As Thanksgiving approaches, we are all excited about stuffing our faces with turkey and getting to hang out with family. It is a time of being thankful but it has also become the holiday that sets the stage for Christmas. Is it just me? Or does everyone seem to start setting up for Christmas earlier and earlier each year. I absolutely love Christmas! It is by far my favorite holiday and favorite time of year. I love the colors, the smell of Christmas trees, fires burning and hot chocolate. I love the meaning of Christmas. It is the day that a Savior was born! It is a time to be joyful and a time to give as we were given such a great gift.
During this time, I start preparing to send out my Christmas cards. So, I have been running around for the past two weeks trying to find my tall and skinny kid a pair of blue jeans just so we can take a family picture for our Christmas cards this year. I have yet to find anything that fits him and I refuse to have him in wind pants or shorts. That would just defeat the whole ambiance that I am trying to create. So what goes into the photograph that makes it just right, picture perfect? That very question has me wondering just what lies behind the scenes of the perfect picture.
Anyone who has little ones, knows how difficult it is just to get just one picture where everyone is looking in the same direction. I know over the years we have done everything to get our boys to cooperate. The final product turns out fine but if you saw all the out takes you would laugh. I have had Christian crying because we threated to spank him if he didn't smile. I have had Bo crying because Christian hugged his neck too tight and caused him to choke. Bryan has mooned both boys just to get them to smile. Someone farts just in the middle of the count and then we have to start all over because everyone is laughing hysterically. After several shots, we usually have a couple to choose from. Everyone sees the picture and says how great everyone looks. They don't know the struggle that is behind those perfect poses and those sparkling smiles.
When you look at someone's finished portrait, you may not know the struggles or the triumph's they have encountered. There may be a loved one missing from that picture that has left a void in the family's life. There may be scars from a surgery and wounds from battle that are covered nicely by clothes and makeup. There may be pain in their body because they are sick but they are able to muster up enough energy for a picture. There may be internal hurt because someone has betrayed them or because they haven't let go of past experiences. And of course not every story is full of heart break. Behind someone's smile might be the recent joy from the birth of a child. Someone is beaming because they were just told they are healed of cancer. A young man asked a girl to marry him and she said yes. They may be smiling because they know what all God has brought them through and they are just glowing with thankfulness.
Behind my picture is a whole life story. My life is not perfect. I have encountered sickness. My smile is crooked now because of a wound that never fully healed. I have broken relationships that have caused a void in my life. I have missed God's voice and made several wrong decisions. I have had to swallow my pride and admit that I am wrong. I have lost loved ones that I miss a whole lot. I have smiled when I don't feel like smiling. And I have been hurt because no one asked me what was wrong. I have had pity parties and invited only myself. I have been discouraged because I feel like I am not using my gifts and talents the way I should be. Maybe I am scared that I don't even possess those gifts and talents anymore. But even with all of that said, there is so much good that comes with that smile. Behind that smile, is a woman who genuinely cares about people. I smile because I have two healthy boys who make me more proud to be their mom each and every day. I smile because I have a husband who has my back and wants to be a better man even though I already think he is the best. I smile because even though I interfere with God's plan for my life, He takes me where I am and puts me back on track. He believes in what I am called to be and who He created me to be. I smile because God reassures me that my gifts, talents and dreams are not dead. I smile because I have a God that will get me through anything. I smile because there is hope in Him. Heaven is picture perfect to me!
So I challenge you as you are opening everyone's Christmas cards and seeing pictures of their families, remember that they have a story. It may be a good story but I am sure it has some bumps and turns and twists. You got their card because you are special to them. Remember to ask them how they are doing. Take time to pray for them and whatever they may be going through. It may be all good. In that case take time to thank the Lord for blessing them and ask Him to continue to do so. As you sit drinking hot chocolate in your home, opening cards, there may be someone in the hospital fighting for their life. They need your prayers because they may not have the energy to pray for themselves. As you sit and take your family picture, there may be someone just trying to hold their family together. Be thankful for all that you have! Take time for people. We are all very busy and sometimes feel like we don't have an ounce of energy to give to anyone else. But there will be moments when you may be all the energy they have. Love people. Don't love them just from a distance. Put your arm around them and let them know that you care. Christmas is all about Jesus who was born to save us all. Jesus preached love and compassion. He carried our burdens and told us to go out and change the world. You may not be able to help everyone. But you can make a difference in someone's life. You could be a part of the smile that lights up their family picture. You can help make it picture perfect.
I hope you all have a great holiday season with your family. I encourage you to spread love through this wonderful and hectic time. I pray your families keep smiling and keep sharing your life story. Everyone has a story and everyone can make a difference. I am glad you are a part of my story as you take time to read my random thoughts in this blog. You humble me and I am thankful.
Below is some of our imperfect Christmas pictures over the years!