Most of the world enters December with excitement and anticipation. Christmas is a month of lights and decorating, events and parties, festive food, presents and family.
But for so many, the holidays are not merry and bright. When Christmas is hard, it’s another stark reminder of who is missing and all that has changed.
I remember how my heart sank four years ago at the thought of facing our first Christmas without Dan. I so wanted it to be a happy time for my family and I so wanted to make good memories for my children. But how in the world could we muster any kind of excitement? Our life had turned inside out and we were in deep grief.
We desperately needed joy. We needed something that would help us not just get through the days but something that would help us enjoy them.
And so, that Christmas four years ago, we started a new tradition. We called it Days of Joy and our goal was to find a way to bless someone else each day. Somehow we knew enough to realize that by God’s design, a huge key to finding joy for ourselves again was to serve others.
That Christmas became marked by intention to bless others. We celebrated Days of Joy through acts of blessing. We didn’t do it every day; I didn’t want it to become a chore itself. But throughout the month, we purposely looked for ways to bring joy to others.
On one of the very first days, we set a cooler of sodas and a plate of chocolate chip cookies by the curb early one morning and watched from the window as our trash collectors stopped their huge truck, got out to read my children’s note and then emptied that cooler, swooped up the cookies and loaded back into the truck.
You know what? It worked. It was like a shot of pure joy and we began to look for other ways to bless. We wrapped presents for Toys for Tots, gave away outgrown coats, put together bags for the homeless and wrote letters to our Compassion child.
We were hooked. This Days of Joy thing was working better than I could have imagined. It didn’t mean we didn’t grieve. We still cried plenty and we still grieved and missed Dan intensely.
There was pain, but there was also joy. In the hardest and saddest days we’d ever known, we were fighting for joy. Each act of blessing helped us smile, see needs outside of our family, and deepen our compassion. We did make memories. I will forever remember that first hard Christmas as a tender time where we chased hard after joy.
Today we start our fourth December celebrating Days of Joy. We’ll sit down and plan some ways that we can show joy to someone else.
But, this year I want to add something else in. This year, I want to teach my kids still at home to follow God’s spontaneous prompting to bless someone. That kind of service can’t be calendared.
It means we’ll have to open our ears to hear and be ready to obey. It might mean interruptions. It might stretch us and I sure hope it will surprise us.
If you’d like to celebrate Days of Joy this month, I have some prints to share with you! I made note cards to hand out this year. Whether we sign our name or give anonymously, I want to attach a handwritten note to tell them why we’re doing it.
For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
May this season bring great joy to you. If you’re going through a hard Christmas, I pray that God will surprise you with joy in the midst of the hard as He carries you through this season.
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