100: FamilyLife Blended: The Birth of a Movement
About the Guest
- Listen to episode 21- Stepfamilies and The Holidays
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How did Ron Deal get started in blended family ministry? When was FamilyLife Blended birthed and what is Nicole Burns’ role? What about Gayla Grace’s start in ministry? Listen to Ron and Gayla tell their stories and how they intersect with FamilyLife.
100: FamilyLife Blended: The Birth of a Movement
Ron: Welcome to the FamilyLife Blended podcast. I'm Ron Deal. We help blended families, and those who love them, to pursue the relationships that matter most.
I'm joined today in the FamilyLife Blended studio by Gayla Grace. So nice to have you here.
Gayla: Good to be here.
Ron: Gayla's here a bunch on this podcast, but today she's here because we are celebrating our one hundredth episode. We're going to take people behind the scenes. We're going to tell you a little bit about how this thing gets produced. We're going to back way up and tell you how FamilyLife Blended came to be in the very first place. And Gayla and I are going to do some reflecting on some of our favorite podcasts and guests and some of the things that we've discussed over the years. This is really going to be a lot of fun. Thanks for being here.
Gayla: Yes, good to be here.
Ron: Now, there's reason why we are celebrating with you today, and it has to do with you, the listener, because here's the bottom line. I mean, think about this. We wouldn't have a podcast. We wouldn't have a hundred episodes if you weren't still listening to them.
Obviously, we've hit a hundred because you're still here, so thank you for hanging with us and being a part of this. Whether you've just listened to one of our podcasts, all of them, we wouldn't be here without you so you're really a part of this as well. And did you know, Gayla, that a hundred episodes is really not common?
Gayla: I didn't know that.
Ron: You know we looked into it a little bit—
Ron: —started looking at some of the numbers. First of all, there's over two million podcasts.
Gayla: That's a lot.
Ron: I mean, I listen to a lot, but I don't listen to that many.
Gayla: Two million.
Ron: So according to Apple Podcasts, 26 percent of podcasts have only published one episode.
Gayla: That seems crazy. That's a lot of work.
Ron: It's somebody, I guess, had a good idea, thought it would go great.
Gayla: It was probably more work than they realized.
Ron: I think you're exactly right. This is more work than we realized. [Laughter]
Gayla: Exactly; it is.
Ron: And yet we're staying after it. Get this, 37 percent have only done two or one/one or two podcasts—episodes, I should say, in their podcasts.
Ron: And then they call it quits. Forty-four percent of podcasts have three or less episodes. Thirty-six percent, about a third, have produced ten or more episodes for their podcast. Now, I'm willing to bet most get to ten, fifteen, twenty. Looking at those stats and how it progresses downward, I don't think many actually get to a hundred.
Gayla: No, not at all. That's why it's a big deal.
Ron: Yes; it really is a big deal to get to a hundred. Plus, now, listen to this. Based on the number of our downloads and unique listeners that we have tuning in to this podcast, FamilyLife Blended is in the top ten percent of all podcasts that were ever made. Top ten percent of the two million that are out there.
Gayla: Yay us!
Ron: Yes, yes; and yay, God, right?
Ron: For—that's my wife's language. I love the way she says it. “Yay, God.”
Gayla: I love that.
Ron: Yes. You know, it's like, this is really cool. We hoped when we started this that it would make a difference in people's lives.
Ron: We didn't have any idea if people would listen—
Ron: —if we could garner an audience, if people would share it with other people. There's a lot of things in there that we just didn't know about, but obviously it's happening. So again, thank you for being with us and being a part of this. We celebrate with you that we're reaching this 100th episode.
Okay, so we're going to jump into all that today. Before we do that, let's just acknowledge, Gayla, it’s December.
Gayla: It is.
Ron: Christmas is almost here. It's time to get serious about the Christmas season and the party and the travels and all the stuff you’ve got to arrange for your family.
Gayla: Mm-hmm. And you know it's more complicated in a blended family.
Ron: Yes; haven't we done an episode?
Gayla: We have.
Ron: I think maybe we have.
Gayla: We have.
Ron: [Laughter] Of course, we have.
Gayla: And it's a good one because there's so many complicated dynamics at the holidays for blended families.
Ron: That's right. It's very good. Here's the thing, Christmas is here, and I just want to remind you to make sure you put Christ into your “Christ”mas.
Ron: You know, just combat all of the marketing and stuff that people want to throw at us in the holiday season and make sure you and your kids have some really good conversation about our Savior.
