Grace for the Blended Family

“Why am I doing this?” was the question that continuously ran through my mind as my fingers went on typing away. I had enjoyed a calm Christmas Eve with my family – as calm as Italians get that is, and now I was alone in my condo, late at night sitting at the computer signing up for an online dating service. I felt possessed – completely and utterly taken over. This was not something I was interested in. (Quite frankly, I thought people who tried online dating were some sort of desperate, if not completely desperate and I considered myself nothing of the sort.) And how about the fact that since hearing Elisabeth Elliot’s speaking on Christian Talk Radio, I had such a strong conviction to let God bring me a husband if He so desired, not pursue one myself?

My family

(L to R) Shawn, William, Carrie, Morgan, Nathan, Makya

What in the world am I doing?

The question continued, both in my head and spoken aloud to an empty condo and even directly to God Himself. As the questioning increased, my fingers continued typing. My life was complete – I had a job I loved and was good at, I had just been cast in one of my bucket-list roles as an actress, I had time for my friends, for rest, for exercise…What in the world am I doing?  I had been married, I had been devastated, I had been broken. I wasn’t sure I even wanted to ever get married again. What in the world am I doing? I kept asking and kept typing.

The reality is, I WAS totally and utterly possessed. I was totally and utterly possessed by a Holy Spirit that was moving in a way I could not comprehend at the moment. I was totally and utterly possessed and moved by the prayers of people I had never met praying for God to bring a wife to a man, around the corner, that I had never met.

I had no idea what I was doing, but God surely did and despite the fact that I was inept in fully figuring out the dating-website protocols……or that that man with all the prayers hadn’t even been using the site and was simply waiting it out until it expired, by New Year’s Day that same man was spending a belated family Christmas “Day” with my family and five months later we were married. People said “It’s about time!” About time????? Were they crazy? Possibly, but that is beside the point – the point is that it was about time – It was about God’s timing and those praying, knew when it was right.

God is full of surprises and in the past four and half years since I met that man, Shawn Jones, my husband, God hasn’t failed to remind me of both His goodness and “Godness”. I have enjoyed the fun surprises He has thrown our way – like our children. With my husband came the blessing of my two bonus-children. I knew the first time I met them that they were mine and the truth is that sometimes there are moments I forget that they are not also biologically mine!

After a scary-surgery-gone-wrong in 2009 and the simultaneous finding of severe endometriosis, I was told I would only ever have a minute possibility of having children – and only after serious intervention. I made it clear to Shawn, on our first date (because that’s how I work), that I was not about the business of trying to make children, so if he wanted more kids, he needed to know that likely wouldn’t be happening with me. He was content, as was I, and I rejoiced in the two amazing kids God gave me with the gift of Shawn. I can’t say it surprised me to build a sweet relationship with our Makya  who was only five when we met, but to be able to say, with full honesty, that same thing about Nathan, now fifteen…’s priceless. As he grows into a man more and more each day, I am touched by God’s blessing of him in my life and the sweet surprise our relationship is. The surprises didn’t stop there – in fact, God has a great sense of humor, doesn’t He? Our honeymoon surprise, William, just turned three and although I still haven’t gotten over the shock of being pregnant with him….his baby sister turned six months the same week. Yes….God is full of surprises. William’s addition to our family was a beautiful bow that tied us together….each of us looking at him and seeing pieces of ourselves. He was an unexpected gel we didn’t even know we needed or wanted. And Morgan…well, Morgan is here, Makya says to keep us girls from being outnumbered.

Our family is beautiful and yet, like we know real beauty is – it is imperfect. Blended families are as unique as snowflakes. They may look or feel the same at a quick glance or touch, but when viewed under a microscope, no two are truly identical. Here at home, our big kids are simply “my kids” and the term “step-mom” is only used as a joke when we talk about how wicked of a step-mom I am…the good “wicked”. Friends, neighbors, even my aging grandmother sometimes forget that we’re a blended family. Unfortunately, there are ongoing reminders that we truly are, in fact, a blended family…There are reminders that we don’t have the blessing of having been married to each other first or seeing our children raised under one roof by their two Christian parents. These reminders come in simple ways like considering others when we schedule a big trip or including others when it’s time for a school program or parent-teacher conference. Sometimes the reminders are bigger, tougher….like when our children aren’t all home, when I can’t check on them for a couple nights or know exactly where they are or what they’re doing. The reminder came so harshly, years ago, when Makya broke my heart saying “If you and Daddy get a divorce”, as if it is as much a possibility to her as spaghetti for dinner. The reminder comes when I think about the day William fully understands where his siblings go when they’re not here and begins to question if that will ever happen to him. There are reminders in the clothes my big kids sometimes wear, in the music they hum, in the places and people they visit and discuss -reminders that challenge the very core of my human and mommy heart. And yet,….though my heart is challenged by these because of our family situation….the challenge itself is not really all that unique and certainly not new for me.

I have always battled with the desire to be in control of myself and my family – to plan and see my wonderful designs come to fruition. I have always struggled to let those I love go and trust that God’s love and goodwill for them is so much greater than my own – that it will be enough – that it will be more than enough – that it will be perfect. These struggles have always been an issue for adult me. Sharing my children is spiritually an incredibly difficult challenge and yet, it is just the mirror God is using in my life at this time to show me my own imperfections, my own weaknesses, my own desperate need for more of Him. If it wasn’t this challenge, this mirror, God would use another.

Just as I asked myself that late December night at the computer “What am I doing?, I ask myself the same now. Lord, what am I doing? If our children were here 100% of the time instead of 60% or 70%, would that really make it all better? Would it mean they won’t face temptation? Would it mean they won’t face fears? Would it fully guarantee their constant safety, protection and health? Do I not trust you, Lord, to hold them wherever they are – even if it is not here where I can see their faces?

What am I doing, Lord?   

I limit what You can and will do in our imperfect situation. What would You do in me if I thanked You more often for the fact that my children are seeing a different way of living at this age,  side-by-side with our home, and then get to come back here where issues can be discussed and we can temper the differences seen with God’s truths and desires for our lives? What if I trusted, in advance, that You, Lord, have this under control? What if I acted on the truth that my 60% with Your 100% will always be better than my 110%? 

What am I doing Lord? It was a place of utter possession – utter submission that brought me into this crazy beautiful blended family….and only by throwing myself back into that place each day will I see the beauty You can make of this challenge.  

LOVE, Carrie Jones