifting our content focus toward this resource! 

Help us continue the work we do and spread the word by writing a review and by also making a donation (all donations are processed by TKI Ministries, Inc. an official 501(c)3 Company and are Tax Deductible).

The Better Than Blended Digital Magazine Edition 2 is available now!

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Share it with a friend (or 5…lol)!

The post The Value of Fathers appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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Expectation vs. Reality. I write A LOT about this!!

I had always imagined what it would be like to get married and have a family; my reality was that I married a man with three children from a previous marriage. Coming from a very sheltered upbringing, the reality of this situation hit me like a ton of bricks. I loved my new family the best I could, but the situation was tumultuous and unconditional love and acceptance was often hard to give. With each difficult situation we faced, my defenses and self-preservation instincts were building a wall between me and these children.

Then came our first “ours” baby. After about 2 years of step-parenting, I had a brand new, completely perfect little boy. Despite every natural induction method and old wives tale we followed to convince this little boy to be born during a non-kids time, he came at the start of a “kids week”. I was overwhelmed and terrified. The first few days, even weeks, I was on a mission to let no one touch my little gift from heaven. I already had three hurting and broken children – this brand new “ours” baby was not going to know the pain and struggle that divorce brought into our lives! It was us against the world (especially those living in our home!) and self-preservation was now my way of life.

This month my little baby turns 1! Sometime between June 23rd of last year and today, my heart began to change in ways I’m only now able to describe. It was a slow realization of the Father heart of God- the tender heart of a parent towards children who need His help, His guidance, and most of all His patient love.

If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to let your guard down around the children who bring the most heartache and difficulty- whether step, adopted, or your own rebellious children- God has a place on His big, daddy lap for you. A tender place for you to receive from Him and learn from His heart. His children range from childlike adoring faith to hard-hearted haters, but His love abounds to all the same.

I’ve read about God as a Father, I’ve heard countless sermons preached on Father God, yet there was still a gap in my relationship with Him and with these children. I wanted God to be proud of me- I wanted to give Him reasons to be near. After all, my relationship with my step-kids was always at its best when we were all getting along and trying to impress one another. But life with an infant challenged that thought process… sleepless nights, screaming car rides, teething fits- they have all made me love him MORE. The rough moments (ok, days and weeks) opened my eyes to see his need for me and the easy bits of giggles and smiles are just the cherry on top. The rough times with my step-children are a window to their need for love, stability, and consistency while the ease of giddy conversations and fun times together are the product of commitment during the hard times.

If you could jump into my imagination for just a moment, I would say that my shining moments as a Christ follower- the moments where people see Jesus in me- aren’t the times that God relies on to get him through my rebellion or disobedience. My temper-tantrums don’t put Him at a distance, they magnify my need for Him. Just like a smile from my infant doesn’t make me love him more or a mountain of messy diapers make me love him less; neither gratitude nor disrespect from my teenage step-son should change my commitment to caring for him.

To think that I still doubt God’s love for me and His desire to be invited into my life… if He, in His perfection, has even an ounce of the love, compassion, and commitment I have for our “ours” baby… there is so much that He can teach me about cultivating that same kind of relationship with the rest of my blended family. I’ll put in writing what I can only assume many step-parents have wanted to shout from the mountain tops – LOVING STEP-KIDS IS HARD. While loving your biological children is literally second nature, loving step-children can sometimes be as difficult as mixing oil and water. But, thankfully, the Bible is FULL of examples of God as a Father, so this is one of those times where parables and analogies directly translate. Just like reading a bedtime story to your children, take some time to read His book for you as a Father tucking in His child at night. Set aside some time with God your Father and ask Him about His heart for your blended family.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU:

How was this blog helpful? What are some practical tools that you will utilize moving forward?

Help us continue the work we do and spread the word by writing a review.

The Better Than Blended Digital Magazine Edition 2 is available now!

Love the Magazine?

Share it with a friend (or 5…lol)!

