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Remember the Tree

Bear with me if you will, for one more Christmas post that has nothing to do with Christmas but is something that hits me each year when we take down our tree.

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We get the best trees each year from our local firehouse. It started because we wanted to support our wonderful volunteer firemen in their annual fundraiser. The fact that the trees are always so healthy and full is an added bonus. This year’s tree was gorgeous. It had to be over six feet as it brushed against the ceiling. It dropped surprisingly few needles and sucked up tons of water. We loved it – the way it looked, the way it smelled, the whole Christmas-y thing!

But, inevitably, you hit that day when you are tired of walking around it, vacuuming around it and sneezing around it and you know that you and the tree are ready to part ways. Very carefully, you remove each ornament. They must be rewrapped and repacked back into their boxes. Fragile glass ones that were gifts, sweet ones that your children made for you, the “baby’s first Christmas” and “our first Christmas together” Hallmark ones that bring back so many memories. Then the final last step – the indignity of hauling that bad boy out to the roadside for mulch pick up. My hubby and son dragged it out to the edge of our property and we stepped back to have a last look. That once regal tree now looked so impossibly small and sad.

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It got so small for two reasons.:

  1. It’s been stripped of all it’s finery. No decorations or twinkling lights are left to adorn it’s branches. It looks sort of like the way I do in the morning before any makeup has been applied.
  2. It’s in the wrong place and in the wrong position. A Christmas tree is supposed to have a place of honor in your home, in front of the living room window or in a corner where everyone can see it. We struggle to make sure that tree is standing straight and tall. We will even trim it’s trunk and top to ensure a perfect fit.

Here’s the thing about Christmas trees. They give the whole family an excuse to come together over hot chocolate and Christmas carols and that is good. They hold our memories from past years and hopes for future ones amidst their branches in the form of cheesy and beautiful ornaments and that is good. They represent the best of a holiday season when everyone takes a moment, just a stolen moment here and there, to stop and reflect and that is great. But it’s just one season in the lifespan of the tree.

Looking at that sad, little tree out by the curb, I realize that it has only shared a small portion of it’s life with us. I wish I could have seen it growing in the fields of it’s youth. Even now, though it has been cut down in it’s prime, it still has important purpose. After the family celebrations are over, it will return as mulch for spring gardens. It’s not done yet and neither am I. Even though I have gained a few pounds over the season and had to drag myself back to work, I am still standing tall with a twinkle in my tired eyes. Why? Because I remember that the outside is only and always a temporary season.

Charm is deceptive and beauty if fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

While I can have fun choosing just the right sweater to go with those jeans and carefully apply that mascara and eyeliner, I remember the tree and how majestic he looks even in his humble, unadorned state.

That tree is was and still is beautiful. So are you. Christmas is done for another year but you are not.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord lookimages (2)s at the heart.

2 Samuel 16:7

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A Prayer

P1000472By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge it’s rooms are filled with rare and beautiful things.”

Proverbs 24:3

Dear Lord,

It is only through the wisdom that comes from Heaven that I will build a stable base for my life. I ask for the wisdom of Your things; like love and goodness, forgiveness, mercy and grace. I realize that it is only through understanding of both myself and those around me that i will be able to build on that base. But only if I build with love and goodness, forgiveness, mercy and grace. And as my knowledge of You grows; as I come to know Your love and goodness, forgiveness, mercy and grace on a deeper level each day, You will fill my life with rare and beautiful things. Things like love and goodness, forgiveness, mercy and grace.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”

Amen


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My Dad’s Messy Workroom (Hey, dad, I get it now!)

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My father was a tool and die maker by trade but a carpenter by choice.He made all sorts of stuff in his workshop from common household items to sweet children’s toys for his grandchildren. That’s how I remember him most, that and the smells of the workshop. Sawdust has a sweet, dry scent but also paint and turpentine (not so sweet). He had many hobbies beside woodworking. He discovered an artistic talent late in life which turned his bedroom into an artist’s studio. The man had the greenest thumb in the neighborhood and always grew the tallest sunflowers and tastiest tomatoes. I remember marigold flowers that he would save each year to dry and use the seeds in the spring. To this day, when I plant marigolds their pungent scent sends me back to my childhood. He was always working on several things at once which kept him very busy. It was always fun to watch him unveil each new project, many of which are still in use in my own home today. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that his workshop was a cluttered mess. and I was never allowed to straighten anything up as he might never find it again. But that was alright, because so much beauty came out of that workshop. That room was meant to be used, and the floor was meant to be covered in sawdust and his clothing was meant to be stained with oil paint while a constant smell of turpentine hung in the air because he lived and laughed and enjoyed himself when he was working on one of his creations. Had all his tools, paintbrushes and gardening trowels stayed clean, housework would have been a breeze but my life would have been so flat and colorless.

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strentgh of the ox, comes an abundant harvest.”

Proverbs 14:4 NIV

Um, Yeah. that’s not really making much sense. And that’s a shame because it’s a great verse. Here it is again in the New LIving Translation.

“Without the oxen the stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.” Proverbs 14:4 NLT

Toys are meant to be played with. Your good jewelry is meant to be worn. Sunsets are meant to be enjoyed. Dogs are meant to have thier bellies rubbed. This might all seem rather obvious but here’s one that trips alot of people up: life is meant to be lived. I know, you probably seen it on a hundred bumper stickers and Hallmark cards but it’s a pretty rough one when you think about it. If you are hurt in some way, you may not be so fast to get up again. When a relationship crumbles, you will think twice before jumping back on that particular horse. Sure, your stable will stay clean but there will be no harvest for you. Life gets messy. Relationships can be painful. There have been times when I blocked myself off from the world because things were just getting too crazy. It gave me a much needed chance to catch up, rest up and clean up. But once the reconstructive work is done – then what? That’s when i would realize that i needed to reconnect with a friend or reach out to a family member and start to live again.

Letting someone get past the guarded walls of your heart is a difficult, painful task. It takes time and patience on both sides to build trust. There will be misunderstanding and sometimes downright selfish behaviour. It will hurt. And that’s when you are just dealing with people. When you let Jesus start to have control of your life, things really get rocking. Someone told me once that “Jesus had really messed thier life up.” I was a new Christian at the time and thought that it was a horrible thing to say. But now, a lifetime later, it’s starting to make sense. Jesus takes us to places that we never would have dreamed of going and never thought we wanted to go to. He places us in situations that didn’t seem possible only a few short months earlier. He will orchestrate the ebb and flow of the people that you will associate with and it might not always turn out the way you think it should. He will surprise you with invitations to parties that don’t seem to be your cup of tea. He will ruin you for the casualness of this world as He focuses your mind on the things above. He will mess up your life and you will find that it’s not such a bad thing.

When the ox is running around the stable, things will not be clean and tidy. But the clean, sterile stable is a cold place.  Give me the dirty straw and mud of a working barn. Let my heart shows scars from mishandling and mistrusts. And let Christ “shine his light in our heart” (2 Corn. 4:6), that same misshapen and scarred heart, because His is the light which will show the beauty born forth from a life lived in a messy stable.