Know those people who can't take a bad picture? The ones blessed with stunning facial features like beautiful jaw lines? They post pictures on social media with hashtags like #iwokeuplikethis and we actually believe them because as far as we can tell, they're perfect.
Yeah, that's not us.
Most of our family pictures end up with me looking like a deer in headlights and my husband's smile fading into a grimace mid-shot because let's face it, you can only hold a staged pose for so long before you start to feel silly. Inevitably, my toddler will become distracted by something, anything other than the camera being shoved in his face (#boys). By the time it's all said and done, the photos look more like an experiment gone terribly wrong than a happy, loving family. So when we decided to take family photos this Christmas (the week before Christmas mind you), I was nervous. Would they look posed and cheesy? Would our fussy newborn cooperate?
Our first and best decision was choosing a photographer who knows us, which I highly recommend, especially when kids are involved. Our good friend Kelsey has done several other family photo shoots for friends, so she was an easy choice. (Check her out if you live in the DMV.) We messaged her on a Tuesday and were scheduled for the following Tuesday. (Win.)
Next, came the question of what to wear. I didn't want us to look uniform but I'm too much of a control freak not to at least be coordinated. My husband had the great idea to wear flannel shirts, which was genius. Thankfully, Old Navy is clutch. We made a quick trip the night before the shoot and $30 later, we were "ready."
The day of the shoot, everything started beautifully. Kelsey took her time and talked us through props and some of the shots she had in mind. She even had toys and Cheez-Its on hand for Lincoln, and was patient as I nursed. Things quickly took a turn for the worst when Ellis unloaded a massive poop 20 minutes in. I stopped to change and nurse him, but he cried at regular intervals for the rest of the shoot. Then of course Lincoln had his own meltdown down halfway through and had to be bribed with fruit snacks. Musa and I tag teamed on the kids the best we could, switching off depending on who was in the shot. By the time we were done three hours later, we were all hangry (short for hungry + angry) and drained.
That evening, I held my breath nervously waiting for Kelsey to send a few sneak peak photos. When the first batch came by text, I was sincerely blown away. They were perfect. Don't get me wrong. It was all there. The tears and the tantrums. The meltdowns. The awkwardness and youthful rebellion. But also the genuine happiness. The togetherness. Us. She had beautifully captured "us."
Since we didn't get around to sending out Christmas cards this year, I'm sharing a few of the photos we loved most. Surprisingly, many of my favorites are include Ellis crying or Lincoln doing something weird and awkward because he simply can't resist.
I'm reminded as I reflect on the whole experience, that the first Christmas was anything but picture perfect. Jesus came because of our ugly sin. His unwed, virgin mother became society's outcast. There was no room in the inn. Heaven met earth one starry night in the most unsanitary place there is - a barn. And yet all the perfection we need lay there swaddled in a manger.
So if you're broken this Christmas, or if you've lost a loved one, or if your Christmas dinner doesn't turn out how you planned, or if you aren't the recipient of thoughtful gifts you love, or God forbid your kids are ungrateful, remember: the joy of Christmas is that this life is imperfect. But Christ. Merry Christmas, dear friends.