“Just because it is complex, just because it isn’t perfect, just because it is sometimes difficult, doesn’t mean that it can’t also be beautiful.” – Joel W. Hawbaker
I live in north-central Alabama, about halfway between Birmingham, AL, and Atlanta, GA. In this part of the country we get lots of heat, lots of rain, and thus lots of thunderstorms. These are normally great opportunities to listen to the rain on the roof and windows, to feel the thump and crash of the thunder, to see the cracks of lightning blaze through the sky at night, and to be thankful for a warm and safe home. However, some thunderstorms turn violent and, especially to my two rescue dogs, scary.
During one such recent thunderstorm, we had a part of a bradford pear tree break off in our backyard. A full thirty feet long, we were blessed that it broke clean away from the trunk and fell parallel to our back fence, thus not hitting our fence, our shed, or anything belonging to any of our neighbors. In the same storm, though, a beloved snowball bush was uprooted, and it’s this snowball bush that I really want to focus on.
See, I’m divorced and remarried, with two daughters from my first marriage. I’ve been divorced for over ten years and remarried for almost seven. We’ve had ups and downs, wonderful successes and extremely painful failures. We’ve had constructive discussions and frustratingly unproductive and repetitive arguments. I’m thankful that we’ve been able to jointly celebrate our daughters’ birthdays, sports successes, and extracurricular accomplishments; and I’m also sorry that we haven’t been able to be the perfect parents we all set out to be.
When my wife and I bought our house together almost six years ago, one of the things most we loved about it was the snowball bush. When we first saw the listing online, one of the pictures was of the big backyard and this bush in full bloom. The house isn’t big, but it’s enough to be comfortable, and the bush was just another piece of everyday beauty that added to the house’s charm. We thought that it would be wonderful and perfect, just like many people who go into a second marriage full of hope that this one would be different from whatever was in their past.
However, as we moved in and started taking care of the yard, we realized that the snowball bush was more complex than we’d realized, much like our marriage. There were weeds that continually intertwined themselves in the bush’s lower branches, making it difficult to trim anything back. There were other bushes that grew up among the roots of the snowball bush, making it complicated when we tried to clean up around its base. And there was the disappointment we felt whenever another thunderstorm would, all too early, knock the almost fully blooming flowers off of the bush.
Yet, despite all of those things, the bush remained beautiful. When it wasn’t in bloom, it was large enough to provide shade and cover for our dogs to enjoy in the yard. Even the other bushes and the weeds that invaded the snowball bush’s base served as an area that Butterscotch (our rescue pitbull mix dog) enjoyed ‘sneaking’ through, for all the world acting as if when she was there that no one could see her. We called it “jungle-pupping,” and it always made us smile. The bush also served as shelter and a safe haven for the squirrels that Bruiser (our rescue bulldog mix dog) chased at every opportunity. In addition, the bush served as a sanctuary for all types of birds, some just for a few moments and some long enough to build nests and hatch young in. Much like we all want our homes and families to be, the snowball bush was a place of happiness, joy, safety, encouragement, rest, and fellowship.
With all of that in mind, it broke our hearts when we saw that the recent thunderstorm had blown the snowball bush down. The bush was uprooted and now is at about a 45-degree angle with the roots just holding it there, looking like it just got tired and was in the act of reclining for a nap. We’ve trimmed off the top branches, finally cleared out all of the undergrowth, weeds, and other bushes that had infested its base, and now we’re honestly not sure what to do. We’re hopeful that maybe we could put it back in place and help it to regrow; we’re also considering taking it fully out and perhaps replanting cuts of it elsewhere in the yard.
Whatever happens, we’re thankful that the bush will always live on in many pictures that we have taken. We’re thankful for the memories we have of watching our dogs run around it chasing each other and the squirrels. We appreciate the beauty, shade, safety, and laughter that it provided to the members of our household and our neighbors. And I feel quite strongly that this is an excellent analogy for what our blended families could and should be, if we have the courage to put in the work for them.
Every blended family comes from a place of pain: either pain of loss, pain of divorce, or pain of abandonment by a significant other, and sometimes a combination of these. The good news is that your family doesn’t have to stay there. Every blended family will face struggles due to past issues resurfacing, family traditions being at odds with each other, or simply because different people prefer different things. These are the weeds and the other bushes that may infest your family’s snowball bush. These are the battles that you’ll inevitably face at some point or other. However, that’s not all that your blended family has to be. It can also be a beautiful, encouraging snowball bush. It can be a place of joy and amusement. It can be a place of safety and sanctuary from the things that would divide you. It can be a place of rest and shade from the toil and heat of the world. It can be a place of lasting memories and continual regrowth. That is my prayer for my blended family, and it is my prayer for yours.
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other.” –Richard Bach
“Blended families are a beautiful mix of diverse people who each serve an important role in our lives. At times, it can be challenging to appreciate everyone’s unique beauty.” –Deana Keller La Rosa
“Every blended family comes from a place of pain…but it doesn’t have to stay there.”