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Faith Imagined: Internet Cafe: The Christmas Photo

Faith Imagined

Alisa Hope Wagner: Christian Writer

December 9, 2010

Internet Cafe: The Christmas Photo

My kids were all ready for pictures with Santa. My sons wore cute red and green plaid shirts, red sweater vests and corridor pants, and my daughter wore a beautiful Christmas dress that I bought last spring on clearance. I couldn’t wait to grace the entrance of the mall and present my picturesque kids to Santa and the photo elves. Wouldn’t they all just swoon over my angelic children?!

Amazingly enough, my sons both smiled and waited patiently for the camera to flash. My daughter, on the other hand, took one look at the stranger wearing a red suit and donning a long white beard and freaked out. My husband and I tried our best to get her to smile, and the photo elves took several shots, but my daughter’s screams only grew louder and her tears only grew fatter. She reached her little arms toward me and called out “Mama!” Never once did she look in the direction of the camera.

In Christmases past, I would have been irritated about the wasted energy and the less than perfect Christmas photo, and I would have allowed my disappointment to steal a little of my Christmas joy. However, this year was different. I felt a tinge of frustration, but it was quickly overpowered by my enjoyment in the honest reaction of my child. I held my daughter in my arms and praised her instincts: “I’m so proud of you! You distrust strangers and that is a very good thing!”

As I walked with my husband back through the mall to let our kids play on the soft park, I thought about what had changed in me. Since I’ve only been a mother for six years, I prayed that God would help me to understand the good work He had performed in me. I came upon a Christian writer who gave words to what I was experiencing. She writes that our children are not here to meet our expectations or to fulfill our happiness; rather, “they are here to fulfill the purposes of God.”*

I believe that having standards for our children is good; but when we start pushing them to meet our expectations, or worse yet, other people’s expectations that we fear, we have placed a large burden on their shoulders that they were never meant to carry. As parents, we are called to obediently follow God’s lead in caring for our children (allowing His grace to fill the holes of our mistakes), and God will take care of the rest. It is HIS job to “fulfill the purposes” that He has for them.

After I finally digested this truth, I realized that I would have less disappointments, frustrations and irritation if I didn’t drive myself and everyone around me to meet MY expectations. Only God knows the future, and He is the only One who has perfect expectations. When I relinquish my desires for His, I can live my life in peace, joy and hope no matter what is going on around me. This year’s Christmas photo will always bring a smile to my face, because I know that even my daughter’s cries have fulfilled the purposes of God.

Question: How can you alleviate some stress this Christmas season by letting go of your own expectations?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28 NIV).

You can also read this article at the Internet Cafe!

*Parenting guidance comes from Leslie Leyland Fields and my all time favorite parenting book: Parenting is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths that Trap Us in Worry and Guilt!

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Blogger Leah @ Point Ministries said...

Poor thing! I think I had that same reaction to Santa when I was small. She will just love that picture when she grows up.

Your kids are adorable!!


8:59 AM  
OpenID babypickel said...

What a precious picture & family memory! :)


10:24 AM  
Blogger Andrea said...


Our granddaughter still want have anything to do with Santa. She is 3 1/2 years old.


12:26 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

The honesty in that picture is great. I dislike most posed pictures because there is a "plastic" feel to them. The picture of your children is real. It will be fun to use it to show boyfriends in years to come :) May God bless you and your family this holiday season.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Stuff could always be worse said...

Such an adorable photo! You will cherish this.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Cute photo!

1:17 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

Visiting through my friend Morgan and her post on FB!

Lovely post today and so very true. Your last few words are especially meaningful to me.

I hope to always remember that Mary Catherine, Benjamin and Luke are here to fulfill the purposes of God and not my own happiness...although they do that too! ;)



3:47 PM  
Blogger Recovering Church Lady said...

Beautiful lesson and beautiful kids. They teach us a lot don't they?

6:16 PM  
Blogger Tammi said...

This was precious and PRICELESS! The picture will be a wonderful reminder to you about this loving lesson from the Lord. I've been taught so many lessons from "situations" with my two children over the years, that I'm SURE I'd otherwise never learned had I not been a mom.
Thank you for bringing this smile to my face, and a big AMEN in my heart!

11:33 PM  
Blogger Cindy Bultema said...

