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by Eva Zarley

"It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person,A bag of Cheetos, a crunchy cheesy snack. but what comes out of the mouth that defiles. Matthew 15:11

Cheetos: The breakfast of Champions!

When Victor and I married, we became what our society calls a "blended" family. Kristina is Victor'sdaughter and Nathan is my son. Blended families face challenges that are peculiar to those who are trying to put two established families together as one, and it is a complex operation.

In the first place, we were a widow and a widower, who were each accustomed to twenty years of life and familiarity with another person. Habits, lifestyles and expectations are well-formed and it requires a bit of spiritual growth to adjust to the new person and their ways.

In the second place, we were each with a child from our previous marriage. That complicates matters. My son was not as much a problem since he was grown and lived in a separate home. He is precious and I love him dearly, but he was at an age where he definitely needed his space. I think it would have been a season of considerable testing and strife for all of us, if Nathan and Victor had to live under one roof, and I wonder if we would have survived. As it is, they are able to love, appreciate and respect each other– mainly because they did not have to live together. They each need to be the "lord of their own castle".

Kristina, however was only seven, so we couldn't set her up in her own home, just yet. That meant Vic, Kristina and I had to go through the adjustments required when a new parent, with different ways, is brought into the family. Victor tends to be more relaxed in his discipline whereas, I was fairly strict with my son. In a short time, we were having issues with Kristina's behavior. After a crisis concerning this matter, Victor and I had to come into agreement and make some prayerful decisions as to how and when we would teach Kristina some needed lessons. She has taught us a few lessons in the process, as well.

We had to learn to choose our battles, wisely. I learned to be more discriminating as to when to make an issue out of misbehavior and when to let it slide. Victor learned to do better with cracking down on disobedience, especially when it involves safety or disrespect. We tried working on more creative methods of reaching her. She is very intelligent and though several years have passed, we still need God's wisdom to outsmart her. The Lord has helped by inspiring us with "talks" that seem to be effective, as well as other ideas. It's now becoming a positive challenge when Kristina shows off her strong will, rather than the nightmare we were up against, earlier in our married life together. Kristina also had to learn that there are some things that we just won't allow, so she learned to choose her battles more wisely. She learned when she can push and get away with it and importantly, when she can't. As she gets older, she also learns more creative methods to get her way, which she practices considerably.

There was an overall "lightening up" of Victor toward me and in return I toward Kristina. Mercy and patience breeds mercy and patience. One area of compromise is diet. Both Victor and I had a history of healthy, whole food choices with our previous spouses. After their deaths, we both strayed from health foods to fast foods out of convenience. Victor wanted to adhere strictly to that lifestyle again, which meant I would have to enforce it with Kristina. While we didn't wish to make a habit of junk food, we have come to a place where it became acceptable now and then. Kristina, of course LOVED this change of heart.

This caused me to recall a time years ago, when my son was only six. Until that time, Nathan had never had candy or sugar. I left him with my husband's brother and wife to babysit. When I returned to pick him up, his cousins had fixed him a bowl of ice-cream. I walked in to see my son eating a mountain of the stuff, covered with all sorts of junk. In the mix were several toppings such as butterscotch, chocolate, strawberry, fruit loops, M&M's, gummy bears, and more. My young son, eyes glazed with a sugar high, smiled broadly at me and said "Mom! This is GOOD! We should have had this BEFORE!" He was one happy kid! The joy on his face halted my initial thought to snatch the sugary goop away.

I was relieved to not have to deny Kristina a certain amount of those wonderful yummies called "junk food." It would be a dismal existence to never taste those things I once thought of as unfit for human consumption. I am thankful for Victor'schange of heart on a law I would have had to enforce, making me the bad guy. I was able to relax on some issues that I thought important but perhaps were not. That way, we could deal strongly with those things which do matter. Most of all we wanted to develop in Kristina a love for the Lord and His word, along with a kind and gentle spirit. In this lighter environment, I was better able to focus on earning the love of my new daughter.

Of course we wanted her to be healthy, so we chose to practice "moderation in all things." One Saturday, when Kristina came to the breakfast table, I was packing and planning for a special fun-filled day that would start with an Easter egg hunt and end with spectacular fireworks display. She eyed a large bag of Cheetos on the table and with that same joyful look as my son had years ago, she requested Cheetos for breakfast. I started to explain why that would not be a good idea and then thought "Oh, why not?" It was going to be a junk-food-filled day anyway. Not every breakfast of course, could consist of Cheetos, but by letting this meal's battle go, I won a great victory with a little girl whose shining eyes and happy heart was my reward.

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