" While she was asleep, we assembled downstairs and crafted our ambush.
We approached the door of her room in "stealth" mode, lined up as if we were doing a strategic SWAT entry on a bad guys home.
I have done hundreds of these maneuvers when employed on the police department, cracking the door and tossing a flash bang into the bad guys home to disorient them and anyone else inside and disguise our entry.
I was impressed this time, my wife took the lead and the boys fell in place as if they have been to SWAT training a few times.
Made me pause and think, WOW, am I influencing them with my training and tactics beyond what I could even think? I had to chuckle to myself, and I will cover this influence a bit more later in the article.
So, we bust in and she is sound asleep and we begin to yell, "Happy Birthday" as we then dog pile on her bed.
Just a wonderful family moment, bonding, loving and more importantly - liking one another.
In a blended (step family to some) this is major.
Loving one another is one thing, but liking one another is huge! As parents, we can make them spend time together, we can make them get along when we are present, we can even make them be nice and courteous to one another - but one thing we cannot make them do is LIKE one another.
This shows me how vital it is to allow God in to every one of our relationships, if we want to see them positive and successful.
The entire Bible from Genesis to The Revelation is chock full of conflict.
However, God uses those conflicts to teach us how to resolve them through love, grace and mercy.
When you spend every day together, you better believe you need God's grace to exercise forgiveness and love.
Here are a few things we are learning and applying to blend our family every day: 1.
Cultivate friendships - Cultivating simply means preparing, and we prepare ourselves as parents as well as our children to be friendly with one another.
Friendliness involves being kind, tender and nice.
Giving one another second, third or fourth chances, just as God gives to us.
In cultivating you turn over the soil to break up hardness in the soil.
We do the same with our hearts, to ensure no bitterness, hardness or stubbornness sets in.
Cultivating every day.
I make it a point to not only love my wife in front of them, but to be nice to her and courteous to her.
Sharing chores, making her coffee and bringing it to her, complimenting her on so many things, opening her car door and on and on.
I want my boys to see and develop a chivalrous attitude and want my daughter to understand how a boy, and later - men, need to respect, appreciate and be kind to her.
Commitment - My wife and I have to continually reassure our kids about commitment and loyalty.
They have suffered a loss, their biological parents no longer being together, the effects of divorce in their lives can often times go unnoticed and unaddressed.
However, my wife and I have to exhibit/demonstrate commitment as well as use "teachable moments" to assure them that our family is together for good.
We are committed, loyal and trust worthy of one another.
We utilize God's word to show how committed God is to us - and now we want to be committed to God and one another.
Be Graceful - Things happen, things are said, toes are stepped on and the toast is sometimes burned - you cannot always avoid those things from happening.
However, we can control how we respond to the issues when they arise.
We recognize that our family has flaws, we are not perfect, but we work perfectly together.
That means we address these issues with sensitivity and want to react in the way we desire to be treated.
No yelling, screaming or throwing a fit - we talk about it and the appropriate responses to the offence.
As I had mentioned earlier, as parents we often influence one another beyond our words.
As we lined up for this stealth bedroom entry, I noticed my unintentional influence on the family and their behavior.
I later reflected on how influential we are and we need to be so mindful and conscious of what we do and say in front of our children.
We want our family to exhibit behaviors inward towards one another so my wife and I need to exhibit the same behaviors inward and outward.
We attempt to maximize every opportunity; while coaching, at church, in our businesses and in society every day.
Often times we hear the kids say, "wow, we just talked about that.
" It keeps you centered, understanding your level of influence when blending a family is major league stuff.
You have to always understand that as a blended family, there are biological parents that also hold an influence.
This can be a win or a challenge.
Having as wide a circle of love and influence as possible only enhances our children's lives.
Yet, if those influences are negative - it can create a huge challenge.
Are they supporting what you are teaching? Are they mimicking the negative/positive behavior of the other parent? Are the positive characteristics supported through action? You have to listen, watch and demonstrate daily in order to influence in a positive and productive matter.
This perhaps when you have to listen the most, to God and to the kids.
God is always speaking, teaching and illuminating - it's on us to hear and heed and then apply what we have learned.
Today was one of those days - illumination.
Through our plan of ambush, I saw the influence I had on this family's behavior and actions.
It reassures me of the blessings of a blended family.
The ability to demonstrate love, friendship, kindness, loyalty and commitment beyond the biological.
God has "grafted" us into His family, he had only "one begotten Son" but has made us all sons & daughters through his love and sacrifice.
Now, the ball is in our court, not because of biological bloodlines, but through blended ones - we make our children, OUR children by demonstrating love, care and compassion.
Not just support, but care.
No greater gifts we can give, it was a great birthday morning, starting off a great day.
The blessings of a blended family.
Not only do the kids get more people to pour love into them, but we as parents get more kids to love us.
And you can never get too much love!