I have a confession to make about last year’s Christmas card – I didn’t send them on purpose.
Like many of you, life is busy for our family. When we aren’t working, we are busy moving our boys from school, to sports, to the shower, (occasionally, at best), to bed, only to get up the next day and do it all over again. So, by the time December 2016 rolled around, I hadn’t really given the idea of a Christmas card much thought.
But then a text from friends about needing addresses for Christmas cards reminded me that I hadn’t done anything. I wrote back that I probably wasn’t doing cards and if I did, it would be some hodgepodge collage of crazy cell phone photos because there was zero time to get a perfect, good looking family photo taken. Besides I know (as does every mother reading this letter) exactly what it takes to get that perfect, good looking family photo taken:
- Find a photographer, clear the schedules and pray for good weather
- Shop for outfits that coordinate but don’t look too matchy-matchy
- Beg and plead with your children to wear the clothes you picked out for them – you know, pants that require a belt and shirts that actually button up – then threaten them within an inch of their lives not to get food, or dirt, or wrinkles on said clothes
- Listen to the whining on the way to the photo shoot about how much they don’t want to do the photo shoot
- Arrive at photo shoot and bribe children and husband with candy to, please, smile like a normal person
- Get photos back only to realize that everyone in the photo looks fantastic, except you (Why did I wear that outfit?!)
- Spend way too much time online selecting just the right card design
- Begrudgingly check off “Christmas cards” from your holiday to do list and be thankful you have a whole year before doing it all again
But last year, I didn’t make time for all the above, so the hodgepodge collage would have to do. I downloaded the photos off my phone, found the ones I wanted to use and set aside one hour at work to get them done. But I forgot that hour was reserved for a conference call. “No problem,” I told myself, “I can multitask like a boss! I’ll just do the cards while I listen to the call.” Two birds? Meet one stone. Boom.
As the call commenced, I got started on the cards. A layout was selected, photos dropped in place. Edit here, polish there. Tweak, adjust…and voila! The card was done. I read through it a couple times and sat back to admire my work. “Not bad,” I thought. “It’s not our best card, or the prettiest, but it’ll do.”
I went to the order screen and punched in my quantity. In skimming through the order process, I saw a note that said if I wanted to pay $.99, the card company would do a review of my card to make sure everything looked correct, however it would delay the order by a few days. I thought for a moment what a nice feature that was, but I didn’t need it. I’m pretty sure my internal dialogue went something like, “I know what I’m doing. I’ve been a professional writer for 20 years. I’ve checked it twice for errors. Didn’t see any. I need to get this thing done, in the mail and off my list.” So, I scoffed at the extra review, hit submit and ordered the cards.
The confirmation order email came as I was about to head out the door to go home. It was past 5 p.m. and Jon had already called to remind me that Rinner had a soccer game and I needed to get home. But before I shut down my computer, I decided to go back and take a screen shot of the card to show Jon.
In rereading the card, I suddenly had a moment of panic. I had misspelled the word “Merry” on the front of the card. Whaaaat?! I put three ‘r’s’ instead of two. Agggghhhh!!! I frantically pulled up the card website and searched for a number to call. I finally got to customer service where a recorded voice said the wait time was 45 minutes. Agggghhhh!!! I can’t wait that long!!! So, I hastily sent them an email with “Help” as the subject line. I explained my mistake and I would be willing to pay whatever was needed to correct it before it went to print. I immediately got an auto reply that the company would respond to my inquiry within two days. I told myself to stop freaking out, wait for the response and don’t say a word about this to anyone. “Don’t worry,” I reassured myself, “you’ll get this fixed.”
For the next two days I regularly checked email for a response. When I finally heard from them, the customer service person was polite but didn’t pull any punches. “I’m so sorry, but at the time your email was received, the order had already gone to print. We are unable to make any changes or revisions at this time.” He told me I could keep the cards and they would give me a slight discount in reordering, or return them for a partial refund. After the mess I’d made creating and ordering them in such a distracted rush, I decided to return them and forgo a card altogether.
That weekend our minister began a Christmas sermon series called “Holidazed.” It focused on how we often spend the days around Christmas feeling dazed from all the demands and pressures we put on ourselves (over decorating, buying gifts out of obligation, sending the perfect card – ahem), rather than making time to cherish the “holy days” of the Christmas season.
As I sat there and listened to the message, I felt God nudge my heart. He said. “Tell the story of the cards.”
My internal dialogue immediately started with the excuses. “God, look. I just want to forget this ever happened. People won’t notice if they don’t get a card from us this year. I didn’t even want to do Christmas cards in the first place! Can’t we just keep this between you, me, and that Tiny Prints customer service rep?”
“Go on. Write the story.”
So, here it is. Our 2016 Christmas card with its hodgepodge collage of pictures and one too many ‘r’s’ in Merry.
Looking at this card today, I am embarrassed at what a holidazed state it put me in. Why did I think I couldn’t mail them with that little mistake? Why didn’t I pay $.99 to have someone else review them? Why did I create them in such a distracted rush in the first place? Why? Why? WHY?
Pride. That’s why. Writing that word makes my nose sting and my eyes fill with tears. The truth is the last few years have been hard. Two moves in three years have left me with shallow roots and a deep desire for anything familiar, safe, and constant. But pride tells me to keep up a good appearance. And the perfect, good looking family on our Christmas card is the best illusion – at least once a year in your mailbox.
But this year I’m embracing the imperfect. The truth is sometimes the days are hard and I need help to get through. My kids aren’t perfect, neither is my marriage, and the crazy thing is, it’s okay. There is joy and freedom in the honesty of my imperfection. The imperfection is…well, perfect.
And the reason my imperfection is perfect is because God sent Jesus to be the answer to my messy, crazy, unpredictable, difficult life. He is grace when I fail, peace when I’m afraid, hope when I’m confused, and a light when I’m lost. Jesus came to be all of those things and more for me. He came to be all of those things for you, too.
As it turns out, in 2017 the stars magically aligned and allowed us to take a decent family photo. And as much as I like how polished we all look, I kind of miss the hot mess express of last year’s card.
So, stay tuned for 2018’s card. Whether polished or a hodgepodge collage, whatever we do, I promise to spend the $.99 from here on out.