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For her, Christmas is a time of stress and disappointment. She planned months in advance. She pays attention throughout the year to make sure she is listening and will find the right gift. Then she wraps them in beautiful Christmas paper and big bows and displays them under the tree. She spends hours and she has worked alone and all the pressure is on her shoulders.

Christmas morning comes and she is excited to see the joy from her family. The gifts are unwrapped in record time and she barely got to see the reactions. Her daughter is excited about her jeans, but when she tries them on, they don’t fit right. Or her son comments he already has that game and she feels his disappointment.

There’s one last hope, as she turns to her spouse as he opens the gift. She has put a lot of thought into it, he is hard to buy for, but she feels he will be excited. She waits with anticipation as he opens the gift, he smiles and says thank you, but she was hoping for something more.

Another Christmas, she questions herself whether she has failed. All her hard work has gone unnoticed and what she enjoys the most at Christmas, seeing the excitement from her family, did not happen.

Hey, I’ve been there. Feeling deflated because you wanted so much to have that perfect Christmas morning. You wanted to make your family happy.

Well, if you have teenagers, or pre-teens, they will never act like the three-year-old they use to be, the one who was so excited for the gift and the box it came in. I have many pictures of my kids in the big box that a toy came in… thinking I could have saved money and just gotten the box. [ha]

The darkness in this world loves to get in your head and tell you you are not worthy. Or maybe tell you you’re not a good parent because your kids weren’t excited. Or make you feel you have just wasted time and money, and you are not appreciated.

Don’t let the darkness take the joy from your Christmas or your life. If you listen to those voices, they will get louder and take over. Don’t let that happen.

At church this past week, our pastor said “Happiness is a moment, but Joy is what is deep in your heart.”

I want to live and let my joy shine. I want to find joy in my life and let it flourish. I don’t want to let the holiday crazy, or life's crazy, fade my joy.

As written above, she let her preconceived expectations steal her joy. I don’t want to build my life around expectations that it has to ‘look a certain way’ or that everyone will react as I have pictured in my head.

Instead of being disappointed, look at the good. You did it. You planned it all. You are happy and joyous with your accomplishments. Who knows why they didn’t react the way you pictured, if your kids are like mine, it’s a roll of the dice every day on their mood and how they will react to something. [ha]

If it’s your spouse, who knows what is going through their head. Maybe they are worried about the money spent or feeling guilty for not helping or overwhelmed by the mess or maybe just not awake yet. Ask them if it bothers you; talk about it.

I encourage you to find the joy in your heart. Be proud of you and what you have done. Take a moment to look in the mirror and say “Nice Job!” Smile because it is a good thing, find your joy.

And, if you are like me, and started your shopping just a week ago, be proud of getting it started. I am way behind this year, but it’s all good, every little thing, is gonna be all right!

When your mind starts to step away from joy, stop, acknowledge the thought, and change it. Listen to music that makes you happy, write down things you are thankful for, or talk to someone who brightens your day. Find a few things that work for you, keep them handy and keep your joy top of mind.

There is only one person on earth you can control and that is yourself. You can change your thoughts, sometime easier than others, but you can. You are strong. You are in control of you. And most importantly, you have joy in your heart!

Don’t let go of your joy, instead fuel it and let it shine! iChoose Joy!

Sending peace, love, and joy to you my friend! Sam

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