Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Day to Celebrate

As I prepared the key points on blended families that I want to share at The REFINE Conference in September, one of the most important is to recognize those special moments in life that can easily get overlooked in the busyness of our hectic day-to-day schedules. In 2008 John and I were approaching our 20-year anniversary, but it didn't seem like we would have a chance to celebrate our special day. Life was on overload...and I was ready to give in and let the day slide by without notice. That's when our kids stepped in and changed all that.


“When Two People Fall in Love”

One of the things our kids loved to do when they were younger was making up plays and acting them out. They spent hours crafting props and dragging out old clothes for their costumes. After a multitude of rehearsals they would call John and I in to film the premiere performance. Years later those videos were the source of much laughter at family get-togethers.

In November 2008 John and I hit the 20-year mark as husband and wife and “the kids” were now between 18 and 30. Our youngest son was a senior in high school, and just one month earlier we had celebrated the second marriage in our family. John’s oldest daughter Summer, who had married an air force pilot the year before, lived in Tucson, Arizona. Upon news of her husband’s deployment, Summer decided to move in with us until it was time for her to join him overseas.

John Ryan & Lindsey's wedding
October 2008

As our 20-year anniversary approached I felt like I should plan a celebration, but timing and circumstances took away my hopes. John’s father had been having numerous health issues all fall and subsequently passed away in November, requiring a number of trips back and forth to western Minnesota. The kids all had their own busy work schedules and it was a challenge to meet for dinner with 55 miles of rush-hour traffic between us. Plus our anniversary fell on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving. With John working in the supermarket industry, the holidays were his busiest time of year. The long hours that coincided with the season were made worse by the first snowfalls that already graced the Minnesota landscape, lengthening his daily commutes.

When Summer announced she would make dinner for us at home, I was thrilled. John and I came home from work to the delicious aromas of baked rigatoni, salad, Artisan bread, and chocolate-mint dessert. To our surprise, one by one the kids arrived and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the best place of all—our home.

After dinner Summer invited us downstairs where the kids proceeded to put on a skit she wrote called, “When Two People Fall in Love.” The sweetness of the moment brought tears to my eyes, filling me with emotion as they reenacted the scene when John and I first met. I felt God saying, Despite the everyday stresses of life, don’t let the significance of this day pass without acknowledgement. I want you to recognize My gifts, a gift that includes bringing two families together and forming one, grounded in My love. Not surprising, God used the voices of our children to make sure I heard His message.

John and I...celebrating 20 years!

If you are in a blended family and would like to hear some helpful tips to ensure a successful blended family, sign up today for The REFINE Conference, September 21-22, 2012 in Bloomington, Minnesota. The conference is specifically designed for all areas in a woman's life, "as we keep it person with ourselves, others, and God...seeking to REFINE our lives." Tickets are available at




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Second Blessings

The REFINE Conference is now less than 60 days away! As the date approaches (September 21 & 22, 2012) my own excitement is growing, anticipating the good things that will come from 300 ladies gathered together in one place! With a great list of keynote speakers, entertainment, and break-out speakers I believe all the women who attend will come away refined in more ways than one.

Blended families have their own challenges, unique to their own individual circumstances. Early on sometimes I struggled with the image of our family being less than ideal, due to each of our divorces and the consequences that followed. That's when God stepped in and showed me otherwise. Yes, there were consequences from earlier decisions in life that we had to deal with, but our God is a God of second chances...and abundant blessings.

Second Blessings

Like it or not, the devil knows our weaknesses and loves to attack when we’re most vulnerable. There was a time when I allowed myself to believe our blended family was “less than” a traditional family…you know, the “perfect families” filling the church pews on Sunday, unblemished by the stain of divorce.

God showed me otherwise one year when John and I planned a family vacation to Florida for spring break. For economic reasons we rented an RV that claimed to sleep eight and started out on the long drive from Minneapolis to Florida. With five teenagers in the mix I wondered how well we’d get along, stuck in such cramped quarters for ten days.

            Around midnight we stopped to pick up one of the girls at her college dorm. Prepared to drive through the night, John made a quick restroom stop at a 24-hour supermarket. Several kids followed John inside before I decided to dash in at the last minute.

            In the quietness of the empty aisles I met two of the girls coming out, but when I exited the store the RV was nowhere in sight. I stared at the empty lot, imagining John and the kids heading to Florida without me. I had no purse, no money; I didn’t know the license plate of the rented RV and no way to contact him since this was before cell phones. On the verge of panic, I saw the RV coming back up the street. Luckily one of the girls had asked, “Aren’t you gonna wait for Mom?”

Lesson learned and heads were counted at each stopping point thereafter. By the time we reached Florida, the weather was a perfect 80 degrees. We set up a small tent next to the RV to add more room since the narrow aisle was forever jammed with duffle bags, sandals, groceries, and whatever fell out of the compartments above.

            We ate meals outside on the picnic table and no one seemed to mind the tropical breeze blowing sand into our food. I thought an afternoon rain shower might bring a round of grumbling, but the kids played board games inside without complaint. Day by day each one of my pre-trip worries was dispelled with joking and laughter.

            Several months later I was organizing the photos and the smiles on everyone’s faces caught my attention. Just as John had been so focused on the long drive he almost left me stranded, I had let myself focus on the label of ‘blended family,’ as though it was a subclass status. God had given us a second chance at marriage and I needed to readjust my focus and acknowledge His abundant blessings. Now 24 years together, I have a cupboard full of bulging photo albums that attest to those very blessings.