The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Christmas. Oh, how I love Christmas! It’s so magical, and fun, and amazing. And honestly, I just love it so crazy much. Most people are in an extra cheerful mood, and are more inclined to give, society, as a whole, kind of steps outside of itself a little bit. Not only that, but let’s talk about all the fun traditions. Candy canes, hot cocoa, decorating the tree, singing carols, the presents, the parties. All of it. I love every, stinking bit of it. Sure, it’s a little stressful at times, but to me, it’s all worth it.

Warning: the words I’m about to speak will probably offend, or at least, maybe, tick some people off. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ve lived in a certain bubble of a world where I let things affect me too much, and it took me too long to settle everything in my own heart. Maybe you’ll laugh and think, “The things this poor girl put herself through.” But either way, here it is I am done with the Christmas guilt. Phew, there. I said it. Do you know what I mean? Do you know “the guilt” that I’m talking about? It’s that church-y voice telling me for as long as I can remember, “Yeah, sure, Christmas is great and all, but it’s far too commercial, and don’t forget about Jesus.” By the way, let me be clear, this “voice” I’m talking about isn’t some metaphorical voice. It’s been people saying it every Christmas season since forever.

Now, hear me out. I’m not saying that those people are wrong. I don’t, personally have anything against them. And I don’t even have any specific person in mind. It’s just the cacophony of voices passed down through the years. I know that almost all of them are coming from a good place. I know people are speaking their own convictions, and that’s ok. But for too long, I personally, let the convictions of others affect the joy in my own heart during this season.

It was a few of years ago, after hearing somebody talk about how they’re so disappointed in how Christmas looks, and doesn’t anybody even remember that Christmas is about Jesus anymore? I honestly don’t even remember who was saying these things. I only remember that it wasn’t a personal conversation, it was a meeting, or a message, or something of the sort. It may have even been something I saw on youtube. I don’t remember. I just remember that the whole time they were talking, I felt sad inside. I felt sad that I just love Christmas so much. And I felt like this person was telling me that I should feel guilty about that. That I should cut it out on the “non-holy” traditions, and only fully embrace the ones that have to do with Jesus. The whole time I thought, “not this again. It happens every year. Somebody feels like they have to advocate to the church to chill out on the commercialized Christmas on account of looking too ‘worldly’. I wish I could just enjoy it.” When all of a sudden it was like a voice (an entirely different voice, mind you) said to me, “stop feeling guilty. Just enjoy this gift.”

There it was. Plain and simple. Just. Enjoy. Christmas. Stop feeling guilty that you love to give, and yes, *gasp* to get, gifts. Stop feeling guilty when you want to listen to only Christmas music all day every day (and not just Silent Night). Don’t feel guilty when you get super excited about all the cute Christmas decor they have out at Target. Don’t feel guilty when you get all caught up in the hubabaloo of the holiday. Because that’s exactly what it is. A holiday. And it’s meant to be enjoyed. Once I realized that, I felt free. I enjoyed that year’s Christmas like nobody’s business. And it’s a good thing, because the following year, hell came crashing down around me. Right at my favorite time of year. Right at Christmas. And it was honestly what kept grounded, and hopeful, and going. I have no idea what darkness would have enveloped me had it not been for Christmas. Had it not been for all the Christmas cheer that surrounded me. Black Friday, ugly sweater parties, cookies, and lights, and the whole nine yards.  It kept my head above water. I am beyond grateful that the year before, I had let go of all of that useless guilt that I let crowd my heart.

Now, please. Don’t misread me. We celebrate Jesus in this household 100%. Our kids know that we celebrate Christmas because of Jesus and the ultimate gift that He gave. They know that He came and lived, and served, and died, and rose again. In fact, they love Easter more than anybody else I know specifically because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We don’t downplay that part of it. We know that there are some seriously holy aspects of Christmas. But we also know that we live in a day and age when there are other parts of Christmas too, and those things are crazy fun! And there’s nothing wrong with them! I honestly feel so much more worshipful during the Christmas season when I don’t listen to the voices that are saying it’s strayed from the main point. I feel so grateful that we have an entire holiday that most people choose to participate in regardless of if they are “church goers” or not. In fact, what an awesome way to relate to people and share the love of Jesus. By enjoying the traditions with them instead of enjoying them a little bit but also feeling a little bit guilty about it, because “it’s not what Jesus would want.” Christmas is an awesome time to unite people of different opinions, and to celebrate the things we have in common. I think we, as a church, are missing it just a little bit when we frown upon the commercialized version of Christmas. I think there’s a way where we can enjoy both aspects of this amazing holiday.

