It’s that time of year when your mailbox is full of Christmas cards and Christmas letters. I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas letters. When we became parents I wrote them to keep friends and family updated on how Gregory and Hannah were growing and developing. I share the comings and goings of our family and I try to keep it light, cheery, and funny. I hope that my friends and family enjoy what I write to share with them.
Personally, I enjoy receiving Christmas letters and learning about the lives of my friends and family. But some Christmas letters, straight up, make me feel like a big fat failure.
You know the ones I am talking about, because they probably make you feel inadequate, too. They contain things like this:
“I completed two marathons this year after having my baby in May.”
“Our homeschooled son won the state spelling bee, geography bee, AND debate competition.”
“Our 17 year old son flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean.”
“We all drink fresh juice every morning and we haven’t had a gram of sugar since March.”
“We took a 10 day trip to Italy, spent a week in Disney, and took a cruise to the Bahamas this year.”
“My grandchild received a full scholarship to Yale this year.”
I just can’t compete with this. I’ve never taken my family to Disney World or New York City or anywhere outside of the South. We are not working on flying across the Atlantic – some of my children are still working on tying their shoes! We are not picnicking or living off the land or drinking fresh juice – the best we can do is Kraft or Kelloggs or Oscar Mayer. And I’ve never run a marathon – I can hardly run around the block!
Straight up, these letters makes me feel like a failure as a mother, wife, woman, friend, and Christian. They make me sprawl out on my couch and want to give up. No joke. But the problem isn’t with the authors of these sweet letters. They are leading amazing and exciting lives! The problem is with me.
These letters speak to my inner insecurity. They shout,
“You’re not doing a good job caring for your family.
You are not creating good memories for them.
You are so out of shape!
You are an awful cook.
You are just a really crappy mother.
You will never, ever be good enough.”
These letters ignite the fires of comparison and compared to the authors of these Christmas letters, I just don’t measure up. But in truth, I can’t measure up because our family is not their family.
In order not to sink into a total depression after reading Christmas letters, I have to think about what our family does do well. Greg and I are really good at serving at my church’s food pantry. Hannah excels in being a camp counselor and leading young children to Jesus. Brian is a great mentor to his employees at work. And Coco keeps watch over the neighborhood from her window seat, alerting us to any unusual activity.
We may not be touring Europe or flying solo or creating all of our food from scratch, but we are making a difference in our own way. We are each impacting our community through the small things that we do. They may not gain much notice or be worthy of acclaim, but they impact lives.
As you read the Christmas letters that arrive in your mailbox, don’t sink into the couch and moan over your own inadequacies like me. Remember that your family is different, and you excel at different things. God has called you to live your own amazing lives. You can celebrate with your friends over their accomplishments and successes of the year, but don’t forget your own. After you read those letters, pray a blessing over your amazing friend, eat some ice cream, and celebrate your own successes. You can be proud of your own life, too.
Your life may not be exotic or exciting or over the top, but it is yours. Thank God for it and all of your own blessings and achievements.
For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. Jeremiah 29:11
“Rejoice with those who rejoice….” Romans 12:15a