This Christmas season, I have struggled to find my cheer. Yesterday marked 1 year since my dad’s cancer surgery, and he’s been cancer free ever since. Jay’s family melts nicely into mine for the holidays and we are one big happy family.

So why is the joy of Christmas so elusive for me?

Happiness is all around. Facebook is filled with beautiful pictures from friends’ Christmas trees and lights. The bell ringers at the grocery sing the 12 days of Christmas. Holiday parties fill the calendar.

Yet some days, I just want to throw on a hoodie and not come out from under the covers.

If I’m placing blame elsewhere, I will chastise the braggarts who’ve posted their seasonal decorations online. “Look at me, I am fabulous!” I hear their pictures say. Until I look at my Facebook memory bank and see pictures of my home, every year since Jay and I got married.

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The truth is more complicated. My daily medication manages my anxiety and depression. So well, that I sometimes think  I’ve emotionally and spiritually outgrown it. Then it rears its ugly head and I’m proven wrong.

The answer, for me at least, is equally complicated. Get plenty of rest, but not too much. Not enough and anxiety comes out to play. Too much and depression creeps in. How does such a vague solution look in practice?

O Christmas Tree

When getting off the couch seems like effort, decorating our 9 foot Christmas tree is overwhelming. In years past, I’ve attempted to manage the beast in one evening.

Designating an evening resulted in a tree up and decorated in a timely manner. It also resulted in many tears and tantrums. I wish I were kidding. Frustration with a lack of perfection even landed me in a self imposed time-out.

This year, however, I decorated the tree over a period of a week. Jay put the tree together one evening. I fluffed and added extra lights the next. Then here and there I added the ornaments.

Although for some this 15-minutes at a time approach might take the fun out of decorating, for me it meant enjoying the process far more than I ever have in the past.

Music

I resist the urge to start Christmas music too early in the season, but after Thanksgiving all bets are off. I rotate between several different holiday channels and music providers (Google Play and Pandora being my favorites) to make sure no one song gets overplayed.

Of course I have the traditional favorites, but I also enjoy the Jesus is the Reason station and the Christmas Jazz selections. Some goofy songs like Dominic the Donkey never fail to bring a smile to my face. While others get my feet dancing, such as Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas to Remember.

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I’m not sure why or how a song can change my mood, but I know they do. Thankfully my next Christmas tune is never more than a few clicks away.

Scripture Writing

A friend posted this Christmas scripture writing plan on our Bible Study Facebook page. Since the beginning of the month, I’ve been copying the prescribed verses daily.

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I have found it especially helpful on the days when I just can’t muster the emotional energy to process deep truths. This way, I can be active in the Word even when I’m not feeling it.

Perspective

A year ago, I talked with a friend who’s father also had cancer. This week, her family will bury him. My daddy just returned from yet another mission trip, his 3rd this year.

Life is hard. Sometimes, knowing I’m not alone in my sadness helps. Putting my situation in perspective allows me to be thankful for what I have, rather than focus on what I don’t.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share stories of others who wrestle with heartache during the holiday season. My prayer is that by sharing, people who aren’t so cheerful could find peace, a way to cope, or perhaps even a spirit of joy this Christmas.

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