I didn’t realize I couldn’t see before I got glasses in the second grade. But I remember a night shortly after getting my super sturdy (and nerdy) frames with the thick bifocal lenses. I was riding in the car with my parents and as I looked out the window at the passing cars, I noticed their lights looked different. Before I had glasses, the lights were big and fuzzy (blurry). After I had glasses, they were smaller and sharper.

Everything, as a matter of fact, was smaller and sharper. It was unsettling to realize that the way I’d been seeing the world was not actually how the world looked. My reality wasn’t real. What I’d believed had actually been a blurred version of the world.

These days I wear contacts and am fully aware of how desperately I need corrective lenses. All it takes is a day when I see my bathtub clearly to remember that I miss a LOT when I leave my contacts and glasses on the sink while I shower. And yet, despite my daily reminders that our vision cannot always be trusted, I forget that when it comes to matters of the heart and soul and life.

The holiday season is here, and with the turkey and our thanks already a distant memory, we can’t deny that it is, indeed, beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But what if what we believe Christmas looks like isn’t true? What if our perspective has been left on the edge of the sink? What if our vision is as blurry as the bokeh in that photo of the lights on your tree?

If you begin feeling anxious or sad or bitter when you see the holidays coming, I’d like to encourage you this year to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and then take another look.

Look for a reality check.

Have you been spending too much time on Pinterest, friend? No, really. I know you want a new recipe for the dessert you signed up to take to that dinner. But maybe it’s time to walk away from the 478 World’s Most Beautiful, Gluten-Free, Three-Ingredient Desserts.

When I talk about giving up on perfect, I hear a lot of women ask how they can do that in the face of social media that presents a mess-free and mistake-free life as reality. My answer to that is easy: Quit reading and looking at and following the stuff that stresses you out!

If looking at gorgeous Christmas decor on Instagram makes you hate your own Charlie Brown tree, turn it off.

If reading posts about holiday bucket lists and the 365 Things Women Must Do in 2016 makes you feel like hyperventilating — or curling into a ball on the couch for the next six weeks, stop reading them.

If scrolling through photo after photo of staged and Photoshopped “easy” side dishes makes you feel like a lousy cook, put the Pinterest down.

Seriously, you all. Search for “Pinterest fail” or “mom confessions” or “holiday disasters” at least once this season and remember that nobody’s life is perfect, and sometimes the uneven decorations are their favorite and the ugly food tastes the best.

Look for someone to help.

Sometimes we simply need to take our minds off the parts of the holidays that bring us down. And nothing will give you a new perspective faster than helping others. Whether it’s helping a sick friend finish her gift-wrapping or card-addressing or helping the less fortunate by donating toys or food or money, there are needs you can meet — no matter who you are or what your situation is. And doing that will undoubtedly help you forget a few of your burdens or remember the abundance you actually have.

Look for the blessings.

Sometimes our holiday anxiety stems from more serious matters than fancy recipes and napkins folded in the shape of Christmas trees. Sometimes the holidays bring up wounds that haven’t healed, losses that are still fresh, regrets that feel overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to find any joy in this world.

But it’s there! I promise you the joy is still there; you might just need to adjust your lens a little bit to find the blessings — even this year, even this time, even this Christmas.

If the holidays are hard for you this year, look for the blessings. Start with the small things and count them. Even if it feels insincere, thank God for another day, for breath in your lungs, for a promise He’s made that you’re still holding onto, for that one person who cares, for the lights or song that makes you smile, just a little bit, even if through tears. Look for the blessings that are still there, even when the holidays are hard.

Look for a new tradition.

If your holiday season looks very different this year than the ones in years past, it’s okay to grieve that loss. It’s okay to mourn with the memories of smiles and visits and carols and casseroles and hugs and games. But maybe, just maybe, it’s also time to start fresh.

If this year is going to be different, odds are you can’t change that. But what would it look like if you started a new tradition? If you revised your plan, refreshed your outlook — and let God redeem this season?

I know we face a million different things that can make the holiday season a rough one, friends. But as I remember the way a pair of glasses changed my world thirty years ago, I am hopeful a new lens for the holidays could change us today.

My prayer for you, for me, for all of us is that we will look for Truth and those who need our help, that we will count our blessings and create new traditions, and that we will find a laser focus on the Lord this holiday season.

If you are struggling with this season, I’d like to offer you some encouragement. I’ve written an ebook called, Choosing Joy When the Holidays Are Hard, and you can find it on my blog.

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  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I needed this as I see my neighbor already has their outdoor Christmas light extravaganza up and glowing and I’m still working on Thanksgiving leftovers lol. It is so easy to get sucked into what the world expects of us. I need to perpetually remind myself that it’s okay to march to the beat of a different drummer. And you’re so right…if looking at others’ edited lives on social media gets you down…don’t look! May we all take Christmas at a more relaxed pace…as it is meant to be a time of reflection and not a time of stress. I appreciate your reminder to look at Christmas through new lenses this year!

