The 'Mental Health List' I Want to Follow on the Other Side of Christmas


It’s the final sprint to Christmas, and I’m standing at the crossroads of anticipation and sadness. I love the festivity Christmas brings. It brings people together in joined anticipation. It gives us a reason to wear pretty clothes, string up lights and hang wreaths. Our hearts beat a little faster at Christmas in preparation and excitement.

But what happens the day after Christmas when the paper is torn and the shopping malls rush to disassemble it all? It’s a day we don’t discuss in the days leading to Christmas, a day we put up on a shelf to face when we must, when we’re forced to look at our long list of to do’s reserved for “once Christmas is over,” once again.

But before you think I’m a total Christmas buzzkill, I’m getting at something, I promise.

I’ve heard the Christmas wishes of the different children in my life. Bree wants a unicorn, Hannah wants a bike, Ava wants an iPhone. I have my own little list of the things I’ll shop for at the after-Christmas sales. Then I think of the famous song by Amy Grant, “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” I would love for those hopes to be fulfilled too. Things like “no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, that time would heal all hearts.” Yes please to all three. But as grownups we know we live in a world that will always be a bitter blend of beautiful and ugly — that restoration comes in the dark corners and broken bits of life.

So I sit here looking at the twinkle of my tree, and a glimmer of hope in my children’s eyes. My heart is full of hope, and love, and faith, and yet a deep ache for something more. Something more that I’ll have to face on the other side of Christmas, but is hushed to sleep with sugar, and wine, and pretty paper.

It challenges me to ask how I can take the bright hope of Christmas into the days that follow. It challenges me to think of the things I can unwrap on the 26th, 27th, the 30th, and January, February, July and the long dark days that scatter between. So, this is my Christmas list:

1. Laughter Every Day: Even if it’s laughing at this mess of life, I want to find a reason to laugh every day: kid’s belly laughs, laughs that cramp my stomach and escape in tears at the corner of my eyes. I wish for bowls and bowls of laughter.

2. Heart-to-Heart Conversation: The kind of talk that makes me feel seen as the beautiful mess I am. I wish this year I see more people holding out their hearts so I can cradle them, more people who know me enough to love me through all my aches and victories. More time with the people who already do.

3. Inspiration: Whether it’s books or poems, center pieces or paintings, I want my life to spill creativity, and the hope that it blooms.

4. Song: I’m learning that music lifts my mood and inspires my words. I want to remember that even on the days that feel too somber for song, I need to turn it on, and let the hope crack open my heart.

5. Ordinary Grace: I don’t just want the holy grace I experience in the words of forgiveness from a pastor. I want to share and experience the reckless grace from loving wildly. I want my kids to learn grace as a life, and not just a precious word between the pages of scripture.

6. Messes and Face Time: I want to abandon my chores to read my kids books, to cook impromptu muffins or to leave my house in a moments notice to sit and listen to a friend in crisis.

7. Lovely Contradiction: Too much of my life I’ve wanted to organize things in a way I can understand them. This makes me the ultimate judge and curator of life. I’m learning people are a knot of complication and nuance. That I’m not called to understand or approve, but to love and be loved in a world that doesn’t have enough.

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