It was on one of our first dates when my dreaded kidney disease introduced itself to my husband. Our plan was not a kidney stone visit to the ER, but then again, who likes plans?
I was a professional kidney stone passer after experiencing over 50 of them in my life, so the routine wasn’t a new one for me. However, I wasn’t quite ready for this new man in my life to witness a rather raw and not-so-pretty version of myself!
As I sobbing in pain and curled up in a fetal position, I made desperate, but failed attempts at sporting my hospital gown in style.
Can you say mortified? I wondered if this guy would stick around or politely bow out after this date!
But instead of bowing out, he did what I now know he always does in these situations. He brought humor and laughter into the midst of my hurt.
Sobbing – laughing – sobbing – laughing. I’m not sure what the doctors thought of me, but I highly doubt stable was a word that came to mind!
Hours later with the pain finally managed and my kidney-stone-catching gear in hand, I went home to finish birthing another prized baby rock.
I tell this story because I think we forget about joy and all that goes along with it. We forget to laugh in the midst of our busy and we begin believing there is no room for joy in the day-to-day.
You see, through my own personal hard times, there’s something I’ve learned about life that is really quite simple.
Laughter is a gift that eases pain.
And it naturally spills forth when our hearts are humbled in gratitude to God.
But, friends, has that truth been lost on us? The miracle? The gift?
Have we forgotten the forever life-changing event that happened one night long ago? Is that why our gratitude is often lacking? Is that why our spirits are not humbled by the God who came to earth that night?
When we think of the lineage of Jesus. The generations of chaos and dysfunction. Broken lives and broken dreams. Yet God did as He promised making all things work together for the good. He aligned every life and every moment. He broke through every obstacle to prove to us His love would never fail. His promises would never come back empty.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -Romans 8:28 NLT
Shame, a census, and no room at an inn couldn’t stop God from coming down to live among His people. To love us, redeem us, and set us free from the darkness of our sin.
When I soak in the depths of this miracle, I am humbled in gratitude. A gratitude that changes everything.
Because without gratitude, hope cannot live and joy cannot abound.Because without gratitude, hope cannot live and joy cannot abound. #joy #ChristmasJoy #hope #gratitude Click To Tweet
Gratitude toward our Savior opens our hearts for the adoration of Him. It confirms the surrendering of ourselves in faith. Only when we have given ourselves to Him, can we fully experience His uncircumstantial hope and joy.
But today I think we are much like the inns having no room for Mary and Joseph. They were so full they missed the life-changing moment of the Savior’s birth.
And we, too, are so busy and our lives so full, we miss the life-changing impact of His birth.
Then, we miss out on the fullness of gratitude.
On life-giving hope.
And on the joy that lives within us despite any and all life circumstances.
The joy a thief can never steal.
For our family, this Christmas looks different. Although I’m a passionate lover of all things Christmas, I had to significantly cut back.
It was a challenging “straw on the camel’s back” sort of year. One that is forcing me to say “no” where my heart wants to say “yes”.
Exhaustion may have instigated our decisions, but along the way God revealed something else. A beautiful good He is making of our mess.
Through our trials, He is bringing us back to the heart of life-changing joy. To the heart of gratitude. And to the miracle of the baby born that night.
The one who came to set us free. To give us hope and to fill us with joy.
But how do we do it? Aside from a circumstance that stops us in our tracks, how do we hold onto life-changing joy at Christmas?
I don’t have all the answers for your particular situation, but I can tell you what I’ve learned through my experiences.
It starts in the remembering. Remembering the miracle of that night. A love so deep and so strong, no obstacle could deter it. Not coming in grandeur, but as a humble baby in meager surroundings. He gave up Heaven for us.
Then leads to prayer. With reflection of the miracle in our hearts, we reach out to God. We praise Him, thank Him, and adore Him for His great big act of love. For the freedom we have. The victory in which we can walk. And the hope we will never live without. We ask Him to be our guide. Our wisdom. Our discernment. And our strength.
Next is listening. It is critical. We speak in our time of prayer and then often run. But we need to stay a bit longer to hear. Listen, soak, and sense His presence and the direction He wants us to take. What needs to go and what needs to stay.
Then obedience. A courageous step forward with Christ. Doing the next right thing is often the same as doing the next hardest thing.
Surrendering expectations of perfection. As we obediently did the next right thing, it may go against the grain of perfectionism. It may not be as pretty, as many, or as often as perfection demands. It’s when we acknowledge God as the only author of perfection.
Canceling false guilt. The next right thing may disappoint others. The enemy likes us believing we can please everyone and when we don’t, we feel guilt. Condemnation. That is not of God. We cannot please everyone. If we know our actions are pleasing to God, we can trade that guilt for truth.
Finally, adding laughter. Set the to-do list aside and smile. Relax. Rest in a faith that says God has this and it will be okay. A late box mailed to a special friend? It’s okay. Laughter is a manifestation of joy. Make room for it. We must live our joy out loud!
As a special joyful treat today, I want to give away my favorite new gift I am giving to all the special people in my life with young children! It’s called Star from Afar and it’s an activity that provides you a simple opportunity to share the hope and joy of the birth of Jesus with your children during the Christmas/Advent season! You can read all about here!#TheStarFromAfar #giveaway Experience #joy and enter to win!A new #familytradition @Thestarfromafar Click To Tweet
Submit up to 8 entries in the Rafflecopter below to win! The contest will go through the end of Thursday, December 8th (11:59 pm)!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Next week, as I’ve mentioned, my friend Kathe Wunnenberg, is joining me. She is the author of four books: Hopelifter: Spreading Hope When Life Hurts, Grieving the Loss of a Loved One, Grieving The Child I Never Knew, and Longing for a Child.
Friends, she truly is a Hope Lifter. Because she understands grief well and has walked it’s painful path, she is joining me here to share with you, Hope for Holding onto Joy When Your Heart is Grieving at Christmastime. (Plus, I’m going to be hosting another giveaway so don’t miss it!)
Missed the other Holding onto Christmas Joy Posts?
Post 1: Choose Hope this Christmas with these 13 Gift Options
Post 2: How to Plant Hope in the Hearts of Our Children During the Holidays
Post 3: Seeing Through the Holiday To-Do List
Post 4: 5 Ways to Make the Holidays Less Hectic and More Meaningful
I regularly link up with these encouraging sites.