If you've followed my blog or Instagram or life for very long, you know there is one day of the year that I particularly struggle with more than others. It is usually a tear-inducing, fear-producing, joy-reducing day. It's pain is raw and rare and comes once a year on a freezing January eve. It's the other end of the spectrum of Stanley Hudson's pretzel day and if he were here, I'm sure he'd be pouting about it too. And this day, my friends, is today, the day my Christmas tree comes down. I cry or pout nearly every year, regardless of if my tree has started rotting or not. And this year, in my excitement about the next season, the unthinkable happened. I almost rushed through it alone and didn't feel it. I almost missed the symbolism and beauty of taking my tree down, and I'm so thankful for the 8th ornament I took off my tree that made me slow down and savor the moment.
I love the way a Christmas tree looks in my living room. It takes us hours to pick it out, hours to set it up, and I stare at it with joy in my heart all season long. At least twice a week through Christmas tree season, while my husband and I are on the couch, one of us will ask, "What's your favorite ornament you can see from right where you are?" And without fail, we end up talking about 6 or 7 different ornaments and the meaning they hold in our hearts. We spend a big chunk of our precious time looking and enjoying and daydreaming and remembering, every single Christmas tree season. And I think it's both the remembering and the daydreaming that is holding me captive this Christmas tree wrap up day. Remembering where we've been this year and daydreaming about what's to come.
Every Christmas before, I have clung to the season, to the magic, to the joy that season brings. And I love that. I love sinking my teeth deep into the beauty and magic and simplicity of Christmas, of all it means for me and to me. I think it's a gift to relish each moment, and I'm so very thankful for the perspective to do just that. Unfortunately, for many years, I think I have taken it to the next level of savoring and I have become possessive of and fixated on Christmas. I have sunk my claws into it and reacted like a screaming toddler when someone tries to take it away and Christmas slips from my grip. It's like the Christmas tree, my favorite part of my favorite season, has been the place where everything has been okay and wonderful amidst whatever pain was going on in my every day life. And my tears each time I've taken the tree down have been me not wanting to let go, not wanting to move on, not believing anything could be better than this moment in front of this tree.
But this year, something was and is different. Suddenly, through my healing, it appears that there may be magic and fun and beauty outside of the Christmas season. I don't have to cling to my sentimental ornaments and my twinkle lights and my sparkly gold ribbon. My tree (affectionately named Rockefeller for its grandeur) could come down from the corner of the room this year, and it might be possible that I could move on without mourning. The Lord has brought my sweet husband and I through some really challenging years, some really challenging Christmases. And no, we haven't reached the Promised Land yet. But I believe we have reached some of His promises in this land. He has taken this weary, longing heart, and given it new life this year through community, through healthy counsel, through mentoring and His people, and through each other. We don't have to cling to the tree, to the season because the season is only a symbol of the gift and the promise that rings throughout the whole year. Praise God.
The problem was, I almost didn't stop to remember it. I almost received the gift, put it in my pocket, and headed onto my next adventure, gratitude and reflection cast aside for another day, another soul, another moment... maybe. I was just going to rush on, like our whirlwind world suggests we do and get onto my next thing. Do you ever do that? Rush on to the next thing out of excitement or readiness or reacting instead of stopping for gratitude? I sure do. But not this time, baby. Hobby Lobby's Valentines decor and Target's spring break swimsuits out aren't rushing me. No way. Not this year.
So you know what I did? With that precious ornament in hand, I stopped taking down the tree. I grabbed my phone and sent a text to my Josh. I told him that I had started removing ornaments because I was ready. I was ready to usher in our new season where we welcome a baby boy into this world. And that's huge for me. I'm not missing the beauty of that. God has healed me from so many of my struggles and anxieties. I've released my death grip on Christmas this year and embraced the coming changes and fears, no matter what's in store when I usher it in.
But I wasn't and will never be ready to usher it in alone. So I hung those eight ornaments back up and told my precious husband that while I know we're ready to usher this new season in, I want to usher the old one out together. We weathered every second of 2014 together and I want to wrap it up together, dance in front of our twinkling lights in the dark, play that Mickey ornament one more times, and essentially hold hands as we thank God for the gift of 2014 and the gift of readiness He gave us through this last season and tell Him that we're ready for the next one, whatever it may bring. Without stopping with our grateful hearts, how will we know and how will our God know that we received the gift?
I'm very well aware that some may call this pregnancy hormones at their finest and some may call this sappy and lame. And that's okay. To me, it's a ritual with my love and our Father. It's carefully taking the time to not rush through life and hustle into our next season without remembering where we've been. It's being present and intentional with our time, with our gifts, with our growth, with our gratitude. It's slow dancing with each other and with God and telling Him that we aren't moving too fast to notice what He's done this year and we don't plan to start this new year with our first baby that way either. We're here, palms open, Christmas tree still up, tiny son in tow, saying thank you for what is and yes to whatever He has in store.
For each of you and your families, whether your tree is up or down, I pray love and life and slow starts and meaningful presence in your new year that defies this culture of this fast-paced world. May you create your own intentional ritual with someone you love as this year begins. As for us, you'll find us slow dancing in front of our tree, grateful hearts joined, remembering what has been and ushering in what is to come.
A happy new year and happy Christmas tree removal day, indeed.