Monday, December 1, 2008

Santas, concert tickets and the lady in Savannah...

I am sitting here snuggled up with our dog Sparrow, looking at our 28th Christmas tree. Although we have been married thirty years this year, we got married five days after Christmas, so that first year we didn't have a tree together. The year Marie was born, four days before Christmas, we didn't have a tree, either. So this year makes our 28th tree.

Our tree is very similar to most, I suppose. It has its share of Santas and holly wreaths and candy canes. But our tree is not just a Christmas tree, it is a Life tree. Let me explain what I mean by that.

When I was eighteen, I went to visit Savannah, Georgia right after Christmas. While I was there I attended several Open Houses -- where people open up their homes for celebrations. At one of these festive occasions I saw the most unusual Christmas tree I had ever seen. It was covered with movie tickets, theater tickets, trinkets and memorabilia of all types. The lady who lived in the house was in her eighties and as lively and full of spirit as anyone I had ever met and I asked her about her unusual tree. "it is a celebration of my life", she answered. She went on to tell me that at all occasions in her life she would take some sort of memento to place on her tree, some token of remembrance. Then each year when she would decorate her tree, "i re-live those special times in my life that would have otherwise slipped away."

Needless to say the lady and her tree made a great impression upon a young impressionable teenager. I determined that whenever I had a tree of my own, I wanted it to be something special, too. When Glen and I were engaged, I shared with him the story of the Savannah woman and the story seemed to touch a chord with him as well. So that first year we celebrated Christmas together, in that tiny, cold apartment, we determined that the ornaments on our tree would be ones that we had specifically picked out for our tree, not just to fill the branches, but because of their beauty or meaning or special significance to us. Or they would be ornaments we had made, or someone else had given us, or like the lady in Savannah, they would be mementos of the events of our lives. We wouldn't even have actually had a tree that year if my sister hadn't brought us one -- we thought our apartment was just too small for a tree. It was and it wasn't. Our first Christmas tree only had nine ornaments on it (some of which we still have today). They were given to us by my mother and her friend.

Our tree today has hundreds and hundreds of ornaments. I started to catalog and count them one day and stopped somewhere after 600. Along with the snowflakes (some of which belonged to my mother) and the balls (most of which I put on my trees growing up as a girl) there are "Savannah" ornaments: the doves and butterflies off our wedding cake; the golden bells off my parent's 50th anniversary cake; concert tickets; Metro tickets from Washington, DC; a baby's pacifier; my girls' little black patent leather baby shoes; a hickory nut I picked up at my brother's house one day when we spent the day with him and his family; candles from a 40th birthday cake; and from a 50th birthday cake; High School Band Security Tags; Election buttons - both from elections won and lost; footprint buttons from babies born; favors from weddings; silk flowers from a baby shower; silk flowers from a wedding bouquet; dough ornaments older than my marriage, given to be my a friend in college; I could go on and on. Like the lady in Savannah, when I decorate the tree, I have the joy of reliving memories, of remembering people and events. Our tree is an expression of our lives, a creation that continues to grow each year, because each year there is something new to add to the tree.

Thirty-three years ago, that lady in Savannah gave me a great gift. She shared with me a small moment of her time and herself and that small seed that life can be something that is worth re-living blossomed in me into something that has affected me and my family. We love our tree and the special ornaments and mementos that hang from its branches and we love the remembering what the tree brings to mind.

Today there is someone in each of our lives waiting for us to share with them some great gift that the Lord has given us. Something that will be a seed that will blossom in them to something great and beautiful. Perhaps it is just a kind word, or a thoughtful look or an act of encouragement along the way. The world is full of hearts just waiting for those seeds.

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things;

and the opening of my lips shall be right things. Proverbs 8:6

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