Gayla: And I always like to say, you might need to apply some grace as a blended family at the Christmas season because there's lots of things that can go wrong and ways that you can get your feelings hurt and just put grace at the top of your list.
Ron: Put on some thick skin; is that what you're saying?
Gayla: Yes; that too.
Ron: Okay, sounds good. Also, December, a lot of people make a year-end donation to their favorite 501 (c) (3), which FamilyLife® is. So of course, any gift that you might give us, specifically for FamilyLife Blended—which you can do. You can just designate that gift for FamilyLife Blended—that supports this podcast and all the other things that we do—live events, virtual events, products, resources, all the stuff that we do—Gayla out speaking; I'm out doing some things. If you want to help with that, this is a great time of year. We really would appreciate that; just contact FamilyLife. Again, the show notes will tell you how you can go about doing that.
I’ve got to tell you, maybe you're also thinking about what comes next. I got an email from a woman named Erica. She says this; she’s thinking ahead.
Ron: What are they going to do? And maybe our listeners, January is on your mind a little bit. Erica says, “I recently got engaged and my fiancé and I are interested in premarital counseling. We have both been married. I'm 41-year-old widow with a 14-year-old daughter. My fiancé is 40 and divorced without children. We want some solid guidance so that we can make our union last for the rest of our lives.”
Well, I wrote her back and I said, “Hey, go to your pastor. I hope they'll be supportive and helpful. If they/if he's not aware of resources, you know, we have Preparing to Blend.” I'm actually doing a virtual couple’s group for engaged couples in January of 2023; that starts Thursday nights, January and February. If you're interested, look it up on the show notes. It'll tell you how you can be a part of that.
Of course, we do premarital counseling training for pastors and leaders and mentor couples in how to use Preparing to Blend. That's something that's really helpful.
And then one other thing I'll tell you about, and then we'll jump into our hundredth episode material. Nan and I, in February, are the featured speakers for a FamilyLife event called “Empowered to Love.” It's a getaway for couples. We're not doing a cruise this February. We're doing a land cruise. [Laughter] We're going to be at, get this, the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa in Sandestin, which is right next to Destin, Florida. You may have heard of that. This is February 13 through 17, 2023. We'd love to have you join us. The show notes will point you to how you can be a part of that.
Okay, hundredth episode; we’ve got to back up and tell the story.
Gayla: Yes. I mean, Ron, how did you get started with this?
Ron: Well, I want to know how you got started in blended ministry too. Actually, our paths sort of crossed at some point.
Gayla: They did a long time ago.
Ron: Yes; it's funny you ask because people in Mexico City were asking me, “How did you get started?” Everywhere I go, people want to know.
Gayla: Because they know you're not in a blended family.
Ron: That's right. I'm not in a blended family. I am the odd duck that doesn't fit in in so many ways. My wife says, you know, here's the punchline—my wife says I'm the male obstetrician of the stepfamily world.
Gayla: Oh, okay.
Ron: But you know, here's the story that a lot of people don't know about that. I was a youth pastor for five years, roughly when Nan and I first got married. I worked with kids—you know, teenagers—in a lot of different family contexts and situations, and frequently I was ill-equipped, unprepared to be able to really offer them the kind of help and support.
In fact, I decided to quit the ministry I loved and go back to graduate school to study marriage and family therapy. Not because I wanted to be a counselor full-time, but because I wanted to have better skill set when I'm working in ministry context to be able to help kids, parents, whatever. It was in graduate school, studying family therapy, that I got exposed to research around stepfamilies.
Ron: What I didn't realize when I came out of graduate school and went right back into local church work—first, I went to Northern California. Nan and I took a job to be a family minister for a church there—what I didn't realize is that while marriage ministry is, I don't know, sort of common in and especially across evangelical churches and some Protestant and Catholic churches have marriage ministry, marriage prep and some marriage support ministry—what I didn't realize is that nobody was doing—I shouldn't say nobody. There were a couple people out there.
Gayla: Very few though.
Ron: Very few that were thinking about stepfamilies and how do we help them in a local church context.
Gayla: And considering how many stepfamilies are out there that really wasn't thought about.
Ron: Right. And see, the funny thing is people have said for years, you know, “There's no resources and materials.” Well, the truth is, there has been secular research and materials for 40 years. We've known a lot about stepfamily living from the academic standpoint and there's been some secular materials for a long time, but it was the Christian community that was the slowest to get on board.
