Photo courtesy of Kristen May
"If you look for it, you will find that Christmas feeling in the smallest of things."
Can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner? This year has just flown by and the fact that the Christmas season is in full swing along with the familiar sights, sounds and stressors seems unreal.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
The sounds of Christmas are all around us despite what is going on right now in our world. I hear carols on the radio, children laughing and well-wishers saying, “Merry Christmas!” I gave my students colouring books this year as a gift and while they worked happily, a few of us had a spontaneous dance party in the classroom to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree. Their excitement was absolutely infectious. When you are a child there is lots of excited chatter and giggles this time of year. Oh, to be a kid again! When I see these moments I wish I could bottle them and save them for a rainy day when I am needing a much-needed ray of sunshine. Kids are so precious! It is heartwarming to hear them enjoying the season, despite all the chaos and uncertainty a global pandemic brings.
Do You See What I See?
Christmas decorations and holiday themed artwork adorn homes, halls, and school classroom doors. A dear custodian at my school Denise set up special Christmas inflatables at work for a fun surprise for the students and staff. She is so thoughtful and kind. It sure brought a lot of much needed laughter and smiles to an otherwise routine day. Hustle and bustle are also in the air. I am working to complete all my Christmas shopping as I am determined to avoid the last-minute rush this year.
I see lots of festive sights, yet amongst that I see discouraged people as well. I see you. I know how you feel. I understand. Christmas is just not the same this year for a variety of reasons. Please know it will not always be this way. There will come a day where things improve and masks and social distancing will be a thing of the past. I find comfort in that.
Do You Feel What I Feel?
Nostalgia? Excitement? Fatigue? Stress? Maybe a combination of all four? For women especially I find the Christmas season brings it all. It is easy to focus on the “work” of getting ready for the Christmas season and miss out on the joy. I saw a quote that said, “ I have come to realize that the magic of Christmas was really just the work of a mom who loved me very much.” When the kids were little I especially felt it on Christmas Eve trying to make everything perfect for them before they woke up Christmas morning. Getting everything done on time for everyone is certainly no easy task. Take a deep breath. Regroup and try to relax and take in the moment as hard as that may be at times.
Do You Know What I Know?
Christmas comes and goes so quickly, and we need to make a conscious effort to be emotionally present and enjoy it. Cherish the time with family and friends and keep on making precious memories. Don't let Covid 19 steal your Christmas spirit. Put your foot down my friend! This nasty virus has already taken so much from you, don't let it have your Christmas too! Remember that it is not about the gifts, meal or decorations but truly about having those you love around you.
Finally, don’t forget that Jesus is the true reason for the season. He is the whole purpose of why we celebrate this blessed holiday in the first place. Santa Claus is special indeed but let's remember who truly deserves the spotlight.
I wish you and yours a wonderful and very Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous new year. Make this a Christmas to remember. I know that is my goal.
~ Until next time,
Romans 15:13 ~ May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.
Little Lesson Learned: The sounds, sights and experiences of Christmas are still ours for the taking. Make a decision to really take it all in this year. I know I intend to.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
The Christmas season is upon us and once again it is hard to believe how fast the year has gone by. The hustle and bustle of the season can leave us with a variety of emotions ranging from excitement to complete exhaustion.
As a young girl I loved to watch the Christmas specials every year. Among the cherished favourites was A Charlie Brown’s Christmas, which my siblings and I watched with great pleasure as a special and cherished family tradition. Christmas was always a happy time for me growing up. I came from a strong, Christian family who loved each other dearly and put Christ at the center of Christmas. Christmas and life in general were all that it should be in my corner of the world and I was very unfamiliar with anything different. Naively I assumed that most families had the same experience as I did. With this is mind, it is understandable how I could not identify with people who did not have the joy of the season.
I recall being very confused when Charlie Brown confides in Lucy that he is struggling with feelings of sadness over the holidays, yet to his dismay he can’t quite pinpoint the reason. As a child that seemed inconceivable to me that anyone, especially a child could be sad at Christmas. Fortunately for Charlie Brown he made it through the holidays. With the support of friends and getting engaged in holiday traditions such as being involved in a Christmas play; he eventually finds peace and joy over the holidays. Needless to say though, it was definitely a painful process for him.
As I got older, it made so much sense to me. I came to realize that many people in life are very much like Charlie Brown. He was not as exceptional as I had once imagined. The holidays lose their magic as you age and others too had difficulty with the holiday season. For some depression and sadness linger over the holidays like a heavy cloak. They hear songs like It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year over the loud speaker and all they want to do is cry. For them this time of year is anything but wonderful and certainly not the “happiest season of all,” as the song states. Many people have deep sorrow and sadness in their lives throughout the year and the holidays can only accentuate that further in many cases. Many have lost loved ones and their painful absence at a family get-together can be almost unbearable. Where some may hope the Christmas season like magic can make all sadness disappear, this is realistically not the case.
