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Blending a Family after Loss: Ron Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
March 8, 2024 5:15 am

Blending a Family after Loss: Ron Deal

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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March 8, 2024 5:15 am

Stepparenting is hard, especially after loss of a family member. Ron Deal understands how blending a family can be hard, and in his book 'Preparing to Blend,' crafted for engaged or pre-engaged couples with kids from previous relationships, he guides you through the journey of combining loss and love, touching on wedding planning and communication.

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Connect with Ron Deal and catch more of his thoughts at, and on X @RonLDeal and Facebook @SmartStepfamilies and @FamilyLifeBlended

And grab Ron Deal's book "Preparing to Blend", in our shop.

Listen to the full episode of on FamilyLife Blended

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Hey, before we get started with today's program, I'm Shelby Abbott, and we are rapidly approaching Easter. And one of the things that I have done with my family is go through Family Life's resurrection eggs with them.

If you're wondering what that is, you're like, I have no idea what that means. Well, it's a carton of 12 plastic eggs. Each one has little items inside that are different every single day for the kids to open.

There's little notes that help you understand what the significance of that item is. There's a book to guide you through the process to help your kids have fun, but also focus on the real meaning of what we're celebrating when it comes to Easter. And we want to send you, I guess, a carton of them this week as our thanks to you when you become a monthly financial partner to help support and make the ministry of family life possible. You can go online to, and you find the donate now button at the top of the page, or you could feel free to give us a call at 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today.

You can also send your donation by mail to Family Life, 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida, 32832. It's going to be a blast if you go through this with your family, and Happy Easter. I just felt the Holy Spirit said to me, they will always long for their mom, and you will be there, and it's going to hurt. When they get married, when they graduate school, they'll long for her, they are her, and they'll want her to be here, and she won't be, and there will be joy, and there will be grief always. 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 Ann Wilson. You can find us at This is Family Life Today. Hey Ann, I bet you didn't know that 75% of pre-blended family couples don't get any premarital counseling. Hey Dave, did you know that most churches have no idea that the premarital training they do for couples getting married for the first time is grossly inadequate for couples forming a blended family? Wow.

We need to do something about that. Well, the good thing is today we're talking about premarital counseling specifically for couples that are forming blended families. And I think maybe some of you know this, but maybe some of you don't, that in 2021 Ron Deal launched the book Preparing to Blend, and that's just this premarital program for couples that are forming blended families and for the pastors who serve them. And Family Life and Ron also do a virtual training workshop for pastors on a regular basis, which is really pretty cool.

In fact, he even has Blended and Blessed coming up in April, April 27th, which we can tell you about a little bit later. But after his book launched, Ron interviewed some couples for his Family Life Blended podcast to see what was helpful for them, and we're going to be hearing a portion of that conversation today on Family Life Today. And a lot of you know this, but Ron is the director of Family Life Blended, and he hosts our podcast for blended families. The guest that you're going to be hearing is Jonathan Pitts, and at the time his fiancée, Peeta Sargent. Yeah, some of you know Jonathan. He's an author, speaker, executive pastor at the Church of the City in Franklin, Tennessee. We had him on Family Life Today about his book after his first wife died. And Peeta, his fiancée, was born in Malaysia, raised in Australia. This is kind of a fun little fact.

She's an international actress of stage, film, and TV. So if you're not in a blended family, the discussion about loss and new beginnings may have application for you or someone you know. And you might also listen to know how to help a friend or a family member in a blended family. So we're going to go right to the interview that Ron did with Jonathan and Peeta, and here it is. Peeta, let me just ask you something. Make sure I got this right. You were married and divorced, and you're not bringing any biological children to this relationship, right? Yeah, that's right.

Spot on. And Jonathan, you were married and had four girls with your wife, Winter. How much time passed from the moment you got word that something was going on until she died? I mean, she was pronounced at the hospital within less than an hour, and it took the ambulance 20 minutes or so to get there, and I thought without a miracle she was gone.

