About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Sandi Patty and her husband Don Peslis tell their story to Ron Deal, and how God has redeemed even their mistakes for His glory.
Bob: More than 25 years ago, when Sandi Patty started a blended family, she had no way of knowing the challenges that would be ahead for her.
Sandi: You know, blended families are all born out of loss—whether it's the death of a spouse and remarriage or death of a marriage and a remarriage—it's always born out of loss. For our situation, it was also born out of brokenness. We have reasons, but there's no blame that lays with anyone but the two of us.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 2nd. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We'll hear today from Sandi Patty and her husband, Don Peslis, about what it's like to start a marriage and a family when both of you are in the middle of a season of great brokenness. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Those of our listeners, who are
of a certain age—[Laughter]
Ann: That's a good way to put it. [Laughter]
Bob: —will recognize the name, “Sandi Patty.” I mean, I remember the first time I heard Sandi Patty on the radio. I thought, “What a voice!”—just amazing. I saw her in concerts throughout the ‘80s. By that time, she was already a Grammy and Dove award-winning artist. And then, all of a sudden, at the beginning of the ‘90s, things got derailed for her; because there was a divorce; there was infidelity; and her image, her career, her public persona—everything—
Bob: —it did get tarnished.
Bob: And a lot of people—that may be the last they've heard of Sandi Patty, when that happened. We're going to hear an update.
Dave: —sort of “The rest of the story.”
Bob: Yes; “The rest of the story”; yes.
Bob: People of a certain age will recognize that reference as well. [Laughter]
Dave: They'll remember that.
Bob: Our own Ron Deal, who gives leadership toFamilyLife Blended®, had the opportunity to visit, not long ago, with Sandi and her husband, Don Peslis, who have formed a blended family out of the ashes of what happened in Sandi's life and career. They talked about this on Ron's podcast, which is called FamilyLife Blended®.
If you're in a blended family, or know someone who is, and you're not yet listening to the FamilyLife Blended podcast, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; Ron's got a number of episodes—these are so helpful/so good. Ron spent time with Don and Sandi,
walking through what happens whena blended family is formed in the middle of shame,
and guilt, and condemnation that is all very public.
Ann: I think you'll appreciate their openness and honesty.
[FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Ron: Don, Sandi, you know, this isn’t true for everyone in a blended family by any means; but sometimes folks in a blended family, their family came about because of less-than-ideal circumstances—sometimes it was an unhealthy or unwise choice; sometimes it was a sinful choice—but we believe and we know that there is hope in Christ; there is forgiveness in Christ. Like all sin, there is redemption beyond our worst moments.
Now, having said that, you guys got started off on the wrong foot; is that fair to say?
Sandi: Yes; I mean, definitely. We’ve often said blended families are all born out of loss—whether it’s the death of a spouse and remarriage or death of the marriage and a remarriage—but it’s always born out of loss.
For our situation, it was also born out of brokenness. We have reasons, but there’s no blame that lays with anyone but the two of us. As we were traveling on the road together and just developed a friendship, that friendship became much more than it should be outside of marriage. There was so much that I loved, watching Don with kids; and he just loved on my kids as we traveled. There was just so much respect. I didn’t understand boundaries like I do now, and we just found ourselves in a situation that we just never thought we would find ourselves in.
As our marriages/other marriages were ending, we overlapped the process. I don’t smirk at that lightly; I’m just—it’s/these are hard words to say—
Sandi: —for both of us. But I think that Don and I want to share pieces of our story that can encourage, not excuse other people or give them an easy out, but to encourage them that, in their brokenness, they’re not alone. There are people who have walked ahead of them and can offer some words of advice.
Sandi: A friend of mine once said, “If you’re going to make a mistake, at least make a new one. Learn from ours”; you know? [Laughter]
Ron: Yes; learn from other people.
Even now, Sandi, you were telling me—25 years you guys have been married—
Sandi: Twenty-five; yes.
Ron: —yes; it’s still difficult talking about that season of your life. Don, is it still hard for you?
