The past three Christmases, we've gone to Home Depot or Lowe's and chosen a small potted evergreen. The size was just right. With a pan to catch water placed beneath the pot, and the entire plant perched on a sturdy chair, each tree was able to be seen through the front window, able to give enough cheer to drivers by and adequate joy to young children.
The price was right too, at just $18 for a tree that we could actually plant along our back fenceline. And it's totally appropriate down here in the South to plant a tree in January. So for the better part of December, we enjoyed our little potted evergreen, all lit and decorated with wooden cranberries and ribbon and glass balls and a few special ornaments. And then come January, we took it outside, planted it, and tried to remember to wrap a blanket around its base if the nights actually got below freezing.
Thankfully, somehow, all three trees have survived.
But this Christmas, I didn't want another potted evergreen to plant along the back fence line. I was unimpressed by any of the ones available at the garden centers. They just didn't look very full of hope this year. And since we added a couple of white-flowering crepe myrtles between the trio of evergreens along the back fence, we didn't really need another evergreen anyway.
I'm not a huge fan of artificial. Just personally. For me, the Christmas tree is a metaphor, and the fake life--eh, just not me. Totally not judging. Just admitting I take metaphors too seriously. Blame it on being a writer. I don't know.
And I'm just a little too frugal to spend twice as much on already-chopped-down evergreen to decorate then toss to the curb come January than I would on one I could plant... I just can't bring myself to do it (and I say yet, because I'm sure one day I will, when there's no more room in my yard to plant anything).
Since I do love the smell of pine, I appeased my olfactory privation--this need for the scent of pine at Christmas time--with a fresh-cut wreath that's hanging in the kitchen.
But as far as trees go, I guess I'm admitting, I just wasn't satisfied with what I was seeing this Christmas. I couldn't find it. You know, the right tree, my family's tree for this year...
And a good friend of mine, a brand marketing guy, was listening to me explain why we ended up buying a peach tree for our Christmas tree this year captured it:
"The evergreen, after all, is a metaphor, and sometimes you just need a different metaphor."
And he was right. He got it. (Thank you, David!)
The thing was $10. It's as tall as I am, but as thin as the bamboo shoot supporting its trunk. Its arms stretch out creatively, spaced just right for bulbs actually. And it's not dead, just dormant.
When we first brought it home, it didn't look like much. My parents actually visited before we had a chance to decorate it, and we all had a good laugh over my pathetic and random choice for a Christmas tree. Apparently later that night at my sister's house, dad was still making fun, how he just couldn't help being in a Christmas mood after seeing my tree... And since he did actually give me an early Christmas present that night, I've totally forgiven him for mocking my tree.
It's not dead, just dormant, remember. And I'm going to make myself a little vulnerable here. If you've read blog posts from this past year and a half, you know it's been a going through season. What I've written has been a fraction of my own personal experiences. But I can't even describe ... though I can taste the salt on my lips as tears run down remembering. It's just been dark. Really, really dark.
But it's not just my personal stuff--the lingering post partum and the mommying and the ridiculously difficult seminary years. That's really only part of it. A lot of this year's going through has been going through alongside people I love. One beloved family struggling to stay together, to make it work, in spite of everything... Close friends whose precious little one was called suddenly home to Jesus, and all the grief and longing left behind... Precious loved ones facing disability, debilitating disease, mental illness, abuse, dementia...and the day-to-day realities that go with each...
Sometimes the pain and the grief are immobilizing. Sometimes, frankly, I feel dead, without hope. But I won't let myself stay there. Because it's not true. I'm not dead. I may not be an evergreen, but ... by faith ... I'm coming to believe this has been a season of dormancy. The darkness is passing away, and the dawn is beginning to shine, gradually brighter and brighter, promising hope and a future.
So this year, in lieu of an evergreen, I convinced my wonderful husband--wonderful because he puts up with my random impulses and crazy metaphoric living and applauds (at least a good bit of) it as creative!--to buy me a peach tree for Christmas.
Because somehow this year, a bare peach tree spoke to me and ironically proclaimed a message of hope.
It's not like everybody else's Christmas tree, but that's okay.
It beautifully brightens my little living room. (Even my dad admitted my pathetic little peach tree looked festive once lit and decorated with gold and crimson bulbs and ribbon.)
And it speaks patience and hope to me on a daily basis.
And oh! the promise of the peach!
I can almost feel the sweet juices of the ripe peach replacing the salty tears dripping down my chin. The hope of fruitfulness after a season of dormancy!
And I'm hopeful that by the time the first peach ripens this year, we'll have seen Alan savor the soul-sweet satisfaction of a desire accomplished, his seminary complete. That he'll be able to tuck the diploma in the trunk with the rest of the padded pouches and slips of paper that signify a ton of work and a life's hope and calling. And that whatever the next step is will be becoming plain before our faces.
That by the grace and kindness of God, we'll be able to go on from here.
And though the path may still be rough and rugged going forward,
if it bears fruit, it will be worth it all.
Multiplied grace and peace,