Last year, I hit an adult milestone that I’ve been striving for for many years – two Christmas trees. A “Family” tree and a “Pretty” tree. I don’t know why this was such a goal, but it was, and it was achieved. (Small celebration here). So as I sit in my home office, where my “Pretty” tree sparkles by the window, there are 3 ornaments facing me with such beautiful, overly used words:
These are words we see so much at Christmas, but what do they mean? If you follow my stuff, you know I’m huge into self-reflection, and this time of year is a very self-reflective time for me, especially with the little slower pace (thanks to COVID), so I was thinking about each of these words.
JOY – I believe 2 things about joy: 1) It’s God given – not circumstantial, and 2) There is a choice on our part on whether or not we feel it.
Life is hard. 2020 has been hard. There has been loss – loss of loved ones, loss of normalcy, loss of income, loss of sanity – it has been hard. Fear, division, and anxiety seem to be themes that are interwoven into everything. And 2021 is probably going to start off with a lot of the same circumstances. And while COVID has brought these losses to the masses, loss will continue even after COVID. People will still lose jobs, loved ones, have disappointments, and end relationships. Life will always be hard. (How about that for some encouragement?!)
So where does joy come in? Thankfully, joy is not circumstantial. Because it comes from God, and not circumstances, we are actually able to choose joy, even in tough times. How the heck do we do that?
- Well, the number 1 way is to be grateful. YES! Things are hard, and being grateful doesn’t diminish the hard, it just helps us focus and remember the things we have to be grateful for!
So educators – what are you grateful for that has come out of the 2020 school year so far? Your students? Your teachers? Your colleagues? Your administrators? The parents? Technology? More time with your family because you’re home? Learning more technology platforms that will make your instruction more efficient moving forward? The fact that you’ve remained safe? The fact that perhaps you got COVID but have recovered? I know there are a ton of super legitimate reasons to be frustrated with the 2020 school year, but why are you grateful?
2. The second thing I would encourage you to do is to do things that bring you the feeling of joy! We all need to replenish our spirits, and I talked more about this in the last blog, 5 Things You Need to Do Now to Be Ready for 2021, but listen to Christmas music, play with your kids, bake, read, and give yourself permission. This carries over into your instruction as well. Do you find joy in connecting with your kids? Put them in break out groups and pop in and just talk to them about non-academic things. Take your own children and go write an encouraging word on your students’ (or teachers’) driveways.
3. Lastly, serve! Nothing brings joy like serving others. It may seem counterintuitive, but serving others is actually a great way to serve yourself and bring joy!
PEACE – I believe the same 2 truths about peace as I do about joy: 1) It’s God given – not circumstantial, and 2) There is a choice on our part on whether or not we feel it.
I know that a lack of peace, and in turn an increase in fear and anxiety, has kept many of you up at night. As an administrator, you are worried about the safety of your teachers and students. As a teacher you are worried about your own safety and the safety of your family and students. You are worried about the increasing academic gaps, and the disconnectedness of students. You are constantly trying to think of ways to maintain control over the crazy circumstances.
So where do you find peace? We have to be able to “accept the things we cannot change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference“. (The Serenity Prayer). If you are losing sleep over things you cannot change, you are wasting so much precious time and energy. In each facet of your life that is causing you fear and anxiety, I encourage you to make a T-Chart. Write down the things you have no control over on one side, and the things you do have the power to change on the other. Make a plan to change the things you do have control over, and let go of things you have no control over. This excercise has helped me tremendously over the course of my life – both professionally and personally.
BELIEVE – This is a word that I think serves multiple purposes at Christmas time. Belief in Santa. Belief in the “magic of Christmas”. Belief in Christ. There are so many different ways this word can be used. Here are some beliefs I’m hanging on to right now:
a) Belief that “this, too, shall pass.” We will not be in this holding pattern forever. While things may be different, the current circumstances in our lives, no matter what they are, will pass.
b) Joy and peace are choices, and I choose them by actively pursuing them (as stated above).
c) God is still in control – I realize this is a personal belief based on my faith, but it is a truth I’m holding on to.
I hope you enjoy this season, and I hope that it is filled with true peace and joy, no matter what the circumstances.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from us at Pressing Onward! Please spread the peace and joy wherever you can – people need it!
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