Tag Archive | holidays

12/21/12: Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters ~ Don’t let your expectations steal your Joy

As seen in the posts of the past few days (here and here and here), this is one of those lessons that I had to learn the hard way…and then some.

And although I am still learning and struggling, today, I have a greater sense of understanding about how our expectations about where we SHOULD be, how we SHOULD feel, how the world SHOULD line up for us gets in the way of where we are.

Joy is not happiness.

Joy is the peace that comes from the knowledge that we are where we are supposed to be. In this moment.  Now.  Even if we don’t like it.  Joy is the deep knowledge of God’s grace.  Joy is finding the opportunity in the place where your hope and fear and happiness and pain intersect.  It sets aside what we want and what we expect and makes space for who we are meant to be.

Your opportunity in the place you are right now is not a mistake.  It might not feel good or comfortable, but it is not a mistake.  The real opportunity for you, the real joy, comes from how you respond to where you are, and is born from the acceptance that everything that has led you to this place and has prepared you.  It has prepared you to be exactly who you are right now.  The pain has prepared your heart for compassion.  The challenges have prepared you to overcome.  The loneliness has prepared you to reach out.  The roadblocks have prepared you to persevere.

Life is full of a mixture of pain and happiness, loneliness and contentment, peace and turmoil.  God uses all of those things to make you the person that He wants you to be.

Your expectations can make you miss it.  If you are too busy looking for what you want, what you expect, what you think you deserve, you may just miss the JOY that comes from the now, from this place, from the reality that combines all that you have been with all that you can be,  if you can just stop expecting and start accepting.  The you that is unencumbered by all the pressure of expectations is so much greater than the you who might miss it all.

Grace.  Joy.  You.

Don’t let your expectations steal any of them.

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I hate Christmas????

On Saturday, when my family was finally decorating our tree, I couldn’t shake the questions that I asked at the end of my last post.  I even found myself thinking, “I hate Christmas” at the very moment when I was in the middle of stringing the lights.  Immediately, I started to think about what that meant and I realized something.  I realized that it isn’t Christmas that I hate.  In fact, when I listed all the things that Christmas means to me, I ended up with quite a list of things that I love:

  • The miracle of my Savior’s birth.
  • Buying presents for my daughters…the one time of year that I truly spoil them.
  • Christmas lights.
  • Traditional foods (HELLO Christmas cookies!!!)
  • Christmas music
  • All the beautiful decorations
  • The excitement that my kids feel (they are never too old to want to wake up early with excited smiles)
  • Christmas dinner
  • Giving
  • Special ornaments, especially the ones that were made by my daughters, nieces and nephews, and all the ones that remind me of the special times in their lives
  • Marveling at  the first Christmas pictures of my beautiful girls…how much they looked alike and how different they have grown up to be…and the true amazement that time has gone so fast
  • Receiving all the Christmas cards including pictures of all those beautiful kiddos (even though I suck and never send any of my own…thanks for keeping me on your list!)
  • The feeling of gratefulness for the incredible abundance in my life
  • Family time, including the gatherings of extended family
  • And the list goes on…

So what is the deal??  If I love all these things about Christmas, what it is that I hate?  Somewhere along the way, a light bulb went off.  I realized that it isn’t Christmas that I hate.  Instead, I hate how I feel at Christmas.  And when I dig deeper into that, I realize that I hate to remember painful things.  I hate feeling inadequate.  I hate the frustration I feel because I don’t feel the “right” emotions and excitement that I think everyone else must be feeling (even when I know that isn’t true).   In that moment, I didn’t get much further than that.  I tried to get caught up in the traditional light unwinding ritual with Becca, the happy memories associated with all the ornaments, the humor of the annual ritual of the leaning Andrews tree (surely one of these years we will put a tree up without the threat of it crashing down by the next day!)  For this day, the realization of all the things that I enjoy about Christmas was enough.

What's not to love about THIS?

What’s not to love about THIS?

And this?  Notice the mandatory "Andrews Tree Lean"??

And this? Notice the mandatory “Andrews Tree Lean”??

Tomorrow…my Sunday morning epiphany.

So…this is Christmas

In an effort to return to writing, and to break my writer’s block, I am going to work on  a series of posts that may be atypical.  At the end, perhaps you will have gotten a glimpse into some of the deepest parts of my heart, and perhaps they will allow me to again return to sharing it with you.

For many weeks, I have been doing my normal holiday thing, which means I have been feeling decidedly NOT normal.  I don’t feel excited about the holidays.  I don’t necessarily feel pressured by them either, at least not in terms of the effort it takes to pull them off.  It isn’t the extra activity or shopping or planning that get me down.  What affects me is the pressure to feel festive, joyful, excited, “Christmas-y”.

When people learn that I have not been bitten by the Christmas spirit, there are regular check-ins.  “How are you feeling?”  “Has the spirit found you yet?”  “Are you feeling better?” “But your name is JOY!”  If you are one of those people who are checking in, don’t worry…I know that your questions come from your concern and love for me and your desire to help. I know that, so please don’t feel bad when I tell you that those questions make me feel worse.  I have been reminded about how blessed I am (as if my problem was that I didn’t realize that I live a life of abundance), I have been instructed to go feed a homeless person or buy a gift for a needy child or DO something for someone.  Surely those things will make me realize that I have nothing to be un-festive about.  And again, I know that those suggestions come from a good place and that the people who suggest them genuinely want to help.  They too, should not feel bad when I tell you how much worse they make me feel.  Because now, not only do I feel uncommonly Scrooge-y, but I feel like I must be ungrateful too.    The truth is that although I have been known to grump out an occasional “Bah-humbug”, my problem is not that I feel ungrateful or unblessed or any uninspired by the birth of my Christ.  It is really just the opposite in fact, which only complicates the mess that I have created in my head as I try to sort this all out.

I also know that I am not alone, and that although there are many of us who feel this way at the holidays, the world doesn’t quite know what to do with someone who doesn’t love Christmas.

Every year, I feel inadequate and frustrated and alone.  I feel guilty that my melancholy might steal some of the happiness that my girls feel at the holidays, because I have raised them to pay attention and to notice when someone is hurting.  I feel bad that my family is subdued in their celebration out of some kind of watchful deference to the pain they feel for me.

Eventually, I succumb to the ritual decorating and Christmas music listening…and I have to admit that my beautiful tree full of ornaments, each one with a special memory or sentiment attached, the white lights, the handcrafted tree skirt, my childhood stocking, and the steady arrival of all the gifts I ordered online (I may succumb to shopping but I will NOT go to the mall!!) start to peck away at me, and I become more content.  My decorated tree becomes one of my favorite sights and that is good.

But how do I process the rest?  What about the painful memories of childhood hurts and adulthood rejections that inevitably return at Christmas?  How do I convince myself that I won’t allow the past memories to rob me of my present memory-making?  What can I DO with the sadness and the loneliness that the sadness creates? How can I make sense of all of this so I can move past it without feeling inauthentic?  How do I enjoy the holiday without feeling that by doing so, I have not somehow committed some kind of whitewashing of the pain?

To be continued.