January 24, 2015

How To: Choose Joy.

This week Becker and I organized a few classroom lessons to spread love and joy to our students. We borrowed a lesson from a series they are doing at our Church right now and tweaked it so it could be taught at school. As I was writing down some thoughts about it I decided I would share them here as well. Because… let’s face it. As adults we struggle to find joy during the holiday season too sometimes. So here are my notes for “3 ways to be joyful in the present.”
Growing up Christmas was always a big holiday for my family. We did the same thing every year. I would wake up way super early and get my parents up, then I always got a thrill out of waking my brother up early too because he would be grouchy and tired. We would open gifts first thing that morning; sometimes it was even dark out still. I would get so pumped because I usually got what I had asked for. Then we would eat breakfast (my favorite meal of the day), I would play with my new stuff, and we would watch movies all day. My mom would usually cook something really great for dinner too. This is how it was for as long as I could remember.
Then something happened. My dad got diagnosed with cancer on my 21st birthday, which was in September. So Christmas that year was a little different. My dad was really tired and sick. We didn’t get up super early and instead of worrying about gifts or watching movies, we mostly just worried about my dad resting and making sure he ate a good meal. Have you ever seen a family member or someone you care about sick? It’s really hard to watch because there’s not much you can do to relieve their pain.
Anyways, fast-forward about 7 months to July. I’ll never forget that July because that month my dad passed away. I was really upset. Mostly angry, but sad too. I experienced a lot of pain that year. So when Christmas came around let’s just say I wasn’t in the holiday spirit. We didn’t celebrate like we used to. We just opened some gifts and ate dinner. It wasn’t happy and it definitely wasn’t joyful. I wasn’t nice to my family and we didn’t have a great holiday at all.
So what could I do to change it?
That’s where I want to focus today. I know I’m not the only person who has had something painful happen in the past. Whether it’s a family member passing or maybe someone has treated you bad. Or maybe you know you won’t get much for Christmas this year. How can we all get past those things that bother us so that we can still experience joy this holiday season?
The first way to be joyful in the present: talk to your Christmas past.
That sounds weird right, like how do you talk to your past? Well I’m going to tell you. Right now close your eyes and think of something painful that has happened to you. Picture it very clearly. Who was there? What happened? What was said? In your head think about what it would be like to tell that person how it felt to be hurt. Or in some cases you can’t tell the person, so how would it feel for you to be able to move on and forgive? In my situation it was a little different because nobody intentionally hurt me. However, I did turn around and hurt others because I was sad and angry.
That takes us to our second way to be joyful in the present. And that’s to remember: hurt people, hurt people. To explain this I will use my own situation. I lashed out at people and I was angry a lot. Was it just because I was an angry person? No, I was hurt. I was hurt because I lost my dad, so I hurt others. That doesn’t make it right, but I bet you can relate because come to think about it anytime I’ve been hurt by someone I can now look back and see that they were hurting too. Maybe they hurt to ease their own pain. Maybe they hurt because they had so much pain they didn’t know where to put it. Whatever the reason, it makes it easier to stay joyful when you think “hurt people, hurt people”.
The last thing I want to share with you on how to stay joyful in the present is: it’s not the presents you get, it’s the gifts you give in the present. Sounds corny, but for real. We all get wrapped up in what we’re getting: a new phone, new shoes, new this, new that. Or even the opposite side that is maybe you don’t get what you want or anything at all; or wow so and so got a lot for Christmas. What we need to remember is that the gifts are not what the holidays are about. The holidays are about spreading love and to do that you have to get some things off your heart.
When Becker and I were planning this lesson out he said something that I wrote down and really struck a chord with me. That is “bad things live in the dark.” When you keep things that are painful in your heart they will burn you up from the inside out. Your heart will hurt…and what do hurt people do?
So to wrap this up I just hope and pray that everyone finds some joy this holiday season. I know in roughly 6 days I will find a lot of joy when I get to hold my brand new niece for the first time. Here’s a picture of that sweet snuggly little angel burrito. I have so much love for her already. Happy holidays!
Hadley Jean

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