Ode to Blended Family Holidays

So Thanksgiving has come and gone, it was wonderful, it was stressful it was . . . in a word, family.

Family gatherings with all their differing perspectives and personalities are often difficult to manage, but throw in a history cluttered with divorce, remarriage and painful experiences and it’s difficult to keep a lid on the simmering stewpot of the past.

So why was it, I often wail to God, that I didn’t have the Norman Rockwell marriage? Why did you allow me to travel such rocky roads rutted with despair and discouragement?

I finally learned to move on and express gratitude for what I have now. Leave

My husband, the energizer bunny.

the hard lessons of the past in the past. Run the race of life with courage and confidence. It was me, not God, that chose the detours that led to those rocky places. It was God, however, who protected me there and led me out of the rocky places. Then He allowed me the grace to grow in knowledge and understanding along the way. Thankfully, I’ve now been married to a great guy for eleven years and counting.

The Pew Research Center specifies that in America, one in six kids lives in a blended family. One in six kids has experienced upheaval with role models, parenting styles, perhaps differing religions or living arrangements, the list goes on. It is a sad fact, and one that I hope will change. Marriages are meant to thrive and grow instead of ending in a courtroom with a stranger dictating who gets what.

Absolutely perfect nuclear family in “Father Knows Best”

I wish I’d had an enduring, wonderful marriage when raising my four kids. I wish I could’ve spared them the agony of change and rearranging the family unit. But it does no good to look back and dig around in the bottomless pit of ‘what if’. I’m learning a new way of looking at life with an excited and hopeful ‘what now’?

So on this day, as I ponder holidays and blended families and emotional potholes along the path, I choose to be grateful.

Grateful for the little spats that somehow manage to draw us closer and help us understand each other better. Grateful for my husband who cast a net of fun and frivolity over things in spite of my irritation with his methods. Grateful that my oldest daughter’s family and one son actually LIVE here now (yay) and I get to enjoy them all the time. I am also learning to be grateful (through a jaw-clenched faith) for the sad detours my kids take at different points in their lives before they finally dig in and figure it out. I know that God is in control of this too, and if I survived my detours on the path to contentment and wisdom, so will they.

I think there’s something to this ‘being thankful’ thing. After all, when does griping and complaining ever make us feel better? For me, it just makes things worse. But being thankful zips me back to emotional equilibrium in a heartbeat. I start looking up instead of down.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because in bold type and underlined it emphasizes the concept: Thank God in all things.  Even when the circumstances aren’t favorable. A thankful heart goes a long way to helping us stay on top of our circumstances instead of under them.

Especially for non-Norman Rockwell families like mine.