Bringing the Joy Back to Christmas: Twelve Days of Thankfulness

Day 12

It’s Christmas Eve, by the time you read this it will be Christmas.

Merry Christmas!!

These twelve days have been so meaningful to me. I have had good and bad days, but through this process I have been forced to stop and really think about what, and in some cases who, I am thankful for every day. It’s amazing how easy the good can be overshadowed by the bad, how the negative is easier to believe than the positive. It takes a conscience effort to keep my mind on what is good and true.

I plan to keep the thankfulness challenge up in my journal. Gratefulness is something I want to become a habit. Life just looks and feels better when viewed through the lens of a thankful heart.

I’m sitting in the living room with my kids watching our traditional “Polar Express” movie. We have watched this movie every Christmas since it came out in 2004. Sometimes more than once. There is just something magical about this story and the power of believing, of building character qualities, learning compassion and being a good friend.

It never grows old.

If you have seen this movie, you remember that the little boy who was having trouble believing in Santa could not hear the bells of Christmas because of his doubt. Even after all the perils he’d been through while travelling to the North Pole on the Polar Express, all the miraculous times he was saved, he still struggled.

Finally, when it feels like he will never really believe, he closed his eyes and speaks to himself, “I believe, I believe.” It took an hour and a half worth of dilemmas and near death experiences to convince him. But once he spoke the words and really meant them in his heart, he was able to hear the bells.

I know this is fiction, but can you see the parallel? This is so often what we do in our day to day lives. The Lord is working all around us, we are saved from who knows what perils and many good folks are sent our way to love and encourage us. Blessing upon blessing and we still “don’t hear.”

That’s what I feel this journey to thankfulness has done for me. It’s helped me to believe more deeply so I can see and hear more clearly what God is doing and saying in my life.

As the story comes to an end, Santa gives the first gift of Christmas, remember? He gives the little boy one of the bells off of his sleigh. It was one of the highlights of the movie for me. I can relate. My first gift this Christmas has been to “hear” God at work. And it is beautiful.   Just like the bells of Christmas.

When the thrill of the Christmas tree lighting in the North Pole was over and it  was time to board the train and travel home, the conductor stood at the door  and punched  the tickets of all the passengers on the magic train. On each child’s ticket he punched the name of a character quality that they’d either learned or exhibited. That made me think,  I  wonder what would be punched on my “ticket?” I know what I would like it to say, and I will make that my life goal.

I love this movie, I love our tradition and I love Christmas.

Christmas Eve was a success.

Another highlight from Polar Express is the song that Josh Groban sings while the credits are rolling. I believe it applies all year long.

Believe in what your heart is sayin’ Hear the melody that’s playin’ There’s no time to waste There’s so much to celebrate

Believe in what you feel inside And give your dreams the wings to fly You have everything you need If you just believe

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Bringing the Joy Back to Christmas: Twelve Days of Thankfulness

 

Day 11

We got to see someone really special to us today. Someone we haven’t seen in over a year. My nephew. He has been in California and on deployment. He is a Marine and we couldn’t be more proud.

My daddy was especially emotional when he saw him, tears of joy and sorrow. The last time we laid eyes on him was at Momma’s funeral. She would’ve loved seeing him today, she was so proud of her Marine grandson. She even had the bumper sticker. “My Grandson is a United States Marine.”  So, when daddy hugged him it brought a mixture of emotions knowing that momma wouldn’t be there to hug him too. Bittersweet.

The entire family travelled to daddy’s house today. My sisters and their husbands and all the grandkids. We opened presents, ate too much food and talked well into the night. It has been so long since we’ve all been in one room, it was the greatest gift I’ve received this year.

Family.

I loved watching everyone open their presents. And for those of you who are my friends on Facebook, my brother-in-law appreciated the doe pee in a can. He promised me it would be put to good use. Not sure exactly what that meant, but I’m glad he liked it.

But, honestly, I would return all my gifts to spend more time with the ones I hold dear. I read a quote recently that I love so much. Something like this, “it’s not what’s under the tree that really matters, it’s who’s around it.” The older I get the more that resonates with me. Stuff can be replaced, but the people in our lives are priceless.

I don’t know who is in your life this Christmas, whether you have lots of family or a just a few or maybe you have friends that are like family. Whoever is around your Christmas tree this year, let them know you love them. Time is fleeting and people come and go from our lives. We’re not promised tomorrow.

So, today, again, I laughed and I cried. Another successful day.

Oh, and I made mocha punch, the same drink I had a Christmas party recently. It was a huge hit!  Let me know if you want the recipe. A friend passed it on to me and I will gladly pass it along to you.

Bringing the Joy Back to Christmas: Twelve Days of Thankfulness

 

Day 10

Today was beautiful.  I really can’t think of a better word to describe it.  It was filled with work, laughter, family, friends, gifts and homemade goodies.  And a few tears.  I heard a quote that I love.  I believe it perfectly summarizes how I want to live out the rest of my days.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.

