If Christmas Cards Were Realistic

Tis’ the season for twinkling lights, sparkling tress and the annual Christmas card.  It brings me joy to see children growing and the families that have my heart doing well.

I’m going to be honest and say that while I love the cards that grace my mail box, I dread the process of creating my own card. There’s just so much pressure.

There is pressure to have matching outfits and a professional photo shoot draped in the perfect sunlight.

There is pressure to capture genuine grins of joy that radiate love and affection.

There is pressure to find the perfect card design that’s printed on the thickest card stock.

Friends, that’s WAY too much pressure in this sacred season! May I dare call it insanity?

But like everyone, I try to put my best foot forward and embrace the tradition of the Christmas card. We try to be that family. Dressed in our Sunday best, we pray that one picture will give the illusion that we have it all together.

Except that’s not real life.

Our reality is filled with child crying, tantrums, and more tense moments than I care to admit.  We’re not always the loving and kind family our Christmas card portrays. But then again, is anyone’s life really Christmas card perfect?

Can we be just be honest?

If we’re all honest, behind those plastered smiles are hurts, troubles, and real-life problems. If Christmas cards and letters were truly realistic, they would share the real stories of the lives represented on the cards.

Instead of perfection, friends would see the deep hurts and needs of the grinning family. With that openness, friends could rush to the aid of the family in need.

If Christmas cards were realistic, what would they say about your family? Being honest and vulnerable can be a HUGE blessing to a family. Here's why you need to showcase your reality this Christmas.

The blessing of vulnerability

What freedom to let down our guard, share our struggles and tell the real stories of the past year. We would not feel the need to hide behind halfhearted sentiments and merry wishes in the Christmas letter that only mentions the highlights.

Friends would see the tears and be able to lend a helping hand. Instead of posed looks of joy, we would know the relationship strains and the tensions in the family. A caring community would be ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus while offering encouragement and pointing to truth.

Friends would see a need and take action to help.

Food could be provided when it is scarce.

Financial assistance offered when times are lean.

Counsel provided for the couple on the brink of divorce.

It’s time to take off the masks

If Christmas cards were realistic, we could take off our masks and be free to be whom God made us to be without the expectations of perfection and without fear of judgement. As a result, our hearts would be freer and our burdens a bit lighter. Imagine the beauty of authentic relationships where you could share both the sorrows and the joys.

While the concept of realistic Christmas cards will probably never catch on, imagine the beautiful relationships we could build if everyone was honest and vulnerable.

As for me, I’m going to embrace our imperfections and let our blooper picture make the final cut for our card. Our friends and family will know that while we aren’t perfect, we aren’t afraid to share reality, even when it’s not picture perfect.

As you get ready to make your own cards, remember they don’t have to feign perfection.  Don’t be afraid to let your real circumstances show in your Christmas letter and if you decide you want to add the bloopers to your final card, I’m pretty sure I’d have a new best friend!

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About Sarah Ann

Welcome to Faith Along the Way! I am a redeemed child of God and perfectly imperfect in every area of my life. Wife to Hubs, we've battled the storms of Cancer, infertility, adoption & Autism together the past 10 years and praise God for his continued guidance. I hope you'll join us on this journey through life as we trust God with faith along the way.

52 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Khit M. December 4, 2014 (6:23 pm)

    Yes! no family is perfect. Not on facebook , not on pictures and not in real life. kudos to you for being real. I do our own pictures, I’m a “wannabe” , a trying hard photographer ( only to my family..lol). They both won’t look at the camera at the same time ..but after 10 shots..I found one..still not looking in the camera but smiling. I am ok with that. Take care!!
    Khit M. recently posted…Love Begins by Taking Care of the Closests Ones — the Ones at Home . A QUICK HIATUSMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 4, 2014 (9:15 pm)

      Khit,

      Your pictures are great! You are super talented and I love that you chose a shot where no one is looking but they are still smiling! That’s real life, friend!

