When Joy Seems Hard to Find

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The grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. -Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Chistmas

Usually Christmas brings me much joy each year. By the end of November, I have my tree up, my shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, and I am ready for Christmas music, lights, and festivities.

This year? Not so much. This year I have been somewhat of a Christmas grinch. Not really sure why the usual joy I have for the season has been replaced with the mood and attitude of Scrooge, and a cloud of perpetual gloom, that began long before the season ever did.

Back in the fall I made the decision to leave my part-time job in order to focus on my studies as a counseling student, my ministry, and my work in the evenings with teens and families in the community. While ultimately I believe God made it clear this was the move for me, it hasn’t always been an easy one. It has also come with a number of changes and adjustments.

Like the days at home while most everyone else is working. The days that have left me feeling lonely and isolated.

Like the missed appointments with clients that has meant missed paychecks, missed gifts, and missed “mommy” dates with friends. Leaving me feeling lonely, isolated, and broke.

Or, the nights spent mentoring, counseling, and helping others while my family is at home cuddling, playing, and bonding.

Or the cold, dreary weather that seems to have lingered, making it even harder to muster up the strength and motivation to just get out of the house.

Or, maybe it is the realization that comes when you visit your sibling in jail, give him a hug, and know that once again you will spend another Christmas without him.

Whatever the circumstances, I am left with feelings of loneliness, isolation, moodiness, and gloom. A deep ache and longing for some “thing” that just seems to be missing this year.

Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other. Romans 15:32

I have tried to find that joy. I have tried to fix this bah-humbug mood of mine. I have tried every “remedy” I could think of.

Flipping on those shiny lights and turning on Christmas music just to get through a gift wrapping session.

I have tried to create happy moments with my family by scheduling times to cut snowflakes, make hot chocolate, or enjoy ice cream by the tree.

I even remembered the way my mom got us in the spirit-with good ole fashioned living room dance parties with Elvis as the emcee.

I plastered on smiles for my kids. I have gone through the motions trying to put the jolly back in this holly season. But I couldn’t find it.

I couldn’t find it as the lack of cheer now spilled to my children. So that those planned moments to spend together this season only ended in fights, declarations of “This is boring…” and meltdowns. So that Mommy is now the one making the ornament, cutting the snowflakes, making the Christmas cards, and decorating the tree-isolated and once again…alone.

I couldn’t find it, because all I wanted to do was sit under the tree I didn’t even feel like putting up, and cry. And then, cancel the whole Christmas shebang altogether!

“I bring good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born this day in Bethlehem. Luke 2:10-11

And, so comes that voice. The one that always shakes me out of my sulking, when all I want to do is drown in self-pity.

Look around you, January.

At what exactly, Lord? Yes, I am aware that this house is a mess. I can’t find the strength to do that either.

Look around at your home, January. The mess that means laughter, and yes, even chaos have filled these walls. A mess that shows you are blessed beyond measure. 

Listen, January.

To what? Those screams? The screams from a  desperately emotional child? The screams back from his weary momma?

Listen, January. To the laughter. To the fighting that means they are learning to navigate the world of relationships. 

Look at your mantel, January.

Really, Lord? Now you are going to point out the fact that my home is full of dust!

You mean the dust that is not unlike that of that lowly manger sitting there?

Oh, right.

The lowly manger of a king born. The king who we celebrate each season. The king who deserves much more than my isolated and lonely bah-humbug.

The joy that has nothing to do with money, lights, paper snowflakes, or abandoned cups of hot cocoa. The joy that lies in a manger. The joy of a baby, born alone, isolated and desperate in the midst of dust just to save me.

To save me from loneliness when that missing piece seems nowhere to be found.

To save me from isolation when I’m stuck in a cold and dark house alone.

To save me from self-pity and sorrow when the paycheck quits coming, the gifts aren’t there to wrap, and your feeling anything but holly jolly.

The joy that can’t be wrapped up in a bow. Can’t be placed in well-organized moments, and perfectly baked cookies.

The joy of Christ that reaches down to fill all the longing and lonely places that dwell in this heart.

The true joy of the Christmas season and every season in between.

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