Ron: And so I found myself in the early 1990s trying to figure out how to do local ministry to blended families and to single parents, by the way, in a local church. And that's how I got started. That's all it was for me. I had no vision of writing a book or teaching other people, or ever doing anything where we're influencing other leaders or couples. It was another part of family ministry that I just really loved to do.
Gayla: And that you obviously saw a need for.
Gayla: You recognized that this is out there, these people are needing help, they're not necessarily finding it, and this is an area I can help.
Ron: Honestly, I still think I'm doing youth ministry even today.
Gayla: Oh really?
Ron: I mean, that's how I got started and that's how I still think of it because if I'm helping somebody have a stronger marriage, that's helping their kids—
Gayla: Oh, absolutely.
Ron: —indirectly and directly, oftentimes. If we're preventing a redivorce, we're helping children. We know that the toll of serial divorce on kids is really significant.
Gayla: It is.
Ron: So, if we can—you know, one divorce has happened, let's not have two, you know?
Gayla: Right. Oh, for sure.
Ron: And not only not have a divorce, let's make the family healthy and strong so that the kids can grow up and the remainder of their childhood experience can be a redemptive experience for them.
Gayla: And it can be.
Ron: That whole mentality is all I had when I started.
Ron: I didn't know what to do or how to do it. We fumbled our way through for a number of years.
Gayla: How many years ago was that, would you say?
Ron: I started really doing this in 1993.
Gayla: Okay. Wow.
Ron: We're a couple of months away from 30 years as we're recording this.
Gayla: Can you believe that?
Ron: I can't hardly believe it. I really can't. And again, there was nothing glorious about it. There was nothing interesting about it. We were just sort of doing that in a local church in one little spot in the universe, and the Lord blessed it.
Gayla: Well, and I have to believe that you were following the Lord's guidance as you took step by step in your own ministry, in your own going back to graduate school, all of that, I'm sure.
Ron: Well, you know, I really tried. Nan and I were prayerful about it. But I'll tell you the funny part is I recognize how I felt ill-equipped and really like I didn't belong because I wasn't a part of a stepfamily.
Gayla: Oh, okay. Sure.
Ron: Now, I'm married; that we have in common with blended couples. I have kids; that's something we have in common. Nan—eventually, Nan and I would go on and have a great loss in our life, so we understand loss and its impact on our lives.
There’re some things I can definitely relate to on a personal level, but I still stand outside the circle. I've told people I started this way and I'm still sort of doing this.
I'm just helping people understand the process at/from an objective, neutral, outsider position. People like you are so advantageous to our ministry because you've got an insider point of view. You've lived it, been there, done that, and you've got experiences I’ve never had. And you can tell those and those are relatable.
Ron: I sort of talk about. This experience and that, and here's another point of view for people that are in a different family situation.
Gayla: Right; Mm-hmm.
Ron: The combination I think is just—
Gayla: That's very helpful because I think in your situation sometimes you can be a little more objective because you can see it from more than one side.
Gayla: Sometimes I think about my story, but that's only my story. I have to also consider the viewpoint and the stories of others that have walked blended family life, but in a different way.
Gayla: I'm always kind of comparing my story against other stories that I also know about that might not be exactly like mine. I feel like yes, there's an advantage to both sides of that.
Ron: Exactly. Exactly. We need all of it.
Ron: If there are 67 different configurations of blended families and you're living one of them, you've got to work hard. I'm talking to our listeners right now who are mentors and teachers and trainers. You've got to work hard to not get stuck in your own point of view—
Ron: —so you can relate to other people sitting in the room. That's a challenge that we all have.
I started doing this. We moved to another church, a little bit bigger church in a different community, but we kept doing single parent ministry and stepfamily ministry as a part of the bigger family ministry that I was in charge of. It was in that second context that I went beyond graduate school and got some advanced training from some experts in stepfamilies.
Gayla: Oh, okay.
Ron: I learned/I got some advanced training in stepfamily therapy. I was doing a lot of counseling, but I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I sort of just dove into whatever I could find. Somewhere along that path I figured I'd start writing an article or two and see what happens. [Laughter]
I'd get invited to go do a little workshop and I'd go do that, and that would lead to another one and another one. Then a ministry group would say, “Come train our leaders.” Over the course of ten or twelve years, it just grew to take over my life to the point where we started Smart Stepfamilies. That's the brand that I have and still have today. SmartStepfamilies.com is still the website where you can find everything that I'm involved in from live events to virtual stuff and resources.
That was all born probably in the early 2000s. By 2006, it had taken over my life to the point where Nan and I decided we needed to leave local church ministry. I quit my day job, which was—
Ron: Whew, was that scary. You know we had no insurance. We had—
Gayla: Oh, gosh.
