Love Renewed in a Blended Family
About the Guest
Is your marriage in a "death spiral"? That's how Moe and Paige Becnel describe the first four years of their blended-family marriage. They were at the bottom and ready to give up. But in that place of humility, God began to work to restore hope and life to their fractured family. Joining the Becnels is blended family expert, Ron Deal, who encourages couples to find their hope in Christ.
Is your marriage in a “death spiral”? That’s how Moe and Paige Becnel describe the first four years of their blended-family marriage. Joining the Becnels is blended family expert, Ron Deal.
Love Renewed in a Blended Family
Bob: Forming a blended family can be really tough. Moe Becnel says he and his wife, Paige, were pretty sure they were ready when they started their stepfamily.
Moe: It started off with a real good honeymoon. We went off for a week. When we came back home, there was a big banner that our kids made. They hung it off the balcony in our home. It said, “Welcome home, Mom and Dad.” Wow! Could it get any better than that? Well, it didn’t. [Laughter] It went downhill from there.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, May 16th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Every blended family starts off with great expectations; but it’s not unusual for those families to have some hiccups, along the way. We’ll meet one couple today and find out how God met them in the middle of their challenges. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We don’t often get to have a live studio audience join us when we record FamilyLife Today, but today’s program was actually recorded Valentine’s week when we were onboard the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. We have a number of our cruisers joining us today; right? [Applause]
And we also have a good friend and colleague, Dennis, who is here with us and has been ministering onboard the cruise this week.
Dennis: He has. Ron Deal joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Ron, welcome back.
Ron: Always good to be here.
Dennis: He has been ministering in the area of blended families. He heads up our blended family initiative and has been involved in creating material and resources and speaking on this subject for nearly three decades; right Ron?
Ron: Yes, and I’m only 22. [Laughter]
Dennis: That’s great.
Bob: And you’ve got something coming up in—what is it?—early October—a special event that‘s taking place in Washington, DC.
Ron: We have our second Summit on Stepfamily Ministry that will take place in Washington, DC, October 2 and 3—one day /a day-and-a-half—before the I Still Do™ event that, of course, we would love for our listeners to join us at. The Summit on Stepfamily Ministry will be a gathering of ministry leaders, from around the country—some of whom are doing stepfamily ministry and others who are just beginning to enter into this realm.
I said our “second summit.” Bob, you know, and Dennis, you were both at our first summit in Dallas, this last year, in September. It was an amazing event. People came together around this idea that blended families can be homes of redemption. God is doing amazing things in people’s lives and taking—when life throws you a curve—that God is stepping in and taking that family and moving them to a place where they are changing and redeeming back the next generation—this generation. They’re having marriages that are strong and stable. So, the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry is about encouraging church leaders to understand that and how to minister to couples in that scenario.
Dennis: I really want to encourage anybody who’s involved in stepfamily/blended ministry in churches or ministries, all around the country, to come join us.
Ron: Pastors are getting onboard—youth ministries, children’s ministries—because it affects everybody.
Dennis: It does.
Ron: And they’re joining, and they’re coming to the Summit.
Dennis: Would you introduce our guests on the broadcast today?
Ron: I would be happy to, Dennis. You know, at that Summit, Paige Becnel was able to join. Her husband was not able to be with us at that Summit. Their story—the reason we’re having them on FamilyLife Today today is that, to me, they represent everything that we would desire on behalf of blended families. They have a story of coming together with five children—and having some rough times, turning the corner, repairing, following God through the difficulties—and, then, coming out on the other side, redeemed—
Ron: —victorious!—and now in ministry. They’ve been in stepfamily ministry for 15 years. They’ve written a book, God Breathes on Blended Families. What’s more hopeful than that?
Please welcome with me, to FamilyLife Today, Moe and Paige Becnel. [Applause]
You guys—talk to me about that journey that you had—the early days—and kind of waking up one day. When I talked to you about this, one time, you said, “The first four years were the death spiral.” Ohhh—tell me; what happened?
Moe: Yes; yes. Well, it started off with a real good honeymoon. We went off for a week. When we came back home, there was a big banner that our kids made. They hung it off the balcony in our home. It said, “Welcome home, Mom and Dad.” Wow! Could it get any better than that? Well, it didn’t. [Laughter] It went downhill from there.
It was the way she was treating my children and the way I was treating her children. There was harshness. You know, there were times when I would be talking to her kids. I would just be telling them something; and they would say, “Quit yelling at us.”
I said: “I’m not yelling. This is yelling!!” You know? I would just give them a yell-tone, you know? To me, I was not yelling; but they were sensing that I had harshness in me. We just kept on trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. It was just not working. The frustrating thing is that we had been saved. I was saved 11 years. She was saved about 8, when we got married.
