Writer by day, transcriber by night, Renee is a boy mom, PPD survivor, recovering fear-a-holic, and former educator. She lives on Christ and caffeine as she attempts to finally transcend mediocrity and live the life Jesus died for her to have. When not tied to her desktop and swimming in coffee, the native Floridian can be found wherever the water is salty, spending time with her son and husband of 15 years.
She’s a contributor to Disney's Babble, The Huffington Post, and The Washington Post. You can learn more about Renee’s journey and her passion for helping women find their worth in the Word, not the world, at The [email protected] Scribe.
TURNS OUT YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM A HALF-NAKED CHRISTMAS TREE
LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE BEFORE MEN, THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS, AND GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN.MATTHEW 5:16
The room is cold and my mug is hot, mostly vanilla creamer with a splash of Folgers’ finest, the only light coming from the lit tree in the corner of our living room. My eyes drink it in as I sip my java then grab my pen and paper.
I’m feeling reflective this morning as I gaze upon this tree, waiting for moon and sun to complete their shift-change, for my tween to awaken and emerge from his dungeon. I enjoyed it here reflecting, thinking, praying, and…
GAZING AT MY QUASI-CHRISTMAS TREE.
I now sit here, wrapped in love by a quilt that’s tattered and torn, churning out random pieces of my heart, recording them onto these wide-ruled lines. As I look at this tree with no decorations but only lights, I’m in awe over its simplistic beauty. And longing for all things simple. A heart’s quest to get back to the things that are basic and pure, meaningful and easier.
Simple things—like a tiny lit but undecorated tree that makes a dark room majestic and warms my soul in these wee hours of the morn. And with that I decide…
No ornaments this year. No. Not. One.
For the love of all things right and Christmassy, Renee, what about the dry macaroni noodle thingies that your kid made when he was two, the antique beads, the one-of-kind mementos–no star on top? Not EVEN the Baby’s First Christmas ornament?
Decorations lost in the attic?
No, believe it or not. (Although it took Hubby Magoo a good 30 minutes to locate them.)
I pick up my paper and pen, bunch up my quilt, and move closer to this tiny tree with its tiny white lights in the tiny living room of this tiny hobbit house, and my heart is big, almost bursting. He has birthed an epiphany. A message for me—maybe you too, friend.
These branches that look so perfect, so soft yet not, so delicate yet quite sturdy—the way they move and the way the return to remain firm in their position. Oh, Christmas tree—how very lovely are your branches.
I grasp a branch and pull it gently between my two hands and then again.
And as I bring my hands to my face, that fragrance of pureness of aliveness of a time when things were simpler fills me. I’m reminded of when my daddy spent hours taking this once seven-year-old deep into the woods on a quest for the perfect tree.
I can almost feel the cold wind on my face, the sting in my eyes.
A perfect tree, just so we could take it home, prop it up, and blanket its perfectness in worldly globs of gold and garb. I loved that!
For decades I’ve not seen them—the branches. No, I just used them. Used them and covered them. Hung things on them, things so heavy, things too heavy. Things that bent them over, that broke them. And I cared not.
I’d strategically placed my biggest glass bulbs where the branches were bare—you know—those holes that every tree has that we can’t stand—those places of incompleteness and imperfection, the places someone told us aren’t pleasing to the eye—the deep, hollowed out parts that must be filled and filled in good.
Not once had I ever really looked—I mean looked—at the branches.
Until today. Until right now.
All of those many intricacies and nuances that work together to make it what it is in its natural state of beauty to be covered in beads and bobbles, in plastic and glass, in memories and wishes—things that no doubt have importance, but things nevertheless.
Why? Because it’s what I was told to do…what I grew up doing…what I saw everyone else doing. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, when you’re talking about a tree, my friend.
Oh, the times I’ve allowed someone to hang something too heavy on me, to bend me past my breaking point. When I’ve let them cut me down yet try to spruce me up with what they deem would make me appear more valuable.
The times I’ve believed the lies and thought if I just covered myself with enough shiny stuff I’d be good enough, pretty enough, acceptable enough to those around me—maybe even to God. To fill those bare, hollowed out spots deep inside with the things of the world, pile on enough of what it had to offer to hide my brokenness–Embrace an artificial existence.
I wonder how often He looks at me like I’m looking at this little tree right now.
I wonder if He yearns for me to just get real and stay real with Him—stripped of all the superfluous shiny stuff I’ve use to deflect from who I really am, who He says I am. The stuff that promises to cover up sin and shame and guilt—make me look like I’ve got it all together. The stuff I’ve been too afraid to ask Him to strip off of me. Yeah—that stuff!
THEN JESUS SAID UNTO THEM, “YET A LITTLE WHILE IS THE LIGHT WITH YOU. WALK WHILE YE HAVE THE LIGHT, LEST DARKNESS COME UPON YOU: FOR HE THAT WALKETH IN DARKNESS KNOWETH NOT WHITHER HE GOETH.” JOHN 12:35
And, so, my Christmas tree decorations will stay boxed up this year. And they’ll be just fine. Next year I’ll probably appreciate them all the more. As for this Christmas, my family and I will see our tree for what it really is, every itty-bitty detail and its complexity yet simplicity. We’ll see its tiny lights shine bigger and brighter and more beautiful than ever, for they no longer have to compete with anything else.
And, dare I say, my eyes can hardly take it in.
While hot tears stream down this tired, wrinkled, forty-something face of a mom who wants so much to be seven again, I struggle to complete my thoughts. I pray somehow He will make sense of meager words when He sends them to your heart, dear sister.
Maybe your heart is longing like that tree in our living room. Longing for the simple. Longing to just be what you were made to be—a beautifully flawed creation with light that has been given heavenly approval to shine without rivalry.
To be unencumbered by the weight of what the world has hung on you, that pulls you down—that which must be stripped away to reveal what is real and pure and simple.
To no longer be ashamed of the broken parts and bare spots, to stand before Him totally exposed and feel His love all the more. I wonder, friend, if this year your heart is like mine when I look at this tiny tree in our house for hobbits.
I wonder, friend, what He could do in our lives if we’d finally box up all evidence of our artificial existence, and just let our lights shine bigger and brighter than ever before.
I just wonder, friend…
I. just. wonder.
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