I Choose Joy

I love Christmas. I mean, what’s not to love? The scent of pine/evergreen in the air, beautiful trees decorated and sparkling with lights, “good will toward men” mindset a bit more prevalent than usual, surprising family and friends with presents that make them smile, festive Christmas music, peppermint all the things (!!!), yummy food, get-togethers with family and friends, and delectable. desserts. for. days. To name a few things.

But even though I absolute love Christmas (it’s my favorite time of year) I’m not feeling very Christmassy this year. I’m actually feeling pretty depressed. There are several reasons for this, yet instead of sitting and wallowing in how crappy and depressed I feel, I’ve decided to focus on the fact that, while I truly enjoy all those aspects of Christmas I just named (and others I didn’t), as the Grinch learned, “Christmas… means a little bit more.”

I have decided to choose joy instead of allowing depression to steal my Christmas. It may take a while for my emotions to line up with my choice (if ever), but I also know it’s ok to not feel ok. So I’m not going to pressure myself or make myself feel ‘less than’ somehow because I don’t feel things I want very much to feel. Here’s the thing though. Joy isn’t just a feeling. We CAN feel joy, sure. But it’s also a choice.

I remember calling a friend one day several years ago. I was upset about a particular circumstance in which I found myself and he said something that has jumped to mind many times over the intervening years. He said, “Lauren, your joy is yours to have. Choose it.” That simple yet profound perspective had quite an effect on me. My circumstances that day didn’t change, but how I reacted to them did because I chose joy. I wasn’t feeling joy at the time (that came later), but the choices I made in my self-talk and in my spoken words and my actions all reflected my choice to choose joy, so the day turned out much differently (better!) than it probably would have if I hadn’t made that phone call.

There’s an old story about a Cherokee grandfather having a conversation with his grandson when the grandson came to him angry over an injustice he’d suffered. The Grandfather said: “It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one wolf is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way. But the other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger because his anger will change nothing. Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, because both of the wolves try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which wolf will win, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and said, “The one I feed.”

So I will feed my “better wolf” a diet of gratitude for the many (many!) blessings in my life. I will make time to sit down and list 3-5 things every day for which I am thankful. I will be specific, will read my list out loud after I make it, and take a moment to (also out loud) thank God for them. (Writing these things, even saying them, is important, I believe, but hearing them is even more powerful.)

However, most importantly, I will focus on celebrating the miraculous birth of the One true God Who loved us enough to come to earth in human form (admittedly not in December), and died so all who believe in Him can be forgiven of our sins and spend eternity with Him one day. For this I am more thankful than I can begin to express.

I choose joy.

A very Merry Christmas to you and your family!