How Lovely Are Your Branches

I struggle a bit in the commitment area. I like change and I like it when things stay the same. I recognize the absurdity of this, as one can not have it both ways, but this doesn’t change my preference in any way.

Many years ago, nearly twenty to be nearly exact, I chose a profession for nearly all of the wrong reasons. Over the course of almost 18 years I’ve spent many a day and many a night within a particular set of walls. I’ve been snowed in, put on high alerts, been bored beyond words, shed more tears than I count, held many a hand, mourned over many a broken heart, and have witnessed more than my share of miracles. To say that I’ve learned more lessons within those particular walls than I can count would be a serious understatement.

christmas-trees-1823938_1280Year after year one thing always stays the same, but changes annually. It is secretly one of my favorite things about that place. The Trees. The Christmas Trees.

Those artificial Tannenbaum dot the premises like little gems on a desert floor. Those who know them know that they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, each one as unique and different as the ones who decorated it. They are a sight to behold, those Tannenbaum that are a lifter of the spirit and of the head.

“The Google” defined Tannenbaum this way: A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

The very description itself encompassed exactly what I was thinking, and I was amused that the Google agreed with me.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness.pngHow very appropriate that the tree symbolizes faithfulness, for it is the consistent faithfulness and regularity as well as the ever-changing baubles that adorn such consistency that ministers to me most.

Over the passage of time my overactive imagination has given rise to the stories that those trees may hold, the hands who’ve lovingly selected their baubles, and I’ve often wondered if those individuals know how very important their handiwork is. I can testify honestly that they’ve made hard days easier, sad days happier, the mundane exciting. I also must confess I’m a little sad when they leave, but for the time being, for today, I am so very grateful for the beautiful reminders that bring a little sunshine and happiness to this world – this and every Christmas Season.

The Giving Christmas

As I look back over the years, I have many wonderful memories of Christmas seasons that I have experienced. There have been Christmases as a child and then a teenager. When I was married, Christmas changed from just my family to include my husband’s family. Then came children and grandchildren. Each new Christmas experience has brought its on special times.

Christmas as a child was full of wonder and joy. There were gifts from Santa and gifts under the tree from my parents. I remember receiving skates and a scooter. There was always a doll from Santa. Even when I was too old for a doll, there was still a baby doll for me at Christmas.

I can remember trying to save my allowance so that I would have a little bit of money to buy gifts for my parents and my brothers. The gifts were never large but they were all I hobby-leisure-model-cars-33074.jpgcould get on a small allowance. The gifts would be a handkerchief for my mother and stationary for my Daddy. I would get little metal cars for my brothers. I was proud of my gifts and so happy to give them to each of my family members.

When I was in college, I had a part-time job at a bank. I remember saving back money from my paychecks so that I could buy “real” presents for Christmas. There was a clock that I thought was so beautiful at a store where my parents shopped for special gifts. The clock was encased in a glass dome. I thought it was the most beautiful clock I had ever loricron-anniversary-clock-95592-281x433.jpgseen. I purchased this clock for my parents for this very special Christmas. It was the first time that I really had the opportunity to buy them special gift. My parents loved the clock and kept it in a special place on the mantel even after it stopped working. They thought it was a beautiful decorative piece and kept it because it was a special gift from me.

When we were cleaning my parents’ home and getting it ready to sell after they had both gone to be with the Lord, I picked up the clock and began looking at it. I know it doesn’t work but it is a reminder of when I learned how wonderful it is to give to others. I will always remember that first Christmas that I had the opportunity to give and not just receive. I will keep this clock as a reminder of the love I felt for my parents that Christmas Day that became my first Giving Christmas.  I will always remember the joy that it gave me to give them a gift that for me was of great value. I know that it is not the cost of a gift that makes it special but the joy that it brings. This is a lesson that I experienced that Christmas season more than 45 years ago, but I remember it each year as I plan my gifts.

Acts 20:35b NIV tells us “It is more blessed to give than to receive. ”

As we think of Christmas, we cannot help but remember the most precious gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

My gift to my parents pales in comparison to the gift that God gave to us of eternal life with him forever. What an amazing God we have. My prayer this Christmas is to enjoy the spirit of giving throughout this season and to never forget the most wonderful gift I have ever received.

Gerard_van_Honthorst_001

 

‘Tis the Season

We sat at the table, she had coffee, I had sweet tea. We were near giddy just to be with each other. Years ago when life was different, when our kids were little and we went to the same places every day, when circumstances forced us into each other’s lives, and it was not uncommon to see each other multiple times a day such a giddiness would have been absent, such an anticipated and leisurely meal likely would have been too. Back then, we would daily talk and there were times that it had been literal hours that we had seen the each other last. But as it happens with life, things change and children grow. People move. Jobs are different. “Seasons” – that tends to be how I hear it referred to, and for a season we were inseparable. This season of life though is much different.

