Finding joy amidst sadness this festive season

Finding joy amidst sadness this festive season

The tragedy of so many innocent lives lost so brutally last Friday in Newtown Connecticut has dimmed the festive spirit for many people this week. Trying to comprehend the mind of someone who could commit such a barbaric act is impossible. Trying to imagine the raw heartache of the families affected is equally so.

Yet in the midst of tragedy, we are all called to hold firm to hope. Hope that goodness will somehow emerge from even this most tragic and  atrocious act. Hope that our society will pause long enough to reflect on the conditions that generate and enable such violence, and be brave enough to confront them. Hope that the WHY will be so great that our leaders and policy makers will commit to figuring out the HOW. And whatever your view on  “The Right to bear arms,” I just hope that this tragedy will be the catalyst for even the most ardent Second Amendment advocates to ask themselves, “Yes, but at what cost?”

Of course this isn’t the only tragedy to make news in recent weeks and months. The air waves have been far too full of them. So full, that it’s easy to grow desensitized to the suffering of others, and guiltily grateful it isn’t us. Yet, life has taught me that when it is our turn to face a situation we would never have chosen, much less prepared for, that it always holds opportunities to experience our own humanity on levels, and in ways, we never otherwise would.

When my older brother Frank became a paraplegic four years ago I realised that sometimes even the most heartfelt prayers and determined efforts cannot repair a spinal cord. When my younger brother Peter took his life two and a half years ago after a long battle with schizophrenia, I realised that sometimes life is cruel and unfair, that some dreams can never be fulfilled and that sorrow is as central to the human experience as joy.  We can not know one without being willing to feel the raw ache of the other.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that earlier this year I relocated back to Australia with my husband and four children after over a decade living in the U.S. While this is hardly a hardship compared to what many, and has been wonderful in many ways, it’s not been easy. At times I’ve longed for the familiar faces of friends and feeling part of a community. I’ve missed people knowing me, my story, my family, my value. I’ve pined the missed opportunities as the tyranny of distance made seizing many of them too difficult on the home-front.

Yet, as I’m sure  you have experienced yourself, it’s through those times when we cannot rest on what we have known, and must dig deep and press on, despite the challenges each day can bring, that we discover in ourselves strengths we didn’t know we had.  Sometimes we just have to dig a bit deeper than others.

So as you look toward Christmas, or whatever traditions mark your life as this time of year, I invite you to give thanks for the hard times of the year gone by.  It’s those dark times that add depth to the tapestry of our lives, and make the joyful times so much more precious.

Next year I will be sharing my new book Stop Playing Safe, which I was so grateful to be able to write amidst the challenges of my last year. As I wrote in it, we human beings are wired to over-estimate risks and under estimate our ability to handle them. In other words, YOU ARE CAPABLE OF MORE THAN YOU THINK!  Whether in your career or business, in your family and friendships, or in any area of your life, I invite you to take a moment over the days ahead to ponder what it is you feel called to do in the year ahead that will honor the best of who you are and honor the difference you want to make in the world, despite the heartaches and hurdles life has brought your way.

Wishing you a truly holy festive season –  a time for reflection, renewal and recommitting yourself to living a life that matters.  And a little indulgence 😉