From Broken to Beautiful
About the Guest
Jerry and Kate Angelo reflect on the issues that thwarted their first marriages, and remember with gratitude the circumstances that brought them back to God and to each other.
Bob: Jerry and Kate Angelo had both been previously married when they met, fell in love, and decided to form a blended family / to get married. They knew that there’d be challenges ahead, but they also began that blended family with a lot of hope.
Jerry: We were blending well in these moments, and the children were feeling comfortable calling me “Dad.” I think, at that moment, I started to notice some issues because the biological father of Kate’s boys was, I don’t think, very happy about that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Jerry and Kate Angelo about some of the challenges they faced as they tried to form a new family / a blended family. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve talked many times about how marriage can be a challenge. When you add to that the layer of a blended marriage / a blended family, the degree of difficulty for that marriage goes up significantly.
Dennis: Way up. I’d have to say I really owe Ron Deal a great deal of thanks around this—to help me understand and the team, here at FamilyLife / I mean, our speaker team that speaks at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways have all been sensitized to the needs of blended families. Ron has been working, here at FamilyLife, giving leadership to the blended family initiative and holds a summit each year. In fact, the summit is coming up here in a couple of months; right, Ron?
Ron: It will be coming up in Colorado Springs this year, September 29 and 30.
Dennis: And it’s a summit for those who give leadership to blended family ministry and churches.
Ron: —and anybody who wants to understand stepfamilies better—children’s ministry, pastors, youth pastors, senior ministers, all the way down to lay couples who are wanting to just make a difference in the lives of families.
Bob: Yes. If folks want information on the summit on stepfamily ministry and would like to attend, they can go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com; and the information is available there.
You brought a couple with you today because what we want to talk about—this couple has been living through.
Ron: Yes; exactly. FamilyLife Blended™, the ministry here of FamilyLife to stepfamilies, is heavily invested in helping families around the world and helping churches understand stepfamilies. Today, we have Jerry and Kate Angelo that are with us. Welcome to the broadcast.
Jerry: Thank you so much.
Kate: Thank you.
Ron: Jerry and Kate are founders and directors of Marriage Awakening in their hometown of Springfield, Missouri.
They speak at marriage enrichment events around the country and lead a local marriage enrichment ministry, right there, in the Springfield area. Again, we’re so glad that you’re with us today.
Kate: Thank you.
Bob: A blended marriage is a part of your background. You guys married in 2006—both of you had been previously married. Jerry, you grew up, going to church at the Catholic church. When you married, you thought, “This is for life,” because that’s what you’d learned; right?
Jerry: That’s exactly right.
Bob: So, how long did it take for you, in your first marriage, before you saw, “There are problems here, and I don’t know if we can make it”?
Jerry: Well, you know, there’s always ups and downs and struggles in your marriage, but we were married for about seven years—there were some struggles that we were going through. I had a very successful career in Tulsa. To businesses out there—it was a great boom in technology, followed by a subsequent bust. I became a victim, so to speak, of that.
There were lots of layoffs. The company that I was working for went Chapter 11. Anytime that there’s a financial strain on a marriage like that, there is definitely bound to be some issues.
Bob: Of course, the financial strain really was just a layer on top of what were already cracks in the foundation of your marriage; right?
Jerry: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: Had you been a workaholic?
Jerry: I’m sure at times I was; yes.
Dennis: So you hadn’t paid attention to your wife.
Jerry: Yes, I was definitely not being the godly man, and husband, and leader that I should have. Although, I think sometimes we get deceived and blinded in a culture, where we’re putting ourselves number one—we think that we’re really providing for our families when we’re really not.
Bob: At this point in your marriage, there wasn’t a real, solid, spiritual foundation to what was going on with both of you; right?
Jerry: Right. You know, although that Catholic background I had, there was always something missing there—that I had never really allowed the Lord to lead me the way that I should have been going.
Bob: Kate, you grew up with no spiritual foundation at all. In fact, you were in the foster system by the time you were a teenager.
Kate: Yes; that’s right. I didn’t have the same spiritual background, whether it was Catholic or anything else. For me, going to church was more of an escape from my home rather than getting a spiritual foundation for me.
