By Alli Bauck
Every year around this time I debate sending a family Christmas card. In previous years I have justified my participation in this holiday tradition because we had recently updated our family photos or we had some life-changing event occur. Other years, I have nothing “exciting” to share or I feel like it’s just “one more thing” filling my festive plate. However, I think the real reason I feel compelled to write a family letter is the process. December is the last month of the calendar—the perfect time to reflect on all the happenings of that year. As I synopsize the highlights from the past eleven months of our existence, I start to see the whole picture.
Being a creative person, I like challenging myself to think outside the box. I don’t want my letter to come off as braggy or to read like a news report. This year, as I sat staring at a blank page in my notebook, I began to wonder: does anyone really care? Besides the handful of family and friends who look forward to our Christmas card—is it just a waste of time and money, a dying tradition?
And then I thought I heard a voice saying, “Alli, I want you to share your story with Me. Write Me a Christmas letter.” Writing a letter to God seemed like an awkward undertaking but I decided to take the Spirit up on this request. If I were to address my Christmas letter to the Almighty, maybe it would go something like this:
Dear Heavenly Father,
As another calendar year concludes, I’m taking a moment to reflect on the joys (and struggles) of 2021. Your faithfulness to my family can be seen in the scribbles on our planner pages, like March 9th when William turned three, or September 4th when Levi became a one-year-old (and we were able to celebrate with both sides of our family). On Sunday, May 30th, the word “Church” was written down for the first time in a year; You allowed us to return to in-person worship with our family of faith. Recently, Jason and I marveled at how our marriage has evolved as we marked our 10th anniversary. For all these milestones, I praise and thank You!
During the weekdays, Your hand of provision was evident as we walked in our vocations. I am grateful that Jason was able to work remotely this year and I could be at home with the boys.
Gradually, our weekend visits with family resumed, and we remembered to reserve some weekends for rest. Even on the days not marked by memorable moments, You continued to provide us with abundant blessings. On the days we can’t remember (or wish we could forget), Your grace embraced us, from sunrise to sunset.
Personally, the year 2021 will be significant because of all the doors I witnessed You open for me. I did not seek out opportunities to share my spiritual gifts; but You kept encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone. In March, I was a co-presenter for the first ever Visual Faith™ Ministry virtual retreat; and again I was asked to share my story as part of the VFM Movable Adventure that launched in November. I contributed to a women’s devotional book that will be available through Concordia Publishing House (2022), and my name appears alongside other inspirational followers of Jesus in the second annual anthology from the Next Step Community.
But the most challenging change You designed for us this year was revealed when I witnessed what looked like a black and white gummy bear wiggling on a screen, in the ultrasound room of the women’s clinic. Of all the things planned (and unplanned), this new addition to our lives realigned my will with Yours. I quickly realized that my human nature was preventing me from embracing the joy of welcoming another child into our hearts. When my focus shifted from “my plan” to trusting in Your perfect one, I began to feel at peace with the precious life tumbling around in my tummy.
I cannot predict what this next year will bring but I pray that Your will—above and beyond mine—would be done. I hope that 2022 is the year Jesus returns in glory to finish what began in a Garden, was fulfilled at Christmas, culminated on the Cross, and was restored on Easter. While we wait and look for that final consummation, help me receive each day as a gift and grant me strength to live out Your story in my life.