The Pain Behind the Christmas Pictures

When our Social Media Lives Don’t Always Reflect our Real Lives

It’s Christmas time and things don’t always reflect the Hallmark movies like we wish they would. We want everything to be perfect and magical and cozy, but the truth is — we live in a sad, hard world and the holidays are not always what they’re cracked up to be. We don’t get a pause button for the hard stuff — we don’t get to skip over it and see it on the other side of the new year — we carry it with us thru all the twinkling lights and joyous Christmas carols, like we would carry a heavy, ugly backpack into a fancy, black tie event.

Lately, people have been commenting on social media and real life that I’ve been sharing these perfect pictures of our perfect family. So often, our Facebook and Instagram feeds turn into the highlight reels of our lives making it look like we’ve attained some level of flawless perfection. But, as much as I love a pretty picture, I love an honest heart. Yes, these pictures have been magical parts of our real life — chopping down trees, hot cocoa by the fire and surprise snow days, but there are parts of this season I haven’t taken pictures of. To me, these still moments are my way of freezing the happy times I want to remember. I don’t want them to get lost somewhere in the painful, sad times that have a way of sticking with us whether we have a picture to remind us or not.

It was a cold, December night 7 years ago when we found out at my birthday dinner that my husband’s best friend died in a climbing accident. It was on Christmas morning nearly 20 years ago that my grandfather passed away. We just passed the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting where twenty 6 and 7 year olds were gunned down on a normal school morning. The parents and loved ones of these precious babies are forever marked with the memory of unopened Christmas presents and last visits to Santa Claus.

We live in a world that is no stranger to pain at Christmas time. We all have friends either battling health issues, spending their first Christmas without a loved one, others struggling financially — our collective pains seem like an endless list. So, while I’m trying to find and capture priceless, beautiful moments shared between the people I love, there are pictures of the hard moments that I haven’t taken.

We received some lab results on our 9 month old that required a full panel blood screen. There aren’t any pictures of us physically restraining my baby while they tried to find veins for their needle. No pictures of the emotional toll it took on me and him. Thankfully, he is absolutely fine. But, it reminded me of a friend who has to do worse things than this every week for the sake of her baby’s health. There aren’t pictures of physically feeling the ache of another mama’s heart at Christmas time.

I haven’t taken pictures of my mother-in-law who is 67 years old and doesn’t know who I am due to a disease that has been stripping away her memories and ability to comprehend and experience life for the past 15 years. There aren’t any pictures of a few nights ago — her first time staying at a facility away from her husband. No pictures of us trying to convince him that at this stage of the disease, his immense love and care for her is just not enough. There aren’t pictures of the deep pain and loss we feel as I watch my husband take on the burden of helping his parents who shouldn’t be dealing with this in the same phase of life that he is raising his 3 small boys in. The same phase of life that they should instead be drinking in priceless moments with their most gorgeous grand babies. There are no pictures to convey how lonely this is — that we know no one else our age going through this with their parents. There are no pictures of her telling me stories of Christmas mornings of the past — because those moments have never existed for me. I will only know her through the eyes that my baby inherited from her and through the beautiful heart of my husband — the kind of heart that tells you it was nurtured and cared for by a good, good mama.

I know it often feels like there is this pressure to attain some magical threshold of perfection. I’m here to say my family and our pretty pictures have not arrived to this place. We have definitely found profoundly beautiful moments during “the most wonderful time of the year,” but that is not the only story we are living, it is not the full picture of our real lives.

Yet, I’m reminded that the real beauty of the Christmas story is that there’s really nothing glamorous about it at all. It’s about a teen mom who gave birth in a barn because she was fleeing from a king who wanted her baby killed. It’s about a King who didn’t come in some over the top, extravagant way. He came Low. Vulnerable. Helpless. And by doing that — it created a space for us all to fit in. “The weary world rejoices” — and so it seems we really do have a reason to.

Doesn’t that take the pressure off? The pressure to perform or have it all together or to be perfect or grandiose or extravagant? The beauty lies in the fact that Grace stepped down into our world of pain and suffering so we wouldn’t have to endure it alone. So we wouldn’t have to claim perfection, but that we would just need to offer the world exactly who we are — even if who we are is just a bunch of shattered, broken pieces. It’s all we really need from each other and it’s the most we have to offer — the truest version of ourselves. Because as they say, the cracks in our humanity are what allow the light to come in and to flow out.

So, whether this is a magical season or a difficult one — the Christmas story has offered a place for you. To come just as you are. Whether it’s on a sleigh covered in twinkling lights — or if it’s Low. Vulnerable. Helpless. There is no magical formula or perfect social media picture for obtaining the ultimate threshold of beauty.

Because broken or whole — you fit beautifully here,

just as you are.

And as I’m slowly learning,

so do we.

Image found at picography

Originally published at kingdomcome-lisa.blogspot.com on December 22, 2016.

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