  • comment-avatar
    Deb Wolf December 5, 2014 (11:38 am)

    I love this Sarah Ann! I feel the same way about social media. We paint this pretty pictures of our lives and it keeps everyone at a distance. No closeness or honesty. Thanks so much for putting it out there to encourage us and for linking this at Counting My Blessings. Enjoy a wonderful weekend.
    Deb Wolf recently posted…Wait, Prepare, and Anticipate + Link PartyMy Profile

  • comment-avatar
    Jenny December 5, 2014 (1:55 pm)

    Love this–the reality mixed with humor. I would love to see an outtake reel from all the Christmas cards I receive.
    Jenny recently posted…Book Club Time: Called to LifeMy Profile

  • comment-avatar
    Sierra December 5, 2014 (4:39 pm)

    So glad you posted this! We are a little behind this year with taking our pics and will be attempting it this weekend. Sometimes the spoof ones are my favorite. Regardless, it’s your little family and they are great! Now having a little one I think it’s kind of funny when we see a perfect pic on social media. I often think, yeah ok, how many did they take to get that one?!?!
    Sierra recently posted…Friday Favorites-Turkey StyleMy Profile

  • comment-avatar
    Valerie Sisco December 5, 2014 (8:00 pm)

    Sarah Ann,
    Your photos are beautiful – I love them! What a wise and wonderful post about being real this Christmas. I dread sending out cards because it’s just me — no husband, no kids . . . but what a beautiful picture your words have painted. Love this and wishing you all the joy and peace this holiday season, friend!
    Valerie Sisco recently posted…The Cashmere Pencil Tree {A Real Story}My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 5, 2014 (11:18 pm)

      Thank you sweet, friend! I know your style and have confidence that your pictures would be stunning! Don’t be afraid to shine exactly as you are. You are fabulous!

  • comment-avatar
    Kathryn December 5, 2014 (10:27 pm)

    I love your photos and seeing the ‘real’ you. This time of year can be hard when you have a special child. I see my friends posting about their Norman Rockwell Christmas moments with their kids, while mine are melting down and I can’t imagine an evening of roasting chestnuts by an open fire together as a family. Thanks for being real and encouraging that it’s OK not to put on our ‘perfect family’ face. I know we’ll make some wonderful memories together, but maybe not too many Pinterest or Facebook worthy ones…
    Kathryn recently posted…Sin: Why We So Desperately Need JesusMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 5, 2014 (11:15 pm)

      Ha, Kathryn! I have to laugh at the idea of my children around an open flame! My daughter would be attracted to it and want to hold it! Oh no! Yes, we are definitely memories and having fun, no matter what they look like or how our pictures came out. Thanks so much for your support! It means so much to me!

  • comment-avatar
    Brita Long December 5, 2014 (10:51 pm)

    My family has always kinda privately made fun of the Christmas newsletters we receive. Taking things a step further than the perfect Christmas card, the newsletters always ooze about beautiful vacations and perfect children. I think the one year we sent out a small update with our card was when I studied abroad, and we turned that into a joke with each member of the family talking about me in France.

    Life is messy! People aren’t perfect! I’m more interested in knowing what’s really going on in the lives of my loved ones than seeing a perfectly staged picture or reading a carefully edited list of their greatest hits.

    That said, my parents WILL be bragging this year since I got married, my younger brother graduated college, AND my twin brother got married. 2014 has been busy for the Longs!
    Brita Long recently posted…December Goals // November RecapMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 5, 2014 (11:07 pm)

      YES! We receive some newsy letters too, and even if times are tough, why not be honest? If all for celebrating the good times, as in your family, but why the need for smoke and mirrors portraying everything as perfect or at least ok? I love the idea of people being real instead of hiding behind phony smiles!

  • comment-avatar
    Barb December 6, 2014 (9:04 am)

    A Christmas card loving gal, with a true heart and desire for authenticity you are Sarah Ann!! You had me at ‘better than a bill in the mail.’ But, as I continued to read, your words really resonated. So often we get hung up on portraying perfection which can really alienates us from others, not allowing real connection or relationship. Thanks for this reminder this season. Visiting you via SITSSHareFest. P.S. There was a hilarious post at parentdish.ca recently about ‘funny Christmas cards’ that I think you would appreciate.
    Barb recently posted…Writing a letter to Santa. Easy as HO HO HO.My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 6, 2014 (1:30 pm)

      Thanks so much for the encouragement and the suggestion to read that post! I so appreciate you stopping by and your kindness! Have a fabulous weekend!

  • comment-avatar
    Dee December 7, 2014 (2:35 am)

    Such a wonderful post! It takes us so long to get a decent picture, so I never try for perfection. 🙂
    Dee recently posted…Snickerdoodle SundayMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 7, 2014 (10:09 pm)

      Ha! YES! We went and saw Santa today, and I had to settle for both of them looking at the camera with no smiles. There were no tears, though, so it was a win in my book!

