Being Grateful in a Season of Struggles.
I love the holidays. The smells, glittering lights, the planning. It all is so exciting! But, for many of us, the holidays have an undertone that isn't as merry as the face we put on.
Life's ups and downs tend to all come back into reflection during these busy days. The frustration of planning a dinner without the company of an estranged loved one is not only hard on our heart but it puts a strain on those around you that can be caught in the middle. The sadness of not having your loved one to call or hug Christmas morning steals your joy and can make finding your smile on this day too much to bare. Financial burdens of a lost job or lack of communicated spending between spouses can turn moments of squeals and excitement into arguments that put a strain on your whole family. The whole year of life's harder days can accumulate a be on call and waiting to surface.
I have been a person the thief of joy has visited. I have missed my best friends voice on the phone on Christmas day. Waiting for that silly phone call that will never come as she sings out my nickname as her hello. She passed away in November 7 years ago. I have missed a loved one that was estranged due to life choices and spent the day in sorrow just wishing things could change. I have sadly spent a day with friends and family and felt totally alone. I don't believe this is rare. I think so many of us have some sort of hard time coming up to the holidays.
But, the question remains How does a person move on from all the year has tossed your way and simply be present and peaceful? Oh, if I would have had the nerve to reach out and ask for prayer and guidance years ago I could have salvaged so many precious memories. I could have created moments that don't have a contentious back story. I could have enjoyed Christmas!
I don't have all the answers for everyone or every situation but I do have the answer that changed me. The simple truth I needed to hear to pull me from my hole.....
That's it. The solution is that of two words but don't get lost in the simplicity of that statement! Being grateful isn't a blanket statement that covers everything in your life like fairy dust so when you peek out at it all your cares of the world melt away. Gratefulness isn't a feeling. Gratefulness is a choice. The heartbeat to your day. Gratefulness is what you choose when the bottom falls out but you still have your children beside you. Gratefulness is what you choose when you lose your job but have your health and determination to get out there and find a new one. Gratefulness is losing a loved one while having the hand of another to hold. Gratefulness is waking up Christmas morning and breathing in the smiles and joy and the meaning of what that day means!
"I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that He has granted them according to His compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love." Isaiah 63:7
Can you recall His grace and mercy throughout this year? Can you remember a time He comforted you in your times of trouble? I can. Oh mercy I can!
So, on this day that is meant for rejoicing and celebrating the birth of the one who would sacrifice and suffer for us all, can we stop and choose to be grateful? On this day that God allowed His precious son to be born here on Earth and live among those who hated Him can we choose to be grateful? Can we choose to be grateful? Can you see past your own nose with the help of the Lord in prayer to see all the goodness in your life and just... be grateful?
It is not an act that will come naturally at first. It is something that takes practice and time. Something that becomes more natural after lots and lots of repeating. You are, in a way, restructuring your entire way of looking at your situations. I believe the hardest thing to do is change the way you think. Rick Warren said "The way you think determines the way you feel, and the way you feel determines the way you act." Truer words are rarely spoken. When you refocus your mind to what you are grateful for the snowball effect can become your greatest gift to those around you. Your love and compassion will grow and become contagious. Your willingness to serve those around you with a cheerful heart will be your Christmas gift to not only others but yourself.
So in closing, I will add one thing to those of you struggling to find joy this holiday season. I am praying for you. I am praying for your broken heart or dreams. I am praying for your mind in its struggle. I am praying for your spirit to seek and grasp onto the love our God has for you. The kind of love that can be summed up in one way. "He gave His one and ONLY son that whoever shall believe in Him shall never die but have eternal life." John 3:16 What a love that is. I can not imagine the feeling of handing over your son to a world like ours. Out. Of. Love.
Sweet one. We are not forgotten and we are not alone!
For that I AM GRATEFUL!