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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The 30' Tree

I have, too many to count, messages sent to me confused about the story I am telling. Let me say again, I am telling my story from the present day back to 2007 which is when this journey our ours began. So if you pick up and read the most recent post, if might be a little confusing, it would make more sense to start at the beginning and work forward. Dec 2010 , I had always "thought" I felt the stresses of Christmas before, but this past Christmas felt like none I had ever had before. We had always had some option in the past. Something to sell or some access to money, but not this Christmas. We were all out out of options, or so we thought. At our house I start getting out my Christmas decorations the second week of November.  Over the years I have collected and I have enough things that I am able to transform our entire home into a holiday story-book. The childrens' rooms even have a tree with there own Christmas theme. It is not the expense that makes this so special, most of which I had found at the end of each year 75 % off, but it was unique to each child's personality. The boys had camo and airplanes, tanks, and all kinds of animals, the girls had pink trees with white lights and delicate ornaments that were all shades of pinks and purples, beads and feathers. I would wrap and store from year to year. And by God this year would be no different. Except one little problem, we  had always had  a real tree and this year we certainly would have no money for that! So as I went about putting the Santa soap dispenser out and hanging the Christmas balls from my light fixtures once again, I thought, God how have I found myself here. God what are we going to do. What am I going to tell my children? How does a parent face their child and tell them they have no present for them. They have lived through this year with us, and had done extremely well, but come on they are kids and this is Christmas, a time when you can dream and anything is possible. I felt like a complete failure. The stress had began to build between Kenny and I and it was just not a good time. You know you go through things and when you come out people say "Oh, praise God!  We came through", but they never speak of the dark and difficult times when you feel like you are losing your faith and your marriage and any sense of what you have believed to be true your whole life. It doesn't make you any less of a child of God to be weak and flawed, I think it just displays even more the beauty in how much we really need Him. So this  particular evening I had just finishing getting all the dishes exchanged for the Christmas ones and I had Christmas music playing I thought God, how about the mothers that face this dilemma every year, not having the money to buy their children Christmas. Even knowing that their were Moms just like me, I still wasn't ready to let go of my pity party! Have you ever been there? Somehow I wanted someone or something in the universe to know just how bad it had gotten! We would not even have a Christmas tree! And everytime I would mention it to Kenny he would just blow me off! The nerve!!! Doesn't he know what that tree means to me, doesn't he know what I have put into all these decorations and all the hours of setting everything up!! DOESNT HE KNOW!!! As the stress built and my anger, bitterness, feeling sorry for myself, however you want to classify it, I thought Kenny is not responsible for my bad attitude or my happiness, only I am. And God if we have to go in the yard and cut a tree down (I meant like an oak tree or something), so be it, we will have a charlie brown Christmas Tree. As I said before, I was determined to write open and honestly or not at all and I am human and I am weak, just like everyone else, and when it comes to my children it breaks my heart. I am no different than any other woman. And them running in from school wanting to see a tree with a present with their name on it day after day had just wore my spirit down. Well Kenny had got a call to do some tree work for a gentlemen who really didn't need it that much he was just trying to help out a little, however, when Kenny got there he said that Kenny would have to go with his wife down to Lowe's and get a new chain saw.  They had said they were going to borrow one from family, but that was somehow changed.  We have a large double fireplace in this rental, only, we had no source of wood and no money to pay for any.  This couple had about ten acres and lots of wood that was down and needed cutting and now they were buying a new chain saw (one we knew they would never use themselves).  We happened to be talking to them one night and we got on the subject of Christmas and I asked did they have any small pine trees on their property, which they said they had very few small trees of any type, but we were welcome to look.  