Joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives


Finding Joy at Christmas and throughout the whole year is possible. How do you find Joy and Happiness during the Christmas Holiday Season no matter what your circumstances are?

Feel Joy

During the month of November, I did a lot of thinking, analyzing, and soul searching.  I thought about life and how quickly and drastically things can change.  I took a long look at myself and my family and I didn’t like some of the things I saw. I could see all the important things I was procrastinating and all the time my family was spending on electronics alone in their separate bedrooms.

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Find Joy

I have seen how things can change in the blink of an eye. Life can be going great one minute and then all of a sudden it’s not. Things happen. Life changes. We have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

Holidays can be a difficult time for many people.  There are trials that make it hard, such as, sickness, divorce, financial issues, relationship difficulties, depression, or death of a loved one. Even more difficult may be watching family members go through some of these things, and so much more.

Sometimes it is difficult finding Joy at Christmas time when we are going through such severe trials.

Find Joy

 As I was taking this stroll to analyze my life, I thought about my family, friends, and neighbors and realized how fast things can change. We never know what the future will bring. Do I want the future to be filled with contention, laziness, procrastination, fear, sorrow, despair, or misery? Or do I want it to be filled with faith, love, fun, cheerfulness, traditions, family time, happiness, and joy?

 Will I be able to instill in my children the idea of finding Joy at Christmas time no matter what their circumstances will be? What memories will my children have when they look back at their childhood? What traditions will they continue in their own families?  Will they be able to establish the idea of finding joy at Christmas time? If this was the last Christmas we had together as a family, what do I want them to remember from it?   

Find, feel, focus, and choose Joy

About this time I heard a quote from Russell M Nelson that said,

“The Joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives”

Russell M. Nelson
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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I decided that this would be my motto for the coming holiday season. It seemed that everywhere I looked, the word “Joy” would pop out to me. It was a reminder to focus on the things that will bring “Joy” into my life, not just at Christmas but all year long.

So for the holiday season, I decided:

  • Finding Joy at Christmas this year would be a priority
  • I wanted my children to think of the true meaning of Christmas. 
  • I wanted to spend quality time with them and make good memories.
  • I wanted to be able to lift the burdens of others in some way.
  • I wanted to teach my children to help others 
  •  I wanted to focus less on presents and more on the gift of the Savior. 
  • I wanted to focus more on spending time with my family and less on spending money. 
  • I wanted to feel Joy and to help others feel “Joy”.


I wanted to try and turn this Christmas year into a year of fun traditions, family quality time, Christ-centered experiences, and enjoy the true spirit of the Season. Most of all I wanted all of us and those around us to feel true Joy. Here is a list of over 50 things that can make the Holiday Season more meaningful and bring Joy.


A few days before Thanksgiving I gave each of my children a piece of paper. I told them to write down what they wanted for Christmas–focussing on one thing they wanted, one thing they needed, one thing to wear, and one thing to read. Then I told them to turn it over and write down a bucket list of activities they wanted to do before Christmas and include the traditions that were important to them. Making a Bucket list was the first step in finding joy at Christmas.

Make a Bucket List

I bought a board and chalkboard paint in the craft section at Walmart. My daughter painted the board and after it was dry she used chalk to write down the bucket list, with boxes to check off. We used the board as part of our decorations.


 Make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Gratitude helps you to focus on the good things in your life instead of dwelling on the negative things or the difficulties you are going through.   Being grateful for all of your blessings and even your trials can help you in finding joy at Christmas.


  I wanted to be able to get my Christmas shopping done early so that we could focus on more important, less stressful things, in December.  The week of Thanksgiving, I did most of my Christmas shopping online, with free shipping. I tried to focus on buying one thing they wanted, one to wear, one they needed, and one to read. It didn’t happen but it was good in theory. It still helped me spend less money and not go overboard with the gifts. Most of it arrived the first week in December. The poor UPS and Fed-Ex. delivery guys delivered 16 packages on the same day. Make sure you thank them profusely and maybe give them a treat.

Shop early in the season for online sales with free shipping


My daughters helped me with the wrapping. One of them begged me to let her do the wrapping and I was more than happy to let her. She has excellent wrapping skills. It saved me time and energy and it gave her something to do to be helpful. It was exciting to see her enthusiasm and desire to wrap the gifts. This was another way that we were finding joy at Christmas.

