Christmas Card Photos

Hey everyone,

Tis the season to be getting your family’s photo taken for your Christmas cards this year! It’s never as easy as we hope or imagine. In our family someone was always unhappy about it. My daughter-in-law told me one year she and her husband, my son, were having a big argument as the photographer arrived and they had to act all happy and loving!

Because I know you too can relate I’ve written a prayer about our family experience and what I’ve learned about my Savior.

Hope my words speak to your heart.


Christmas Card Photos

It’s a lovely tradition
going back decades of years
my grandfather in his properly starched uniform
a black-and-white photo printed “Merry Christmas”
sent home from India
during the war.

Our first Christmas
we sent a photo, the two of us,
me wrapped in a bright orange coat, my husband in ’70s plaid
bundled against beautiful Boulder snow.

This tradition repeated annually
over forty plus years
to share our family with yours
to show how we’ve all grown
to wish you and yours hope and happiness.

Patience, time, repeated “Say cheese,”
parental bribing, threats,
eventually a smiling,
even perfectly peaceful image emerges.

Never displayed on the photos we send,
the arguments, ’tudes, gritted teeth,
our collective ugly brokenness—
my husband’s,
our children’s.

Though I hoped and prayed my family would all love each other
like our photos portray,
offenses have been suffered
creating discomfort among siblings
and more pain than I imagined for us parents.

I understand the lyrics penned by Longfellow,
“‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’”[1]

Nothing hurts like family hurt.
Wounded lambs, wandering sheep
Chicks who refused to be gathered
Pain piercing a parent’s heart.

Little disagreements, big misunderstandings
become seeds of distance, discomfort when children grow up.
Family geography widens as these now young adults
choose their own values, careers, finances,
parenting styles, school choices,
church choices.

We are not alone.
Every grown-up family I know suffers
passive-aggressive behaviors,
depressions, woundedness, pride,
failure to forgive
holding on to hurts
the ideal of siblings as adult best friends
an uncommon reality.

Dysfunctional relationships the norm
not the exception in the body of Christ.
God’s children, His family,
all sinners, all broken, all imperfect yet saved by grace,
connected by blood and adoption.
Even the perfect Parent does not have perfect kids;
all of us have rebelled, gone astray.

And so our family mirrors His.
Even biblically grounded moms and dads
cannot avoid damaging, can’t perfectly protect.
No family is
devoid of brokenness, pain, heartache;
our ever-present sin nature both unites and divides us.

Beautiful Savior,
announced on Christmas morn,
born a sacrifice for Eden’s shattered mirrors,
only You can transform hearts
heal hurts
resurrect relationships
restore all that sin has stolen.

This Christmas season, O God,
bring revival to my heart,
for it is in me
where change must begin.

My goal must always be Your glory and fame
not a Christmas photo to be admired.

One day our smiling faces will be authentic
perfectly reflecting the joy we now pretend too often
at Christmas.

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.’”[2]

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


[1] “Christmas Bells,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863.

[2] Longfellow, “Christmas Bells.”

 Isaiah 53:6

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10 thoughts on “Christmas Card Photos”

  1. Oh this so resonates with me. I had thought that my kids would grow up and be best friends. Instead they really have nothing in common except me! I thought that being raised in a Christian home they would also come to love the Savior as I do.

    Prayers like this encourage my heart. I am not alone.

    Only in heaven will my family look the way I hoped.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful realistic poem Barbara, so true. I have always admired you and Dennis and it’s encouraging to know that even you all experienced some of the same disappointing things as my family. I enjoyed the picture of you and Dennis, how lovely! It seems that through my life I’ve experienced little deaths and big ones too but whatever I go through I just want Jesus to be my first love and He can help me through anything! To Him be the Glory, Amen!

  3. Barbara,
    What a beautiful prayer.
    “Never displayed on the photos we send…our collective ugly brokenness-“. So true. Almost everything you write touches a cord deep in my heart.

    Thank you for these honest words. ❤️


  4. Dear Barbara,
    Thank you for sharing so bravely! And yes, O God, bring revival to my heart, for it is in me where change must begin.
    How painful the holiday has become, because it has not been what I expected. There is pain and brokeness and maybe even darkness around the table of our adult family where I expected perfect fellowship and light. But as I read your poem, the Hope arose. He is able to do far more than I ask or expect. He is not done. I’ll add my prayers and joyful expectation, not for perfection, but for Jesus to join us. I won’t expect my family to conform to my desires, but I will expect Jesus to be there. That is much better.

  5. 5 years ago it changed for me. I kinda lost it in a good way. We were standing in the light rain, to get that photo next to our gorgeous burning bush in our yard, before the leaves fell and the rain drenched us, and I couldn’t contain the laughter. It’s one annual photo (all I ever wanted- one family photo a year) that is next to impossible to get. My dear husband tries so hard with his camera and tripod and remote… but it’s always something. That day, I turned it into a joke. Ok everybody smile! We need to make it look like we don’t kill each other every year to get this, or something like that I said… and then the laughter…. we all bust out in laughter… and now it’s the family joke…
    Our laughter in the photos is real… we are laughing at the absurdity of this “tradition”, and that’s made it quite fun.
    It’s not gonna be perfect, and frankly I don’t really care anymore. Whatever we get, it’s gonna go out… check….
    Love your thoughts! I’m not alone! Yes!!

  6. Thank you for this lovely poem about families. Even though we don’t gather or an extended family photo, we also experience many of the same conflicts. Our adult children have chosen life-paths very different from their upbringing and that hurts. We are glad, however, that we can be together at Christmas and show love to each and every one.

  7. Dear Barbara,
    Thank you so very much for sharing your heart in words. These are all areas each family can relate to at some level or another…and so thankful that we share the faith, hope and love of Christ, “through it all”. Bless you in your walk, family, and ministry with Him. I am blessed through you.
    With love,

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