Bob: So your first marriage—tell us that story.
Kate: We were married in a church, and we were very young. I was only 18 when we got married; but because I’d been living a difficult childhood, I think I felt like I was more adult than I really was. I ultimately say that neither one of us really had an idea of what to expect in marriage or what a marriage should look like. For me, my mother had been married multiple times, and I knew that didn’t want to have that; but I think that I worked toward that in my own power and not giving it over to God in any way.
Dennis: How long before that marriage really ran into trouble?
Kate: I would say that we ran into trouble probably about four or five years into it. It was mostly because we had been growing apart for some time—both of us working a lot of hours and really just trying to focus on earning money rather than focusing on our marriage in any way.
Bob: You had two kids by the time your first marriage ended. You told me earlier that it was the end of the first marriage that really kind of opened the door for you to begin to consider things about life and God that you’d never considered before.
Kate: Right. And actually for me, I kind of felt like, growing up as a foster child and having such an abusive background of my own, that I wasn’t really worthy of becoming a Christian because, to me, it was an image of what a Christian should look like—it should be people who stay married / people who grew up in church.
Anytime I had dealings with the church, it just felt like that was for other people and not for me. It wasn’t until after my divorce that I became a Christian.
Ron: You know, as I listen to Kate talk, I’m thinking of many conversations that I’ve had, Dennis, where people are talking about the shame of their life and their sense of unworthiness to even come to the throne of grace and receive grace.
One of the things we want people, listening to FamilyLife Today,to know is that—my goodness—our God is a redemptive God. He loves and forgives, and He receives us. He’s not afraid of using the difficulties of our life—like a divorce—to get a hold of us, to grab our attention, to draw us closer to Him, and to then knit us back together again. You know what I mean?—to rebuild us and take us from where we’re at.
When that shame keeps people from giving themselves to the Lord, it doesn’t need to be the case.
It can be that you finally turn that over to God. How did that work for you?
Kate: Well, for me, I think it was a continually running. I kind of ran from God a lot. I really just had Him giving me people in my life, who were planting seeds along the way; but I really didn’t have even one Christian friend that I could say would be a good mentor that I could go to and talk to. I had some friends who were Christians, but I wouldn’t necessarily think that they were giving me the best advice—so it wasn’t that interesting.
In fact, one of the reasons that I got divorced was a Christian person telling me: “God wants you to be happy. You’ll be happier when you’re divorced than you are right now. That’s what God wants for you—He wants you to be happy.” I fully believe that that’s a lie of the enemy. If someone is telling you that in your current marriage, you really need to get away from that person, and seek God, and find somebody who’s going to tell you the truth of the situation.
Dennis: I mean, that’s the exact opposite counsel you should be getting from someone who is a follower of Christ. The ministry He’s given us, as followers of Christ, is a ministry of reconciliation. He talks about it in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5, where it says, “All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself.” We should be all about helping people get reconciled to God and be a part of reconciling other people to one another.
But Ron, in a situation like this, it leaves two broken people hopefully open, at that point, to come to faith in Christ. If they do, there is hope for that situation; isn’t there?
Ron: Absolutely. You run to the end of your road and realize it’s a dead end. Sometimes, you’re open to God in ways you never were before; and obviously that was something that happened with you. Meanwhile, you have life going on. You have two kids—each of you had two kids—and now, as single parents, trying to do that / trying to do the co-parenting with your ex-spouses—
—there’s a lot of complexity to that; isn’t there?
Bob: Yes; I’m just wondering about 2005. You’re both single parents with two kids, you’re both trying to hold down jobs, and keep everything working together. There’s been something happening spiritually in both of your lives. In fact, you met at church; right?
Bob: Were you looking for another marriage when the two of you met one another?
Jerry: Definitely not at first.
Kate: But I think that’s an interesting question because Jerry and I were both preparing our hearts to be married again. It’s not that we were seeking someone in the normal way. I think we both were praying that—we wanted to do things God’s way. That’s what we were looking for—someone else who was willing to put God first in their life and in their marriage.
