the joy of the season

December 17, 2017

Today, we reach the pink candle in advent; joy.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, joy has three meanings.*

: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires  or the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety

2: a state of happiness or felicity : bliss

3: a source or cause of delight
But as I think about joy, I’m not so sure the all so famous dictionary has it exactly right.  Gaiety, happiness, bliss, delight, fulfillment.  Those words seem to fit their definition, but joy is more.  Once upon a time, and I have no idea where I heard this, but joy; joy is different from happiness.  Joy goes deeper.  Joy does not always begin as a light feeling.  The layers of the outside must be peeled away in order to find our true joy.
This time of the year, advent, Christmas time, really is my favorite time of the year.  I love so much about it.  I love the decorations, the lights, the smells of Christmas, the busy stores, the Christmas cards, baking cookies, spending time with family and friends, the carols…. All of it.  After all, being cozy and together are my favorite things. It naturally leads to Christmas time love.  But every year, no matter what, I still get stressed out. There are so many things I love to do during this time of the year and not enough time to do them all.  I tell myself I need to make 10 types of cookies- because I want to share those with others and I want to do that with my kids.  Making cookies reminds me of my childhood Christmastimes.  I get out all my treasured Christmas story books out in hopes to read each one to the kids.  Sunday school sends home advent calendars with daily devotions. I see people do random acts of kindness and I think, “we should do that too”.  And while I tell myself each year I’m going to scale back on decorations, somehow I see them and I just can’t help myself.   There are too many things I love and too many traditions I want to pass on to my kids that I can’t imagine not doing any of them.
But then, life happens.  Tinker Bell learns how to climb out of her crib, laundry doesn’t stop, we get behind in homework, and we have two birthdays to celebrate during the week before Christmas (Turbo and Tootsie) and then I get stressed! Ah!  When am I going to have time to decorate the 8 dozen cut outs we made… and should I really send Christmas cards?!- yes! (I mean, I can’t have wasted that time and energy in vain trying to get all 62 children that I have to smile, look at the camera and look darling in front of the Christmas tree ALL at the same time!)
But about a week or so ago (right in the height of holiday cheer), something happened.
I snapped.  My own ego of trying to get everything done- err I mean to bring Christmas cheer and happiness for everyone, got ahold of me.  The kids were all tired.  We pushed bedtime out too far to get something done- I can’t even remember what.  I just wanted the kids in bed so I could get the next task done- I yelled at Turbo for not brushing his teeth- (but he actually had) and when Tough Guy asked for a story I nearly bit his head off.  I was just tired.  I was cramming in too much.  And I knew it.  I had piled everything on my own plate- it was no one’s fault but my own.
So I stood in the shower, actually cried a little (I’m not a big crier, (not a non crier like Amanda in The Holiday but not a weep at  every Hallmark commercial crier either.), I realized how ridiculous I was being and I asked God to help me see the peace and joy in this beautiful season.  I needed to slow down, and He knew how.  I just had to listen.
So I laid down, one at a time, by each of my little ones while they slept. And a word came to mind for each kid.  It was something I believe they needed from me and I was too wrapped up in creating Christmas “joy” that I forgot to see what I really should be giving them.  I was creating surface happiness, when really, I needed to peel back in order to find joy.  Since that night, I have slowed down, and I have enjoyed the preparation for Christmas much better.  I reminded myself that this isn’t about glitzing up a holiday for pictures and fun.  This is about the preparation for a birth.  The most precious birth of all- The King of Love.  If I can peel off the layers like I did that night, I will find joy.  The joy is within.  The lights and tree may make me feel happy, but the wholeness feeling from within, the joy; I found that when I finally laid with my children and realized what they each needed.
Joy comes from within.
When joy is found, we can open our hearts to what love is meant to bring us, and what we can bring in love.
So, I thought about the many things I wanted to do this Christmas season and together, Dan and I decided on a few things.  I decided that since I really do love making cookies with the kids (Tough Guy and Tootsie especially love this activity), we would make what we could and not stress over what we can’t get done.  We have set some in the freezer for Christmas, but we’ve enjoyed them for breakfast nearly each day (yep- I think that may give me a little edge on being a cool mom.)
Dan and I want to teach the kids to give, but every single day of kind acts is not something we can keep up with and I only feel bad when we try but don’t complete the giving task, so we took some of our cookies and some simple wooden toys Dan made with the kids to the Ronald McDonald House last week.  We found joy in spending that time with the kids and the trip to Ronald McDonald was a big hit with the kids. The kids were amazed on the tour and want to visit all the time now!  Most importantly, whether it was big or small, the kids felt good about sharing and giving.  We didn’t have to give a lot to understand that.
And as far as traditions, well, we haven’t started any new traditions, but we’ve enjoyed our Sunday night dinners in the dining room together, just as we do every Advent.  Tootsie Pop will help me get our stamps on the Christmas cards tomorrow and as long as they get there by the 24th, I’m happy.  And if you see our Christmas card- please don’t judge- Tinker Bell is holding an iPhone but it was the only way we could get her to stay in the picture.
Tonight we lit the pink advent candle symbolizing joy and I truly feel like I have found my Christmas time Joy.  The feeling of being with loved ones, truly connecting with them, and just Being has brought me joy.  It just took a little simplifying and peeling, but it was found.  I hope this holiday season, the layers easily peel, and the joy is abundant.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
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