Philippians 4:11b – …” for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
If November, with the fears related to the pandemic, the election season, and a canceled holiday was a crazy anxious time in my own life, then December is turning out to be a season of contentment. I think I just became tired of striving and trying to make things work. With a canceled Thanksgiving under our belts, I’ve learned that I can cope. Now, with even a small family gathering for Christmas very much in doubt, due to the travel restrictions and guidelines issued by our state government, I think I’ve just decided that I need to choose contentment to wrap up 2020.
With a year like no other, I’ve ever experienced coming to an end, I’m thinking that instead of just trying to “get through this” I’ll seek to learn something about myself from this experience. I want to look back on this time as one of growth, instead of despair when this is all behind me.
I’m the planner in the family and love to make sure that all the details for Christmas are taken care of. With two large extended families of cousins, aunts, uncles, big kids, little kids, parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, there are lots of details. Coordinating the meals, activities, games, and start and ending times can be a challenge. Most people live within a 30-mile radius of our home but a few need to travel, so sometimes we alternate years at the holidays. It isn’t uncommon for us to have three or even four Christmas celebrations over a three day period, because we want to “see” everyone. Then after everything is put away, my husband and I typically travel to Eastern Washington to stay with our long time friends and go skiing. Then we bring in the New Year. But, no one is going anywhere with our lockdown.
Usually, before the sun has set on the day after Thanksgiving, I have the decorations all up, Christmas music in the background, continuous Hallmark movies playing and cookies baking in the oven. In a typical year, I have Christmas cards printed and I’ve sent them out in early December. But not for 2020, Christmas is on a permanent pause.
I’ve noticed a few of my neighbors put up their Christmas lights and trees on Halloween this year and many more homes were decorated before the first week of November even ended. I get it! We all have a pent up desire to remember a happier time and bring back some of the pleasant memories of Christmas's past. But with no one coming to visit, no Christmas parties to go to, and pretty much everything being canceled, I just decided to take a hiatus from all the things I would usually do for Christmas.
My husband, who just watches when I’m decorating said, “Nothing this year?” “Aren’t you at least going to put up a tree?” (I have a friend that put up five different trees at her house. She showed me pictures and they were all gorgeous.) This year, I just don’t think it is worth the effort. I finally relented and let him bring in our pretend tree and plug it in. However, I didn’t decorate it. He likes the extra light and turns it on each morning. Sad, I know.
So far I haven’t regretted my decision. This stripped-down version of Christmas is allowing me to focus on other things. I’m feeling extremely grateful for all of the blessings I do have. I’m already anticipating the kind of holiday I want to experience next year. But right now, there are many in our community that is suffering, businesses are closing, people have lost their jobs and their homes, the hospitals are filling up, the virus is spreading but I’m …. safe.
Once I made this decision, to choose to be content, a spiritual sense of peace came over me that I don’t really understand. I’ve been calmer, not so anxious, not so worried. I have accepted that this is what this pandemic year is all about. Despite the sadness, disappointment, and regret, I have hope for the future. They announced today that the vaccine will be released for us soon. For that I’m grateful. Of course, it will be many months before it will be my turn, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue to try to wake up every morning and choose contentment.
The apostle Paul who suffered so much more than I ever have or will said in Philippians 4:12- “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.”