Decorate your life with joy

While I am attempting to simplify my life and rid our home of unused and unappreciated clutter, I am thoroughly enjoying investigating what is “in” this Christmas, even as I remind myself that I’m trying to reduce the clutter, not significantly add to it. Nonetheless, walking down the holiday aisles is thoroughly enjoyable as long as I am alone. That’s because I hate to be hurried and I like to move at my own pace.

One of my favorite stops is the card section.

I love beautiful cards, even if I am challenged at the end of each Christmas season with the task of tossing or keeping the Christmas cards people have so kindly sent our way. I always keep them for a time, picking out the cards one by one and taking the time to pray for the senders. I am partial to snowy scenes with nature. Birds really draw me in. And I like traditional messages. I like to consider peace. Family. Memories. Faith. Birth of the Savior. And joy.

The older I get and the more I experience the complexities of life—and how life can be experienced with the living God—the more I wonder about joy. It’s a word that is used with great infrequency these days. We get joyful about the birth of a baby, but you’ll most likely never hear that youngster talk about joy. And yet it’s something I actively seek on a daily basis. The joy of motherhood. A longtime marriage. Creating a home for children. Great food. Friendships. Achievement. Service to those longing to experience the love of God. Working to make private dreams into a reality. All have the potential to be joyful endeavors.

And the more some of us peruse those aisles filled with Christmas décor and read the magazines, the more we pressurize the coming weeks. A whole lot of us will suddenly realize that we have built great expectations for the pending holidays, yet the pressure to produce joy this time of year frequently reveals the growing number of joy busters out there.

Some we run into. Some we create all by ourselves.

We lose joy when we feel alone in the world. This can happen when we decide how the holidays should progress but others can’t seem to get with our program. It can also happen when there are unresolved relationships or situations in our lives. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Flexibility. Servanthood. Generosity. These are choices that restore joy and bring us back into relationship with people and away from isolation.

We lose joy when expectations go wild and crash into reality. Forget outspending other family members. Forget Martha Stewart and believing that a perfect table filled with food will make the holidays A-okay. Forget about the perfect tree or kids who react with the kind of enthusiasm and gratefulness you expect. God wants us to see the joy in the little things and take away greatness from the minute. The child who makes his first ornament. The old friend who finally asks if he can join you at a church service. The neighbor who tears up when you deliver your famous holiday fudge. The mother who feels your love even though you live far away. Let go of the flashy. Go for the meaningful.

We lose joy when we exhaust ourselves. When we believe that excess means we love more. When we begin to resent the fact that our family members are pacing themselves but we are up, night after night and long after they have retired, because we want to be the producers of Christmas. We want to be the center of attention, not a baby in a manger. Look ahead and don’t wait to the last minute. Take all your plans and search your heart for your motivations. Then head into the holidays with ease. Be willing to adjust your schedule and slow down. Nap. Do not scrimp on your rest. Who wants to look great on the outside and on the inside experience exhaustion and misery?

We lose joy when our public lives look nothing like our private lives. Make this holiday season the real deal. Do not write a holiday letter that hints of near perfection and fight like cats and dogs every time you get together as a family. This happens when your heart and your mouth part company. Build joy into the following weeks by doing what you say you’re doing. Slow down. Choose to read the Christmas story to your children. Have your family participate in simple expressions of Thanksgiving. Collect those canned goods you know would be helpful to families in our community and get them delivered. Be the real deal and your joy will compound.

God promises joy, again and again. Let’s be open to the blessing this holiday season and decorate our lives with joy.

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