Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

My Christmas Tree Adventures

My partner and I decided we would get a Christmas tree this year.  Christmas trees have always been one of my favorite things about this holiday season.  I love the fresh smell of pine that permeates the rooms in our homes.  My favorite type of tree is a white pine and the long, soft needles are so inviting to touch!  We have tall ceilings in our apartment, so we decided to go all out and get a big tree; it's about 7 feet tall and bushy all around.  (Side note: We are car-less so buying a tree is problematic, so in case all of you didn't know, you can buy wonderful trees off the internet and they are delivered to you in a box by FedEx - it's brilliant!)  After we ordered our tree, we walked to the hardware store to buy a Christmas tree stand.  Have you ever gone Christmas tree stand shopping - they can be VERY expensive.  Stands ranged from $10 to $80.  Eighty dollars, can you believe that?  We opted to go cheap - we got the $10 one. (Yes, this is the part of the story where the warning bells in your head should start ringing.)


Our tree was delivered last Saturday and she was a beauty!  The scent was invigorating.  We took the tree out to our patio to prepare it to go in the stand - everything went smoothly.  Even with our cheap handsaw we got the trunk cut pretty easily.  (Yes, we bought a new, cheap, small handsaw, despite my mom's warnings that we should invest in a good one!)  We got the tree into the stand and on the first try it was straight, the screws held her up with no problem at all.  We brought the tree into the apartment and she looked magnificent!  She stood, in all her glory, so proudly! :)  I started to wonder why my dad seemed to have so many problems getting the trees straight in their stands all those years while I was a child!  For two days, I dutifully watered our tree and everything went great!  Her intoxicating scent greeted me every time I walked in the door or woke up in the morning.  It was at this point we decided it was time to decorate our tree.  I worked all evening creating a fantastic popcorn and cranberry garland for our tree.  We strung our lights up, I hung the garland and our tree was beautiful!  The only thing missing was an extension cord so we could actually plug our lights in! ;-)  We called it a night, happy with the work we had done.

Now some of you may be concerned that we were borderline worshipping this tree!  Don't worry; we just liked it a lot!!  The time we spent decorating the tree reminded me of the devotions I'm reading during Advent.  It's a stimulating book for Advent and Christmas by Jan Richardson called, Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas.  This week's theme is "preparing a space."  The author reflects that Advent is partly about preparation but that both Isaiah and Matthew not only invite us to "draw our attention to the horizon from which the Holy One will appear, they also draw our gaze to the path itself."  During Advent many households prepare their house for the holidays, but what Jan is suggesting is that we need to internalize this preparation as well by asking questions like, "What is the way that is being prepared within the wilderness of my life? What does it mean for my own life to become a path, a way of welcome for the Holy One? What are the acts of preparation that bring delight to my daily life? Whom do I ask or allow to help me prepare?"  I particularly like the last question because it reminds me we are not alone in this process.  One of my favorite things about Bread for the World is the community that we are.  Through this movement to seek justice and end hunger, I am connected with an activist in Fairbanks, Alaska or Miami, Florida or one right here in Washington, DC and together we support, encourage, and offer words of hope to each other.

Now back to the tree.  I left the story by mentioning that we had called it a night, our tree was happily decorated.  I was reading in bed when I hear something big crash and then hear the sound of glass breaking.  I calmly said, "our tree just fell and all our lights just broke."  The rest of the evening I was not so calm.  Apparently our cheap tree stand could not hold up our heavy, tall tree that no longer seemed magnificent to me.  All our beautiful lights were scattered in pieces across our living room.  We decided to banish the tree outside because we couldn't get it to stay up anymore (I realize it wasn't really the trees fault).  We swept the floor several times to make sure all the glass was picked up.  The next day we bought a better tree stand (one specified for trees that were 7 feet tall) and then I felt like my dad.  The darn tree would not go straight into the stand for anything.  I had sap all over my hands and arms and my partner had it in his hair!  We did finally succeed in getting it in somewhat straight.  We have not ventured in adding lights back to it.  The love I had for my tree has diminished significantly and at one point during the adventure (this would be after we dragged our tree back into the apartment and in the process managed to knock over two plants and break one of the pots) I declared that we were never buying another real tree and that we would never have cats.

This whole process has only reinforced that while I think it's wonderful as part of Advent to prepare our homes for the Christmas season, that as the author of my devotional book suggests, it really is important to prepare internally as well.  Perhaps, I need to learn to be a bit more patient when turbulence enters my life or when Congress doesn't prioritize issues the way I would like them to.  Perhaps instead of giving up, I need to look for signs of hope and beauty amidst our broken world just like there is still beauty in our Christmas tree even if the lights for it are all broken!  Perhaps I also need to learn to read the labels on Christmas tree stands to make sure I buy one for the appropriate height of my tree!!

I wish you all God's peace, beauty and gentleness during this season of preparation.

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