Ron: I had a friend who was doing some family ministry and some counseling in a church in Amarillo, Texas. We were living in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He said, “Come move to Amarillo.” If you've ever been to Amarillo, it's the, it's not the end of the earth, but you can see it from there.
Gayla: I've lived in Amarillo.
Ron: Oh my goodness; it is flat and ugly.
Gayla: It is.
Ron: It's not Arkansas—
Ron: —hills and mountains and beautiful. But we moved there, and I did Smart Stepfamilies fulltime for about six years.
Then I finally got a phone call from Bob Lepine actually, who worked right hand man with Dennis Rainey here at FamilyLife. I had gotten to know them every time I'd write a book, they'd have me on the radio program, FamilyLife Today, to talk about it. So, we sort of got to know each other a little bit over the years. I actually ambushed Dennis Rainey in 1990. Do you want to hear a funny story?
Gayla: Oh, gosh.
Ron: In, I want to say 1999, I drove to Little Rock from Jonesboro, Arkansas to get on a plane to fly down to Houston, where I was going to do a conference for what turned out to be about 30 people.
Gayla: Oh, okay.
Ron: I was at a church down there and a guy invited me to come down to spend a whole day. It was the first time I'd done a six-hour seminar on stepfamilies.
Gayla: It was on just stepfamilies?
Ron: That's/just on stepfamilies.
Ron: Okay. I drive to Little Rock. I get on an airplane. I sit down on the plane, and I look up and Dennis Rainey is getting on the airplane. Now, I have this immediate thought. I'd been listening to Dennis on FamilyLife Today. I'd used some of their resources from FamilyLife to do local ministry where we were doing that, and so I was very familiar with him.
Ron: He didn't know who I was. [Laughter] So as he went by me on the airplane—I'm seated—as he walks by me, I say to him, “Hi, my name is Ron. I know who you are, but you don't know who I am,” and “We need to talk.” [Laughter]
Gayla: Ooh, that's pretty bold, Ron, “We need to talk.”
Ron: And he gave me one of those looks like, “Who is this guy?” and “Is he going to hurt me?” I mean, he just sort of looked at me odd and went past—
Gayla: Oh gosh.
Ron: —and sat down on the plane about three or four rows behind me.
Ron: We were flying to Dallas to connect to different planes. I was going on to Houston to talk to 30 people. It turns out Dennis was connecting to Denver to speak at a little thing called Promise Keepers, where he had 50,000 men in the arena.
Gayla: I was going to say a little more than 30 people there, huh. [Laughter]
Ron: But we got off the plane at DFW Airport and I stood, and I waited for him to get off because I got off first. He came off. He walked right up to me. He said, “So tell me who you are.” And I said, “I'm a family minister. I work with a church in Jonesboro. What is FamilyLife doing for stepfamilies?” I'll never forget his answer. This is in 1999, okay. I wouldn't come to work for FamilyLife until 2012.
Gayla: Wow. Okay.
Ron: He says “Nothing. We don't have a clue. We don't know what to do.” And I said, “Well, I’ve got a few ideas. We've been doing a stepfamily ministry and it's going really well; lives are being changed” and “Would you care to talk about it sometime?”
Gayla: And good for him for his honesty?
Ron: Yes, yes. He said, “Give me your number.” He called me the next week, arranged a time within two weeks. I was/I drove back to Little Rock to sit in his office and have lunch and talk. We started sharing ideas, and that was the beginning of our relationship that led to radio and then doing more radio and getting to know each other and eventually to—FamilyLife was ready to say, “We want to start a division, and would you please come and lead it?” That brought me here in 2012.
Gayla: So really, you just introduced the idea to FamilyLife about the need of serving stepfamilies. But it took—
Ron: —a long time, a long time.
Gayla: —13 years before they would recognize they needed someone on staff.
Ron: Before it put money, time, energy, staff into the whole idea.
Ron: And you know, still to this day, we're the only major marriage and family ministry, to my knowledge, in the world, not just in the US but in the world that has a division/an initiative specifically designed to help blended families. But we want to change that. We're trying to help everybody out there—
Gayla: We do. We're trying to.
Ron: —to do this sort of thing. Now you and I met
Gayla: We did.
Ron: I was living in Jonesboro doing seminars and conferences whenever I got an invitation.
Ron: And you were living?
Gayla: We were in Conway. Randy and I were pretty early in our marriage, in our blended family marriage and we were struggling. I knew a little bit about—by then you had already started doing a few stepfamily conferences.
