However, just past the entry way, in the family room, opposite the fire place where nine stockings hang above the fire place you will find our other tree, the family Christmas tree. It is a real tree. It's a little too fat at the top and it does not come to a point as a Christmas tree should. The branches are irregular taking away from the tapered shape that a Christmas tree should have. There are gaps were branches should be, and it has already begun to sprinkle the floor with needles. There are places where the lights are a little too sparce in places but those are offset by the spots with excessive lights. All in all it has many flaws.
There are no color coordinated ornaments, nor is there a theme to this tree. Instead it is covered with handmade ornaments, each proudly made by a child's tiny hands. There are store bought ornaments each with a story behind them. There are ornaments that were gifts, some from Grandparents, some from good friends, some from squadrons marking periods of our lives. The ornaments span the years from 1983 to 2008; 25 years, two families, eleven lives, and countless memories. Many ornaments are missing arms, chipped or have the colors worn thin from the years. But they are all beautiful in their imperfection and for the memories that each one holds.
I'm sitting in the family room, the kids now fast asleep in their rooms and the tree stands before me. It is silent yet it seems to want to speak to me. It stands proudly before me; almost as if it is honored to have given its life to hold such special decorations from its branches. Hours ago six children dug through boxes of ornaments, excited to renew a tradition, and recount the stories of each ornament they pick up. In that moment I witnessed two families becoming one. Ginger and I exchanged glances, both realizing the significance of this moment, both feeling its sadness and the joy that were intertwined in the moment. We sneak off to hold each other, in an attempt to help with a pain that has no remedy. Sometimes it is just going to hurt and nothing can spare you from that. Strangely no joy can erase the pain, it only makes it bearable. They are the opposite emotions; one brings a smile, one a gut wrenching pain.
Tonight we hung an ornament of a mom a dad and two little boys and it represented Troy, Ginger, Boston and Greyson. We also hung pink ribbons and Angles with "Hope" written on their wings. We hung an F-16 and an F-15. We hung a red bulb, with "Andrea 2007" written on it. It was one of Andrea's last ornaments, a Christmas gift from her friends last year. One she never opened, yet it hangs tonight on the center of the tree, the shinny red bulb reflects the white lights of the tree. There is a wooden bell with a camel on it. It is not particicualy pretty but it is treasured above all of the others' belonging to Ginger. Troy mailed it to her from Iraq and she received it just days after his accident. If you took the time to look closely you would see Troy and Ginger's first Christmas ornament. You would see Willow tree angels for hope and healing. Snowman ornaments from Alaska and wooden shoes from Holland. Lots of princesses, Popsicle reindeer and paper angels poorly colored to perfection. You would see a football, a soccer ball and a basketball, a hockey player and several airplanes. You would see a British flag, a Texas A&M and a Texas Tech ornament. There are light houses from North Carolina, bells from Italy, and a shoe from Turkey. It is a hodgepodge of ornaments and it is beautiful to me.
Adding to the imperfection and to its beauty, the bottom branches are overweighted with ornaments, defining the reach of three little girls. Yes there are branches with two ornaments hanging in the same spot, and yes there are places where there are no ornaments at all, but there was never more meaning in the imperfection of a tree.
I think this tree represents us, an imperfect family brought together in the worst of circumstances. We do what we can as we all forge on through new territory. At times we do not understand why we were brought together. But at times, and sometimes in the same moment, we see the blessing of our meeting. Though totally unfamiliar to us, we make our way, surely making many mistakes along the way. We try not to hide our imperfections as if to give the impression that bringing two families together is a cake walk. And if you took the time to look closely at us, you might see the beauty of those imperfections. It lies past the courtesy "Hello" or "Doing good" response. It lies past the smile that may be hiding a tough day. I think our lives are sometimes much like our two trees in our home. When you first enter or meet someone you are presented the artificial tree, without defect, or if it has one it may be purposely chosen and revealed to divert attention from any real problems. But if you can look past or go beyond the artificial tree you will see the real tree. It will have imperfections but if you give it a little time and look close enough you will see the true beauty that lies in its imperfections. Both the victories and the tragedies; they have all formed who we are. When yielded those imperfections will reveal the true beauty and what you see will be Christ. For He takes our weakness to demonstrate His strength and uses our imperfections to show His deity. Our prayer is that you see Christ though our lives and that when you read faith or strength in our words that you know it is not us but Christ in us. Through this blog we have tried to show you our tree with its imperfections, our victories, our struggles and our defeats. In doing so we want you to know that alone we do not have the strength to win any battle nor overcome our losses. Life quickly taught both Ginger and I how easily life came overwhelm us. But it also taught us how deep, how wide, and how tall the love God has for us. Our prayer is you need not face such extreme pain to realize the God's loves you no less.
By the way if you look really really close at our tree you will see in the center, next to the trunk hangs a nail. It was given to Ginger at the Womans Bible Study this week and it is a reminder to us all that it is Christ's birth we are celebrating. It was His hands and feet that were nailed to the tree that gave us our greatest gift, eternal life with our Creator.
Merry Christmas...imperfections and all,