I didn’t realize I couldn’t see before I got glasses in the second grade. But I remember a night shortly after getting my super sturdy (and nerdy) frames with the thick bifocal lenses. I was riding in the car with my parents and as I looked out the window at the passing cars, I noticed their lights looked different. Before I had glasses, the lights were big and fuzzy (blurry). After I had glasses, they were smaller and sharper.
Everything, as a matter of fact, was smaller and sharper. It was unsettling to realize that the way I’d been seeing the world was not actually how the world looked. My reality wasn’t real. What I’d believed had actually been a blurred version of the world.
These days I wear contacts and am fully aware of how desperately I need corrective lenses. All it takes is a day when I see my bathtub clearly to remember that I miss a LOT when I leave my contacts and glasses on the sink while I shower. And yet, despite my daily reminders that our vision cannot always be trusted, I forget that when it comes to matters of the heart and soul and life.
The holiday season is here, and with the turkey and our thanks already a distant memory, we can’t deny that it is, indeed, beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But what if what we believe Christmas looks like isn’t true? What if our perspective has been left on the edge of the sink? What if our vision is as blurry as the bokeh in that photo of the lights on your tree?
If you begin feeling anxious or sad or bitter when you see the holidays coming, I’d like to encourage you this year to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then take another look.
Look for a reality check.
Have you been spending too much time on Pinterest, friend? No, really. I know you want a new recipe for the dessert you signed up to take to that dinner. But maybe it’s time to walk away from the 478 World’s Most Beautiful, Gluten-Free, Three-Ingredient Desserts.
When I talk about giving up on perfect, I hear a lot of women ask how they can do that in the face of social media that presents a mess-free and mistake-free life as reality. My answer to that is easy: Quit reading and looking at and following the stuff that stresses you out!
If looking at gorgeous Christmas decor on Instagram makes you hate your own Charlie Brown tree, turn it off.
If reading posts about holiday bucket lists and the 365 Things Women Must Do in 2016 makes you feel like hyperventilating — or curling into a ball on the couch for the next six weeks, stop reading them.
If scrolling through photo after photo of staged and Photoshopped “easy” side dishes makes you feel like a lousy cook, put the Pinterest down.
Seriously, you all. Search for “Pinterest fail” or “mom confessions” or “holiday disasters” at least once this season and remember that nobody’s life is perfect, and sometimes the uneven decorations are their favorite and the ugly food tastes the best.
Look for someone to help.
Sometimes we simply need to take our minds off the parts of the holidays that bring us down. And nothing will give you a new perspective faster than helping others. Whether it’s helping a sick friend finish her gift-wrapping or card-addressing or helping the less fortunate by donating toys or food or money, there are needs you can meet — no matter who you are or what your situation is. And doing that will undoubtedly help you forget a few of your burdens or remember the abundance you actually have.
Look for the blessings.
Sometimes our holiday anxiety stems from more serious matters than fancy recipes and napkins folded in the shape of Christmas trees. Sometimes the holidays bring up wounds that haven’t healed, losses that are still fresh, regrets that feel overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to find any joy in this world.
But it’s there! I promise you the joy is still there; you might just need to adjust your lens a little bit to find the blessings — even this year, even this time, even this Christmas.
If the holidays are hard for you this year, look for the blessings. Start with the small things and count them. Even if it feels insincere, thank God for another day, for breath in your lungs, for a promise He’s made that you’re still holding onto, for that one person who cares, for the lights or song that makes you smile, just a little bit, even if through tears. Look for the blessings that are still there, even when the holidays are hard.
Look for a new tradition.
If your holiday season looks very different this year than the ones in years past, it’s okay to grieve that loss. It’s okay to mourn with the memories of smiles and visits and carols and casseroles and hugs and games. But maybe, just maybe, it’s also time to start fresh.
If this year is going to be different, odds are you can’t change that. But what would it look like if you started a new tradition? If you revised your plan, refreshed your outlook — and let God redeem this season?
I know we face a million different things that can make the holiday season a rough one, friends. But as I remember the way a pair of glasses changed my world thirty years ago, I am hopeful a new lens for the holidays could change us today.
My prayer for you, for me, for all of us is that we will look for Truth and those who need our help, that we will count our blessings and create new traditions, and that we will find a laser focus on the Lord this holiday season.
If you are struggling with this season, I’d like to offer you some encouragement. I’ve written an ebook called, Choosing Joy When the Holidays Are Hard, and you can find it on my blog.