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5 Steps to a Joy-Filled December

by Janyre Tromp

Christmas is a few weeks away. Do those six words make your heart rate increase just a bit? Me too.

The to-do list is long, and we desperately want December to be perfect. If you’ve hung out with me at all, you know I’m terrible at balancing actually getting stuff done and not feeling like the crazy lady who walks between rooms talking to herself, saying, “I was doing something. What was I doing?” Or other such drivel.

But it occurred to me recently that God says things like, “Be still and know,” and “Take delight in the Lord,” and even “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him.”

Hold the glitter. Let’s look at that a bit more closely.

God wants to hang out with you and have fun in the process. In fact, I’m pretty sure there is no such verse in the Bible that says, “Go ye therefore and run yourself crazy.”

So what’s an overachieving, Pinterest and Instagram fanatic to do?

1. Pause.

When you’re the one tasked to deck the halls, deliver two front teeth and figure out how to fit a hippopotamus under the tree, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Scripture has a remedy for the holiday-induced spinning head. Be still.

There are, in fact, more than a few verses that encourage us to pause (I found almost 30 in just a quick search). So if your heart is pounding, or you feel paralyzed by one more thing, stop. Sit down and . . .

2. Listen.

If our first step is “be still,” we find our second at the end of the same Scripture, “and know.” Know that God has it covered.

In other words, you don’t control the world, and trying to do so will make you feel like a failure.

Girlfriend, let perfectionism go.

Of course the toilets do need to be cleaned at some point, and you probably should buy a present for your in-laws.

What’s a gal to do?

First, stop doing the things that rub your soul wrong. If you keep going, you’ll end up with a blister. Don’t volunteer to run the kids’ Christmas party if it isn’t your jam and you’ve done it the last four years in a row. Ask someone else to be treasurer of the mother-daughter tea.

Whatever it is, you are hereby allowed to say no. In fact, get the drops for your toilet tank, use paper plates, recruit your mom to vacuum, shove everything in the laundry room and shut the door.

Second, approach God and ask Him for His plan. As a human, you are given time and energy in daily rations from God. Sometimes the best thing to do when you’re overwhelmed is to take time to listen. List out what you’d like to get done, and then prioritize. Finally cross off the bottom of the list. If it isn’t required, don’t do it.

3. Breathe.

Take this literally. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale again.

Now if you’re tired, schedule breathing space: read, get your nails done, dance, play a video game, watch the World Cup, take a nap . . . the key is to do whatever sounds good to you at the moment.

And here’s another thought: If the point of all the festivities is to make a place for your people to gather, we shouldn’t treat fellowship as a distraction from the to-do list. Sometimes it works to invite your friends and family into the to-do list—bake, decorate, wrap presents while watching Hallmark movies together.

Does making a meal sound overwhelming? Try a stone soup approach. Provide the broth and a bit of meat and have everyone bring something to contribute.

4. Play.

I think sometimes we feel like life is a drudgery, but the “joy of the Lord is our strength.”

Joy is what gives us strength! It’s permission to do what you love.

For me watching nature allows me to set down the weapon of reason, and forget, for a moment, the clamoring questions that hunch over me. Of course, I’m an editor by trade, so words and logic are my bread and butter, but laughing over a card game untangles me from black and white words and reveals the glorious field of someone’s pink flowers on slender green blades—the color so intense it glows.

Of course, December invites a multitude of gorgeous traditions—Advent candles, menorahs, baking cookies, touring neighborhood Christmas displays. My favorite is the candlelit Christmas Eve service. Just the quiet simplicity of the night and singing carols seem to calm my frantic spirit.

Whatever is playful to you, God gives you permission to experience the joy.

5. Release.

I have a secret to tell you. I am not perfect. And you aren’t either. We are not going to do this holiday celebration thing perfectly. But the final tip I have is not to let your struggle set you back. Here’s a guilt-releasing fact: God blessed Jacob because he struggled with God (Gen. 32:22–32).

So wherever you find yourself today, set aside that checklist and find a little joy of the season.

Janyre Tromp is a historical novelist who spins tales that hunt for beauty, even when it isn’t pretty. She’s the best-selling author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and co-author of O Little Town. She’s also the chief chaos wrangler of her family and menagerie of pets. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Grab a free copy of her novella Wide Open on her website:


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