Have family help with the wrapping


  • Put up the tree
  • decorate it as a family and invite the grandkids over to help
  • put garlands and lights over the archway.
  • display a lighted village
  • put a train around the tree -we used a Thomas the Tank train set we have had since my son was young. The grandkids loved playing with it. It was also fun to watch the cats interact (freak out) with the moving trains
  • collect and display snow globes
  • display Christmas books and Videos/DVD’s
  • Set up a Nativity or a collection of Nativity sets.
  • Put lights outside on the house and decorate the yard
Decorate as a family
Decorate with books, DVD's, toys, snow globes, and Christmas villages
Put a train set around the tree, and don't forget the Nativity set

This year we put up our decorations the day after Thanksgiving and kept them up until the day after New Years’. I was even a little sad to take them down. All of the decorations helped our family in finding joy at Christmas. I loved turning off all the lights in the house after the kids were in bed and turning on all the Christmas lights, and sitting in my chair with my cozy blanket, sipping hot chocolate, It was magical.


My daughter and I painted the grinch and my other daughter painted a snowman and some holly. We wrote some words like Merry Christmas, Peace, Love, and Joy. I wanted my neighbors who are struggling because they have lost someone they love or gone through a divorce, or having other difficulties to be reminded to find and feel peace, love, and joy. I wanted them to remember and focus on finding joy at Christmas.

paint on your windows


Every year I purchase a new personalized ornament for each of my kids, plus one for the family. These ornaments usually represent something they did that year, such as dance, basketball, or graduation. This year my daughter dressed up as Mario for Halloween. My other daughter loves puzzles. My son graduated from High School. Also, we couldn’t leave the cats out. Each of the kids has their own box with their own ornaments that they put on the tree each year.

Buy or make new ornaments
Buy or make new ornaments that represent something from the year


  • Go tubing or sledding
  • Make snow angels
  • Build a snowman
  • Make a snow fort
  • Have a snowball fight

There were times that I really didn’t want to go out and play. I just wanted to sit and read my book, but then I remembered that I was trying to make memories and spend time with my family. Sometimes we have to give up something good to have something great. It took time and energy and was cold and took physical exertion, but it was worth it. I loved playing in the snow with my kids and grandkids and making a memory that brought some Joy.

Play in the snow


The kids can help put the ingredients together, mix the dough, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, and decorate them. I gave each of them a ball of dough and their own cookie sheet. That way they would be able to cut and decorate their own. They were so creative with the decorating.

Make Cookies


I bought books at the school book fair to give to each of my grandkids. Inside I wrote a personal note telling them to have a Merry Christmas and that we hope they will always love reading and learning. I also let them know that they are amazing and grandma and grandpa love them.

We also decided that each of our grandkids needed a new ball for Christmas (basketball, soccer ball, football, or playground ball.)

Give a book and a ball


I gathered the children’s Christmas books as well as some small chapter books and put them in a basket to display as a decoration. Then, as a family, we read one book or one chapter of a book each night.   (We didn’t do it very often, but the idea was to read one each night for the 24 days leading up to Christmas and also read one chapter in the book of Luke in the Bible each night).

Read Christmas stories


I went to lunch with a couple of friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I thought I wouldn’t have anything to talk about, but it turned out that I just talked and talked and talked.  It made me realize that I don’t often “get away” and take the time to just sit and visit. We all need to take time once in a while to relax and visit with someone who makes us feel comfortable enough that we can discuss anything and everything.

Go to lunch with friends


My girls belong to a craft club where they learn to make decorations, cook something, or sew something. In December they made snowmen out of fabric. This is a great way for them to collect decorations that they can use for their future home.  It also gives them a feeling of accomplishment and teaches them how to sew.

One year the grandkids came over and we made ornaments to go on a special grandkid Christmas tree.

Make Crafts
Make Crafts


Send a package to a missionary or someone in the military. The post office has different sizes of flat rate boxes. It doesn’t cost anything for the box and it is the same price no matter how heavy it is. We sent some chocolates and a Christmas card to a missionary.

Send Care packages


I made cards on the Walmart website and put photos of each member of the family. The photos showed some of the activities we did or accomplishments such as awards and graduation. I gathered addresses and made address labels on my computer so that I could save them and print them on sticky labels.


My kids and grandkids love playing games and putting together puzzles.

  • Clue
  • Phase 10
  • Battleship
  • Candyland
  • boggle
  • Pictorial
  • Monopoly
  • Uno
  • Giant Floor puzzles
  • Small mini puzzles
  • 500-1000 piece puzzles

I love watching my daughter put together puzzles because she has her own way of doing it. And that is OKAY. It works for her. It doesn’t have to be “my way.” She doesn’t start by turning everything over and doing the border first.  She puts together different segments and then it comes together.

Put together puzzles


Put together Hygiene, school, or baby kits

Every year I think about doing something for somebody else and teaching my kids how important it is to focus on others.

