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So, this past Tuesday I had posted a video on the Well With Joy Facebook page saying that it was a snow day and so the kids and I were going to put up the Christmas tree.
We had cut it down the Saturday before. Brought it in on Monday evening, put it up, watered it and so it was all settled and ready to be decorated.
We spent 3 hours putting the lights on, which was no easy feat since the tree stands 15′ high! Then putting the garland and ornaments on. It was all finished with just the angel to be put on the top.
That is usually my husband’s job – he does it every year.
So, the tree was done! Beautiful and shining brightly in the dark unlit room. Excitement filled the room and the kids sat down to watch a Christmas movie.
I headed to the kitchen to make dinner so we could sit and eat while gazing on the beautiful tree.
As I was taking the pork chops out of the oven, I heard a loud noise come from the living room. I knew exactly what had happened…the Christmas tree had fallen over.
At first, I didn’t want to look or know for sure what had happened. But, gasps and calls from the living room confirmed what I already knew – the tree had indeed fallen over!
I entered the living room and looked at the tree. With the lights still lit, it lay there. Broken balls were everywhere, water was spilled all over and my heart sank.
I had just spent hours putting my heart and soul into this perfectly decorated Christmas tree, and in one second it was all destroyed, ruined and a complete mess.
I felt so shocked, defeated and so very sad. How would I even bring myself to attempt it again…at least, again this year.
I saw the children looking at me. Wondering how I was going to react. I felt like crying! Then my 13-year-old son spoke, “Are you, mad mom?”.
Looking at his sad eyes, I could only mutter the words, “no, not mad, I’m just very sad. I worked so hard and in one minute it was destroyed!”
Then they all took their turn asking if I was going to fix it again. I couldn’t answer, because in all reality I, myself, did not know. The ambition and want to was gone – shattered with the balls that lay scattered on the floor.
We ate supper, and nobody mentioned the tree. After we were done eating Rod, my husband & my hero, gathered the 3 teenage boys together and they went to stand the tree up again. This time, once the tree was straight, Rod tied it up. With it anchored to the wall it should be all set.
The boys cleaned up the water and the girls cleaned up the balls. I, however, could not even look into that room. My 15-year-old son came up behind me while I was doing dishes and just silently gave me a hug. Then the kids said that I needed to just go take a bath and relax.
So, to the bathroom, I headed. When I got there the tub was already full of water for me. A towel and my pajamas waiting. Christmas music was playing softly and the only thing that lit the room was a couple of candles. My husband and children know what little things bring me joy and can be very kind when they want to be.
It was so special and thoughtful, but my mood did not change. I decided, there in the tub, we would just have a Christmas without a tree. I wasn’t going to be able to muster the desire to decorate a tree again.
My 17-year-old son came to me just before I headed to bed. He said he knew exactly why the tree had fallen. He told me it was because all of our hearts were not in decorating it. God wanted the whole family to help and just you and the girls did it. We were too busy and He wanted us to do it as a family.
A nice thought, actually, a very nice thought. He hugged me and went to bed.
This made living with my decision even more difficult, but I just couldn’t give any more time to a tree that betrayed me. I went to bed with my mind made up.
Prayer changes things – even these little everyday things
Wednesday morning, I got up early just like every morning. You see, this is my time to pray and have my time with God. I pray, and he has a way of bringing to mind what needs addressing within my heart. As I sat there, reading scripture and praying, a thought came to me. My husband and my children were going to be very sad if I truly did not make an effort and get the tree ready again.
It was being selfish and giving into self-pity if I did not attempt to redo the whole tree. I needed to get over myself.
“Dear Lord”, I began to pray, “I need you to give me the desire and ambition to attempt the tree again. I cannot do it on my own, just please renew my desire to do this for my family”.
A New Day
The morning went on as usual. Rod off to work, kids off to school, house a mess and I have to head a couple of towns over to take one of my daughters to her dentist appointment.
I ran a couple of errands then headed back home. I got home just in time to go pick up the kids at school. I still hadn’t looked at the Christmas tree standing there all disheveled. I didn’t want to think of it at all.
Besides, I had laundry to fold, beds to make and dishes to do.
The kids had activities and basketball practice after school. I didn’t have time to even attempt the tree, even if I had wanted to. At 4 pm I picked up some of the kids from all of their activities.
I headed home and was beginning to make supper.
Hope begins to shine forth
As I was preparing the food, my 11-year-old daughter came to me and said she had just tried the lights on the tree and they all worked! Those few words sparked some hope in me.
I took a look at the tree. My daughter told me that if I just rearranged the few lights that need to be put into place, she and her sister would hang all of the ornaments. She also showed me that one of my favorite ornaments had not been broken. I was glad!
As I looked at her questioning eyes, wondering if I would consider her proposal, I melted. Yes, of course, I would!
With those words and that intentional act of surrendering my self-pity, all of a sudden the desire and the wanting to decorate that tree came rushing into my heart. Once I stepped out of ‘myself’ the joy simply and fully came back.
So, we all helped and redecorated the tree (except for one son who was at basketball practice). My husband and 17-year-old together put the angel on the top and it was finished! Plus we had a new memory to treasure.
My son came home from basketball and saw the tree all done. His face lit up and he looked at me full of joy. He said it was so nice. Rod said it was the prettiest one yet. To finish it all off, we gathered around the tree as a family and prayed together.
Oh, the time we waste thinking of ourselves
God had answered my prayer from the morning. Not instantly. And not the way I thought he should. But, he did.
My patient husband, silently standing the tree up. Making sure it would not fall again.
The boys innocently hugging me, asking for assurance and explaining why it happened. And my daughters offering to do it all for me, this is how Jesus brought me out of my self-pity and selfishness. He showed me through others that we need to deny ourselves, and think of the other. Serve the other. We need the other!
My husband and children showed me what I, frankly, should have already known. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t my tree. It wasn’t my time taken up. It was for all, for everyone, for the other.
They didn’t say it, they showed it through there gentle giving and servitude towards me.
Our Lord gently brought me to the understanding that it was not all about me. Yes, I had worked hard, but for who? Me? I worked hard for the whole family, friends that would visit and celebrations that would take place on the birthday of our Savior.
We can get discouraged, but how we respond is important. Even if discouragement sets in, we have to still move forward in love for God and others. Deciding to do what needs to be done regardless of our feelings.
Discouragement is not a way to get out of doing something. It is an opportunity to grow and just do something out of pure love because you can and should.
This is when you can truly experience the joy of giving and your discouragement is almost miraculously transformed with Divine encouragement.
Once I decide to give and do it all for them, the other, simply out of my deep love for them, the desire to really give and do what I needed to do the encouragement, began to well up inside of me.
I wanted to give, love and spread joy to my family!
Funny how everything worked out isn’t it? Encountering unplanned ‘surprises’ learning the joy in Giving of ourselves, and opening our hearts to receive Love –
– And isn’t all of this what Advent and Christmas are all about?