Choosing Joy

Full tree

Late one night, Scott and I were putting the lights on the tree.  I was frustrated and short with him.  I was tired, he was tired, and we needed to get those dang lights on the tree.

As is my tradition, Celine Dion was singing Christmas songs in the background. All of a sudden, while oh-so-cheerfully shoving lights into that tree, I actually heard the words that were blaring from my kitchen:

These are the special times, times we’ll remember.  

These are the precious times, the tender times, we’ll hold in our hearts forever.  

These are the sweetest times, these times together

and through it all one thing will always be true.  

The special times, are the times I share with you.

It softened my heart.  

In an act, just as corny as it’s going to sound, I descended the ladder and peeked around the back of the tree with a weird smile on my face, I hugged Scott and told him I loved him. We both laughed.  It immediately lightened the mood.  We weren’t less tired, but there was instantly more joy.

Every year I end up putting all the lights and most of the ornaments on the tree by myself.  It’s partly because I’m super controlling with a tendency toward OCD and partly because the task is no fun for kids and husbands.  No matter the reason, I tend to play the victim a little bit.

Whoa is me, that I’m the only one who can decorate the tree.

Ridiculous, right?

This year, I gave up on the themed, organized, even the simplified “modern” tree.  I let my family help. I didn’t move (very many) of their oddly placed, low hanging decorations.  I even let them hang some of the handmade, odd little ornaments that are usually reserved for the “kid’s tree”.  I resisted the urge to perfect it.

So there she stands, in all her beauty.

At first glance, that’s one chaotic Christmas tree.  The ornaments are scattered and weirdly shaped and the branches are sagging low to the ground.

But look a little closer.

Tree close up

Some of those aren’t ornaments at all, they’re pictures.  Instead of endlessly trying to find a nice way to display our Christmas cards, we decided to use my dusty old scrap-booking tools to cut them into cute shapes and hang them on our tree.

It’s been such a pleasant gift to walk past that shabby, shedding, disorganized tree and see the familiar faces of the people I care about most smiling back at me.  It reminds me of what’s important, what this season is meant to be about.

It adds a little more joy.

I took my boys to the mall yesterday.  As soon as we pulled into the parking garage, the Christmas cheer was in the air.  Horns were blaring as people fought for a parking spot.

Mom, are they honking at us?

No, they’re honking at each other.

Why do they keep honking?

It’s Christmas honey, everyone is in a rush.

Even as the words left my tongue, the irony was clear.  

We talked for a moment about joy and what Christmas is meant to be about.  How easily it can get off track. This season, meant for joy and celebration, can leave us tense and angry.

We know better.  

When we are rational and peaceful, we make donations to care for less fortunate strangers. When we are frenzied, self-focused and rushed, we blare our horns at those same strangers.

At the end of the day, we are responsible for the energy we bring into the world. When we choose joy, we create more joy in the world.  And our kids learn how to live by imitating what we show them.

And that’s a big deal.

The clerk at the store either smiles back when we look in her eyes with a warm smile or she keeps looking down, worrying about all the bills she can’t afford to pay and gifts she can’t afford to buy for her own family.  The server at the restaurant who has two sections because someone called in sick is relieved when we are patient and generous.  The boy who spills milk all over the table (and onto the dog’s freshly groomed head) needs to see grace in our eyes when we respond to him.

This time of year, it’s easy to get negative about our circumstances.  

Easy to get frustrated with family.  In-laws.  Travel.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Cleaning.  Decorating.

It’s easy for me anyway. I can go from happy and festive to downright nasty in 2 seconds flat.

What is that?!

It’s unchecked selfishness and it comes out in a hurry when I’m stressed, self-focused and overcommitted.

It’s hard to dial back all the hustle and bustle this time of year.  But, we can intentionally bring joy into our moments.

This year, I’ve been trying to “seize” a few more little moments.  

When I catch myself and I can muster the strength (why does it feel like climbing Everest?) to get over my selfish hurt from things like a little comment or a another dish left on the table.  I’m trying to remember to choose joy.

Here’s what I’ve been trying to rehearse in my mind:

I am responsible for the energy I bring into the world, into my home, and into my family.

When I choose joy, I create more joy.

Right this minute, I will choose joy.

Will you join me?

We have a lot of power over our joy.  Let’s own it.  Let’s create more joy!

Today. . . this week, while you’re putting the final touches on all your celebrations, breath deeply and choose to bring more joy into the world around you.

to more love,


Tree shopping

These are the special times.   Times we’ll remember.



  1. Crystal,
    Everything you say is so true and so wise. We won’t really member the ‘things’ about the holidays but we will remember the experiences, including the littlest ones.

    Love to you and everyone at HeartStories and to that wise husband of yours who wrote such a terrific book (which, by the way, I was reading and appreciating long before I knew who he was!)

    1. Thank you Glenna. It’s true and so exciting that SageMyLife is all about making room for more of those experiences!
      That’s so amazing about you reading Scott’s book. It’s certainly a great one.
      Love to you too!

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