Please also understand, I know that Christmas is an emotionally tough time for a lot of people. None of this is directed at you. Maybe that’s obvious, but in case it isn’t I want to make it obvious. In fact, let me just say that this whole post about letting go of the Christmas guilt is not supposed to make anybody feel bad or guilty. Heaven forbid I do the same thing I’m trying to help people break free of. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m not calling anybody out, and I’m not saying that anybody is wrong verses right. I’m only saying that when I allowed myself to breathe and release all that ugly guilt in my heart, I was able to enjoy and celebrate and be thankful for Christmas on a whole new level.

What about you? What are your thoughts? Am I alone? Because I could be. I could be the only person in the group of people who will read this post that ever felt like I love Christmas but maybe I shouldn’t love it so much. Let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear them! And by the way, Have a very merry Christmas season – happily, and guilt free. 😉🎄

Gratitude

 

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Gratitude can be hard. Amiright? Like, when life is aallllll good and easy breezy, finding things to be grateful for is easy. “I’m grateful my kids were all perfect little angels today. I’m grateful for my awesome job promotion. I’m grateful for the outstanding health of my family. I’m grateful my whole entire house is perfectly, spotlessly clean. etc. etc. etc.” But what about in the storms? What about when the sun isn’t all bright and shiny. What about when those strong winds blow, and I mean hard, against your house? What then? How can we be grateful when our wombs that we so desperately want filled are still empty? How can we be grateful when that baby we so longed for left us too soon? How can we be grateful when we are so sick we can barely stand? What then? How can we be grateful?

Friends. I’m about to tell you a really hard, maybe painful, truth, but please know that I am speaking it in love. This is in no way a smack on the hand, or an invitation to “be more holy,” but rather a loving nudge to find a way to breathe when you feel like you’re suffocating. Gratitude is a choice. Always a choice. Ever a choice. Gratitude. The definition of gratitude is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The quality of being thankful. Readiness to show appreciation. This is hard stuff, right? Dear one, I feel you. I know. There have been days when I have strived to be grateful. Days when it felt like being grateful was simply not possible. In fact, I once got a mug for a friend who had recently lost a baby that said something along the lines of, “Thank you, Lord.” I told her it was so she could try to remember the things that she was thankful for, but that she also had permission to throw that mug against the wall and smash it into a million pieces, if that felt better. It can be that hard. Most of us have been there at one point or another. And that’s ok. 

It’s totally ok to be at a point in your life where you are struggling to feel grateful. Because it’s in those moments when you find the things to be the most grateful for. Sometimes when we’re put between a rock and a hard place, amazing things happen. God opens our eyes to see what’s truly in front of us.

Are you at a place where you’re struggling to be grateful? Can I help you take that very first step in the choice to be grateful? Find one thing. Just one. One tiny little thing to be grateful for. And then speak it. Did you load one dirty dish into your dishwasher today? Praise Jesus! Grateful. Were you able to pour yourself a glass of clean water to quench your thirst. Incredible! Grateful. Were both of your socks hole free when you pulled them onto your feet this morning. Nothing like it! Grateful. It doesn’t matter how small or inconspicuous it may seem, you will be able to find something to be grateful for. Did you have a tissue to blow your nose while you were crying today. Thank you Lord! Grateful. Your phone was fully charged and ready to go when you woke up. Can I get an Amen? Grateful. Somebody posted a funny gif when you looked at that fully charged phone. Yes, please! Grateful. Start small. Work your way up. You’ll get there. I promise. Just give it time. If you need help thinking of something to be grateful for, phone a friend and ask them! I’m sure they would be more than happy to help you out.

And friend, just because you’re grateful, doesn’t mean that you have to be ok. It doesn’t mean that all the darkness has gone away. It just means that you’ve taken a tiny little pin and started to poke holes in it to let the light shine through. That’s all. It means you’re taking a first, tiny little step into letting your heart heal, whatever that may look like.

In this season where gratitude takes center stage, even if every thing in your life seems to be going wrong, or simply not according to plan, know that you can also take part in this whole gratitude thing. The choice is up to you. And it’s a choice you won’t ever regret. Honestly. Grateful for all of you. Grateful you’re tagging along for my journey. Each and every single day. Thank you.