The post The Ultimate Guide to Parenting a Blended Family – Straight from a Father’s Heart appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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Being a Father, to one 3-year-old boy (Aaron) can be a very daunting task to juggle some days, let alone, Father and Stepdad to a total of seven (7) amazing kids! Yes, you heard me correctly, this can be a scary responsibility at times, especially if you are new to the role of Fatherhood or Step/Adoptive-Fatherhood. Aaron, our 3-year-old and youngest of the 7, is a complete Daddy’s boy, and I love it because I genuinely enjoy spending time with him. To hear his voice call for me to pick him up, or to help him with some of the littlest tasks, warms my heart. But if I can be honest, that warm fuzzy feeling doesn’t happen in every moment.

I know we don’t like to admit it because it makes us feel like lousy parents, but the reality is there are moments where I have shifted my focus on other things, such as, work projects around the house or my job, and Aaron being a complete daddy’s boy, during those times, can be challenging to navigate. There are many times where I have found myself completely frustrated, as he called my name for the 100th time because he needed help again figuring out how to play one of the games on my phone.

These were just a few thoughts going on in my head.
1. I gave you the phone to occupy you while I worked.
2. I am not going to keep stopping to help you every 15 seconds.
3. Your mom doesn’t even like you playing on the phone, so just relax kid.

In my frustration, I said to him, “I can’t help you right now, you have to wait.” Leaving him confused regarding what to do next, frustrated, and honestly just sad, because in his mind it’s simple; Daddy knows all, and can do all! His feelings following my reaction led to him falling out and raising my voice or placing him in timeout only to feel a conviction in my heart afterward, as he says, “Daddy, daddy” for the 101st time.

“Yes, Aaron,” I replied.

“I just love you.”

Complete and utter heartbreak!

At that moment I closed my laptop and said, “Aaron come here man,” as I gave him a huge hug, “I love you too.” I began to ask him if he was sad because Daddy wasn’t listening when he was asking for help?

He said yes, so I apologized and talked with him about the importance of me listening to him and also the importance of him listening to me. At that moment something clicked in my mind, and I was able to shift my perspective from seeing my son’s actions as a hindrance to work that needed to get done, to simply his viewpoint of Daddy knows all and can do all!

You see as a Father, whether Biological Dad, Stepdad, or Adoptive/Foster-Dad, we have an assignment in our child(ren)’s life to help them identify and navigate the unknown, from how to play video games to understanding their feelings and how to express themselves in healthy ways.

We are the Leaders, Teachers, Protectors, and Providers to everyone under our care and it is our duty to cultivate the soil of our home in such a way that it can produce great fruit!

So for this Father’s Day I want to remind you of these four things:

1. You are an amazing Father
2. You have been given an assignment in the lives of your children.
3. Everything you need to be a “Great” Dad is already in you.
4. You are not the first, nor the last, Father to make a mistake. Own it, and be quick to apologize, children forgive quickly and learn from how they are led!

Remember, as Fathers; we were created to Lead, Love, Teach, Protect, and Provide. And our children have an innate knowledge of this, so this is why they run to us when they are scared (Protector), when they need help (Teacher), when they need guidance (Leader), when they need money (Provider), or when they need a Father’s comfort (Love).

I encourage you to print them out, write them down, or screen-shot them on your phone to look back on in those challenging moments.

Happy Father’s Day!

Willie

LET’S GET CONNECTED!

If we are not already connect via Facebook, Marco Polo, or the Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Call I encourage you to get plugged in TODAY! As Men many times we figure we can handle things on our own, and a lot of times we can, but as Husbands, Fathers, and Leaders I can honestly say we need community. The Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Call is a quarterly call that is held via phone where Men get plugged in to listen and converse regarding some of the challenges and triumphs on our journeys. I don’t have it all figured out and am still learning as I continue on my journey so I need other Men that are willing to pour into me as well!

So whether you need pouring into, or you are a reservoir to pour out of, we need you in our community!

Connect with Willie via Facebook

or connect with Willie via email at willie@betterthanblended.com

The Next Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Calls for the year are as scheduled:

Wednesday, August 29, 2018 | 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. (EST)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. (EST)

How to get on the call:

U.S. Dial-in Number: (515) 604-9922 | Access Code: 617369

Contact me directly for International Dial-in Numbers

The post A Message on Father’s Day appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”

Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus was a part of a blended family? Yes, the greatest man to ever walk on this earth was in a blended family!  Our Savior did not come from a traditional family! I am always amazed at how relatable Jesus is with us. He truly does understand every single thing that we face.

