One of my favorite things about the weeks leading up to Christmas is going to the mailbox. I love the anticipation of seeing which beautiful family photo awaits my eyes. I feel blessed by these Christmas cards filled with love and peace. But my family Christmas greeting has a bit of a secret to it…and the secret lies behind the camera. This is not a revelation to my husband and most family members, but I am an absolute crazy, mad woman when it comes to taking the photos featured on those beautiful matte finished cards. I’m talking Mommy Dearest wire hanger scene, CRAZY!
This past Saturday was D Day…time to take the picture, you could see the dread in Andy’s eyes. We were a little late this year so it HAD TO BE DONE THIS WEEKEND, that was the first element of pressure. The second was the sun, it was too bright in the area I had previously scouted, so I was then on a mission to find a shady spot that fit my vision. Luckily, there was still shade across the street, so we headed to my neighbors backyard. Here comes my family…three kids in outfits they hate, a special chair for Katie, bag of tricks and all. “Get out of my way, I have to beat the sun!”
Lexi, my 7 year old, is a true professional she knows to just sit and smile or mommy will start yelling, she doesn’t want to be the instigator of that, but no worries Drew, in his 4th year of life, fills that role. He isn’t old enough to understand that photo sessions are all about capturing the best shot of Katie. Bless her soul, she has no idea what I want from her, it’s as if she is saying, “Mommy I am trying, I don’t know what you want me to do.” She is just being herself, chewing on the new texture of her sweater, rocking back in forth creating a blurr on my camera screen or her eyes are rolled up. ”Andy, those eyes have to be down for the photo, put a light up toy in front of her, but pull it out quick so I can snap the shot.” And the orders are barked. “Pull her legs down, I can’t see her face, wipe the drool and it will be perfect.” But it’s not, her mouth is hanging open. “Andy, make her smile! Drew, look at the camera, Lexi, sit up straight!!!” Oh my poor family, this goes on and on for at least 30 minutes.
Throughout the photo shoot I experience so many emotions.
I think back to Katie’s first Portrait Innovations visit. It would be our first Christmas card and I wanted it to be adorable, but she didn’t get the memo. The experience was awful, we left with no photo and I sat in the car bawling afterwards. Thankfully my awesome husband encouraged me to go back and we got this gem. Now that Katie is 12 years old I think, if she were typical she would be the one getting the other two to sit still, why does it have to be so difficult?
It’s difficult because I make it that way. What is my goal? A photo that captures my children looking the exact opposite of how they do on most days? What am I trying to hide? This year’s card doesn’t show Katie’s G-tube button, her wheelchair or her communication device. It features my ego trying to live up to the, “You’ve got it all together!” comments I get because people don’t see me behind the scenes. I’m trying to cover all that up and portray my June Clever side.
WHY??? Because I want more than what God gave me. I’m too busy trying to keep up with the Jones’, my card has to be fancy, my outdoor light display must stop traffic, and my gifts need to be the best ever given. And I must RSVP yes to every holiday event, it’s all just too much. Who am I trying to impress? It’s certainly not my family because they see the wrath of all this yearning for perfection. The wrath that is the complete opposite of what God wants for me right now.
Advent is a time to reflect on Jesus’ coming again at the end of times, it’s a period of preparing so we can be ready when He comes. “Be on alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13
If He comes tomorrow will He be impressed with my beautiful lighted garland lining my stair railing? Probably not! He would likely ask me if I felt good about the way I acted during the photo shoot, was I acting like He would act? NO!! I so often put the wrong type of pressure on myself. The pressure should be focused on following God’s will not achieving some level of perfect Christmas mom status.
A friend told me the other day, that instead of going to several holiday events on Saturday she said no and her family just stayed home to decorate the tree, and it was so amazing. We all need a little more of this. Time to just be with the ones we love, time to focus on all the gifts we already have. In this slowing down we lessen the pressure for more and more and more. We accept that what is around us in enough…that my children are beautiful no matter what the photo shows. So maybe one day I’ll get up the nerve to send the Christmas card with the real picture, the one that shows my family how we truly are, perfectly imperfect.