4 Things to Remember About Christmas Cards

Last night I shopped the closets and drawers in our home to put together outfits for the ten of us to wear for a little family photo shoot today. My criteria was as such: we need things to wear that aren’t too match-y, aren’t too clash-y, and won’t cost a thing. We’ll be attempting this feat in the great (and freezing) outdoors, and we’re praying for just one shot in which: 1) We’re all looking. 2) We don’t look too stressed. 3) The two year-old doesn’t freak out. Because, um, she’s in a rather spicy stage right now.

I remember back when taking family photos was a stressful event when we had two kids, but now with eight of ‘em? Ooh boy. It’s a whole different thing. But I don’t think it matters how many kids you have, getting a decent group picture is tricky business. I applaud all photographers for their patience, creativity, and mad skill. And all mothers for the same.

I love, love, love receiving Christmas photo cards in the mail year after year. I stop and gaze at them often during the weeks they’re displayed in our entryway. Then after the holidays pass, I line the inside of our pantry cabinet with them, so I can smile at and pray for the families all year long. It’s my favorite. So, if you send me a card, you can know it will be treasured and handled with care.

Even though these shiny-happy paper guests usually invoke smiles, sometimes they have the capacity to make us droop a little too. Our smile fades when we stare too long and too hard at the perfectly placed children who aren’t pitching fits and who clearly adore each other. All the time. It says so right in their smiles. Then our eyes wander to that glorious mom who managed to pull it all together while looking awfully amazing herself. We conclude in ten seconds or less that we stink. We didn’t even send cards. And even if we did, there’s no way we’d all come out looking like THAT.

As we sit smack-dab in the middle of happy-mail season, I want us to remember something as we tear at the foil-lined envelopes and pull out a bit of Christmas cheer. Actually, there are a few somethings I want us to keep in mind that might help us have the right perspective about all this:

1.  You don’t need to send cards. I repeat: You do not need to send cards. There is no special place in the front of the Christmas buffet line in heaven for those who put in the effort and fork over the cash required. Release yourself from any guilt. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing.

2.  As mentioned above, there’s no secret chamber of God’s heart for those who manage to get it together enough to brighten their loved ones’ mail stacks each year. It’s strictly optional. If it’s your thing, it’s your thing. It can be a really good, positive, and encouraging thing, and it happens to be something I really enjoy doing. Though this year, we obviously aren’t going to get any sort of card printed and send out by next week. We’re aiming for the New Year. This just might become a new family tradition.

3.  If you are the type to send out a greeting this time of year like me, I’m going to ask us a pointed question: Are you seeking to impress people or bless God? It’s an important question to answer, because we can’t do both. Are we touting all we’ve done or all our kids have done in a year? Or are we recounting God’s gifts and faithfulness to us? After all, Christmas is about celebrating the gift of Jesus and His accomplishments, not ours. I’m proposing we give the glory back to Him as we send our greetings. After all, glory was never ours for the taking.

4.  And finally, just as we all know a family photo is not going to tell the whole story of our crazy family, please, please remember they won’t tell the whole story of theirs either. There is SO much more that goes on (for the good and the bad) behind the plastered grins and Christmas sweaters. We know this about ourselves. We must know this about them too. There are no perfect families. Don’t believe that for one second.

I’m wondering if any of you just heaved a heavy sigh of relief like I did. It’s so freeing to release ourselves from the pressure to perform and the temptation to compare ourselves to everyone, isn’t it?

Jesus didn’t come to turn us into photo-ready followers, He came to turn our lives around. May we always rejoice in His coming with gratitude, and think twice about the message we’re sending out and allowing into our thoughts during this season.

Merry Christmas from us to you!

When Gratitude Governs Your Attitude


The lyrics rang out from our family’s well-used and well-loved tape player. It was 1980-somethin’ and I was listening to one of my very favorite cassettes of all time: Joni Earekson Tada – I’ve Got Wheels.

I’d spend hour after hour lying on the lovely pea-soup-green shag carpet, pressing my ear to the tall black speakers in our living room, singing as loudly as I could without being scolded.

Although it’s been decades since I’ve heard that particular song, those compelling words have stuck with me through the years. Let’s have an attitude of gratitude.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, that particular phrase has been rolling around my heart and mind. A lot.

How can I live today with thankfulness?

And what does a life of gratitude look like anyway?

Sounds easier to sing than to realistically put it into practice. Especially for a mom.

More often than not, my attitude is closer to a Mad-i-tude of Platitude. Or as my son refers to stinky attitudes, a Bad-i-tude.

Does this mean we should be thankful for dirty dishes, laundry piles and whiny children? How about flat tires, juice spills, and exploding diapers. (I know, such first world problems, huh.) But the precious child behind those dishes and those laundry piles? Oh yes! We are thankful! The refining of our hearts as we learn to serve our families, reflecting His love through our words and actions? It can be tough, but Yes Please! We want them to SEE LOVE: His perfect love shining through our imperfect mama efforts.

As we look toward celebrating Thanksgiving this week, may we pause for a moment and ponder what that really looks like. How does gratefulness in action affect our everyday?

For our family, we’ve decided to start this season of giving and thanks a bit early. We have been cutting out paper leaves and writing things we’re thankful for several weeks now, creating a family Thankfulness Tree. We add a little string to each leaf, hang them on some branches I have on our living room mantel, and Voila! Instant Tree of Gratitude. A visual reminder God’s faithfulness; what He has done, and what He continues to do in our lives.

I’ve read a bunch about this one guy who thought of ways to serve everyone He came in contact with, never asking for the applause of onlookers. Yeah, of course it’s Jesus. Jesus, the God-man.

He’s always known moms (or all humans for that matter) would struggle with wanting our work to be noticed. It’s nice to hear encouraging words along the way to spur us on toward further acts of service. Our families owe us as much, right? Well, no. Jesus looked at this much differently, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

He wasn’t looking for anyone to actually serve Him or give him a thumbs up during His time on earth, even if He was completely worthy of praise. There would be no huffing away after giving the now-famous Sermon on the Mount if no one stopped him afterward to mention how moving and life changing His words were that day. He simply showed up, gave His all, and let it fall where it may. Never forcing others to commend, be changed, or appreciate His work. Jesus was confident in His mission from the Father: To deliver the message of hope and serve the people.

He didn’t serve for accolades. Though He did the most amazing things and spoke the most amazing words.

He didn’t expect everyone to like Him or what He did.

He didn’t demand a thank you or even an acknowledging glance.

He didn’t yearn for the ancient equivalent of comments, shares, tweets, or discussions about his life and times for His own sake.

He simply wanted His life to point to the Father.

We all want to feel appreciated — because heaven knows it’s not easy being a mom. The hours are endless and the work is never quite complete.

But what if instead of desiring or even demanding appreciation for the ways we serve the people in our life, we do it simply because we love God and love the ones He’s given to us to impact?

Our acts of love and service toward our families and the world around us do not go unnoticed. They don’t. Our lives point to the Father too when we give without the expectation of a thank you, love without limit, and speak not to be adored — but to bless.