 I read a post on Facebook that was from the mother of a young girl who was diagnosed with Leukemia a year ago.  This mother wanted to have the one year anniversary be a time where they could “give back” and help others through their storm.  They wanted to put together kits that would be given to families who find themselves unexpectedly at the hospital without any warning. 

I explained this to my kids and told them I would like to take some of the money we would use for presents and use it to put together some of these kits. My kids were so excited to do this project. It brought joy into our lives and hopefully whoever received these kits.

I found some inspirational thoughts and printed them out to add to the kits.  They also had hygiene items (mini shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, tissues, etc.) gum, chapstick, snacks( animal crackers, cookies), Qtips, notebooks and pens, and a couple of dollars to use at a vending machine.  We used shoebox-sized plastic totes to put them in. It was an amazing experience for me and my children.  It was also exciting to see the enthusiasm that my kids had as they did this.

Do Service

You can purchase items for these kits on Amazon. You can also purchase the storage boxes from Amazon.

Do service by putting  together kits


With a group of church kids, we put together kits for low-income new parents. These kits had baby shampoo, body wash, wipes, powder, and fleece blankets.

Tie a fleece blanket


One of the best activities to do with kids is to cook in the kitchen. Make candy or cookies or other treats to take to friends, neighbors, widows, or single people. It was a fun activity to have my children help make the treats. It was also great to deliver them and see the happy faces of those who received them. This year we made Sweet Chex mix, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate covered Pretzels, Pumpkin roll, and sugar cookies.

Make treats together
Put treats in plastic containers with lids


  • Use graham crackers instead of gingerbread
  • Invite your grandkids over or some neighborhood kids
  • Make frosting, then separate into different bowls to add food coloring
  • Use starlight peppermints, Reece’s Pieces, gummy worms, chocolate-covered peanuts, smarties, Swedish fish, and gumdrops.
  • Take a photo and post on Facebook asking for them to judge the best house.

It was so fun to see how creative they were.

Make Gingerbread houses


  • Visit a live Nativity where they have real animals and real people especially a baby playing Jesus.
  • Go to an Elementary Christmas Concert. Support your kids and grandkids.
  • Attend a High School/Community Christmas program.
  • Watch the Christmas First Presidency Devotional
  • Attend the Relief Society Christmas dinner and program.
  • Attend a Ward Christmas party.
  • Go to a small/town community Christmas Eve Nativity program, where you can learn about the birth of the Savior, and then Santa comes and gives a present to the children. They also sing Christmas Carols. This was a tradition I wanted to have with my children. It was a tradition when I was a little girl and also when my mother was a little girl. It is part of our heritage and legacy.
  • Host a party. Do a party with a church group, or invite some kids over, or neighborhood families.
  • Have a party with extended family. We ate pizza, played games, and played a gift exchange game.

Attend, Participate, and Enjoy

  • Go to an Elementary or High School basketball game.
  • Attend the local Church Choir concert.
  • Sing Christmas carols, or go caroling. Also, Listen to CHRISTMAS MUSIC all the time.
  • Participate in “Wreath’s Across America” This is an event where they place Christmas Wreaths on the graves of Veterans. My daughter participated by singing with other Elementary students. They sang the fight songs of the different military branches. The widows of some Veterans each received a rose and then family members or other people placed a wreath on the graves. It was a really special event that we had the privilege of attending.
  • Go to a professional/semi-professional Christmas Play. We went and saw an adaptation of “The Christmas Carol.”
  • Take the kids to a movie theater for a movie. Don’t forget the popcorn. We watched Frozen II.
Participate in a community program
Attend a Christmas play or concert
Go to a Live Nativity
Participate in Wreaths Across America


  • Drive around town and look at Christmas lights. 
  • Take a Drive and enjoy the scenery. In this hustle and bustle world, sometimes we just need to stop and take a look and appreciate this beautiful world.
  • Watch Christmas movies. Don’t forget to watch a few classics like “White Christmas”, “Miracle on 34th Street” and”It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  • Make a Paper Chain. You can use leftover scraps of wrapping paper. Use it to decorate the tree or as a countdown to Christmas (take one-off or put one on every day leading up to Christmas). Poor Elliott or Prancer. The girls thought the chain should go on him.
  • Play a gift exchange game at a party. Everybody brings an inexpensive gift. They sit in a circle and as a story is read, they pass the gift. Then they open it when it is finished. We read a story of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” Every time the story said, “left” the gift was passed left and every time it said “right” it was passed right.
  • Give your church class or group gifts with hand lotion/sanitizer, and chapstick–Wrapped with a ribbon and card.
  • Take your kids shopping so they can get presents for their friends, teachers, and family. If possible, have them earn their own money, The Elementary school has a Santa’s workshop where they can purchase gifts.
Enjoy the Season


