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Tis’ the Season to be Jolly

“Tis the season to be jolly, but I’m just not feeling it.”

Tis’ the season to be jolly, but I’m just not feeling it.

Is this what you’re thinking? Or, how about this?

Actually what I’m feeling is the lack of sleep, money drained, school work lagging, holiday gift preparing, messy house, don’t-quite-measure-up-to-everyone-else’s-parents overwhelm of  unmet expectations, deadlines, social commitments and the chance to finally prove to my family and friends that I’m doing right by my kids.

What if you gave your merry heart a letter grade. Which grade would it get?

  • A) My heart is merry and bright, loving the season, feeling the warm fuzzies, and sharing the joy with my family!
  • B) Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  …And that’s a good thing, cause I need him right now to keep me from going crazy! Praise Jesus!
  • C) Up on the housetop, the kids are testing out sliding down the chimney, so my living room is currently black soot.  Also, I may or may not have “accidentally” set fire to all the Christmas cards, so I can’t send them.
  • D) Bah humbug! Hmm..even that is way too jolly for how I feel.  I’m going back to bed.

Wherever you place yourself on the scale of humbug to the warm fuzzies, let me encourage you that a heart, merry and bright, are just a breath away! In the spirit of joy and peace, here are three ways to find that fresh energy, joy, and peace without adding anything to your to-do list this season. To keep it up the whole year through you’ll want to repeat these often in your mind.

Keep Thanksgiving around.

In November, we had a grand time of being thankful for all we have, all God has done, and ways he has provided. We checked it off the list and moved on to presents. But thanksgiving is worth keeping around all year.  And not just for people and stuff, but also progress we’ve made.

Take a moment to notice how far you have come and how far your family has come.  What areas have each of you grown in this year? Can someone read now that couldn’t before? Are you in a new math book?  Are their sports skills any better? How about you, have you grown as a parent in any areas worth celebrating?

It’s so easy to think of people and things to be thankful for, but then we stay focused on the next problem in our path (for good reason) and forget to look up and see how far we’ve climbed!  Parenting is hard work! It’s consistency. It’s daily. It’s one little choice after another. We do well to focus on the issues that need addressing. It’s a gift, actually. It keeps our family running, growing, and progressing.  However, don’t forget to look up from time to time and enjoy the view of the progress you’ve made. That’s what makes the journey worth taking!

Bonus Points: Take a moment to think of how far you have come this year as a family.  Feel the joy of the successes God has brought your way.

Ditch the “shoulds”.

Perhaps you think you should be there by now, wherever that is. Your kids should have learned this by now.  Your spouse should definitely have figured this out by now.

Anytime you hear the word should come from your mouth, a warning bell rings.  Warning! Warning! Unmet expectation alert! Certain disappointment is eminent!

People are where they are.  They have made the progress that they can make up until now.  Thinking they should be somewhere else isn’t going to instantly transfer them there, and pressuring them or yourself only slows things down.

How do we get off the “should” train? A better question to ask is: Regardless of where I should be, what one next step can I take that will move me closer to this goal?  Think a kid should be half way through the math book by now? Ok, what one next step can you take today to move closer to that goal? Shoulds lead to overwhelm. One next step leads to consistent progress, which leads to excitement about how well things are going, which leads to additional motivation!  

Bonus points: Get your kids on board with this concept by helping them plan out one next step for their “should.”.  Train them away from overwhelm and pressure of perfection, and towards calm, consistent steps forward.

Decide it gets to be easy.

How often do you think about something ahead of time with the words, “Oh my, this is going to be so hard!” Do you know that when you think that way, your brain automatically looks around for all the ways a thing is hard, and creates a convincing argument that things are hard, or crazy, or busy?  You may not realize this, but our brains really like to be right about decisions! When we make one, the brain goes to work finding evidence to back it up that decision.

One of the biggest ways we actually make holidays more difficult is by simply deciding that they are going to be that way in the first place.

So, what’s a parent to do?  Decide it gets to be easy. It’s just as simple to say as phrases about how hard it is.  Of course, it won’t FEEL true because your brain isn’t used to that yet. It’s going to need a little convincing with some actual evidence.  So, when you are tempted to think, “It’s going to be so hard,” ask yourself, “How does this get to be easy?” It only takes a second. As you begin to practice this question, you’ll see new options of ways to do things, provision that you didn’t notice before, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll get down right excited about how easy things are going, all because your brain likes to be right!

In fact, Jesus said his yoke is what? EASY! And his burden is light!  That’s not to say that there are never tough situations. People move, lose jobs, grieve the death of a loved one, endure chronic illness, and a host of other difficulties, but asking how does it get to be easy allows us to focus on what IS working well through the circumstance that we can’t change.

For instance, in the last 6 months, our family left a job, moved 1000 miles away, moved in with extended family, and changed our entire school structure among other things. Hands down, that’s hard circumstances! However, focusing on how hard it is doesn’t help me do the next day with joy. Asking how it gets to be easy helps me notice things like:

  • The previous job was extremely flexible with our leaving date and when we needed to stay a week longer, they paid us to work the extra week.
  • We had extended family volunteer to help drive the moving truck making the travel easier, when we didn’t have a job or a place to live.
  • My parents generously opened their home to a family of 9, making our switch possible without work or housing, and so on the list goes.  

When I focus on how it gets to be easy, I notice more and more of how God is providing what we need in our circumstances and it gives me courage that there will be ways he makes it easy tomorrow, too.  All I need to do is look for them.

Bonus Points:  Take a moment to practice this by considering an upcoming obligation. Ask yourself, how does this get to be easy?  What choices can you make that allow you to participate with a lightness and a joy because it’s no big deal?

Together, let’s move one step closer to a holly, jolly Christmas!

To wrap up this gift with a cute bow, here’s your recipe for Happy Holidays:

-1 dose of Thanksgiving leftovers, reheated- Notice how far you’ve come and spread the cheer!

– Remove all your moldy “shoulds” to the garbage! Replace with 1 next step towards progress.

– Add a generous dose of deciding “it gets to be easy” and look for the growing evidence!

Mix and match thoroughly and often through out this holiday season and you’ll find your spirit lifted and your face shining that merry and bright you are longing for!

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