Several weeks ago, however, I had a moment of inspiration that changed my mind, a moment that left me sitting at my kitchen table less than a week before Christmas writing this—stressed out, broke and completely ungreen.
We were at our church’s annual Christmas market when I saw the perfect setting for a quick family photo. I grabbed my friend Amy, shoved my camera in her hands and told her to make it a good one. Her son, Micah, a friend of my son Clay’s, waited patiently for his playmate to get through the institutional torture while his mom snapped away. When the photo shoot was officially complete, however, Micah pleaded for one last shot—one that included him smack in the middle of our family portrait. Seeing no harm, we climbed back on the festive bench and smiled one last time.
Later that day, as I flipped through the images on my camera I found myself stopping—repeatedly—on the one that included the child who wasn’t mine, the child who begged to be part of my family even if it were just for a fleeting moment.
It got me thinking, like I always do at this time of year, about the people who have been part of our family over the years—flesh and blood family for sure, but also those who have become our family in cities where we’ve had none—and it finally dawned on me why I was most drawn to this particular image on my camera: it was a symbol of the richest moments we’ve experienced in 2010. Moments filled with people who have allowed us the honor of jumping into their family portraits and whom we have begged to be part of ours. Moments that remind us to capture and embrace the carpe diemness of life even when our first inclination is to let it skate by.
Most of the Camfield moments of 2010 have been good.
For me, they have included the amazing privilege of traveling to Ethiopia with a friend to bring home her second son. On that same trip, it was visiting Children’s Heaven, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned girls who have lost one or both parents to the AIDS epidemic, an organization we now support. They’ve included going back to work for the first time in almost nine years (InterVarsity Press), becoming the blog manager for FullFill Magazine and joining a community of female authors (Redbud Writers) that challenge me to be better in everything I do.
For my kids, Sadie (9) and Clay (7), their moments have been typical of most elementary kids—basketball and baseball; American Girl dolls and Legos; barefoot summers and snow fort building winters—but my favorite moments are the ones that no camera can capture. It’s the joy I find in watching them grow to be friends, or maybe better stated, partners in crime. It’s the way Clay makes me laugh in spite of myself and how Sadie works harder than most adults I know. It’s the praise that rises from my lips as I watch a gift of Sadie’s emerge as she teaches me her science lesson (complete with whiteboard and teacher-like-pointer-stick) and the pride that brings tears to my eyes when I hear that my ornery, goofy little Clay is the kindest kid in the class.
Of course, not all moments can be good ones, so it’s also been a year of learning, of trusting when we’re not sure we believe, of soaking in lessons of humility, faithfulness, gratefulness, forgiveness and grace, of knowing it’s impossible to live life without a community of people to walk alongside.
And lest you think I forgot about my husband, Eric, don’t worry; I’m just saving my favorite moment for last. The moment that, to me, is the best reminder of why we should jump into each other’s snapshots when given the chance, especially when it’s easy to wonder if the things we invest our time and energy in year after year ever really do make a difference. He continues to serve people faithfully as the Group Life Director (and more recently interim Family Director) at Christ Church of Oak Brook while beginning his second master’s degree (Christian Studies) at Trinity International University. A few weeks ago, he received a call from a young man he had taught in a junior high youth group ten years ago, now the pastor of his own church. The young man had challenged his congregation to call one person who had impacted their life and to say thank you. He chose to call Eric.
As I listened to the message, I was thankful that my husband had chosen to jump into a teenager’s snapshot all of those years ago, and I was overwhelmed by how fortunate we have been for the people who have jumped into ours. I’m reminded of it each Christmas as I stare at their pictures and read their letters, awestruck over how quickly families grow and change, reflecting on the bits of life we’ve shared over the years and genuinely wondering how 2010 has been for each of them.
It is my hope that regardless of the circumstances life has thrown at you this year, you have found a way to experience the joy and peace that the shepherds found swaddled in the manger all those years ago, joy and peace incarnate who entered all of our portraits and changed them—once, for all, forever.
“A wise man once said that he was certain only that these three things were true: that God is Love, that somehow that Love got loose on earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and that if one believed those two things, then everything could never be the same again.” Robert Benson, The Night of the Child
Merry Christmas to you and yours, with love, peace and grace.
See you in 2011!