LAST CHRISTMAS

December 10, 2018

Does anyone else get emotional during Christmastime?? I LOVE Christmas, but it comes with so much nostalgia for me. The past few days I’ve been reminiscing on my college experience thinking about the fact that I am about to be on my last Christmas break ever. It’s a nice little reminder that I’m growing up and I’m about to have to be an actual real life adult soon. Kinda horrifying! 🙂

Besides just that, though, this Christmastime has been pretty emotional for me, which I expected. In some ways, it’s been hard to think about the way things in my life have changed this year, but in so many other ways I am able to look back with thankfulness for where I am now as opposed to a year ago.

Last Christmas, I was anxious. So, so, so anxious. I was struggling through a relationship that was not right for me anymore, but I was terrified of letting go of it because I didn’t know what my future would look like if I did. I was settling for treatment I didn’t deserve and I was okay with it because I just didn’t want the person I loved to be out of my life. If I was honest with myself back then, I would’ve admitted that I was so unhappy, but I masked that with the feeling of comfort I felt from being in a relationship that was so familiar to me at that point. I wanted to feel like I still had some kind of control over what was happening, but at this time last year I started coming to the painful realization that I really had no control at all.

Nothing was fine, but I hoped that if I said it enough, everything actually would be. I hoped that if I worked really hard to stop being anxious, things would start falling back into place. I hoped that if I put a certain amount of effort into my relationship, the effort would be willingly reciprocated and all of my worries would just vanish. I put so much pressure on myself and had so many hopes of what could be that I was completely blind to what was. When I think back on last Christmas, the memories of feeling unworthy and anxious come rushing back. The pain of how much effort I was putting into something that I never should’ve had to try so hard for is the main thing I remember from Christmastime last year. I posted all over social media as if everything was great, when in reality I just wanted to be able to experience the same feelings of happiness that everyone around me seemed to be experiencing during that time. And if I couldn’t experience those feelings, I at least wanted to act like I was (“fake it ’til you make it” really doesn’t work in situations like these, for the record). I was constantly comparing myself and my circumstances. It’s painful even now to think that I was completely consumed with such heavy feelings of anxiety and sadness during a time that is supposed to be filled with joy. I was definitely not full of joy this time last year. I was full of loneliness and a feeling of hopelessness that I tried so hard to cover up.

It’s crazy to think that it’s already Christmastime again because I remember last year like it was last month. Although some days this year have truly felt never-ending, the past 12 months have actually gone by so fast when I look back. I used to not be able to envision myself at this point, because last year at this time I was so set on the fact that I didn’t want things in my life to change. It really is funny how God works, because since last year pretty much everything in my life has changed. And although the changes came with heartbreak so immense I didn’t know if I’d be able to bear it at times, I can look back now and see that everything that has changed in my life over the past year was for the better. I’m sure the Lord has been patiently waiting for me to come to that realization.

It would be so easy to wallow during this season. On the days when I’m especially missing the way my life used to be, I could easily get stuck wishing to be back where I was. I could let myself be overtaken by the frustration of still having so many unanswered questions. But I’ve already made the choice not to do that because I don’t want to let the enemy win by giving into feelings that try to creep into my mind when there is still so much to be thankful for. The Lord has done so much in my life over the past year. Things are not the same as they were last Christmas, and because of that I’m choosing joy. And let me just say, it’s not always as simple as just telling myself to be happy, but it is amazing how genuine joy can be when you really choose it.

Who would’ve thought I’d ever be joyful because things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to for so long? This time last year, the thought of things in my life being any different was my literal worst nightmare. I had no way of knowing back then that the last thing I wanted was the first thing I needed to feel relief — the freedom of the anxiety and feelings of unworthiness that were crippling to me for so long. They were feelings that I began to believe would always be a part of me. I’m not saying that I don’t still have questions or feel sadness, because I absolutely do, but I have more joy now than I’ve had in a while. I still feel pain from past experiences, but not with the hopelessness that I felt before. Through all of the pain I’ve felt—from the loss of dreams built so high and people I never thought I’d lose—the Lord has shown me that I was never defined by the things or the people I had convinced myself I was defined by.

Last Christmas, I was a slave to my own comfort. I was a slave to the thought of having a person fully know me, when I failed to recognize that the only One who ever could fully know me already did and always had. I used to think that when I was with a person who I was comfortable with, I would feel most like myself. And I really believed that for awhile. Something I think about so often that is really beautiful is that through everything I’ve experienced this year, I feel like I am finally becoming the person I always felt like I was but didn’t know how to be in front of everyone else. And there is no one in my life right now who I feel the need to rely on to validate that for me (except the Lord, and in him I know that I am already completely validated).

This Christmas, I am choosing to have joy because I’m not where I was. I’m choosing to have joy because I know the Lord isn’t finished with me yet when I truly believed I had nothing else to hope for at this time last year. I’m choosing to have joy because I’m no longer bearing the weight of anxiety over the thought of someone not wanting me anymore or the thought of my life not turning out the way thought it should. There are still so many unknowns in my life (there always will be), but the Lord has shown me that he is still good. There is still so much to hope for and so much to look forward to. There are still more memories to be made and relationships to be formed and life to be lived. What seemed like the end last year really was only the beginning.

If there is anyone reading this who needs to hear it, you’re not alone in the way you may be feeling during this Christmas season. Whatever it is, I hope you can find a way to be thankful in the midst of current pain, worry, or confusion, because there is so much more beyond the spectrum of what you feel in this moment. Maybe you’re missing the way things were or you’re wondering how long you’ll be in the place that you’re in right now. I know those feelings, and it’s okay to experience them, even during this season. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re finding it difficult to choose joy right now — the Lord sees us where we are. And if he doesn’t give us the answers we’re searching for right away, we can know that there’s a reason for it. He is up to something in the midst of situations that threaten to steal our joy. Maybe it will take awhile before you’ll be able to look back and see all the ways in which you are growing, but I hope that you know there is still so much to hope for, even in the painful seasons.

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