I stood beaming near the tree, now freshly peppered with shiny gifts. The boys rushed in the door and made a mad dash to the gift pile – looking, shaking and squeezing with their child-like wonder. I see Sullivan mouthing something as he handles his presents one by one, then finally he turns to me and says,

There are only 4 presents for me.

At Dad’s house, I have 8.


This was last Christmas. But the scene still tries to color my thoughts this year, begging me to give it space and to ward off a similar blow by competing with the other parents. Upping the present count and adding into the mix things we really can’t afford. I know this is a prevalent temptation for most parents in the throes of holiday madness, but I think divorcees and blended families get a unique heap of it. Because we are not in control of our own child’s complete Christmas experience; we are only setting half of their childhood norm. They will all have two Christmas mornings, one right after the other.

Avoiding the question, How will ours compare? is really difficult. Almost impossible.

And really important.

We have decided, and continue to claim the ground, that our financial choices will not ever be based on the other households. It is a death-trap to live any other way. Even when silently taunted by some of their spending, gifts, and things we desperately want for ourselves – we simply can not be pulled into a game. The only financial internals we really know are our own. And the only finances we are responsible for before the Lord are our own. So the only ones we choose to focus on and give any space to are our own. The alluring rabbit trails of comparison only ever lead to jealousy or self-pity.

But easier said than done, right?

The most tried & true medicine I’ve yet found for these aches and pains (which let’s be honest, are bound to rear their heads from time to time), are still giving, and thanksgiving. When I am tempted to hoard or buy – the most powerful response is to move in the opposite spirit: to give. Even, maybe especially, if it hurts. We bless someone. Surprise someone. Leave an anonymous envelope of cash for that person God keeps putting on our hearts. We support the causes and people we love that are doing God’s work all over this globe. We look for ways to make a real, kingdom difference.

Then I look at everything around me, and shout out my thanks. Literally, shout it! Today I thanked God for my warm home, the candles in our fireplace, all the hugs waiting for me after school, the work projects coming in, eggnog in the refrigerator, my dear friend’s newly adopted daughter, amazing friends (name by name), new music, His healing work, time to write, Papa’s smile, my iPhone (it seems to always gets a shout-out), and on and on. There are always things to give thanks for.

We also ask, instead of how will ours compare? – how will ours be special? Not better, just special. What do we want our kids to know and remember about Christmas? And we put those big rocks in first. We read our Advent book together (the children have always adored this special book). We worship and dance together – to traditional beautiful Christmas songs as well as ones that tell the Story in new vibrant ways. We make space to enjoy each other – for games of chess while sipping hot cider and reading books outloud while cuddling under blankets. We fill the house with wonderful smells as each family member gets to pick something special we will eat or cook over the holiday break – this year’s list includes salmon, starfruit, challah eggnog french toast, crepes, and brussel sprouts (yes, brussel sprouts! our kids LOVE this recipe). We pray together and invite the Living God to truly be present our celebration – the funnest party guest of all! We focus on others – this year we are giving each child a gift of money to bless someone with; they’ve been excitedly looking through the World Vision gift catalog as well as some of the specific missionaries and organizations we support as a family. For a list of fabulous groups to support as well as products that really make a difference, check out one of the best articles I’ve read on Christmas by Jen Hatmaker. Seriously, amazing.

Our traditions as this new (big) blended family still feel embryotic – I am looking forward to being more intentional about developing our own special time and ways. Though my soul is deeply stirred by reading traditions like When Christmas Gets Radical by Ann Voskamp, and there are parts of it that inspire us and we incorporate – we are not them, we are us. We’re not really called to fix our eyes on their celebration anymore than our ex’s: we get the joy of asking God Himself how He wants our unique family to celebrate Him. And that, gets me excited. Because He knows me, knows every single person in our family – and is always full of surprises and likes to laugh! His unique ideas for us are way more engaging than following someone else’s plan or competing in any way with others.

So this morning I asked him for a new idea – just one, for our family today on Christmas Eve. He reminded me that his birth is still good news of great joy – and there are some people who could really use some good news! So after I finish typing, I am going to ask the 6 children downstairs to bring a pillow and blanket to the living room. I will turn on some worship, they are going to lay on the floor and soak in His presence (they love to do this!) as I walk around quietly praying, and asking God to show them someone on His heart to encourage today. After a bit we will go over to the kitchen table and make cards for those people, with words and pictures that the Lord has given to these kids for them. Good news. Great joy. As true and important this day as it was so many years ago in a tiny stable in Bethlehem.

May your own celebration today be God-inspired, full of live, and bursting with great joy!


If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.






4 Responses to “Dancing to a Different Drummer”

  1. Laura says:

    Beautiful post, and inspiring. I will definitely use some of the ideas, and some of the attitude, in your post!

  2. Em says:

    thank you for wanting the best for your kids- it will bless generations to come

  3. ecd says:

    Hmmm…this really hits home. I’m constantly reminded how comparison just leads to competition which just leads to a place of distrust. Thank you for the simple treasures!

  4. amda says:

    Beautiful. Loved this blog and the heart and wisdom behind it. Amen sister!

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