Congrats to the Overcomer winners and Merry Christmas to all of you!
I just have to say quickly that I saw Star Wars yesterday–I wasn’t planning to– but my nine year-old, who saw it Saturday night kept spoiling the story for me, so I made him see it with me again. I wasn’t expecting to, but I LOVED it.
I found myself getting all nostalgic and teary-eyed and… well, that’s all I’ll say. Well, one more thing — there weren’t a lot of women in the film, however the ones depicted were strong and well-clothed. (No one accidentally ripped their shirt and was forced to run around in a bare midriff or a bikini or high heels. FINALLY. I’m so sick of that). They were leaders. Go see it for that alone. Okay, if I say anymore I’ll ruin it for you. It’s worth it and it’s worth seeing it in the theater.
I wrote a version of the following post for In.Courage a few Christmases ago, but wanted to share it with you. What I didn’t tell the readers at In.Courage is what happened after my meltdown…So I’ve included the whole story just for you:
A Winter’s (Tree) Tale
In Chicago each winter, the wind-chill from Lake Michigan transforms into a super-villain, wielding the cold like a weapon, freezing everything in its path. A few years ago, with winter’s formidable appearance on the forecast, I asked my husband and sons to get our Christmas tree out of storage (in my in-law’s basement) before it turned too cold. I stayed inside and began unpacking ornaments, heating up cocoa, and digging out holiday music, all to set the tree-trimming mood.
The task should have taken about fifteen minutes, but a few hours later they returned, mischievous smiles on their faces.
“Guess what we got?”
My husband lugged six enormous cardboard boxes into our living room. The boys declared, “Surprise, Mom! It’s the biggest tree in the world!”
I pride myself as an easy-going woman. I live with four of the male species, so I’m not generally rattled when they come home with things like dead cockroaches or the latest fart joke. But, I also consider myself a cultivator of beauty and simplicity. When we’ve decorated our Christmas tree in the past, it has always been charming. It has always been tasteful. (It has always been the tree my mom gifted to us when we were married and it’s from POTTERY BARN, okay?)
I never envisioned an 18-foot-tall, 6-foot-wide, monstrosity of a plastic tree masquerading as a Douglas fir. Pre-lit with brash blinking lights, the thing is gaudy enough to have its own act in Vegas.
Still, I could’ve responded with a teensy bit more patience.
“What in the world were you thinking? I don’t care if you get a refund or ya’ burn it. Get it out.”
And just in case my point wasn’t clear, “By the way, you’ve ruined Christmas.”
The boys started crying. My husband slammed a door.
The winter villain had struck down in our home, crushing everyone’s dreams, all because I wasn’t getting the picturesque Christmas I demanded.
That night, after everyone was in bed (cocoa untouched, ornaments unhung), I snuck downstairs to examine the tree, trying to muster some ounce of grace for it. Instead, I sat on the couch and bawled. God, I need you to help me let go.
I determined then that “letting it go” meant I’d apologize for how I acted, but I’d also create a new rule: Kevin and the boys could have their tree this year, but the following year we’d have mine, and so forth. We’d trade off every year. That would be my gracious compromise.
It may have not been the next day, but it was definitely within the week, a friend of mine who works for World Relief called me. “Aubrey, there’s a new refugee family in town. They’ve been attending a Christian church for the first time in their lives- and I want to bless them by helping them celebrate Christmas.”
Then she said this: “I’ve received all of these wonderful Christmas donations for them–decorations and gifts and lights– but I can’t seem to find a Christmas tree. Do you know anyone who has a tree they’d like to donate to this family?”
I boxed up my precious Pottery Barn tree, with its matching lights and ornaments, and we brought it over to this family’s apartment. We had a wonderful day with them. They loved the tree, just as I love our ridiculously large tree now. I also love that my pottery barn tree is blessing a family who has lost so much. And at the same time, I have to confess how egocentric I feel for even writing that. I know a tree is nothing compared to their suffering. Nothing compared to what they’ve lost. The things I hold on to are often so trivial.
But I also have to acknowledge this: I’m also thankful, in spite of my selfishness, that God loves me tenderly enough to help me to let go of the stuff I desperately cling to. He helps me open my hands. He helps me see outside of myself when I’d rather not.
This year, as winter begins her ascent and as we set up the tree that won’t quit, there is a part of me that still craves a postcard Christmas; white lights on a quaint blue spruce. But, then I stop to praise God for our oversized tree.
It is, after all, my very tangible reminder that He creates warmth and light. He thaws even the coldest of seasons.
What about you? Any lessons learned at Christmas?
And if you’d like to give an end of the year gift to help refugee families, go to World Relief Dupage or World Relief Global.
I’ll be taking a blogging vacay for the next couple of weeks. But you can connect with me on Twitter @aubsamp.
Enjoy your Christmas and New Year! (And go see Star Wars!)
AND AS ALWAYS, LIVE SHAMELESSLY!