I Do Christmas Cards for Me, Not You.

That sounds awfully selfish, doesn’t it?
Let me explain.
I’ve sent Christmas cards every year since 1982. That’s the year Eric and I got married. I’ve sent photo greeting cards every year since Clay was born in 1986. That’s more than thirty different cards, counting this year’s version. At an average of 100 cards per year, that’s more than 3,000 envelopes and pushing $1500 in postage.  Did you just check my math?  I know some of you checked my math.  

Is it worth it?

How do I justify the time and cost it takes to send out Christmas cards each year?
It’s simple. It’s all about me.  
I come by it honestly. My mom was a big Christmas card sender. Yep, we even did photo greeting cards back in the day when we only had black and white film and my dad set up the camera with a timer. 

One of my fondest childhood memories of Christmas was the daily receiving of Christmas cards in our mailbox and the opening of each one. I especially loved the cards from people who lived far away but were long-time, treasured friends of my parents. The receipt of cards from military folks who served alongside my dad in the Air Force led to stories about my parents’ newly-married days living in a trailer park in Colorado Springs. Remember when you realized that your parents actually had a life BEFORE you were born? I loved hearing those stories about borrowed Christmas trees and jello salad made with canned, mixed fruit. What treasures. I never met the Kapertas in real life but feel like I watched their children grow up as my sister, brother, and I marked each passing year.  
I grew up thinking that Christmas cards are what you do in early December.  

Through the years, my Christmas card tradition has become so much more than simply giving and receiving holiday greetings. It has become an important part of the season for me.  I own it.  It’s all mine. 
It’s a timeline of friendships from every phase of my life.
I still exchange cards with friends from high school and college. And those years are measured in decades now. It’s wonderful to have friendship histories that are so long-lasting and true.  North High School, Western Kentucky University, and Ball State were once my stomping grounds and remembering those faces makes me smile.  
It’s a geographic scrapbook of all the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve met in each one.
From our tiny apartment in Muncie to our timber frame in Hassler Woods, we have dear friends gathered from each address we’ve occupied. There’s Haven Drive, our first house and our dear neighbors there; Woodside Court where my kids learned to ride bikes and we had an annual block party; and finally Petersburg Road and our “country neighbors” here.  These are cherished people who brought us homemade cookies, bought ice cream truck popsicles for our kids, and watched our kitties when we went out of town.  We’ve had the best neighbors.
 It reminds me of what I’ve lost and what I’ve gained.
Each year, and increasingly so, there are names and addresses that give me pause as I realize that no card will be sent this year. These tender moments lead to a reflective time of prayer and thanksgiving for that person and the impact he or she has had on me. I leave those names on my Christmas card list so that in the very least, I have a yearly reminder of the precious gift of life and friendship, and consider the continuing impact that we can have on others. This is a good time of year for that.  
My card list also grows every year, which is a good barometer of whether or not I am stretching and putting myself in new places and new experiences. I am never too old to widen my circle and make new friends.  
 It helps me to sloooooooow dooooooooooown.
December is a crazy and frantic time of the year for most of us. You know the drill…shopping, decorating, baking, traveling, parties…all of the busyness can be a real joy stealer. Here’s my recipe for sanity:
1. Light the Yankee Candle Company Mistletoe candle. It smells like a real Christmas tree, people.

2. Put on Christmas music. I have fine-tuned my Christmas Pandora station like a beast. NO Christmas Shoes. May I suggest starting with “A Christmas Song Radio” particularly if you like the old standards…Bing, Judy, and the like.

3. Brew a cup of holiday tea (I love Santa’s Secret by David’s Tea), OR make creamy hot chocolate with real milk and miniature marshmallows, OR pour a glass of wine (if after 5:00 pm…or earlier…up to you) and make sure it’s in a big, special Christmas mug or fancy stemware (I have a wine glass that says “Mrs. Claus.”  If I don’t quit eating this Dresden Stollen, I’m gonna be looking like that jolly lady soon enough.)

4. Gather your cards, list, pretty pen, and beautiful stamps. This year, I picked The Nativity, which is gorgeous. Take time to admire the art on that stamp.  

5. Savor the moment.
I don’t know how I did it with toddlers underfoot, or a million Christmas programs to attend (Christmas adrenaline, it’s a thing) but I always found a moment or two to steal away and work on the cards each day. Peace. On. Earth. 
It’s a blessing counter.
With each name I write (and I don’t judge if you use labels because those blessings can be tallied, too), I have an opportunity to think about that person or family and recall how very thankful I am for their presence in my life. They include fellow cheer moms and marching band parents, my children’s teachers (man-oh-man, am I thankful for those people), my church family, small group friends far and near (at one point we joked that if you wanted to get relocated, just join our small group), cousins scattered across the country, and on and on. That fills me up to the point of bursting. Watch out for glittery bits of Debi flying all over the place. So very thankful.
Sooooooo, here’s the honest truth, people: I receive all of these precious gifts before I even get one card in my own mailbox. And to quote Linus, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  Amen. 
(And that doesn’t even start to describe the incredible joy that comes when greetings come my way. I love, love, love every card and every picture and yes, EVERY CHRISTMAS NEWSLETTER. They are my absolute favorite. Send them to me with abandon and ALL of the details.)
I started a new tradition a couple of years ago. We drive to Dale, Indiana to have our cards postmarked from Santa Claus because why wouldn’t you do that? There’s also a quick stop at The Christmas Store for a new ornament, and a short trek to Monkey Hollow Winery for a case of Winter Warmer. See how much fun doing Christmas cards can be?
Oh yeah, I started one other Christmas card tradition last year that was inspired by my sweet cousin, Angela. If you send me a photo Christmas card, it gets pinned to a big bulletin board in my laundry room so that I can see your sweet face all year. I often stop to count my many blessings and pray a prayer of thanksgiving over your picture. To quote another holiday favorite, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.” (One point for me in the Christmas Vacation quote contest.) Thank you, Eddie.  

From Hassler Woods in Earle, Indiana, we wish you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Years!!!! 

Rejoice, rejoice! The Savior is born!

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