Ron: You heard about it/me somehow.
Gayla: Yes. On the radio or something, and I just asked, would you consider doing a conference at our church in Conway.
Ron: Yes; so for our listeners, Jonesboro and Conway, about two hours apart. Conway's sort of just outside where Little Rock is where we are today. I said, “Yes.” I came to Conway and you guys sponsored an event. I met Randy.
Gayla: You did, right.
Ron: Great guy.
Gayla: Oh yes, and it was a small event, but it was a great event and just, for us, it helped me know more about, gave some tools for stepfamily life, but also kind of connected us to something that could continue to help us and inspired us to get involved in a small group. And that was another thing. That's why I'm still such an advocate of small groups for stepfamily couples, because you share, you use a material. Now Ron, your Smart Stepfamily was not out yet.
Ron: It wasn't.
Gayla: We used Dick Dunn’s, New Faces in the Frame.
Ron: Yes; great resource. It's out of print now, but it was wonderful.
Gayla: I know. It was wonderful. And that just helped get us on the road really for beginning to experience some wins in our stepfamily.
Ron: Now you've been a writer about—
Gayla: I have been.
Ron: —marriage and family and motherhood and things for a long time. And as I recall, had you started writing about stepfamily living?
Gayla: Well, back then we were just trying to survive, honestly. We were just living the life and trying to understand how to take the next step, how to stay married another year. There were times I wasn't sure we were going to, but eventually, especially after we participated in that small group and I began dabbling in writing a little bit, and so I did. I actually joined the FamilyLife writers’ group. There was a writer's group up here that met once a month and I became part of that. That was my first introduction to FamilyLife and the great people here and other writers who I feel like were instrumental in helping me, but then also kind of kept us connected a little bit.
I would know more about what you were doing and then, I began to go back and think about when I was first in my stepmom role, I looked so hard for a devotional for stepmoms, and I couldn't find one. There was not one out there. And so full circle, several years later, I just decided, “Well, I'm going to write one.” I mean, stepparents still need a devotional book. That was how I got started as far as doing the writing part of, specifically for blended families, step couples, stepmoms.
Ron: And to our listener, if you're not familiar with Stepparenting with Grace, that's Gayla's devotional; really, really well done, highly recommended. It's one of the resources we sell here at FamilyLife.
You got started, you got your feet wet, started stepping into that space and I became aware of that—you know watched you from a distance and certainly encouraged what you were doing in whatever ways that I could.
There's an odd little connection here. You lived in Conway, Arkansas. I used to go to a Christian bookstore—
Gayla: Oh yes.
Ron: —there in Conway and it turns out somebody we're going to introduce our listeners to in just a minute, who's integral to our ministry here at FamilyLife Blended was managing that bookstore. All sorts of little God connections and things happening behind the scenes that eventually would all come together. We'll tell you more about Nicole and let you talk to her in just a minute.
But then there's one other thing people always wonder “So what happened? Smart Stepfamilies, you were, Ron, you were out doing your thing and then FamilyLife said, ‘Come join.’” I like to say FamilyLife and Smart Stepfamilies got married and formed a blended family. [Laughter] We had a baby, and that baby was called FamilyLife Blended.
Gayla: Oh goodness.
Ron: That's what has led to the work today. And when our team started, it was very small.
Gayla: It was.
Ron: Actually, I was alone. I was the department for about, oh, close to a year, and then I started getting some administrative support and help and started working with other departments within ministry. FamilyLife is a large organization of 350 to 400 staff—I think it's closer to 400 at this point—all around the world, mostly in the US but in a hundred countries.
The team started to grow, and it became very clear that we needed to add an operations person. Somebody who would take my crazy ideas [Laughter] and actually make it work/do something with it—let me teach because that's all I'm good at. But somebody else who could really run the ministry and that is Nicole Burns. We're going to bring her in to our conversation here. It's so great to have you with us. Finally, behind the microphone joining us on one of the episodes. Would you mind just tell our listeners a little bit about the role that you play?
Nicole: Sure. I'm the ministry manager, so basically, I take care of all the operations on our team. So whether that's resources or events or podcasts, I, like Ron said, take all of his ideas and then try to make them happen.
Ron: Or tell me they can't happen. [Laughter]
Nicole: That happens sometimes.
Gayla: Yes. That's a big job, Nicole.
Nicole: You have no idea, Gayla. [Laughter]
Ron: That's why she gets the big bucks. What are the many things that FamilyLife Blended is doing?
