christmas

choose joy

How much of our lives are up to us? What truly falls within the domain of our control? It’s a much-debated subject. 

Is it simply mind over matter? Do we cause things to happen by our own force of will? Or are we leaves on the wind, dipping and twirling wherever the unseen forces take us?

I’m still figuring that out myself (and, I suppose, always will be), but lately I have been learning about surrendering control, or rather accepting my lack of control.

Whatever outside circumstances I’m faced with, I do believe my attitude toward them is something that falls within my responsibility. 

This quote comes to mind.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” 

― Charles R. Swindoll

Despite some popular quotes saying otherwise, I don’t fully agree that I’m the captain of my own destiny. But I can be at the helm of my emotions, steering them where I wish through both clear and stormy weather.

Still, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes that ship’s wheel goes flying from my hands and spinning wildly.

Maybe the whole thing is more like flying the Millennium Falcon, with complicated panels of levers and flashing buttons. Maybe I need a big, hairy co-polot to help me. Maybe I’m taking this analogy a bit too far.

Anyhow, I do believe we have a choice in how we feel, which leads to how we act. For this reason I believe that:

Creativity is a choice

Love is a choice

Joy is a choice

There are some strong connections between creativity and love. I write a lot about it in my upcoming book, The Endless Creative, but for now I want to talk about joy.

In this Christmas season (or whatever holiday you might celebrate around year’s end), joy is one of the main sentiments. I’ve often heard joy described as something even deeper than happiness, an inner contentment not based on circumstances.

C. S. Lewis talks about being surprised by joy and how it was a feeling he could not fabricate. He claims it is a by-product of something else, the source of joy.

The two words, “choose joy” have been circulating in my thoughts these days. Can I really find joy in every circumstance? When work is challenging? When I’m not feeling creative? When I’m discouraged? When I’m sick? When my kids wake up crying their eyes out in the dead of night?

Yes, I believe so. In all circumstance, joy remains within reach. 

Joy can be felt alongside emotions like sorrow, fear, and even anger. Joy is a big, weighty feeling and, once captured, it presses upon all the others, giving them depth. But that doesn’t always make it easy to find.

I don’t know if it was part of the plan, but it makes sense that Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. I’ve found that thankfulness is a natural path to joyfulness. When I stop and think about all the things I have to be thankful for—my job, my family, and the many opportunities I have to exercise my creativity—it leads me to joy.

If joy is a by-product then the objects of our gratitude may be some of the best fuel to feed its flames. If that’s the case, there are also ways we can stamp out the glowing embers of joy.

When I set my mind on reasons for self-doubt or worry, I’m led to darker, joyless places. For me, I find joy in dwelling on Christ’s coming and how he has changed my life.

I hope, good reader, that whatever way you celebrate this season, you find creative new things to be thankful for—things that set your joy ablaze. Whether joy sneaks up on you or you must spend long, quiet moments slowly stoking it to life from the ashes, I hope its warmth remains very near to you.

old and new

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The end-of-year holidays bring with them a delightfully mixed platter of old and new.

There are all the old family traditions, which have been celebrated for years innumerable. There are newly minted traditions as young families discover ways to infuse meaning into their celebrations.

Like many folks, we hang stockings up and fill them with small gifts. But this year, being in a different state, is our first for going out into the woods and finding a tree of our own (twice, with two different families actually). It’s something of an odd tradition really, bringing a tree into the house and decorating it, but there is something beautiful about it too.

One of our aunts likes to buy enough gifts for everyone, ship them over, and have us play a sort of gift swapping game—it’s always a blast. I know of a family that hides a pickle in their Christmas tree every year. I’m curious how that got started! 

Food is a big part of the season as well, there are some dishes you might expect to have around Thanksgiving or Christmas, but there’s always a chance your neighbor, nephew, or daughter-in-law could cook up something fresh and out of the ordinary.

In our house, we roll almond truffles and make fudge and you can usually find a hot pie or two ready for the family. My wife has a special tradition passed down of waking early on Christmas morning to make calcum, a family German bread. Oh, and there’s often chili along with oyster stew for Christmas eve. My step-mom has made berry crepes for Christmas morning, which I always found to be a special treat. 

You might travel to spend time with family and old friends or maybe this year you’re inviting some new acquaintances over to share a meal and presents with. 

This will be our first year hosting the family for Christmas, including three dogs (plus our own pup).

At the year’s close, it’s a time to reflect on the past year and a time to look forward to what lay on the horizon. It’s a time to cast off old habits and begin new resolutions (hopefully ones that make it past January).

Creativity also is a lovely blend of old and new. I’m reminded of the many notable sculptures and constructions I’ve seen made from found items. It’s a repurposing of what once was into something new and interesting.

Whether you spend more time bringing out the old or welcoming the new, I hope you discover many opportunities to get creative this season.

I hope you share your creativity liberally with those around you—especially if it involves pie. Not avocado pie though (trust me, it’s disgusting any time of year).

Whatever you’re doing and wherever you find yourself, I wish a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to each of you.

 

A.P. Lambert