Joseph’s obedience played a major role in this story. Joseph could have easily walked away.  He could have decided that it was too much for him to handle and most people would have understood his reasoning.  But, he obeyed. Joseph took on this role as “stepfather” to our Savior.

I’m sure Joseph faced many of the same things that stepfathers face today.  What stands out to me the most is that he was obedient. That is what God asks of every father.  He needs total surrender to His plans. Will it be easy? Absolutely not! Just think about how Joseph felt when he found out Mary was expecting a baby! But when the angel appeared to him in a dream Joseph showed immediate obedience.  He did not take time to think about it or talk himself out of it. He just obeyed.

What is God asking you to do in your blended family that may be hard?  You know that thing that He’s put on your heart and you’re trying to ignore it or reason your way through it?  Stop and look at Joseph’s example.

Each child in your life was placed there on purpose by our amazing God.  Whether the child is a biological child or a bonus child he/she needs you.  God orchestrated all of this as part of your ministry on this earth. Be willing, today, to obey.

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Years ago, amidst one of many uphill battles in our stepfamily life, my husband apologized for all of the “baggage” that he brought into our marriage.  From his perspective, I had come into the marriage with no serious relationships, no debt, and no kids – frankly, the only thing I did saddle him with was a couple of fat hamsters. (Yes, you read that correctly, hamsters).  I assured him that I had enough stepmomma drama for the both of us, but looking back, I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and shared my heart.

Your kids are a blessing.  Seriously, they are amazing little humans.  Even when they drive me crazy, it is never far from my mind that God trusted me with them, and so did you.  You made me a mom!  Maybe not biologically, but in every way that matters to me.

I get you have a past.  You are the man you are today because of your life experiences as a husband and father before me.  Believe it or not, I wouldn’t change a thing – because then I wouldn’t get to do life with you and those beautiful kids.  As Brenda Ockun of Stepmom Magazine says, “Even when it’s good, it’s complicated!” I’m along for the ride.

It’s you and me against the world.  I know that we have to have hard conversations sometimes, but never forget that we are on the same team.  You are the only other person who fully understands the craziness of the life we’ve built together.  I always have your back!  You don’t have to do this alone.

I need you to love Jesus more than you love me.  I want God not just at the center of our marriage, but to come before it.  We have seen firsthand how He can move in our family when our priorities are in order.  You are a worshipper at heart, and I am so drawn to Jesus within you.  Because you follow His lead, I trust you to lead our family.

Stepmommas, it’s easy to forget that our husbands have feelings – and they can be hurt just like us.  The world that we live in can be unkind to single dads, and the rhetoric of “dead beat dads” is not only untrue, it’s harmful to second families.  Will you join me in speaking truth and honor over our husbands as we celebrate them this month?  Your words may be different than mine, but I believe that the impact will be just as powerful!

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The post Blessings, Not Baggage: How Stepmoms Really Feel About Marrying a Man with Kids appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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Long before I became part of a blended family, my goal was to be a single mom. Yep, you read that right. Not a single mom by divorce or death, but to start off my family with just me and a ragamuffin band of adopted or foster kids. Though my intentions seemed to be in line with that of Mother Theresa, my actual reasoning was less than honorable. I think the best way I could sum up my feelings towards marriage and being a wife was as follows, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I knew how I wanted to live my life, and I had spent my teenage years immersing myself in different family dynamics, so I thought I knew exactly how I wanted to parent. No man was going to mess that up.

This idea was challenged by my church family and frowned upon by my parents, but I honestly couldn’t figure out why. Dads in movies and on tv were oafs, dads in the news were abusive and absent, and a lot of the dads I observed were disengaged. Moms rule the world, so why not go it alone?

After high school, I moved to Australia for almost four years- talk about a culture shock. They do family entirely different. Their culture was much more home-centered, and the church was much more men empowering. During my time abroad, God began to change my views towards single parenthood and the role a father could have in his family. A few years after I moved back to the states, I met my husband. A man who adopted a child, fathered two more, and was trying to move heaven and earth to have his children in his life. Odd! I never knew a man like this existed stateside!

As he recovered from his divorce and began his custody battle, my life took a very interesting turn. I went from never wanting a dad in the picture, to fighting alongside a desperate dad who was very involved in the lives of his children and wanted his love to extend far past a child support check. He was everything I thought didn’t exist in our culture- a hard worker who left work at work. A 6’1” giant who could still fit through the kiddie slide at the playground while throwing a football and who woke up at the crack of dawn and remained awake well after the sunset.

