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Challenge: Gratitude & Giving

It’s Not About the Tree

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The Christmas spirit has hit me HARD. I’ve got big day, big excitement, big anxiety like never before. I knew I’d gone through a low grade depression last year along with the rest of the world but as I started decorating I realized how that manifested around our house. I spent most of my time paralyzed in a chair with a bottle of wine close by and didn’t see a reason in the world to get my ass up and tackle the typical house projects. In my mind no one was ever darkening my doorway again anyway and honestly I was probably too buzzed to even notice what needed attention.

So here I am, the fog has lifted, I’m cleaning my house and decorating like a machine. I literally spent yesterday on my hands and knees scrubbing baseboards and was HAPPY about it. Felt like therapy. We’re having company so I wanted a sparkly house but more than anything it just felt so good to see this area of life getting back to normal too.

My husband came home early to help me tie up loose ends on the things I couldn’t reach and as we twisted the last remaining bulb into place, I almost exhaled with pride for all of my effort. Instead I choked on my own breath at the sound of glass shattering. The house shook. I thought we’d been bombed. I ran expecting to see the entire front of the house on fire, but no. It was worse.

Some readers may remember my Clark Griswold tree that expanded 10 fold in transit, now takes up half of our home, and took a solid 4 days of my mental and physical energy to decorate? Well it fell…taking the dining room light fixture and all of my hopes and dreams with it. My children learned a whole new vocabulary. I cried my ever loving eyes out. I knew in the moment I would laugh about it some day and it wasn’t the end of the world but damn it’s frustrating to try so hard and have it all come crashing down.

I told the kids to pray for a Christmas miracle. Then we rallied. They ran for old towels to clean up the water and picked up ornaments. Big Field got underneath to push from the front, I hung from the back like a baby koala and somehow we lifted the worlds heaviest tree back into place. I held koala posish for atleast an hour as Field scurried to bolt it into the wall.

Pinned beneath the branches I heard Little Field say, “I guess this means our friends can’t come over.” A pang shot through my stomach over the idea of another year void of gatherings here. But as quickly as it hit, it left, because screw it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s how to pivot when things gets messy. I knew it would only give us one more thing to laugh about together. “Yes we can, baby” I shouted, taking in a mouthful of pine needles. “No one coming cares!”

When I was finally able to emerge and assess, I realized the only casualty was a small shade on the chandelier and a couple of lightbulbs. As I swept broken glass, Louise turned on the “We Can Do Hard Things” song and I cried again but this time over the tenderness of my girl. She is so in tune. She values every single hard thing I do despite the fact that often times I’m the one making things hard on myself. And no one appreciates the magic of Christmas lights like her brother. All of this is not for nothing. It’s not a thankless job to be their mother. “We can make the most of it”, I thought.

Eventually, we restored some semblance of the dining room, stood in amazement that their prayers worked and had ourselves some big laughs. I would say this tree has stolen a good bit of my sanity but I think instead she came to offer a tough dose of Christmas clarity. Gifts, decorations and parties are fun. But our little family team and friends who you know will happily show up to the shit show judgment free are treasures to be celebrated regardless of what the house looks like. Thank you, Jesus, for all of it.

I think as I pack up the ornaments this year I’ll stick a note to myself on the box for next: “Dear Ellie, Exhale. It’s not about the tree.”

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