Three years ago, my ever-growing family decided it was time to simplify our Christmas traditions. I am 1 of 4 daughters, and together we have 10 children, and we all LOVE Christmas in a way that could very easily turn to excess. So in an effort to guard against that, to be financially responsible, and to free a portion of our budget for giving outside of our families, we made some pretty big changes in 2008 which have proven to be huge blessings to us in every way we expected and even many we did not. I may talk more about the whole big picture of this a little later, but today I want to focus on just one of our new traditions.
As my Mom and sisters and I were talking through what our new practices should look like, one of the questions we had to ask is, "What is it that we really even *want* for Christmas? Do we really want to keep trading gift cards and sweaters and DVDs and soon-to-bo-obsolete electronics?" The answer was no. What we decided was most important to us was togetherness. Participating in each other's lives. Communicating. Sharing pictures and stories and adventures. Geographically, this can sometimes be difficult. When we first started this conversation, my family was living in Nashville, TN while everyone else was in Texas, so frequent physical proximity just wasn't an option. Now, my family AND my youngest sister's family live in Vermont (YAY!!!!!), so it's even more difficult to be physically together as an entire family on a regular basis. BUT--we are a creative bunch (or so we'd like to think), and some of us are stubborn :-D, so we were undeterred in our pursuit of this goal. And this is my favorite part of the solution:
Each year I and all of my sisters each create a digital scrapbook--a "yearbook" if you will--which offers a glimpse into what that year looked like for our family. Through this year, each book was 100 pages of kids growing up, family trips and adventures, holiday celebrations, etc. (but we recently discovered you can now add additional pages, so I'm guessing the books will get a little fatter next year. :-D) We work on them throughout the year (or some of us cram and frantically do the entire thing 2 days before ordering. . .), and then when they are all finished, my Mom orders 2 of each book--1 for each family and then a full set for her to keep. This is the only gift the adults receive, and it is a greater treasure to me than anything I can ever remember opening up on Christmas morning. And not just because of what it *is*, but much more because of what it *does.*
For me, this practice has been a life-changer in so many ways. First, it changes the way I take pictures. Which might sound silly, but for one who is passionate about photography, this idea greatly impacts my thought processes and behavior with my camera (which I spend a LOT of time with, so that's a good thing.) I'm so much more deliberate now. Every picture bears the potential to tell a story, to draw my 2000-miles away parents and sisters and nieces and nephews into my life and the lives of my children. I love the way this shapes my thoughts toward the way we spend our time.
Additionally, this has become an incredibly fun way to spend time with my sisters even when we are across the country from each other. We can all log in at the same time and work on our books while chatting together online. We can copy from each other's books, share pictures, etc. Some of my favorite conversations with my oldest sister have happened in the middle of the night (or early morning to be more accurate) as we share pictures and stories and record life events together. One click of the mouse instantly shrinks the distance between us. So awesome.
And finally, these books are becoming my love letters to my children. Certainly they are filled with all sorts of silly and fun and not necessarily deeply meaningful pictures (and hopefully they always will be), but as we strive to turn our lives more and more toward pursuing Christ, I am equally hopeful that it will be impossible not to see the thread of faith woven throughout the pages. I don't mean that the fun and silliness will decrease. I sure hope not! And I don't mean there will be scripture and really bad morose pictures of Jesus on every page (since that's about the only kind you can find ;-). I just mean that Christ would be evident in the patterns of our lives. The way we spend time together and with others. The activities we choose to participate in. The pursuits that capture our imaginations and draw our attention. You know. . . . Matthew 6:21 stuff. One of these days when my girls have a stack of 15 or 20 of these to flip through, I hope they will see that we treasure Christ. Very imperfectly for sure, but I hope in such a way that leads them to do the same.
And with that said, here is my 3rd installment in this library of legacy--