Happily Ever After
Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2018 Jan 17
…and they lived happily ever after.
I’m not sure who dreamed up this phrase, but they certainly aren’t familiar with real life.
I’ve always been brutally honest with all of you. And here’s the brutal honest truth:
Blending two families into one is not for the faint of heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I love my husband. I love the redemption that God has created.
But this is hard…really REALLY hard.
Let me review a few of the circumstances in our lives right now:
Five teenagers under one roof…one very small roof.
House remodeling and building on.
A child needing surgery.
A child with a life-altering illness that we can’t get fully under control.
A special needs child with serious behavioral disturbances.
A terminally ill father-in-law who has recently been placed on hospice.
A child who is unhappy at school.
A court battle filled with way more drama than we need.
That’s the tip of the iceberg right now. It gives you a little glimpse into how we started our happily ever after. And honestly, today, it’s getting the best of me. I am on overload, ready to find a way to simply escape.
Roy and I never had a cross-word with one another before we got married. But when you take two people and all these stressors and place them in a blender, it can be the recipe for disaster. We’ve had a our share of intense discussions in the last few months. We’ve had some downright painful, gut-wrenching words that have crossed our lips. The ugly has come out as we fight…each of us fighting for our own kids, fighting for our rightful place, fighting out of the raw emotions that are pent up inside of us.
We are trying to keep our perspective through it all, knowing that this too will one day pass. We are trying to remember this is a season that has a beginning and an end. We are trying to remember that even though lives seem to be spiraling out of control, our God is still sovereign. He still holds us, our kids, our futures firmly in his hands. And nothing we experience surprises Him nor is out of His control.
“Praise the Lord, who has now provided a redeemer for your family! Ruth 4:14
When I watch Roy in our home, I know without a doubt he is our kinsman-redeemer, the one ordained to fill the void in our lives. The one to model a godly husband for my kids. The one to be a godly father to my children. The one to love me as Christ loved the church.
He is kind. Compassionate. Loving. Respectful. He is good to me, to my children. He loves deeply, fiercely. He fights passionately for those he loves. There are so many amazing qualities in this man, this kinsman-redeemer God has given us.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
As we journey through this overwhelming season together, we are trying to remember a few things:
Surrender. Just last night—after a particularly taxing day—we collapsed into bed. We are both mentally and emotionally drained, with absolutely nothing left in us.
“I’m done,” Roy said. “I had a long talk with God today, and I am done. I just told Him it’s time for Him to take it because I can’t handle it any more. I only hope I don’t try to pick it up again.”
How many times do we cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us…only to pick them up again and try to carry them? How many times do we try to carry the burden…even though His yoke is easy and His burden is light? How many times do we try to do all things in our own power…even though it’s only through His power that nothing is impossible?
We are trying to remember each and every day to simply pause, surrender our day to Him, and ask Him to live through us. We are trying to remember to let Him do the fighting a we choose to simply be still and know that He is God.
One of the great contradictions in the Christian life is this: it is only through surrender that we can win the battle.
We are one. Roy fights passionately for those he loves, and right now his fight is for his daughter. She needs an advocate, someone to fight for her because she is completely incapable of fighting for herself. The problem is that this mama bear can fight just as passionately for her cubs. It’s been the four of us, standing together for many years. It’s been me, fighting the war for their safety for years. And I will always stand in the gap, fighting for my kids.
The most interesting (and difficult) dynamic of this step-family life is when his fight for his daughter comes into conflict with what I believe is best for my kids. That’s when the words fly, when the daggers come out and we begin to wound each other as we each fight for our children.
Finally, just last week after yet another painful evening, it finally hit us. We were finally able to verbalize the conflict and then sit down together and map out a plan to change our technique. We had to recognize that we are one flesh. One family. And we must stand as one, fighting together instead of against one another.
God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Ok. So I don’t totally agree with this point as stated, but let me explain.
Roy recently took Cassie somewhere, and they were having a heart-to-heart in the car. He’s pretty great that way. Cassie had had a bad seizure that morning, and they were discussing the impact on her life. She told him, “I just know God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. I just have to hang on to that when it gets really tough.”
As Roy meditated on her words, it was a great comfort to Him. We have some pretty MAJOR battles right now (and there’s no way you can truly understand without walking a day in our shoes).
I think if I were to use this phrase, I would rewrite it something like this: God gives His toughest assignments to those who choose to be most dependent on Him. It’s not in my power. It’s not in my own ability. It is His grace that is sufficient. It is His power at work within us that can do more than we could ever ask, hope, or imagine. It is Him in me and through me. It has nothing to do with who I am and everything to do with who He is.
I have prayed long and hard that God would do an amazing work in me so He can do an amazing work through me, and I’ve seen God answer in amazing ways. I just have to keep reminding myself that it is in the most painful of circumstances that He does His greatest work.
He must have great plans for us…