Sunday, November 30, 2014

O Tennebaum

We Jacksons do Christmas the right way around here. With lots of Yuletide pomp and Christmas-stance. Friday my mom, sister-in-law and I unpacked the Rubbermaids brimming with stockings, ceramic villages, faux greenery and my moms collections of snowmen and Santa Clauses'. We listened to Amy Grant sing Grown Up Christmas List and Nat King Cole's seranade of O Tennenbaum and lit Spruce scented candles. 

Saturday we gathered in Clan firm and drove to the Christ,as Tree Farm that once was my grandfathers. For 40 years he tended to saplings and fostered cheer through months of sweltering heat and infestations to grow ten acres of pine. We chatted with the new owners, kind as can be and I was just grateful as I chased my niece throguh the memory forest while my sisters little family searched. 

Once we found them just the right one, returning home, we congregated and opened the tins of ornaments that have graced our tree, some for 36 years. Now a flocked, pre-lit wannabe graces our living room, but the effect is much the same as if it were real. And I wanted to share our little tradition with you. 

You see my out-of-place Kung Fu Panda ornament. I would tell you of my sweet dad bringing me this home from his Hallmark job to cheekily foster my love of animated movies when I was in college. 

We may also note that Jacksons are kind but raucous people. And when decorating a tree, the tendency for the most sentimental ornaments to get broken is strong. My brothers baby ornament has survived the fray for 31 years with only a small case of flaking and a chipped top. 

We would all argue who gets to tell you all about the infamous Santa. My dad made this in this Kindergarten class 52 years ago. My mother patronizes our affection for him by insisting he be put on the back of the tree. We'll take what we can get for this little guy to live on. 

My dad would tell you about how for years this ornament was put on as a reminder of my brothers near-yet-far presence while in the army. Now he gets to place it on himself while holding his daughter. 

Someone would share how back in 1991, my parents purchasd this ornament to hold strong to our roots while we moved into Chicago Bears country. It did the job and they raised three very fine Chiefs fans. 

My mom would tell of how she had a lunch pail extremely similar to this growing up, so each year we pull out this ornament and she hooks it on to cherish the memory of childhood. 

And finally, when looking at our tree, you will see these bright bulbs littering the empty space between branches and ornaments and they are their own type of sentimentality. I would explain how my mother bought three boxes of these from Macy's the winter before her and my dad got married. They have met the most liberal demise over the years, but the remnant is still used to fill the gaps. 

This tree tells the story of our family, of births and distance and family jokes. You wouldn't see the raffia my mom insisted on tying to the branches for years, but we would probably express relief at the twine bows absence. But mostly, as I admire the decorum, I am just glad for this emblem that ties our family together. I love that it tells our stories. 

Friday, November 21, 2014


It's Fall. In fact, it's SO Fall like that it's beginning to tip toe into Winter territory. I don't love Winter because I typically run cold....however, a few years ago I discovered space heaters. And out of my heart blossomed a tolerance for Winter that has blessed me and others, who now have to feign less compassion for my liturgy of complaint. 

This is also the time of year I steep in deep pockets of memory. Four years ago at this time, I was deep in depression and feeling spent and out of control. And God met me there. Nothing changed in circumstance but His presence burrowed deep into my marrow. I haven't forgotten those days and I love to remember them. 

I've began again one of my favorite books. One Thousand Gifts. Pondering gratitude and joy. Asking how Jesus can stitch thanksgiving into my being. I keep being pressed by the same verse inescapably. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. 

Philippians 4:6

Thanksgiving precedes the request and the answer. When we live under the banner of heavy gratitude, the kind with the audacity that thanks Jesus for His death, we are acquiescing. We say that we know He will just show up, and it will be enough. True thanksgiving is capable to withstand cancer, infertility, financial crisis, not by making it easier but by promising His presence. And in the abiding relationship that comes from just knowing God to be God, we can acquiesce. Knowing full well that pain will be pain, but that just as Jesus talked to His Father while sitting on the cross, He will hear us too and draw near. 

And in the dear times, when we celebrate well, when we sing a merry tune and revel, holding tight the moments which carry the sweet aroma of things being most well, we know Him to be present too. And isn't that the fundamental difference? We choose to see God in joy as opposed to seeing joy from God. His capability to transform all things to being good and helpful far exceeds our barometer for happiness. It is there that our perception for thanksgiving that we can foster space for it to break our gauge.

In these days of remembering the despair of loneliness of my 20th Christmas, I am incapable of severing that from remembering the hope He gave through being there. It changed everything. It gave me the ability to acquiesce the responsibility to fix and resolve to His shoulders and to just be present in my hurt so I could truly heal. 

As we are about to step into Advent, I am looking forward to this time to think with weighty expectation and joy of the weeks that lead us to the night of our dear Saviors birth.