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Losing the One I Loved: Ron Deal, Davey & Kristi Blackburn

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
January 30, 2024 5:15 am

Losing the One I Loved: Ron Deal, Davey & Kristi Blackburn

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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January 30, 2024 5:15 am

Imagine losing your pregnant wife in a home invasion and navigating the challenges of getting remarried years later. Join Ron Deal, Davey and Kristi Blackburn as they share their journey, emphasizing the significance of leaning into the pain of losing someone you love for healing and blending their families.

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Hope for the Caregiver
Peter Rosenberger

You know, you think about the family of God, it's a blended family.

We, as Gentiles, are grafted in as a blended family, and that's the beauty of what God's people can be. And I think that's what has stirred my heart in this blended family thing, as difficult as it can be, to go, we're painting a picture for our kids and for the world around us of the kingdom of God. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most.

I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Anne Wilson. You can find us at This is Family Life Today. There are hard situations in life, and then there are really hard situations, and not all losses are of the same magnitude. And let's just say this, not all blended families begin the same way, but both require us really trusting God with what you can't change or control. Yeah, and today we are talking about some hard stuff. I mean, every family, every person goes through difficult.

And we were laughing when you said really difficult, but it's not funny at all. It's really hard when you got to trust God in hard times, difficult times. And we're talking about blended today because we're going to listen to a conversation with Ron Deal. He's the director of our blended family ministry here at Family Life and has a Family Life blended podcast. And today we're going to listen to his conversation with Dave and Christy Blackburn. And you and I both remember Dave's story, which is horrific. I'll let you hear them tell the story.

But they came into a blended family from very different past and had to blend with a couple of kids. And it wasn't easy and it isn't easy. And so we're going to just turn it over to Ron and the Blackburns and let them tell you their story. Everybody's journey is a little bit different. Your journey is a little bit different than some of the people that are listening right now.

But I think there's a lot that we have in common. Let's just start with your story. Tell us about how you ended up coming to your blended family. Well, both of our stories are two different stories of loss in different ways that are converged. And now trying to weave that family together and graft that family together.

I love the fact that you typically reference that blended is actually a terrible term because you don't just stick it into a blender and blend it up. You know, sometimes you try to. But that's what we're in the space of just trying to figure out how do we weave our lives together now after experiencing different types of trauma, each of us. I was a pastor and church planter in Indianapolis in 2015 and I lost my wife and our unborn baby. They were murdered in our home in a home invasion. We had a 15 month old at the time and she was pregnant with our second, as I just mentioned. And three men were on a random crime spree in our city. They broke into the house three doors down for me, watched me leave for the gym that morning and decided to break into our home. And Amanda, my late wife, was caught up in that.

And assuming that she was trying to protect our 15 month old who remained in his crib untouched and unharmed, she was shot then three times. And I came home and found her and it turned my world completely upside down. And so, you know, here I am overnight trying to figure out how to grieve the loss of my best friend and soulmate and partner in ministry and partner in life. And trying to be a single dad to Weston, who is 15 months old, trying to figure out how to pastor the church that we started, who is also grieving. And what is my calling now that I'm half of what I was, so to speak.

So that's where I wound up at the end of 2015. And Kristi, you can share a little bit of yours. Yeah. So I was married and we had a daughter named Natalia. And just over time, we realized it wasn't a healthy marriage for any of us, even for Natalia. And so we ended the marriage. And so we found ourselves both single parents and ended up meeting each other during that time.

Yeah. We fast forward about a year or so later, she began attending the church that I was pastoring. And I had gone through this really tremendous healing process.

I believe that really the Big C church had everything to do with it. You know, our story was very public and there were a lot of disadvantages to that. But one of the advantages was that it seemed like all of Christendom just wrapped their arms around Weston and me.

And if you were to build a prescription for our healing from something that great and that big of a trauma, God wrote that prescription for us. And so a little over a year after losing Amanda, I met Kristi. And one of the most significant ways that I met her to save all of the details.