Don: It is hard, because it’s always hard—when the kids were little, we talked about: “When you mess up, fess up,”—that’s a great thing. It's so hard because the enemy wants us, when we mess up, to keep us away from redemption. Really, the Lord is saying He's the author of making things—and taking broken relationships and broken things and making something beautiful come out of that.
Absolutely, Ron, we could’ve—hindsight, I don’t know, I wish I had said it—but hindsight’s always 20/20. It’s really great when things can have a proper ending and new things can have a proper beginning, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Absolutely, as we look back—and if couples find themselves in this, as we did—you know the last thing we want you to do is stay away from the church or the Lord; because He wants us to bring ourselves and our process, and He can help sift through, with love, all of that.
Yes, it is difficult; but yet, Ron, it's not because to say God wasn't there in the midst of that—He was there and redeeming, even through the roughest of times. Does that make sense?
Ron: It makes a lot of sense and, really, that is so important for people to remember.
One of the things I really appreciate about you guys, and your willingness to talk about this, is because I often find—well, everybody who’s honest looks in the rearview mirror and says, “Man, I have blown it so many times.” In owning that, we also submit ourselves to the redemptive work of Jesus.
Ron: Yet, we can hold shame over ourselves. I think that’s really unfortunate.
I love that we’re talking about you guys, 25 years later: faithful, loving, committed to one another, moving forward/both deeply involved in ministry and the circles God has put you. Your children are involved in ministry. All kinds of things are happening with them now as adults. You can hold your head up.
Sandi: Yes; I’m going to say, “Yes—?”
Sandi: Because it’s so easy to pull that shame back out from the foot of the cross. How do we pull the story that can encourage without pulling the shame that keeps us down?
There are just things that I wish I/we both wish—and not just in this situation but other—I wish I could’ve said something differently, just this week, to one of my kids. I just/I said something that was not meant at all to be insensitive; yet the minute I said it, it was like, “I wish I could take that back”; I can’t take that back.
All I can do—and I think this was what Don and I have really tried to do—is when God really finally got our attention and said we need to take care of some stuff first if we’re even going to move on. That was to walk through, along with our church body in Indiana, a biblical steps of restoration.
The recognition: first, you have to own it/just go, “Yes, I recognize…”
Then you have to repent; that doesn't mean just saying, “I’m sorry.” It means changing; turn around.
Then there’s restitution. I think, a lot of times, we forget about restitution—going to people—saying the words that you’ve got to say. We had quite a list of people, separately and individually together, we went to.
Then reconnecting: reconnecting with a group of people, who are going to hold you accountable/who are going to walk with you. Walking with someone doesn't always mean you agree with everything they’ve done. It means you’re going to stand with them; you’re going to encourage them to just do the next right thing.
Then the fifth one is restoration closure. That’s the hard one for me; because there does come a time, when you’ve done all that, to leave it at the foot of the cross. I think that’s what I was talking about; it’s: “When do we pick the story up without picking the shame up?” Sometimes that’s a very deliberate picture image in my mind. Especially when I’m tired or I’ve been on the road, those get really sticky together.
Even coming—to be real honest—even coming into this interview and chat with you today, I’ve found that just in a few moments I’ve had to just stop and say, “Just pick up the story; don’t pick up the shame. If I don’t believe that God has forgiven me in this, I don’t believe He forgives.”
Bob: We're going to step in here. We've been listening to an excerpt from Ron Deal's FamilyLife Blended podcast—a conversation he had with Sandi Patty and her husband, Don Peslis, talking about their blended family.
Of course, many of our listeners know Sandi from her recording career and her concerts. She was very transparent here about the reality of a marriage that began in less-than-desirable circumstances and a marriage where it's born out of a cauldron of shame. You just think about the impact—if you're walking in, trying to form a new marriage, and there's this mantle of shame that you're carrying with you every day—hard to start a relationship like that.
Ann: Not only that, but even to walk through that with your kids—knowing the shame/the embarrassment—that's a heavy thing to carry. But I love her line: “Just pick up the story; don't pick up the shame.”
Dave: You know, she's so honest there at the end. I think sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself.