Bob: Ron, pick up on what you said because there is a difference between wanting to get married again and looking to try to get ready, should God open that door; right?
You know, one of the things we’ve said before on this broadcast is: “You know you’re ready to date again when you don’t need to date again—when you’re in that place of listening to God, and working on who He has called you to be, and just trying to grow in your character as a follower of Christ.” That’s a really neat place for something to happen in your life, but you’re not out there necessarily just chasing that left and right. You’re listening.
Dennis: Ron, that says “easy”—
Dennis: —but to someone, who’s a single parent, that does hard. I mean, you’re looking for someone to share the burden and the load with you.
Ron: Yes. And I imagine you guys can relate to that; right?
Jerry: You know, I like what you said earlier about how God can take the broken and make something beautiful out of that. It wasn’t exactly what you said, but I think that was the sense of what you were going for. For me, personally—my job was taken away from me / my finances. It was like one thing after the other was slowly being stripped from me. My marriage had ended—I still had the children at this time—but it was very difficult.
There was a time where I had $200 in my checking account. I had rent coming up, and it was Christmas. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know how I was going to meet the needs of my family. Here I was—coming from one of the best IT jobs in the region to nothing. The Lord allowed all of those things to be stripped from me, and that’s where He began to rebuild me from scratch.
Looking back today, it sounds silly; but I’m so thankful for that. He built me up from the ground up, and I wanted to do things His way. I had already tried it my way—which, again, I was deceived. I thought I was doing what I should have been doing, but I wasn’t putting the Lord first. I was really—I had a god in His place.
Bob: We’re talking with Jerry and Kate Angelo today, along with Ron Deal, as we talk about challenges that blended couples can face.
Kate, I’m just wondering—when you met Jerry, and you guys started to click and you thought, “Hmm, maybe this is what God has for us,”—do you think you understood the challenges that would be on the other side of that if the two of you were to become husband and wife?
Kate: Honestly, I don’t think that either one of us really anticipated what those challenges would be. I know that the obvious answer is, “Yes,” because it’s difficult for us to get our kids together to do things, or for us to go out on a date because I might have my children and he might have his children—and you don’t want to lose time with your children whenever you’re a single parent—you want to optimize the time that they’re not with you that you can do something for yourself. So those were the challenges, I think, that we looked at. It wasn’t until right around the time we were about to get married—a couple of months—that I could really see some of the other challenges rising up.
Bob: What kinds of things could you see?
Kate: I could see that, in some cases, the relationship that he had with his ex-wife was a little bit different / a little more volatile. There was still a lot of hurt. It was also a lot newer for him, as I had been divorced a little bit longer. I think they were still transitioning into learning how to co-parent together. I also think there was the distance from him with his children. I know we mentioned earlier that he would call his children every single night. I mean, sometimes, if we were hanging out together, he would step away to call his children, whether he was able to talk to them or not—they’re three and four years old. I was thinking, “What kind of guy would call his children, who can barely even talk on the phone?” and yet he did that. That showed me something in his character that I knew I could fall in love with.
Dennis: How old were your children at the time?
Kate: Our children are very close in age. I believe, by the time we got married, they were eight, seven, five, and four.
They’re very close in age.
Dennis: What were they thinking about all this dating that you two were doing?
Jerry: You know, we got along really well. It was a really fun time for all of us because we were all excited. There were a lot of new things going on, and the kids were able to play together. So we did a lot of fun things back then / again, still now—but we really wanted to make sure that we put our relationship first after God; but then we also were very involved with family and spending time with the children because it was valuable to us.
Bob: One of the things I’ve heard from couples in your situation is that they often are blind-sided by the reaction of the kids to a marriage because, during the dating / the courtship time, it all feels great / the kids are loving it. It just feels like that’s going to be: “Of all of the problems we might have, the kids aren’t going to be the problem.”
But it’s like you come home from the wedding and somebody flipped a switch in the kids. All of a sudden—Ron, am I right that this is what happens?
Ron: It’s a very common experience for people. Somewhere, in the first six months or so, they kind of hit head-on into those realities. Is that something you experienced?