We had been in church and even serving in ministry. When I met Paige, she was teaching women’s Bible study. I was involved in several ministries. We were doing good stuff; but, then, when we got married, we weren’t doing the right stuff. That was—we weren’t even serving in our home.
Bob: Paige—was the parenting-piece—was that where most of the marital conflict was happening for you guys, early on?
Paige: Really it was.
With blended families, it’s always the children that the adults put in the middle that then affect your marriage. Instead of looking at us first and taking responsibility for our roles, as an adult and as the parent—and as the husband/wife role—instead of looking at each other and saying, “Okay, what are we doing wrong?” we kept throwing the kids in the middle: “It’s your child!” “It’s him.” “It’s her.” “Deal with your—it is not my problem.” “Don’t put my kids in this.” It was always coming back to that.
Bob: Yes. And, Ron, that’s pretty typical; right?
Ron: It is typical. As a matter of fact, we talked about that on the last Love Like You Mean It cruise—
Ron: — “Pillars of Stepparents’ Success.” One of the things that’s very unique about marriage ministry to blended family couples is we can’t just talk about what happens between couples—
—as in communication skills, and managing conflict, and one-on-one kind of conversations, and qualities of marriage. We have to talk about the parenting piece because of what she just said. It becomes an easily dividing factor, where husbands and wives—a parent and a step-parent—sometimes, they’re both stepparents—have great intentions and goodwill toward all the children but, somehow, end up on opposite sides.
When you’re on opposite sides around parenting, it reinforces this idea that: “Okay. I’m an outsider. You’re an insider with your kids, and we’re not together.” When parenting is divided, the marriage is divided.
Moe: Let me add one more thing. It wasn’t just the children issue. It was the fact that we thought we were ready for marriage when we married each other. We had waited two to three years after our divorces. We were feeling confident and comfortable; but, when we came together, some comments that I would make to Paige would remind her of pain from her former spouse and vice versa.
All of this junk just started coming up from inside of both of us. A glass of spilled milk just became a huge argument instead of cleaning up the milk; you know?
Paige: And, then, I think the children, too, were not really ready. They were still dealing with, “Hey! What about my mom—or my dad?” and a loyalty to them; and, “I don’t know if I want this family!” It was okay when we were dating—everything was great. They loved each other and they loved us. Then we got married, and it just came to a screeching halt.
Dennis: And you describe this “death spiral”—
Dennis: —as taking four years.
Paige: Four years.
Dennis: What was it like at the bottom of that spiral?
Paige: Well, let’s just say this—I had never thrown anything in my life—at anything or at anyone.
At the bottom of that death spiral, I was so frustrated that I took a hair brush and just threw it across the room at a television. I was just done.
I remember going into my prayer closet, and just holding up my Bible, and saying: “God! Where in the Bible is there a blended family that can help us out? You have an answer for everything, but here is a family of seven and we are dying! What are You going to do about it, because I’m done!” That was the end for me.
Bob: Were you thinking, at that point: “I’m about to be “0 for 2”?
Paige: Yes, I was—emotionally, and spiritually, and mentally—we were just drained. We just didn’t know what to do. It seemed like we were taking two steps forward and thinking: “Yay! We have victory.” And then, we would get knocked back five steps.
Ron: Okay. So, I want you to talk to the person, listening right now, who is in that spot because I think that is a very common experience for couples in blended families.
Ron: They just don’t know how to walk into the future. They just can’t see it happening. They’ve tried, and they’ve tried everything they know, and they’re just stuck. What sustained you? What kept you going? How did you find strength? What were the next steps?
Paige: Well, I just kept holding on to God’s Word: “God, You have a plan. Jeremiah 29:11—You have a plan for me, and it’s always good.” And, “God, I know there’s a good place in here. I just have to find it.” So, that was my stronghold—I kept holding onto that. That still small voice came to me and said, “You know, My Son was a Stepchild.” I thought, “What are you talking about, God?” I went back and read the story of Mary and Joseph and realized: “Wow! If I’m raising Moe’s children, what did Joseph have to go through to raise God’s Son?”
Paige: That put it in a whole different perspective for me. That story gave me hope that I could do this.
Moe: We just kept searching the Scriptures after that—you know—we just kept looking.
Ron: Okay. I’m going to ask you in a minute: “What did you start doing differently from that point forward?”—if you could, maybe, identify a couple of things.
Ron: But one of the things I just don’t want to miss—for that listener right now—is just the power of coming back to God’s Word—
Ron: —and how powerful He is—and not giving up hope that He cares about you, and your life, and that He’ll give you strength to press through. That’s just so important because, without that, you don’t have the willingness to try anything different—
Moe: Exactly; exactly!
Ron: —to move in a different direction.
Ron: So what happened at that point?
