why we decorated a peach tree instead of an evergreen for Christmas this year

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,
with love, 


Merry Christmas!

what our children need--growing up in this broken, abusive world

Ours is a broken world. Gross understatement, I know. And a harsh reality we would rather not dwell on. Especially as mothers with precious little ones clamoring around our ankles, resting against our breasts, looking up at us with those huge eyes and so many "whys." Tender innocents, appropriately naive.

We hear of the atrocities--the awful, unspeakable, aching realities. And we beg God never to let our children experience the soul-deep pain and emotional trauma of abuse.

And yet, in this broken world in which we live, it happens. And it happens far, far too often.

And these tender, frail olive shoots--the sweet children sitting around our tables--they depend on us.

They look to us to be their fruitful vine, producing fruit from the vine, filling their sippy cups with juice, or asking us to turn their water into juice because "you're supposed to be like Jesus, Mommy."

And yes, one of mine really did ask, really did believe I had the power to change his water into the juice he so badly wanted. But I couldn't.

Because I'm not Him.

And I've been thinking about this post for a few weeks now, thinking how to phrase things, how to express what I don't fully understand, what I too often fail at.... How I need to point my children to Jesus even when His reflection is as if in a foggy mirror.

And I know I'm not alone. And you need to know you're not alone. That we're in this together.

We are the mommies. The fruitful vines. The ones squeezed out, pressed, stomped on. At times. Yes.

And too often, in the midst of the pressure, I don't see the pressures my kids are working through too, don't take the time to be more gentle, to listen better. 

But when I do, I realize the beauty of it.

As the moms, we're the ones that can nurture and comfort. The ones that get the "I love you mommy because you bake all the things" when we really just baked scones because we ran out of every other breakfast item in the house...

But we provide our precious, pressured little ones with a measure of comfort and joy. We push away their griefs, wipe their tears. We give them soup and scones and try our best to strengthen their hearts with stories and hugs. And (if we're lucky) we get to be the ones that have what it takes to make them smile again. 

But, ugh. They absorb more than we realize. They get it. Way too early. 
They understand way too much. They think way too deep. And they hurt.
Sometimes in ways we'll never know. 

They are our olive shoots. The precious little ones around our tables. And they're just trying to grow up, to be like us, to live the dream they've not yet dreamed--because they still think there's a way to be a super hero or a princess and earn a paycheck for it.

Our tender little olive shoots.

And we are the mommies, the ones tasked with helping them "grow well in rocky and arid conditions."

By the marvelous mercy of God, somehow "their roots help hold the soil in place and prevent erosion." And the questions they ask and the way they love and the words they speak and the hugs they give--oh! they hold us together. They are what we embrace as the worthwhile definition of "family!" And life just wouldn't be the same without them.

They push us to know God better, to live life more sincerely (because they see through every hypocritical farce), to love more fully.

These are our children.

And like the olive tree in Israel, like the Jewish people too, "thriving in an inhospitable part of the world," so our children are learning to thrive, despite the depravity of this world we brought them into. They're learning that Jesus loves them. Enough to take away the sin of the world. Their sin. And the sin of those that sin against them too.

And it's hard and wonderful to teach them that.

So we sing "O Grant Me Wisdom From Above" because we know we don't have enough on our own. And we pray for grace and strength and perfect peace. Tears trickle down our cheeks, burn in our eyes and throat. And we hope God will send rainbows if there must be rain. Hot cocoa and firesides if there must be snow. And aloe and swimming pools and lemonade if there must be scorching sun.

And in every season, in every trial, with every "why" and "please," we trust our Father, who loves us as we love them ... and more. Who works in ways we cannot understand. Who will redeem this world. Someday. And bring His heaven down to reign on the Eden-restored planet of peace.

Until then, we lift our eyes to Him and teach our children to lift their eyes too. Because (unless He returns before they get the chance) they too will be the parents one day. Sooner than it could ever seem possible, I'm sure. And they'll be the ones pointing their own little ones to the hope of Jesus in their broken, sin-cursed world.

And He is our hope. In this generation. And forever.

And the best thing we can be for our children--what they desperately need us to be--are desperate, dependent children of God who speak to them humbly, who listen, who cry, who repent and thrive in the Word.

We must live by faith, in full hope (full confidence) in the Redeemer who is accomplishing His work and who will make all things new in His time.

And tonight I'm praying peace and hope and joy for you and yours as well as mine.

May the grace and love of Jesus be with your spirit,