Jerry: You know, for us, I think—instead of it being an instant light switch—for us, it may have been a little bit of a dimmer because, at first, all of us were excited. It was a great moment for all of us.
Kate and I—we actually, when we got married—we had a very small ceremony with our pastor and just a few friends, and then, we went on our honeymoon for a week or so. Then, when we came back, we had a family union celebration, where we invited all of our extended family. Instead of getting bridesmaids and groomsmen, our children participated in that event. We just wanted to be a positive example to others.
Things went really well in the beginning. We even sat down and talked to our kids and explained some things about how I was not going to try to replace anybody as their father and Kate was going to replace anybody as their mother——you know, “You can call us whatever is comfortable for you,” within reason and in a respectful way; right? [Laughter] But we really tried to set things at ease. For awhile, things went really well.
Dennis: And Jerry, you experienced something else with her former husband. Initially, he started out, seeming like you were on the same page—caring for his children that he had fathered—and yet, later on, it moved into more of a competitive spirit between you and him.
Jerry: Yes; that’s right. I had met him and talked with him a little bit, and even had a phone conversation on occasion. It was very positive. We were blending well in these moments.
The children were feeling comfortable calling me, “Dad.” I think, at that moment, I started to notice some issues on that side because the biological father of Kate’s boys, I don’t think, was very happy about that.
Bob: He was happy to have you in the picture; but pretty soon, it started to feel like you were muscling him out.
Jerry: Yes; you know, as we began to bond closer together, it was like maybe there was some tension there that—
Dennis: You’re speaking of your relationship with his kids.
Jerry: That’s right; yes. As we began to bond closer to one another, I think that there was a bit of a competition maybe taking place that I was unaware of. It really had an impact in our ongoing relationship with the children.
Bob: Ron, is there a way to anticipate—
Ron: No. [Laughter] You would think, “Yes; surely Ron has an answer that will help everybody anticipate that.”
No; actually, there’s a phenomenon we call the “divorce-activated dad” and the “remarriage-activated dad”—who sometimes is involved with his kid’s life and maybe peripheral to their life—but then, when a stepfather, like Jerry, comes into the scene—and, “Wow! My kids like him, and that feels like a threat to me,”—all of a sudden, they’re more involved, and more invested, and really sometimes invested in prohibiting their kids from really falling deeply in love with the stepfather. So the competition comes out of nowhere, sometimes.
Bob: There’s a lot more to explore in this, and we’re going to spend time this week doing that. This is deep water, Dennis.
Dennis: You know, I’m listening to your story; and I’m seeing you both smile. You guys are in the midst of a blended family, making it work, and actually ministering to other people. There can be a lot of really good things that come out of a blended family; but every time I set foot into this arena, talking about blended families, Ron, I pull back and I go, “This is a great apologetic for making your marriage go the distance if you possibly can.”
Now, in your situation, neither one of you knew Christ—and the reality and the hope of that occurring was probably not going to be great—but when you can get two people to bow their necks and their wills before Almighty God and make their marriage go the distance, that is the preferred way a house should be built.
Jerry: I think that’s the only way that we saw success—is to lay our lives down daily—because there were daily challenges along the way. We had to do that—we had to lay our lives down and put Him first because, when we did that, then He was able to work in our lives, and He was able to do the things that we were called to do, and He was able to add all those things unto us.
Bob: And then on top of that foundation, you can then employ strategies like you talk about in your book, Ron, The Smart Stepfamily—strategies that can help you live out your faith, live out your convictions, and live at peace because that’s part of what you’re aiming for here: “As much as it depends on you,”— Romans 12:18 says—“be at peace with all men.” I think that applies in blended family dynamics and situations.
Again, I want to commend to our listeners the books that Ron Deal has written—The Smart Stepfamily, The Smart Stepmom, The Smart Stepdad—all of these books provide you with wise biblical counsel on how you can build strong, healthy relationships in blended families. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how you can get copies of Ron Deal’s books. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s also a link, online, for those of you who would like to know more about the Angelos’ story.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’re interested in ordering the books by phone, our toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you can join us back tomorrow as we continue to talk about the challenges that blended families face, and especially some of the challenges that the kids face in a blended family situation. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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