In my work as a clinical social worker at the Salvation Army I heard many sad stories of lives torn apart from substance abuse, poverty, great loss, and family dysfunction. It was especially difficult at Christmas for many. With all their other problems, these people were often living below the poverty line, so purchasing gifts was extremely challenging. This is where the joy of giving rather than receiving really took action. The Salvation Army provides food baskets and toys for needy families year after year and it was so exciting to be a part of that rewarding process. As I would hand out bags of toys to thankful parents it was extremely touching to see the gratitude and relief on their faces. They knew that their Christmas would be a bit brighter due a little help from a caring community.
The carol Joy to the World understandably comes to mind when pondering this season. The lyrics are “Joy to the world. The Lord is come. Let Heaven and nature sing. Let every heart prepare him room.” The last line really hits home. The concept of “let every heart prepare Him room” is very thought provoking. This speaks of the need and desire we all have to experience true joy, yet we need to make room for the One who is the "true joy giver."
Individually the choice is ours. I was taught in Sunday school that to have true joy (J-O-Y), it meant to have Jesus first (J) others next (O) and yourself last. (Y) This does seem like a winning formula, yet many have not discovered this yet. Each person needs to prepare Christ room in his or her heart, yet many have not taken that important step. Hearts can be so full of other desires, dreams, and pursuits that people miss the true reason they were created.
We were created to love God and put Him first. It says in God’s word Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33) The “all these things” that this verse is speaking of includes the joy that we all are seeking. When we have our priorities straight and Christ is at the center of our lives, He helps us each day to discover the joy we desire.
We were never promised a perfect life as Christ followers, but we were also never meant to live this life on our own. In each one of us there is a deep void that longs to be filled to make us whole, and healthy individuals. Too many people are living life on autopilot. Their lives have become routine, perhaps comfortable, yet sadly no passion remains. Too often people seek to fill that void with fleeting whims and fancies and their joy dissipates like a puff of smoke. Empty and frustrated, they wonder when their lives will change. The Bible says that Christ came as a baby at Christmas to lead us to a life that is abundant and full, not stressful, and meaningless.
Are there any Charlie Brown’s out there? Do you feel that there is joy everywhere else but in your corner of the world? Don’t despair. Happiness is a choice and with God by our sides, the burdens we carry become more bearable. This Christmas can be a real turning point for all of us if we allow it. As we choose to let Christ’s joy penetrate our lives, it spills out to others and changes us for the better.
Have you “prepared Him room” in your heart or perhaps you need to “prepare Him more room” in your heart? These are questions only you can answer. Allowing Christ into your life and heart is the greatest Christmas gift you can give yourself. Preparing room for Him in your heart will put you on the path to the most joy filled and purposeful life you have ever known. The gift is just waiting for you! Won’t you open and receive it this Christmas?
~ Until next time,
Nehemiah 8:10 ~ Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Little Lesson Learned: A relationship with Christ is the best gift you could give yourself this holiday season. If you have never received this gift, won’t you consider it?
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
“No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop
Life is pretty crazy these days with all that is going on. Our plates are often so full we can feel that reaching out a helping hand to others in need is beyond our capabilities. It is empowering to realize that despite that feeling of overwhelm we can often experience, when we are willing to open our eyes to the wide world around us, taking the focus off ourselves beautiful things can happen in and through us.
I remember one special Christmas when I worked at the library there was a lovely older gentleman, a war veteran who I got to know very well. He loved the old black and white movie Sergeant York that we had available at the library. He would borrow it often as he could make such profound connections to this classic story of a soldier and the unique struggles he experienced on the battlefields representing his country. He even asked if he could buy it from us as the story meant so much to him. Unfortunately, that was not a possibility, but as I looked into his sad eyes, I knew that it had become my personal mission to find that sweet man his own personal copy of Sergeant York if it was the last thing I did. God laid in on my heart and I understood the assignment. Sometimes you just know that God has enlisted you on a special and specific task to be His hands and feet and bless others and it is life changing. It can be very exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time yet nevertheless, away I went on my quest!
I scoured the internet to no avail but on a trip to the mall I was delighted to find a solitary copy of this beloved old movie! It was a bargain for me, worth every penny and I knew it would be absolutely priceless for him. Arrangements were made to meet and bless him with this video and when he received it, he was very pleasantly surprised. We both cried. He was beyond grateful. I was so delighted to do this for him. A small gesture that meant so much, and the two of us sure shared a special moment that day that is certain.
Years ago, I had the pleasure of singing in a trio with my cousin Lisa and dear friend Lisa. One of our signature songs that we sang was called “We Are His Hands” by Whiteheart. It speaks of whatever you have to offer, give it to God and he will use it for His glory to bless others.
I used to have a lot of self doubt. I would get caught up in a “Why me?” mentality. When I had been asked to do things in the past, I had a dozen reasons of why I was unqualified and why I was clearly the wrong woman for the job. Now I look at things differently, and ask myself … “Why not me?” I realized that however unqualified I may feel, God can still use me and teach me things I never imagined.
