I’ll just say it…I’m a sap. I love traditions, romantic movies, flowers, family time and greeting cards that make me laugh or cry.
Every year, I have in my mind an idea of how Christmas should go – beginning the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve. Anticipating the season is almost more fun for me than the season itself. I think it’s because in anticipating, anything is possible!
As we began this Christmas season, I made my usual trek to the attic to pull out our Christmas boxes. Let me just say I love having a teenage son who can help my husband and I with this. He is such a blessing! As my boy and I were digging out boxes, I imagined what decorating the house would look like. It’s the same picture in my mind every year…
Our whole family sets a day aside to work together as a team. Loading up the van, we pile in with coats and gloves and hats – and a camera! – and head to the mountains to cut down the perfect tree. Once home, we relive fond memories together of the treasures we pull from the holly-printed cardboard boxes, while hot cocoa simmers on the stove and Christmas music joyfully plays in the background. We finish everything in one day, then end this magical experience with jammies, popcorn and a Christmas movie snuggled under our Santa-printed fleece blanket.
I wanted a Hallmark movie moment. Not!
This is how it really went…our son pulled all of the boxes down. However, as I opened them, I was horrified at what we found. In all my life, and especially in the last 15 years of living in the same ol’ house, I have never seen this. Sometime over the last 11 months, an invasion occurred. An infestation of a disgusting kind. Roaches. Without us knowing it, those creatures made their way into every last holly-printed cardboard box (the same busted up cardboard boxes we’ve used for literally 20 years because I am
cheap frugal). By the time I got my hands on the boxes the roaches were gone, but they had left plenty of evidence behind.
I could have screamed or cried or thrown up!
We’re talking about our family’s compilation of Christmas treasures. Twenty-two years worth! I felt like wind had been knocked out of me.
Then, why I ever thought we could drive to the mountains AND do everything else in one day I have no idea. It’s physically impossible. So, off we trekked to the local hardware store – like the past 5 years – for our tree. We donned our coats and camera, and drove up only to find the “outside garden” locked up. We really didn’t have a thought about the time when we got in the van, but evidentially we arrived 10 minutes before the store was closing. I jumped out and went inside to ask if we could still pick our perfect tree in under 10 minutes.
I can’t describe the look the woman at the return counter gave me. Her reply of, I guess so, was accompanied with a life-draining sigh and a look as if I had just asked her to clean out my roach-infested boxes. Clearly, she wanted to go home, and my party of 5 stood in her way.
Not ideal, but we’ll take it. We thought we could speed shop so off to the trees we went. To our utter amazement, there were like 6 trees there. Not kidding! I stood wide-eyed and frozen in disbelief, with the camera hung around my neck, while the kids tried to play their annual game of hide & seek in the 6 pathetic trees. Seriously.
A woman who worked there appeared and told us that these trees were weeks old and well, we could buy if we want but there’d be a new shipment the next day.
By the time Bruce parked the van and met us, the only decision had been made. We left empty-handed.
The only light moment was when, on our way out, I played a trick on my tween son who didn’t like a life-size, creepy animated Santa. I waited for my boy, and when he passed by me, I acted like the freaky-looking, singing and dancing Santa was grabbing me. My son hit the floor! I guess I have a sadistic sense of humor as I chuckled all the way out the store with him latched onto my arm. 😉
Okay, so we can still decorate the next day, right? Nope. Homework for the kids and a heavy workload for Bruce proved to be too much. I had to face a decision. Either I decorate alone or it simply won’t happen this year.
This meant single-handedly dealing with the you-know-what issue…the invasion.
I could have thrown a fit. I could have gotten angry. Sad. Bitter. After all, doing this alone meant not only a lot of work for me (currently sick and still dealing with my dumb scar-tissued toe), but also giving up the dream of cocoa, music, popcorn and a family movie. The possibility of the perfect day would be forever deleted from our digital scrapbook.
Was I disappointed? Yes. Was I frustrated? Yes. Did it mean the holidays (or holy days as in the original meaning) would be ruined? No.
Somewhere among the boxes, I unpacked my proverbial big-girl panties and went to work. Why?
I realized that everyone is doing the best they can right now. My husband isn’t out late at night with the guys, sluffing off his husbandry duties. My kids aren’t playing hours (or any!) video games and ignoring my requests. We are arm-wrestling life for a mere 5 hours of sleep a night for crying out loud.
Perspective. That’s what I unpacked next to my big-girl panties.
I saw this as an opportunity to give an early Christmas present to my family. It is the gift of keeping Christmas alive despite the attempts to suffocate it beneath the demanding 24/7.
Box by box, I went through each and every item. Sadly, most everything had to go. (sigh)
Thank goodness my washer has a sanitize option so I could wash all of the textiles. Saved, yeah! And our Christmas dishes are kept inside the house so those were okay. But every little trinket (minus ornaments in a closed up box) was affected.
