The reason I began to make time no matter what is because about thirteen years ago now I helped a friend through their last days here on earth when they had AIDS. It was a painful yet very precious time as we spent those last weeks together. Joe died just two weeks before Christmas and I vividly remember one day we were sitting and talking and he began staring at the Christmas tree and just began weeping uncontrollably. He didn’t tell me why but he didn’t have to. I knew it was his last Christmas and the reality of it suddenly hit him as he was looking at the tree. I determined right at that moment never to take one moment for granted. I always set up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. I want our family to have as many days to enjoy it as possible. The past two years we set up another tree in the family room and I did it in a sugared fruit theme. I want to add another tree next year if I can find one on clearance after the holidays and get everything for it. I'm thinking perhaps a teapot theme tree in my kitchen.
Some might find the looks of our tree in the living room laughable. Although I love the perfect "department store" looking trees, our tree in the living room doesn't look that way. And, it's on purpose. I could have that type of tree (even if I couldn't quite accomplish it myself I'd ask someone to come over and help me). But I've chosen to have our tree represent our family's life journey. And therefore…it doesn't look department store-ish.
We don't have anything on our tree that doesn't "mean something." Each and every ornament has been given to us as a gift over the past 20 years of our married life together. Many are photo ornaments of our kids throughout the years, special occasion ornaments like "our first Christmas" and "baby's first Christmas" and lots of homemade ornaments done by the kids. We have lopsided tissue paper candy canes that are about to fall to pieces, gingerbread men who are showing wear and tear and missing a button or two or even an eye, and a few ornaments that you have to look close to figure out what they even are! But without exception each and every one brings back a memory, something special…someone special. The kids go crazy every year taking the ornaments out of the tissue paper and recalling the memories. "Look Mom, this is the one I made in kindergarten!" and "Oh look, here's the gingerbread man I made in kids church!" Although I love white lights, I've chosen to keep colored lights on our tree at home simply because that's what my husband and I both grew up with and what reminds of us the Christmas trees of yesteryear for us. Yes, we're both pretty much sentimental saps when you get right down to it. Steeped in tradition when it comes to the Christmas holidays, right down to our 20th annual jaunt this year to a Chinese dinner on Christmas Eve once Christmas Communion is over at church.
I have always make a huge spread for Christmas day. I love this kind of stuff. If I had time I would sit and watch the food channel all the time, or Martha Stewart. (Yes, I love Martha!) I think Moms to a great degree take the responsibility of being "memory makers" for our families. When we first got married Larry would say, "does this have to be such a production?" Actually in a few years he grew to love it and if I don't do something now that he used to consider such a "production" he'll say, "hey, why aren't we doing such and such?"
Well, I figured out the first year we were married that I really didn't want to cook for Christmas Eve too since my fridge was already totally packed out for "the big day" and…I was tired from all the preparations! So, we opted to go out on Christmas Eve and make a nice relaxing evening of it. Only one problem, we couldn't find anything open on Christmas Eve. Finally, we found a Chinese restaurant. I have discovered that Chinese restaurants are ALWAYS open on Christmas Eve! (Duh- this would be because they usually aren't celebrating Christmas -- unless they are Christians!) So…guess what… Larry and I spent our first Christmas Eve as a married couple there, and…for twenty years we have taken our family out for Chinese as "tradition". We often invite friends, the staff usually goes with us, and we allow the children to open one little gift on Christmas Eve. (Then Larry goes home to finish last minute wrapping while I go to bed.)
Every year I stand back and look at our tree once we put it up, and remember all it represents. It really means nothing to anyone but the five of us, but to us it means a whole lot. It stands a memory to places we have gone to, things we have been through - both good and bad. The lights remind us that no matter what life brings us, through mountains or valleys, His light will always be there to break through and see us through whatever may come. "The people walking darkness have seen a great light…" (Isaiah 9:2) Because of his light, we know that we don't have to remain in any type of darkness. (I John 1:5) We know that just one simple light even in the natural gives light to a whole room (Matthew 5:15). And in the same way, Jesus light has the ability to illuminate whatever situation we happen to be in, if we just allow Him in.
Yes, our tree is a representation. It's a tapestry…a potpourri if you will. It's not perfect. But neither are we. And thank God that because of Jesus, we have hope for each and every area and situation our lives, and circumstances in this journey we call "life"!