Could he be the Proverbs 31 man?!

I hadn’t realized I joined our culture’s anti-dad movement. The slow progression that took dad from the driver’s seat and placed him as a hitchhiker on the side of the high way. The truth is that he has not only been the butt of many jokes, he’s also completely emasculated and often sentenced to a life of lesser value than his female counterpart in regards to a relationship with his children. Satan saw a golden opportunity during the feminist movement and took what could have been a liberation for both genders and flipped our culture on its head.

But, just as women are to look to Proverbs 31 for their benchmarks of womanhood, the New Testament provides a hefty list of qualities godly men should possess:

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.”

1 Timothy 3:1-4 NIV

Here’s the catch 22, I could follow a man like that and God knew that when he led my husband to me!

Though responsibility for character squarely rests on an individual’s shoulders, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to achieve greatness when you are expected to fail consistently. It is possible to be a feminist, a progressive thinker, an independent and powerful woman, all while honoring the men in your life, namely your husband. It is possible to encourage, empower, and respect men that are less than perfect. Though we live in a fallen world, there are still men out there who would love to shatter our culture’s view of dads and rise far above the expectation of disengaged, uninvolved, workaholic or deadbeat.

Join me as I leave the anti-dad movement behind and seek to empower the men in my world- namely my husband and father of our family- to be a shining example of Christ’s leadership and God’s fatherhood.

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The post The Ex Anti-Dad Movement Member appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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School’s…out…for summer!! School’s…out…forever! OK OK, so school isn’t out forever, but Alice Cooper nailed the sentiment of my girls at the end of every school year with his catchy lyrics and head-banging tune. Due to my flexible job, I have been blessed to be able to spend time with them every summer since their dad and I divorced. And I love it. Summer is a time of slowing down. Of relaxing. Of “stopping to smell the roses” for all of us. And…it’s a time for VACATION!

So, how do we work out vacations? Every summer, I get one full week to take my girls on vacation, and their dad gets one week to take them on vacation. Seven days is longer than I am used to going without seeing them, as I try to limit days without seeing them to three or fewer. When we are ready to schedule our vacations, we contact the other parent to let them know the dates we desire and the place we plan to go. Unless there are conflicts with camps or previous commitments, we are pretty amenable to each other’s request. I don’t feel like either one of us tries to outdo the other in terms of the types of vacations we plan or locations where we go. I also believe that neither my first husband nor I have any sense of jealousy that leads us to hope the girls don’t enjoy their time with the other parent.

While schedule-wise I don’t like to go a full week without seeing the girls, I am able to talk to them once or twice while they are gone to see how things are going. Same goes for their dad.

Following are points I think will help any adult in a blended family situation learn to embrace vacation, whether it’s with the kids or not:

  1. Even though their parents are divorced, most children who live in two different homes generally get two of everything, including summer vacations. This can obviously be a bonus. Mine have experienced the beach, a cruise, another beach, flying on an airplane, another beach, visiting another country, another beach, a trip out west, and, have I mentioned, another beach trip? They are really pretty lucky ladies.
  2. As technology improves and they get older, it is easier to stay in touch with the kids when they aren’t physically with us. This makes the seven day stretch go by faster for me.
  3. It is best for the children to make happy, fond memories with each parent. Allow them to feel it. No matter how much it might hurt you to imagine them having fun with the other parent/family, try not to be selfish. It is what is best for them. And knowing they are having a fun time with the other parent should also allow you to relax and know that they are in good hands.
  4. While on vacation with your kids or while they are gone without you, spend some time reflecting on the positives God provides for your family. Read the Bible if you can or refer to a study guide of some type. I could definitely stand to do a little more of this myself!

So…here’s to summer vacations! Plan a meaningful one with your family, even if it means doing something low-key like camping out in the backyard or saving up to fly somewhere exotic. And when the kids are away on vacation with their other parent, be happy for them and treat yourself to a mini vacation or staycation of your own, if possible!

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

-Matthew 11:28

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The post Vacation – Embrace Time with or without your Children appeared first on Better Than Blended.

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