Disheartened, I began to take it all out of the house.
However, as I washed, Cloroxed, and tossed, something odd occurred to me. The Holy Spirit showed me this was an opportunity to let go of the past and cling to the new work God is doing in my life – the healing I’ve been writing about since September. The healing that begins with brokenness.
I never imagined how many ways I could be broken – or healed.
God reminded me as I went through each box, and every time I pass by the empty tree stand with lights still rolled up and ornaments still in the box, that Christmas is so much more than what we make it. I’ve been to some beautiful homes, and I mean gorgeous, decorated for Christmas. But, look past the decor and those homes were void of the love and intimacy God wants for every family.
I’m not a materialistic person, but I am 100% guilty of setting unrealistic expectations of how things should be. More than the loss of our Christmas decor, I had to let go of the ideal I had in my mind of how this season would look for our family.
Where God allows brokenness He simultaneously begins to heal.
Our family doesn’t have the budget to simply go out and replace everything we lost. But, God did put me in the right stores that are already offering 50% off their Christmas decor, and I was able to buy a couple of things.
In fact, He made a huge teachable moment for me at the checkout in one craft store. I placed what I was buying on the counter. The last item I was deciding on was this adorable little Santa figure. His facial expression was precious and he was cheap! The young cashier grew restless as I wrestled with whether or not to buy it.
Why was I struggling? He was 50% off and really cute! God showed up and whispered to me, You are at a crossroads. Do you continue with how you’ve always done things at Christmas, or do you use the loss as the beginning of a new season?
Hmm. We’ve never made a big deal about Santa, but we’ve participated in tradition. Nevertheless, God is pushing us to a new level – one closer to Him. As the cashier, and a growing line of people, waited (impatiently) on me, I said to her, I can’t understand why I am having a hard time deciding on this.
However, I really did understand. It was my carnal nature struggling against my spirit. I knew what I had to do.
Okay. I’m not going to get this, I told the cashier as I handed it back to her.
I’m not a scrooge when it comes to Christmas traditions, but clearly God is trying to do a new work in our family, and I’ve learned enough times that when He wants to move, it’s in our best interest to let Him.
Even Bruce said the moment we saw the invasion that he felt it was God saying, Get rid of what you don’t need.
Honestly, we don’t need more Santa at Christmas. We need more Christ.
Back home, as I continued to unpack and toss, one item was missing and it really upset me. I couldn’t find our nativity. It’s not just any nativity. It’s the one I had as a child. It’s old, beaten down and weathered, but it’s the one I used to set up every year and sit by the glow of its nightlight bulb with my dog as I gazed at the ceramic figures with their chips, nicks and missing parts. To think the roaches had taken that too was heart-breaking.
I found one plastic box, not cardboard like the others. I opened it, and to my astonishment, there was the nativity! Last year, out of all of the boxes, I unknowingly packed the nativity in the plastic box where it was kept safe. God did that for me.
It’s ironic, really, that the Santas and snowmen were affected by the invasion, but not our nativity.
No, it’s not ironic. It is an object lesson for Truth. Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
People, me included, can make Christmas about a lot of things: expectations, money, parties, stuff, indulging, people, etc. Christmas is about Christ. It took me losing so much of our traditional things to reset my heart on Him.
Pushing through the gag reflex of how disgusting it was to clean out those boxes, I can honestly say I am glad it happened. Bringing me back to the Truth of Christmas made me able to decorate alone and be okay with that because I am giving my family the gift of my time and service, being mindful to give thanks that I have a family to do this for.
We’ll, Lord willing, eventually get around to buying a tree, popping popcorn and watching Christmas movies, but they are no longer held to my expectations. They will be gifts.
The Grench may have almost stolen our Christmas (literally and figuratively), but he didn’t. What God allowed to be taken away, He replaced with fresh, beautiful peace and joy that nothing, not even those nasty little creatures, can take away.
And, God gave me a brand new vision for advent candles. I am working on it, and when it’s finished I’ll post a picture. I am so excited about this!
God is so good. Life can be hard, and even gross at times, but God is merciful and He is always working in our best interest. This whole season so far has been a blessing: The loss of Christmas treasures, me sick, heavy workloads and homework, the fact that our Santa-printed blanket doesn’t even cover all of us, the missing Christmas tree and having to wait to enjoy our family traditions.
All of these are blessings because they once again remind us that Christ didn’t come into a perfect world. The perfect Christ came into our world. He came to redeem. Repair. Replace. Restore.
Whatever your Christmas season looks like so far, be it the best or the worst, keep your eyes focused on Christ. Circumstances are temperamental. Emotions are conditional and opinions are fickle. But, what Christ did for us, being 100% God and 100% man, never changes. That alone is enough to light up, and lighten up, our holidays…and keep them holy.