'Tis the season to get those “our-kids-are-taking-a-break-from-Harvard-to-serve-in-the-Peace-Corps” Christmas letters.
Let me run barefooted through a Lego minefield on a hardwood floor in the dark.
I realize the annual Christmas update letters are not the place to bare your family’s souls. But why is it, even in innocent holiday cards (which I love receiving by the way!), I compare my family’s inner realities with everyone else’s packaged perfection?
What if we were to peel back the layers of a Christmas letter?
1. From the story we tell,
2. to the "stuff" we hide,
3. to the ultimate reality of Jesus speaking truth into our too-real lives.
So here is an “imaginary” Christmas letter (my family would exile me to the North Pole for exposing any of our hidden realities—if we had any, of course). Remember, all situations and names are totally fictional. Read through the layers of projected image, to hidden struggles, to Jesus truth. Then, as you read “those” Christmas cards this season, you can peel back some of pretty packaging to the realities and gifts inside.
And remember, just sending out a Christmas card (with a photo with adults as well as the kids) can be a major victory for many of us. Let's read between the lines and behind the layers, to hear Jesus whisper to all of us, "Everything will be all right."
Merry Christmas from the “Joneses”
Art, Mavis, Dougie, Edie-Ann and Waldo
“There’s just no keeping up with “Us Joneses” this year! Life has been zoom-zooming along. We took a break from sending letters last year because, well, we were just too busy!”
Really? We took a break because we were broke—credit cards, college costs, salary cuts. And I went catatonic trying to figure out how to make us look “good” to all our “good” friends.
Christmas is my breaking into this world for the broke and broken and the never-good-enough. There’s no need to “look good.” Look at me. Many thought I was just another “bastard” baby from a broke family. But I was a baby who would be broken so you could return to the Good God.
And dear Mavis, there is no Christmas Card Commandment. You are free to never send another letter.
“Dougie is loving fraternity life, and looks forward to law school. We can’t believe that our baby, Edie-Ann, graduated from high school where she was on the dance team (Must have gotten that from the other side of the family tree!) And now’s she off to college in Alaska. Watch out for polar bears! My folks just moved to a cute house in a retirement community. Art is working hard as ever but still manages to “swing” a great golf handicap. Me? Loving that empty nest and getting involved in all sorts of volunteer activities.”
Here’s rock-bottom reality. Dougie loved that frat life so much that he’s on academic probation. We’ll probably have to convert the den back to his bedroom because who hires an English major?
We had to clip Edie Ann’s social butterfly’s wings through high school so you can imagine the scenes. She went to college as far away as possible and we hear from her when she needs money.
My parents are so angry with me for making them move to “the home” as they call it they’ve written me out of the will.
Work is sucking the life out of Art and I resent his golf recovery time. I wander the empty nest wanting a do-over. My volunteer “opportunities” are excuses to not face myself and my disappointments.
Remember how you longed for kids? They are my unexpected gifts for your sanctification. You’d still harbor illusions of “control” without a family of not-following-my-plan-for-success sinners. I love that you rely on me (even if it is forced by the hard places you’re in). I see your heart and deep desires for your family. Nothing you do in faith is wasted: time, love, money or prayer. (Except worry. Now that’s a waste). Relish the moments you do have with the family and keep loving and caring for your folks in their hard places.
“We still have Waldo the Wonder Dog, alive at 14 even with doggie diabetes, bladder problems, cataracts and fleas. Art and I can relate (except for the flea part). Sorry we were too scattered to get a family photo this year. Well, that’s us in a “nut” shell! What about you and yours? “
The Jones Family
Art, Mavis, Dougie, Edie-Ann, and Waldo
Reality: We’re pouring money and time we don’t have on a dog I don’t even like anymore. It even makes me mad at poor Art because he is St. Francis to my Cruella de Vil. And aging is NOT funny and we don’t like it. There’s no family photo because I do not want anyone to see how old and fat I’m getting.
Being kind and faithful to an old dog is a hard but beautiful moment for you, Mavis. You’re learning compassion and letting go of any illusions you had about your own “goodness” outside of me. See how kind Art is to Waldo? That’s how he’ll treat you as you get older, blinder and incontinent.
Finally, can I gently say you obsess way too much about your weight and age? Remember it’s not about the packaging, but the gift inside. You’re becoming more and more beautiful to me (and Art!). It makes me sad that you keep bringing up your past mistakes and failures. If I don’t remember them, why should you?
So, go walk Waldo with Art. And take lots of pictures. You won’t regret it.