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Monday, March 29, 2010

The Effects of PATIENCE in Blended Families

I love the beauty of Spring. Flowers planted months ago begin to show their delicate blooms. The effects of planting, fertilizing, and watering can be enjoyed as perfectly shaped flower petals emerge. It's a process that requires work and patience. But the end result can be enjoyed for months or years.

The same is true of relationships in blended families. The process requires work and patience. But the end result can be enjoyed for years.

Today we continue our focus on the Fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22, 23: PATIENCE. It's a difficult quality to attain but a necessary one to possess in blended families.

Patience is defined as "bearing or enduring pain, difficulty, provocation or annoyance with calmness; capable of calmly awaiting an outcome or result; persevering."

It's interesting to see the words calmness and calmly both listed in the definition. As we calmly wait for change to take place in our relationships,we practice patience. Good things can happen while we wait. I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago describing the positive apects of waiting.

Stepfamily experts tell us the average stepfamily takes seven years to integrate. A complex stepfamily (when both parents bring children to the marriage, like ours) can take longer. Ugh. Seven years can seem like an eternity when you're in the middle of it. The importance of patience appears obvious.

So, what are the effects of practicing patience in a blended family? For our family, it has been life changing. My stepchildren were taught early on that I was the enemy. They resisted any kind of relationship with me because I was criticized and belittled in their other home. It was a discouraging situation that I couldn't change. It was only through God's grace that I was able to patiently continue to pursue a relationship.

As years passed, my stepchildren began to form their own opinion of me. They opened up their hearts to the possibility of a loving relationship. We engaged in meaningful conversations that allowed a connection to occur. It was a long process that seemed to include one step forward and two steps backward, but the walls began to come down that were built up years before. Finally, we were able to engage in healthy relationships with one another.

Patience in a blended family requires setting aside our selfish desires and doing the work required for a positive result. It means facing our fears and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in our relationships. It doesn't happen naturally or easily, but can have life altering benefits.

So, where do you need to exert more patience today in your blended family? Maybe it's with a stepchild or perhaps it's with your spouse. It could even be with yourself. Identify your weak spots and commit to practicing patience daily. And on those days it seems too hard to keep going, remember the long-term benefits you will reap if you don't give up.



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