Christmas, Relationships

Too Good To Be True Pt 2

Never compare your insides to everyone’s outsides.

Anne Lamott

One year, two Christmas cards were returned to me. I googled the addresses and both houses had been sold. Both couples were empty nesters—one new and one old. Had they downsized?

After more searching—including using my sister’s Facebook account—I discovered that one couple had divorced. I thought they were an incredibly happy couple with well-adjusted adult children. According to their previous Christmas letter, all family members were pursuing their dreams. I didn’t know that one person dreamed of a divorce.

The trail of the other couple was cold. Given the other news, I feared the worst. I eventually learned my friends had bought a bigger house—the better to hold new in-laws and future grandchildren.

I have learned that people or families or marriages too good to be true are too good to be true. (See here.) Therefore, should I be shocked when the families I envied are broken?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  

Romans 8:23

My comparisons are bad enough, but they are even worse when my standard is a Christmas letter.

Do Christmas letters encourage you or discourage you?


Something To Read

I liked the gift guidance given in the rhyme here.

Early on, I read that children respect books more if they are considered worthy of being a gift. Because I wanted books valued, books as gifts have been present (pun intended) in our house since the children were preschoolers.

Which books were gift-worthy? Hardbacks of books repeatedly checked out from the library: Ox Cart Man, The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge, and the Winnie-the-Pooh Treasury—the last two were expensive for causal buying.

Unusual books that represented a child’s interest and not available at the local library. I purchased Harry’s Helicopter by George Ancona after my kindergartner asked me to teach him to fly a helicopter.

“I don’t know how,” I said.

“Just read a book and tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,” he replied.

Oh, for him to have that faith in my abilities now!

My sons have carried on the tradition. They thoughtfully choose at least one book for my husband each Christmas.

Any favorite book gifts?

Christmas, Favorites

What Should I Give?*

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (ESV)

For me, November used to be when I finished Christmas shopping, not when I started. Throughout the year, I scoured stores for ideas and vacation gift shops for memorable reminders of family times. I wrapped gifts as they were bought so they were ready to place as soon as the tree was decorated.

One child’s favorite wrapping paper.

As much as I felt organized, I wish I had known the ditty below. I might have made better choices.

Give your children

Something they want,

Something they need,

Something to wear, and

Something to read.

What do your children want? What do they need? What should they wear? What should they read?

*Another version of this blog appeared November 15, 2020.


Christmas Leftovers: Cards

Although Christmas food only lasts a day or so in my home, evergreen needles linger from one Christmas to the next. No matter how much I vacuum and sweep and vacuum again, those needles are a consistent reminder of a tree long discarded. (Thankfully, my friend Barb has the same problem, so we commiserate.)

Unlike needles, Christmas cards are welcome leftovers. Like letters, I save and reread them. Rereading cards is not only encouraging but also helpful. A 2020 Christmas card from my college roommate guided me to changing ophthalmologists in 2022.

I also repurpose our cards. Sometime in the 1990s, a friend saw Christmas card placemats at a craft show. She brought the idea to our church, and the children made them for family Christmas presents.

I embraced the idea so much that over twenty years later, I not only hoard my cards, but I also collect the fronts of friends’ discarded cards. I sort the oldest ones by theme or color and store them near my ornaments.

My oldest son and I made these theme placemats December 2017.

Are you wishing Christmas would linger? Or looking for a winter project?

Christmas, Memories

The Best Ornaments

When I place our Christmas ornaments on our window seat—where they lie until boxed—or when I box them if another removed the ornament from the tree, I will remember their stories. It doesn’t matter that I reminisced a few weeks earlier.

Why? Because I love the people they represent: the staff at our favorite library; a kind boss; my middle son’s favorite nursey teacher; a family we knew briefly in Texas; the wife of the pastor who officiated at our wedding; family members who have gone ahead of us; and many more thoughtful givers. Some of these people would be long forgotten or rarely remembered if not for their gifts.

Approximately 50 years ago, my grandmother gave me this first ornament, made from wool.

Although the ornaments I purchased bring happy memories of family times or adventures on my own as a young single, along the way, I learned the value of giving and receiving Christmas ornaments. I now give them as wedding or baby or graduation presents—when available or If I plan ahead.

Have you told the stories behind your ornaments? I should.