  • comment-avatar
    The Stepford wife December 7, 2014 (2:49 am)

    This reminds me, my daughter was asked to bring a family photo to her kindergarten, for a project “Family”, do I need to tell you it was impossible to find the one on which all the five of us were smiling and looking straight into camera…
    The Stepford wife recently posted…Bottle caps Christmas treeMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 7, 2014 (10:08 pm)

      Ha! You should have seen the photo I ended up sending in to school, but that’s just ok!

  • comment-avatar
    Brittany M. December 7, 2014 (9:51 pm)

    Amen. This is so true, and I think as moms sometimes we feel that we need to be perfect, or more so that we want others on the outside to think we’re perfect. The reality is most days are filled with a mixture of fails, feelings of being inadequate, screaming kids, love and joy. It’s all a mixture, and I haven’t had a “perfect” day of motherhood yet nor should I expect to. Great post, well said!
    Brittany M. recently posted…Am I Guilty of Having A Favorite Child?My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 7, 2014 (10:07 pm)

      Brittany,

      I totally agree that there is no perfect mom day! Even when we are having a really good day, a tantrum or melt-down is only a moment away. You are so right that our day is a mixture of all of these emotions. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • comment-avatar
    Tricia December 7, 2014 (9:54 pm)

    I love this post. It’s so true! I was really looking forward to taking a nice family photo for our Christmas cards with my new camera. My son ended up tripping and having to get stitches. I ended up scrapping the original plan and took some adorable & funny pictures of just my son with his bandage on. I think they came out so much better than anything we would have forced as a family.
    Tricia recently posted…What NOT to do when Cutting your own Christmas TreeMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 7, 2014 (10:04 pm)

      Oh no! That would so happen to me! I just received the best card in the mail today, all with silly pictures, and it means so much more than something posed and stuffy. Good for you for embracing the humor!

  • comment-avatar
    Lynne Streeter Childress December 8, 2014 (7:00 am)

    Thanks so much for this. We had such a good time taking the pictures, but when we got some of them back, all I could see in some of them how fat I feel. I was forgetting the fun, and the blessing that is my family.
    Lynne Streeter Childress recently posted…5 Things I Drew For My Kid This WeekMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 8, 2014 (10:43 am)

      Oh, Lynne! I KNOW you are not alone in that! I was so less than thrilled with the way I looked in the pictures and you just opened up a whole new can of worms. Thanks for stopping by!

  • comment-avatar
    Heather @ My Overflowing Cup December 9, 2014 (12:17 am)

    I love this post! Thanks for the reminder that not only is no family perfect, but that because of God’s grace, we don’t need to be. Merry Christmas to you and yours.
    Heather @ My Overflowing Cup recently posted…Must-Make Cracker RocaMy Profile

  • comment-avatar
    Lisa {Amateur Nester} December 9, 2014 (9:05 pm)

    HAHA, I LOVE the outtakes! Thanks for reminding us that no one is perfect.
    Lisa {Amateur Nester} recently posted…Lay Your Infertility Burden Down {Weekly Infertility Link Up}My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 10, 2014 (9:59 am)

      Gotta love blooper shots! In reality, these are the ones that I will look back on and cherish. I embrace real life!

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  • comment-avatar
    Teresa December 10, 2014 (4:36 pm)

    This post was great 🙂 You made me laugh & nod with understanding at the same time.
    Teresa recently posted…Making New Christmas TraditionsMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 10, 2014 (8:26 pm)

      Thanks, Teresa! I think moms everywhere have had moments like these at least sometime in their lives. We can all relate to crying and non-perfect moments!

  • comment-avatar
    Becky Keife December 10, 2014 (6:11 pm)

    Love this! So much! Your family sounds a whole lot like mine and I’ve even given myself permission this year to forgo the family Christmas picture catastrophe and card sending altogether and just revel in the joy of receiving beautiful cards. But I pray with you that whatever cards and letters are sent there will be a realness about them and that communities could be changed in the process.
    Becky Keife recently posted…Mommy, I did NOT put a yogurt in my closet.My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 10, 2014 (8:22 pm)

      Thanks so much, Becky! Good for you in realizing it doesn’t have to be! I just received our cards and included the cover picture for this post on it. It may truly be my favorite card ever! Best wishes to you!

  • comment-avatar
    Aimee Imbeau December 10, 2014 (10:04 pm)

    I enjoyed reading this post.
    I have given up on any type of decent family photo – especially when my sweet son LOVES to make faces on purpose.
    I like your ideas better, though – helping those in need. We can still be aware of those things going on around us and pray for them.

