Praise Project, Week 50

In light of the season, I’m praising God this week for all things Christmas-related:

1). For time to sleep in without guilt. I never do this, and this week I took the meaning of the word “vacation” to extremes.

2). Time with my husband and kids.

3). The Nielsons generally experience sickness at during Christmas break. This year, so far, we haven’t. Very thankful.

4). For the reminder going around the internet of what the first king-size bed looked like: the manger.

5). “And Mary said, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name'” (Luke 1:46-49, KJV bold print mine).

6). “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, ‘Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.’ And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:15-17, KJV bold print mine).

7). ‘Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him‘” (Matthew 2:1,2, KJV bold print mine).

I love these three passages, especially in the King James version; incredibly poetic. Mary magnified God and rejoiced in Him as her Savior. The shepherds, upon hearing of Christ’s birth, were in a big hurry to see if for themselves and spread the word. The wise men came for the specific purpose of worshipping Him. Stunning reactions on the parts of all of them, and yet all should be basic daily practices on the part of the Christ-follower. Praise God for His Word and the godly examples of those who lived throughout its pages.

Praise Project, Week 49

This week I’m praising God:

1). That I’m not the Christmas Grinch I was last year!

2). For more opportunities to share Christ with clients.

3). “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy” Psalm 33:18. What other belief system can say that their god has his eye on them?

4). “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” Psalm 34:7.

5). “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18.

6). “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” Psalm 34:22.

7). God’s faithfulness to me is not contingent on my faithfulness to Him.

Praise Project, Week 48

This week I’m praising God for:

1). My general feeling toward life and eternity is something along the lines of “Lord, come quickly because life down here is hard and unpleasant” until this week. In the words of a friend, I am surrounded by people with broken hearts and no regard for truth. This week I have found myself saying, “Lord, I want You to come back, but not yet. Too many people I love don’t know you.” Praise God for perspective. It keeps me from whittling my time away on unnecessary pursuits.

2). My new student who is wide open to learning the truth of God. I’m still pinching myself at the opportunity to speak openly to her about my love for Jesus. This is why we are here, our reason for living.

3). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7).

4). Being able to join forces with another believer in solidarity for a friend who’s going through a horrible situation. Satan is fighting a losing battle and will find he is no match for the power of God or His people.

5). The Church- despite its many flaws, God still uses it as a built-in support system and place of refuge for His people.

6).  The upcoming Christmas break. My husband and kids are tired and need a break.

7). A quiet Friday night with nothing that has to be done.

 

Like most kids, I grew up loving Christmas. Hands down the best part about the whole season was decorating the Christmas tree. My mom and dad would drag it up from the basement, pull it out of the box and assemble it, fitting the branches into their color-coordinated holes in the base. I loved it. We doused it with colorful felt ornaments, homemade ornaments, sparkly ornaments, colored lights and a truckload of silver tinsel. To my young eyes it’s grandeur stood unmatched dwarfing every other ornament placed around the house.

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But…there was always this niggling frustration in the back of my head. The tree wasn’t real. I don’t know where the obsession with real trees came in. I didn’t know anyone who had one. But the oddity of placing something real from the forest in the middle of my house taunted me.

In moving to apartment, to college and back to apartment, I had all shapes and sizes of trees. Short trees, emaciated trees, skinny trees. No matter what they looked like, they all had one thing in common: they were fake. I wanted a real one, and it was a dream that would not be die.

Enter Bruce, my husband, the quintessential New Englander. Unlike my history with fake trees, he’d never had one. He knew they existed, but no true self-respecting New Englander would actually have one-at least not as their only tree. One could accessorize with the copycat version, but to have a plastic evergreen heralding the season in one’s home was unthinkable.

Our first Christmas came two months after we were married. We decided to spend it alone in our little apartment watching Christmas movies, eating steak and gazing at what I insisted would be a real tree to which my husband responded with a look of is there any other kind?

So one Sunday afternoon while my sister was in town we set off for a tree farm to pick out our own tree and cut it down. Not only would the blessed thing be real, but Bruce was going to show me what picking out a tree was really all about. Ritual in nature it involved the tedious task of finding it, cutting it down, mounting it to the top of the car and driving it home. Lest you think all trees are created equal, you couldn’t be more wrong. A Fraser Fir, considered by my husband as the Cadillac of trees, was simply the only option. The whole thing was incredibly romantic, and I almost couldn’t take it.

