Sunday, December 21, 2014

Still here. Still alive. Merry Christmas.

Imagine getting a Christmas letter that admitted someone in the family was struggling with pornography or another addiction.  Or that another member of the family was in counselling for depression and an eating disorder.  Or that the whole family had been hurt in church and now nobody wanted to go back.

Imagine reading from a friend’s letter that the husband and wife were in marriage counselling and didn't know if they were going to stay together.  Imagine finding out in an end of year missive that someone’s child was in trouble with the law, or serving time.  What would you think reading descriptions of the tension between a new blended family trying to adjust to two visitation schedules with two ex’s?

The fact of the matter is, any time any of us have a bad year, we aren’t as likely to send out Christmas cards or a Christmas letter.  If we’ve experienced a death in the family, struggled financially, had medical issues, serious kid problems, emotional trauma, a divorce, church drama, or just a year where everything seemed to go wrong, we don’t really feel like sharing.  Those things don’t go as well in the end of year brag letter as do educational accomplishments, travel, promotions and awards. 

After all, no one is completely honest in those letters anyway, right?  And even if we are truthful, we are selective. We tell about the highlights of our year, but rarely the struggles in between.  And if the “in between” was bigger that whatever we could come up with to brag about… just never mind. 

And now you know why you don’t get one of those letters from the Andersons.

So what about the Christmas card picture?  The one where we are all smiling in our best clothes and the carefully planned background.  The one that took like 100 shots to get everyone looking at the camera and everyone’s expressions just right, and everyone was ready to kill each other by the time we were finished.

Our family does do one of those.  We’ve figured out that if we plan a “Christmas picture shoot” it leads to tension and disaster (even now that there are no more toddlers in the family- sorry to disappoint you) so what we do now is select some pictures taken in the past year and stored on the computer and use those. 

And yes, we do pick the best ones.  And as I address envelopes to friends and family I rarely see or communicate with in person, I think about what message I am sending with my card.

Honestly, it isn’t “look at us, don’t we look good.” It’s more like, “Hey, look, we are still here.  We survived another year!”  I’m a single mom, but willing to send out a family photo card anyway.  Yep, here I am, gaining a little weight, still single, still hanging in there.  And my kids- yes, they are beautiful, but they have struggles too.  Like me, they are making the best of things, not smiling because of everything, but in spite of everything.

We are like the prehistoric granny in animated Dreamworks film The Croods who wakes up every day and pops up out of every disaster with a triumphant “STILL ALIVE!”

So if you get a Christmas card from us, you can just do a little mental translation. 

It says, "Merry Christmas,"  but what it really means is-


STILL ALIVE! 

(By God grace.)