Well, Kenny, Cole, Bella and I took a small trailer, the new saw, and a little determination and when we rounded the first curve on their property we saw a tree that must have been twenty feet tall, however, as Kenny looked at it he realized he would be able to cut the bottom 7 or so feet off and it might work.  We cut it, Kenny and Cole and Bella did all they could to get it on the trailer and after about thirty minutes of hacking and sawing at home we had a tree which when we sat it on our 2nd floor balcony it reached the ceiling-about 13 feet up, but it was absolutely beautiful, at it was absolutely perfect!! We had a tree! The kids and their Mother was thrilled! Kenny had worked and trimmed and had to actually build a stand and nail it into to the floor to stabilize this massive tree. It set the entire mood for our home. We would build a fire and gather around  and the kids and I would pile on the couch and we would gaze at that tree as if was meant for the White House. So once again, God  whispered,  and reminded me, Angie I am faithful, I will meet your needs, you can rest in me. Ok, God I appreciate the tree but we still have a little problem, we have no presents and no money. Me and the kids had a tradition that I would take them to a store of their choice and I would give them my undivided attention and we would make a Christmas list. They loved that as much as getting the gifts! Something about the excitement of the sky is the limit, and having my undivided attention, they just love it. But it just so pained me because I just could not see how we  could get them anything of much value. It is has got to be such a huge burden on a family to spend the entire month of December faced with the dilemma of not being able to buy their children presents. The kids excitement builds at school, through the television, at the stores everywhere you look it is all the "stuff" you just can't escape it.  All the stuff you will never have.  What a disappointment those children must feel when they wake up and find they have a 10.00 gift under the tree. And the parent feels like a failure because they have no hope of ever doing any better and alot of times they turn to alcohol or drugs to somehow numb the pain,  or at least give them some relief from their life. They are referred to as the working poor. So I had to hang my head and  thank God that Kenny and I had come through without such vices, and the kids without bitterness, And we had  been able to maintain our family and the kids would actually say "Mom, God always comes through don't worry". So, as I thought of the families lost and alone I prayed God help our family be a testament to the grace and mercy you have shown us. God through the holiday be real in the lives of a child that may lay alone and have no one, God let that child feel your love for them, and let that parent know their hope lies in You. As I began to to pray for other families a funny thing happen my pity party left and I felt a new sense of strength. My focus left "me" and  turned to the true focus of Christmas, the Spirit of Christmas, a Redeemer for a world!, I looked up at that magnificent tree and something in my soul broke and became so clear..... what if God works through weakness? What if some of our greatest hungers are still to be met? God may be using these to create space in our heart for Himself.  As long as we look to achievements, accolades, or others, or the "rat race" of Christmas, anything but to God to fill this hunger they become your master driving your discontentment and fueling a void you can never fill.  Some many people, myself included, are unaware of, or unwilling, to face the holes in their own hearts, so they wreck their lives trying to plug the gap with  more work, more attention, more power, more things, more.......whatever, God desires to fill the heart spaces with Himself.  So after I had ask God to forgive me, I got boxes and wrapped them, put the kids name on them, and said, "Ok, God you are faithful, I trust You, come and fill ALL the voids in my heart. And fill those boxes with presents!!!" This was one week before Christmas. The next day I got a call from the kids school, we had a package at the front desk, I was excited I thought it was maybe a turkey! So I get to the kids school and I see the most beautiful basket, stuffed full of, not outdated candies and nuts, but chocolates, candies, throws for each of the children and me, specialty teas and a very nice gift for each child. As Jesse  Cole sat in the back seat him and Bella staring at the basket they could not believe it, he said, "Dad, why would they do this for us", he had tears in his eyes, he was so moved. I was speechless. Kenny was speechless. Then  Bella said, "Here Mom is the card." There was a card with a gift card to walmart and Food Lion for 150.00! A public school! "Angie trust me!!!" was what God has whispered that day to me. The next day we got a call and 2 other family members were going to put money in an acct for us, and That day in the mail a check arrived from a former parisher of ours from 6yrs ago!!! "Angie trust me!" So all  that wasted time and all that wasted energy, God had once again shown up.

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