By April Swiger, Contributing Writer
Christmas can be a difficult season for me. I’m more inclined to plug my ears when I hear “it’s a holly jolly Christmas” at the store, than push my cart with a little more pizzaz. Shopping stresses me out (thank you, Amazon), traveling exhausts me, and I’m more than ready to take our tree and decorations down the night of the 25th and get my home back in order (my husband talks me down every year).
My husband is a worship pastor, and with that high calling comes a long list of both blessing and sacrifice. December means extra rehearsals, Christmas parties, and responsibilities on Christmas Eve that take him away from our family. Wives and children of pastors and ministry leaders have a unique calling, and it can be extra difficult this time of year.
When loneliness tugs at your heart, like it often does mine, intentionally choosing joy at Christmas can be a challenge.
Some years those more typical stressors are overshadowed by deep pain. For me, in recent years, it was a desire left unfulfilled. Last year when Erin republished this post, Celebrating Christmas When You Don’t Feel Like It, I felt like she was speaking right to my heart. My husband and I had been waiting for children, and were deep in an almost three year adoption process.
Every Christmas that passed without our prayers answered made our hearts lose a bit more hope.
Things look different for us this year as a precious three year old boy joined our family almost six months ago. Our desire for children has been fulfilled since last Christmas, and with that comes an abundance of joy. We’re also serving in a fantastic church where the pace of life fits us better. There are new challenges, don’t get me wrong, but our hearts are humbled and full of gratitude this year.
That challenging season taught me a number of ways to intentionally choose joy during Christmas.
After a good writing session I often feel a burden lifted and hope begins to emerge. This has been especially helpful during Christmas when I may be struggling with loneliness and unfulfilled desires. I have a massive pile of journals from the last eleven years of my life to look back on and be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
2) Remember, and be grateful
Make a list of things you are grateful for and read them out loud. Better yet, if you keep a journal (or blog), pick up an old one and be encouraged by previous trials that were worked out for good. I do this occasionally and it never fails to give my spirit a boost.
3) Stay on task
Doesn’t it feel great to know the laundry is done? Or the bathroom is clean? Or you just put a stack of pre-cooked meals in the freezer? Don’t let the busyness of the season encroach on your typical homemaking responsibilities. Be diligent to make the best use of your time and be faithful to your unique calling.
4) Let things go
If you’re struggling this Christmas, know there is freedom to let some things go. I often put undue pressure on myself to bake everything from scratch, and have every corner of my home dusted for Christmas Eve. Not only is this unrealistic, but it’s not a priority. Intentionally choose joy by letting some things go.
5) Reach out
When we turn the focus off ourselves our hearts will be encouraged. Invite a new friend over for a warm drink, or that weary single mom you see on Sunday mornings wrangling her children alone. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, just something small to bless and serve someone else.
Image by jevvv
6) Be generous (and fight comparison)
One of my biggest struggles during Christmas is our tight budget. With my husband being a pastor, there are often people who choose to bless us this time of year. This humbles us greatly….and then I go and compare the size of my budget to theirs, and despair about the fact that I can’t give a more generous gift! It’s so silly, and robs me of the joy I receive when I give a gift to someone else, no matter the size.
7) Put your hope in Christ
Pause, and take time to reflect on the riches of Christ and the truth that “He made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Immanuel, God with us. This ought to be our ultimate joy at Christmas, and all year.
I’m so happy you’re writing here too April. Just finished reading your post about your failed match on your personal blog and it’s been on my heart. This will be our first Christmas with our adopted daughter and we are so excited! As
I’m sure you are too with your son. I sure used a lot of these tips last Christmas though. The wait is hard, but so worth it! Thank God for adoption!
So fun to hear from you, Kristen! And thank you so much for your kind words. I know you are familiar with waiting, and desiring to do it well. You’re right, it’s so worth it. I’m rejoicing with your family this Christmas, and that your sweet daughter is in your arms!
This was so encouraging! My husband and I are looking forward to our first Christmas as husband and wife, but the holiday pressures still tend to get to me no matter what. Journaling and getting something accomplished always helps me, too.
So glad you were encouraged, Melody! And congrats on your recent marriage! That is really exciting, and I hope you have a really special one as newlyweds 🙂
This is such an encouraging article, April! As a pastor’s wife and young mom, I relate in so many ways.
Christmas is bittersweet in some ways for me this year. I appreciate your Biblical and inspiring “7 ways”. Joy, as always, is a choice!
Thank you so much for your kind words, Kristy! It sounds like we have quite a few things in common 🙂 Thank you so much for reading. I hope this Christmas is very sweet for you and your family.
Heather @ My Overflowing Cup
Thanks for sharing this post, April and Erin! We are struggling financially, as well, so I can relate to what you are saying April. I think that all of your tips are wonderful, but I like #6 and #7 the best. Those are 2 things that have made the most difference for me. Thanks for sharing girls! Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Thank you for your kind words, Heather, and for sharing your experience here. Yes, those two are usually the biggest ones for me as well (#6 and #7). I appreciate your honesty, and pray your family has a truly blessed Christmas!
Ah – what a great reminder! It is a choice. Why do I tend to forget that?? 🙂
A reminder I constantly need for myself too, Jodi! Thanks for reading 🙂
I choose joy at Christmas by saying No. I spent eight years dreading Christmas. Because we live an ocean away from my family, we always had to spend Christmas with my husband’s family; but his sister is married to a fundamental Muslim who would find a new way each Christmas of making it miserable. It got to the point where my MIL suggested we no longer celebrate Christmas; instead we’d get together on the 25th to celebrate *their daughter’s* birthday, even though it was a good 3.5 weeks BEFORE Christmas – Yep, Christmas is no longer about the birth of our Saviour and Redeemer, but about someone else’s birth! I countered by saying that if my BIL hated Christmas so much he could always stay home. My husband suggested this to his sister, at the urging of his parents, and, well – What followed was hell on earth. She started a rather vicious campaign against us; his parents hung him out to dry; it was a terrible month. But the upside is, it gave me the courage to say No. That was 7 years ago and it certainly wasn’t easy abiding by that decision; every year there’s guilt trip after guilt trip and my MIL still says I ruined Christmas for everyone. But for our family, Christmas is fun again. It’s a time of joy and peace. For anyone else in a similar situation – Say No. It will be hard going especially for the first few years; but it will be so, so worth it in the end.