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Can we keep the Grinch away?

Can we keep the Grinch away? Finding Christmas Joy Amidst a Pandemic

Written by Marriage & Relationship Education Center


Is Grinch out to steal our joy?

It’s the Christmas season, and it’s supposed to be a time of joyous celebration and cheer. Yet, this year is definitely different. Covid is challenging us and makes us wonder, is it possible to find joy amidst a pandemic?

Experts say joy can often be found in a variety of places – if we’re looking: among them, nature, relationships, the simple things we love, and our faith.

For the Reottgers, this is certainly true.

Tom and Belinda are MREC board co-chairs who have been married for 40 years. Belinda recently shared how the couple maintains their optimism in the midst of maintaining professional schedules and caring for their aging parents who live out of state.

“Tom and I find joy in our daily routine of walking hand-in-hand in the great outdoors, and praying with each other every morning before our workdays begin,” she said.

“We count all of our many blessings in prayers of gratitude as we start the day.”

The Roettgers choose to find joy in the midst of life’s uncertainties which is why they are known for their “glass half full” perspective on all that comes their way.

And those walks — release valuable endorphins, which can evoke positive, happy feelings, and a sense of euphoria. This is also known as a “runner’s high” and can help encourage a healthier lifestyle, boost the immune system, and fight stress and pain.

Would you believe that shopping is another way to lift your spirits?

The energy we invest in doing something for others helps us take the focus off ourselves and turn it towards the ones we love. Both the sender and the receiver receive the blessing.

Christmas visits for many of us have also been affected by the Covid chaos. But people are still finding ways to celebrate.

One local family is having identical boxed meals from an area caterer delivered to each sibling’s home. They’ll all watch the same Christmas movie at the same time while chatting about it on Messenger. It sounds awkward, but the intentional effort to find new ways to stay connected is a kind of creativity that brings joy right to the front door!

While we’re changing the way we gather, keeping Jesus as the reason for the season remains the same. MREC’s executive director, Amy Gilford is refocusing on a familiar passage of scripture.

“I’ve been reading Luke 1 and the words of Mary to her cousin Elisabeth in what is called the Magnificat. “…my soul does magnify the Lord. And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” When I was growing up the emphasis seemed to be on Mary carrying the Son of God within her, and it was miraculous of course. But her emphasis was not on herself but on the magnificence of her heavenly Father and “his Name.” That’s where I’m trying to focus as well, the bigness of God if you will, and not on the multitude of little circumstances that are swirling around me.

Change has affected all of us in 2020. Carroll resident Greg Kahlert, president of his family’s foundation, says he and his wife are missing their family in Utah, (whom they haven’t been able to visit since last Christmas) and are saddened by recently learning a friend who was diagnosed with cancer. But Greg’s upbeat nature inspires him and his wife, Roberta to reflect on what they are grateful for.

“There are two things during this crazy year that bring us happiness and joy,” Greg said. “First, I am so very happy and thankful for our family’s good health.”

Second, what brings us the most joy at this time of year is our philanthropy. Roberta and I have made more personal donations to nonprofits this year than any other previous year. And that’s because there is much more demand for health care, food security, housing, homelessness, veterans, and more. We are very fortunate to be in a financial position to help others and make a positive difference in their lives, especially around the holidays. We encourage others to give what you can to MREC and other amazing nonprofits to help our neighbors in their time of need.”

MREC Board member, Bethany Brown wrapped everything together beautifully when she said, “My tip for finding joy is to focus on the things that we do have and the things that we are able to celebrate; not on the things that we don’t have or might be missing this year.

Though I cannot see all the family that I typically get to see, I am thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus and the hope that we can have through Him. I am thankful for my wonderful husband whom I get to spend time with, and for technology that still allows us to (virtually) see our loved ones.”

Poet Anne Sexton once wrote, “The joy that isn’t shared dies young,” so we hope that by sharing some of the ways we are finding joy this season, each reader will glean something that can be a source of encouragement and joy.

Together, we can make this unusual holiday season one of our best.