About an hour and a half into the search, I got a little tired. We walked all over the stinking farm looking for the perfect tree. In my head, they were all perfect because they were real and big and smelled like Christmas. I didn’t realize it at the time that this painstaking search for perfection would be how my sweet my husband would research all future purchases from baby strollers to sandwich bread. I could appreciate that he excelled at this skill of tree shopping. Apparently he was so good at it that his family would not purchase a tree until he was home from college on break and able to go get it, no matter how late in the season it was. It was impossible for anyone to pick out a tree like Bruce. So I’d been told.

Weary of the whole thing, my dream of authentic foliage dashed by the sheer absurdity of the search, I suggested that a fake one from Walmart would suffice and marched off in the snow back to the car with my sister in tow. We waited another hour and a half. Finally, from the distance I saw a tree moving toward us. As it got closer I realized that buried under this mass of foliage was my husband manhandling this thing proud as a peacock. We waited another half hour as he hoisted onto our little Ford Tempo, triple checking the bungee cords to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere while we drove home.

To say that it was large would be an understatement. It literally took up most of a the wall where the sliding glass door sat, protruding out into the living room leaving no one to wonder what season we were in. I could not wait to get my hands on that tree and decorate it bringing to life what I was feeling inside.

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The decorating of a Christmas tree is much like accessorizing an outfit. “Forest fashion” represents the “wearer” to the outside world. In this instance, my “forest friend” donned blue Christmas balls, red tinsel and big white lace bows leftover from my wedding representing my newlywed bliss and diehard patriotism.

In my humble opinion, no more beautiful a tree could be found anywhere. Every morning as I sipped my coffee, I would sit and stare at its blinking lights and be taken back to that beautiful childhood tree-though fake-that I found so mesmerizing.

In the 21 years we’ve been married, only twice have my husband and I ignored our tree standards, disappointed both times. Ever frugal and having my romantic visions of the perfect tree thwarted by the price, we succumbed to plastic simplicity one year and something real but very pokey the next year. Like saving for Christmas presents, saving for a tree that lasts a month at best, then dies and is thrown to the curb, is a priority that cannot be ignored.

These days my house is filled with trees; one in my bedroom decorated with all of the ornaments created by my kids through the years; one in the dining room, white with lime green, fuchsia and turquoise decorations, a nod to my lime green walls; two in my daughter’s room because there is no other person more obsessed with Christmas than she; one in my son’s room, and finally the rock star of them all, the big Fraser Fir in the living room crammed with white lights, Nielson ornaments tracking the years we’ve been a family, cat ornaments because next to the Christmas tree in importance is the cat (of course) and a variety of others we’ve collected over the years. Take all the other decorations away, and you can still eek out a bit of Christmas cheer. But take away the tree and none of the other decorations make sense. Plus, where would the presents go?

Whatever makes Christmas merry for you, enjoy it with your family, rejoice in it as the beginning of the redemption story and for heaven’s sake, get a decent tree!

Praise Project, Week 47

I’m a little late with this week’s Praise Project, a testament to the craziness of the week. It was a good one nonetheless, and I’m praising God for the following:

1). A week of being productive. There’s nothing more satisfying than laying your head on the pillow at night, tired, because of good hard work.

2). Co-hosting a night of fun and celebration with friends at the Women’s Christmas Tea with my daughter.

3). Being asked to contribute to my friend, Sarah’s, blog  http://www.doormousehouse.com in her Making Christmas Merry series. You can read about my fondness for Christmas trees there on Monday and on my blog later in the week.

4). I had a falling out with a neighbor before I moved six years ago. Two years ago she called me out of the blue to apologize for her treatment of me which spurred me on to apologize for my role in the ugliness, something I should have done long ago. We met at a mutual friend’s house this past week to pray with that friend who is going through a horrible time right now. Forgiveness has a long reach.

5). Another new student to tutor.

6). For my sweet neighbor surviving a horrific car accident recently. I’m beyond relieved that despite some cuts, bruises, fractured ribs and countless stitches she’s still with us and recovering.

7). Watching my kids desire to get involved with those around them who have broken hearts.