Christmas was, is and will always be my favorite holiday. I love the festivities, the food, the love and warmth and most importantly, the reason why we celebrate. But, just like many of you, I can feel discouraged as I face another December. Ghosts of Christmases past make their appearances and instead of love many of us feel pain. Instead of blessing, we feel loss. Rather than experiencing happiness, we are reminded of our grief and instead of feeling accepted, we feel alone. So, how do we combat those negative feelings on what should be the most joyful time of year?

This December will be our second Christmas without our daughter and grandchildren in our lives. The thought of that breaks my heart yet again. However, as I’ve shared several times on my blog, God’s love has been a healing salve in my life and He has faithfully stayed by me during this season of heartache. He has blessed me over and over on this journey. And, I want my focus this Christmas to be on Him and not on what I have lost. I know myself and I know the things that trigger memories that lead me down Maudlin Road. I don’t want to go there this year and so, I’ve made a short list of ways to put away my ghosts and put the joy back in Christmas. Well, joy is always in Christmas, so maybe I should reword that to say, “Ways to put the joy back in MY Christmas.”

Christmas is Christ-Mass
First of all, I’m going to remember what Christmas is all about. Beyond Santa, toys and Christmas lights, I am going to be focusing on what Christmas truly is. The birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was an amazing, life altering…no, WORLD-altering event that I don’t want to take lightly. Ironically, in December, many group Bible studies go on break due to the busyness of the season. Personally, I feel that even though that may be convenient, it is not always conductive to keeping our minds focused on Christ during the holidays. So, this year, I am going to be intentional about going deeper in my faith. I am committing to:
  • Regularly attend worship services
  • Read the book of Luke 
  • Pick up an Advent study or devotional to go through each day
  • Read Max Lucado’s book, God Came Near (a personal favorite)
  • Start a scripture journal to chronicle all that I'm learning and receiving from the Lord
  • Listen to worship music each day
  • Daily be in the Word
  • Pray and praise God each day

Set New Traditions
Since some of our family traditions can’t be done anymore I want to set new traditions and make new memories! I’m sure I’ll think of more things to add to this list, but for now, here are some of my ideas:

  • Attend community activities such as a Christmas Concert or going to a holiday parade.
  • Choose a Christmas charity to give something of myself to.
  • Have several fires in our outdoor fireplace and make an evening of it – hot cocoa, Christmas treats, watching the stars.
  • Go to a nearby town’s historic center and enjoy the window decorations. Have a nice lunch out.
  • Go to Ghirardelli Chocolate factory in San Francisco…Why not?
  • Visit a Nursery with a Christmas theme. There’s a great one not far from here and I don’t want to miss the festive feel of the place.
  • Dress up and go out to dinner to celebrate Christ’s birth.
  • Have friends over for coffee, Christmas cookies and to chat.
  • Go away over night on Christmas and celebrate in a new place. (Our reservations are already made and I’m so excited!)
  • Go through our Blessing Jar and recount each special gift from the Lord from the past year.

Keep Old Traditions
While some traditions will have to go this year due to me not wanting to bring my thoughts back to Christmases past, there are plenty that I’m going to keep, such as:

  • Hunting for a Christmas tree
  • Decorating the house
  • Checking out the Christmas decorations and lights throughout my neighborhood
  • Baking treats (and not worrying about the scale)
  • Making my “famous” Hot Buttered Rum batter
  • Making Christmas crafts for gifts
  • Preparing stocking stuffers for my husband
  • Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” (Because it is!)

Remember to
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Not over extend, over spend or over do
  • Laugh, laugh and laugh some more
  • Praise God for each day
  • Celebrate Christ and the miracle of His birth
  • Trust Him for His plan 
  • Keep my focus on God and how He is working in my life
  • Remember that I am not alone “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5c)
God doesn’t want our Christmases to be times of sadness. He understands, though, how our minds work and how easy it is to get stuck being tormented by the “ghosts of Christmases past”. So, this Christmas, I am leaning on Him. As I gain strength from His presence I’m going to put my losses away and choose to focus on the joy He brought into the world through the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m going to celebrate that in all I do, every day. Through Jesus, we have hope and a bright future. And that, friends, is something to celebrate!

Have a joy-ful Christmas!