So yeah, it was really, really fast. So let me just ask you guys a really hard question as we launch into the conversation. There's a lot of details to the backstory of your lives and how you became single in the first place and then found each other, so let me just ask a difficult question. Thinking about all of that, how has that past and that loss rippled into your present? And I know there's a lot in that, but just kind of high level in general, how has that story of loss influenced you coming together, deciding to get married, and then deciding to be a family?

I'll let you jump first. He's better at starting things. Oh, I don't know. I mean, there's been so much to it. We really met on Zoom our first date, and I wouldn't even consider it a date yet, but in that I shared my story, she shared hers, and I would call them two pretty big stories.

Two very different stories, but ultimately... It's hard when you're meeting somebody at 40. We had both just turned 40 when we were introduced, and I remember thinking, you don't know, you don't want to say everything up front and be like, well, there's this, there's this. But at the same time, you know, you're in a demographic where you don't necessarily want to muck around, and if somebody can't hold space for the bigness of your story or the bigness of your loss, and what that means for the girls and all that sort of thing, you kind of want to get to it pretty quickly. Yeah, and I would say the beauty of how we came in together is we both kind of had full knowledge of each other's stories, and I think there has to be a willingness to carry that in a way for each other, and because we know that it's God, it doesn't feel like a burden for either of us to carry the thing, but we realize we're carrying a thing somewhat differently.

A weighty thing. There's actually a quote that I wanted to share. We're also renovating a second master room in the current house, and we had talked about buying a new house and having a fresh start and, you know, trying to come into this thing with like, newness, and I happen to be watching the master classes. So there was one on there by a woman named Kelly Wurzler, who's like a pretty well-known designer, interior designer, and she said this thing that for us, it not only felt like confirmation that we should renovate, but it just felt like it gave us language around, I guess, kind of what you're asking. She posited a couple of questions in the master class.

How can an old soul be given a new spirit? And of course, she's talking about architecture and historical buildings. How can the two have a conversation in the new space, the old and the new? We want to embrace the past, but we also want to give our space a new spirit. You need to remember there's always going to be a dialogue going on between what's new coming into the space and what's already there, what's historic. So what do you want that conversation to be?

That is very much what I'm asking. The past is always a part and in conversation with. I really like the way she said that. It's really beautiful and obviously she was talking to architecture and she said this thing like, you know, when you're going through your space, you want to look for architectural features, historic features that you love, that you're like, not only do we not want to change that, we want to repeat it somewhere else.

We want to bring it forward. We want to be intentional about how we replicate the cornicing or that beautiful wooden door. So it just kind of gave us a mindset around not just how do we hold space for winter for the girls, but where else like her spirit or what the girls carry of her or what other ways can we kind of not only hold space for what's already there, but actually create space to carry it forward and kind of include it in in what we're going forward in. And I feel like for me, I was like, I'm one coming into your five.

And there's a lot to learn there. Like we've used language like sometimes it feels like 40 years old, I feel like I'm being adopted. And that's kind of language that I've used with the girls sometimes because as much as I feel the discipline, the weight and the importance and the conviction really to hold space for their mom and to bring that forward in ways that I can. I also want to challenge them or in a good way confront them with like they also need to make space for me. Like if we're going to have family-ness, I love that word that you use in the book, which we've totally adopted into our vernacular, then we all have to kind of make room for each other. And I think early on it was kind of I felt like I was drowning a little bit in trying to carry Winter with me. I didn't know her and bringing her for the girls and making sure they didn't feel like I was a threat to their mom's space.

And I think now a year in, it's good. So the book clearly says coupleness does not equal family-ness. And the idea there is that when you find somebody you're romantically interested in and fall in love with this person, that's essentially forming a couple bond, a couple relationship. But becoming family is a different bond. It's a different combination of relationships. And just because you're in love with a person does not mean that you've become a family.

For most people starts to happen after the wedding takes place. But I'm just curious, when you first read that or saw that or heard that, how did that hit you? I mean, I think for me, I said this from the very beginning of our relationship, the thing that was most attractive to me about Peta was her desire for family-ness. In fact, she felt like the Lord kind of told her that she was going to adopt kids when she got married. And so coming into it, she even started praying for the girls before she met the girls.

