From Tree to Shining Tree

Over the last few weeks, our family has gone through a wild precursor to Christmas celebrating. Our emotions have traveled from the pits of exhaustion to the heights of inexpressible joys. You know how it is at this time of year–we hope for the perfect Christmas and somewhere in our heads, in spite of what we know is true, we keep holding tight to the ideal. Maybe it’s a Hallmark or a White Christmas movie we watched as kids that planted the seeds, I’m not sure, but all I do know is that our families Christmases always seem quite memorable and far from perfection.

It was just a few weeks ago that while my husband worked twelve-hour days for seven days a week–we enjoyed a sweet visit with our Florida family. Just as they were leaving, our son and our daughter-in-love came home for a seven-day visit as my husbands’ layoff began. This week, after hanging our twinkling Christmas lights upon the Christmas tree that I always hoped for–a flu hit our family. Four out of nine of us are either in it or through it and I’m bracing for illness to overcome the rest of us. As I take a deep breath this morning, I remember being in similar places in years past. It’s so tempting to feel overcome by our circumstances, isn’t it?. Some of us are remembering our losses, facing employment challenges, overwhelmed by winter illnesses, discouraged by unmet expectations, and giving in to depressive feelings. For me though, because I’ve watched God move and answer specific prayers–I can’t help but feel grateful instead during another unexpected Christmas journey.

This kind of peace has much less to do with the material things and more to do with what God has patiently shown me in times past. I think back upon our years as a family and realize that some of the sweetest memories I hold are the seasons when we simply had less. Less money fueled my creativity as a new bride to collect shells from a Florida beach and create ornaments. Less space in our home prompted us to cut our Charlie Brown Christmas tree in half to make it fit in our miniature family room. Less ability to travel to celebrate with family and friends nearby now leads me to open our home and share what we do have. It’s during the moments that I’ve shed my ideal version of Christmas that the One Christmas is really about becomes more apparent. It’s easier for me to see what God values when I let go of distracting traditions that I’ve treasured over the years. Right now, I’m cherishing the simple things–cozy cuddles while rocking in the recliner under piles of blankets, drinking steaming tea around the kitchen table while daddy tends another project, laughing with friends and family in a family room warmed by a fires flickering glow, and gathering often with those that share a desire to praise God for His saving grace. These are all treasures that I am valuing this Christmas.

I confess, I need more gratefulness to stand guard around my heart which is prone to wander. I need to remember where God has been tender, loving, and faithful year after year. It is so good being His–nothing I could ever desire will compare to my perfect Savior Jesus Christ. He’s the only everlasting gift that will never fade away and that is why I am celebrating Him and Him alone this Christmas. I hope you will find your perfect peace in Him too–now and always.

“Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13 & 14