Christmas is just a few days away, and this year it just feels different. December is a hard month for me. It’s a hard month for a lot of people, and there are times it takes a whole lot of effort to find the joy.

But this year… this year it feels different. This year it is different.

Since starting Christmas break, I’ve been binge-watching The Chosen. For a visual person like me, it has added a whole new layer of depth to my relationship with the Lord. There is something so incredibly captivating about it – being able to see Jesus in person (I know, it’s an actor…hang in there with me for a minute), and watching the way He is with people. That look in His eyes – one of compassion and care and understanding – is just how I picture it in my mind. Somehow, seeing the Gospel portrayed so well visually is exactly what I didn’t know I needed.

I wish I could send a thank you note to whoever it was that cast that role.

But anyway.

December. Christmas.

There are plenty of reasons that this is a difficult time of year for people. When we’ve experienced any type of loss, the emotions that stem from the loss are heightened this time of year, right in the big middle of a season that is supposed to be full of love and peace and joy.

I’ve spent several years fighting to keep the joy in this time of year, and it has often felt impossible. But this year is different. This year, with some help from my youngest son, my perspective is finally different.

What is it that is sucking away the joy in the first place?

As a follower of Jesus for the majority of my life, there’s no doubt that I’ve often taken Him for granted. I know He’s with me. I know He will always be with me. I know I truly have nothing to fear. And it’s because of all of those facts that I don’t worry about my relationship with Him.

How selfish and dangerous that really is.

There’s a difference between being assured of the security in my relationship with the Lord and acting flippant about the magnitude of what that relationship with Him really means.

Meanwhile, I spend way too much time worrying about the relationships in my life that are unhealthy and ultimately not the best for me. As a chronic (recovering) people-pleaser, it’s such a hard habit to break.

So I ask this question: What relationship are you giving more mental energy to than is deserved?

It’s this very question that finally, irrevocably, pierced my heart. And it took a very wise 14-year-old to help me see it.

When we stop giving power to the people in our lives who have hurt us, betrayed us, or abandoned us, we find freedom. When we stop obsessing over our broken relationships, trying to fix them or at the very least, understand what went wrong, we are then released to focus our time and energy on the ones who consistently show up and continue to love us and prove they’re not going anywhere.

First, we need to remember that Jesus is truly everything we need. Everything.

It’s when we wholeheartedly embrace our relationship with Him that the stuff of earth begins to fade away. It’s only then that our perspective changes.

Then second, we need to view the people in our lives who daily show up and prove they are here to stay as bonus gifts. Gifts that God knows we need because He is the Creator of relationships and understands how much we need people.

When we get things in the right order – with our priority being Him first and others second, that’s where the joy is found. That’s where the fire of hurt and disappointment gets squelched.

Jesus came. He came here, in the flesh, and changed everything.

And what I’m finally learning is that when I stop fixating on the hard stuff and instead focus on the greatest gift, Jesus, the joy returns.

I no longer sit at tables where I might be the topic of discussion when I get up.

I no longer waste time trying to understand why I wasn’t enough, why I wasn’t worth it.

Because I know that I am enough. That I am worth it. Most importantly, I know that is only because of Jesus .

And He is more than enough.

Does that mean I stop caring about those broken relationships? Not at all.

But it does mean that I stop giving them power. I stop trying to fix something that I can’t fix on my own.

So, I pray and lay it all at His feet. And then I leave it there, trusting that He will redeem only the things that are best for me. I don’t have to understand because He has heard conversations I haven’t and knows what is best for me.

He came. And, He stayed. He is here. And those simple words minister to me now more than ever before.

Because staying matters.

Love the ones who love you. Love the ones who don’t. Keep showing up, even when they mess up.

Live your life in such a way that no one doubts where your allegiance lies.

Live your life in such a way that your people know without a doubt that you’re not going anywhere.

Because staying matters.