Nicole: We do events. We train ministry leaders, so events for ministry leaders, but then also events for couples. And of course, since Covid we've really branched out and started expanding what we're able to offer virtually. So that's one of our big things that we've been doing since I got on board. Then, of course, we have the podcast, which you guys are all aware of. We also do resources. Ron does books. We've done digital curriculum and things of that nature. And then of course, Ron and Gayla both do radio and other events that are outside of FamilyLife that we help provide resources for and really try to promote what we're doing here at FamilyLife Blended.
Gayla: It's a lot.
Ron: See why we needed somebody.
Gayla: Oh, absolutely. And Nicole's great at what she does.
Ron: She is really good at what she does. We appreciate her very, very much. Thanks for jumping in today. We know you're more comfortable be—what, not behind the microphone, watching, putting other people behind the microphone.
Nicole: Yes; shoving others on stage, is what I like to say. [Laughter]
Ron: And to anybody who ever comes to our Summit on Stepfamily Ministry or our Blended and Blessed live event live stream, but you could come to the live audience, you'll get to meet Nicole and she can tell you how hard it is to wrangle me. Thanks for being with us today; appreciate you.
You know Nicole's not the only person. First of all, we have to thank Bob Lepine who was the longtime co-host of FamilyLife Today, FamilyLife's national radio program that still is in existence today. Bob was one of the original hosts. He decided that FamilyLife needed a podcast network.
Ron: This is one of many podcasts that our ministry produces. Bob helped us get started and, you know, set the vision and taught me a little bit about how to do radio, do podcasting and all that. We're very grateful for him. He's actually going to be on an upcoming podcast, so I hope you'll keep listening.
But we have to have a team of people who actually work behind the scenes. Marcus Holt is our producer. If people listen all the way to the end of the podcast, you hear these names every time, because I want to give them credit where credit is due. Marcus is our producer, which—how would you describe Marcus and what his job is?
Gayla: Well, Marcus can be kind of candid in telling us what he likes or doesn't like and what we need to change. [Laughter]
Ron: That's exactly right. It's his job, right, to make us sound good. And then he does all the audio editing/taking out all the mistakes—
Ron: —and fixing things and trying to make them right and working with our guests and getting them prepared and sending them equipment ahead of time so that they can be sitting in their home or wherever it is that they're at.
Gayla: Yes; and he just makes us sound better, Ron.
Ron: He does.
Gayla: He takes out things that don't need to be in there. So, yes, very helpful.
Ron: It's great. We got a guy named Jarrett Roskey who works in our—Marcus is in our Orlando office as well so both Jarrett and Marcus work down in Orlando. Jarrett does what's called mastering, and I have no idea what it is.
Gayla: I don't know either.
Ron: It's one of those cool audio things that makes it sound pristine and awesome and broadcast worthy, and then, gets it in the right format, I think, to upload into Apple and all the other podcasts, so we appreciate the high-tech work that he does.
Gayla: Oh yes; needs to be done.
Ron: And then there's Ann Ancarrow. She works at our Little Rock office with our team here in FamilyLife here in Little Rock, and she is all things guest relations—
Gayla: And that's a huge job.
Ron: —part of the strategy planning team, handles all the logistics. Like I just would go nuts if I had to do all that.
Gayla: Well, even scheduling or rescheduling. She is always having to contact guests and try to coordinate schedules. It's a lot.
Ron: She tracks each podcast with titling and show notes and detail, detail, detail, detail. We're very grateful for her.
And then, if you listen to the end of each podcast, I give credit to my son, Braden.
Gayla: That's great.
Ron: He is a music composer for film and tv. He's actually out in LA; say a prayer for him. He's trying to make it in the film industry and he's writing music for all things, you know, video and got a burgeoning career there. But he's written the music for us. He's written the theme for FamilyLife Today. He's written the theme for a coup, at least one of the other podcasts in our network. So that's the kind of work that he does, and I love him a lot, so I’ve got to give him credit.
Gayla: And it's good stuff. The music is great.
Ron: Yes, it's pretty cool stuff. Okay, well that's the behind-the-scenes stuff. Hope it's interesting to you. Again, there's a lot of moving parts and now you understand why we appreciate a donation every now and then—
Gayla: Oh, right.
Ron: —to keep all that moving. What are some of your favorites? Let's talk about the podcasts that have, you know, left a good residue on you.
Gayla: Well, so out of a hundred, there's a lot to choose from, aren't there?
Ron: There are.