And that was probably for me the most validating for me that I could take a risk on loving. And it was a part of her vision for us, I guess, for our relationship. We do coupling really well. Like her and I together have lots of fun together. We play well together. Family-ness has been and continues to be a challenge in different ways, but it is the long-term vision, which for me has been just a validating for our relationship.

Which, I don't know, maybe I'd say this, for somebody that's thinking about blending, thinking about proposing, is that it's such a high value for her. It's been such an important thing for me. And probably specifically because my girls lost their mom, to have somebody interested in me that's not interested in them was a very scary thought.

Probably a leading thought, actually. Yeah, I think for me the greatest challenge has been what I feel in my spirit versus the reality of being in the house. And when you say what you feel in your spirit, is that a fear that you have?

No. I think I'm 100% like a glass-half-full optimist. I don't know how to say it. I don't know who can relate to this, but we're obviously really deeply spiritual people. And two of the things that I think were really formative for us was, one was the engagement and one came after the engagement. So when Jonathan proposed to me, he actually had to ask me three times because I ended up having this kind of moment when he first asked me where I felt really shocked. I didn't know he was going to ask me, but then immediately I felt like I saw, and for me this is what I mean by in my spirit, I felt like I saw a series of images of each of the girls at pinnacle moments in their lives. Getting married, graduating high school, all of these very formative pinnacle moments.

And I felt this sense of myself kind of almost like a satellite, like there, but a little bit still on the outside. And I just felt in my spirit like the Holy Spirit said to me, they will always long for their mum and you will be there and it's going to hurt. They'll always long for her when they get married, like when they graduate school.

They will. They'll long for her. They are her and they'll want her to be here and there will be joy and there will be grief always. And I just felt like in my spirit, the Lord said to me, if you're not willing to stand in that grief with them, then don't say yes.

Because it's going to be a lot, it's going to be for the rest of your life. Like you're going to be the one who is there when they long for their mum and you've kind of been there like doing the thing with them and spending the time with them and cooking the meals. And they'll be like, we want our mum and it's going to hurt and it's going to hurt everyone. So that's what I mean by in my spirit.

And then I said, yes, I was like, I can do that. What is so beautiful about that, Peta, is that you saw a reality and you said, I choose yes. I think so many people have the assumption that, well, because you and I say yes to each other, that the kids are not going to have those moments where they see me but wish and long for their mother. They're just going to be fine.

It's going to be, we've repaired it, we've fixed it, we've taken care of that hurt or pain in their heart. But no, how much more special it is to see it for what it is and say yes to it. I think that's beautiful. I mean, it's beautiful. And then there's also moments going there and I'm like, they don't see me.

Yes. And they want their mom. And it really does hurt. And that's what I mean by, for me, the biggest wrestle is like, in my spirit, I'm like, I can do this. I love them. I'm born for this. I'm made for this.

I'm forged for this. For me, trying to figure out how to maintain sort of the integrity of the orbit of who I am as a woman, as an artist, as a being spiritually, emotionally, physically. And physically, to me, is really important because I do kind of have a largeness around my personality. I'm like 5'10", almost. And I have a pretty big presence.

The girls are like four foot 11. And so when I first came into the house, even my presence was very shocking to them. So it was just like, how do I figure out how to be in that space of holding space for their mom, being with them in their grief, but also being like, I have to be able to be myself here.

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 Jonathan Pitts and Peter Sargent. And honestly, Dave, I'm thinking about you when your dad remarried. I don't think most couples necessarily think through how this marriage will affect the entire family and even each child as they're blending. Yeah, I don't think my dad and my stepmom are unlike anybody else.

