Hanging On and Letting Go


In writing that last post (and in searching through boxes of Christmas stuff for a bone-shaped stocking for Max), I thought about all the decorations that remain in their boxes downstairs. In over 20 years of marriage, we've accumulated a lot of Christmas things!  As I thought about what I pulled out to display and what I left in boxes in the laundry room, I discovered something...

I'm hanging on tightly to what's important and letting a lot of the "fluff" go.  I don't know that I even realized it until just now, but from Christmas decorations to relationships to how I spend my time--that's what I've been doing.  Hanging on to what's important and letting go of the fluff.

Maybe that's a speck of beauty from the ashes of the last 16 months...the realization that some things (both tangible and intangible) are important and need to be hung onto, while others are just fluff and can--and should--be let go.

Trust me, there's still more "fluff" in my life than I'd like, but suddenly, I have some clarity regarding what to do with it.

O, Christmas Tree


and the memories of Christmases past...

In 2008, I remember spending hours sitting near the Christmas tree, staring into the lovely multi-colored lights that lined its branches.  I had been so sick with my third pregnancy, I hadn't had the energy to put up the tree.  My Emily, however, was eager to show me how "big" she was by doing it herself.  (This is the same child that, as a toddler, would climb back down out of the van before I got her strapped into her seat just so she could climb in by herself!)

As I directed her on how the tree went together and shared my special "trick" for putting the lights on as you go, she was so pleased to see the final result as it stood in our living room.  We added our very favorite ornaments, each one with its own place in our family story.  From ornaments we received as wedding gifts to "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornaments for both Emily and Grace to sweet homemade ornaments made with little handprints to little bells and tiny stockings knit by my great-aunt, we had a tree covered with a story.

I spent many hours praying as I lost myself in the branches of that tree.  I prayed my baby would be okay.  I prayed for strength to make it through all the uncertainties.  I often wept as I prayed, my tears conveying what I could not find the words to express.  We hadn't planned on this baby.  The timing was undeniably God's.  He just had to make things right, didn't He?

After Christmas, I was excited to find some red plaid flannel pajamas for Emily and Grace--in sizes that would surely work the next Christmas.  Amid visions of an adorable Christmas picture of my big girls with their new baby brother or sister, I tucked those pajamas away, having no idea of the emotions that would one day be tied to red plaid flannel.

The details of Christmas 2009 aren't so clear.  I muddled my way through it, still in a such a state of sorrow, shock and disbelief.  I was engulfed in wonder at how this could now be my life...how I could go from safely delivering a beautiful baby girl in May to losing her in the last moments of lung surgery in August.

I remember not wanting to put up the tree and not wanting anyone else to put it up, either.  I didn't want to hang the stockings.  I didn't want to "do" Christmas.  Deciding that it wasn't fair to my family to ignore the holiday, I asked Will to find us an "easy" tree...one that wouldn't take up so much of the living room, one that already had lights on it, one that wasn't covered in memories.

He and Emily brought home as perfect a tree as could be found in our small town.  Its branches had white lights already attached and became home for the memorial ornaments we had received.  I had some ornaments made, too, using photos of each one of us with Kristen.  The girls and I strung popcorn to hang as garland.  I bought some new red ornaments that were a beautiful complement to the white lights.  Like my life, it was very different.

And now, faced with another December, I've had to consciously make decisions about how we will celebrate Christmas 2010.  Our Advent wreath adorns the dining table.  The girls still love to light those candles.  I love that it keeps us all focused on the right things...the hope, the love, the joy and the peace of Christmas.

This year, we have not one, but three Christmas trees!  Upstairs, we have the old one I love. 

Downstairs, we have "Kristen's Christmas Tree" (the "easy" tree Will bought last year). 

There's certainly nothing "easy" about what it represents, but what began last year as an attempt to have a little bit of Christmas continues as a new tradition.  Even though Kristen isn't here with us, and she never got to be a part of our old Christmas traditions, she's become a part of our new ones. 

The third tree is a little 4-foot pre-lit Walgreens special (formerly our classroom Jesse tree) that I let the girls decorate with some of their own special ornaments.

Each of those trees tells its own story. 
Certain chapters bring smiles and warm feelings.  Others bring tears. 
Yet others sing with the promise of hope!

I can't say that anything this Christmas season has been easy...because it hasn't.  I've had to be very intentional about many things.  I can't say that I've not wanted to just crawl into bed and stay there with the covers over my head until January...because I have.  But, I also can't say that I haven't felt the true meaning of Christmas more deeply this year than in years past...because I have.  And I can't say that I don't know what it's like to be held by my heavenly Father...because I do.  He continues to carry me day by day.