Precious Gift of Christmas Poem

Twas the day after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. The dishes were done and  the presents unwrapped and all settled in for a long winter’s nap. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a vision of snowflakes in the window so near.

“Isn’t that lovely,” I said with a smile. Snowflakes remind me of the newborn Christ child. No worries, no cares, just floating about covering the ground like a soft white cloud. Snow reminds me that each day is new, and that Jesus came for me and for you.

He covers our flaws like the fresh fallen snow. So blameless we draw near to the God we all know. He washes us clean and gives us new birth, just as snowflakes cover the earth.

Snow flurries subside and the sun shines so bright. God’s love is for and to all a good night!

Happy Twelve Days of Christmas and may you see each new day as a precious gift. Until next time, keep looking up!

5 Tips on Maintaining Joy

Christmas  is a few days away and the extra activities, demands, and social interactions are beginning to wear on people. Fuses are short and patience is at a premium. The needle on the joy meter is quivering. All the more reason to make time to consciously focus on the fourth gift of Advent: the gift of Love.

Love and joy go hand in hand. I find I am most joyful when I am loving and vice versa. If my joy tank is low, chances are my love tank is as well. Stress tends to deplete our joy if we allow it. An unexpected bad news phone call, someone running late, a harsh word spoken can all steal the joy from a wonderful day.

So how can we be more loving during times of peak stress? Here are a few tips on loving myself and others I’ve learned over the years that help me keep my joy level up and my stress level down.

1. Learn to say that two-letter word “NO”. I only accept offers and invitations my heart is into. Say NO to everything else.

2.  Ditch the guilt.  When I say NO, I am being loving by being true to my values. I don’t need to feel guilty for declining an invitation, not sending Christmas cards or not baking a gazillion cookies. If I feel stressed doing something, it’s just not worth it.

3.  Look at the big picture. I ask myself this question “What’s really important here?” When the stress level rises, it is easy to get bent out of shape over trivial things. Our logical brains go haywire and we can’t think straight. By keeping my focus on the big picture, I can find joy in any situation and act in a loving manner.

4. Overlook people’s mistakes. We are all human. We won’t always be on time, say the right thing, or give the right gift. Let things go quickly and don’t dwell on what someone said or did that really won’t matter tomorrow anyway. Focus on the positives of your friends and relatives.

5.  Learn to lighten up. Make people laugh. Tell a funny story and a joke that doesn’t offend anyone. Laughter raises the joy level. When tensions rise, saying those three little words “I love you”  can go a long way towards restoring peace and harmony in a relationship.

We need to be alert and on guard  so we don’t allow stress to get the better of us especially during stressful times. I’ve shared some tips I use to maintain joy and feel more loving. What techniques do you have to maintain your joy during stressful times?

Until next time, keep the focus this week on the true gifts of Christmas and share the joy and the love!

Finding Joy

What is joy? Is it the same as happiness? What about contentment? We are all in pursuit of “happiness”. But what is it really and will finding it really make us happy? Have you ever thought about the differences between each of these? Since we are in the third week of Advent and the focus in on Joy, this recent incident makes perfect fodder for this week’s post.

At a Christmas party this weekend here at my complex, I had quite a lively discussion about the differences between happiness and contentment. Seems folks have very different takes on what each of these are.

“I’m content”, I commented.
“You mean you’re settling,” he said.
“No, I am content. At peace with my life.”
“Well, I’d rather be happy,” he said.
“Happiness depends on our circumstances and is temporary,” I countered.
“Contentment is boring,” he replied.
“What about joy?” I asked.
No answer.

I took a poll at a nearby table and asked what everyone thought. The question precipitated quite a variety of answers. Philosophers define happiness in terms of the good life. The Declaration of Independence says that  “the pursuit of happiness” is an inalienable right. Happiness speaks to the external qualities of life such as health, wealth, & beauty. Happiness is in the mind and the feelings. Yes, we all desire and seek the good life, but what happens when our external circumstances change? The stock market takes a nose dive? The doctor gives us bad news or our relationship hits the rocks? What then?

Then our perspective changes. It is time to seek the deeper gift of joy.

What is joy? Joy is spiritual over carnal. Joy comes from God. It pervades my soul and my spirit  when my external circumstances fail to provide me with the happiness my flesh craves. Consider this verse from Ecclesiastes 2:26 :

 “For to the one who pleases him <sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”>God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given <sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”>the business of gathering and collecting, <sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”>only to give to one who pleases God. <sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”>This also is vanity and a striving after wind.”

If your circumstances are less than perfect this holiday season, do not despair. Life will never be perfect here on this earth.  If you are broken hearted or sad, you can still have joy, because there is One who will never leave you or forsake you.  If you are stressed out  with all the demands of the season, relax. Joy does not come from things or people. Joy comes from the spirit of God.

So today, if you are seeking more joy in your life, I encourage you to find time to meet with the Giver of joy. For more on this topic, check out this interview with Kay Warren, and until next time, keep looking up!