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The other side of joy

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Twenty-five years ago my hubby, then-boyfriend, went out of town to see his family for the holidays.  He handed over the keys to his house so that I could keep an eye on things and feed his cat.  Now Danny wasn’t and still isn’t much of a Christmas person.  Having grown up with abuse and neglect, the season holds entirely different connotations to him than it does for me. 

The first night of his trip my sisters and I went shopping.  We bought a small Christmas tree, a little nativity, and some garland and other decorations.  I was so excited as we drove up to his house and pulled into the driveway…

…then I was crestfallen when I discovered not one of the keys he’d given me opened a single lock on the entire house.  As I stood on the steps, listening to the plaintiff cries of the cat inside wondering where her dinner was, I made the only decision I could.  I tested the windows until I found one I could open and crawl through!

All I could think of as my backside was wriggling into his home was what the newspapers might say when the police discovered me, a young college student, breaking into the home of the local museum director!

But that was all worth it to see the look on Danny’s face when he returned to find his home lit up for Christmas. 

So here we are, December 2021, and It’s the most wonderful time of the year! again.

But is it really?  A few weeks ago my pastor said something overwhelmingly simple.  Christmastime is like a magnifying glass.  Those who love holidays experience extreme joy and happiness.  For those who are troubled, it just amplifies the sadness.

And there are a whole, whole lot of us right now who are troubled.  The chances are that at least one person who reads this is suffering from seasonal depression.  And even for those of us who wouldn’t be diagnosed as “clinically depressed” most of us experience some form of sadness during the holidays. The past two years have been difficult.  Uncertainty, fear, disease, death, financial hardships.  Most of us are experiencing something that’s making this time of year difficult.

“Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” 

C.S. Lewis

I’ve been thinking a lot about something I wrote a while back about God’s recipe for manna and how the Lord had put people in my path during times when I needed help.  But I also wrote about how His lesson was twofold because there are times when I know that He’s using me to fulfill that purpose for someone else. 

Those who are recovered from addiction know the importance of helping others.  The co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous discovered just how important when he reached a particularly low point after he’d given up alcohol.  A business venture fell through, and he was left alone and in misery over his failure.  Instead of going into the bar for a drink as he first contemplated, he instead called on a local church to find out if there might be someone there who needed help.  And that was when he met Dr. Bob, his fellow co-founder.  Helping Bob into recovery broke the cycle of negative thoughts by replacing them with thoughts of someone else. 

Danny and I have volunteered to ring the Salvation Army bell at my building for at least the last seven or so years.  We always have a lot of fun, cutting up and making spectacles of ourselves.  But it’s truly one of the highlights of our Christmas festivities.  For two “people-watchers,” we enjoy seeing the different folks who stop to drop a few coins into the bucket.  This year one gentleman came by, his teeth glistened in a humongous smile, as he put his donation into the kettle, “You know they [the Salvation Army]helped me when I was having a real bad time.”

And I was reminded of how the circle of life continues.  Others help us, we help others, then the helping itself comes right back to us in a sense of joy and purpose. 

So my challenge to you this holiday season is to spread the joy.  If you’re one of the ones who go all out, get caught up in the spirit like a little child… keep it up, my friend.  Smile BIG.  Hold the door open for someone.  Say Merry Christmas every chance you get.  The person on the other end of that smile or gesture might need it more than you can know.  It just might lift you up too.  Or if you’re suffering, if you’re worried, if you’re afraid, look out for the helpers as Mr. Rogers called them. Look for those who are handing you their joy in honor of thousands of years ago when the greatest gift the world has ever known was made man and came to earth for you.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2: 10-11

Merry Christmas, friends.

Love, Candace Hardin Sessums

Danny shared this video with me a few nights ago.  I hope it moves and inspires you as much as it did me.

By oliviahardinwriter

When Olivia Hardin started having movie-like dreams in her teens, she had no choice but to begin putting them to paper. Before long, the writing bug had bitten her, and she knew she wanted to be a published author. Several rejections plus a little bit of life later, she was temporarily “cured” of the urge to write. That is, until she met a group of talented and fabulous writers who gave her the direction and encouragement she needed to get lost in the words again. Olivia has attended three different universities over the years and toyed with majors in Computer Technology, English, History and Geology. Then one day she heard the term “road scholar,”' and she knew that was what she wanted to be. Now she “studies” anything and everything just for the joy of learning. She's also an insatiable crafter who only completes about 1 out of 5 projects, a jogger who hates to run, and she’s sometimes accused of being artistic. A native Texas girl, Olivia lives in the beautiful Lone Star state with her husband, Danny, their corgi Bonnie Sue, and their new rescue Heidi Ho.

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