Dave: I mean, as hard as it is to forgive someone that deeply hurt you—to look in the mirror and carry that shame and realize that God died for that/He removes it—you have to appropriate that to live it.
Bob: We're going to listen to a second excerpt from Ron Deal's conversation with Don and Sandi Peslis. Again, this is part of the FamilyLife Blended podcast series. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to listen to this entire episode, or listen to other episodes from Ron's podcast. In this second segment, Don and Sandi talk about processing shame and how to think about it correctly/think about it biblically.
[FamilyLife Blended Podcast]
Don: I was in full-time ministry at the time and really took a time—from ‘92 to 2012—until my current senior pastor, Marty Grubbs, and I sat down. I was on the 35th floor of the Petroleum Club—had come to Oklahoma City for an entirely different vocation—but God was a part of all of that process/that redemptive 20 years really. I likened it to putting on a letter jacket with a big “A” on it. The enemy/the enemy stood there every day, saying, “Here’s your letter jacket.” As you’re getting ready to go to work, “Now let’s put our jacket on/our jacket of shame.” Because he can keep us down.
Don: If we don’t tell our story/if we don’t share with others, that’s the only place God’s redemptive, miraculous grace can be seen. If the enemy—do the math; if the enemy keeps us from sharing, and keeps us from talking, and keeps us with the jacket of shame on—nobody hears, currently, about all of us that are broken/what God has done for all of us to redeem us.
It took Marty Grubbs to say to me in 2012, “Hey, Don, why don’t you stop putting on that jacket?”
We grade sin—
Don: —we’ll say: “Well, that’s an A+ sin, “Oh, well, that’s a B-,” “We’re going to give him a C+ on that.” Any missing of the mark is a missing of the mark. If the enemy can keep us—I’m not minimizing here—but I’m saying the light is better; the light is good. “Let’s walk in the light as He is in the light.
Ron: That’s right.
Don: “Then the blood of Christ can cleanse us”; you see.
Ron: At the end of the day, what you're talking about is what everybody listening has to do, day in and day out, about whatever our sin narrative is.
Don: Oh, every one of us, Ron.
Ron: But I am just sitting here, so grateful that you’re doing what you’re doing, even as we're talking.
I just have to say—the secular world of neuroscience, in the last ten years, has studied shame a lot. What all the experts have come down to is exactly what you guys have just said and demonstrated for us right now. They talk about: “You tell your story”; right? You guys said you have to recognize, and you have to take responsibility for it. You have to verbally tell the narrative; that’s called confession; okay? You have to recognize what's there and the pain that it brings you. You can’t run away from it; you got to own it; you got to deal with it; you got to repent; you got to change your heart; you got to make restitution; you got to reconnect to a community.
Community is so important to helping alleviate shame when others are coming along and affirming us—like your pastor saying, “Take off your coat; it’s time. You can do this. It’s alright; we’re with you. You’re worthwhile; you’re valuable,”—all of that stuff is so important.
Then one of the biggest pieces they talk about is just practicing putting down the shame.
Ron: I just watched Sandi do that; she just said, “I have to remind myself, even now—
Don: That’s right.
Ron: “—that I can leave it there, and it’s not mine to pick up.” Everything God has told us is exactly what we need to do to wrestle with what we feel is leftover from the past.
Sandi: Indeed; and when Paul says, “Putting the past behind and looking towards what is ahead,” I really think that he’s not meaning: “Just forget it,” “Minimize it,” “Bury it”; because we bury it alive if we do that. [Laughter] But to put it in its proper place: understand it.
We can give you a lot of reasons/I can give you a lot of reasons that I was not able to make healthy, good choices. They’re still not excuses—
Don: No, no.
Sandi: —we have to understand, though, why; so we don’t do them again—putting our past behind so we can move ahead.
Ron: I had a thought, a minute ago, as you were talking. I think regret is different than feeling like God can’t love you, but sometimes those get confusing to us. Like we can have regrets over something we did/something we said in the past. It’s different when we say that mistake makes it impossible for God to love us.
