Are you facing some after-holiday blues? Have you been struggling with getting back to the realities of your life, the demands of your job, or are you feeling disappointed and discouraged about some of your relationships? Maybe you’ve been hurt by what someone said or did during this time...or maybe the hurt is because of what they didn’t say or do.
Or, in contrast, maybe you’ve had a “perfect” Christmas and New Year’s celebration and are still savoring those precious memories. I know I am! I feel a bit like my four-year-old who asked me, (on Dec. 30th!) “Mommy, how many more days until it’s Christmas again?”
The holidays were special for our family. We spent cherished times with both sets of parents and siblings, connected with friends, enjoyed the squeals of delight from our little ones over their gifts, and made many great family memories.
Now, before you begin to think we (or anyone else) have “perfect” holidays (or marriages, families, or relationships) let me assure you of one thing; perfection is only in the eye of the beholder. A “perfect” situation is only a mental choice you are making. It’s only as perfect as YOU make it to be! It really has nothing to do with your circumstances, but it’s ALL to do with your attitude and expectations. You can make anything perfect and wonderful, or you can make it a miserable failure.
When I say that I had a “perfect” holiday season, I’m in no way implying that it was perfect like this world portrays perfection. I had very little time to focus on shopping, baking special treats, wrapping presents, or planning special things to do for the holidays this year. In fact, we didn’t even WRAP our gifts this year! Gasp! We gave our gifts AFTER Christmas Day, and the main gift for our little girls was a doll house that had been in our attic from when our older girls were young. And they were thrilled with it! They really weren’t scarred for life because they didn’t each receive five gifts! Our New Year’s wasn’t exactly that significant either…Instead of staying up to celebrate the new year and eating sauerkraut and mashed potatoes, I was running a fever and sick in bed with strep throat.
So, what made it “perfect” and wonderful? It was simply because I was able to find many blessings that God had given to me. I was able to enjoy the “little” things as well as the “big” things. And on the top of my list was relationships. I’m so grateful for all the relationships I’m blessed with. In fact, a friend stopped in at one of our extended family gatherings and a comment he made was, “You have, right here, what many wealthy people would simply die for…” How very true.
Do you realize that Christmas is really all about relationships? The most important relationship is your relationship with God, and thus, the very reason for the first Christmas. Jesus came to give us a relationship with God and the closer our relationship with Him, the closer our relationships with others can be.
I cringe when I see others portraying an idealistic view of life, their marriage, family relationships, holidays, etc. because we all know that life is less than ideal. We live in a fallen world, my friend. When we constantly talk about our beautifully decorated house, our amazing relationships, and our homemade gifts that are competing with the latest Pinterest boards, we may be setting others up for failure in their lives. (Remember…Hollywood does this all the time to us.) Instead of learning how to respond when life goes wrong or enjoying the “little” blessings, they may feel like they are the only ones who are struggling or missing out on an idealistic life.
Imagine sitting at the bedside of your mother or spouse during the holidays, going through intense chemotherapy with your child, or sitting in an emergency room on Christmas Day and see what this does to your perspective of a “perfect” holiday. Or maybe you’ve recently lost a loved one and you’re struggling deeply with your loss. Have your holiday ideals helped to prepare you for when life throws you a “curve ball”?
I’m afraid, in many ways, we’ve become shallow, spoiled, and demanding in today’s world…and we are training our children to follow in our footprints. Is our view of a wonderful Christmas dependent on how much money we had to spend, how much decorating we were able to do, or how much entertainment we had? One way to answer these questions is to see what happens when your idealistic perspectives don’t happen. Have you learned how to find real joy when life is less than ideal?
I can still clearly remember one of the best Christmas our family ever had…A few years ago, our Christmas dinner was eaten in a very quiet and lonely hospital cafeteria, miles from home. Any you know what? Even though our China dishes were replaced with paper plates, this didn’t steal our joy! We were simply grateful for another day we had together as a family. It was a HUGE blessing for our son to be able to come down to the floor where the cafeteria was and to eat together with both sets of grandparents. (I even remember making last minute cutout cookies with no hand mixer and rolling them out with a mayonnaise jar, because I knew it would be special for our children.)
How do you or your family members respond when you don’t get what you’re used to getting? What happens when your spouse or friend doesn’t meet your needs like you think they should? Do you realize that the most godly and caring friend or spouse is no comparison to Jesus? And even the best holiday experience still lacks the purpose and peace that a relationship with Jesus brings.
When we haven’t learned how to be truly thankful and make the most of tough or disappointing times, it’s likely we have only a selfish and superficial view of gratefulness and joy.
Let me be the first to tell you, though, that I’m not specifically talking to those of you who are in the midst of the grieving process or struggling with a major health condition or physical imbalance. (I would never want to tell someone who is struggling with cancer or has recently lost a loved one that they need to be more grateful!) Yes, we are supposed to give thanks at all times, but remember Jesus speaks gently, caring for people’s hearts rather than bringing condemnation.
My prayer for each of us in 2015, is that we can learn the art of becoming much more. More grateful…more encouraging…more expressions of love…more time in the presence of Jesus…more yearnings for heaven…and more purpose for each day we’re blessed with. Happy new year!
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)