In my family, Christmas is a very, very big deal.
Not because of the gifts, which we intentionally limit the focus on, and not because of Santa. For although my children are ages 2-8 they have never believed in Santa. Don’t get me wrong, they enjoy a good mall Santa as much as most kids, but we have always been honest with them about the legend of Santa Claus based on the life and kindness of St. Nicholas.
Yet, it is not one single thing we love about Christmas, but instead we love everything about Christmas. We love celebrating the birth of Christ and gift of a Savior, Christmas music, Christmas plays, Christmas movies, the family Christmas dinner at my mother’s or grandmothers, family coming into town, making and shopping for gifts for others, wrapping the gifts, Christmas trees, community and store decorations, and the most favorite Christmas activity of all (other than opening and exchanging the gifts because hey, we’re human) – decorating our Christmas tree.
We’re one of those families that waits for Halloween to be over so that we can begin celebrating Christmas (which is a lot easier since we don’t celebrate Halloween). Unlike others, we love it when the stores start putting up Christmas stuff the week after, because just seeing the decorations makes us happy.
However, I must admit, decorating the Christmas tree was a task that I had to learn to enjoy sharing.
Raised as an only child of a single mother, decorating the tree was a beautiful, calm, joyful event that culminated in a masterfully decorated tree. The first few years that the children were old enough to decorate the Christmas tree proved to be lessons in self-restraint. I struggled with the poorly spaced or bunched bulbs. I cringed when the colors weren’t evenly distributed. I exhausted myself trying to decorate and manage their decorating. The first year was the worse. I rearranged bulbs almost immediately after they put them on. It did not go unnoticed by my toddler daughter or husband. I freely admit, it was not my best moment.
The next year was better, I cringed and struggled more inside than out, and I waited until everyone was in bed before I rearranged the bulbs. The following year the only cringing took place in my mind, as I had grown content with my ability to rearrange after the children had gone to bed, and ever since any rearranging has been done when all little eyes were closed. Yes, still pretty bad, but no feelings were hurt – and Mommy was happy.
Then this year happened. This year that has undoubtably been one of the most difficult of our lives. The year when everything fell apart. The year that God would begin a process of pruning and rebuilding and establishing the course of our lives according to His will.
This has also been a difficult Christmas season. In addition to our non-pregnancy related trials this year, I was recently discharged from the hospital, am being closely monitored, am on medication to control my contractions, and could be readmitted at any time. I am still 6 weeks away from my due date, and am a very high risk for uterine rupture which could be fatal for both baby and me. In light of this, my doctor has said we will not go a day past 36 weeks. Because walking increases and induces contractions in spite of the medication, I have spent a lot of time in bed. But, I was determined to get a tree.
Our tree, ornaments, and all other decorations are in storage and I am unable to get to it. Further, in light of my present condition, I wouldn’t have been able to do much with a big tree anyway, so we purchased a light (wimpy), 4 foot, pre-lit, Family Dollar tree.
Pre-2014 Letetia would have cringed at this tree, visibly, and maybe cried..just a little.
But this year, this tree is beautiful. And as I sat, putting hooks in the shatterproof ornaments so that my children could decorate the tree – all on their own- I smiled, visibly. It is a beautiful Christmas tree. Absolutely gorgeous. It is visible reminder of all that God has brought us through, and all that we are trusting Him for. It is a Victory Tree – victory over this turbulent season, over the threat of pre-mature labor or the possible fatal risks of uterine rupture, and over the multiple attacks on our family. As I watched my children decorate the tree, and my 6 year old son excitedly top the tree with a golden angel, I was overwhelmed by joy, pride, humility, thankfulness, and hope.
That beautiful, little, wimpy tree is the best tree we have ever had – or maybe this was simply the best decorating experience. Letting go of the desire to control the outcome of how the tree looked, and choosing instead of find joy in my family, was a lesson that I had not yet learned, until this year. In the grand scheme of the many lessons learned this season, it may seem small. But, letting go of the desire to control the outcome, and choosing to find joy in my family, as I trust God for the outcome, has been an overwhelming theme of this season, and yet another reminder of the gracious, merciful love of my Savior.
letting go of the desire to control the outcome, and choosing to find joy in my family, as I trust God for the outcome, has been an overwhelming theme of this season
It’s going to be a great Christmas.