We've talked about this exhaustively in different platforms. But one of the significant things about when we, shortly after we met, she began attending the church that I pastored. And about three or four months later, I had a really our first major conversation. And it was a conversation where she revealed to me that one of the reasons that she had been avoiding me like the plague was that she knew a lot more about our story. She was deeper in our story than what I probably felt comfortable with. And I just pressed her on that a little bit. Like, what are you talking about?

What do you mean? This is the first time that my heart came alive again after losing Amanda that I didn't even realize I could love and feel and be attracted or intrigued to somebody again. And so here's this girl that I'm intrigued with. She begins to tell me that her stepdad is a chaplain in the Marion County prison system and that he has been assigned to the three guys that killed my wife.

And he ministers to them every single week sharing the gospel with them. In that moment, I was actually in the week of finishing up the manuscript to my book asking God, what's the redemptive part of my story? What are you trying to do in this whole thing?

I believe nothing is wasted. I believe that you're not going to waste our pain. But I want you to show me. And it was in that week that she shares this with me. So now I'm coming in ahead with here's this girl that awoke my heart and she's that connected to my story.

Wow. And that began in me going, God's in this. There's something here that God is in. And I've got to chase that down and figure out what that is. She kept avoiding me like the plague until finally I convinced her to go on a date with me.

And we began dating, got married at the end of 2017 and started blending our family at that moment. Okay, so you guys have just summarized in about, I don't know, three, four minutes, like, you know, 10 massive earthquakes in your world. And those of us that have been through significant loss, one of the things we have to navigate is telling our story, kind of high level, you know, painting the picture. Here's where God was.

Here's this. Here's where some healing came. Here's where the new and fresh heart comes alive for something.

There's hope for the future. And at the same time, the reality is, the truth is that underneath all of that high level narrative, there is a ton of angst. There's a whole huge element of sadness and sorrow and bitterness and anger and lost relationships and confusion. And isn't that just the craziness of the grief journey that we live in both of those worlds? You know, somewhat externally, we're high level and we're sort of painting a quick picture.

And yet day in and day out, behind the scenes, it's ugly sometimes. I think the hardest thing, you know, I'm 38 and I am in a Bible study group with women who are like in their 60s, 70s and 80s. And so they always say, like, if I would have known that at your age, like, life would have been so different.

And I'm like, it's through the school of hard knocks. So when God puts you through grief and suffering, when you go through another time of grief and suffering, you kind of know the play in a way. You're like, OK, you know, what does God say in scripture about that? It creates character, perseverance and hope. And so you just know if I just walk through it and I just feel all the feelings, if I have the emotions and I'm able to feel them and then also just let them go, it will actually be a lot easier for you. So honestly, when I think about these seasons of grief and everything like that, oh, they're horrible. I mean, you're on your face, you're wailing, you're weeping, you're like, Lord. But the beauty of it is, you know, there's beauty from ashes every single time.

You know, there's restoration because he says he's going to restore. I think for a lot of us, when we go through it, it's not like if we're going to go through something hard, it's when. Honestly, like, I used to be afraid of the next thing. Like, I don't want to go through the next hard thing, the next hard thing.

It's like, no, it's going to happen again. And so now how do we walk through it? And how do we now have the tools, you know, from what we have learned about how to lean into that pain in the past? You know, what Christy is saying there is so key and what you alluded to it, Ron, that there is this high level story that we can give you. It's kind of the story arc of our narrative, of our trauma narrative, so to speak. And, you know, it aligns with the story arc of God's narrative, right?

Of Jesus dying on the cross and the resurrection. And if we can see our lives overlaid by that, then we can begin to walk in hope, you know, that we share in the resurrections of Jesus only by sharing in his sufferings. But the key is that, that we have to lean into. So as we summarize that in three minutes, there is, as you said, so much underneath that, that we've had to dive into. We've been forced to dive into and we're still diving into. There's still things that are coming up that as you start, you know, as we start blending our lives together and we're parenting, there's things that are constantly coming up that we're having to deal with. But, you know, you can't heal from something that you're not willing to feel, you know, through.

