Finding Peace
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Published December 2023
By Helena Smrcek

Photo: Sunguk Kim

So, it is Christmas, as the popular song says, and here we are, rushing, stressing, battling crowds and wishing Merry Christmas to every cash register clerk - that is if we are brave enough to say the words.

I think of Christmases past, when our kids were in grade school, I ran a business that was the busiest in December, hosted large Christmas parties, staff parties, baked at least ten varieties of Christmas cookies, shopped for countless gifts, mailed out Christmas cards and presents, before Amazon took over that chore, hosted family dinner, and stressed about visiting relatives that seemed to make it their mission to find something to be upset about every single year…yes, you can take a breath now.

It took me decades to realize that not everything had to be perfect. What does that even mean, I ask today.

Perhaps it is my age, slowly creeping up to the second half of my fifth decade on this Earth, or perhaps it is a shift in values. It could also be God, showing me that my personal value is not in what I can do for others, or in how many things I can fit into my day. This entire year seemed to be one long lesson in doing less, eliminating distractions, and truly focusing on what God really created me for. Am I passing? Well, let’s just say, I’m really trying not to fail.

One of the steps I took is simply creating space for others to contribute. Yes, I did struggle with that too, as my definition of perfect may have not been the same as theirs. But you know what? Receiving help with gratitude proved to be such a wonderful relationship builder, who cares about ‘my perfect.’

Big parties turned into quiet meals with friends, time to have in depth conversations about the real issues of life, and truly enjoying the evening.

Gifts? Well, I love gift giving, and I must say, my brother is the same, so it must be in our genes. Yet, our family opted for Secret Santa for the second year in a row, which freed up my gifting budget to bless those around us who might have been experiencing a difficult time this year. We have been down in the trenches just a few years ago, and it can feel downright lonely as one battles one life crisis after another.

My husband and I are still hosting our family dinner, but we are shifting from a formal affair to a fun day that includes Christmas Eve service at our new-found church, my favorite White Elephant (a.k.a. Greedy Elf) game, and of course our Secret Santa gift exchange. Cookies are baked, thanks to our daughter and daughter-in-law, and my sister-in-law took on the snacks and appetizers.

As a tradition-keeper of our family, I will be making the Christmas potato salad, but we switched to turkey schnitzels, as not everyone at our festive table enjoys pork or fish. The traditionalists in our circles shake their heads, this is a definite departure from the norm, but those invited seem to be perfectly happy with this change. As I write this, a few short days before Christmas, I breathe easy. Everything that needs to be done is, and what is left, is planned, responsibilities shared. My husband and I are doing our Christmas delivery run tomorrow, and I do have time to bake a traditional Christmas bread for every family we plan to visit.

Sounds idyllic? Perhaps, but the road that led me to this juncture wasn’t easy. Saying no to toxic people in my life was a difficult task. During my thirties and forties, when the battle in my mind was real, I reached out for professional help. The amount of unnecessary stress and pressure caused by the closest to you can downright make you sick. Hence the two bouts of shingles, my brother experienced during that time.

Family and cultural traditions are treasures to cherish, but there comes a time in everyone’s life to re-evaluate some of the ingrained ‘musts.’ After all this special time of the year is to remind us of the most beautiful gift of all. God gave us His Son. The Prince of Peace, who freed us from slavery to sin.

I listened to a podcast not so long ago, and the pastor explained that peace is not just the absence of war or strife. I understood that true peace is a state of continual contentment, a connection with God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the love of Jesus we need to share with others.

So, this Christmas, let’s focus on maintaining peace. Accepting the sovereignty of God, His goodness and mercy. Let’s allow ourselves to let go of norms and demands we place on ourselves, accepting that as much as we wish for some things in our lives to be different, others may not have the capacity to live up to that hope.

Let us enjoy the blessings God placed before us, and release the pain of loss, unmet expectations, disappointments, and hurts. Receiving joy from our Father, His approval and unconditional love is the greatest gift of Christmas. It came as a tiny package, wrapped in cloth, placed in a humble manger. Most didn’t have a clue that night that the universe had shifted. And truly, so many people around us still don’t understand the significance of that night.

Let go of all the distractions in life and focus of what is real. His purpose for you and I, clearly defined in our DNA. May the new year be filled with good decisions, that will free us from bondage and empower us to boldly take up our mission and proclaim the good news to this world like never before. Give yourself a permission to embrace the joy of this season, and to say a simple ‘no’ to anything and anyone attempting to rob you of His peace.

About the author...
Helena Smrcek
, a journalist, author, and screenplay writer, believes in the power of a well-told story. Her readers can expect a captivating page-turner, filled with thrilling suspense, and heartwarming romance.

She started in publishing as a high school student, freelancing for Mississauga News. Her journalism carrier took off in 1999. Within three years Helena accumulated over 100 by-lines and interviewed Ann Graham Lotz, Carol Lewis, Cec Murphey, Kelita, and others. Her stories, many of them covers, have been published in Canada, the USA, Bermuda, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2002 she accepted a position at Listen Up TV, a current affairs program.

Helena became a founding member of Write!Canada, and The Word Guild, a Canadian national association of writers and editors. She is a graduate of Jerry Jenkin’s Craftsman Class, Act One, Donald Maass’ Fire in Fiction, Writer’s Police Academy, and several mentoring programs.

She regularly attends writers’ conferences and is a past or current member of such organizations as Word Weavers, American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, Toast Masters International, Boni, The Writer’s Guild, and others. Helena loves to participate in NaNoWriMo and hosts a writers’ group.

As an entrepreneur, she is familiar with marketing, branding, and social media. She has volunteered with YMCA, mentoring new Canadians pursuing their business dreams, and was an active member of her local Chamber of Commerce.

When not at her keyboard, Helena loves listening to audiobooks, working on her hobby farm, and traveling. She lives in Southern Ontario with her husband, three Vizslas, several cats, a herd of goats, and an undisclosed number of chickens.

For more about Helena, click HERE