Christmas Letter 2012

Our family is God’s way of keeping us grounded.

Good friends are a gift we can never deserve.

True joy can only be discovered in Jesus.

And pain that hits us where we live, changes us the most.

Every year, a pile of Christmas cards fills my mailbox. Some with pictures. Some with letters. Some with both. Whether documented by a collage of photos or a page of words, all of them hold the same thing—a short summary of the year.

They sort of go like this:

Little Johnny won the Nobel prize for his reformation. On teacher/student relations at Alice Elementary.

Little Susie made first clarinet. The day after she began playing.

Little Timmy led varsity football to State. As both quarterback and receiver.

Little Megan danced lead in the Nutcracker. At age seven.

It seems no one else lives a mediocre life. They travel to exotic places, get along with their family members, walk in leadership positions, win awards, and cure leprosy on accident while inventing a new vaccine for bullying.

Taken alone, the Christmas Letter Vignette makes other people’s lives feel amazing. About halfway through their Highlights of the Year, I’m packing my carry-on, Googling the lowest last-minute airfares, and buying a ticket to wherever they live.

I’m moving in because the chances of my family even raising their heads high enough to see that bar carries the same odds as me being abducted by aliens on Friday the 13th after a blizzard in July.

Then I remember. What doesn’t get put in those letters are the struggles. The events that hit the hardest. The moments that brought life-altering decisions. The impact that forced the most personal change.

I find it interesting that we don’t share our struggles and our triumphs over them. Those stories would inspire instead of defeat. Those stories would bring hope instead of despair. As a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, I know I’ve failed. Now I want to know there is redemption.

Telling us Jesus loves us is one thing, showing us another.

So here’s our 2012 in a nutshell—the incredible, the defeating, and the mediocre.

Pat’s still with the same company that moved us here. Some days are good. Some days are not. Because people work in his office and people aren’t perfect. God uses others to sharpen our character flaws and some days Pat is sharpened more than others. Some days, I cut him deeper than his co-workers. His capacity for forgiveness astonishes me and I am grateful.

Kyle left for college in the fall. He loves his dorm, his new friends, and his chosen major—nursing. He dug deep this semester to earn a 3.007. Deeper than a few other students, who breezed by on a 4.0. But when he’s forty, working hard will have built him solid character and that may be what God is teaching him right now. I struggle with his absence. I struggle with his short visits home where he’s no longer a kid, but not quite an adult. We’re barely paying his tuition and if he can’t rally more scholarships in 2013, he won’t be going back.

Alek is the new man on campus—at least our campus. He’s growing into the role, often surprising me with the way his character is shaping. Some days the surprise makes my heart happy. Other days, the surprise nails me with what I’m lacking as a parent. He took over Kyle’s job teaching children “how not to drown” up at the local gym. I’m proud of him for earning a paycheck and choosing to support a child through Compassion International. I’m not so proud of myself for the amount of TV I let him watch and the caliber of video games I let him play.

Maddy just turned eleven. And she’s a girl. I could stop there and every woman reading this will sigh in remembrance and understand Maddy’s heart intimately. We all want to be beautiful and special and perfect. But at eleven, we don’t understand those things mean more etched on the inside of us then painted on the outside. She plays the piano, swims, and sings in the choir. She combs her hair when I remind her and her current claim to fame seems to be working the unmatched socks.

This year I’ve discovered little things really can kill you. Or at least bring you down when they decide to rally, form an army, and refuse retreat. The world doesn’t have to fall into a huge crisis to be crushing. That came as quite a shocker.

My word from 2012 is overwhelmed.

No, my book isn’t done yet, but I was lucky enough to earn some space in Wild at Heart this year with my short story Refugee. I’ve also discovered something successful authors have known for years. If I’m in the creative groove and producing, my family and friends aren’t loving the person I’ve become nor the time I’m not spending with them. When I’m falling in line with their expectations, I don’t get anything done.

My word for 2013 is balance. I have no idea where to search for something so elusive.

So, in response to my Highlights of the Year, please don’t unearth your Samsonite. Don’t transfer funds from savings to pay United for a one-way to DFW. In my world, the kids don’t always get along. The parents don’t either. Dinner is rarely on the table by Friday, let alone at six. The dogs, who are now thirteen, can’t always stumble outside to do their business and the cats sometimes just forget.

I’m satisfied with a peaceful day. But when that doesn’t happen, I chalk the kids’ skirmishes up to learning people skills. What works and what doesn’t. That could be a valuable lesson for the long run. As for the animals, I’m looking into senior living.

Next year, consider being vulnerable. Consider sharing your pain, yours losses and your wins. You never know what your words will do for another person.

My smallest New Year’s resolution? To floss every day and not just a week before I visit the dentist. My largest? To make my family feel as loved as they are.

What are yours?


  1. One of the best Christmas letters I’ve ever read, Lori! Your family sounds wonderful to me–not perfect, but together and trying.

    I can relate to the need for balance and always feeling like I’m not quite the wife and mother I wish I were. It’s rather humbling when God chooses to use me anyway to do, well, anything.

    Blessings for a beautiful Christmas and New Year! One of my highlights in 2012 was getting to meet several writers in person whom I had known only online before, and you are among those treasured friends.

  2. I love your Christmas letter! *Mwah and a big hug*

    I wish life were more perfect, but this is the elusive magic everyone hunts for, eh? Better yet, we search for being imperfect people who strive for the best we can do and provide for those we love. :)

    I believe you’ve done well this year, Ms. Freeland.

  3. Thank you for being transparent. Real. Have not written my traditional Christmas letter for two years now. In January 2012, I list my mom. My best friend. Three months later, on the same weekend as my middle daughter was delivering her first baby, my youngest daughter lay in a hospital in Tucson receiving a “death sentence” – stage lV colon cancer. She died one year later, on April 28th. It is coming up on one year in less than 2 months. I have not been able to write thank you notes to those who helped me/us through the toughest year of my life, but aim eternally grateful for each and every one who walked us through that “cancer journey”. I could not have made it through without them! Jan

    • Lori Freeland |

      When life gets real, it gets hard. There are days I can’t even write and writing used to be my release. Thank you for sharing your heart with me.

  4. Stefana Mirto |

    The Lord took my beloved husband of 32 years home Jan. 2013. He suffered pancreatic cancer for a year and a half. I watched this big strong man starve to death and disappear slowly before my eyes. I still cry to God, “How could you do this to me? We loved you.” I know he is safe in His arms and I thank God daily for that…but I am still crying. I just want to go home too.

  5. I’ve been tempted to write a real Christmas letter and at the end of this year I will. This past year my family was torn apart by divorce and i Spent my Christmas without my children home. Was God there., yes did I always feel like it , no. I understand suffering, in ways I never have before. Timothy Keller about pain and suffering and my bible i held close. Thank you for sharing your truth and heart. God Bless you

    • Lori Freeland |

      I think being real is more powerful than hiding behind a church face. But being real is HARD. It’s sort of like standing on a stage naked. I’m glad you’re going to write a real letter next year. I’d love to read it :) Thank you for sharing this with me.

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