Yeah! It’s December and before we know it Christmas will arrive. This year many of my neighbors already had their Christmas lights up and twinkling brightly prior to Thanksgiving.
Time is always moving and with Christmas quickly approaching time will begin moving even faster as we try to finish last-minute shopping, bake (and eat!) tons of cookies, decorate our homes, monitor our spending and gift wrap our presents.
The Christmas season can also be a time of reminiscing over things you did last year or in years past, honoring old family traditions, or remembering our special loved ones who are no longer with us to celebrate.
As you prepare for Christmas this year, stay focused and pace yourself in order to savor and enjoy the season and your loved ones. By doing this it enhances the fun of the Christmas season and helps offset potentially becoming burned out or irritable from the hustle and bustle and frenzied demands and anxieties of the season.
Spread cheer with a Christmas basket to a neighbor who is shut-in. Invite a co-worker who can’t afford to visit their family over for cookies and cocoa. Share a kind word with a friend who leans toward depression and discomfort every Christmas. Loving actions always leave an impact, especially at Christmas time.
Remember, the ultimate focus for the Christmas season is Jesus. Let His peace penetrate your heart and actions this Christmas.
The Birth of Jesus the Messiah
18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus. ~ Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT)
As a child I enjoyed playing the game of Hide & Seek. It mattered not if I was the hider or if I was the seeker (called “it”). The game was pure fun!
As an adult I hid a lot when I was unemployed. I hid from family. I hid from friends. I hid from myself.
I hated talking about being unemployed and avoided it like the plague by changing the conversation at the very hint of it being discussed. I hated being unemployed. I hated the word unemployed and then shifting over to the super-sized version of the word—long-term unemployed.
I felt like no matter how much I called out my position so the seeker—a full-time employer—could find me, “it” didn’t hear me. Didn’t acknowledge me. Didn’t want to find me. I must have hidden really well. Then finally one day “it” heard me.
Every day being unemployed felt the same to me. Uncertain. Frustrating. Depressing. Even with my quest to always seek joy. But then one day I thought about it and looked back and realized all of those days held some form of incremental change. That was the joy. Something small. Probably totally insignificant at the time. Minutiae. But over time, all of those things, those little changes, added up. That’s how life sneaks up on us. Time can move slowly or fast….it all depends on our perspective.
As a fiercely independent person it was hard to lean on others. My two seasons of unemployment taught me that gift. The gift of vulnerability and truly being open to trusting other people. The gift of thankfulness for my family. The gift that even while others are happy and celebratory of holiday happenings that I too could be happy during the holidays if I chose to be. I learned there is a quiet strength that comes from being vulnerable.
As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, there is the added burden of a different type of financial anxiety associated with this time of year on top of concerns regarding meeting the regular monthly expenses. Not to mention the anxiety of having to answer well-meaning questions from parents, Aunties, Uncles, cousins, grandparents and other extended family members steadily inches up. Yes, you’ll hear the same questions over and over again.
Just thinking about my family asking those questions would make my heart race. I would tighten up. Be ready to be defensive. In the end, it pains me to admit that I honestly didn’t enjoy my special holiday times with my loved ones, all because I wanted to feel in control (although I was anything but). Then before I looked up the holiday was over and everyone was heading back home. Do me a favor? Choose differently than I did. Try not to clam up like I did during two seasons of the holidays. I wish like crazy I could get those moments back. Wish I had known then not to be so guarded and defensive. Don’t play emotional hide and seek with your loved ones. Trust them. Let them in. Make the choice to stop hiding and let yourself enjoy them regardless of your job status coupled with their well-meaning advice or questions.
Relax. Chill. Trust. Stay positive. Be present. Enjoy the holidays. Savor and enjoy your time with family. They mean well. They only want and have the best intentions for you. Welcome their support. Lean in and feel their love and support surround you like a huge welcoming joyous hug, then reciprocate it right back to them.
Unemployment is hard and downright ugly and difficult. You may not always see it day-to-day but you have so much to be thankful for. Think on these things. Trust that greater things are ahead of you. “It” is just taking time to find you. And it will.
In the meantime, enjoy the fact that you have someone to lean on.
Be blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
The Thanksgiving holiday marks a traditional day to offer thanks for the harvest and bounty of blessings in our lives. I believe we do not have to wait for Thanksgiving and should give thanks on a daily basis for each blessing life brings—big and small, including the blocked blessings.
Do you ever stop and think about how blessed you are? I mean really stop and truly give it serious thought? Or do you race through life taking everything for granted?
Go find someplace where you can sit quietly by yourself and complete this exercise: Name at least 20-30 things you are thankful for in your life.
Hmm, did anything change after taking a moment to pause to focus your thoughts to perform this exercise? Are you in awe of how blessed you are? Does it amaze you to realize the things you may be concerned about aren’t really as bad as you thought they were?
Today’s cares and worries are a distant memory in the tomorrow’s of life. A week, 2 months, 18 months down the road you will likely have forgotten about whatever is currently causing you great angst and concern.
I really love the term “cultivate thankfulness” from the scripture below.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. ~ Colossians 3:15-17 (MSG)
Cultivate thankfulness on a daily basis. Choose to focus on the joy associated with the many blessings in your life. You are blessed.
Something happened at work the other day that really got me going. I steamed and stewed over the incompetent behavior of another person because it impacted the ability to perform my job. Well, you know what? They were just zipping around breezing through their day and here I was stewing most of the work day as a result of their mess. But I still met my deadline!
As I was relaxing at home later that evening I realized this person stole my joy. Instead of being my normal happy-go-lucky self, letting things roll off my back, I allowed this person to get under my skin. They stole my joy. And I didn’t like it.