And so you have to go into those deep, dark places of lament, of grief, of sorrow, of working through the hard things, if you're going to come through and share in the resurrections of Christ. And there is hope in that. You're listening to Family Life Today, and we're listening to just a portion of the Family Life Blended podcast with Ron Diehl and his guests, Davey and Christy Blackburn. Wow. Yeah, I mean, we're only halfway through the story, but it's intense. And, you know, our Family Life Blended ministry, you know, love supporting couples and step families and educating leaders to know how the local church can build healthy blended families.

And this podcast is just one resource. Here's the thing. In the next part of Ron's interview, they talk about how both families and churches sometimes, and this is true, can become polarized after tragedy. It's sort of hard to believe, but some people didn't like Christy becoming a new pastor's wife. Wouldn't that be hard to step into? Oh, yeah.

So let's go back and listen to more. Community around couples forming blended families sometimes is polarized. You know, some of them knew half of you, but they didn't know the other half of you. And they were invested in, you know, the old family, if you will, and now they're trying to figure out how to make space for the new family. That's certainly true of the extended family, right? Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all of those people have to get used to the new step people coming into the new family as well. But that dynamic really hits close to home when it involves children.

Now, I'm curious about your children. Here's something that's fairly common with blended families when the children are a little older and they have a lot of memories of the divorce or, you know, the parent who passed away. Maybe they're teenagers when all that happened. They're deeply invested in, if I can say it, the old family, what was.

Yeah. And if anything, what they want is mom and dad who divorced to get back together again, you know, and so they have an agenda. But then when one parent recouples and, you know, marries somebody else, now that agenda has been thwarted by the new step parent in effect. Now there's an easy target.

And just like with Christy, you were the easy target for some people within the church context. Sometimes it's your kids who sort of target that step parent. Just take all that angst out on one of the adults right there in the house. And that's when things get tough for families at times.

I don't know about you guys. One of the stories we hear from families when the children were really young, when they married, as in the case with yours, is that as they grow, as they kind of get more perspective and the brains develop and they can think more abstractly about how life would have been had mom still been here, dad still been. Sometimes the angst comes out 15 years later. Yeah.

Have you experienced any of that? I think there's different roles that you can take in a home. I think the term stepmom for me is actually, I feel like it's a cuss word.

I don't like that word. I remember when I was dating Davey, I remember praying for his son Weston's future mom and praying for Davey's future wife, even when I was dating him. She didn't, even while she was dating.

She's like, ah, he's going to move on. So all that being said, it's like, you know, when I did step into marrying Davey, like I took in Weston like he was a biological kid. I always had the heart of adoption. So I took him on like that. So he's my son. Like, this is my son. So for us, it was always this, hey, you have the option of like, you can call me mom or you can call me Christie still. Because when we were dating, it was just Christie. And so he chose to call me mom and he's young, you know, at the same time.

And over time, you know, you start getting the different questions. I mean, he's a dreamer too. So you start thinking, he starts thinking through like, you know, what would life be like in heaven with mommy Amanda? That's right.

And I don't remember her, but I also like heard all these great stories about her. So it must be way better in heaven, you know? And so that is the hard tension of consistently navigating because again, I'm not his stepmom. I'm his mom.

And he now has two moms, one in heaven and one on earth. I think when you step into a role, when you step into it with ownership, the kid feels like he belongs somewhere. And I think if it's more of like this, hey, I'm not like your mom, then he doesn't, he feels like he doesn't have a place to belong. Both older kids have both mentioned, I don't feel like I belong in the family.

And that is just recently because they were able to articulate that, but they don't know what that looks like. You know, when Natalia, she's told us before, it feels weird to have two dads. You know, we've actually heard her say to her friends, I have two dads, I know it's weird. And it's like, oh man, that just like hurts your heart because even though this is essentially her normal and her cognizant memory, it feels like she doesn't belong in a lot of the sectors of society, especially in the church where it might seem more abnormal, right?

