Monday, December 10, 2012

The Stories that Deck Our Halls

I've never been a fan of decorating for Christmas. Every year I feel overwhelmed when we haul out the containers of decorations. How much we have! How much we don't need! How the collection seems to multiple each year despite my sincere attempt to pare it down and weed out the superfluous. But this year I was struck by the stories that make the decorations meaningful.

Each time I unpack the wooden nesting Christmas trees that my friend Dona gave to me when we were in our 20s, I think of working together in our first post-college "real" jobs and all the adventures we had outside of work. Now, we keep in touch primarily through Facebook and Christmas cards, but what a joy to reconnect this year as she responded to and shared a FB request to help collect children's clothes for a family in need. It doesn't surprise me at all that she maximized social media to meet a social need. It's just the kind of thing she'd do.

The nesting trees are part of the forest surrounding the snowmen salt-and-pepper shakers my brother gave me after he got them as a free "bonus" at Publix grocery store. There's no real sentimental meaning there, but their silly story just makes me smile.

Two wooden trees make up the rest of the forest. Those trees were the favors at Pam and Mike's wedding nearly 20 years ago. I remember them carving and painting those trees for weeks, maybe months, with Mike's uncle. Every time I see those cute trees, I remember the stories of that December day ... Pam's picking black velvet for my maid of honor dress as a nod to my then borderline obsession with black, getting lightheaded from the aroma of lilies in her bouquet I held while she and Mike took communion, friends making Mike sing the Barney song to get the marriage license back. What a joy to stand beside them that day.

I pulled out the decorative snowman Pam and Mike made in 1995 and put him on the front porch. He's missing his twig arms now, but what a treasure to read Pam's inscription, before Meghan was born, before Brian and I knew each other, before so much of our lives would unfold in ways we never imagined.

There are the ornaments Brian and I have for each year we've been married, many of them momentos from places we've traveled. A new addition to our tree this year is an ornament Laura brought back from Mali that she purchased in support of the Rahab Centre, a ministry that works to get prostitutes off the streets and help them realize their true value in the eyes of their creator.

I love our Pier One mantel ornament that's just pretty. Also on our mantel is the madonna that my mother-in-law made years before I joined the family.

We don't have an Elf on the Shelf, but on a shelf sit two angel dolls that were gifts from my mom. One is holding a heart that reads "joy" (a constant reminder to find the joy in the season) and the other doll is just a ragtag, cloth angel with crazy hair (who fell off the shelf and made it to the backyard with Cooper this year).

There's the antique Santa given to Brian when he was a child by his grandfather. My sister-in-law has a twin Santa at her house. This group of crafted carolers singing Joy to the World came from an open house given by the mother of a friend of a friend who turned her creative gifts into a profitable venture after her husband was debilitated by a stroke.

I cherish the Mary-Joseph-Jesus carving that was a wedding gift, a beautiful piece crafted by a fair-trade carver.

My favorite Christmas decoration is our Willow Tree nativity set. It peacefully centers my heart on the meaning of Christmas each time I look at it.

So many reflections came to mind this year during decorating, reflections that filled my heart with the joy of how blessed we are by the lives of all those God has chosen to be part of the story He is writing for us.