Karen Nickels


Giving in a Blended Family

Written By Karen Nickels

Did God really say that giving is better than getting?

I am glad to share our journey in the hopes that it would strengthen and encourage those of you from a blended family who might be listening to it. The blending of our family together is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. Blending any family is hard because of the brokenness that already exists in most, if not everyone involved. However, it is also rewarding because of the growth that takes place and how in time you will see what God can make of your blended family as you involve Him in the process.

The last US census showed that there are approximately 1,300 new blended families formed everyday. This is becoming the new norm, so it is really important that we have understanding of how to make it an easier situation for everyone involved by bringing God into the center of it. The whole journey isn’t easy, but God can do what we could never do on our own. Prior to becoming a step-mom, I witnessed step-parenting being done the wrong way and it is very hard to watch the devastating effects it can have on the kids, especially if they are teenagers at the time.

As I share, please keep in mind that this is our family story and it is based on our family dynamic and situation. Yours may be very different, but the principals are still the same. Often we will have to give without receiving some of the things that a natural parent would get. We will have to make hard choices and that won’t always be easy, but I promise that you can make it.

Our story began with the children losing their mother to cancer three and a half years before I came into their lives. I had no children of my own, so we were not blending children together; it was just me coming into the family as a step-mom where there had been a devastating loss of a wife and mother. Their mother was a wonderful woman and I can’t wait to meet and embrace her one day in Heaven. I believe it will be a very special moment… one that only she and I will fully comprehend. I’m grateful that our family had some videos so that I could catch a glimpse of who their mother was. She was a precious woman. Another dynamic in our family is that I was blessed with a husband who is wonderful at caring for children. He really did a great job for the years he was alone. He is a very nurturing person. Some family dynamics are different in the fact that there are some things that a lot of men don’t handle with regards to kids. In that situation, the step-mom may have more things that the kids will have to immediately depend on her for. This is a whole different setting with its own set of challenges.

A major challenge blended families face is that you and your new spouse usually don’t have the time to first blend yourselves together. You don’t get the chance to work out the little kinks that you typically experience the first few years in your marriage before bringing children into the picture. As women, we tend to fall in love and get married and have this amazing relationship that we focus in on. I think it can naturally causes us to be more self-centered at the time because we have something that is so fulfilling to us and we want to savor every moment of it. This is very challenging in a blended family because we have to learn to think about the children more than ourselves. Add some baggage from your own childhood that you are working through and it makes it even more challenging. I really loved Danielle and Josiah and  wanted to be what they needed, so I tried to give them time with their father even when I felt left out or wanted my husband’s focus. There was a scripture that I would refer to in these times from Philippians 2:3-4 which says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind consider others better than ourselves. Let each of you look out not only for his interests, but also for the interest of others.” God entrusts these children to us as step-parents, and it is important that they feel secure and loved. They are already struggling and need comfort.

It isn’t always easy to find time but if you and your spouse make it a point to set time aside for one another, it will make it easier when you have to put yourself aside to make sure the children get the time they need. This special time will strengthen you. Some of the difficulties you face can be lessened if this is done, especially if the woman is the step-parent in the family. One of the main needs of women is security, so purposing to make this a priority will give you strength when times are hard. As women, we need to know that our husbands love us. I needed to know that my husband loved me even when I made mistakes with Danielle and Josiah. It isn’t about being perfect or doing everything right; it’s about recognizing when you are wrong or make a mistake and asking God to perfect you. He can help us to do what we can’t do on our own and can make us be the person/step-parent we need to be. He will perfect that which concerns us and His strength is made perfect in our weakness if we seek Him. You can take a person that is extremely flawed but their heart is humble and pure, and God can transform them.

I think all stepmoms want to be a good stepmom. We just wish there was a how-to book for each child and for our specific family dynamic. It’s easier when we know what to do to get the results we want, right?! Unfortunately, there is no such manual. We do, however, have the Bible which helps to change our hearts and to lead us in the right direction when we need to make an adjustment. In relationships, it is so easy to give when it’s on our terms. It’s so easy to love those who love us and to give to those who give to us. We learn to really be a Christian when we love enough to give to others even when we don’t get what we want in return. The “me” mentality rears its ugly head up at times. As we grow, we will see less of it though. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to actually put this principal into effect in my life even though it wasn’t always enjoyable or easy at the time. I wanted to do right by Danielle and Josiah, and I wanted to do right by their mother. She wasn’t going to be able to watch her kids grow up. There was going to be a step-mom in her kids’ lives… and the kids weren’t going to have their mother.

