It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. If that is true, then expectations are the root of all heartache. Whether they are unmet, unrealistic, or ungodly, they can break a heart fixed on how things appear and on what others think. Forgetting that the only expectations that matter are God’s can cause unnecessary sorrow and heartache. This has been a recurring part of our journey as a blended family.
I never expected to meet someone online in a chat room. I never expected to whisper, “I’m going marry that man!” after just talking to him for a few hours. I never expected to be married one year and 11 days after being introduced to him for the first time. I never expected to marry a man who was divorced with two children. But, God had other plans. His plan was unexpected, but that is how He operates. We were so blown away by His providence and provision.
I did expect to be nervous on my wedding day. But, I wasn’t. I had a peace that only God gives when you are in the midst of His plan. I expected there to be bumps along the road to our happily ever after. Discontinued bridesmaids’ dresses, rain the night before our outdoor wedding, and an argumentative matron of honor tried to thwart our special day. I expected many adjustments to becoming a family of five and to suddenly being a momma to three instead of one. And a momma to a girl? I couldn’t even braid hair! I even expected to miss my family after moving 1300 miles away.
We expected our new lives together to be hard, but things seemed to fall into place easily for us. The children asked to call us Mom and Dad before we crossed the Maryland state line on our way to our new home in Texas. They referred to each other as siblings without the step prefix. Family meals, family devotions, church, youth group - all of it fell into place quickly and seamlessly. Every morning started out with hot breakfasts, ironed clothes, devotions and walks to school. Our days ended with prayers and kisses goodnight. Even in the hard, what I had expected to be difficult wasn’t. I expected to be the wife that helped my husband lose weight, be successful, and be fulfilled. I expected to be the mom that fixed breakfast and packed lunches every day, picked them up from school and fed them healthy snacks while helping with their homework as dinner cooked. In all appearances, we were crushing the blended family stigma, but deep inside wounds had not healed and more were being made.
We knew we wanted to have at least one child together and I got pregnant the month after our first anniversary. When we shared the news with my in-laws they were overjoyed--until they weren’t. They expressed to us how unfit we were as parents; how obvious it was that we favored one child over the others and how irresponsible we were for having a child together. I was shocked, hurt and angry. I didn’t expect that. Thankfully, apologies were quickly made, and forgiveness was extended, but the wounds were there, and the healing was slow. I expected their support and enthusiasm but received judgment and disdain. I suffered postpartum depression after our daughter was born and I didn’t want anyone to know. It would solidify the things my in-laws had said and would worry my mother who was 1300 miles away from me.
I was able to get the medication and support I needed from my doctor, so when I found out that I was expecting just as our daughter turned 1 ½, I was cautiously excited. My husband had wanted to have another child and wanted a boy, so he was not surprised. We knew it would be challenging adding another child to our family during the time of transition to middle school for our oldest son and daughter, but we expected to see continued academic, emotional and spiritual growth.
Instead things started to fall apart - failing grades, stealing, lying and parties with alcohol and sex. Something else we didn’t expect. When we made the hard decision to move back to Maryland we encountered teen pregnancy, drugs, our oldest son running away, dropping out of school, probation and incarceration and continued premarital sex. Our middle son was diagnosed with ADD and ODD as our youngest son started speech therapy and our youngest daughter struggled with obesity. All of that was followed by several months of unemployment for my husband and major depression for me.
Our blended family was nothing like I expected.
I wasn’t the wife or mother I thought I could be. Our older children had become the blended family stereotype. We were not just a broken family, we were shattered. I was heartbroken. During all of this, I struggled with believing that God’s hand was in any of it, but He was not surprised by anything that had happened. He was there through all of it. I was just looking in the wrong place. I strove for perfection in a dysfunctional family. Blindly in love and naive in everything a blended family entailed.
My expectations had been unrealistic and ungodly.
There was no way I was going to erase the years of hurt and brokenness with hot breakfasts and bedtime stories. Even though I thought of my stepchildren as my own there was still the very present influence of their biological mother and stepfather. After a weekend or vacation at their mother’s house, we had to reinstate our rules and expectations. I was so concerned with what others thought of our family and how we looked more so than what heart changes were taking place. God looks on the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, not on outward appearances.
By outward appearances we were a storybook family, but the heart issues were deeper and were not being resolved. I was not praying for help or for heart change for me, my husband or my children. I wasn’t as much concerned about God’s will as I was with what I felt was best for my family.
I wanted God to bless my expectations instead of seeking His purpose and plan.
Thankfully, God is gracious and merciful.
Even when I was looking to myself for answers and strength, God was guiding and blessing. Our oldest daughter placed her son with an adoptive family answering their desire for a child. Our oldest son blessed us with two amazing grandchildren. Our youngest daughter and son are excelling in school and in their talents, allowing us to see God’s promise after the rain.
Even though I had chosen to allow my expectations to override what God had expected of me as a wife and mother and for us as a blended family, God was patiently waiting for me to turn to Him, give up my expectations of how things should be and lean into what He has for us as a blended family. It has not been easy, but when I daily align my plan with His, He exceeds all my expectations.