Wednesday, December 05, 2018

3 secrets to a joyful Christmas

i love love love Christmas. 

the day after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year. that's when the Christmas tree can finally go up and i can unashamedly listen to Christmas carols 24/7. there's just something about this time of year that is like a fresh awakening of joy in my spirit. there's a little bit of heaven everywhere.

but i know not everyone feels this way. the holiday season can be stressful, sad, exhausting, and chaotic. i sense the tension in line at the grocery store, in traffic on the freeway, and in conversations with friends and family. there are to-do lists and calendar bookings and budgets and recipes and it can be overwhelming in the worst way. i get it. ...that is to say, i acknowledge it. but i fight against it. i am crazy protective of my love for Christmas with the fierceness of a mama grizzly bear. there is a wall of determination around my heart that won't let any emotion or distraction steal my Christmas joy. a joyful Christmas is worth fighting for.

here are my secrets to a having a joyful Christmas:

1 // PERSPECTIVE. Christmas isn't about me. (or you. or Santa.) it isn't about buying gifts, baking cookies, hosting parties, decorating, or travelling. Christmas is about the love of Jesus, and sharing that love, and that is it. if anything i find myself doing isn't rooted in that, then it has the potential to wreak havoc on my holiday joy. the secret is keeping Christmas in perspective. some good ways to do this - read Luke 2:1-20. if you have more time, read the book of Isaiah. the Christmas story is on of the Greatest Stories of all Time and it never gets old! do a bible study about Christmas (i'm doing this one from Love God Greatly). sometimes, we get so caught up in going through the motions of the holidays that we miss the point. God sent a Savior for me and for you, friend. the love, generosity, and grace of that Promise is all i want to be overwhelmed by this time of year.   

2 // JOMO. i am 100% all about the Joy of Missing Out. someone very wise once said for every yes i commit to, something else is getting my no. and sometimes it takes saying no to something good so i can say yes to something better. the point is, i have to be okay with not doing all the things. instead of being afraid of missing out, i have to find the joy in it. so what if i'm missing out on something over there - how can i enjoy what God has for me and where He's has me right now? my secret to knowing what's worth doing vs what to miss out on is using my family as the barometer. again, it's not all about me. if my family is not into ice skating around a giant Christmas tree, then guess what? we'll miss out on that experience, but we'll keep our joy. it's doing things (and not doing things) with intention. i'm not going to force things/experiences for the sake of not missing out. the opposite of FOMO is peace. 

3 // BOUNDARIES. this is a biggy. and again, it is driven by a fierce determination to protect my joy and peace. setting boundaries is crucial to keeping my sanity during the holidays and any time of year, actually. i have pretty firm boundaries for myself and my family. i keep a close eye on our calendar to make sure we're getting good quality family time regularly, and aren't overextending ourselves. i know my limits and delegate, ask for help, or hire out in the areas where i need it. i know what our non-negotiables are, i keep our goals and priorities in the forefront of my mind, and if anything doesn't line up, it's a no-go. boundaries are not to be crossed. i'm territorial! but these boundaries help me keep my life balanced, prevent me from becoming stressed out, and keep me focused on my goal of making the most of every day. this way, i can attend to the top priorities in my life, giving them just the right amount of time so that my schedule is never busting at the seams. i've shared more about my boundaries here.

the holidays shouldn't be a time of stress, dread, or anxiety. here's the hard but real truth: if we're certain of the reason for the seasons - Thanksgiving and Christmas alike - then we should be living with that spirit in our heart year round. the things we do at Christmastime: sending cards across the miles, being generous with gifts and charitable, spending time with family and friends, talking about Jesus' birth, counting our blessings, singing songs, adorning our homes, and doing things that keep our hearts focused on Jesus - shouldn't be a holiday time to-do list. it shouldn't be stressful. it should be a natural overflow and outcome of our mature, rooted faith. we should already be doing those things all year long. 

for instance, i love this time of year because it's the time of year our family takes a nice picture together. with an actual camera! not a selfie :) it's not by obligation or to check off of a list. it isn't to keep up with the Jones's or to have the perfect Facebook post or Christmas card. it's for us, to commemorate our family in this stage, and this is the time of year that we do it. we look forward to it! we have a lot of fun doing it! it's so special to us! we lovingly share it with friends and family when we send Christmas greetings in the mail. this is something that is a way of life for us, and is naturally part of our holiday season.

but if taking a family picture wasn't our thing, if i tried to force it at Christmastime for the sake of begrudgingly sending cards, then of course it would all be very stressful and miserable for everyone, and i would dread the holidays every year. if we're striving to meet some imaginary expectations or comparing our holiday season to other people's holiday season, it will absolutely strip our holidays of joy. 

"Tell me why do we wait 364 days to slow down and stop
 to remember how blessed we are?
If we've got the faith, then we've got the hope through the year - we don't have to wait,
because it's Christmas everyday.
...If love's the gift we share, then we don't need to care about the season cause we've always got a reason to give ourselves away."
-Christmas Everyday, Unspoken

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just times of the year to amplify, exaggerate, and celebrate gratitude, blessings, peace, and joy - but those things should be a way of life, not just a seasonal attitude. cling tight to your joy. fiercely protect your peace. keep the perspective, trade FOMO for JOMO, and establish some firm boundaries, and have a joyful Christmas! 

"May the hope, the peace, the joy, and the love represented by the birth in Bethlehem 
this night fill our lives and become part of all that we say and do." 
–Rev. Richard J. Fairchild

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." 
–Luke 2:14