But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Jim Valvano

Walking this journey of thankfulness through a painful time in my life has reminded me that life will never be without tough times or broken hearts, it’s why life is beautiful.

So today I am thankful for my beautiful broken life.

photo

I was able to experience something I’ve dreamed of doing today as well. Kind of a bucket list thing. We took the kids to see “A Christmas Carol” at the Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery. We loved it. What amazing talent, and what a great story.

It was not lost on me that the theme of this story is thankfulness. The rich Scrooge being so hurt by life experiences that he desperately sought money to try and soothe his heart. The poor Cratchit family needing so much and yet seeing the good in the riches they already had: family, love and joy.

Whatever your station, there’s much to be thankful for. Much to rejoice about this season. Even if it hurts, even if you heart wants to rebel against joy, remember what it means to have a beautiful life. Life will never be perfect, imperfections are what make it beautiful.

So today, I laughed, I cried and I shared with those I love. And I lived a little dream too. I’d say this was a pretty successful day.

We also discovered Jason’s Deli in Montgomery. I am not sure why I had never heard of this place before, but we loved it. The tables were mostly taken so we crammed into a booth with a chair at the end and ate a feast with FREE ice cream for dessert. The booth was a tight squeeze, but that just made the conversation easier to hear. Thankful.

Bringing the Joy Back to Christmas: Twelve Days of Thankfulness

 

Day 9

It is late.  It is raining pretty hard and I can hear the drops pelt our metal roof.   Sitting here on my bed inside my dry house, I feel comfortable and reflective.  I try to write these blog posts at the end of each day.  It gives me a chance to sit and really think about what has happened and to see what really stands out in my mind.  It also helps me to override whatever negative may have happened and focus on the good. 

This twelve days of thankfulness is making a difference in my life.  I am so glad the Lord laid it on my heart.  He is so good.

Tonight we celebrated Christmas with some close friends.  It occurred to me as we were laughing over a silly game how blessed I am.  Rich in all the things that matter. That’s the way I like to think of it.  We have celebrated a lot this season.  From church events to close friends to work associates.   I’ve enjoyed every minute.  Life feels full and joy keeps poking its way deeper and deeper into my heart.

Loving and being loved has got to be one of the greatest blessings in life.   And one of the most painful.  But it is always worth it.  I understand that more and more as time rolls by.

I was in Walgreens today for just a few minutes.  While I was there an older woman bumped into the hand held baskets used for shopping.   They toppled over and hit the floor hard, making quite a racket.  I began to walk over and help her pick them up, but before I could two others had already gotten there and put them back in their upright position.  Realizing I wasn’t needed, I turned to walk away but not before I was struck by how out of the ordinary it was for three strangers to stop and help another stranger.  I smiled to myself as I thought about the lesson I learned on Saturday. (Day 7)  It felt good to do the right thing and not to allow my hectic schedule to steal my joy or my kindness.  What a difference a couple of days and a hard lesson makes.

So, tonight I will go to sleep to the rhythm of the rain.  I will say prayers of thankfulness for the simplest of days, the closest of friends and acts of kindness. 

One more thing, I am also thankful for homemade, still warm from the oven pound cake that was delivered to the office where I work this morning.  Warm cake with coffee is a great way to start any day.

Bringing the Joy Back to Christmas: Twelve Days of Thankfulness

Day 8

Christmas Sunday.  One of my very favorite days of the year.  I love singing the Christmas carols, hearing the Christmas story and feeling the excitement of what’s ahead.  And I love sharing it with my family.  The ones related to me and my church family.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Tonight some of our church members gathered together to sing carols at the homes of those who aren’t able to get out anymore.  It is always one of my favorite events.  Sadly, this year I wasn’t able to sing because of my cold.  But, I was able to stay back and wait for the singers to return from their quest  to eat soup and drink hot cocoa.  While I waited in the fellowship area an older gentleman began playing Christmas carols on his guitar.  Warm turkey noodle soup simmered on the stove making the whole space smell delicious.  It was such a festive atmosphere.

Our church is not very big so to say I know every person there is not an exaggeration. It was such joy to watch the carolers trickle back in from their mission and to eat a warm cozy meal together.  The conversations were wonderful and the food hit the spot.  To me, this type of gathering captures the spirit of the season.  And it gives me a chance to wish the ones who mean so much to me a Merry Christmas.

It also gives those who are able a chance to reach out with hope and cheer to those who aren’t. Singing about the birth of our wonderful Savior.  Sharing the love that our world is so short of these days.  Just being together, re-enforcing community among those of us who believe.  It is just beautiful to watch and to experience and to share.

So, even though I didn’t get to actually be involved in the singing this year, it was still a meaningful, friend-filled joyous night.

I am so thankful for my church family.

And I am also thankful for all the Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel.  Good, clean entertainment night after night.   Watching a good movie is a great ending to a happy day.