The Christmas Secret

Christmastime is supposed to be The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. For many of us, however, it’s actually the most difficult time of the year. Expectations run high with stories on Instagram and posts on Facebook and Pinterest. And if we happen to be among those who still get what my friend Julia calls the “my-family’s-better-than-your-family” Christmas letters, all the glorious glitz and glam can make our life look miserable in comparison.

But are all those stories and photo shoots real or just a reel?

You know, it doesn’t even matter. Here’s the deal: when we compare our lives to the climatic achievements and capstone accomplishments of others, we’re in for trouble.

Comparison kills joy. Expectations rob of us gratitude. But perspective can change everything.

In 1992, just after my second child was born, my first husband and I separated. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband wasn’t paying support. In other words, I was flat broke. When I looked at my budget, the forecast was miserable. After I paid bills and bought diapers, I had only $15 left over for the entire month.

I was used to letting my circumstances rule my feelings. When I had a lot of money, it was easy to be happy but when I was broke, despair ruled my emotions.

Struggling with discouragement, I sat down at my kitchen table and flipped open the pages of my Bible. I call this point-and-click style of reading Bible Roulette. Sometimes it’s really profound. Such was the case this day. When it landed on Philippians 4:12-13, I knew God was speaking to my situation.

Paul was writing, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I looked up from the passage as my daughter Brittany bounced into the kitchen. When she opened the fridge and poured herself a glass of milk, the truth slapped me in the face. The reality was, I’d never been hungry. I’d never been in jail for preaching the gospel. I had to wonder. If Paul could be content in those kinds of situations, maybe I could be satisfied with mine. Besides, what good would it do to remain in discouragement all month? Despair wouldn’t make me richer. Plus, it’s contagious. If my despair rubbed off on my children, then our whole household would be discouraged.

I could choose to be discouraged or I could choose to be content. My perspective was my choice. If I chose to stay in discouragement, I’d be in it for a whole month! I didn’t want to be depressed the whole Christmas season. What kind of Christmas would that be?

To distract my thoughts, I found some towels I no longer used because I had changed the color scheme in my bathroom. Navy and burgundy were rejected when pastel blue and pink became the preferred palette. Then I got busy making matching bathrobes for my daughter and niece. At least I had two gifts to wrap. And my baby was too young to know I had nothing for him.

Later that week we went to the grocery story. As Brittany skipped up to the entrance of Food Lion, her eyes gleamed. “Look at the pretty Christmas trees!” She yanked on my arm. “Mom, can we buy one please? They’re only $15.”

I gave in. Blew the bank and spent the whole wad. I had nothing left for the rest of the month, but every time I looked at the tree, the ornaments and twinkling lights seemed to say…

your perspective is a choice.

I could choose to be discontent as easily as I could choose to be content. That $15 could have been spend on despair. Instead, the fresh joy it brought lasted all month long.

On Christmas Eve, an acquaintance who had heard about my situation brought over a ham and all the trimmings plus gifts for my children.

God is never too late. He’s always right on time. The Christmas of 92 provokes fond memories for me. God took me through a season of lack to demonstrate that He is faithful. Without a season of want, I would have never learned how to experience true joy.

When I saw the expressions on Brittany and Mariam’s faces as they delighted in their “twin” robes, I experienced a true Christmas miracle. God turned something I no longer used into everything I needed.

Can I pray for you?

Father, I want to lift up my sister to you. You know her needs. You know her situation. And You care for her deeply. I’m so grateful that you promise to supply all of her needs. Please help her to see her circumstances through your perspective so that nothing takes away her joy. May this be a true Christmas to remember for her and her family. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

What about you? Would you take the time to encourage someone who is having a difficult time now? How has your perspective given you the ability to move ahead despite difficulties?

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21 Responses to The Christmas Secret

  1. Jonava December 11, 2018 at 8:01 am #

    Christy, I really enjoyed your blog this morning. I think of all the things I’m facing now and I get to smile. I’m excited about what God is doing even though I can’t see it yet. If I could see it I wouldn’t need faith. I thank God I get to read my Bible, I get to pray, I get to minister, I get to go to church, I get to serve at church. I get to do those things because I choose to. God doesn’t make me do these things. His love for me makes me want to do those things. I’m thankful God has shown me godliness with contentment is great gain. I get to praise God and encourage others for that I’m thankful. I get to love Jesus no matter what and that is what makes my Christmas season the best every season.

    • Christy Johnson December 11, 2018 at 9:18 am #

      Jonava, thanks for sharing! We often take all of these things for granted, but you have shown that being able to read, pray, minister, attend church are privileges. Not everyone has the freedom to worship. How praiseworthy it is to thank God for things we normally assume are givens. It fills me with joy every time I thank God for normal things like being able to type. What if I couldn’t? Like being able to drive, cook, read. What if I had an injury that prevented those? I have a sign on my porch that says, “There is always something to be thankful for.” So true. We can change our attitude by changing our focus!

  2. Andrea Pack December 11, 2018 at 11:08 am #

    You know I am not where I want to be today but I’m not where I could be. I am living in a Christ based sober living house with 13 beautiful women. I have a job a roof over my head , clothes and food. I am grateful!!! God is amazing and every day I choose to be thankful. I have a wonderful supportive family and I really couldn’t ask for more. Thank you for sharing your story. ♥️♥️

    • Christy Johnson December 11, 2018 at 5:33 pm #

      Andrea, I’m so glad you are surrounded by sisters who are supporting you in your sobriety journey. Stay on track. God is able to restore everything! I’m proud of your perseverance!