It made me think there are so many things that can steal our joy:
Things, and people, that steal our joy always bring negativity. I view negativity as focused attention on a behavior, action or interaction that is either an actual or a perceived threat. In my situation, I was threatened that I would not meet the deadline for my client because of the failed actions of another person which made me feel anxious and frustrated. I had to pause and refocus on how I would complete my task, in less time than originally scheduled, and still meet the established timeline.
Negativity often brings out the worst in us because it is the polar opposite of, and a direct threat, to our immediate happiness. The effects of negativity include:
1. The manifestation of physical symptoms (e.g., tense muscles, increased blood pressure, headache, stomach ache, diarrhea, etc.), anxiety or depression.
2. Raised voices, arguments, disagreements, a sharp tongue with words that tumble out as a jumbled, twisty, messy stream of irrational thoughts, complaints, worries and frustrations.
3. Development of strong emotions such as self-doubt, criticism, anger and extreme rage.
4. Emotional shut down and internalization of negative feelings and emotions.
To rid ourselves of negativity, stop for a minute and think about what it is you have control over. Refocus your thoughts. Become unbiased. Don’t place blame or be the victim. Remove or excuse yourself from the situation if you can. Stop the negative chatter. Practice forgiveness. Find the gratitude in the moment. This will restore your joy and your peace.
This is one of my favorite scriptures on remaining joyful and being grateful regardless of what life throws our way. One translation says “Be joyful always!”
Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. ~ I Thessalonians 5:16-18
Things will happen that make us negative. We cannot escape it. We don’t smile through pain, crisis, sorrow, the loss of a loved one and other negative or traumatic life experiences. However, I believe the way we respond makes us emotionally resilient and allows us to bounce back from the minor or major struggles, trials and hardships in life. The scripture above commands us to “always be thankful”. Find ways to turn any negativity into joy and gratitude. Regardless of the circumstance there is always an element of gratitude.
What steals your joy and how do you reclaim it?
Yesterday we celebrated Memorial Day. A day that honors men and women in the armed services who sacrificed their lives, for service to country, to allow us to live freely. People honor their lost loved ones with floral tributes at tombstones, concerts and in other formal and informal ways. Yet many people still view Memorial Day simply as a day off and take for granted all that these brave and inspirational men and women have done to defend our country.
There are numerous things that we often take for granted and shouldn’t. These too are inspirational often forgotten little nuggets of joy. Below are three things we often don’t think about until these necessities and luxuries are no longer freely available.
1. Our heartbeat. We may not like the way our feet look, the size of our deltoids, or even the color of our hair, etc. yet how often do we stop and think that life is a gift and a blessing? Our heartbeat is a steady, constant, electrical rhythm reflecting the number of times our heart beats per minute. Our heartbeat means life and life means breath. We take it for granted until the doctor says our heart is out of rhythm either beating too slowly or too rapidly.
2. Water. Here in the United States water is plentiful. It is freely available for purchase in bottled form in a variety of brands to suit our taste (e.g., mineral, spring, sparkling, distilled, etc.). We even filter or purify water in our homes to add to our BPA-free bottles and containers to carry to the gym or when we are out running errands. We use it to wash our produce, our bodies and our cars. The thought of brushing our teeth without clean water is such a foreign concept; however, in many parts of the world water is in crisis, a scarcity not freely available. It is not plentiful. It is not purified or filtered. Quite simply – it is not clean or drinkable. They can’t walk to the corner store to grab a bottle or turn on the tap expecting clean clear water to flow freely.
3. Time. Tomorrow is not promised for anyone. As human beings, we often put things off until tomorrow, next week, next month. Or whenever. Do whatever it is that you are dreaming of or have been putting off. Say I love you to the people who matter today. Play. Dance in the rain. Forgive. Take the time while you have it. Don’t wait until time is limited for then you may not be able to enjoy it.
Today give thanks there is breath in your body and that your heart beats strongly for you. There are people who would love to have a normal heartbeat and not have to rely on a mechanical device like a pacemaker or other invasive treatments and/or surgery to control their abnormal heart rhythms.
Give thanks for water as you prepare your dinner, take a shower or wash your hair. There are people who would love to use clean water on a daily basis to drink or wash their face and bodies.
Give thanks for the time you have with your family, on your job, in pursuing your education. Use it wisely. There are people who have plenty of time but cannot do with it what they want due to dementia or the long-term effects of a stroke or other medical condition that has robbed their physical body or their mental capacity.
Live with gratitude.
What things, or people, do you often take for granted?
The word waiting means to: 1. to remain steady in a place of readiness or expectation, 2. to look forward expectantly, and 3. to be ready and available.
If we wait with expectation, then why is waiting so hard? As kids we could not wait to grow up – to go to the next grade, have a first crush, get our driver’s license, go to prom, etc. As young adults we wait to find the perfect mate. As women we wait 9 months to birth and greet a precious baby. As students we wait for college to end so careers can begin. The list of the hopes, dreams, events, and things we wait for is endless.
Waiting can be a beautiful and happy experience. It can also be a time of pain, struggle, questions and heartache when we have to wait for an extended period of time.
God has hidden joys along the waiting journey. Waiting is our destiny. A place of faith, trust and thankfulness.
Our trials and challenges strengthen and stretch us as they take us to new heights in confidence and character. Waiting helps instill patience, trust, and thankfulness for God is always with us − He will never leave or forsake us.
“The atmosphere of expectancy is the breeding ground for miracles.” – Israel Houghton
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus, saith the Lord.
Oh how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me,
‘Neath the healing, cleansing flood.
Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life, and rest, and joy, and peace.
I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.
Chorus: Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
Oh for grace to trust Him more.