A quote by Charles Schultz is framed on my desk, made perfect with a picture of Snoopy on his dog house pounding away on an old-fashioned typewriter. His beagle paws stamp out, “Happiness is Writing Your Own Story.” I adore this for three reasons: First of all, Snoopy is my hero; secondly, I love to write; and finally, Mr. Schultz makes a brilliant point—we constantly get to write our own stories.
I know we don’t get to choose the context of our story—the setting, the characters and many events are written before our time. We didn’t get to choose our parents, our home environment, or whether our children are healthy, ill, or disabled. However, we get to write the in-between parts of the story and that makes all the difference.
Think about it. Many good stories or movies revolve around a crisis that hits about mid-way through the plot. The main character faces a pivotal decision and his/her response influences the ending. Our lives are much like this.
Our crisis can be overwhelming, but we can always harness the power of response.
I remember a time when it took all my control to remain calm with my child when she displayed behavior that seriously interfered with Christmas. To enjoy the season at all, I literally had to picture myself as if I were in a movie scene, making the choice that would eventually change the outcome of the story—one in which my calm behavior would be heroic. It helped. I learned to step out of my situation for enough time to view it from the position of an observer.
I learned to have faith that my mature behavior in the situation would make a long-term difference, even if it didn't fix much in the moment.
With Christmas approaching, I’ve thought of Jesus’ birth in a down-to-earth way. I’ve imagined it from the perspective of an overwhelmed husband and his teenage wife giving birth in a barn far from home. Within two years, the family was running to save their toddler’s life from Herod who wanted to end it. The context of their story wasn’t great. In fact, it was scary. Yet this story, with its imperfect characters and context, is what God chose for his son. It is, like our stories, characterized by good co-mingled with the presence of evil.
This is the world we live in and how it goes:
Joy is infiltrated with pain—even at Christmas—but pain may be an integral part of our story that God uses for good.
Happy endings are so much happier when a struggle characterizes the journey. We cheer all the more when the story is touch-and-go.
What is happening in your life now? Are you disappointed, overwhelmed, or trying to meet unreasonable holiday expectations? Don’t aim for perfection during your Christmas celebration because it has never existed on this earth, not even at the first Christmas. Knowing this, do your best to imagine a positive ending to your family’s story and to live it out to the best of your ability. Choose carefully how you write your actions and words for the next page.
Happiness is writing your own story.
Dr. Karen Crum brings hope and practical support to parents through her blog and award-winning book, Persevering Parent: Finding Strength to Raise Your Child with Social, Emotional or Behavioral Challenges. SPECIAL OFFER UNTIL JAN 1-- A FREE BOOK WILL BE SENT TO THE FIRST THREE PEOPLE WHO SIGN UP FOR KAREN'S BLOG ON www.PerseveringParent.com.