  3. Hephzibah December 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi, I’ve been weighed down by thoughts of things I’d have wanted for this Christmas and this has really stolen my Joy . But reading this today I’m convinced that God has me in mind and wants me to know it . Thank you for this , I’m really reassured and strengthened from within

    • Christy Johnson December 11, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

      Hephzibah, Shifting focus really helps. I’m glad you got your joy back, because it really is YOUR strength! Nehemiah 8:10 says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

  4. Jeannette December 11, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    I’m not sure if I am answering this correctly…
    When I was 2 months shy of my 29th birthday, I had a brain aneurysm. This happened a few days before Thanksgiving 1991. I was released from the hospital in March of 1992. I don’t remember Thanksgiving if 1991, but Christmas and my birthday (January 1st) were very happy times in the hospital with my parents, sisters, brothers , husband, my 2 children (Agee’s 4 and 1 1/2) and friends traipsed through my room all day. But, after I came home, holidays and birthdays were not much fun. I did not have joy for a few years until 1998 when the chiropractor I was seeing had, what he called, “Toy Day” when every patient brought in a wrapped toy for a local child in exchange for their adjustments (instead of paying for the normal fee). It gave me the boost I needed to think of others instead of myself.
    By the way, he does this every year at Christmas time.

    • Christy Johnson December 11, 2018 at 5:29 pm #

      Great story, Jeannette. It sounds like Toy Day turned into Joy Day!

  5. Jeannette December 11, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

    Ages not Agee’s

  6. W.V December 11, 2018 at 3:28 pm #

    Wow, thank you so much Christy I thank God for your blog. You have such a big heart I could feel how much you care for women continue doing what your doing . You don’t know how much you have helped me. God bless you always

    • Christy Johnson December 11, 2018 at 5:28 pm #

      Wendy, thank you for your sweet comments. They really encouraged me! I’m so thankful to be doing what I’m doing. It’s great to be in the center of God’s will!

  7. Jennifer Alger December 12, 2018 at 12:31 am #

    I want to encourage everyone that is walking through tough times during this Christmas season…One thing to be thankful is the joy in knowing Jesus…Keep your eyes on him and remember how much he loves you…Be thankful in the little things like the beauty that is all around you…

    Pray for someone who is in need, and focus on others…Feed the hungry, and give clothes to someone who is cold…Make Christmas cards or bake cookies…The joy of the Lord is your strength…Play games with family…Enter into the presence of the Lord…I remember many times where I couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, a $1 cup of coffee, or hot chocolate…I couldn’t buy gifts for anyone..I decided to celebrate Jesus’s birth..I was able to share the story, and sing happy birthday Jesus with my kids..We created great memories and were able to go to a Christmas play…I was attending a different church at the time and served in ministry..Nobody knew what I was walking through…The day after Christmas I was told to come to the church to pick up a Christmas card, and inside was a giftcard to Target for $50…I was so excited and was in tears of joy by the wonderful surprise…Let us always be thankful in every season of your life…Jesus will never leave or forsake us and cares so much about you…There is hope and Jesus will carry you through…

    • Christy Johnson December 14, 2018 at 12:52 pm #

      Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your powerful story. When you had nothing, you really had everything!

  8. Allison December 12, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    I am learning in my years of mid twenties, that life isn’t always what is depicted through Facebook and Instagram. It’s not everything that society tries to imply. A couple years ago, I was going through a depression during the Christmas season. I went through an awful break up and was told that it was God who had a push in this decision of his. It rattled my world as a christian and my future had flipped upside down.
    Fast forward to today when I recently got married back in October and it’s mine and my husband’s first Christmas as a married couple. Finances are tight as we recover from the wedding and our focus has been on tackling our combined bills and debt. All of this to try and manage buying Christmas gifts for both of our big families.
    While I know my situation could be so much worse, as I am blessed beyond measure on what I have. Although, I still get easily frustrated and stressed when I see how everyone that I love scurrying around to make everything so perfect and special, but in the end it takes the happiness and joy out of it. This blog was something I needed to read as a reminder that God is always on time. He will always provide and it is our job to find the joy and happiness in our blessings.
    Thank you so much for your encouragement and powerful words.

    • Christy Johnson December 14, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      The best gifts are from the heart anyway, not purchased at a store!

  9. Hazel December 12, 2018 at 9:34 am #

    Christy thank you so much for your blog, it’s an inspiration to me.. to know that God is never late He shows up just in time and to have the comfort in knowing that He’ll never leave me even though my circumstance says otherwise. I’m grateful to know that there’s someone out there yet far away who knows what i’m experiencing because she went through the same thing. God bless you abundantly my sister.

    • Christy Johnson December 14, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

      I’m so thankful God uses our stories to encourage others. I’m expecting a great ending to yours as well!

  10. Katrina Gardner December 13, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    Thank you so much for this Christy, I really needed to hear this today. My daughter and I have been struggling with so many obstacles that I have experienced an enormous amount of depression. But hearing your story puts some things in perspective for me.

    • Christy Johnson December 14, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

      Depression is a scheme of the enemy. He’s after our joy because it is our strength! When we find ourselves weary, (and everyone does) we have to be vigilant and refuse to allow him to take away our power by meditating on whatsoever things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.

  11. Kay Yount December 14, 2018 at 6:25 am #

    Christy thank you for reminding me that god is always walking with me and that I’m never alone even though loneliness plagued me right now during the holidays, i cannot be with the man i truly love because he is toxic and I have to remind myself daily that i have all i need right in front of me! God, my friends & family! God bless you !!

    • Christy Johnson December 14, 2018 at 12:39 pm #

      Thankfully, The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Ps 34:18)

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