Clark and Leah Burbidge, on their new book Living in the Family Blender and the adventure of a blended family By Kit Tosello In 2005, Clark and Leah Burbidge stood before God and agreed they were in it for the long term. Each brought five children to the new marriage, for a total of ten kids ranging from age four to twenty-five. How would they successfully blend two families into one new and thriving unit? They would be purposeful. And now, fourteen years later, Clark and Leah are the proud new parents of a book they pray will encourage other blended families to do the same. Living in the Family Blender: 10 Principles of a Successful Blended Family, published by Deep River Books, released earlier this month. Beyond the Brady Bunch When the Burbidges married, they faced a daunting challenge. The unfolding of their family’s story was not a half-hour situation comedy on television. This was life, real and raw, challenging and uncomfortable. Clark and Leah knew they would have to approach their relationship thoughtfully. They write, We were building from scratch and could not assume anything would be predictable based on the past. The cornerstones of our approach became respect, clear communication, patience, unconditional love, strong acts of commitment, and a clear and consistent set of spiritual values. Over the years, they have not shied away from the emotional complexities faced by kids like theirs, such as mixed parental loyalties, and neither does their book. Says Leah, “One of our major considerations has been to avoid putting our children in difficult positions.” Theirs is a parenting style that encompasses flexibility, humor, and, above all, love. Real Love Perhaps their top priority has been to offer their kids safe harbor. That means demonstrating real love, again and again, in a world that bombards children with “dangerous counterfeits.” The Burbidges write, Unconditional love includes demonstrated trust, respect, and loving acts of kindness. It means selfishness cannot be part of who you or your family are. A blended family often has both the opportunity and challenge to exercise such love in a unique way. . . . Real love is not built in a day, nor is it spawned by a singular, lustful act or longer-term casual, careless interaction. It grows with purposeful relationship experience and demonstrations over time. Writing a Book is a Family Affair The process of nurturing a healthy blended family began during Clark and Leah’s courtship, and continues today. Even now that the youngest of their kids is eighteen years old, the couple’s strong commitment to family respect and communication comes into play. While writing the book, they were careful to obtain permission from the children whose stories they wanted to include as illustrations for their ten guiding principles. “We have adjusted some and not included others because part or all were considered too personal,” Leah says. “We told them up front that we would respect their feelings and not question why.” One example was their decision not to include pictures of the children. “A few of them have been uncomfortable having their pictures in a published work of this type, although they completely support the book. They felt it might create unhealthy situations with their other bio-parent.” Clark Burbidge is no stranger to publishing or to Deep River Books. He is an award-winning novelist, currently working on the fourth book in his StarPassage series for teens and young adults. His Giants in the Land series includes three books for middle-graders. He also published a family holiday read-together book, A Piece of Silver: A Story of Christ, as well as a non-fiction book, Life on the Narrow Path: A Mountain Biker’s Guide to Spiritual Growth in Troubled Times. Leah and Clark found it exciting to co-write and to “retrace our steps over the last fourteen years and enjoy the wonderful, challenging, difficult, and joyful process again. It has enriched both our relationship and this great work.” The two live in the high mountain valleys of the Rockies, where they enjoy travel, hiking, road and mountain biking, and serving in their community and church, as well as their ever-expanding blended family of ten children and six grandchildren. They see Life in the Family Blender as just another extension of the commitment they made fourteen years ago. “We love to visit with others who have similar challenges and help them appreciate the keys to achieving a more happy and healthy blended family atmosphere in their home.” About Living in the Family Blender Blended family issues impact the vast majority of Americans. Yet, society often side-steps the topic while literature leaves a bleak landscape nearly void of practical advice from those who have lived in the trenches. With over 68 combined years of direct blended family experience, including 14 years with their own family of 10 children, authors Clark and Leah Burbidge are uniquely qualified to fill the void. Their combined autobiographical/how-to guidebook weaves a humorous, tender, uplifting, and critically insightful fabric of 10 foundational principles upon which any family may confidently build. Every blended family can have happier, more fulfilling lives where teamwork, progress, and overcoming-oriented achievement replace disruption, disorientation, and contention. Living in the Family Blender provides practical guidance upon which any family may build better relationships and a life filled with joy and purpose. Join them in their personal journey and discover glorious possibilities in your own lives. Everyone lives in a blended family.