Why I Take Christmas Card Photos with My Goldfish

Most Christmas cards have pretty winter scenes or photos of adorable children.

Mine look like this.


This wasn’t exactly the plan, of course. If someone had asked me when I was a teenager what I thought my Christmas card would look like when I was 26, my answer would not have been “A picture of me and my goldfish in front of my artificial hand-me-down Christmas tree, of course.”

Yet, here I am. Year four of Goldfish Christmas Cards, which I think means I’m allowed to call it a tradition now. I don’t even remember where I initially got the idea, but my original goal was mostly for my own amusement. Even still, that’s a large part of the reason I do it–if I didn’t have fun with it, I’d stop.

At the same time, it’s come to mean a bit more to me. I decided I’m over the idea that only couples or families are allowed to have photo Christmas cards. I fully realize I’m not as cute as my young nieces and nephews who grace their families’ cards, but I like thinking of creative ideas for poses and pun-tastic phrases and sharing them with my family and friends. Though I try not to, I sometimes use being single as a reason for why I’m not a “real adult yet,” and I didn’t want to let my singleness be an excuse for not participating in the strange but lovely tradition of exchanging Christmas cards.

Is it a “normal” Christmas card? No. Is it how I thought my Christmas cards would look, or even how I want mine to look for the rest of my life? No. Is it an accurate reflection of where I’m at in life right now? Yup. I live by myself in the house I bought, and the only other creature who resides here permanently is my goldfish. So instead of a “2016 Update” letter included in a card with a typical winter or Christmas setting, this feels particularly fitting this year.

So from our bowl to yours, til next time…


p.s. If you’re single, do you send Christmas cards?


Dead Goldfish, New Condos, and Things That Matter


For almost four years, I’ve had a goldfish named Manasseh. I bought him a few months after I graduated from college, while I was still living at my parent’s house. A year later I would move out, and have now moved five times in just under three years. At the beginning of June though, I got possession of a condo I bought. It’s mine. After years of transition and uncertainty, I get to stay here as long as I decide I want to. It’s been an exciting, scary, and overwhelming few months as all of this came together. And, during that time, my goldfish swam around his little bowl like he always had.Fishy

Except last Saturday I woke up to discover he was swimming no longer. I had fed him right before going to bed on Friday night, the same night the last of my furniture and possessions made the move to my condo, and he had seemed fine. A few hours later, he was gone.

He was a nineteen cent goldfish who, while I’d argue he swam to the side of the bowl when I walked into the room (probably because he thought he was going to get fed), had about a three second memory and no capacity for love or any meaningful feelings–I’m not losing sight of that. But he was also the only other living creature that has been with me through all my moves, and was by far my longest living goldfish. He also became my companion on a series of Christmas cards, to not only my own amusement but, I’m told, other’s as well. So my attachment to him goes far beyond what is normal, or some might say even healthy, for a pet of his ilk. His death, coming on the tails of a busy, complicated season of life with a lot of different emotions, has been One More Thing to process.

And so, because I have learned that if a thing has value it is worth mourning, I am mourning my goldfish a bit. Not beyond what he deserved, I hope, but I won’t pretend I don’t keep feeling like I’m forgetting to feed him and then get a little jarred when I remember I don’t have to anymore. He was a fish, sure, but he was part of the ritual of my life. It’s easy to dismiss all of this, because he was a nineteen cent goldfish after all, the kind most people feed to their other pets, not keep as pets themselves. A thing’s value shouldn’t come from its price point though–he had value because he mattered to me. While I suppose this may be a bit of circular reasoning, his death is sad because I will miss him.

Yet in a strange way, the timing of his death feels perhaps a bit fitting. Now that I’m in a setting I will hopefully be for a good while, maybe my place can be my constant instead of my pet. 

Til next time…


p.s. Have you ever had something that, while its monetary value may not have been much, had a lot of value to you?

Redemptive Goldfish

In the span of my ten minute drive to work yesterday, I decided it was time for a pet. Seeing as my house is still fuller than normal, a goldfish seemed the best way to go.

Naming things is very important to me, be it a pet or even some of my inanimate objects. (Example: my current car is named Cleo. It took me several weeks to decide on this name.)

Needing a quick way to get as many opinions as possible, I posted a Facebook status announcing to the world my decision to acquire a goldfish, and requested suggestions for names; preferably biblical, male names. Though I received many good suggestions, none seemed quite right.

As I went through my work day, I happened to come across the story of King Manasseh as found in II Chronicles 33. (Yes, I really was working—when you work at a Christian publishing company, flipping through the Bible sometimes does qualify as work. Which is pretty cool.)

I noticed Manasseh because I had names on the brain, and thought, “Manasseh would make a pretty good fish name.” Then I read his story.

Manasseh the Goldfish

Manasseh the Goldfish

Manasseh became king at the age of twelve, and “led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”  (II Chronicles 33:9, NIV) He built idols, worshiped the gods of the nations surrounding Judah, even sacrificed his own sons—not what God had in mind for the ruler of his people.

So God let Manasseh be taken captive by Assyria. Only then, after being ripped from his land and position of power, did Manasseh see his foolishness.

In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. (II Chronicles 33:12-13)


It’s a redemption story. As I quoted here in a post about everyday redemption, to redeem is to buy back. To set free by paying a ransom. To deliver from sin and its penalties, as by a sacrifice made for the sinner.

After his piles of sin, Manasseh did not seem like a likely candidate for redemption. But, as Albert Wolters writes in his book Creation Regained,

“Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of. Hope is grounded in the constant availability and the insistent presence of the good creation, even in those situations in which it is being terribly violated.”

It is one of my favorite quotes about redemption (and I’ve used it before over here). As one of the worst kings Judah ever had, Manasseh was a prime example of violating God’s creation by blatantly disobeying what God had told him to do. Yet God heard him, rescued him from his plight, and redeemed him.

And so, Manasseh. An unlikely name for a goldfish, perhaps. If he goes the way of his predecessors, he may not swim for long; but even so, he will serve as a reminder that redemption is not only possible, but a reason to hope.

“Nothing in the world ought to be despaired of.”

Til next time…