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 10, 2014 (10:15 pm)

      Oh those boys! You can see how mine reacted in the pictures! You just have to love them!

  • comment-avatar
    Mrs. AOK December 14, 2014 (8:44 am)

    I haven’t even put together our cards 🙁 I think I’d enjoy a real look of the behind the scenes of making the card as part of the card 🙂
    I think I might have to do that considering, I still HAVEN’T made our cards and it’s the 14TH!!

    Everyone wants to share their highlights, the cropped version of their ALMOST perfect lives, and people feel the need to do the same, because they are comparing their almost perfect to someone else’s perfect highlight reel. We’re not all perfect, but we’re perfect enough 🙂
    Happy Holidays!
    XOXO

    P.S Thanks for sharing via MMBH
    Mrs. AOK recently posted…Thank You Notes: CVS, Gingerbread House, and Christmas JammiesMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 14, 2014 (1:54 pm)

      You are officially off the hook, says the mom who has had the cards for almost a week but haven’t addressed them! Often our cards arrive after Christmas, and I am perfectly ok with that! 🙂 I also am fine putting in pictures throughout the year, not just ones from a professional photo shoot. Best wishes!

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  • comment-avatar
    Cassandra December 22, 2014 (9:20 am)

    I loved reading this and completely agree! Thank you for sharing such vulnerable truth. Sharing today on my Facebook page.

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 22, 2014 (9:25 pm)

      Thanks for sharing, Cassandra! I’m so blessed to have connected with you! I look forward to stopping by your place again soon!

  • comment-avatar
    Kelly Balarie December 24, 2014 (1:37 pm)

    Way to go on this post. It is so true. We are all consumed with our looks but when we put on a good show, we miss the opportunity to show others how we can be ministered to. Loved this post. Looks like it got a great response. Cheering you on!!
    Kelly Balarie recently posted…3 Encouraging Truths When You Feel StuckMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann December 25, 2014 (11:13 pm)

      Thanks so much, Kelly! I so appreciate your cheers. 🙂 Hugs and Merry Christmas!

  • comment-avatar
    Leah Courtney December 7, 2015 (9:45 am)

    I love this, Sarah Ann! We have four children, and even now that they are older, it is impossible to take a good group picture without people getting antsy and mad. I decided several years ago to just use candid, cute shots for the Christmas card picture. Otherwise we were ending the photo session angry and snippy with each other, and I don’t think that’s what the season is about. 🙂
    Leah Courtney recently posted…Literature Unit Ideas for Follow the Drinking Gourd (31 Days of Literature Unit Ideas)My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann January 2, 2016 (6:45 am)

      Thank you for the encouragement! I loved our card last year and it made me smile to know others could see what life was really like!

  • comment-avatar
    Misty December 7, 2015 (1:29 pm)

    Oh Sarah this post is SO true! Our Christmas card always includes at least one photo of us being absolutely goofy. Real.

    Speaking of real, this year we didn’t even do Christmas cards!! #parenting fail :/
    Misty recently posted…5 Ways to Raise a Giver + a Giveaway!!My Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann January 2, 2016 (6:44 am)

      I love it! We almost didn’t do cards and if it wasn’t for my husband, we would have let it go by the wayside! Glad to know I’m not the only one!

  • comment-avatar
    Emily December 9, 2015 (8:48 am)

    I enjoyed your pictures!! Stumbled. 🙂
    Emily recently posted…O Holy Night Christmas PrintableMy Profile

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann January 2, 2016 (6:43 am)

      Thanks so much, Emily! I appreciate it!

  • comment-avatar
    Sara @ The Holy Mess January 6, 2016 (11:54 am)

    Oh my goodness I love this post! I’m a little scared to think what our Christmas cards would look like if they were realistic. 🙂 Thanks for your honest sharing. I {heart} your blog.
    Sara @ The Holy Mess recently posted…3 Ways to Help Loved Ones Who Are OverweightMy Profile

  • comment-avatar
    Starla Jimenez November 21, 2016 (6:24 pm)

    It’s encouraging to know that our Father in Heaven doesn’t expect perfect, but just our willingness to be sensitive to Him. Great post, Sarah!

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah Ann November 22, 2016 (1:35 am)

      Thanks so much, Starla! I am SO thankful I can lay down my imperfections before Him!