Paige: I think, for me, it was stepping back—just taking a step back and saying: “Okay, we have done everything wrong for four years. We have to regroup—first, with my relationship with God—‘Alright, God, show me what I did wrong,’ and regrouping with my husband and saying: ‘Okay, we need to start over. We’ve hurt each other. We’ve hurt our kids. Let’s take a step back and realize that God wants to breathe life into this family.’”
Paige: That’s where it took me to—was God breathing life back into us, as His children. Then, Moe and me being able to breathe life into our family—for our children—because the only vision of marriage they had, up until we were married, was that marriage ended in divorce. That’s not the vision I wanted them to live with.
Dennis: Yes. What I want our audience to make sure they don’t miss is that this life came after you surrendered.
Dennis: You’ve got to surrender to Jesus Christ as Master and Lord—
Dennis: —and say: “Would You do something out of the death? Raise this marriage,”—whether it’s blended or otherwise.
Dennis: There are a lot of marriages, listening to our broadcast, right now,—.
Paige: Oh, yes!
Dennis: —who would describe the same darkness that you did about your marriage.
Dennis: And they’re in need of the same surrender.
Ron: Can you think of something?—I’m curious: “Did you approach the kids differently? Did you have a family meeting? What did you do to try to begin to engage them?”
Moe: I just—it was like the Holy Spirit just started really dealing with me on that harsh tone and how I was pushing the kids away. I had that authoritative mentality that, “I’m the man in the home, and ya’ll are going to listen to me!” You know what? They listened to me, but I saw disrespect because I would then see them going to Paige and saying, “This is what Mr. Moe told me,”—they were crying. I just saw that I was breaking their hearts; you know?
Moe: God just started giving me a sensitive heart toward the children in that I needed to back off from that authoritative role. I had to repair the damage first. I started spending time with them and just let them know that I’m interested in their life and I want to be a part.
Paige: We did have a family meeting. We sat all of the kids down in a circle. They were, at this time, probably 9 to19. We sat them down in a circle and apologized to every one of them—
Paige: —for the past four years and what we had put them through and that we really and truly wanted to be the protector of their hearts and the lover of their souls, like God was. We wanted to live life with them and live a productive, happy, fun-filled family life. There was a lot of crying. Then, Moe and I each prayed for every child. That was a turning point for our family. It just seemed to break something in our home.
Moe: It was a defining moment in that it was a turning point, but we didn’t become the perfect family that day. We’re still not a perfect family, but we saw that there was just more grace in the home after that.
Dennis: You know what happens when we surrender to Christ? True humility can set up residence in our hearts.
Dennis: We can admit we’ve made a mistake—
Moe: That’s it.
Dennis: —and we can ask for forgiveness of a family member. That had to have happened after that family meeting.
Dennis: I mean, all of a sudden, you were on the record of saying, “There’s a new builder of the house;—
Dennis: —“we’re going about business in a new way here.”
Paige: Yes, and they held us to it! [Laughter]
Ron: You know, I was thinking the same thing, Dennis, when they were talking. There was humility in what Moe did when he said, “I’ve got to deal with myself and my harshness before the Lord.”
Ron: There was humility with what they did in parenting, as a team—
Ron: —to apologize to the kids and say, “We’re regrouping.” How powerful that humility was as a turning point.
Ron: It had to even soften the children’s hearts toward you.
Paige: Yes, it did! Kids, you know, are so forgiving—if we just show true humility and true repentance.
Paige: They’ve all grown up to be such men and women of God. Yes, a couple of years ago, we asked them what they thought about our family.
Ron: Before you read these, I want to set this up; okay?—for the audience—
Ron: —because, in your book, God Breathes on Blended Families, you say this in the introduction: “During the first few years, there were isolated moments of closeness; but no sustained unity or harmony. There were many times when we wondered if we would ever overcome functioning as a fragmented unit and move on to becoming a family.” That’s that death spiral you’ve been talking about.
Ron: And then you say this: “But much to our joy, it did happen.”
Paige: It did.
Ron: Year four was the death spiral year. Year eight, you had an opportunity to ask the kids, “What’s your point of view on the family?” And they wrote tributes.
Ron: Would you mind sharing some of those with us?
Moe: Well, in year eight, our kids actually gave us a video for our anniversary.
Moe: They pulled videos and photos from our vacations and birthday parties and put this Brady Bunch video—but they were over-singing the “Becnel Bunch.” [Laughter] We’re sitting, watching this video with them in the room. Our mouths are just dropped down to our chests—just in awe of what we are watching. They were young back then. They actually put in a few comments about: “We’ve finally made it.” “We’ve grown together as a family.” They were just celebrating the fact that we had unified in some manner, and they celebrated it.
Ron: Paige, I know all of the kids wrote tributes.
