I recently noticed that Kraft is using the hashtag #FamilyGreatly. They have some ads on social media and Youtube featuring videos that make me absolutely do the ugly cry. And do you know what they’re saying? Simply this: there is no perfect family and no perfect parent – but we don’t need perfection to be great. There are a kajillion ways to “do family” and we just need to be ourselves and do our best. I dare you to watch just one of those #FamilyGreatly videos and not cry! And then I want you to give yourself a good heart hug – because we’re all in this together.

I am, by no means, a pro when it comes to any awesome parenting tips – especially when doing a blended family. I have a blended family. If you would have told me several years ago that I’d be remarried with 2 bonus kids and living in Tennessee I would have told you that you were nuts! But, here we are – two years strong into our brand new, completely overhauled, blended life. And I am still, by no means, a pro.

But I have learned a little.

There are plenty of amazing (& qualified!) people that can give the right advice and list of things to do and not do when blending a family. And, there are plenty of amazing families that have done the blending well. And – every family is different. The things I have learned may not be the things you have learned…but I’m still learning…

Blending a family is not easy. But I also don’t think it needs to be so hard. Does that even make sense? Our kids are all teenagers and young adults – we have 4 of them – 3 boys and 1 girl. I have the sheer honour of being Step-Mom to 2 amazing young men. And, while we’re here, can I talk about that word – “Step-Mom”? I just don’t like it. Maybe we could change it to something like “Bonus Mom” or “That Extra Person That Gets To Love Me” or something like that. Here’s the thing with my bonus kids – I am not their Mom.  Now – I did come into their life when they were 19 & 16 – so they don’t need me to be their Mom. I don’t try to be their Mom. They have a great Mom. I’m just an extra person that gets to love them. And THAT is the very first thing I learned…and keep on learning….just LOVE THEM. Hug them when they walk into the room, listen to them, feed them, laugh with them, smile when you see them. Love them. In all the small and big things. You don’t have to be their parent to love them as if you were – just love well.

Also – love their parent well. You know that one you married? Well, they belonged to those bonus kids of yours first. If their home was changed because of divorce then those kids probably saw some unkind things between their parents. So – love their parent well. This is not to be taken lightly – I truly believe this is so very important. Those kids – all of them – will watch to see how you treat their mom or dad. Love well.

Don’t make assumptions. Do not criticize. Let go of expectations. Forgive. Hug often. Love well.

Maybe that sounds too simple. I’m not really into complicated things. I know there are so many things that can happen within any family dynamic – blended or not. I know that life is certainly not always perfect. I know that parenting is hard. Period. I know that throwing two families together that like different food, have different rules, and just well – are different – is hard. Our blended journey has not been perfect. But it has been worth it and it is good and it is just US – doing #FamilyGreatly the way that we know how. We’re just trying to love well.

Dear Mom or Dad or Bonus Mom or Bonus Dad: your home is the greatest mission field you have. Your role as a parent is a high calling and a precious honour. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves more – when we’re folding socks and making school lunches and cleaning dirty floors and wondering how in the world that toy got there – that there are champions in our home that God has given to us to nurture and cheer on and love. There are people under our roof – biological or bonus – that are not there by accident. They are there with purpose and God CHOSE you and me to to give our care and our time and our prayers for these kids and that new spouse. Love well.

When I hear the word “blended” all I can think of is a recipe and I think it fits blended families well. We are a recipe! When I’m cooking – which, let’s be real, isn’t often – I throw in all the ingredients required for whatever I’m making and sometimes I’m not really sure that all that stuff is going to taste good mixed together. But, I follow the recipe, I do the blending and voila! – a meal is made! Sometimes we can look at our families the same way and think we just don’t know how all this is going to mix together – but when we blend with prayer and love and a whole lot of grace – then over time we see that God has put together something really good. Oh, how He loves us well.

It takes time. It takes consistency. It takes a million hugs and a billion I love you’s. It takes a lot of smiles. It takes a lot of praying. It takes embracing the journey. It doesn’t require perfection. It just requires a loving you…loving well.