Thursday, December 6, 2018

Our Ebenezer Christmas Tree

I haven't seen most of our Christmas decorations in two years. When I boxed them up the last week of December 2016, I probably wasn't thinking twice about what I assumed was the inevitable - their unboxing in December 2017. This is one of those funny questions that I get a lot from people following the flooding of our home, "Oh, your Christmas decorations! Do you have any?" The answer is yes, all of our precious ornaments were high and dry in the attic, along with our Fall decorations. I'm sure my husband would happily and personally have set a few pumpkins from my excessive Hobby Lobby pumpkin hoard downstream, but they all survived. Might I add, that I have a list of a few items of his that I too wish had made it to the curb. While I have a surviving cheap pumpkin patch, he has a t-shirt collection circa 2001 that still exists holes and all. Sometimes you have to laugh at what remains, but we are thankful that our Christmas memories have survived.

We've added at least one ornament intentionally to our tree every year. This year as I pulled out the ornaments, I was struck by how much they tell the stories of the seasons that have unfolded since we became a family. Ten ornaments. Seasons of varying length and scope. I'm reminded of the song Come Thou Fount and of the prophet Samuel and the Israelites as they faced battle after battle with the Philistines. "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called it's name Ebenezer, for he said "Till now the Lord has helped us." - 1 Samuel 7:12.

There is the wedding cake. We put this on our tree as newlyweds bright with hope of a beautiful future and a lot of expectations. I laugh at the expectations part. Some would prove true, along with many that wouldn't and were found to not be set in reality or wisdom. The expectations of two imperfect people who didn't quite know what marriage was about yet or what the years would hold. When your marriage begins with the postponement of your wedding for two weeks because of a hurricane, you would think we would have learned a bit about expectations. In fact, we're still learning about what's important and what isn't to this day. I suppose we'll be students for life in this lesson. Thank the Lord for expectations that were not met.

After our newlywed year, the first few years' ornaments are nondescript. Picked out by two people working on their careers and learning how to become one. I can't even tell which ornaments are from which years.

Then there is the ornament from our trip to Sedona. I remember hoping I was pregnant for the umpteenth time and finding out again that our hopes were delayed.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light

The ornament nestled between the Spider Man and Buzz Lightyear is a reminder of both loss and also of joy not yet realized. It was at this point that I thought maybe the ornaments on our tree would go on as they had in the years before, picked out by a family of two.

I had no idea we would putting this ornament on our tree the following Christmas. A family of three.

Or that the next year we would be adding this one. Surprise! A family of three became four.

The following year we would lose two beautiful women, our grandmothers. My grandmother, a few days before Christmas.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one

Last year, we didn't even continue our tradition of getting a family milestone ornament. It was four months after we flooded. We were in our rent house, our decorations in the attic of our home. I bought a few things to make the rent house cheery, put up a tree with some of our ornaments, set out the nativity scene for the kids and called it a day. We were weary of hard work and loss and so ready to be home. Thankfully, I have a friend who came over one day so Joey and I could work on the house together. She and her girls brought craft supplies to entertain our kids and to make ornaments. One survived. (Sorry, Miss Crispy, we did our best.). It's really the perfect ornament for the year. A reminder of our family being held up so many times by our village. He'll hang the ornament even when you can't.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art

Here's the thing about these ornaments. Some joy, some sadness. I wouldn't trade one of them for an ornament without purpose or meaning. You never know what next year's ornament may be. It may be one of loss or one of joy or a mix of both, but it is never without purpose. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28. Our good, his glory. It is through this that we find joy and hope, no matter the ornament that's hanging on this year's tree.

We have yet to pick out 2018's ornament. I'm waiting until we come across the perfect one that explains where we have been this year. Our tree is next to our dining room table. At least three times a day, we can look at these ornaments and remember God's faithfulness. Our Ebenezer Christmas tree. Sometimes God gives us a glimpse of his purposes in the middle of the hard stuff and that is a precious gift. Maybe it's not until years later. Or we may not understand it in our lifetime. It may not be until we have a perfect mind on the other side of eternity that we will finally be able to grasp the full meaning of both the small and big things that have happened outside of Eden. The beautiful complexity too much for our finite minds to comprehend. So until then, we hang the ornament. We remember his faithfulness. We trust for our good and His glory. We wait with expectation.

High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven's joys, O bright Heav'n's Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate-er befall
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all

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