They did absolutely no preparation and struggled. And I think most do, even if you do prepare, but it's definitely helpful to prepare. And listening to Jonathan and Peter talk about it, man, they are just like everybody else. And that's why it's so great that Ron wrote Preparing to Blend. I mean, it's good for couples in their first time marriage, but if you're trying to blend a family and you don't have any premarital preparation, it's going to be nothing but a train wreck. We have a free sample of Ron's book available. You can download the introduction in the first chapter in our show notes at Okay, so let's pick up the conversation after Ron asked Jonathan and Peter how the chapter on wedding planning with kids was helpful. Yeah, I think up until that point, I think there was just a lot of, well, up until the point where we, where Peter invited the girls to be bridesmaids and we invited them into the process of the wedding.

I think both of us had real fear around encroaching on their, the way they'd want to experience, instead of inviting them, we were kind of pushing back, not wanting to offend, not realizing that it would probably be more offensive to just not say anything. And so the book actually gave us language for, like, we read the chapter and sat down at the dinner table on, what was the title of the chapter? The wedding, it was about planning your wedding. We sat down at the dinner table and one of the girls asked a question about the wedding.

And so we basically just jumped into the conversation with fresh information, like we were professionals. But it was, it was the beginning of us, including them in the wedding in every way, and not just the wedding, but also in our home renovation and flooring that we're going to do and not making it seem like we're making all these changes to our home. And that's also something being imposed on you as opposed to something that you get to experience and be a part of and have choices in. And I think some of the language that you use in that chapter about how, because we've always talked about the wedding as a threshold moment, as this, like, before and after thing.

And so I think I can't remember exactly what it was, but you use some language in the book about how that before and after can feel for the kids and how much that has to be walked back if it's not crossed over properly. And so I think for me, because I don't like confrontation and I mean, who's not scared of rejection? I don't want to be rejected by the girls. You've brought up rejection a couple of times. What are you doing to try to navigate that and not be the villain in their eyes? I think the main thing is communication. You know, if there was an overall arching statement I would make about what we gained from the Kelly Wurstler Masterclass, what we gained from the chapters of your book that we looked at, it would be the human condition, grief, loss, joy, commitment, love, loss again. All of the things that you walk through as a person on the earth, it's very, like, it's common to us all, but it's also very unique in the way that you experience it as an individual. And so there's a way to connect with that because it's common to us all. But there's a way to articulate it that becomes very valuable. Because the articulation of your process and your grief and your loss and your redemption and your recovery facilitates the expression of who you are as a human being. And you move toward them in that expression of who you are.

Yeah. And so for me, I think that's an area of strength that I have. And I know that that's something that I feel like that's why the mining for conflict and for me coming through kind of the glass wall of like, I don't want to be the villain. I don't want to upset them or I don't want to hurt them with my, I can see that my presence hurts them, which is very painful because I'm very, you know, I'm an actress, I'm very, I'm an empath and can feel and all these sorts of things. And so I think the main thing for me was understanding that there's only one way to help the faculty of language as they grow as little girls into young women and adolescents into young women. And the grief that they've been through, the process that they're going through, which is not of their choosing right now as we come into union and familyness, all needs to be articulated.

It all needs to be given language. And so for me, there's been some really awkward conversations where, you know, I've just tried to mine for and give voice to and help them articulate how they feel. That's so good. We've been listening to a portion of the Family Life Blended podcast with Ron Deal, and Ron is joining us in the studio. Ron, it's great to have you. And this conversation is so interesting to me.

Yeah, I gotta say, I don't know if you were thinking this, I think I could listen to PETA's accent forever. It's really beautiful. She makes me calm.

Yeah. And what she was just saying, you know, when my dad and my stepmother married, I was in middle school and Beata was her name. She did a good job of reaching out. I think she saw the struggle in me. And I don't think my dad saw it, but I think my stepmom saw it and she sort of reached out and she had empathy. And she was like, are you okay?

What questions can I answer? How can I make this easier for you? And it didn't make it easier, but it did make me feel like, okay, she wants to be a part of my life. And she understands this is not an easy thing for a son or a daughter to come into. Well, that was very compassionate of her to move towards you in that space. And that's exactly what PETA was saying. She's working hard to bless the girls by honoring their mother, but stepping into their grief to whatever degree they will allow her to, and respecting that space while at the same time finding her own identity as she moves into their life.