To the friends that she's around. You know, we want them to, our desire and our heart is for them to feel like they belong and try to frame it for her that like, you've got two families that love you so much. And what a blessing this is. I think you use the term bonus family a lot of times, right? There's just such a blessing that you have two dads. And we try to do things that encourage that, you know, just the last two years of the daddy-daughter dance, both her dad and I took her to the daddy-daughter dance. And we were the only two dads that took their daughter to the daddy-daughter dance. But it was a beautiful thing and an awkward thing and trying to help her navigate the awkwardness of that. And every year we're probably going to have to navigate that with her and going, what do you prefer? Do you want to not have to show up with two dads?

Like, what does that look like for you? Great, great thing there. Giving a child voice as much as you possibly can because their choices very well may change one year to the next. And what I would just say to anybody listening who has a similar situation to that, that you've sensed that in kids, I just want to say don't panic.

You know, that is a child working out the reality of their life. Two dads, what does that mean for me? Who do I belong with? How do I belong?

How do they belong? What's this big picture? How does this make sense? That is the inevitable walking out of grief into the reality of their life. It's not rejection. I think one of the mistakes step parents make is they interpret that then as rejection when it is not rejection. It is confusion. That's totally different than rejection.

Yeah. And the biggest gift is to like with him when he mentioned that when Weston said, I don't feel like I belong. It's like, all right, well, let me let me know how because, you know, when they talk about when you have kids and especially when you're blending, you're supposed to give each kid a role and they have this role in the house.

So if their role is not fulfilled, then they don't feel like, you know, like they have a purpose in the house. We've done all the things, you know, and and literally his reason was because I have blonde hair and blue eyes and everybody else has dark hair. I'm like, OK, so I didn't do anything wrong. All right, here we go. We got to check that off. But it's been nice to see how both of them are just trying to I mean, you think about everybody wants to belong in the world. It's not even just in the family.

It's in the world. And so they have that sense because God has created that inside of us. And so for him specifically, he just wants to understand, like, why does he look different than the rest of us?

And I think you just touched on something, babe, that is probably you're the expert on this, Ron. But I think that is paramount to this whole blending family thing is belonging. You know, you think about the family of God. It's a blended family. Yes, it is.

That's exactly right. We as Gentiles are grafted in to the family of God. We were not the original chosen people of the Israelites if you're not a Jewish by heritage. And so we're grafted in as a blended family. And that's the beauty of what God's people can be for people who don't have a family or a functional family or a healthy functional family. We can be that for people. And I think that's what has stirred my heart in this blended family thing, as difficult as it can be to go.

We're painting a picture for our kids and for the world around us of the kingdom of God. You're listening to Family Life today, and we're listening to a portion of the Family Life blended podcast with Ron Deal and guest Davey and Christy Blackburn. We've got Ron with us. And Ron, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I mean, what a conversation that was. I mean, what's the first thing that comes to your mind? Yeah, well, first of all, I am just encouraged by how they have dealt with their challenges in life and how they walk in faithfulness. Now, we all know, and we've talked about this before, you guys and I have, that suffering does not mean faithfulness is pretty.

It's often very challenging and difficult. But their story encouraged me, and I really have enjoyed working with them. I've got to tell you guys, that last comment that Davey made about how we're all grafted into the kingdom. If we're a Gentile, we've been grafted into the kingdom and what God is doing in the world really caught me. And how that parallels with what the church is doing and how we open ourselves to people of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and sin narratives in their stories. And we're all grafted in.

Here's my soapbox about that. He's referencing Romans chapter 11. And in that passage, Paul warns the Gentiles, now listen, because you've been grafted, this is not cause for you to become arrogant.

You know, don't be getting proud because now you're part of the kingdom. Here's the thing, I think sometimes we do get proud within the church. But sometimes that arrogance is on the other foot, you know, it's the people who look pretty and seem to have everything together that there's a temptation to look at others who are coming into the church. And maybe their life is not as pristine as your life is or other people that you think their life should be. And there's an arrogance that can come at where you sort of look at everybody else as less than.

