In my previous blog, we explored the first way I was able to recapture the joy of Christmas in 2016 after a very difficult year—finding a way to serve.
Notice I said a way to serve—not fifty ways to serve. Pray about it, pick a few, and do them well, because if we go overboard, any joy we experience from serving becomes eclipsed by exhaustion and stress. And it also makes it tough to follow the second way I recaptured my Christmas joy:
After you find some ways to serve others, do something you love to do at Christmas.
And don’t let the grinches stop you.
Let me explain.
At Christmas, I love looking at Christmas lights. When my children were younger, our whole family would drive around gawking at the twinkling homes while we sang Christmas carols at the top of our lungs, laughed, and emitted periodic oohs and aahs. A festive family time.
Then, my children grew older. Enter: the grinches.
“Do we have to?” my oldest son asked when I announce that we were all piling into the van after dinner to look at lights.
“Yeah, it’s boring,” my youngest son agreed.
I turned to my daughter, my usual ally in all things Christmassy. “Don’t look at me,” she said. “I have plans with my friends.”
Now, here’s what I used say—”Tough. We are ALL going. I want to look at lights WITH MY FAMILY, so get your butts in the van. Now!”
You can probably guess how joyful this outing was. As we rode around the neighborhoods, instead of carols, everyone would be yelling at the top of their lungs. The kids: “He stinks!” “She’s touching me!” “Give that back!” “This is dumb.” My husband and I: “Be quiet!” “Stop teasing your sister, NOW.” “Everyone shut up and look at the lights before I knock yours out!”
Finally, a few years ago, it dawned on me. You cannot recapture joy amidst grinches.
So, last year, if no one wanted to look at lights with me, I said, “Fine. See ya.” I’d jump in my truck or walk around town. And I’d see my Christmas lights. In peace. Quiet.
In 2016, I found ways to make time to do the things I love at Christmas. In addition to looking at lights, I watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the latest Hallmark movie with my daughter. I baked ginger bread cookies, left half of them unfrosted—the way I prefer them, to the chagrin of my family—and ate them all by myself. I didn’t let anyone else’s disinterest, schedule, or conflicts stop me from enjoying the things I loved about Christmas.
Now you may be thinking—Here we go again. Last week, you told me to find time to serve when I don’t have time to even think! And now I have to find more time to do something I love? Not possible.
Here’s a little secret. With a little tweaking, making time to do your favorite Christmassy things is doable. Allow me to impart some of the ways I learned to free up time at Christmas.
1) After you decide how you are going to serve, don’t overload your Christmas plate. Let your “yes” be no and your “no” be yes.
No, I’m not contradicting the Bible. I’m talking about reprogramming our initial response when we are asked to do more—organize the classroom or work Christmas party, volunteer at church, bake Christmas cookies for a child’s group party, etc… Let’s face it—most of us are doers, and our first reaction will be to say “yes.” Instead, pause, take a breath, ignore the guilt, and…you can do it!..say “no.” Trying to do everything at Christmas is not only a joy-killer but also a great way to make sure you don’t do anything you love.
Last year, I gave this advice a tentative whirl. And the most amazing thing happened.
The next day, the sun still rose. The world could, indeed, carry on without me.
And when should our “no” transform into a yes? When we are asked, “Can I help?” Instead of saying, “No, I’ve got this,” here’s the new answer—”Yes!” Question: “Can I bring something for Christmas dinner?” You—”Yes!” Try it. When I overcame my discomfort and took offered help, I found my joy liberated once again.
2) You’ll love this one. Make time to do something you love at Christmas by not doing something you dislike.
Of course, we all have to do things that we aren’t crazy about. But we can certainly bag some of those things we dislike about the holidays. For instance:
- Don’t like shopping in crowded malls and stores? Get Amazon Prime, baby!
- Not thrilled with baking? Let Costco, Sam’s, or the grocery store do it. Don’t gasp. No one will mind.
- Sick of lugging tubs and tubs of decorations from the basement or attic? Pick your favorites and keep the rest in the tubs. Your house will still look pretty.
- Feeling frazzles because figuring out gift ideas for all the nieces, nephews, and friends’ children is taking too much time? Have all the adults draw names and only buy for a few children. We do this for my nieces and nephews, and everyone loves it. The kids get more expensive gifts, and the adults get freed-up time. I have also done this with my adult brothers and sisters and their spouses.
This Christmas, do something for yourself. Get into the car and look at lights. Take a walk in the glittering cold. Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Listen to carolers. Savor unfrosted ginger bread cookies. Bask in the warmth of your children, your spouse, or even your dog. Have dinner with friends. Spend time with God. Read the Christmas story.
Allow yourself to be still.
And, when you’re immersed in the peace of doing something you love at Christmas, you’ll feel it. The wonder of Jesus’ birth seeping into your heart, unhindered.
Christmas joy is flowing back to you.
See you next week when we’ll explore Part III—the most crucial step that I learned last year about how to truly recapture joy at Christmas.