One of the things that I did was to always just let Rick, Danielle, and Joe all snuggle on the couch while I sat over in the other chair. This was hard because I wanted to be right in the middle of all them snuggling too… but I knew that the kids would scatter, and I wanted them to be able to snuggle with their dad. It was important for them to be nurtured in that way. They needed to know that in the midst of all of the changes that were taking place, there would still be time with just their dad. There was a certain amount of space I was going to have to give them where I wasn’t involved. I am saying this because I think it is important to share the hard things that we have to navigate through. It’s important that our kids lives are not completely turned upside down because we are there now. The whole situation is already hard enough on them. Our kids had experienced a horrible loss in their life. If we were ever going to blend, they needed to trust that I cared about their needs. In the moment, they may not notice that you don’t involve yourself in some things, but they will certainly notice if you do.

There was one mistake we made right in the beginning that I want to share. We started putting the kids to bed together almost immediately because I was excited to have them and wanted to be involved in that. Step-momma, it’s hard but some things just can’t be about us. We changed it pretty quickly when one of them asked if my husband could continue to put them to bed alone because so many other changes had already taken place and they needed this to stay the same. This is one thing that needed to remain. No one ever said that giving was easy. At times it can be excruciating, but God is for the family and He can help you. Let me encourage you that there are many blessings along the way that make it so worth it, even though things are hard! You get to watch these beautiful kids grow up. You get to go to their activities and sporting events, experience birthdays and Christmastime. There are a lot of wonderful things along the way, but there are hard things too. You will receive a lot, but you definitely have to give more. It was a huge deal that we made the decision for Rick to put them to bed without me in order to help them. It would have been a big mistake for me to try to push my way into this area of their lives. Please remember that if those kiddos appear to be rejecting you, it isn’t personal. Naturally, they want their mother and they can’t have her. They simply need nurturing, love, and security. They have already experienced loss and don’t want to experience any more of it. Neither my husband or I really knew how to do this blended-family thing, so we had to take it one step at a time. It’s amazing that something can seems so loving like putting kids to bed and praying at night can also be selfish when we really take a deeper look.

Biological families and blended families truly do not come with personalized manuals. You will make mistakes and you will recognize your flaws and the selfishness that can exist in you… but don’t be too hard on yourself. Just pick yourself back up and start over again fresh the next day. Despite the mistakes that you will make, God can heal and restore your life and the lives of the children involved if you purpose to do it His way. God’s way will always to considering the needs of others before yourself. It will be a journey that will not happen overnight. You will have to give a lot and you will get to grow lot. If you will allow God to be in the midst of your life and your family, He will do far more in you and through you than you could ever imagine. I made so many mistakes that I wish I could go back and re-do, but that isn’t possible. I thank God for His redemption. I love my family so much and am so blessed to have them and experience the amazing people that they are. Our relationship is stronger and richer today than it has ever been. They are now adults and we have all made it through the toughest part. This is truly the reward I am now receiving.

Our kids have a mother in Heaven who is very much alive. They will finally get to see her again when they get to Heaven too. I am still Karen, but I determined a few years into their life, that I wasn’t concerned about whether they ever called me Mom. I would rather have the relationship without the name, than the name without the relationship. Josiah and his wife Brianna have a son now, Kaden, and he is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. I am not step-Nana. I get to be just Nana to all the grandchildren that I will have, and that means the world to me. I truly feel like I must say that my husband is the hero in this family. He has the gift of counsel and he is the one that helped us to navigate through the hard things  each of us were going through, and taught me so much about the right way to parent. His part was very hard. He is an amazing husband and father and we are all so blessed to have him.

Truly, the most important thing to remember in all of this is that God is always there and that He cares about every aspect of you and your family’s life. Psalm 119:105 says that the Word of God is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. He is for your family and He will help to lead and guide you in how to blend all of the people in your family together. He will help you to overcome the obstacles you will face with each dynamic of your specific family. He is the one who gives you all things that pertain to life and Godliness. And this is a hope that we can trust in!

– Karen

Bio – Karen Nickels

Karen is genuinely one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. She’s always going above and beyond for her family, showing small acts of love to us. You can always find her working away in the kitchen, or tucked in the corner reading a book. She’s a master card-maker now too, once again showing her attention to the details in things and her genuine hospitality for others. She loves her poodle, Molly, too, and of course she loves my dad – very well I might add. Our journey has been a long one, and I can honestly say that I love her deeply and could not imagine our family without her.

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