0:53 My Favorite Christmas Tradition
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A million years ago, before I was married and had kids, and before life got so busy, my mother encouraged me to try a new Christmas tradition—one she’d been doing most of her life.
Even before she had me, every year my mom would sit down and write a letter when she was packing up her ornaments after Christmas. In the letter, she would write about all the major things that happened in her life that year. She’d write about the highs, the lows, and everything in between. When she was done, she’d fold up the letter, pack it up in her box of ornaments, and put it away in the attic, not to be seen again until the following year.
A year later, when it was time to bring out all her Christmas decorations from the attic, she would open that letter and read it. She loved this tradition because it amazed her to see how much could happen in just a single year.
Well, I loved this idea so much that I also started doing it in 2006. Now, I'll tell you, it wasn't very sophisticated. I would sit down with a couple pieces of printer paper and just write down all my thoughts—in true Christy fashion, I rambled on and on and was very honest.
For example, in my letter from 2006, there's a line that says, “Dear God, please let me go on at least one date next year.” Well, bless my heart. Apparently, that was a tough year in the love department . . .
But you know what's so amazing? Year after year, as I've written these letters and then faithfully put them away to open the following year, I’ve always been blown away at not only how much can happen in a single year, but also how faithful God continues to be.
I start every letter by talking about what happened that year, and I end every letter by writing out prayers, dreams and hopes for the next year. When I read the letter from the year before, I feel like I’m living in the fulfillment of God's promises that I had prayed for (and forgotten about).
I remember, in December of 2014, sitting on my couch, reading my Christmas letter from 2013. One of my prayers that year was that Matt and I could start a family. And y’all, I was holding that letter over a giant belly—my son Carter was due the very next month!
Of course, every year isn't like this. My letter from 2016 had prayers that Matt's grandfather, grandmother, and our 11-year-old dog Jackson would get better. But all three of those loved ones passed away that year. Tears streamed down my face as I read those heartfelt prayers. That was hard to read.
But you know what? Even in the despair, even in the grief, and even when it seemed like God didn't fulfill that promise or answer those prayers, I was still able to see God's faithfulness in how those events played out.
Writing this letter has looked differently since marrying Matt because—I’ll be honest—he writes them reluctantly.
But we’ve gotten into a rhythm. Here's how we do it: Every single Christmas, I'll sit down with our notebook (we upgraded from printer paper!) and write my Christmas letter for the year. And then I’ll give the notebook to Matt so that he can write his letter. And the following year, I read my letter aloud to Matt, and Matt reads his letter aloud to me.
I’d like to point out that my letters are typically around 10 pages while Matt’s are usually around 10 words.
Allow me to read you a little excerpt from Matt’s letter in 2017: “As I sit down to write this, Christy is reciting all of the rules regarding the Christmas letter. They are numerous and overbearing.”
That man is a mess . . .
Another year, he wrote giant block letters on one page that said, “Christy says the letters need to be more than one page. So here is my second page.”
At least you know my husband has a sense of humor.
But you know what else is fun about this tradition? You get to see how much can change in one year—not just in your life, but in your mind. Let me give you an example.
In 2017, I wrote in all caps with three exclamation points: DONE WITH KIDS!!! You can tell that was a hard year for me as we transitioned from one to two children who were 18 months apart (while also launching a book!). I really thought in those first few months of having two kids that I was done. Like, all caps, three exclamation points DONE.
But this year, I'm surrounded by three kids and couldn’t feel more blessed. I can’t imagine our lives without our third baby, Mary Grace!
I love how, through this tradition, God has showed me things I want that I didn't even know I wanted. Having a third child was something I never could’ve seen coming when I was so tired from two kids and so sure I was done. But isn't it wonderful that God knows what we need and even what we want more than we do? Being able to look back on this journey is so special.
[share]Isn't it wonderful that God knows what we need and even what we want more than we do?[/share]
Y’all, I'm not great at journaling. I'm not great at sitting down on a regular basis, writing down my thoughts and feelings and all that stuff.
But once a year, I commit to doing this. I grab our notebook, sit down with my family, and spend 20 minutes recapping the past year and praying for the next one.
So this year, before you store up all your Christmas decorations and put them away in the attic, I want to encourage you to sit down with your family, pass out some paper and pens—make it fun and grab some hot chocolate—and pour out your heart to God. Write down your feelings, your experiences, your highs, and your lows from this past year.
And then write down your prayers for next year. What do you hope next year holds for you? What do you hope will be different? How do you hope God will show up in your life? Write it down, pack it up, and put it away with your ornaments.
Next year, when you sit down and open those letters, I think you’ll be amazed to see all that God has done. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Merry Christmas, y’all!