December.  This month I’m surrounded by the words, “Joy” and “Peace.” Not only is it the month that I celebrate my Savior’s birth, but in December I also celebrate my daughter’s birth…the little girl who brings expressive joy to an otherwise melancholy household.   And then there is my wedding anniversary,
when I celebrate being married to the most peaceful man on this earth.

Joy.  Peace.  My heart should be overflowing with those two in December.  Each year I determine that I will only allow myself to feel joy and peace. I have so much to rejoice about in my life.  However, as December draws near, I always find myself in a battle.  A battle for joy in my heart.  A war in my mind for peace.

I know my struggles are light when compared to others.  Every day I encounter things that are reminders of this.  Yesterday there was the lady the kids and I saw on the street corner who held a cardboard sign that said “Anything Helps.  God Bless.”  As I rolled down my window to give her an orange, I was reminded of my warm home and my freezer filled with food.  But still the battle for joy and peace rages.

Then earlier this month there was a visit to the children’s hospital to visit family friends whose only child is battling cancer.  As I looked in the eyes of a young man battling for his life and hugged grandparents who were laden with exhaustion and fear, I was reminded of the healthy family that I would get to kiss goodnight in the comfort of my home.  But still the battle for joy and peace rages.

This December I have spent some time with my dear cousin who unexpectedly lost her dad earlier this year.  As my mind thinks about what struggles she is facing as a single 30-year-old woman who lost her daddy, I am reminded how lucky I am to still have my mom and dad here on earth to celebrate with at Christmas and that I will have Joe’s shoulder to cry on even when my parents aren’t here.  Yet, still the battle for joy and peace rages.

December is like a roller coaster of emotion for me.  One moment I feel like I’m the most blessed girl in the world.  Then, without warning I find my heart aching with pain.  My mind loses focus of the blessings in my life and readjusts to concentrate on the hurt of the past and the disappointments in the present.

Early this month I determined this December would be different.  My focus would remain fixed on the peace and joy I know that is found in the little baby in the manger.  .  .  my Prince of Peace and the one who brought joy to a dying world.  But it seemed that as soon as I put on my ‘armor,’ the arrows of unfulfilled dreams and painful memories of the past began to fly straight at my heart.

December ushers in dreams of wanting to own a home and decorate it for Christmas as my very own.   Dreams of wanting to put down roots in a community and celebrate Christmas each year the same way with the same people.  Yet, the course that I am confident that the Lord has placed our family on will not allow us to do either of those at this time in our lives.  Each December the arrows of unfulfilled dreams such as these begin to fly.

December also stirs up painful memories of our wedding and our first few Christmases together.   Eleven years later the hurt of not being welcomed home by Joe’s family for Christmas those first few years can flood my mind and heart without warning and bring unexpected tears.  Though things are much different now, every December I find myself trying to hold up a shield to fight off the arrows of painful memories.

To be honest, a couple of times this December I thought I was losing the battle.  The arrows made it past my armor and began sinking into my heart.   On the outside I was busy with all the fun things of Christmas…Toys 4 Tots at my church.  Shopping for gifts.  School Activities.  Staff parties.  However, in the quiet moments, I found myself in a battle that seemed to be fiercer than it had ever been in previous Decembers.

Peace and Joy.  I saw those words all around me in stores.  I heard those words sung at church and on my radio.  But yet this month, I would often feel as if
neither peace nor joy was residing my heart.   Moments of joy and peace would be suddenly replaced by feelings of sorrow and discontent.

Then it came….like a tidal wave.   Peace doesn’t usually come to me like the song portrays….like a river gently flowing into my soul.  Perhaps I am stubborn, but when I am feeling down, God usually has to send a tidal wave.

This December the wave came in the form of a simple card in the mail.  An anniversary card with a gift inside.  For ten years I have longed to receive such a card, and this year it came.  Though there was nothing about it that would seem significant to anyone else, to me it was the perfect gift at the perfect time from the perfect person….all orchestrated by my Perfect Jesus…the one who was sent to this earth to fight these battles for me.

Each December there will always be painful memories to battle.  I’m sure every December I will be reminded that there is some dream that went unfulfilled that year.  However, I am confident in this.  December will always bring waves of Peace and Joy that will remind me that I do not have to fight my battles alone.

Celebrate.  Here’s what I am celebrating this December (okay…I don’t have a picture of Jesus…but you know I’m celebrating Him too!)

Celebrating 11 years of life with this guy!

Celebrating 6 years of life with this girl

Celebrating great teachers...the kids love being a Secret Santa to their teachers the week before Christmas break

Celebrating childhood by wrapping all our Christmas books and putting them under the tree to unwrap one each night to read.

Celebrating family traditions...light tours with our PJs and 3D Christmas glasses .