[tinsel] of Christmas present and Christmas past

Two tiny girls are standing on the bench, fingers touching ornaments.

“This one, Auntie Tashe,” the oldest holds up an embroidered square, “what’s this one?”

“That one is from Alaska,” I explain, tracing the bright pink fireweed.

“You were in Alaska?” Her voice is incredulous. She spent almost a third of her life in the 49th state but I wasn’t there at the time.

“Yes, ma’am,” I tweak her nose, “I was in Alaska way before you were born.”

Her mouth shapes an “O”.

The littlest one latches onto the ornament of a tractor. “Ice Cream!” she says.

Tractors equal Uncle Ice Cream in her mind. (The uncle who earned his name fair and square with bowls of ice cream.)

The Christmas tree arrives and we’re smelling pine and stringing lights and the house feels warm and full.

the littlest niece holding the Christmas lights

Then the little ones get picked up at they blow kisses from the door.

After chores we sit around the wood stove. A friend stops by for dinner and we joke about bookshelves (should have put “I will build her as many bookshelves as she wants” in our wedding vows) while we play games and laugh around the tree.

It doesn’t have any deep meaning, a Christmas tree—but there is still something lovely about it. The way it sparkles. The memories that are hung on it. The way little ones look at it with wide eyes.


Later, when I finally have time to drop pieces of tinsel on the tree, I laugh at a memory.

It was the year mom had cancer. That year the house stood starkly empty at Christmas time. She had surgery, was doing well, but no energy or ability to decorate. One evening I was gone with my parents and the three boys stayed home alone.

We got back and they had decorated the house for mom.

A tree stood in front of the picture windows, lights twinkled from around the bookshelf. The ornaments were nestled amid the needles. And the tinsel. We laughed for years about the tinsel.

They were boys. The tinsel went on in great wads. All over the tree.

Mama, who always decorated with one strand of tinsel at a time-  thought that tree was the prettiest tree she had ever seen.

That was the year we each got one gift. There wouldn’t have been any except someone I didn’t know from New York had sent a box way up to Alaska.

I got hair ties. I remember that.

And I remember Papa gathering us around and saying, “This year, your Mama is your present.”

She was alive. Well. The surgery worked.

And I got to grow up with a Mama.

None of us minded not getting gifts.

And we always said that was our favorite Christmas ever.

My mother was the leading influence in my life to cause me to turn to Jesus. To surrender my life to him. And I thank my King and Redeemer, again, that he healed her– and in the process, drew me to himself.

And my prayer, again this Christmas, as it is on every Christmas-

is that God will use me in other children’s lives,

to draw them to himself.

For as Simon Peter said centuries ago–

[God] alone has the words of life.

John 6:68

And my prayer for you- my readers?

May you find a new glimpse of Jesus this Christmas.

And may you be instrumental in leading your families, your neighbors, your friends-

to the knowledge of the fullness of Christ.



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