Thursday, January 12, 2017

Why This Was the Best Christmas Ever (+ 3 Ways to Make This the Best Year Ever)


Can we all agree that January is the most un-magical time of the year? Seriously, being snowed-in for a week in January is just not as fun as being snowed-in at Christmas. Tuesday was a new low for me--I hadn't left the house in days. I hadn't showered or shaved for days either, I was trying to get all my Christmas decorations packed away while my kids were climbing in boxes and scattering ornaments all over the room, and then I found out that the fridge I'd been waiting on for over a month was not going to arrive that day after all because of--you guessed it--this blasted weather.  

I called my husband at work just to cry. I'd tried so hard to be patient--other people had much bigger problems than having to walk into a freezing-cold garage 20 times a day to get the milk. Heck, I'd had bigger problems than that before too, plus it was the holidays--I wasn't going to let not having a fridge in my kitchen ruin it. But I just couldn't keep it together anymore. I was ready to throw the pity party of the year.

Well, if you saw my post on Instagram earlier, you know that Ben saved the day and brought home pizza for dinner. But I started thinking about this Christmas, and how happy and relaxed I felt. What was it about this Christmas that made it one of the best I've ever had? I couldn't quite put my finger on it. For some reason, I didn't get as stressed out this year, and the little things my kids do every day that usually drive me crazy just didn't. Instead, the whole month felt magical. It was the happiest I'd felt in a while. 

And the biggest thing I noticed was that I felt closer to Christ than I had in a long time. I was thinking about Him all the time and feeling so grateful for His love. I came to understand the depth of that love in a whole new way when our church youth hosted a "Journey Through Christ's Life" the week before Christmas. As we walked through our church building in silence, we watched the events of His life through video clips (including the one below) and actors playing people who knew Him (our youth leaders). Prophecies of His birth, the nativity, His teachings, His miracles, and finally His excruciating death and miraculous resurrection--all through it, I reached out to Him in my heart as I'd never done before, or at least not for a long time.


There are really no words to describe what I felt as I watched a depiction of His death on the cross, other than overwhelming awe for Him and His love for me. And that feeling turned to pure joy and peace, which was so beyond all the happiness that carols and lights and Christmas trees bring. Still, it seemed to make every Christmas moment even more magical in the week following.  

So I don't think it's because I somehow had less going on this Christmas that I felt more peaceful. I was busy with all the usual parties and gift-giving, plus taking care of my kids (which never fails to keep me busy all year long), playing Santa, decorating my house inside and out, and getting involved in Light the World 25 Days of Service. I think it was because all of those things kept me more focused on Christ and other people than on myself.

One moment I'll never forget was my 3-year-old son gently placing the coolest construction toy he'd ever seen into the donation bin for Toys for Tots. He picked it out himself, as part of a new Christmas tradition we started this year, and just as I predicted, he was thrilled because he thought he was picking it out for himself at first. But as we paid for it and explained again that we were going to give it to a little boy who needed it more, he looked torn. We could see his little wheels turning, "Okay, they want me to put it in the bin...I'll just put it in and take it out again, no big deal." When he realized that he had to put the toy in the bin and leave it there, it clearly took all the will-power and compassion his little toddler heart could muster. It was a true sacrifice for him.


To me, that's what Christmas is all about--putting others before yourself. When I spend the whole season just thinking about how busy and stressed I am, I'm only thinking about myself and missing out on the real peace and joy that Christmas is meant to bring--that Christ brought. And that's true for the rest of the year, too. As one blogger put it, "You have 11 more months to come closer to Christ." (Anyone know who? I saw this a while ago and can't find it now, but I'd love to credit her!)

So for 2017, that's my resolution: to focus on what I'm grateful for and think more about Christ and others than I think about myself. Here are 3 ways I plan to do that.

3 Ways to Feel the Peace, Joy and Hope of Christmas All Year:

1.) When I start feeling stressed, stop and think how blessed I am. I know this might sound silly, but it really works for me! It's human nature to worry about whatever isn't going right at the moment and how to fix it, but that can really wear us down. God knows this, so He asks us to trust Him, and simply pausing to recognize His hand in our lives can bring us so much peace, joy and hope.


2.)  Spend time every day thinking about Christ and feeling grateful for His sacrifice. Like many of you, I pray. I read the scriptures. I try to listen to what God's teaching me. But I don't always take the time simply to be still and feel His love. I learned this Christmas that reflecting daily on my Savior and all He's done goes a long way toward bringing me closer to Him and filling my life with peace.

3.) Find ways to sacrifice for other people, especially the people I love. I think this is the hardest one. It's so easy to get wrapped up in my own life or to feel weighed down by the constant demands of my family. But when I try to think of what I do for them as a gift instead of a burden, I start to find real joy. The same goes for other people--being more willing to give up my time and give from my heart, the way I do at Christmas, is something I've been missing. It's a chance for me to be a better friend and feel that joy and spirit of giving all year. 

What do you do to keep that Christmas spirit after all the decorations are packed away and the lights come down?

P.S. Here are also a few practical tips I shared last January that helped me get ready for Christmas this year, as far as budget and planning. I definitely think they played a part in making this a great Christmas, so I recommend checking it out! 

P.S.S. This is the time of year that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and depression are common. I know I've struggled with this before, so if you find yourself in that situation, here's some great advice from a fellow blogger Abbie. The way she described coming alive again when the weather warms up, I totally related. Hang in there with me until spring, friend!

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