A Christmas Snapshot

Well, I hate to admit it but I was determined not to write a Christmas letter this year. (What you are reading now is the adapted version I said I wouldn’t write and preceded to mail to our ever-growing Christmas card list.) 
I had four solid reasons not to write it, which it turns out I share with thousands of Americans: time, expense, trees and, you guessed it, Facebook. To quote an article from the Baltimore Sun, “If it seems like you’re getting fewer holiday cards this year, don’t worry. Chances are it has nothing to do with your popularity.”

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.


The Photo that Inspired the Letter (and the one my husband wouldn’t let me mail)

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!


5 thoughts on “A Christmas Snapshot

  1. I gotta tell you – I’m embarrassed to say that I rarely read the Christmas narrations that come with Christmas cards in the mail. Most remind me of a long, boring Facebook posting. I felt even more guilty when you stated that you read every word of the ones you receive. OK, now I really am a sinner!! Am I ever glad I read yours. You had me captured from the opening paragraph. You are such a gifted writer. I’m so glad you’re pursuing your passion.

    What a blessing you and Eric have been in my life. I still think at times of the “Dream Team” we had at FCC with you all, the Damrons and Cox’s. The Miami Heat has nothing on that team – minus perhaps myself. But, checking the rear-view mirror reveals that that environment was perhaps a garden bed for what was to come – even in different geographical locations. That “family portrait” was never intended to stay together – but begin together.

    Thank you for being in our family picture and for allowing me the privilege to be in yours. What a great image that I will never forget. Similar to one that Norma Campbell gave me years ago. She talked about taking “heart pictures”. You don’t need a camera or any technology for that matter – you just snap a picture or video in your heart and then open it up anytime you want – and spend as much time as you want reflecting on it.

    Thanks again for making my Christmas that much more special. The fam is coming over this evening after we all attend SouthBrook’s Christmas Eve service. After supper and opening our gifts, everyone is spending the night. What a blast!

    Love you guys.


    • Pete, you should know better than to make a girl’s mascara run before Christmas Eve service : ) I can’t tell you how much I loved reading this note from you and how much it moved my heart. We were so blessed by you and our time at FCC. I still carry many of your messages with me (and have weaved them into my own teaching/ministry applications) and more significantly the conversations we had about so much of life. The last five years have been a tremendous shift for us in so many ways and I find myself grateful often for those foundational years and wishing we could talk shop again : ) You were and are a gift in our lives, not just as a minister and mentor, but as a true friend. Merry Christmas to you and all the gang. We love you too.


  2. I loved sharing the beginnings of our families with you guys. From before MOPS to Homegroup and Sunday School, you and Eric were a part of our family back then. We miss you guys and the rest of our family/friends from those days. They will always be special memories for us. I am proud of you Suanne and all you’ve accomplished. You are a wonderful wife, mom and writer. Your gifts are great! Thanks for sharing. Lori Camp


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