Paige: Yes, they did.
Ron: Do you mind sharing one with us?
Paige: Yes, it’s really hard to pick just one. These were written just a few years ago.
One of our daughters wrote: “Our family is everything to me. My family is two dads, two moms, three sisters, one brother, two brother-in-laws, one sister-in-law, and three nieces. I love them all equally because, in my life, they have played an equal part. I cannot imagine my life without any of them. It wouldn’t be complete.”
All of our kids are now married, and they’re all very close. I recently had a friend tell me—who met all of our kids at Christmastime a couple years ago—she said: “Your family is seamless. If I didn’t know that they were not all your children together, I couldn’t tell.”
Paige: It just really blessed us that that’s what our family portrayed—not because we were putting on a show—because their hearts truly are knitted to each other and knitted to us.
Dennis: Ron has an Advisory Board that gives guidance to him as he’s heading up the Blended Family Initiative. One member of that board is at the University of Auburn.
Dennis: She’s done some research, Ron, that I want you to share, at this point, because they’re illustrating that research. You know what I’m talking about; don’t you?
Ron: I know what you’re talking about.
Their life is a perfect example of what Dr. Francesca Adler-Baeder, from Auburn University, has found. She studied stepfamilies over a long period of time and watched the next generation; that is, when their kids grew up. What she found is that strong, stable, healthy stepfamilies bear children who grow up into adulthood and have a more positive view of marriage compared to children of divorce, or children whose parents are divided, or are unhappily married.
They have a much healthier view of marriage and, when they pick marital partners and get married themselves, their marriages—and this, Dennis, is just amazing to me—their marriages more reflect the health of the stepfamily marriage than of any parental divorce that led to the stepfamily experience.
So, just like you guys—your kids grow up now and their marriages are more reflective of your strong marriage—25 years, you’re about to celebrate.
Paige: Yes, 25 years this year.
Ron: And that is a legacy that is being lived out every day in the life of the next generation. It’s just an amazing thing that God does when He redeems us!
Dennis: Yes. I just have to say here, as we are talking and as you shared your story about the different legacy that’s occurring here, I thought of Jeremiah 33, where God promises peace. Jeremiah says in verse 3—actually, it’s God speaking here—He says: “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”
Moe: That’s good.
Dennis: Later on in the passage, He talks about how He will bring it to health and healing. I think, in the midst of a broken situation, and perhaps facing another divorce, you humbled yourself—surrendered to Christ—
Dennis: —and then you took that state of humbling yourself to Christ to your kids and asked for forgiveness. As a result, out of the ashes of that darkness,—
Dennis: —isn’t it cool to see what God has done?
Paige: It’s amazing!
Dennis: It really is cool. I’m so glad you’re written this book, God Breathes on Blended Families. I think it’s going to bring a lot of hope to a lot of people.
Bob: Would you guys thank Moe and Paige Becnel? [Applause]
You know, I think the challenges that Moe and Paige Becnel experienced in trying to blend a family are not unique. I think a lot of couples in a blended marriage find themselves going through a lot of these same issues. In fact, on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com, if you go and you click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “Go Deeper,” there is a link to Moe and Paige Becnel’s website. You can find out more about their story and about how God is using them today to help other couples who are in a blended or a stepfamily.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand hand corner that says, “Go Deeper.”
You’ll also find information about resources available from Ron Deal, including the new revised and expanded edition of The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Stepfamily. You can order that from us at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
Ron also has a resource called The Remarriage Checkup. This is a unique resource designed to help you diagnose the condition of your remarriage—help you identify: “What are the critical issues?” that may be affecting your remarriage situation and, then, how you deal with those issues.
Find out more about the resources from Ron Deal to help step and blended families. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says, “Go Deeper.” You can order resources from us, online, if you’d like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY for more information about these resources—1-800-358-6329.
That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
One other thing I should mention to you and that is that Ron Deal is going to be hosting a one-day event for people who are involved in or interested in starting a blended or stepfamily ministry in a local church. This event’s going to be held in Washington, DC, on Friday, October 3rd—the day before we host the I Still Do one-day marriage celebration in Washington, DC. You can come to the nation’s capital—spend some time together with Ron Deal and other leaders to talk about step and blended family relationships and then stay around for the I Still Do marriage event at the Verizon Arena in downtown Washington, DC, on Saturday, October 4th.
All of the information is available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Once again, go to the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link that says, “Go Deeper.” You’ll find information about the Stepfamily Summit and about the I Still Do marriage celebration in Washington, DC.
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family can worship together in church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday. Our friends, Michael and Hayley DiMarco, are going to be here. We’re going to talk about purity with teens and the kind of standard we should be setting for our sons and our daughters when it comes to purity. We’ll talk about that next week. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with special help from Mark Ramey. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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