If you've ever been to my house at Christmas, you've seen a large painting above my fireplace that looks, well, a lot like the one perched on our kitchen table tree. I painted it when I was pregnant with Phoebe, and it is by far my favorite Christmas decoration. It's a 2'x3' reminder to be joyful. (Sometimes I think it needs to be billboard sized, just to get the message into my thick skull. Do you ever feel this way?) Every January, it hurts a little bit to take it down...and I always look forward to getting it out when the decorating begins.
This year, Phoebe was helping me decorate when I pulled the painting out from behind the crib. Phoebe was amazed (as has been her precious response for all Christmas decorations this year), but was especially delighted to know that her Mommy had painted it all by herself. Phoebs immediately wanted to paint one just like it (but in pink, of course). And since I happened to have a small canvas available, I happily obliged.
Phoebe did a beautiful job on her painting, and she was adamant that it need to hang on our Jesse Tree in the kitchen. So now, I have not one but two bold reminders to seek after joy this Christmas season. And since I spend about 80 percent of my waking hours in the living room or the kitchen, I'm seeing these reminders all day long. (See? Sometimes God does send us billboards...)
Last Christmas season, joy was hard for me to find. I wasn't sleeping at night, I didn't have the energy to "do" Christmas, and I was struggling with what I now think was some postpartum depression. I wanted desperately to feel the joy of Christmas, but I mostly came up emptyhanded.
I began this Christmas season determined to choose joy. And it was easy, at least at the start. Joy was all over the faces of my girls as they marveled at Christmas lights and trees and ornaments and music. My heart has been more at rest this Christmas. It's easy to be joyful in the loveliness of Christmas, isn't it? But enter a little trial, and I'm ready to let the grumbling creep in.
I've struggled with back and hip pain with all of my pregnancies, but this pregnancy has been the worst by far. Sciatic nerve pain has hit earlier and harder, and I'm feeling pretty sidelined right now. I threw myself a little pity party about it yesterday, and then today I am confronted by the verse in my kitchen leftover from Thanksgiving (yes, my chalkboard still says Happy Thanksgiving):
"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18
1 Thessalonians 5:18
And then, I saw Phoebe's pint-sized joy painting that gave me an extra large hit of conviction. It reminded me of this verse:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds..."
Being thankful in everything. As in, in the middle of back pain. In the middle of a whiny car ride home. In the middle of a sleepless night. In the middle of dust bunnies and diaper blowouts and skipped naps. And then? Choosing joy in the midst of trial. It's not the Christmas Joy I was thinking of, honestly... but perhaps it's just the joy I need the grace to choose this Advent season.