I’ve been a bit stuck on Christmas and the attitude, and yes, I know I have the wrong season, holiday, month… the wrong everything! But, there is just something so different about people and life in December. There’s just something so different about my kids. (Maybe all the Santa bribes..) There’s just something so different about me.
There’s nothing better than giving a gift to a loved one and seeing their face light up. My son for example will make you want to keep giving him gifts with his innocent and honest, “Wow! Take a picture! I just love all my gifts. They are all my favorite!”
“Son of a nutcracker!” – He could make me broke saying stuff like that.
My daughter is a different story with gifts… let’s just say… we are working on it 😬
But Christmas is so much more than just gifts, it’s really about joy. The joy we can all have. All.Year.Round.
So what happens to it for the other eleven months? Is it just stored away in our attics, saved for an extra special December of tinsel and lights? Or is it… that the craziness of life finds a way to try to erase the miracle … the spirit of Christmas that can exist every day?
According to James 1:2-3 –“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And with that, Josh Baldwin went on to write …
“When darkness tries to roll over my bonesWhen sorrow tries to steal the joy I ownWhen brokenness and pain is all I knowI won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken …” – Josh Baldwin’s “ Stand in Your Love”
So the truth is just that. It is stated clearly. We are meant to have joy all year round. Joy is meant to live in our hearts, not for just a season.
Why can’t we capture that December energy and spread it out throughout the year?
The question is not …. why can’t we… it is…
How Can We?
- Random thank you notes/letters– Who doesn’t like receiving a random kind card or even a letter? Last year, I tried to find a way to do that each month by picking people over my life that I was thankful for, that maybe helped me through a challenging time, inspired or inspires me, or even those who I wanted to apology to for a time I was not proud of. Each month, I picked one person to send a letter to. I admit; it did it for the first six months and then after not hearing back from two in a row, I let discouragement tell me I was too busy. But, I am trying again this year. Deep dig .. find the teachers, family members, friends, people you lost touch with .. remind them how much they impacted your life. Remind them how special they are.
- Donate – Whether it is within your church or just a family in need or a food bank, giving changes lives. Last year, when visiting a former neighbor she mentioned that they had just had a huge party with way too much food. (Sounds familiar – I’ve been there many times and it does not help that we are not leftover people.) Instead, of being wasteful, like I’ve been way too many times, she reached out to a local food bank to find out what and if they could donate the leftovers. Sure enough, they gratefully accepted.
- Kind notes- Similar to number 1, they can be monthly, weekly, biweekly, daily or in the moment. Last year, students at my school in the group Start with Hello wrote thank you notes to every staff member from crossing guards to lunch staff to teachers to administrators. While the letters were short, they were sweet and heart felt, and most importantly, they created many smiles that day. Even one smile goes a long way. What about random post it notes for a loved one or even a stranger? During a school assembly last year, the speaker spoke about how he likes to visit Barnes and Nobles and put random positive post its in random pages of books there so that when they were each bought and eventually read, they would have the opportunity to encourage someone… he would more than likely never know. How cool!
- Lead or participate in a fundraiser– No matter how much you raise, it matters. It makes a difference. So jump in! Join a race or go wherever your heart brings you.
- Show up and surprise a friend in need or even call people more – In a world where most people are usually in a rush, being pulled in ten or twenty different directions, make time for relationships. They are what matter. Texting is texting. Visiting or even an old-school phone call goes a long way to let someone know you care. And leave a message if they don’t pick up, and don’t be insulted if they don’t call back. Time doesn’t drag its feet for us, so let’s not forget what and who matters.
- Random acts of kindness – Hold the elevator, hold the door, help someone pick up their bag of papers that just fell all over the floor, etc. The opportunities are everywhere every day. Let’s teach our kids, students and younger generations to do this too. I always have to remind myself that their eyes are always watching and learning. Model what you want to see.
- Pay it forward – I love hearing stories of people paying it forward. My in-laws, some of the most generous people I have ever met, had their dinner paid for in this way a few months back. While I can say that I may not have a large amount of funds right now, imagine what giving away a dollar a day for one month could do. I just read about how Jimmie Allen, one of my favorite artists, who had once been homeless, started to carry around two dollars a day that he used to pay forward. How awesome of an idea is that? Carry a dollar a day that you can’t use on yourself and you can’t come home with. Or make it a goal to pay for someone else one time this year even if it’s for their coffee. I don’t drink coffee but I may go through a Dunkin Donuts drive through this year, just to do that. Whatever it may be, paying it forward is something I plan to do this year.
- Volunteer – Join a church or reach out to your own church about opportunities. Volunteering can be done on so many levels within schools, communities, nursing homes, etc. I plan to find more ways to do this year. I am guessing once TJ is in kindergarten (in a few months) there will be even more chances.
- Make connections and listen – Due to my anxiety, for years this was difficult. Sure, I had friends and I think I was a good friend. However, truthfully, my own worries and fears often blocked out time that I would and could spend asking others about their own lives. Once I was able to do this, it was a breath of fresh air to hear people, and to listen in a way that was genuine. I still catch myself just being “routine” with my hellos and how are yous. Mainly because I am usually rushing around and not always as on time for things as I used to be. Always trying to fit everything in … Sigh! However, it is my goal to continue to be an open ear this year, and an open heart.
- A compliment a day keeps the negativity away– Give a compliment a day ! I love this one and started it back in January. My hope is to continue throughout the year. It’s free, easy, honest, and uplifting wrapped up in a simple sentence or word.
- Be kind to yourself – Self compassion, what is that anymore? It’s crazy how much we lose our old selves after kids or even without kids, throughout life. That is… if we let that happen. Everyone deserves happiness though and it starts within. Be kind to yourself. Do something for your own well being. Get your nails done, hair done, read a good book, go for a run, join a dance class, take an epsom salt bath with essential oils (One of my favorite calming activities before bed – I call them detox baths because they detox my body and mind!)Whatever it is…learn to love yourself!
I plan to work on several of these areas and ideas so that they become second nature to me. So while the Christmas tree has been in the attic for almost two months now, you can still find a wise man or donkey from the nativity set laying around somewhere because of the kids … and you’ll still find this picture on my phone … it’s one of my favorites…
It reminds me joy isn’t meant to be saved for one season.
It reminds me joy is all year round.
It reminds me of my joy.
“I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.” – Buddy the Elf