Present in Joy

This Christmas, I choose to be present. It’s taken me awhile to embrace those words.So much grief and sadness surrounded me in years past, making the concept of Christmas a heavy anvil that sat on my chest. Breathing in present felt like a weight of silent pain that I alone carried. My heart was not strong enough to hold all the happiness and heartbreak that comes with being fully present.

Moment by moment we all dance between yesteryear and the chord of now. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find who I was, the woman of years back and the girl I never let myself know.

Present is growing on me! It feels like an uncanny merit to simply rest in the now.

This season, I’m letting my heart choose to be present in joy. I am learning joy. Circumstances do not rock it’s sheath. It’s a gentleman that stealthily waltzes in, gently guiding life’s dance. Joy bares sobriety and holy hope. And once you meet joy it’s awfully hard to formally let go.

Joy chooses what is true and just. Joy guards our loins so we’re not flabbergasted. Joy steadies our footing for each step of the battle.

Joy isn’t a plastic happiness, it’s an authentic mantra of gratitude.

I absolutely love the scripture, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

Joy is holy strength. It’s not a feel good tune or one hit wonder. God’s lasting joy lingers long after the last of the party guests. Joy is the Spirit whispering in our ear, reminding us that we are not alone.

We all need joy.

Christmas can strike much personal grief and for me there have been a places for that. Through my own recovery I’ve learned God is sovereign during all seasons.  Even now as I sit down to write, memories of Christmas past flash back. Many scenes still strike sore places on my heart, signaling a weight of sadness. During the most inopportune days, heaviness of the past seeks to compresses my heart.  Yet I feel the Spirit blowing robust wind in my sails, renewing my concept of Christmas.

I’ve grown to see that joy is strength and strength is joy.

For the first time in years, I am ready for a healthy dose of Christmas. I’m anticipating new moments, rustic traditions, time with loved ones, carols, chocolate cake, eggnog, moments of stillness and the bustling busyness.

Christmas does not need commercialized perfection. There is mess and beauty found at the manger scene. Christmas is never ideal. Our stories are not Hallmark movies and neither were Jesus’.

Take a moment to picture the Nativity. There was no room for pregnant Mary and her husband Joseph in the inn at Bethlehem.  Mary had no choice but to birth her first son Jesus in a stable and make his crib a barn yard feeding tray. Instead of a doctor or a midwife, she labored around camels and sheep. Talk about a birth plan not going as planned!

Yet, even in unforeseen circumstances, the joy for Jesus’ birth could not be shattered. God sent angels to summon nearby shepherds to visit the couple and baby Jesus. I believe God brought the shepherds as encouragers to Mary and Joseph, a sign saying you’re not alone.  We all need that, especially around Christmas. The inaugural Christmas shows that even in our accidental, broken and dysfunctional Christmas we are not found alone or without capacity for joy.

I love how the nativity scene is a picture of gracious worship. It’s where humanity kisses divine. It’s a keen display of ordinary people living in a less than perfect Christmas.  It’s a true image of bona fide jubilation. If you sit with it long enough, you can not shake the image of the original Christmas.

This Christmas I’m choosing to not pine for perfection but to be present in the imperfection. I’m no longer avoiding the mess, I am stepping in. I’m choosing to honor moments of sadness and happiness. Letting my heart know that the joy of the Lord is strong enough to handle reality. I’m ready to embrace my gorgeous rumpled Christmas and I am anticipating my volume of glee to increase.

So with a rejoicing heart, I say, “Welcome Christmas!”

Anna Smith Anna Smith is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Restore One, where she works diligently on their chief project, The Anchor House. The Anchor House will be the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.