The online dictionary defines a season in this way – season : a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature : a suitable or natural time or occasion: an indefinite period of time : while. The King’s Word says to everything there is a season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

the-original-italianI reckon calling different times of life a “season” seems to make perfect sense. Seasons change and life changed, so we went from seeing each other every single day to seeing each other on special occasions and when we happen to be at the same place at the same time. When that happens I have been known to squeal with excitement. As we sat there soaking in our time and happenings in our families’ lives, drinking our caffeinated beverage of choice, amidst an endless supply of buffalo check and country store decor surrounding us, “Season’s Greetings” made its way into my mind (defined by the same above source as: an expression of goodwill at Christmas or the New Year) I wondered where the expression had found its origins.

Our conversation meandered, we have always had difficulty staying on task. We filled in gaps of time with parallel world events, our conversations woven around the One Whom we both love and whom this Season, the Christmas Season, is about.

As we talked I pictured in my imagination a woven tapestry, our words making a picture and the thread holding it all together is Christ, the one that binds us to the support frame of the loom, Jesus. Pull that central thread out, and the tapestry would all unravel, the loom and colorful threads that make up our lives would come crashing to the ground and be nothing more than a mound of tangled up mess. I do tend to have an overactive imagination and a wandering mind. However, the reality is, we would both tell you, that Jesus alone holds us together. As we filled in those gaps, we laughed until we cried, we cried until we laughed, she and I caught up as best we could. She has always been a lover of jewelry and she was adorned that day as per her usual. On her right arm I noted the pearl colored baubles and jewel encrusted bracelet, the simple silver bangle that my 40-year-old eyes could not decipher what the small writing said. I examined and must have had a quizzical look because she said, “Oh, this one, this was a gift from a family. It says ‘Make a difference.”

I nodded. I knew what she meant, and she went on to point to other things, to show me pictures of and tell me about the gifts she had received. In light of the Season, I thought it fitting.

Her career revolves around loss. It wasn’t her first career. She was, she is an accountant, CPA I think is what it’s called. She’s a numbers person. I am not. That career was like a springboard that catapulted her into her now second, late-in-life, go back to college career. A calling is a better description.

It boggles the mind of many, myself included, whenever she begins to talk about it I just say,

“I couldn’t do it.”

Her answer always the same, “Yes you could.”

“No Ma’am. I could not” My reply also always the same.
We have had this conversation on multiple occasions.

As the tapestry grew and our conversation continued, we talked about the gifts, how each one tells a story and ministers to her. How she looks at them and doesn’t see an object but sees people who gave them. The Givers have sealed a place for themselves in her heart. She doesn’t say it but I can read it in her eyes. She rubbed her index finger over the imprinted words “Make a Difference.” Her eyes were shiny with tears and on the verge of running down her cheeks, she looked at me and said as if speaking to the Giver rather than me. More rhetorical than not.

“You lost what you love and went through a very hard time and I get the gift. I struggle with that.”

For a moment there was a pause in our conversation. She used the scratchy paper napkin that had been rolled around her silverware, to dab her eyes.

cross pexels-photo-635699“That’s Jesus.”

The words were out of my mouth before I knew it. I even questioned if I had said them out-loud. I saw her nodding and dabbing her eyes and realized I had actually said them out-loud. A second time, stronger and confident of my declaration.

“That is Jesus.”

He was born the humblest of births, lived a life of simplicity, loved on and cared for the ones unworthy, the ones the world did not even recognize as people and yet He willingly gave His life as a ransom. He gave it up so that we can receive the gift of salvation. The gift of Hope. The gift of Peace. The gift of God with Us.

I reminded her again that she was for many, the face of Jesus. That she was a glimpse of who He is and that He had placed her where she was for just a time as this. Our conversation meandered on and by the time the lunch crowd had come in, we determined our breakfast meeting had to adjourn.

The tapestry of our lives filled in a bit more, holding firmly to that thread of Christ. We hugged and promised it wouldn’t be so long until we saw each other again. My cheeks sore from laughter, my eyes stinging from tears, I was filled up and happy as we parted, better than I was when we had met.

I giggled as I recalled our conversation, challenged as I pondered on parts of it.

This Season, this Christmas Season, this Season of life, this Season, I will choose to acknowledge and worship the Giver. The One who gave His very life in exchange for mine and I’m likely to find myself in the very same frame of mind as my friend, humbled and moved to tears, that another would suffer loss and joyfully give me a gift.

Season’s Greetings Indeed!

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the Season!