Sandi: Yes; my dear friend, Sheila Walsh—she said something really powerful, and it’s about guilt and shame—says, “Guilt tells us we’ve done something wrong. Shame says we are the something wrong.” I think that’s kind of what you’re saying, Ron—is there is normal conviction of the Holy Spirit of that uneasiness when we know we’ve hurt someone—that we’ve got to have a conversation—and then there’s that: “I am just unworthy to even be in the conversation about what it means to be loved.”
Ron: Right; that’s what we put on ourselves; that’s the enemy talking to us—
Ron: —where we’re now doubting God’s ability to love in spite of us. We’re now doubting God’s ability to forgive, based on our past. We’re listening more to what others are saying and what the enemy is saying to us than we’re listening to what God has promised to do.
It’s so easy to do that! I think every one of us can relate to that, especially people who are trying to walk in the light, like you really are wanting to do what’s right. The minute you cross that line into, “I’m now unworthy; I’m unforgivable,” we’ve lost sight, really, of Christ’s sacrifice.
Sandi: Yes; somebody asks—I get asked a lot in interviews: “What would make my life richer?”—it’s always the same answer: “That I really, really believe, when God’s Word says, ‘I love you with an everlasting love,’ that He just means that, period.” If I really woke up every day, how would I live my day out differently if I really believed He was not going to stop loving me? I think I’m closer to that than I used to be, but I’m still not there.
Bob: Well, again, we've been listening to an excerpt from Ron Deal's FamilyLife Blended podcast—a conversation he had with Sandi Patty and her husband, Don Peslis, about their marriage, about the brokenness that was there at the beginning, and about God's healing work in their marriage. That message of hope is a message that a lot of marriages need today.
Ann: As I listened to Sandi, I was struck by how we are so conditional in our love for one another, that it really is hard to understand and grasp God's unconditional love for us.
Dave: I thought the same thing; I thought, “His grace is truly amazing.” I have to agree with her; I don't know if I understand it fully, either. I've been walking 40-some years and it's like: “Am I really, really that loved in the middle of my brokenness?” And the answer is: “Yes.” If [you] lived that, you’d be so free—
Dave: —you know?—and you'd run to the Savior, because you know He's smiling.
Bob: And I think of the Apostle Paul's prayer, in Ephesians, Chapter 3, [verses 17-19], where it says: “…that we, being rooted and grounded in love, would have the strength to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth. And to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. That you can be filled with all the fullness of God.” That would be our prayer for every listener today.
In fact, I hope our listeners will go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to hear Ron Deal's entire conversation with Sandi Patty and Don Peslis and hear them talk about how they have come to a place, where they can now celebrate what God has done in their marriage by His grace, in spite of how it all began. And hear more about the blending of their two families with a house that eventually had eight kids, including three seven-year-olds at the same time. [Laughter] Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for information about Ron Deal's FamilyLife Blended podcast and a link to this particular episode.
There's also information on our website about an event that is going on right now; in fact, it's been going on yesterday and today—the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, which we've been doing online this year—people have been watching from all over the world, listening to speakers like Ron and Nan Deal, Ed Stetzer, Laura Petherbridge, Rob Bugh, Ted Lowe—others, who are joining us this year—to help equip people to more effectively know how to minister to people in blended families.
You can connect with this event today and have access to what has already happened. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to register for the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry. When you register, you'll not only be able to join what's going on live today, but you'll be able to review what's already happened. Go back and view it again. In fact, you'll have access
to all of this content for a full year. Find out more about the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry happening right now. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or call us if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-358-6329—that's 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
And by the way, thank you to those of you who make FamilyLife Today possible. You also make events like this Summit on Stepfamily Ministry possible. All of our events, our resources, our website, our broadcast, our podcast—everything we do at FamilyLife—is fueled by people, like you, who say, “This kind of practical biblical help and hope for our marriages really does matter.” Thank you for your support of this ministry.
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We hope you have a great weekend. Hope that somehow/someway you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. And I hope you can join us on Monday when we're going to talk with Mez McConnell. He lives in Scotland, and he shares with us what it was like for him growing up in a home where he pretty regularly knew his stepmother was going to be physically abusive toward him. We'll talk to Mez on Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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