  1. Great list! The holidays are the hardest. I'm always amazed how memories seem to come out of nowhere and knock the breath right out of me. But by God's grace I recover more quickly these days. Replacing the thoughts with activity and His awesome promises. Love you my dear friend! God bless you!

  2. Thanks for this list! I love: "Read the book of Luke" Thats a good tip for me.

  3. Joan, this is a wonderful list! Thank you for encouraging us, always. You are so precious to me. Love you. Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

  4. LOVE your list and how your purpose to make it about Christ, even in the midst of your pain. Praying you had a blessed Thanksgiving.

  5. Hi Deb!

    The holidays can be tough, but I'm determined to allow God's love to fill my heart and my home as I make new memories and celebrate the incredible gift our Savior is!!

    Blessings friend! Love, Joan

  6. Yes, I think the book of Luke captures the Christmas story so beautifully! I love it!

    Blessings, Joan

  7. You're welcome, Shelly! I'm excited about how God will unfold this love this Christmas! Blessings & love, Joan

  8. Celebrating Christmas and the gift our Savior is to us is so incredibly important! I think it brings glory to God as we honor Him. I don't want to dampen it by having my focus on things that are not joyful. I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful as well!

    Blessings, Joan

  9. I just love what you've written here, and your lists are just perfect. I like some of those new tradition suggestions. Since we've moved, my hubby and I have been alone together on Christmas Day. And though I do get to still see family at that time of year, sometimes I feel wistful on the day as old traditions evolve into new ones. I think I especially like the idea of chocolate!!

    Joan, may the Lord of all comfort bring solace to your aching heart at this time. And I am going to pray that it will be the last year without your family. I'm going to pray for a miracle breakthrough.


  10. I love the encouragement for all during a season that is joyful but one that can remind us of sadness or loss. Through Jesus we do have hope and a bright future and I am holding onto that today and everyday. Blessed to be here!

  11. Hi Mary! I'm so thankful for Jesus! He gives us such wonderful hope! I'm holding onto that as well! Blessings, Joan

  12. I pray that your Christmas-time is a wonderful time and that many new traditions are formed this year! Blessings, Joan

  13. hello joan, this was a good read to settle november and roll into december!
    May I ask did you loose your daughter or do they just live far away?
    Christmas is wonderful, but as you stated so many memories...
    love, roxy

  14. Hi Roxy! Of course...our daughter has decided to separate herself from our family... She says that she is an atheist (though I believe that deep down inside she still believes) and doesn't want any Christian influence in her life. We haven't heard from her since October '13. We are praying each day that she feels God's loving tug on her heart and that she returns to a life with Him. Our hearts are broken and we miss her so much. But, our God is able to do more than we can even ask or imagine! On this first Sunday in Advent, I am reminded that our God is a God of Hope and I'm placing my hope in Him.

    Blessings to you, Roxy! In Him, Joan

    P.S. Here is one of the first posts where I shared about this:

  15. Hello Joan, Firstly, I want to thank you for sharing this with me. I hope you receive this reply as using my heart wants to encourage you in this situation. I have seen this so many times in this last year. I think the enemy has really tried to destroy families.
    But, I have also seen a family come back together after much prayer and standing on God's promises!
    I believe that there has been a false expectation that our children have preceived from us as parents. It is not what we have intended it, it's just that we walk by faith and we always talk about God so much, and there lives have been burdened from so many trials that they just get angry with God. Our oldest quit going to Church because he said he was churched to death. But we have finally resolved to just love him and things are so much better. I think he felt like we were always judging him (we were).
    So I know a little bit about your pain, but we have come a very long way. God will uphold you and your husband in this! I think this trial and desert will be a time of great growth for you both! I believe in restoration, read God's promises and just look for joy in all the little things of this day and the next day!
    Sending a hug! Roxy

  16. Sharita KnoblochDecember 01, 2014

    This is FANTABULOUS, Joan. I think I might just adopt several of these for my own :-) Thank you, girl.

  17. Thank you, Roxy! We firmly believe that God is doing some of His best work here. We may not see it right now, but know that all He does is for the good of those who love Him. We are trusting Him on this journey!

    Blessings, Joan

  18. Thanks, Sharita! I think I may also put up a repost from last year soon. It's about things for empty nesters to do at Christmastime. I know you are definitely not an empty nester (LOL) but maybe you'll like some of those ideas, too. I'll post it sometime this week or next!

    Blessings, Joan


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