The Christmas Photo

My kids were all ready for pictures with Santa. My sons wore cute red and green plaid shirts, red sweater vests and corridor pants, and my daughter wore a beautiful Christmas dress that I bought last spring on clearance. I couldn’t wait to grace the entrance of the mall and present my picturesque kids to Santa and the photo elves. Wouldn’t they all just swoon over my angelic children?!

Amazingly enough, my sons both smiled and waited patiently for the camera to flash. My daughter, on the other hand, took one look at the stranger wearing a red suit and donning a long white beard and freaked out. My husband and I tried our best to get her to smile, and the photo elves took several shots, but my daughter’s screams only grew louder and her tears only grew fatter.  She reached her little arms toward me and called out “Mama!” Never once did she look in the direction of the camera.

In Christmases past, I would have been irritated about the wasted energy and the less than perfect Christmas photo, and I would have allowed my disappointment to steal a little of my Christmas joy.  However, this year was different. I felt a tinge of frustration, but it was quickly overpowered by my enjoyment in the honest reaction of my child. I held my daughter in my arms and praised her instincts: “I’m so proud of you! You distrust strangers and that is a very good thing!

As I walked with my husband back through the mall to let our kids play on the soft park, I thought about what had changed in me. Since I’ve only been a mother for six years, I prayed that God would help me to understand the good work He had performed in me. I came upon a Christian writer who gave words to what I was experiencing. She writes that our children are not here to meet our expectations or to fulfill our happiness; rather, “they are here to fulfill the purposes of God.”*

I believe that having standards for our children is good; but when we start pushing them to meet our expectations, or worse yet, other people’s expectations that we fear, we have placed a large burden on their shoulders that they were never meant to carry. As parents, we are called to obediently follow God’s lead in caring for our children (allowing His grace to fill the holes of our mistakes), and God will take care of the rest. It is HIS job to “fulfill the purposes” that He has for them.

After I finally digested this truth, I realized that I would have less disappointments, frustrations and irritation if I didn’t drive myself and everyone around me to meet MY expectations. Only God knows the future, and He is the only One who has perfect expectations. When I relinquish my desires for His, I can live my life in peace, joy and hope no matter what is going on around me. This year’s Christmas photo will always bring a smile to my face, because I know that even my daughter’s cries have fulfilled the purposes of God.

Question: How can you alleviate some stress this Christmas season by letting go of your own expectations?

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8.28 NIV).

*Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt by Leslie Leyland Fields.

Alisa Hope Wagner

Alisa Hope Wagner is aggressive about leading a simple life. She enjoys working out, reading, writing and communicating God’s love and truth. She married her high school sweetheart, and together they enjoy raising their children in a Christ-centered home. Though an introvert by nature, Alisa easily expresses herself through social media, especially on her blog. She has earned her B.A. Degree in English and her M.S. Degree in Applied English Linguistics, and she volunteered in women’s ministry leadership and life group ministry for her church. She trained in Mixed Martial Arts and won her bout by TKO! She has written her debut novel, Eve of Awakening, and has started the sequel, Bear Into Redemption.

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  1. What a classic Christmas photo!!! Your daughter will cherish this when she gets older!!!!

  2. I love that quote our children are not here to meet our expectations or to fulfill our happiness; rather, “they are here to fulfill the purposes of God.”

    How beautiful those words are to hear this morning as I awake early to prepare for my day.

    I decided this year that I will simply focus on the reason for the season. Jesus, the one who came so that I may have life not stress, worry, guilt or any of the other holiday emotions that typically come around.

    Blessings & Giggles!

  3. Great post Alisa. It’s funny how our good intentions can sometimes take a turn away from the peace and love we wanted to give. When everything is busy, we can find ourselves out on a limb. Thank the Lord for His grace and His peace. He makes our ways beautiful in His time.

    May His love keep you warm,
    Claire x

  4. Alisa,
    Your words are so true. How often have I gotten in my own way–my own happiness. And to put such pressure on my kids… ugh!

    Grace is always good.


  5. So true – and these things haunt me even more, it seems, at holiday time. Great post, Alisa!

  6. I loved this part of the book about expectations. I read it this morning. Your photo is such a great picture of this in action.

  7. This was so good! I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier in my life as a mother, but I got it before I “ruined” my son with wrong expectations, thank God. I love that line, “His grace will fill the holes of our mistakes” – so true. My son is living proof! He is an amazing young man, but only because of God! God had mercy on me.

    We alleviated the Christmas stress by cutting out massive gift-giving. Instead of that, we started going thru the house and boxing up excess for a local women’s shelter. And boy, did we have excess! We opted for one “house” gift (i.e., a new DVD player) and one “want” gift each for the kids – and stay focused on the real reason for this season! Ahhhh! So relaxing now. Oh yeah, and I had most of the food catered (BIG stress-reliever)

  8. I love this blog! Very true!


  9. Kudos to you for recognizing early on in your children’s lives that they are here for God’s purposes and not your own. We can always expect our expectations to come up short of God’s plan and it is sheer selflessness on your part to set aside your own dreams for your children in favor of God’s. May God richly bless you and your children.

  10. Such a Cute pic! Adorable, this will be a cherished memory. We did try to raise our kids, without much pressure only God. Daughter is graduating college this week, and Son is in Marine Boot Camp (sad for me). I agree with your post!

  11. Awesome, Alisha! Thank you for sharing. I just had a huge fight with my daughter and it was, as usual, springing form my rush to make her act like me. My bad, my loss, our sorrow.

    You got it right.

    May our Lord continue to bless you and your family,


  12. Oh…I have a similar Santa photo of my two oldest…I was a young mom and could have used a wise mama like you as a mentor. I praise GOD for His Grace to heal those mistakes.

  13. When we release those expectations and search for God’s purpose in their lives – being a mom becomes so much more interesting – kind of like on a treasure hunt, searching for clues. Wonderful Christmas post – and beautiful children (my fav Christmas picture of my oldest son is one where he has Christmas gift bows stuck to his little Christmas hat and he’s screaming a cry – not because he’s crying – but because he is so passionate about it:) It’s like a piece of art that says so much more! Merry Christmas Alisa!

  14. Beautifully said! We had professional familiy pictures taken this year for the first time! They were terrible, the background was terrible, the kids acted terrible, our attitudes were terrible, and I still bought them and complained like it was the end of the world. But the same, I felt this feeling of peace knowing that was our family. We’re not perfect, and I shouldn’t have expected more from anyone or anything.
    Your writings are always an inspiration to me! Thanks for sharing your motherly struggles!

  15. We had our Christmas plans ruined by a mall Santa that decided to leave the mall early last night (Christmas Eve). Needless to say, after all the hours my daughter spent getting the children (2,3,5,7) ready to meet Santa and have their pictures taken; it was a huge letdown. All of us felt that Christmas had been ruined, especially my daughter. She wanted more than anything to have these little ones have their picture made in their beautiful dresses this time. The dresses have never been worn and all the children fit them perfectly now, but will all grow out of them by next year. I spent the night very disturbed and could not let go of the fact that we spent hours and hours getting these little one’s ready and this Santa left early? How can a Santa leave early when the mall is telling people on the phone he will be there until 6:00pm? Today was Christmas, I have not talked to my daughter today, I left a message but I am sure she is still depressed. Your article helped me, we have been Christians for many many years. Thanks for sharing your struggles.



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