It’s such a blessing to live near family.
How do I know? Well, sometimes the importance of something can be taught through scarcity.
The life I married into:
What I mean is this: I have an amazing immediate family. But I grew up with no extended family in the state – or even relatives in neighboring states, for that matter! It was just the 5 of us in my immediate family and it was what I was used to…until Bjorn came into my life. 🙂 When I first learned that my husband had so many of his relatives in the area, I was blown away. Both sides of his family were nearby? Seriously?? Bjorn grew up in an almost-sibling-like group of cousins and was familiar with things like: Christmas celebrations involving “everyone,” heading over to an aunt’s house and walking in the door without calling first, farming on weekends with his father and uncle and grandfather, and having coffee with grandparents after church on Sundays.
I hadn’t grown up in a family situation like this, but it was something I was delighted to embrace when I got married. When first I moved down to southern Minnesota, I was instantly immersed in this relative-rich culture, something I am very grateful for!
My own family is and always will be very, very special to me, but it’s wonderful that those in Bjorn’s family now feel like my family members, too; one of the many blessings of marriage is expanding your family circle. 🙂
I love the security in knowing that my in-laws are right “up the road,” knowing I can call them if my car breaks down or if we want to do an impromptu taco night. Being in and out of each other’s lives like this is just plain good for the soul.
I also am SO grateful that my own parents live just 2 hours away. It makes weekend trips easy when we want to visit, and knowing they’re not too far at all is just a cozy, wonderful feeling.
– But what if you DON’T live nearby?
I’m convinced that the idea of having family “nearby” can ALSO mean they are near to your heart. Physical location is an added bonus, but there are ways to keep close and keep in touch even when you’re miles apart!
My mom and her four other siblings have participated in a circle letter for years, since they live far apart. This letter idea was initially started by my grandpa. As the large envelope travels around the country, each family adds a new letter to the pile. Growing up, it was so fun to read “The Boomer,” as they call it (short for “boomerang”) and hear about the goings-on in our relatives’ lives through the shared letters. This way, you got to see people’s handwriting, enjoy their enclosed photos, and stay up-to-date on their lives!
Because we don’t see our relatives often, I ALWAYS looked forward to the annual Christmas cards and the letters that arrived with the cards. Christmas letters are such a sweet way to hear updates about the people in our lives – not only relatives, but old friends, new friends, co-workers, and people we haven’t seen in years!
So, obviously, I get excited about Christmas cards and letters each year. And there’s something uniquely special about Christmas together as a married couple. It’s a special time to celebrate Christ’s birth and the meaning His gift adds to our lives…as our very own household!
I remember daydreaming about getting to send out our very first Christmas cards to friends and relatives. It has been so much fun sending out our Christmas letters these past 2 years. This year will be our 3rd year sending out a card and letter as the Olsons and I can’t wait!
We will be including a letter along with each Christmas card, of course – an aspect of card-exchanging that is especially important to me. I love continuing our letter-writing tradition. Letter-writing to stay in touch with loved ones is a special aspect of my growing-up years that I do not want to lose.
Why you should consider sending out a holiday letter this year:
I know, I know — for some of you, the idea of a letter sounds ridiculous. After all, what do we write about? Is it silly to send one out if we don’t have kids? What if it’s been a hard year? Or will it sound like bragging?
I have DEFINITELY wrestled with some of these questions, at length. I understand that some people have concerns about holiday letters for various reasons. And it can take a lot of thoughtfulness to draft and finish one that you’re satisfied with.
But I have come to the conclusion that there are some very valid reasons to write and send out a holiday letter.
1 // It’s a fun way to reflect and journal on the past year. It is! Yes, I blog, and yes, so many of us are on Facebook now days, but where else can you get a succinct snapshot of the past 12 months in a neat little package? Each year when I begin to work on our current Christmas letter, I pull up the old ones and honestly get lost in them for a few minutes. I love reading what our excitements, joys, and “newsy” items were a couple years ago! It’s just like when Facebook reminds me of an old photo Bjorn and I took together — it’s a black & white selfie, blurry, taken in his mom’s kitchen, and we were celebrating counting down to 200 days BEFORE our wedding! Can you believe it? All the sentiments and memories flood right back. And it’s a beautiful thing. So, whether or not you journal in everyday life, I encourage you to “journal” in this way!
