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O, Christmas Tree

Hi, friends.  I’ve missed you.

I suffer from a condition.  Well, to be frank, I suffer from many conditions, but this particular condition is called Compulsive Need to Accomplish Every Task Known to Man Before a Vacation (I’m assuming it’s in the DSM-5, most likely found between Fictional Disorders and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders).  This condition makes me a real joy to behold before I go on a trip.  I make The Impossible List, which includes essentials like packing and laundry, but it also includes vanity tasks (because I can’t enjoy any of our family time if my nails look terrible), and a handful of unimportant, tedious tasks.  At the time of a list writing, I’ve successfully dodged those non-essential tasks for months, but before we leave?  Oh, that MUST be done.  IMMEDIATELY.     

So in this vein, we were getting ready for Thanksgiving and a quick trip to Tahoe.  On my Impossible List was nails (Priority One, obvie), laundry, getting our cabinet door repaired (ahem, Mimi), completing five Target returns that had been rolling around in the trunk for six weeks, and getting a Christmas tree from Costco. 

I’d been lusting after that Costco tree for a year; it was pre-lit and sexy as hell.  We are Fake Tree People.  Mando and I had a sad little six-foot tree from Target that finally died (hallelujah), and I was sure that it was time for an upgrade.  Last season I would bust by the trees in Costco on my way to buy toilet paper.  They were glowing happily in the warehouse, tall and shiny, beckoning me with their miraculous color-changing lights.  “Take me home,” the smallest tree said.  But I would forge past, buy my toilet paper, and come home to give my tree the evil eye.  It was on its last fake legs, listing heavily to the right.  I was cautiously optimistic that 2016 would be the year of Julie’s Beautiful Costco Tree. 

You can see: I needed that tree, and I needed it before Thanksgiving.

So I went to Costco.  There were three sizes, the smallest of which was seven and a half feet tall; oddly enough, that fact later turned out to be a key piece of information.  But I heaved that massive box onto my little flatbed cart because I wanted that tree and I don’t let facts get in the way of my dreams.  I bought it, and shoved it in to the back of the Pilot with the help of a mustached passerby (thanks, man).

On the way home I called my sister and expressed my teeny-tiny doubt (barely worth mentioning, really).  I was concerned it might be a little big.  We have one spot that works for a Christmas tree, unless I plan on getting rid of the dining room table for the season.  Mando says that’s “unrealistic” and I say “the holiday season requires sacrifices,” but he refuses to help me move the table into the garage.  (Marriage Theme #27: ‘round and ‘round we go.)  So as I described the spot to my sister, she said, “Be sure to measure it before you take it out of the box.” 

So I pulled up to the house, opened the trunk, and read the dimensions.  Sixty inches across at the base, it said.  I got out my tape measure and – hold on a second – that’s five FEET.  We don’t have that space, and even my hopped-up Christmas-addled brain couldn’t make that happen. 

So I drove immediately back to Costco and saw some friends there that I had seen when I was buying the tree a mere thirty minutes earlier and they were all “what are you doing in the returns line” and I was all “ha ha I could’ve read the dimensions first before purchasing lol I’m a poor estimator” and we all had a good laugh THE END.  I called Mando and he said, “Seven and a half feet was aggressive.”  Whatever, man. 

So I went to the hardware store and got a screamin’ deal on our current pre-lit tree, with its standard white lights that only stay white (sigh).  My Costco dreams were smashed (like that one-of-a-kind glass ornament that Nolan dropped in 2014 and the snow globe he dropped in 2012).  But we set up our tree, put on the other non-destroyed ornaments, watched Rick Steves’ European Christmas, and I realized the tree didn’t matter in the slightest. 

The holiday season is packed with opportunities for distraction.  The decorations, the music, the shopping, the gifts, the (blissful) togetherness, the merry-making AT ANY COST: it’s overwhelming.  But this season I’m pondering space.  Making space, yes, but also being honest about the space that’s available to me.  What tree will fit here?  Is that event a yes?  Do I have enough time alone?  Am I doing things to nourish myself in real, life-giving ways?  Am I creating more space by releasing what no longer serves me?

And this Christmas I am embracing the truth: God makes space for me.  There may be no room at the inn, but I’m invited to the table every day to receive grace, in abundant, never-ending supply.  Even short-sighted, loving, giving, foolish, emotional, crazy little me: I receive this gift of grace.  My people and my house and my little tree: they are just a few of my gifts.  And oh, how I need to be reminded.  Daily, in fact: typically around 4:30pm and Mando’s been gone all week and I’m realizing that someone needs to feed these children and they haven’t yet finished their homework and I’m listening to ALL THE WORDS even though I want to put in earplugs and send everyone to bed. 

It’s in my power to turn toward the reality of what God has given me.  I can embrace this rest every day, even as I do all the busyness of the season, because the right busyness is its own form of grace.  I must continue to ask: does this fit here?  Is this the tree for me?

Because these days are precious, and they’re sliding by.  As I bought Christmas presents for the boys this year, I was thinking back to their toddler days, when they opened Buzz and Woody and the magic rose off them in shiny, shimmering waves.  Being part of their happiness is another gift, but only if I unwrap it right now.  Babies don’t keep.    

So here’s to the right tree for me, for us.  Also, here’s to checking dimensions that are handily printed on the front of the box so you don’t have to make a round trip to Costco. 

Happy December, friends.

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