    • Mary Carver

      Relaxing and reflecting – now THAT sounds like a good way to enter this season!

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Mary, I always love posts on perspective. This was my One Word a couple years ago, because . . . well, I needed a lot of practice shifting and learning to view life with an accurate perspective. :)

    I love your words here, and the ways you encourage us to focus on others, to look for the things we can be thankful for, rather than looking at those ways we think we are “less-than.” Thank you for the reminders to count our blessings each day and to choose to remember that God is good, and He is with us.

    Have a wonderful weekend, and a peace-filled holiday season.

    • Mary Carver

      Perspective changes everything, doesn’t it?! When I can remember that, life is a whole lot…not easier, but more satisfying for sure.

  • Lisa Appelo @True and Faithful

    Yes to all four things. We can do precious little to change the hard and, really, we need to face it and process it. But your #3 and #4 have been the most helpful for us: look for the good in the midst of the grief and intentionally begin new healthy traditions that will bring joy. Thank you, Mary.

    • Mary Carver

      Finding good in the midst of grief is a hard calling, Lisa! But so worth it. I’m glad it’s been healing for your family!

  • Crystal Hall

    Mary thank you for this reminder! I loved your response to those of us living with stress because of social media, “Quit reading and looking at and following the stuff that stresses you out!” It’s actually really that simple, yet hard to step away from! That’s something I certainly need to work on. God Bless.

    • Mary Carver

      It IS hard, isn’t it? But yes – so simple when we just DO IT! :) A good reminder for me, too!

  • Keri Siegel

    Wow! That’s powerful! I, especially, loved the parallel between natural vision and spiritual vision. Be blessed.

  • Rebecca Jones

    I’m with Jeanne on this perspective, actually perception and deception, and the enemy though he may be responsible for most deception, we can still deceive ourselves. I hate hearing about the holiday blues, I know all too well how depression and grief can find a way in, I’ve seen people suffer with it. A time of joy should be just that, don’t let the devil steal it! As for turning off Pinterest, I agree, in part, God doesn’t want us to live vicariously, but I have to admit, Thanksgiving dinner went by quickly, and I was back talking to online friends and blogging.

    • Mary Carver

      You’re right, Rebecca. Deception plays a big part. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one!

  • Nancy Ruegg

    You named the best cure-alls for the holiday blues or envy: look for Truth and those who need our help. I want to do just that! Lord, help me allow a fresh wind of the Spirit to breathe new life into this season steeped in tradition and familiarity. May I discover new truths and new ways to be kind, generous, and helpful, as Advent unfolds.

    • Mary Carver

      “A fresh wind of the Spirit” – YES, that is a beautiful (and necessary) prayer for this time of year!

  • Beth Williams

    I agree with you we need to shift your perspective, We should be focusing on Christ’s birth and not all the worldly stuff. Today while out Christmas shopping I took an angel off the Salvation tree and brought that child some clothes and a toy! Years ago I had a shift (sort of) in perspective. Just like you got glasses to see I got a hearing aid. Listening to wind for the first time was amazing!
    In a few weeks I will be attending a Christmas party for elderly people. They will have Santa Claus and each will have their picture taken. It may be the only gift these people receive (my dad included), but at least they are not forgotten and have a good time!
    Blessings :)

    • Mary Carver

      Oh Beth, what a beautiful gift you’re giving those elderly people. And that is how we should all be approaching this season!

  • Missing Mickey Mouse

    Thank you for this post. I’m going through a difficult time in an UNWANTED divorce. I’m trying to keep joy alive in this precious season of Christs birth. It is difficult! My mind goes to dwelling on the pain rather than on the true peace of the season. I was very encouraged by you. I choose to rest in the Lord and celebrate the holidays. I know HE will give me peace!

  • Angie Ryg

    “I promise you the joy is still there; you might just need to adjust your lens a little bit to find the blessings…”

    Yes! With a few family health issues this Christmas, every moment seems especially precious and it is such a good reminder that Jesus is still and forever will be the perfect gift.


    • MARY LOU

      I spent 5 months of 2015 in hospitals or nursing homes. At 82 years old I am so joyous to be seeing another Christmas, to hear how God sent His beloved Son, to join with family and friends to celebrate His birth. To remember always “Jesus is the reason for the season”.
      The material trappings of Christmas mean nothing-I could care less. Th he spiritual wonder of the season fills my soul with joy and gratitude.

  • Kathryn Shirey

    I love this and need to hear it repeatedly. I’ve had to let go of a desire to create holiday traditions and memories for my children that mimic those of my childhood – but our lives are different, we don’t live near a large extended family, Our memories will be different, but different can be good, too.