Blended Families and the Holidays

By on December 4, 2014

By Cindy Shannon−

It is amazing to me the level of stress experienced the minute Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations, advertisements and plans begin.  It is not supposed to be like this, I know, but when you have a blended family all things ‘normal’ become ‘abnormal’.

This post is to offer some insight for those experiencing the stress of the ‘abnormal’ holiday season.

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I am including a letter I wrote to myself one January after a meltdown over the holidays.

The Holidays … Divorce Style

Since my divorce almost 20 years ago, holidays haunted me.  These were dates on a calendar where the imperfectness of my life and the consequences of my choices were amplified, framed and blown out of proportion.

It was as if the battle was on!

From the minute my siblings called with the date and time of the family event being held at their house, to the arranging and rearranging to validate my “family” within that event, I physically tightened.  My mind raced with “how to arrange this to meet everyone’s needs” (to be perfect … because I don’t want to look like my choices have had any consequence, especially on my children).

After reading the books 1000 Gifts, Captivating, and The Grace Disguised, I realized that God has had me on a redemptive journey this entire time.  Loss (which is what the book The Grace Disguised is about) … yes divorce is loss … we have ‘lost relationships we never have had but wanted.’  We have had to change our direction in life.

“Most of us want life not only to be under our control but also to be fair.  So when we suffer loss, we claim our right to justice and resent circumstances that get in the way.  In a fair world …”

“for grace is grace only when it is undeserved”.

Here’s my real-life example ~ 2013 Christmas

So this is Christmas … I was going to have my children December 23 (don’t you love how ‘having your children’ becomes a common phrase once divorced) … this became completely messed up … texts, time changes, date changes, STRESS ~ because you see now, arrangements are including  extra people as ex-spouces have remarried, extended families become very extended.  These are the things that people who have never been divorced don’t understand, I know I didn’t.  It’s ugly on the other side; what you think is alleviating pain for you (divorce), crops up in other, more extreme areas when it comes to your children.

With all the conflict I was all knotted up … then the message from pastor about Advent.

Advent is about waiting and not missing it.

In John 10:30 Jesus was in Jeruselum for the last time a year before his death his final attempt at saving people and He said to them “I and the Father are one”

He was right there??? God??? The miracles??? And they missed it???

I am reading Ann Voskamp as she discusses how to experience joy — she says first; slow down, humble yourself, take notice of the now, I Am …”  It all came together for me in this moment …

I SURRENDER!!!  Stop the holiday fight for ownership.  Me, the decor and the gifts do not matter … it’s about time, being present … ‘POOF’ relief, like never before.

It all made sense; Knowing His presence and not knowing the plan brings me peace.

So I wrote a poem. (at least an attempt at one)


For 20 plus years
I have fretted
To prove my worth
At Christmas Time

I have staked out claims
Held on hard and fast
To stuff and things; dates and times
Which brought nothing but stress

To have lost relationships
We never have had but wanted
For life to be fair after the loss
To claim control and justice

As God revealed through my pain
The fight was always without
I always was left with the crumbs
Never enough time, never enough

I surrendered on this day
I conceded the fight this way
Heard it on movies and in songs
It’s not the gifts, or how we get along

It’s the time we share with one another
It’s the adoring of ‘the gift’
Knowing His presence,
Not knowing the plan



Fast forward to the holidays 2014, stay with me now–I know this is long, but the most revealing part is yet to come.  I am flying home from a trip to LA with my children and I see God’s plan for me more clearly in terms of marriage and wife and mom.  Yes, I am still mom, but to base my sole existence as such, is a ‘set up’. That time is over.  It is my time now to pray and seek for my children.

So it was all you Lord … I see that now, prior, it was covetousness.  I am to be quiet–to ‘not know’.

Covetousness is inflating the pleasure, causing us to lose perspective on what IS REAL.
I was focused on what was not real.  The root of it is we are rejecting God’s ability to provide.

Another element that has helped me is the concept of slowing down.  Ann Voskamp and Gary Thomas discuss this in their books 1000 Gifts and Authentic Faith.  Ann says “We slow down and we pay attention to the present, speaking what we are thankful about — and God is there.”
Gary Thomas reminds me that

“God moves by millennia not minute and by generations not seasons”

So without the willingness to wait, we will be frustrated by God because He will not be rushed.  Waiting can debilitate us unless ‘it is marked by hope in God.’ Isaiah 40:30 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength…”.

What does this look like?

The spirit of waiting ~ Combines; Contentment, Gentleness and Humility

It is my prayer, you surrender all the ‘stuff’ that you are doing to try to be worthy this Christmas.  Join me in being present and thankful in the now of Christ.


Originally posted on Horses, Marriage, and Women 50+.


About Cindy Shannon

Cindy is a 50’something retired High School Marketing and Business teacher/track, cross country, volleyball coach and DECA Advisor with a school store in her classroom. She and her husband live on a farm where they host many church-related events; everything from father-son campouts, hayrides, bonfires, women “Facing Their Fears” one-day event, and Marriage Ministry. It is their desire to use the farm to encourage Christians and foster fellowship and healing. They are available for couples to just get away for a night, offering their Bed and Breakfast business for couples retreat. Their farm sits on approx. 100 acres with a large pond/dock for fishing. You can find her on her blog at: “Horses, Marriage and Women 50+": (

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Blended Families and the Holidays