2 // It reminds you of God’s provision. Come November, it’s easy for me as a teacher to begin to stare the whole school year in the face and get bogged down by realities in front of me and the dreary weather out the window. But let me tell you, when I’m spending 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there working on this letter, I’m reflecting on all that has happened since January 2016. And I am totally struck by God’s hand of provision in our lives and all that He has lovingly taken us through and used to grow us. Believe me, there were some really hard times for me in 2016. But passing through them not only strengthened my character, it strengthened my trust in the One who created me and leads me. Basically, writing a record of “how 2016 went” (regardless of if you include all the difficult details) forces you to look back on how God led you through the “bad” times and the good.
3 // It updates friends and family who you may not see often. Something you may not know about me: I’m not the absolute best at staying in touch with everyone. It’s kind of embarrassing/frustrating to admit. I don’t know if it’s the craziness of life’s seasons, or not being in close proximity, or the fact that I’m more of an introvert/homebody than an extroverted “party” gal…it’s probably a combination of these all! But it doesn’t mean that I want to get out of touch with you! I could write a whole other post about staying in touch after college and how I want to improve in that area….but at the end of the day, know that I care about you all! The people we choose to send Christmas letters to are those who have impacted our lives, stood by us, encouraged us, or otherwise brought us joy and friendship!
And just as much as I like to share these updates with friends and family, if not more so, I LOVE to receive Christmas letters and life updates from YOU! It’s like getting Christmas presents early when I find a friend’s card and letter in the mail. We tape them up on a big white closet door in our kitchen and we just love knowing what you all are up to!! It feels like we’re hanging out again, in a sense, and brings those ties of friendship back closer across miles and years. 🙂
4 // It’s a super “excuse” to get in touch with people! We love you and this is our way during the month of December to get back in touch a bit. 🙂 Part of the reason I so love being a consultant for Rodan + Fields is because it has given me a great opportunity to get back in touch with friends and relatives! This is kind of similar. The warmth and joy of the holiday season brings the perfect chance to spread those warm fuzzies with even more people than those you see on a daily or regular basis.
5 // Letter writing is becoming a lost art. It really is. When I moved from Texas to Minnesota as a 2nd grader, we had a little going-away party (actually a birthday party) for me in which we had my friends share their addresses written on cute Texas stars and plop in a little wicker basket. And the whole idea was that I would write them letters. And I did!
I also loved writing friends and family while in college, and I still do occasionally just as a fun way to mix up the mode of communication. But life updates in the form of physical mail is really becoming a lost art and snail mail needs to be kept alive! We instead just get snippets of “updates” via people’s Facebook photos and other little announcements that fly by throughout the year. It’s fun to be a bit more intentional come holiday season. There is something so special about receiving a physical letter from someone, and (whether or not they wrote or typed it) knowing that they thought of you, wrote it, folded it up, and stuffed it in an envelope just for you!
So, do you think yet that I’m trying to convince you to send out a holiday letter this year?? 😉 Well, I am. Did it work?
I really encourage you to consider these 5 reasons why holiday letters are important and to jump in with your own this year. If you need someone to send it to, we’d love to get yours, too! 🙂
Even if you simply ease in by drafting a letter this year and don’t even send it out…I’d say you’re accomplishing several of these reasons already. You’re reflecting on the year, you’re acknowledging God’s hand of provision, you’re expressing yourself and processing your life through writing…
What are your holiday card or letter-writing traditions? Where are you ordering your holiday cards from this year?? 🙂
PS — Wondering where to get your cards this year?? I HIGHLY, highly recommend Minted. I’ll be sharing about our Minted Christmas cards soon!