Christmas and everything surrounding it has long been my favorite time of year.
- Favorite movies - Christmas.
- Favorite plays - Christmas.
- Favorite music - Christmas.
- Favorite memories - Christmas.
- Favorite life surprises - Christmas.
Frank and I started dating just before our Christmas break from college 40 years ago. I have ornaments and a stuffed dog named Snoopy dressed as Santa which he gave me as gifts in 1978. We got married just one year later on December 30, 1979. Meagan (our youngest) was born December 20, 1987. Our family has countless stories of wonder from our own Christmases while the girls were growing up.
Well, you get the idea.
Please take note of one important fact, I said I LOVE Christmas. However, Christmas isn't always a perfect nor is it an easy time. Many of my Christmas memories are also filled with sadness and great struggle.
Some of you reading this post have lost a loved one and there will be a massive empty spot this season where that person should be. Each happy carol, lighted candle or special candy causes another wave of grief to roll over you.
Some have never experienced pure Joy during Christmas. One's living standard has nothing to do with this part. Joy is something we determine to embrace; not something we buy. I've seen both mansions and hovels equally devoid of true Joy. (Of course, the opposite is also true.)
I'm aware that some readers are in the midst of crisis or great struggle they never saw coming. To be going through such a time of sorrow is made even more difficult when everyone around you is singing and skipping and kissing and hugging one another.
Furthermore, Christmas has a tendency to throw us into close proximity to people we otherwise manage to avoid throughout the year. That can be anyone from co-workers to friends of a spouse or even extended family. People we would just rather stay away from if at all possible! (Don't worry. I won't make you raise your hand or confess or anything.)
The only encouragement I can offer about the first three struggle points is this, I've experienced them all. There is comfort to be found, dear friend. Sometimes, we have to make extra effort to find comfort in healthy ways but it's available. Trust me.
But if you find yourself thrown into a conversation, a party or perhaps even a week-long celebration with people you don't normally enjoy, take courage! I have a message of HOPE for your situation.
My quick word of encouragement comes from a sermon I heard years ago. A friend was speaking on the struggles we face when dealing with difficult people. How do you handle situations that have the potential to blow sky high? What can you do when too many people are too passionately tied to too many emotions and words start getting heated? How can you respond when those heated words threaten to spontaneously combust?
The speaker challenged us all to imagine ourselves standing in front of the situation, arms stretched out from our sides. We were to envision ourselves each holding two completely full water pails. And the pails we were straining to hold were indeed filled with a solution. One contained the clear, cooling water you would expect; while the other pail was filled with gasoline.
Can you see yourself doing the same thing?
The choice is ours. We evaluate the situation and quickly make a determination. Will we throw water on the escalating words and bring peace? Or will we throw gasoline on it adding fuel to the fire? It seems like an easy answer. But when the words are painful for you or someone you love, what then?
I hear you calling to me, "Throw the water! Squelch the fire! Bring peace to the situation!"
Oh, Friend! How I long to say I've always chosen that route. Unfortunately, I can't. It wouldn't be true. Many times, I've let my emotions draw me right into the middle of the foray and before I could stop myself SLOSH went my pail of gasoline. (Come to think of it, that's probably why my eyebrows are so thin.)
Sometimes, I have chosen to throw water. I've held my tongue and kept my own emotions from boiling to the surface. I've chosen to help bring peace. Those times are the ones I remember with joy.
Christmas truly is a wonderful time of year. But we still are all a bunch of imperfect, broken people sharing this season together. I don't imagine for a minute that every element of this Christmas time will be perfect. Yours probably won't be either. But imagine yourself holding those two pails. And rehearse for yourself, "I'm holding the solution that will bring peace to this moment."
Throw the water, my Friend! Choose to be the catalyst for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men.
Your eyebrows will thank you!