How I Found Love, Joy, And Hope This Holiday

The Holidays. The season of perpetual joy. The thrill of hope! But often, this time of season can bring stress and anxiety upon us that is all-consuming. How can you ever find the hope, love and joy that Christmas is supposed to be about?

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Oh Christmas, my favorite holiday. Well, it was my favorite holiday until this year. I have a fondness for the lights, the music, and the parties. This season brings wonderful feelings of love, joy and hope. It also brings an impossible amount of pressure. The panic hits me every year mid-December. But this year has been the worst.

Just last week, I sat in the parking lot outside of our local mall. An unseasonably violent thunderstorm was unleashing its wrath. I was clutching my phone in one hand and a battered Christmas list in the other. My mom was the unfortunate one on the receiving end of my tearful phone conversation. “I hate everything about this holiday, Mom. I’m serious. I can’t think of anything I like about it. I’m a terrible gift giver and I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. I will never live up to anyone’s expectations. I didn’t take my kids to the zoo, the museum or Christmas caroling. We didn’t bake cookies, not one cookie. Who am I kidding? I don’t even know how to bake cookies. I hate baking cookies, I just feel like I should do it anyway. Everyone bakes cookies except me! I’m outside this mall and I know I’m going to buy the wrong thing. I just can’t get my children and my granddaughter all the things everyone else can. I wouldn’t want to if I could. I just want to spend time with them. I just want to slow down. I think it’s supposed to be simpler than this. I don’t feel any love, I don’t have any joy, I can’t hope for this to be better.” I finally paused to take a breath.

My mom paused before answering. “I think you’re right. Don’t do all the extra stuff. Don’t worry about other’s expectations. Who cares what kinds of presents others are giving? You know that’s not what this is all about anyway. You don’t need to think about what everyone else is doing. Just enjoy your family and celebrate the way that is good for you.” My mom is a smart lady and I was pretty tired from my mini tantrum. “Thanks mom. Sorry about that.” I hung up the phone and sat there alone for a long time. What is it about this Christmas that has me feeling so empty? I’ve been asking myself that a lot recently. This year my focus has been on classroom parties, food allergies, gift lists, IEP reviews and countless other frustrating tasks. I flop down on the couch at the end of each exhausting day and compare our holiday to what I see on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram. I close my eyes each night, antsy with anxiety and I can only think about getting to the day after Christmas. I’m surrounded by a façade of perfection and I have no hope of actually attaining it.

The rain continued to beat against the window and I turned the volume up on the Christmas radio station. That’s when I heard just the words I needed to hear. “The thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” I let tears fall and sang every word from memory. I sang out loud and didn’t even look around to see if anyone was watching. My voice caught on those words again, “the thrill of hope.” We celebrate Christmas because it is a day set aside to remember the birth of our savior. A baby, sent to a broken world to restore its glory. A child sent to be a unique kind of king. The first Christmas began in poverty and obscurity.

The first Christmas took place in a barn. The first to celebrate were shepherds, cows and sheep. Those who came around Jesus on that night knelt before him, in reverence. They did not scramble to find the perfect gift. They did not try to outdo the shepherd standing beside them. They did not worry about what presents the child might receive after they left. They gave the gift of utter simplicity, they fell to their knees in awe. I knew what I had to do. I turned the key into the ignition and left the parking lot without buying one more thing.

I went home and embraced my family and the holiday. I stopped buying presents and started focusing on relationships. I accepted that I may not be the Mother or Grandma that spoils with gifts but I could be the Mom and “MiMi” that spoils with time. The next day I got the opportunity to spend the day with my granddaughter. We read Christmas stories together, went for a walk and played in the backyard. She climbed up the couch to pull ornaments off the tree, giggling at her own resourcefulness. My heart was filled with love. The following day, our family had the opportunity to help our friends move to their new home in the city. My children painted the walls, ceilings, and my hair. We met new friends and laughed till we cried. When it was time to pray a blessing over their home, my heart was filled with joy.

On Christmas Eve, we ate turkey soup, visited neighbors and worshipped at the loveliest, simple service. We hugged old friends and shed tears of joy as we sang about the story of the first Christmas. We closed with O Holy Night and as the melody surrounded me, “The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,” my weary soul rejoiced and my heart felt hope!

Question: Have you struggled to find hope, love and joy this Holiday? Share your story with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Dollface Borrowat

    Thank you for sharing your story. I call my Mom often. She is a great source of support and encouragement. What is it with Christmas cookies? I had a melt down over these myself last week. I wanted to have a happy memory with my Son and I baking cookies. His trauma surfaced and he pushed me away with his words and actions. I was in tears. It was just so sad. God is so great! My wonderful Husband gave me some time to recover and then baked those cookies with me. I feel like a failure often with my Son. He struggles with accepting love. The therapist said that love is painful for him based on his early experiences. I often say its like trying to pour something into a container that is closed. I pour and pour but very little gets in. I am hopeful that 2016 will be a year for growth, healing and peace. Pray for us, LOL. Just as you have reminded me on this blog so often, you are not alone.

    • Allisonm

      I had the meltdown with my husband on the way to Sam’s Club. We had just spent five days at the hospital with my mother-in-law and her broken hip and I was wiped out. Because I’d been at the hospital so much, my son was starting to lose it big time and had disconnected from me to protect his heart from my absence. My husband suggested we forego a big Christmas dinner and have a pre-cooked ham and the Thanksgiving leftovers from the freezer. We bought cookies and pies and called it good. The tree finally went up at 9 p.m. Christmas Eve. Everyone was as happy as they were going to be and it had to be enough.

      It is so easy to feel like a failure with our kids. It is as though they have a very powerful fan pointing away from them that blows every good thing back at the giver before they can even see what it is. Sometimes they have a power brown-out and the fan slows down so that some good things can fight their way in to stay, but then that fan speeds up again and things keep on flying back like the proverbial dung. Direct confrontation is seldom successful. I have to find ways to get beside them, behind the fan, where they are–where we can work at being allies. Success at parenting my children isn’t measured by the same yardstick I think I see others using. It is measured by whether I gave up or kept coming back, by whether I stayed hurt and frustrated or repented, repaired, rebuilt, then went on to build something new. My children had ten previous families. Sticking it out and continuing to give them the best I have in the face of the symptoms of our children’s distress and disabilities is huge to them, though they would never say that out loud. At least that is what all of their doctors, therapists, social workers, etc., keep telling me. Me? I feel like a failure because I’m not God and I can’t fix my kids. This is a thinking error on my part that keeps cropping up when I’m tired and stressed. I really need a Savior every single day. 2015 was a year full of growth and healing. Every year is. I have to accept the circuitous path that growth and healing are taking, knowing that God has no grandchildren. My children are His, just like I am. He will see them through–in spite of me, if necessary. Take heart!

      • Kristin Berry

        I just love your willingness to always encourage others. Thank you for that!

        • Allisonm

          Trying to encourage and give hope to others is what gives our personal challenges a wider meaning. It lifts me up on those days when I’m having trouble feeling hopeful. I might feel hopeless in the moment, but I wouldn’t tell someone else not to hope. So I get hope back from telling someone else about the progress we have made and the reasons that hope makes sense.

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you for sharing that and for the encouragement as well. It’s so great to hear from another family like ours 🙂