Gayla: First on my list though, is number 27, which is Sandi Patty and her husband, Don Peslis. The title of that podcast was Beyond Broken. I think the reason I love that is because they are so transparent about their story and how they started from brokenness, and yet how God redeemed their relationships and really are honest and open about what God has done in their lives and as a result of it, the changes in their blended family. And Ron, they have a ton of kids.
Ron: Yes, they do.
Gayla: Which just makes blended family life so more complicated—so much more.
Ron: Yes. And they didn't start in the best way, and they are very candid about that.
Ron: It set their relationship in a rocky direction and with their former spouses and so there was a lot to overcome.
Gayla: There was.
Ron: Great episode; I would recommend that.
Okay, so the first one I thought of is the very first episode.
Ron: This goes back, let me see, 99 episodes to number 1, Dave Bondeson. I interviewed him. He's a stepdad. You know, he had this little comment where it's about identity that has just stuck with me. He grew up and his dad used to say to him, “Son, you're a Bondeson and you're a Christian. We're a Christian family.” There was this sense of connectedness to this history that his family had so the last name and the type of people that they were, believers in Jesus, and boom, he finds himself waking up one day as a stepfather to a young lady/stepdaughter and her last name is not Bondeson. His whole life he dreamed of passing that on to his kids.
Ron: Now, he's going “I can't. She's not a Bondeson. She's a believer. I'm a believer. Like we have that thing/that connection there but what do I do with this reality that she has a different last name.” That really speaks to the challenge of building family identity in stepfamily relationships. You don't even have the same last name, figuratively
or literally and so he talked about that journey for him—how he had to try to maneuver within that and work with her. I just think that is an incredible concept and idea, and I would highly recommend it to our listeners.
Gayla: Oh yes. Mm-hmm. Yes, that's good.
Ron: You got another one?
Gayla: Yes. Another one I really like is one that Brian and Diane Fromme did about grief. Diane walked into that family after there had been the death of her husband's first spouse and so she really encountered some difficult dynamics in trying to parent grieving stepchildren.
Ron: Grieving specifically meaning that their parent had died.
Gayla: Correct; right.
Gayla: I just think there's a lot there for those who are in that specific situation in regard to grief and grieving step kids.
Ron: Good stuff. I think of number six on Challenging Co-Parent Situations and Parent Alienation. Gayla actually had a professional parent alienation coach tell me that was one of the best single things she's ever heard on the subject. It wasn't because of me, it's the people we interviewed and the quality of the material that they shared.
Ron: We still recommend that to people who write into us, who tell us they have problems with alienation going on between the households with the children. Highly recommend that to you. I just want to say, wow, alienation is emotional terrorism.
Gayla: I know.
Ron: It's just horrible. It needs to stop. We're trying to address that in a small way on that episode, but we also want to encourage and support the people who are living under it. So, if that touches your life or anybody you know, tell them about that one.
Gayla: Yes, that's a good one. And you know, another one, episode number 80 that was titled Bio-Mom/Stepmom Turnaround Story. If you live in blended families, you understand how contentious a bio-mom and stepmom relationship can be. That was really the subject of this episode was about yes, these two women started out in a very contentious relationship. And yet, they found a way to come together and really form a bond that benefited them, benefited their kids, benefited their husbands. I mean, it's just a great story of how you don't have to stay stuck in those relationships in a negative way.
Ron: Wow. Good stuff.
Gayla: Yes; that was number 80.
Ron: Hey, number nine, Stepparenting with Grace.
Gayla: Ooh yes.
Ron: Gayla's—I think it was your first one that you—
Gayla: It was.
Ron: —were on the episode and Randy was with you.
Gayla: He was, yes.
Ron: And he's just quality. I like Randy a lot, and he's really got good things to say. It's not like we were interviewing you and he was just tagging along. You both are so good together.
Gayla: Well, I mean, he's a stepparent also. We talked a lot about teenagers when we were in those hard teenager years. Randy's got some stories too, from his perspective.
Ron: He does. He does. That's a good one.
Okay, and then you and I both picked number 11 with Michele Cushatt. If you've not listened to that one, you really need to. Michele wrote a book, essentially the heart of the message is learning to live and make peace with the life you have.
Ron: Not the life you wish you had. That is so hard. I mean, everybody listening right now, I venture to say, has at least one disappointment in your life, if not a major significant disappointment.
Ron: You know, for me it's the loss of a child. I'd love to write that all over again and just write it out of the script.
Gayla: Of course.