What a precious picture! Your family is beautiful! And thanks for sharing your lessons learned at the mall. This time of year it's so easy to get stressed out ~ what a blessing for you to respond with such joy and grace. Job well done, sister! :)

11:55 PM  
Blogger Braley Mama said...

And the pics that aren't perfect, are way better any who :O)
Merry Christmas!
May God bless you and your adorable kiddos! ( and husband too )

9:28 AM  
Blogger The Unknowngnome said...

Beautiful pic and message!

10:15 AM  
Blogger K.M. Weiland said...

Great story - and great picture! This one definitely stands apart of the run-of-the-mill Santa pictures everyone else will be sending out. ;)

11:34 AM  
Blogger Haelie said...

Oh, I LOVE that picture! ;-) And as far as your question...I am actually making a decision right now that I am not going to stress over sending our Christmas cards nor about whether or not to get certain gifts for certain people. We are in transition between two different jobs for my husband and he was let go of the previous one early...hence we are short at least one paycheck during this Christmas season. God is our provider and we are blessed with so much that I chose not to let financial stress and gift-giving stress steal the joy of this Holy Season of our Savior's birth.

10:31 PM  
Blogger Reign and Shine said...

God bless her. What started out as dress up ended up in panic. No one could ever say no to a lamb crying for her Mama.
Thank you for pointing us again to God's tender care for each of us. His care for us before we even knew it was Him.
Beautiful family.

5:16 AM  
OpenID wordwranglernc said...

You said, "As parents, we are called to obediently follow God’s lead in caring for our children (allowing His grace to fill the holes of our mistakes), and God will take care of the rest. It is HIS job to “fulfill the purposes” that He has for them."

This needs to be on a billboard somewhere! :)

I see the same changes in me as my children grow. Little things that used to bother me, don't anymore as I see that the problem was ME, not them. There are other things that I still need work on, of course!

God has given us a beautiful gift in our children. I am so thankful for them and for the opportunity to love them!

9:53 PM  
Blogger Sharon Kirby said...

Alisa, the picture isn't meant to be funny - but it is, really - at least to any other mother who's "been there!"

I've been a mom for almost 28 years, and I agree wholeheartedly with you. God has taught (and still teaches) me many lessons through the lives and personalities of my sons. They have rubbed some of the rough edges off - especially in the area of my expectations. There have been some "curve balls" - things I didn't see coming. Decisions I haven't necessarily agreed with, disappointments and frustrations. And yet, through it all, I have loved them fiercely - and learned that they are NOT me, and that they are HELD TIGHTLY in the Lord's hands. They are a GIFT to me - and their purpose is not for FULFILLING me. They do that, yes - but their accountability is to God, the One who directs their paths.

How am I alleviating stress this Christmas season? By looking at things from God's perspective - and for thanking Him for those two pesky, yet adored, sons of mine!


12:39 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I love it! Who knows, here's betting this card will end up being one of your favorite through the years. And I didn't like Santa visits either. Though my pictures usually resulted in a furrowed brow rather than all out scream.

3:09 PM  
Blogger May said...

What lovely pics and extraordinary message. These memories will sure to last for many years to come. Blessings.

7:31 AM  
Blogger Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Alisa -

I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes your favorite Christmas photo. Most posed pictures don't tell a story; this one does!

Susan :)

9:40 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I'm drooling over a water buffalo. And LOve the picture by the way. Sometimes, I've felt just the same.

And I wanted to invite you to a water buffalo party! No formal attire required, just stop by and splash along with us.

Be blessed bunches,

2:54 PM  
Blogger JT said...

Santa is scary!

8:01 PM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Wow! Great post! isn't that the truth. I neede to hear this today. :)

3:22 PM  
Blogger OceanDreams said...

Aww, I think the picture turned out great despite the crying pose! I am working on my expectations daily, they often get me into trouble and I have to remind myself that I can only do my best and that God loves me anyway. ;)

2:06 PM  
Blogger minnja said...

I love that post :)))))))


7:37 AM  
Anonymous Renee Ann said...

When I was little, my older sisters tried bribing me to sit with Santa every year. It never worked! (Even when they offered to buy me books!)

1:39 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Beautifully written. I belive I came to "they're not here to fullfull me" quite later than you. But when I did, I made room for joy.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Michael Manning said...

What a beautiful family, Alisa! I laughed aloud when I looked at the photo and remembered I did this at least once on my visits to Santa when I was a tot! Your message is honestly shared and is very meaningful! :)

11:27 PM  

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