This is a deleted chapter from The Smart Stepfamily Revised and Expanded Edition by Ron L. Deal (Bethany House Publishers,
2014). Used with permission. All rights reserved.
a copy of The
Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron L. Deal on Amazon today.
Promised Land Stories: Hope for the Journey
Ron L. Deal
This chapter shares the stories of a few who,
to one degree or another, are tasting the fruits of the Promised Land. Some are
written from a stepfamily member’s point of view; others are shared by me.
You’ll notice that experiencing Promised Land Payoffs does not mean the end of
hard work; family life presents challenges from the cradle to the grave no
matter what kind of family one has. Yet you’ll also notice in these accounts
that attaining some measure of stepfamily integration does create a spirit of
togetherness and love that makes dealing with life’s challenges much easier. I
offer these stories to inspire and encourage you. These are not perfect people,
just fellow travelers.
If, after reading these stories, you’d like
to read more written by readers, or perhaps you’d be willing to offer your own
encouragement to others by sharing your journey to the Promised Land go to www.SmartStepfamilies.com/go/PromisedLand.
You can write your story anonymously, if you prefer and it will be shared with
thousands of others who are themselves seeking hope and inspiration. You can
also Like Us on Facebook.com/SmartStepfamilies for daily doses of
encouragement, product updates, and conference information.
“Not Exactly What I Planned, But Life Has Been Good”
“God Has Taught Us a Lot”
“We’re Having Problems Making This New Family Work”
“A Work in Progress”
Shawn has one
daughter, twenty-one. His first wife, Andrea, died of cancer at a young age. At forty-six, Shawn married
Arlene, a divorced mother of two: Elisa, fifteen, and Bobbie,
eleven. While the stepfamily seemed to have a smooth beginning, it didn’t take
long for sides to be taken, and Shawn and Elisa’s relationship became quite
conflicted. Elisa’s rejection of Shawn wasn’t entirely personal (very often the
rejection of a stepparent has more to do with the past than the present).
Nevertheless, Shawn found it difficult not to feel wounded every time she would
show her opposition. After much prayer and consideration, Shawn felt it
necessary to reach out to Elisa and communicate his wishes and desires for
His letter to Elisa illustrates a balanced
understanding of stepfamily life at work. Shawn shows great compassion and
objectivity, effectively communicating his position in relationship to Elisa.
The letter didn’t magically transport Shawn and Elisa to the Promised Land.
Rather, the letter represents an intentional effort to keep stepping in the
right direction. Observe perseverance at work, listening and understanding
being conveyed, and patience winning out over pressure.
We’ve never had the chance to sit down and
share how we feel about my becoming a part of your household and vice versa.
Since I’m not as good with words as you, this letter will share some of my
thoughts and feelings so you will have the chance to understand more of where I
am coming from.
First of all, I want you to know that it
would have been my desire for your dad and mom to be together and that you and
Bobbie grow up in a normal family relationship. That is the way God intended
it, and it is the way that human beings were meant to live. But that is not
reality; and it is reality that each of us must live with and function in.
I wish my first wife, Andrea, were still here
as well and that Janice [Shawn’s daughter] still had her mother to lean on and
enjoy. But that is not the case. She is buried at a cemetery in Ohio. What is
true is that Janice’s mom would want her to go on with her life and become all
she can be. With God’s help, good lives can come from bad situations. God has
given Janice many friends and stand-in mothers to help her go forward.
And I am thankful that God has given me a new
companion, that your mom has joined my life, and that we have each other to
lean on, to enjoy, and to build a new life with. We are stronger together than
trying to make it alone on our own. And we can help you grow up to be all you
can be better together than if your mom continued to struggle alone. I think
you really know that already.
Given the realities that we have, here are
some things I want for you.
I want for you to continue to have a loving
and caring relationship with your father, Gary. He is your dad, and you should
enjoy all that you can with him. He loves you and has done a good job of
showing you that love. I know you love him too.
I want for you to continue to have the
special relationship I see with your mom. My presence in her life should be one
that helps her to love, support, and develop you. I am not here to take her
away from you.
I want for the four of us (you, Bobbie, your
mom, and me) and Janice (when she is here) to share this nice house and the
life we have been given in a way that makes us all we can be—sharing, caring,
supporting, and just enjoying life. This is not a combat zone. It is a refuge.
There are plenty of other obstacles and enemies out there in the world. I once
told a junior high school student that she needed to figure out who her friends
were. All of us in this household are friends, and we will stand together
against those outside who would tear us down.
I want to be there for you and to help you in
whatever ways I am able. At the same time, I cannot allow you to “machine gun”
me, and I will not voluntarily stand in the aim of your gun-sights. I really
believe your goals are the same as those of your mom and me. If we can get on
the same page, we can all get on with God’s plan for our lives.
Most of all, I want for you to find a place
to stand in the midst of the chaos, uncertainty, and instability that life has
placed you in. I once had the opportunity to spend a weekend with a wise man who
had written a book called A Place to Stand. In
it he explained that only when we place our lives in God’s hands and follow the
path of Jesus can we really stand up to the difficulties that come our way. So
I want for you a close relationship with God. I want you to be able to “cast
your cares on Him, because he cares for you.” A guy named Peter once wrote that
to some folk whose families were being torn apart and whose lives had
disintegrated. He promised them that God cares for them and that he would sustain
them and guide them through the chaos. I want you to know the same peace that
was available to those he was writing to.
Finally, Elisa, I
want you to become all that you can be. You have been given health, a very
intelligent brain, a wonderful mother, a caring dad, an ability to articulate
your thoughts that is well beyond your years, a talent for playing music and
participating in the arts, a natural aptitude for cooking, and a tender heart
that cares for animals like Aggie and people like your parents and your
friends. Your mom has begun the process of polishing some of the rough edges in
your life. These include some of the social skills such as your behavior in
school and keeping an orderly room. Please try to view these as areas that will
help you in the long run, even if they seem harsh or unreasonable at the
Elisa, I do not
believe that God has presented the challenges you have faced already in life to
have you fail. He does not want evil in your life, but he has allowed some
difficulties to strengthen you for doing his purpose in the future. I want for
you to trust that he is capable, that he does care for you . . . and then I want for you to choose to
behave in ways that result in positive growth rather than ways that are
destructive to yourself and others.
If you do these
things, you will be happier and you will be able to better care for those
around you. God has given you the
responsibility of extending love, affection, and care to others—beginning with
your dad, mom, and brother. I hope you will choose to rise above the pain, to
know joy, and to become who you were meant to be. Another wise man has written
that our problems are seldom caused by us, but they are ours. And it is in the
way we step up to these problems that determines who we are, who we become, and
how others view us.
Few of us can
handle all of life alone. I can help you, but you must first invite me in. I
will be here if and when you choose to do that.