Take time to write in a journal about finding Joy at Christmas

Having photos and journal entries about your activities can help you to record the things you did. A lot of times we forget the things we did and this way we can look back and see the many wonderful activities we did with our family at Christmas time. Also, as I said before, you never know what can happen and how things will change. The last time I saw my grandson was at our house for a Christmas party. Although I did take some photos and some videos, I wish that I had taken more. If I had known that he would die soon, I would have filled a bunch of memory cards with his laughter and his awkward happy steps.

A fishing trip was among the last activities we had with my stepdaughter before she passed away.

Take lots of photos

When I think of having joy through our hard circumstances, I think of little Gunner. He was born with a heart defect and had several surgeries. He spent most of his life with a tube in his stomach or nose, but he was always happy. Gunner could light up the room and make everyone feel happy, just with his smile. That last Christmas he was just starting to walk and as we watched him toddle around the living room, he brought such joy to all of us that Christmas.

Joy from a child no matter the circumstances
Joy has little to do with the circumstances of our lives


  • Get New pajamas. Open just this one package Christmas Eve and then lounge around in the PJ’s that night and even all day on Christmas Day.
  • Watch the Christmas Nativity Story, or Read it from the Bible. This is truly the reason we celebrate Christmas and we should be reminded of that and focus on the Savior.
  • Read “Twas the night before Christmas” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, or another Christmas book that has become a tradition in your family.
  • Put Cookies and Milk out for Santa. This year my daughter thought Santa needed Mt. Dew instead of milk.
  • You can’t really control this one but have a White Christmas. It actually snowed this Christmas, which added to the magic.
  • In their stockings, they get a new toothbrush, hair things, CD or game, Giant Candybar, and smaller candy bars or Lindor Truffles. This year they also got a small bottle of Cholula sauce.
  • Every year the family gets a new puzzle and game.
  • Give some meaningful gifts. This year we received a blanket someone made us from the clothes of my stepdaughter who has passed away, with a note that said, “This is my Brandie blanket. These are the clothes I used to wear, whenever you wrap up in it, know in your heart I am near.”
  • I gave my girls each a necklace and my son a wallet that said, “Always remember you are BRAVER than you believe. STRONGER than you seem And smarter than you think and LOVED more than you know.


  • Have Scones with honey-butter for breakfast on Christmas morning. My husband likes maple syrup on his.
  • Watch the Christmas Parade on TV or football, or have a Christmas movie Marathon.
  • Fix a traditional Christmas Dinner. Some years we have just had rolls, ham, and salads, but this year we had the traditional turkey feast, including turkey, stuffing, potatoes, rolls, noodles, and pumpkin pie. It is a tradition in our family to have homemade Chicken and noodle soup to use as a gravy over our potatoes. (of course, some members of the family don’t like this and will only eat white gravy, so I still had to accommodate them and make gravy).
Leave treats for Santa and get Christmas pajamas
Have Scones for breakfast and a traditional Christmas dinner
Give meaningful gifts

FINDING JOY DURING January holidays

  • For New Year’s Eve, we had a sleepover with some of our grandkids. We ate pizza for dinner. We had snacks such as crackers, pepperoni, and cheese; or crackers with spray-on cheese; popcorn; peaches; rootbeer. We played board games, colored in coloring books, and watched “Disney” movies.
  • New Year’s Day we watched the Rose Parade while my husband watched football. We ate potato salad, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, deli sandwiches, and potato chips. Of course, the kids also wanted Ramen noodles.
  • On Civil Rights Day we had a movie marathon and ate snacks and soda pop.
New Year traditions


What brings “JOY”? It’s like President Nelson said, “it’s not the circumstances of our lives but in the focus of our lives.” As I have tried to focus more on giving, spending time with my family, and keeping my focus on the Savior, I have felt more real Joy then I have in a long time. Finding joy at Christmas time and all year long is so important. I pray that all who read this can find Joy, Peace, and happiness in your life.

Joy we feel has little to do with circumstances.


Please comment and let me know if anything that I wrote, was helpful, or if you have any activities or traditions that you do in your family to help you in finding joy at Christmas. Thank you


  1. I can’t describe how much I love this post!! Finding joy can be hard sometimes and I love the things that bring you joy!! And you do what you love! I am also happy my kids get to have you all and are included in this joyous love and grandparent fun you do with them!!

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