They are taped along my fireplace mantel, smiling down on us near the tree. The variety is amazing. Some show new life brought this past year. Some share smiles from vacations that were enjoyed. Others proclaim the birth of Christ through scripture and encouraging words.
All the Christmas cards that hang in my living room share something special. And I simply love them.
In fact, cards are by far my favorite part of Christmas. The food is amazing. The gifts are generous and wonderful. But what really gets me excited this time of year are the cards sent in the mail. Or at least that is how it was until 3 years ago.
This season, as I stare out at all the posed family shots and fun stories of adventure and joy, I struggle with it all. In the past I would have been completely ashamed to admit such a thing, but I have embraced my humanity, especially this year, and I won’t cover it up to make me look like something I am not.
I want the sparkly smiles, the laughs, the family photos. But as I sat this year, making our own Christmas card, I found that I hated everything I came up with. The earth has rotated once more around the sun, yet time often stands still in my heart. My girls grow, change, and learn, but I struggle to always see that because if they mature, what happens to Molly?
I realize that there are some that think I am being ridiculous. I mean, after all, it’s just a Christmas card.
But there are a few things they are missing.
You see, I always looked at choosing my card for the year as a way to share the theme of our family. For instance, one year, while Peter was deployed, we added some favorite shots of the girls, and then a picture of him in Iraq because that is where our family was. The girls were at home growing faster than weeds, getting into mischief, while Daddy was off defending our country on a deployment. It was perfect.
Then there was the year that we took professional shots on the beach, because that is where we spent a huge part of our life. We added a loving shot, all five of us holding hands and smiling at the camera. Then in a smaller shot, we had a photo of all of us making a silly face, because that is how we roll… silly.
Perhaps my favorite was the year with all three girls, a few different shots, and the word “joy”. That is what we felt that year. Joy that we were together. Joy for the gifts given to us by our Lord. Joy for the simplicity of family.
The first Christmas after Molly died, I was dreading the whole idea of a card. I cried for weeks and weeks and went back and forth about it. But then I came up with the idea of having a recent family photo that was taken, in black and white, and then added onto the card, the happiest, and brightest of pictures of Molly making a snow angel in the snow… all in color. It represented to me the exact state in comparison where our family was. Molly in fully color, enjoying heaven with the very One we celebrated this time of year. Compared to us, she was doing amazing, healed and full of life.
Then last year, with Peter deployed again, we represented Molly in a way that we were all very happy with.
This year, we had planned on getting family photos done in the fall by my bestest best friend when she came to visit. Problem was, I wasn’t prepared. I had no energy to think about what to wear and where to take shots let alone what to add into our family photo that keeps Molly in the physical view as she is defiantly in our hearts every single day. So no picture was taken.
Feeling pressured to still make a Christmas card this year, I stumbled over to my computer halfheartedly, depressed and already defeated and created a card that I literally hated. It represented nothing that I wanted. There wasn’t anything focused on Christ, my girl’s faces were turned from the camera as they decorated a tree, which by the way, we only started doing when Molly was sick, and there was not a single thing that said, “Molly is still with us.”
Cards were ordered and I cried every time I saw the envelopes of 200 cards sitting on my shelf. In fact, when Sam asked me what was wrong, she immediately grabbed a card and fixed it by adding a picture of Molly to it.
She also drew me a card.
I’ve decided not to send them. (Though a few people back in NY got them because I initially sent them home with family who came to visit to save on postage. Then I decided I really hated them and it was too late. What can I say, I am certifiably crazy.)
I’ve cried, thought, criticized myself, and slept away all the emotions that this simple, yet complex task entails and I have come to this conclusion.
It will be OK.
Though after 14 years of marriage, I have never missed a year, this year will be my year that I let it all go.
When you think about the Christmas story, it really is a heartbreaking one. A Father, miraculously sending His Son to earth is yes, amazing in itself. But as a parent myself, I cannot forget the fact that He knew why He was sending His Son.
Is it possible that we forget the meaning of Christmas, not just by focusing on the buying things, get togethers, and eating, but by simply turning away from the grief and pain that He suffered on that day?
I will honor God this year, not by wallowing in my grief, but grieving alongside Him, knowing what it is to watch a child suffer and die.
It is perfectly acceptable to have a mix of joy and sadness this season as I know many are facing their first, fourth, or fortieth Christmas without those they love.
Perhaps though, my gift to the baby Christ is to open my heart up a little more, not just to the pain, but to the joy received in accepting Him as my King.
So though it seems like an out of the blue blog, and though I am sure there are things I could expound on, I leave you with this.
From our family to yours, we wish you the Merriest Christmas. My prayer is that the Lord becomes even more real in all our lives in 2018 and that you see that miracles are still always taking place.
Love to you this season,
Peter, Julie, Samantha, Molly, and Clara