Our Christmas Tree is definitely NOT a designer decoration, and I love it. The 7-foot green immitation pine is absolutely packed with ornaments. Some are beautiful and classic – blown glass handed down from my mother’s tree, a ceramic ornament a dear friend brought me from Ireland, hand-made, stuffed, quilted stars and hearts made by another friend to decorate our very first Christmas tree. Others bring memories of preschool and elementary school Christmas parties – handmade by my favorite elves. There is one lone wise man on a camel (there used to be three – I’ll explain in a minute), and quite a few sports-related ornaments. We are a family of fierce, and sometimes competing, sports loyalties. My Kansas University Jayhawk ornaments constantly disappear to the back of the tree, mysteriously replaced by Kansas State Wildcats. And I always put them back :-).
In addition to lots of ornaments, we have pets. This Christmas, it’s only our cat, Jake, but he is definitely a fan of all those interesting, shiny things hanging from a tree that suddenly appears in his living room this time of year. In other years, he’s had dogs to “help” him knock the ornaments down with their big labrador and blue heeler tails. Pets and Christmas trees are an interesting combination. And then there are the small children, who like decorating so much that they also like to un-decorate and start all over again. They also like to help the pets in their endeavors. Never a dull moment with the Christmas tree, but it can cause real chaos when the inevitable CRASH is heard from the living room and we rush in to find ornaments broken in pieces, tangled with lights, all over the floor. That’s what happened to the other two wise men and their camels. They all hung, every year, on my childhood tree. Then, one Christmas, when the whole family was sitting down to Christmas brunch, there was a loud bark followed by the sound of loud thumps and a crash. We rushed in to find the Christmas tree on it’s side. What happened was easy to figure out. That year, we had a litter of kittens, who had apparently decided to climb the tree. Our 100+ lb. German Shepherd had to help by trying to get them down out of the tree and, well…it was a sad mess. Two of the wise man did not make it. I love the fact that my mother saved #3 anyway.
I am happy to say that will not happen at our house, despite cats and dogs and toddlers. My husband, the problem-solver, installed a post, hidden in a bookshelf behind the tree’s spot, and each year runs a heavy duty piece of wire from the three trunk that serves as an anchor. They may knock a few low-hanging decorations onto the floor, but that tree isn’t going anywhere.
The truth is, I need an anchor more than the Christmas tree does, or I am in serious danger of ending up tired, drooping and in danger of falling over. Every year, I have a bad tendancy to try to re-create the Christmases of my childhood, which I’m pretty certain weren’t really as simple and perfect as I remember. I worry and run myself around and break things – sleep patterns, budgets, peace. I need an anchor to hold me up when the weight of missing people I love who aren’t with us any more threatens to topple me. If I’m not careful, what ends up in pieces is me. Not much of a way to celebrate the miracle of God with us.
I need an anchor. This year, in particular, I’ve found an anchor in a daily email from my church, which we call the GPS guide (Grow, Pray, and Study). It’s a daily Scripture lesson, and right now (no surprise) it’s focusing on the Christmas story and the insights it gives us into our own lives. You can check it out here: www.cor.org/gps. if you are interested. And, as always for me, I’ve found an anchor in quiet. When I am racing in circles, either in my mind or physically (or both), I have been going to a quite place and letting it all play out until I am still and can listen to God talk to me about what I really should be seeing, and doing, and experiencing. When I emerge from this quiet time, I can look around and see the beauty of the Christmas lights, laugh and enjoy the enthusiasm of my family – big kids and little ones alike, and read the words of Matthew and Luke telling us how God loves us so much that he came to live with us and show us what real love and care look like. These anchors keep me from falling over, even in the face of broken plans, missing loved ones, and altered expectations.
I pray that, in this last week of waiting, you find your anchor so that you can hold fast to the joy and beauty of this season. Be kind to yourself and take care of your soul. Ask for help when you need it. Have a blessed Christmas!