I mean, this is a good example of the kinds of things. Most of us, when we grow up dreaming of that person we're going to spend the rest of our life with and meeting them, we don't also think, and I'm going to have to be able to grieve along with their children in order to have this marriage. But that's the kind of complexity that comes when there's children in a blended family. Well, Ron, one of the things your book is designed to do is just to help couples see the family that they're creating.

So just give us an idea about growing activities and how they help couples like Jonathan and PETA. Preparing to Blend is an entire comprehensive premarital program for couples forming blended families. And it doubles as a guide and a resource for pastors or mentor couples that are trying to do premarital ed with couples. And essentially, it replaces everything you've ever done in the past and brings it into a context where it's specifically designed for step-family couples. So there's a growing activity within the book, for example, that is all about seeing your family for what it's going to be.

Not what you think it is, not just you, husband and wife, but kids, former spouses, perhaps, if that exists, and children moving between homes, and grandparents and step-grandparents. And so you get to design your own family genogram, a digital version of that that you do online, but it incorporates right into the material of the book. That's the kind of growing activities we've designed right into this so that you're not just coming in with misaligned expectations or preconceptions of what your family is going to be, but then you really get a sense of what it can be.

I think that helps couples make more informed decisions about the wedding or about the timing of the wedding and how quickly they move towards even, maybe you're engaged, but you haven't got a date yet. How do you make those decisions? I think the more informed you are about what you're actually building and creating and how children need to come along with you in that process, then you make better decisions. There's actually eight different growing activities built right into the program.

The genogram is just one of them. We talk about expectations and what's realistic and not realistic. We talk about planning the wedding, and couples are given the task of going and having a dialogue with the children about the wedding. And you heard Jonathan and Peta talk about how that impacted their decisions about wedding and helped inform them and connected them to children around some of those topics.

So that's the kind of thing that's built into this program. We mentioned earlier about blended and blessed coming up April 27th. Covering the same topics or totally different?

Totally different. Blended and blessed this year is about building unity in blended families. You know, at Family Life, we talk a lot about oneness. Well, the biblical term for that is unity.

And so what does that look like and how do we manifest that in blended family situations? Blended and blessed is our annual live stream event. You can attend from anywhere in the world. That's right. Anywhere in the world. We tell people if your time zone doesn't match up with our time zone, that's OK. You can either push pause and wait till it works or you can wait till the next day and start it from the beginning.

However, you want to do that. We have churches that gather couples together and watch it as a group. Blended and blessed dot com is the place you go to find out all the information and how to register.

We'd love to have anybody listening join us or churches to host it for people in their community. Ron, it's always great to be with you. Thanks so much.

Thanks for having me. Yeah, just as Ron said, you could find it at that Web site or you could go to the show notes at family life today dot com and click on the blended and blessed link there. I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to David Wilson with Ron deal on family life today. You know, Ron has written many, many books, but one of them that he wrote that we wanted to talk about was preparing to blend. This is the couple's guide to becoming a smart step family. And it's talking about a lot of different specific things that blended families experience that maybe other couples don't. This is your go to guide for family identity, daily routine, finances, navigating the complexities of grown children or challenges with a new life together as you blend.

So you can go online to find Ron's book at family life today dot com or you can find the link in the show notes for today's episode. Now, we talk about marriage a lot. We were just talking about blended families and uniting people in oneness. But there are a lot of couples that are not married yet and they're wondering, what do I do? How do I proceed? What do I say? How do I go about preparing for marriage?

Well, guess what? Beyond the madness of wedding planning, we want to help you focus on building a great marriage foundation, starting with five essential conversations. And those five are finances, sex, God, family and the future. David and Meg Robbins have put together an entertaining and romantic book called Preparing for Marriage. It's a study guide to help you walk through your engagement together and figure out what those five essential conversations are, how they need to happen and how they are directly applicable to you. So if you are an engaged couple or you know, an engaged couple, we encourage you to check out Preparing for Marriage. You can find the link in the show notes at family life today dot com. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next week 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 / 2024-03-08 10:21:25 / 2024-03-08 10:32:50 / 11

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