It's Christmastime. Homes are lit up with sparkling lights and through the windows, I can see decorated firs, inviting wrapped gifts to make their home underneath the branches. It's a joyful, expectant time of year.
But not always. Not for everyone.
Perhaps you are experiencing the holiday blues. I don't know your situation or what brings about some feelings of sadness or loneliness or anxiety. Or all of the above. But I know you're not alone and I know you'd give anything to feel joyful and expectant right now. I've been there. Done that. Rode that roller coaster.
Yesterday my dear friend, April, preached a sermon on the Magnificat, Mary's song. It was the 3rd Sunday of Advent and we lit the candle for joy. April showed us that thankfulness produces joy. And she pointed out that we all have a choice when faced with circumstances that are quite unexpected. So I want to encourage you with that. You have a choice.
Perhaps you feel like things have happened to you beyond your control and you wonder if you will ever get back to living a "normal" life. Well, the answer is "most likely" and I have great news! You can make choices NOW that will bring you closer to joy and peace.
The first choice is to realize that YOU are NOT a victim. Bad things do happen to good people. It sucks. But the good news is that YOU get to CHOOSE how you will respond, who you will surround yourself with, and what you will do differently in the next phase of life. That is some dang good news, sister!! Here's a great gift to buy yourself if you want to dig a little deeper into this subject: Safe People.
Next, how will you respond? I am not suggesting that you manufacture joy by trying to be cheerful about your circumstances if you're not actually cheerful about them. But can you find a few things to be thankful for? Perhaps this is your first Christmas away from your kids and the thought of not seeing them wake up on Christmas morning, full of anticipation, is gnawing away at your heart and mind. I've been there, it is really really really hard. But mama, I bet you need a break. Can you be thankful for some time to take care of yourself? Watch a few movies, paint your nails, go to dinner with a friend. Take some time to do a few things that you don't normally get to do and ask God to show you how He intends to care for you during this time. When you choose thankfulness, joy grows inside of you!
Finally, you get to choose to do things differently next year. Do a few things that will bring you closer to living the life you desire. (This is my favorite part!) Here's a starting place: Write it out. Pray, ask God to bring to mind the life that is His desire for you. Just start writing down everything that comes to mind. Last year, I used a tool to help me with this and it turned out to be a total life-changer. Check it out here. Nothing excites me more than thinking about what I can do now to live a fuller life. No matter what your situation, I promise you there are a few things you can change that will make a big impact on your life! This year I started playing soccer with a co-ed team, I moved to a small town from a big city, I rented a plot in a community garden so we can start growing food, and I've gotten involved with the Phi Lamb sorority at the local university. All of these choices have enriched my life and they've expanded my circle of influence. I'm influenced by more interesting people and I'm serving more interesting people. I'm healthier because soccer kicks my butt! And Jackson and I are building something together, working together, and hopefully watching the garden grow together (I tend to have a brown thumb). You can do this too!
I know it's hard when you're feeling sad. But choose not to stay stuck in that place. Be kind to yourself, but don't enable yourself to stay in a depressed state of mind. Choose thankfulness and experience joy, sister. In what ways would you like 2015 to be different from 2014? Make it happen, baby.