Reminds me of the prodigal, the older brother in the prodigal son story. That's exactly it. And when you said that, I honestly thought in the church, we're known for that.

It's terrible, but I think outsiders to the church think church people are sort of arrogant and act and treat others like, well, we're better than you, we're in, you're out. And man, is that the opposite of the gospel. Absolutely. That's right. We should be humbled by being grafted in.

We should be full of mercy for others who are finding their way into the kingdom of God rather than, you know, harsh or judgmental. Yeah. I mean, they should feel so loved and warm. And I mean, as you work with blended families, is that pretty common?

It is. It's actually one of the biggest barriers to our ministry is people sort of feeling second class and they've been treated that way. They've gotten a message that somehow they're not quite measuring up. And so they're even bashful about raising their hand and saying, hello, pastor, we need a little help. Or here's a new resource, you know, a small group tool that we can use.

Could we start a group? So they're sort of reticent to stand up and say, how about a ministry that will even lead? And it's just because sometimes they're looked down on.

And so we've got to remove that. And it's not just blended families. I mean, there's people all walks of life who enter a church environment and think, boy, I don't measure up to these people. And we should be the ones, if we're on the other side of that equation, we should be the ones running to them saying, we are so glad you are here.

You absolutely belong here. Remember that other comment they made about belonging and how important that is? That's exactly right. We've got to delight in people who don't look like us. We've got to make them understand that God is applauding, celebrating them stepping near the kingdom of God.

And when we bridge that, then all of a sudden the doors fly wide open. I mean, Anne mentioned the prodigal son. You know, you just wonder, what would an outsider or a blended family come into a church feel like if we represented the Father running to them?

You know, if we were the heart of the Father saying, I see you, I know your pain, I know your struggle, I've struggled as well. I am at the front door welcoming you. You have no fear here. You're loved here. There's family here.

You're welcome. Come on in. You know, the irony is when we stand in arrogance against other people, we're really judging ourselves. You know, think about it. What we're saying to others is, hey, you've got to measure up to belong here. What we're saying to ourselves is, if I don't measure up, I don't belong here anymore. And so we're all living in fear at that point. And that just cannot be something that we do.

That doesn't open the doors to the body of Christ. Yeah, and last thought I had was, you know, this family or this person or this couple we're running to to love them and welcome them also is in pain. They're carrying pain. Just like the Blackburns are carrying pain. A lot of people know about their pain. But every couple has a struggle.

Yes. Every family is hurting in some way. And we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus to say, we know your pain. We've experienced that pain and we know the one who can heal. Let us welcome you to him.

That's right. Ron, thanks for sharing this interview. It was really good. It's always great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

Yeah, this has been a super powerful time today. And if you wanted to hear the entire interview with the Blackburns, you can go to the Family Life Blended podcast, episode 117, 117, which is called Trusting God in Difficult Times. Or you could get the link in today's show notes. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Ron Deal on Family Life Today. You know, the ministry that Ron Deal runs is called Family Life Blended, and they have an event coming up called the Blended and Blessed one day marriage livestream event. It's for couples in blended families. You know, building unity in a blended family can be extremely difficult. I know I came from a blended family. And so we want to encourage you to come join us for the one day marriage event on Blended and Blessed as we explore ways to help you have peace in your home and between different homes. So this is a live event from Dallas Fort Worth area, but you can watch it from anywhere in the world as you stream it. It's happening Saturday, April 27th.

And you can find out more information by going to and click on the Blended and Blessed link, or you can find the link in today's show notes. Do you ever feel like the stuff that you're doing at work doesn't really matter? Like the people who are full time missionaries, those are the people who are really having their work matter and count for the Lord? Well, Jordan Rayner is here tomorrow with David Ann Wilson to talk about the fact that that's not actually true and what it could look like to integrate your faith into your daily work. That's tomorrow. We hope you can join us. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-20 13:07:21 / 2024-02-20 13:18:42 / 11

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