My first job in my career as a social worker before I was a teacher was a Substance Abuse Coordinator. In this role I provided counselling and led workshops on addictions. I remember on my very first day receiving a call from a frantic and desperate mother who needed to know how she could know if her son was using a specific drug. In my heart I totally panicked because I was just learning too. I was so unprepared. Rather than show her my insecurities though, I put her on hold and grabbed a great informational pamphlet on that particular drug and calmly shared all the info she was needing reading right off the pamphlet. She was so appreciative and none the wiser. I pulled it off and I was so relieved.
The Bible talks of when we are weak that He is strong. Partnering with God is amazing. If you are chosen, he will equip you to get the job done, and to get it done well. Everything that is done for God is meaningful and has value. Never underestimate it.
Believe in yourself and that you can make a profound difference to others in big and small ways. Look around you. Hurting people are everywhere. Maybe your kindness is just what is needed to get them back on track again. You bring much to the table and you just might be the one to bring that discouraged friend the answer to what he or she has been praying for.
Until next time,
Little Lesson Learned: God can use anyone who is open and willing. Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to bless others. Partnering with God is very exciting.
Ephesians: 2:10 We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash
It was School Picture Day this week at my school which always generates lots of excitement. This year was especially exciting because we haven’t been able to do school pictures for quite some time now due to Covid 19. I teach Grade 2/3 this year and the pictures I have of them in our home and school communication program are quite outdated for that reason. For fun I pulled each student’s adorable picture up on the big screen that I had of them from a couple of years ago. They have grown up so much! Super sweet! There were lots of giggles and ahhhs as the cuteness overload factor was certainly in full force.
Pictures capture a moment in time. They can encapsulate our highs, lows, and almost everything in between. It is fun to take a stroll down memory lane from time to time and recall special memories of times gone by. We smile for the camera and try to put our best foot forward. Some pictures evoke joy and laughter. Others can bring tears and sadness, but all are a piece of the puzzle that we call our lives.
It is often what the camera doesn’t show that is so poignant, however. It doesn’t show the story behind the story, but more often the highlight reel.
Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash
Snapshot One: Marriage
I look at pictures of my wedding back in 1992. It seems so long ago. Here Phil and I are now almost 30 years later still going strong, and building a happy life together as a couple. I was so lonely, back then as I was trying to find a boyfriend. I worried that love would pass me by. I had no job, and no prospects. Phil was literally the boy next store that I never met until I started a summer job as a housekeeper for his mom. I got a job and a husband all in one. God works in strange ways and I am blessed!
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
Snapshot Two: Motherhood
When I reflect on pictures of me as a new mom, I laugh about how little I knew back then. I remember Phil and I taking Tyler home from the hospital feeling how it this even allowed that we could take him home when we are so new at this? It was surreal as I had envisioned this day for so long. After miscarriages and fertility struggles the baby I had prayed for was finally here. I was a MOM! I feared this day would never come. It wasn’t easy getting to this moment, but Tyler brought us so much joy. Soon after we did it all over again. This time we welcomed a ray of sunshine, a baby girl named Shannon. Sure, raising babies and toddlers is very difficult but in the end, so rewarding. You blink it seems though and those babies turn into kids. Those kids turn into teens. The teens turn into adults, and those now adults grow to become some of your best friends.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Snapshot 3: Career
Teacher’s college graduation photos bring a variety of memories to mind. I went back to school as a mature student which was way out of my comfort zone, but I am so glad I did it. I have a career now that I truly love and every day, I hopefully get to make a difference and add value to the lives of a bunch of kids I teach. How cool is that? I even got the picture package to commemorate my grad because who doesn’t want a wallet size grad photo of a 34-year-old??
Snapshot 4: Loss
Facebook memory reels bring up lots of wonderful and sad memories too always catching my interest. I see special times and last events with my wonderful mother-in-law. So glad we captured her dancing with Phil, our last Christmas together and beautiful photos of her and our family at my nephew’s wedding.
All these photos take me through the various seasons of my life. Through all the ups and downs, the easy and the difficult there is much the camera does not show. This much I know though, I am very blessed, and I have a life that’s genuinely good. Through every snapshot I have grown into the person I am today. Those twists and turns have made me, ME!
We just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving this week and as I see myself in these snapshots in time, my heart is truly full. I thank God for a life that is good. Whatever your story is, I hope you can see that too . I hope you recognize that through all the difficulties and high points, life is still good. We can still see the good and have lots to be thankful for.
Photo by dominik hofbauer on Unsplash
Until next time
** Click below for my version of Life That's Good with my daughter Shannon accompanying me on the ukulele.
Psalms 100:5 ~ For the Lord is good. His loving kindness is everlasting and his faithfulness continues to all generations.
Little Lesson Learned: Looking through old pictures reminds us of all we have experienced. It is easy to forget how very blessed we are when the hard times come. Remember to always look for the good.
Copyright © 2021 littlelessonslearnedbydana
Waiting and hoping is a hard thing to do when you’ve already
been waiting and hoping for almost as long as you can bear it. ~ Jenny Nimmo
Photo by christopher catbagan on Unsplash