Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree


I'm not gonna sugar-coat this, I've had a bad morning.  After moping around, I found myself sitting at the bottom of the Christmas tree in the family room with the family dog.

The joke at our house, is that if there were a fire or other natural disaster, we should run to save the photo albums and the Christmas ornaments.  There is really nothing else in our home that has much sentimental, (or monatary!) value.

The Husband and I come from families who give children ornaments at Christmas.  My husband has an (ever-shrinking) collection of delicate ornaments given to him by his German grandmother.  I have my own 50's glass-blown ornaments from my mom.  For many years, we've given each of our children at least one ornament each Christmas.  Sometimes they are glass, sometimes wood or fabric, but we try to tie each to a "theme" -- something of importance that happened to them in the preceeding 12 months.

As a result, our Christmas tree is a lot more than a decoration: it represents the years of our lives.

But, sitting there, this morning, I realized something else.

It's also a picture of faithfulness.

I actually have two Christmas trees now--the main one, (the REAL one,) in the Family Room and a tall, slim artificial one,  in the corner of the kitchen.  Two trees is what it takes to house the overflow of ornaments that seem to multiply each year.

The main tree, always has big colored lights, the way I remember my Mom decorating it when I was little.  This tree never has white light, or small lights.  It just doesn't happen.

Tradition.

When I looked above my head this morning, I realized, that, with very few exceptions, I can probably name who gave us each ornament and which time of our life it represented.

There's a little wooden bear, wearing a festive bow-tie, on a red embroidered felt heart.  The words penned on the back, say that was given to the Son in the year he was born.  It was came to us as part of a large package from our church, filled with food and gifts for the kids. That was 1991.  Four months after the Son was born, and three months after the Husband had surgery, became disabled and didn't work for 3 years.  The year our church family knew that without them, our kids weren't going to have much of a Christmas.  

Each year, the Husband has tried to pick out a pretty glass ornament for the Daughter.  I can see a glass-blown cat-and-the-fiddle, the fiddle long ago fallen off in some storage box.  There's a little copper-colored clock, for the year she started telling time.  There's a polished wooden Pooh bear for the years she was transfixed by the stories of the Hundred Acre Wood. 

The Son has all manner of animals--dogs, bison, monkeys, wolves.  If it is real and lives, he has a Christmas ornament that represents it.

The Husband has a little cap, gown and scroll for the year he got his teaching degree, along with many ornaments that are various incarnation of fish and disco balls. (The latter, another family joke.) 

One of my favorites is a little metal Craftsman-style farm house with a porch.  I had seen it at a Hallmark store.  The Husband bought it for me, even though I knew we didn't have the money for Hallmark ornaments that year.  

He knew how much I wanted it.

Woven between these, are the little hand-made ones from the children.  Snowmen the Daughter made in Girl Scouts.  Melted crayon creations from the Son in pre-school.  Ornament after ornament with little pictures from church or school.  Documenting the years of their lives.

Each ornament tells a story, about the giver and the recipient.  But, it also tells a story of where we were that year.  In California, in the Pacific Northwest.   Teetering on the edge of poverty, having more than enough.  In debt, out of debt.

And each year, whatever happens, the ornaments keep coming.  After more than 30 years, we are still here.  Still weaving in and out of tests and trials and recessions and illness and bankruptcy and inheritance.  Sometimes in bliss, and sometimes feeling like we are on the brink of our sanity.  Still here.  And He still still has our backs.

The year the Son received that little bow-tied bear, I  thought it was the end of the world.  No jobs, no health, no money, two babies and a completely disabled husband.  Surely a Christmas couldn't get any worse than this one.  But, it wasn't the only hard Christmas we had--or, will have.  And we certainly have enjoyed our share of nice ones.

Scripture says the Lord goes before us, and is our rear guard.  And when Christ entered the picture, the door was opened for Him to do yet one more thing:  He implanted the actual Spirit in our hearts.

This is the picture I see when I look at our tree.  He is behind us, inside us, in front of us.  Walking through every single thing we go through, good or bad, difficult or wonderful.

Holding our hand.  And never, ever leaving our side.