Learning to Hold Pain and Joy in Both Hands.

I’m sitting here this morning, coffee in hand, staring at my Christmas tree as we ease into our Christmas break. This year, I anticipated it probably more than I ever have before. Christmas is my favorite time of year. Starting around August, I start getting the itch to listen to Christmas music. Actually, if I’m completely honest with you, I have a yearly tradition to listen to Christmas music during the month of August. Hear me out—August is the busiest time of year for me at work. One August, several years ago, I was anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed, so out of desperation to find any spark of joy, I turned on my Charlie Brown Christmas record. That was it for me. It’s amazing what music can do for your soul. So, now, every year, during the busiest season of work, I turn on Christmas music and it brings me so much joy and peace during that time. I highly recommend it.

I always have a countdown rolling in my head as the holidays approach. This year, though, as ready as I have been for the break, is going to be one of the most difficult. If you would have told me what would unfold over the year that is 2021, I would have been shocked. Isn’t that life though? We think we have some sense of control, but the truth is—we don’t. It’s a complete illusion. We have no control over what may happen around us. This year has been filled with yearning, pain, past regrets resurfacing, but it’s also been filled with more joy than I could ever imagine. God gave us an answer to a prayer we’ve been praying about for years, but we also experienced pain we had never felt.

If there’s anything 2021 has taught me, it is that it’s possible to hold pain in one hand and joy in the other, simultaneously. Life seems to be a combination of excitement and worry, joy and concern, highs and lows. Sometimes, there’s more light than darkness, but other times, there’s so much darkness, we have to fight to see any light. This year for me has been about finding the light. Choosing to focus on the good, even when we’re surrounded by so much darkness. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do—making the choice to focus on something positive when your world is crashing around you, but I can offer one small, yet significant piece of advice on the subject. All it takes is one spark, one small choice to create a ripple effect. Pick one thing that’s good. It may only be the French fries and Coke you picked up from McDonald’s that day, and that’s fine. Pick one thing, and then tomorrow, pick another. Slowly, over time, a shift in perspective occurs without you even noticing. Have you ever noticed how when you light a candle in a dark room, as the candle begins to burn, it slowly fills the darkness with light? That’s what choosing to focus on the good does. Even when it’s so dark that we can’t see, that single spark slowly brings light to the darkness.

2021 has been bittersweet. But, I’m sitting here today holding the bitter in one hand, and the sweet in the other, and looking ahead to what God holds for us in 2022, and I hope you’ll do the same!

Merry Christmas!

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