You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11
Just a heads up. Christmas trees. They all have their own time to be setup. They all have their own design and style. They all have their time when they are trashed or stowed. There is a common denominator. Those three things are determined by the creators, the admirers of the trees. That is what makes every tree special. At our house, we do something just a bit different. We have four trees that make a small, enchanted forest of sorts. The tallest is about six foot and the smallest is about 30 inches. It was an idea that I came up with several years ago and we love it. They are decorated with a wide variety of ornaments and keepsakes from over the decades…and we love that too.
On one tree, we have a styrofoam snowman’s head that was made by my sister when she was in the third grade…and trust me…that was a really, long time ago. There is a glitter covered cross from when my wife Judy was in the fourth grade. Of course, there are three “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments—one for each of our daughters. There is a 3×5 index card with two buttons on it. Written, by my oldest granddaughter when she was about 5 years old, is her name over one button and Papa written over the other. It is priceless. We were buddies…we are buddies. And on and on it goes…families, friends, and special memories all gathered in one place.
So, by now you are wondering, “Why are you writing about Christmas trees after Christmas has past?” It’s a bit of a story. When we were in Germany in 1979 we lived in base housing. They were large, four story apartment buildings, with three stairwells—all full of military families. We were on the top floor and we had one neighbor across the hall and they actually had a phone in their home. One year, near Easter, I needed to use the phone so I knocked on the door and his wife came to the door. I asked if I could use their phone and she was kind enough to say yes.
As I entered their apartment, I noticed one thing right away. Sitting in their living room was their Christmas tree in all of its splendor. Now, keep in mind it was right before Easter. I made my call and just had to ask the obvious question. I politely said, “So why do you still have your Christmas tree up?” And, without missing a beat, she said, “It makes me happy.” I never forgot that simple answer and the great truth it taught me. It.Makes.Me.Happy.
I love the fact that this sweet lady made a decision not based on popular opinion, not on what the masses did, not the usual. She made a decision based on what was good for her—for her mental health. I didn’t think her odd at all—rather, I thought her strong and wise. I wonder how many decisions we make every day that are not based on what may be good for us but based on what the Smiths or Jones might think of us? I wonder how many things we wear, or eat, or watch, or do, that are based on the opinion of others? I wonder how many of our faith decisions are based on the same? Church—no church. Kindness—no kindness. Love—no love. Jesus—no Jesus. Hmmmm. I just wonder.
Well anyway, if you live around Harrisburg, Illinois you need to know something. For the next few weeks or so, you are going to see a small, enchanted forest in our front bay window. It will be four trees starting at about six feet tall and going down to 30 inches. If you could get close enough you would see the trees covered with special ornaments—and almost everyone would represent a special memory or event. And why will it be there? Well, Miss Judy said, “Dewayne, it makes me happy” and I have to agree. So this year, we are doing something counter-cultural and leaving them up past Christmas, when most folks will have theirs stowed or tossed.
In these coming days, we will drink coffee and do our Jesus things like reading the Bible or praying and occasionally we will look up and be happy—happy for all the blessings that God has sent our way. Someone writing about God in His Book said that God had turned their mourning into joyful dancing. He had taken away their clothes of mourning and clothed them with joy. I couldn’t agree more. Even in this COVID-19 hot mess, even in a year that did not live up to its name—2020—and even when a future is still not very certain, we will have happy moments. We will pause and thank God that in the past He always showed up and today and all the today’s yet to come…He’s got this.