Ron: I wouldn't want to live with that, so how do I make peace with this idea that it's true? I wake up 13 years later,13 and a half years later, we're, wow, we're coming up on 14, is still true. What do I do with that? Like, how do I submit that into the will of God every single day? That is a challenging, challenging thing.
So whether it's divorce or the death of a partner, and now you find yourself in a blended family situation for your kids, what do you wish were different for them? That's the heart of that conversation. Is that what you liked about it?
Gayla: Yes, and they're these situations that you can't fix. You can't change the fact that happened with Connor. And Michele has walked that road with other things, a three-time cancer survivor, and so she really talks about how she found contentment even in the midst of really hard circumstances. I think that's what it's about because in blended family life, we do walk through hard circumstances and we can't just keep living for, “Oh, it's going to get better. It's going to get better.” Maybe it will, maybe it won't. So how do you find contentment in today?
Ron: Again, episode number 11; Undone is the name of the episode. Let me encourage you, listener, to check that one out. I just want to say this about Michele. She doesn’t—no platitudes. She doesn't make it sound easy. She didn't just say, “Trust God, and it'll be okay.” No, it's real-life struggle and hard and in the midst of that, somehow finding faith. So good stuff.
Gayla: Oh, very good stuff. And then, the holiday one that we talked about earlier.
Ron: Yes, yes.
Gayla: That's another one.
Ron: It made your list?
Gayla: Yes; it's number 45 with Bob and Vicki Maday, and specifically about adult kids in blended family life. And they are also candid about they may not have done everything exactly right and how it impacts your family, but also how you work through those hard situations.
Ron: A lot of people might be surprised. One of our most listened to podcasts was with Ryan and Jessica Ronne, episode number 67 called Blended with Grit. Each of them lost their first spouse to a rare brain cancer. They each started blogging about the loss of their spouse, and a mutual friend who was reading both their blogs said, “Hey, you guys ought to meet.” They ended up getting married—
Gayla: Oh gosh.
Ron: —forming a blended family, and on the day they got married, they had 22 grandparents connected to their children.
Ron: You want to talk about a complex blended family situation. This was an amazing conversation with a family with a whole lot of stuff that they had to wrestle with.
Something about the widowhood; I don't know. A lot of people listened to that one and downloaded it. If you haven't heard it, you might want to give it a go. Episode number 67. You got one more?
Gayla: One more. Number 44 is all about a drift in marriage and how there's times that the differences that you and your spouse have might create drift—could be the stepfamily differences and changes and things that you're walking through, and at some point, you can become disconnected from your spouse. It really talks about just how to overcome that. Maybe if you're feeling emotionally abandoned in your marriage, how to work through that and how to overcome it.
Ron: Is that the conversation with Greg Smalley?
Gayla: Neil and—
Ron: Oh yes, the Josephsons.
Gayla: Yes; Josephsons.
Ron: Yes, from FamilyLife Canada; great conversation.
Ron: Here's what we want you to gain. We want you to be encouraged. We want you to feel equipped to do life, and we want you to find hope for your marriage and for your family. We believe blended families done well are redemptive, are healthy, are helpful—changes the generations from a pathway that perhaps was leading to fracturing and destruction to something that leads to life. We believe that, but we also believe that blended families done poorly leads to more heartache, chaos, and difficulty, in particular for kids in the next generation. We want to help you get it right. We want to help you live as best you can under the lordship of Jesus. And I think the payoff is well worth it.
Gayla: I think we do it from an angle that is real/real life from the trenches, perhaps you could even say, so to help normalize some of the things that go on in blended family homes.
Ron: Yes; we're not going to sugarcoat it.
Ron: Because that's not real life.
Ron: Well, if you're listening and this is the first time you've heard this podcast, this one's a little different/little odd but we're glad that you're here. We certainly want to encourage you to subscribe, to not miss anymore, and scroll through that list—99 of them—find one that/a topic that interests you and start listening. I would encourage you to do that. And if you got a friend, tell them about it because everybody can benefit from somebody coming alongside saying, “Hey, this helped me. Maybe this can help you as well.”
Gayla: And it's easy to find; FamilyLife.com/blended. You'll see all of our resources and podcasts and things there.
Ron: As always, the show notes will get you connected real easily. Just hit that subscribe button or listen online.
Okay, next time, we are going to have a special Christmas edition of FamilyLife Blended, and I hope you'll join me for a special guest. Looking forward to that conversation.
I'm Ron Deal; thanks for listening. Thanks to Gayla for being with me today.
Gayla: Good to be here.
FamilyLife Blended is part of the FamilyLife Podcast Network. Helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Gayla: See you next time.
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