The Heart of Christmas

This year, the heart of Christmas tiptoed in unexpectedly. Does that ever happen to you? You’re hurrying through your day, checking things off your list, and something soft and gentle happens. And you remember.

Three weeks ago, my mother called and made an announcement.

“I’m not putting up a tree this year. I hung my red wreath on the front door and tied a bow on the mailbox. And I’m perfectly content.”

She’s said this before and changed her mind.

“Oh, come on. I’ll help you. We can decorate it together. It’ll be fun.”

“That’s real sweet, but no thanks. I remember when my mother stopped putting up a tree. There comes a time when you–”

She kept talking, and I couldn’t decide how I feltMy thoughts scrambled back and forth from the past to the present.

Bittersweet. 

I remembered Mother’s beautiful Christmas tree. Gold decorations and angels. So many angels.

But I could hear it in her voice.

She wasn’t changing her mind. So I probably needed to let it go, too.

A few days later, I ran to Home Depot for a string of lights. A certain tree caught my attention. Tiny. Pre-decorated. A simple tree.

Definitely not my mother’s style but it was portable. Light-weight.

I brought it home with me.

It looked even smaller in my kitchen. 

I’d bought my mother a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

No glitter. No sparkle. No gold.

What was I thinking? How could she possibly like it? 

It’s so…plain. 

No turning back now.

I called her. “Hi. I’m bringing you a little something.”

Please don’t ask what it is. 

When she saw me coming in her back door, she took a deep breath to say something.

Then she paused.

“I know it’s small, but it’s not heavy. You can lift it. We’ll put it on the front porch if you want to. We can hang some of your gold–”

“Oh, Julie.” She touched one of the pine cones. “I absolutely love it. Let’s put it in the den by my chair.”

“Wish you could’ve seen your expression when you came in with it,” she said. “You looked like you were five years old bringing me your hand-print from kindergarten.”

Fifty years flies by in an instant. 

She called me this morning. “My tree grows sweeter every day. I can’t imagine Christmas without it.”

I’m so glad I decided to get it. 

When you’re not sure what to do, you can’t go wrong with kindness. Click to tweet.

Kindness is at the heart of Christmas. Pastor Kevin Myers. Click to tweet.

Is God whispering someone’s name to you?

Has an unexpected act of kindness ever melted your heart?

Love,

Julie

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Comfort

Christmas Eve morning, I called Mother. Remember last year, she almost didn’t put up their Christmas tree? I was so relieved when she changed her mind. Well, this year,  she said she kept thinking maybe tomorrow, and then decided not to have one.

My husband and I offered to help her, but she said no.

“Tell me how it feels in your house,” I said, praying she was really okay without a tree.

“You know how I love, love, love Christmas trees.”

“I know.” That’s what makes this so hard.

“My energy is limited and after the Newtown tragedy, it just never felt right.”

I didn’t detect any regret in her voice. More like…a deep peace. Unshakable hope.

“We rearranged the furniture and it feels cozier,” she said. “And we have a huge candle on the fireplace. All around it there’s a frozen Christmas scene with Victorian china dolls ice skating. They’re dressed in the 1800’s. A friend made it.”

“It sounds beautiful.”

“Oh, it is. We love to sit and look at it at night. And on rainy days.”

“That reminds me of this little tree we have. On sunny days, it’s not all that special.”

“But at night, and on dark, dreary days, the lights shine so much brighter.”

“That’s exactly how it feels in my house this year. Our decorations aren’t elegant  like they’ve been in the past.” She paused. “It feels more like…like a stable. When we’re sitting on the sofa looking at the candle, the rest of the room fades away.”

“Mmmm. Sounds so…comforting.”

“It is. And He, of course, is our Comforter,” she said.

Christmas Comfort to you all.

P.S. I posted this on Tuesday instead of Wednesday thinking someone might need it today.

So much love,

Julie

Unspoken Joy…More Than a Christmas Tree

Mother’s 75. Her husband Gene is 80. Seeing their ages as I type them, it startles me. Mom has a couple of autoimmune illnesses. Some days her energy gets zapped.  A phone conversation from three weeks ago…

“I’m not putting up a tree this year,” Mother said emphatically. “It’s too much trouble.”

I’m not ready for this. Not yet. “If Jeremy (my brother) will put it up, I’ll help you decorate it.”

“What’s a tree anyway?” she said.

“Remember Christmas of ’82? You said the same thing.”

It was my father’s last Christmas. He died the following July from a brain tumor. Jeremy surprised us and put up the tree by himself.

“I remember the year my mother stopped putting up a tree,” she said softly. “I begged her to get one.”

So you know how I feel.

“Gene said it’s fine with him if we don’t put it up,” she said.

“Is it fine with you not to have one?” Please say no. Say you want a tree.

“Pretty much. I guess.”

My heart was sad for them. For me. But I reminded myself that they’re getting older. Things change.

She called two days later.

“You’ll never believe it! Our tree’s up. A friend said if I didn’t do it this year, I’d never do it again.”

Hallelujah!

“I took my time decorating it,” she said. “Rested when I needed to.”

I’m so proud of you. “Can’t wait to see it!”

“You coming over for oyster stew like last year?”

 “Of course! Wouldn’t miss it.”

 

Last Thursday, oyster stew night, I studied her ornaments as though I’d never seen them.

I found my brother Jon’s childhood thumbprint, the jeweled ball I made when I was seven, my sister Jennifer’s two-inch tattered Little Drummer Boy, Jeremy’s popsicle stick star, and Mother’s angels.

After dinner, we sat on her sofa. Still. Quiet. Just looking at her tree.

It’s more than a tree, you know,” Mother said.

I nodded. Some things are too deep for words.

Thank you, Lord. Another Christmas.

Love,

Julie

I’m praying for readers as I post this blog. Christmas can be a difficult time–especially when we’ve lost loved ones.