It’s that time again – my favorite time of year is here. The sound of bells and carols that ring announcement and joy; the delicious aromas of evergreen, cinnamon, and freshly baked delights; the bedazzling warmth of lights glistening everywhere you go; the excitement and love lighting up my daughter’s eyes as we share these precious moments together; the laughter and bonds of friends; the helping hands and kindness of people. That sweet moment when the all the world is dark and asleep, and I get to sit beside the glowing tree full of wonder and gratitude, to remember, reflect and cherish the greatest gift that has been given to us by the Creator – to be at peace and walk into our real and authentic selves.
This time of year, our values shine through and are beautifully heightened – our faith, family, friends, joy, generosity, home, peace and the plethora other wonderful parts of life. We get to realign our priorities and focus more on what really matters. We get to share love freely, and we get to see the good in the world in action and thriving. It’s a time of giving, when we get to bless those around us and receive the fruit from it.
And what if this continued beyond just the holiday season? What if this was your everyday reality going forth? How would that change your life? Your spouse’s life? Your kids’ lives? Your friends’ lives? Your employees’ lives? The people that you have just the one second connection with? The ripple effect that reaches everyone that’s within your vicinity of influence. How would you see the difference in your life and that around you, if we all continued to do this throughout the year?
Yet while we have these tremendous values that come to the forefront this season, there can also be a flip side, which can affect people drastically. This season can be an extremely lonely one for some and full of pain, or completely stressful. Someone may have just moved to a new city, state or country by choice or force and have no one to connect with and share these beautiful moments with. They may have lost a parent, a spouse or child and are engulfed in grief and depression; or the holiday may bring up terrible memories of their childhood and their past that they haven’t been healed from. It could be the mountains of debt we’ve buried ourselves in, the financial burdens that can weigh heavy upon us from so many expenses and not enough money to pay for them, or the feelings that we have to “perform” or do everything to be accepted, to belong, to be liked or to succeed. Whatever the situation we can find ourselves in, often we turn to vices as the solution.
Yes, the vices feel good, bring pleasure, and bring momentary satisfaction. But that euphoric moment lasts only for a moment. We all hope that the feeling will keep going on, that we can stay in that high. But before long, we come down – and the thing that we’ve been trying to avoid, to disappear from just stares us right back in the face. And then we start looking for that next fix, that next high to make it all go away and put us in that euphoric state again. But as Graham Cooke explains it, “it’s like getting on a plane and moving somewhere to start fresh and leave it all behind, but we soon find out, our baggage is there waiting for us at the baggage claim”.
As one who wrestled with drugs in my youth, I am all too familiar will that unrelenting roller coaster. The highs, the utter lows that just keep going lower into the pit, and the craving to have the high again – to stick our head in the sand, to escape reality and the traumatic and unbearable circumstances we endure, to numb ourself, to cover up the shame from words spoken over us and things done to us. But as much as you try, you can never reach that high again. You only find yourself going lower and lower. And even though you hate yourself for doing it, it’s not long before the clawing and nagging call of “just one more time” or “I have to have it” takes over and you grab for the next hit, the next drink, the next one-night stand, the next screen, the next pastry. Our world is soon filled with various levels of darkness – despair, debilitating anxiety, deep depression, paralysis, suicide and death. Utter hopelessness and inability to live and enjoy life.
But… there is always hope. There is a way out. You can be free of the vices and live a flourishing life. In the dark the lies and vices just fester, trap you more, take you deeper into the pit. Bring them out of hiding and into the Light, so that you can be healed and be set free, be victorious in your fight and find peace within yourself. When one walks in their true authentic self, they can live above the vices. Values far outweigh the vices. Vices only bring death – physical, spiritual, emotional, and relational death. It’s the deceiver at work. To trick us into thinking, “oh this is so amazing”, while in actuality our life begins to be destroyed instantly, yet we don’t see it until we are sucked in and in so deep. We get put in bondage, chained up to these horrific ball and chains, where we have to drag them along with us everywhere we go, weighing us down, stealing from us, killing us, and destroying us.
You may think the vices are your identity. The vices don’t make you. They’re not who you are and were created to be. When you take off the vices, you don’t lose yourself or your identity. It doesn’t make you nonexistent, but instead you’ll find the real you and it will be ashes to beauty. It will be like a beautifully wrapped gift that you open up to experience the new you, that will be delightful and fulfilling. Living without these vices, you’ll find the real you that is absolutely amazing, exquisite, valuable, remarkable and a masterpiece. Just waiting to be discovered. Facet by facet. Your radiance will shine.
Values bring life, help us stay on the right path, help us stay connected. Life is a gift, full of adventure and there for us to explore and be immersed in. Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the things, habits, behaviors and strongholds that so easily trip us up. We can be free from these shackles that hold us hostage. In the Light, we are loved. We’re transparent, open, no longer hiding. You don’t have to carry the shame and the guilt. The Light isn’t here to condemn us, but rather to lavish love on us and revive us from the vices that we get ourselves into.
So, where do you stand when it comes to values and vices? Do you want to be free from your vices that keep you enslaved? To have peace and be happy in your own skin, enjoying life as your authentic self? It all goes back to the root. We have to find the root – the trauma, the situation, the feelings, the lies, the wrong belief systems – and we have to face where we’re missing the mark. What are we trying to bury? To escape from? To numb ourselves from? To pull ourselves through? And then to know that despite all our weaknesses, our faults, our mistakes, our addictions, we are still incredibly loved. We can be free from the things that pull us down into the pit. We can be cleansed, redeemed and made whole. Those shackles can be broken forever. The world can become more vibrant than you’ve ever known, more ecstatic than any drug or any vice you’ve experienced or could ever experience.
While sitting in the darkness and death within the shadowy corners of your life, allow the Light to shine brilliantly on you and guide you to the path of peace. When we keep our thoughts focused on things that are true, honorable, lovely, pure, admirable and excellent, our mindset shifts. When we fix our mind on things that are good, we attract the good. We deal with the pain and circumstances we’ve experienced, and don’t brush them under the rug. We validate what we’ve gone through and we validate our being. Be open, seek out help with a counselor, a coach, a pastor or a mentor. And be willing to be teachable. I have learned and experienced the value of having others who fight for me. One who walks beside you, believes in you, encourages you, builds you us, validates you and your pain and experiences, and who speak out the truth of your authentic self even if you can’t yet see it.
This time of year, we are reminded of light, of wonder, of hope, of peace, of joy. And a new year is just around the corner. The clock of time turns, and we feel the shift. It’s a new day. And not just at the beginning of the year. But every day. Every day is a new day – new opportunities, new chances, new choices, new discoveries. So, what do we want it to look like? What do we want to change in our life? What new things are you going to put in place? Are you ready for a breakthrough? Are you ready to receive new life and victory? Open your heart to possibilities. Take the risk, step out and receive Love that is waiting to be lavished on you. Let it fill you with warmth and envelope your soul. Open your heart and receive the greatest gift the Creator has given you to walk in peace and in your true self. My friend, I leave it up to you, and I’m cheering you on. And I cannot wait to see you discover yourself and let your beautiful facets burst forth, full of vibrancy and color.