Isn’t it ironic? Peace on earth, good will to all….meantime, I’m rushing about with a to-do list a mile long.
We all need a good dose of chill during the holidays. One way I seek peace is to pray for extra attentiveness to my unspoken thoughts, especially when the dangerous “should” creeps in.
The word “should” gives me lots of big ideas: I should buy more presents, purchase new decorations, host a fancy party, make homemade goods to deliver around the neighborhood, build a nativity for the front yard, and the list goes on.
“Should” focuses my eyes on what I need to do to make the holiday season wonderful. It puts my effort and my striving at the center of the celebrations.
I imagine walking up to that nativity in my front yard, taking Jesus out of the manger, and jumping in there myself, saying, “Mindy is the reason for the season. Without her, we will have neither Thanksgiving nor Christmas!”
Can you see the tense smile that is frozen to my face? Resembling a frozen turkey? When I feel the burden to create joy for others, chances are pretty good that I will not have joy for myself. Here’s a play-by-play of how I attempt — and fail — at joy-generation:
1) I’m going to do this generous act that requires a massive investment of time and money in order to create joyful family memories that will be remembered for years to come.
2) They better appreciate it.
3) I can’t believe it! They don’t appreciate it.
4) Now I’m really angry. I’ll either attack with wounded indignation, or I will withdraw with grumpy self-pity…neither of which will soothe my disappointment and frustration.
5) Everyone tries to avoid me, and they wish I would not try so hard to create holiday cheer in our family…and fail miserably at it.
Here’s the rub: Joy is a gift from God that is an overflow of time with Him. It cannot be manufactured by a mom. In fact, the more we try to generate happiness with sacrifices and purchases, the more likely it is to fail miserably. What a profound disappointment — and yet, what a profound invitation, an opportunity to return to the true source of joy.
In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colosse, we receive valuable advice, “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ–that is where the action is. See things from his perspective.” Colossians 3 (The Message)
This holiday season, I plan to spend time each day in God’s Word — even if it is just a little — to keep myself centered in Him, to arrest my eyes from the glittering things right in front of me which are luring me to grasp for ways that I “should” manufacture holiday cheer. I desire instead to look up into the eyes of Father God, to seek His eternal perspective on the myriad of choices that beckon each day. I wish to see things from His perspective.
The Lord is the only One who can help me to learn the secret of being content, no matter the circumstances (Philippians 4:12). He alone is able to give me strength to navigate the holidays with grace and peace. I bless you with the gift of His peace that surpasses understanding. Or to say it another way, He creates a contentment of heart that does not make sense. It’s unbelievable!
Let us avoid the stress created by a list of “shoulds,” and instead walk in the peace that only Jesus can give, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Yes, I would love to exchange my fearful, striving of heart for the soothing peace that Jesus bequeaths to all who ask. I’m asking! How about you?
Want to hear Jenny and Mindy discuss more about this topic? Join us on The Flourish Podcast, Holiday Edition Episode One!