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The following is a chapter from my newest book, Restore Joy to Your Life: 28 Suggestions for Renewing Your Mind, which will be released in January. As the Christmas holiday approaches, rather than sitting around a table discussing sports and politics, why not invest the time in remembering fond family memories instead?
With multiple family members gathered in one place, Christmas is also an ideal time to identify people in old photos, and write their names on the back so the faces won’t be lost to history.
Restore joy by looking through old photographs
Many people have found that looking through old photographs is a good way to restore joy.
Flipping through albums (or the stockpile of images stored on your computer) is a trip back through time to relive celebrations, victories, vacations, and pleasant experiences with close friends, coworkers and family.
It surprises me how just spending a few minutes looking through old photos can often morph into an all-night ordeal. Those happy images are sure to put a smile on your face and joy in your heart.
Several years ago, when my daughters had all graduated from high school and were out on their own, we gathered for the last Christmas we would celebrate as a family. I was divorced within a year.
Yet, the day after Christmas, we brought out giant tubs of old photographs and memorabilia. For hours, we sat in a circle reliving the old memories and sharing stories that we had long forgotten about.
More precisely, I learned of things the girls did when they were young that would have brought about my early demise—or theirs—if I’d known about it back then.
I had maintained a “memory box” for each of the girls from the day of their birth. They relished looking back at what happened when they were born and seeing evidence of their lives unfolding as they grew and matured.
After a day of fun remembrance, we went out to enjoy a nice dinner and continue sharing stories. Ask the girls today, and they’ll likely remark how it was one of their favorite Christmas memories.
You might think this exercise would be counter-productive, since you’d have to relive memories of loved ones who have died or are no longer part of your life. But you’d be mistaken.
Actually, seeing their photos sparks happy memories of the times you were able to share together. As Christians, we know we will be reunited with them soon enough.
If the person is still alive, perhaps seeing their picture will prompt a long-overdue phone call to catch up and remember the past. That kind of joy is contagious.
What about people who have brought you pain? How would seeing their pictures bring you joy?
Memory can be a demanding master, tying you to thoughts of past abuse, betrayal, words spoken in anger, abandonment, neglect, and a host of other negative recollections.
Perhaps now is the time to let is all go.
Assemble any pictures or any artifacts that tie you to those memories and throw them out. Burn them in a bonfire (while roasting marshmallows over the flames), or deliberately destroy each image in a shredder.
Remember, Christ made you a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Set it aside. Let it go. Don’t look back. Allow joy to return to your heart.