With only one week until Christmas, is your tree blinking and blessing family and friends who share its beauty from within your home or riding by your house? Christmas trees bring out the child in the oldest of us. We sit and stare while beholding the beauty of each branch and remembering happy times around our Christmas trees.
This story stirs my heart while pondering the blessings and burdens of Christmases past…and present. This year’s burden became a blessing when I listened (to Him and them) and looked beyond my grief to experience God’s way of working things out for good.
When Tina called and offered to help put up my Christmas tree, I confessed my uncertainty concerning this burden. Hanging up the phone, whispers filled my heart…don’t be grumpy, glorify God!
Listening to my Learning Station children share Christmas tree stories while making their own, my heart was moved with compassion. Don’t be selfish; celebrate Christmas and be blessed. So, I prayed!
Writing an email to Cameron, Clint, Kelly, Tina and their families telling of my gratefulness for God’s goodness and blessing of a beautiful, blended family turned into a lengthy letter of my love for Christ, Christmas, and carrying on. In closing, I asked them to help decorate my Christmas tree when we gathered together on Thanksgiving Day. So, I prayed and hit send.
While decorating at The Learning Station, I found a pencil tree we bought in 1990. A stirring said, “Put this one up this year!” So, I prayed and put it in the back of my Kia.
Putting this old tree in place at home took me back in time when our sons picked a couch or chair for their Christmas bounty. The ten-foot, artificial tree shed needles and stood crooked, a pitiful sight to behold. Yet, my determination to make it pretty prevailed. So, I prayed and put it on hold until Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, I moved a skinny tree with clear lights to our downstairs den. It filled the room with a warm glow but held no decorations on its short branches. No decorations will be just fine, I thought. Two days later, I was going through a box that held keepsakes and cards received when James passed away last Christmas. Sitting down beside my bed, I read each one of them, thanked God for those who sent them, and wept. Then, He put an idea in my mind…choose special cards to decorate this year’s tree. So, I prayed and picked ten cards that told the love story of a good God, a loving husband, and a place called Heaven. Placing each of them within the little tree’s branches brought blessings to my healing heart. Placing Tim and James’ favorite ornaments close together and a beautiful angel on top, my tree burst forth with a heavenly glow that soothed my soul and widened my smile. So, I prayed with a grateful heart.
Thanksgiving afternoon, our family settled in the living room for football and tree decorating. Clint made the first move by helping me straighten the branches. Still, the tree looked like a worn out hand-me-down and no one offered to start the decorating. You could see through every branch with the tree leaning and looking even more puny with my family there. Finally, Tina spoke up and suggested I throw the tree away. Glenn gasped, Clint giggled, Cameron agreed, and Jamie said, “Well, it looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree!” Laughter erupted and all eyes were on me. I knew my favorite tree was old and needed to be replaced but did not want to let it go! The stirrings for new beginnings and blessings grew stronger. Finally, I gave a nod of approval. They cheered as I opened the sliding glass door and Glenn asked, “Are you sure?” before tossing it over the deck.
It is not easy for me to throw things away. I believe pruning is important and I do; it’s Biblical. Yet, my upbringing taught me the value of a nest egg, saving perfectly good items, and not discarding things because they are no longer in style. My family encourages me to let go, so you can imagine their joy when I agreed to throw away our old Christmas tree.
Tina gave me a hug as I assured her my feelings were not hurt. My children’s honesty helped me let go. They were willing to tell me the truth; I was willing to do something that was hard with a humble attitude. Cameron came up the stairs with a tree from James’ house he found in our rat room (storage place) downstairs. Everyone cheered as he stood it in place where the old one had been. Clint plugged it in and lights glowed from top to bottom on the beautiful fir tree. Each of us added one or two special ornaments and topped it with a bright shining star. There were no tears as we gazed and gave nods of approval for throwing away a tree that needed to go and embracing a tree that took its place. This moment needed a mother’s touch. So, I told them how happy I am that God gives blessings to replace losses in our lives and how much I love our children and grandchildren and pray for each of them every day. The proof of His grace and goodness was alive and well in our home on Thanksgiving Day. Our blended family enjoyed a day of feasting, fellowship and feeling the peace and promise of a loving Father’s miracle of love. We honor the memory of loved ones and cherish a close relationship with our heavenly Father and family members here. So, I prayed as they talked, ate leftovers, played, and watched football. And, over and over and over again, I kept thanking God for a level-headed, loving family and for bringing good from the bad according to His plans for our lives.
Writing this story hasn’t been easy. The pain of letting go (whether it is a loved one or a treasured possession that no longer works) hurts deeply. Sharing snapshot stories of my family will hopefully help other families in similar situations. We don’t do it all right…no family does, but we don’t give up on our love for the Lord and one another either. We pray together. We don’t do drama. We are honest even when it hurts. We respect one another. We enjoy being together and being apart from one another. We deal with – without dwelling on – issues that can destroy us. We lovingly and humbly blended together as a family instead of sullenly and selfishly growing apart after our loved one passed away. We are closely connected and cherish God’s gift – a beautifully blended family. Our joy comes from being real and having a good time together. Our comfort comes from recognizing change comes but making the choice to move forward while staying Christ and family-centered. Our strength comes from honoring God with devotion and trust that He will work all things out in His time. And He does!
My home glows with love for Father – Son – and Holy Spirit, family (here and in Heaven) and friends – lights from two trees – and lessons from our Lord who looks after His children through all seasons. May His love fill every home and heart as we celebrate Christmas and give glory and honor to Jesus. Let us take time to get our hearts right with Him and one another, enjoy His gifts (even when we don’t always understand how He gives and why things happen as they do) even Mary and Joseph didn’t understand it all…they just believed and chose to be and do what He called them to be and do.
So should we…take time to enjoy family, be joyful as we plan and prepare, and share the miracle of Christmas wherever we go.
Becky Spell Vann is a long-time columnist for the Sampson Independent’s Faith & Family section and owner of the outreach ministry Tim’s Gift.