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Archive for December, 2011

Every time we move, no matter how good the moving company, we’ve come to expect a little bit of damage here or there to some of our belongings.  It’s just impossible to pack and load, and load and unpack all of our furniture and junk (we like to call treasures) and expect it all to come out perfectly.

This year, our, well…ahem.  Okay, MY 2-year-old artificial pre-lit 7-foot beeeeautiful Christmas tree got damaged.  I guess the packers figured it would be a good idea to shove 1/2 the tree in a large box and the other half in another large box.  Only it turns out the boxes were too narrow, the tree was too cramped, and some of the hinges at the base of the limbs ended up bent the wrong way.

It looked pretty shabby, but I figured I might be able to make it work anyway.  After all, the kids had already decorated their tree.  I really needed to get this tree decorated so I could move on with the rest of the house that still needed organizing and unpacking, and placing and such.  But MY Christmas tree just had to get done.  That’s how I work out my OCD and need for beauty and perfection over Christmas time.   I figured I only caused frustration with the kids every time they placed their decorations on the tree and I picked it up and moved it to a “better place.”  They finally got old enough to figure out they weren’t really decorating the Christmas tree!  So we solved the problem with a “theirs” tree and a “mine” trees.

Anyway, I tried to assemble my broken down Christmas tree anyway, because by golly, I was not going to let this move stop me from decorating for Christmas!  But to my dismay, when I tried to insert the very top of the tree into the middle section, it began to wobble and lean.  No matter how many times I tried to fix it, it would not sit up straight, until finally, I saw the crack in the metal and it completely flopped over.

Scott originally thought it would be an easy temporary fix (at least for this year).  We attempted to tape it together and get it to hold, but alas, it was a loss cause.  After briefly contemplating calling the tree an “artsy-modern” tree with it’s sideways top, I figured that project would be even more work, and had the boys help me reload the trees in the boxes they were delivered in and take it out to the garage to discard at a future date.  My artificial Christmas tree was dead.

After all these years of marriage, Scott knows how important Christmas is to me, and that I am big on decorating for Christmas.  I wavered back and forth as he offered to buy a real Christmas tree this year and then, when Christmas was over, head out and get another artificial tree at 1/4 of the original price.  (That’s how we got the last one!)  So, finally, he insisted.  He knows me well, and didn’t want me to look back one day and regret “the year we moved back to Ohio when I didn’t even get to decorate a freaking Christmas tree!”  Yeah, that’s probably how I would have remembered it.

So while we were shopping at Costco one day, he went back in as I loaded the groceries and asked about their $30 Christmas trees.  He found out they were located in the parking lot, paid for one, and next thing I knew, we were loading a “7-8 foot” Christmas tree on the top of our car.

Oh the glorious smell!  We haven’t bought a live tree since our first Christmas in Washington…and for good reason.  The mess.  The pine needles, the pine sap, the water, EVERYWHERE (the dog couldn’t resist knocking it over once or twice!)  But it had been so long, and this year, this live, delicious smelling Christmas tree resembled so much more – starting over (again), not giving up, appreciating the beauty that comes out of hard work.  Yes, this tree was going to be a GREAT thing to do this year!

So we get the tree home and Scott takes off to buy a stand since Costco didn’t have stands to sell.  (Really, Costco?)  When he got home, he had Patrick  help him unload it off the car.  The kids are ecstatic about having a real Christmas tree.  It was something so different!   And as I’m chatting away on the phone with a girlfriend of mine, I watched Scott trim a few inches off the bottom of the tree per the instructions on the label attached.  There’s just something sexy about a man hard at work!

Finally, I get off the phone and the guys carry the tree in, only the tree was too tall.  Did Costco say this tree was 7-8 feet?  How about TEN feet?  We tried to set the tree up in the family room, but the top touched the ceiling.  “I won’t be able to put my angel the top.”  I whined.  I bought a new angel after Christmas last year and she is so pretty!

So we decided to try the sun room.  It wasn’t the ideal place to put it, but I guess it was the only place it would fit, so Scott put it in the base (already filled with water), and the tree did not want to stay up.   “Let’s just go ahead and unwrap the tree.”  He suggested, “I think once the limbs are free and spread out it will help balance the tree.”

NOT.

No matter how hard we tried, we could not get the tree to not fall over.  After multiple attempts, I looked at Scott and said, “I give up.  I don’t care.  Do you want to just throw it on the front curb and put a “Free to good home” sign up?  I’m sure somebody else would love this thing!”

“I did not get this far to give up now!”  Scott was determined.

So, Scott and Patrick took the tree back outside and Scott sawed about three feet off the base.  At that point, the tree was short enough to fit in the family room, so we moved the base back in the family room and he put the tree back in.

But the tree still didn’t want to stand on it’s own.  We tried and tried, and finally, Scott got it steady.

“It’s leaning against the wall.”  I said.

“No it’s not…the needles are just…touching the wall.”  Scott protested.

Whatever.  I don’t care.  We have a tree!  But by the end of that fiasco, I did not have the energy required to decorate.

Three days later, I finally got around to stringing the lights on it.  And that was all I had the energy for that evening.

The next day, I finally got around to finishing the rest of the decorations.  Ribbon, pretty glittery balls, and my favorite Christmas decorations – my snowmen!   Finally, the tree was done…slightly leaning  touching the wall, but unless you were looking for it, I’m sure you would be polite enough to never notice.  Right?

Over the next week, I took time to water the tree every day.  We had a trash bag under the base to catch any water spills, but I noticed that the bag was always really wet.  I started to put rags around the base, and each day, the rags were soaked too.  After waking up in the middle of the night worrying that we were going to mold up the carpet underneath, I finally told Scott my concern.  I let him know I was actually starting to lose sleep over this!  I didn’t want a stupid Christmas tree that we I just had to have create an eyesore on the carpet for the rest of the year.  Then I’d just be annoyed about having a real, live Christmas tree because our artificial tree died because we had to move again!

So my awesome husband went back took a look.  He removed the trash bag from underneath, inspected for leaks, and moved the tree over so the carpet could dry.  “We’ll leave it overnight so it has a chance to dry up.”  He told me Friday night.

When we headed downstairs the next morning, Patrick showed us the mess.  The tree had fallen over, caught by the arm of the couch, but half the decorations were scattered across the floor.  The ribbon was disheveled, and pine needles were every where.  Ugh.  Now I have to fix the tree AGAIN.  Is it not enough that we are still trying to unpack and get the house looking like a home on top of decorating and shopping for Christmas while homeschooling and my husband starting a new career?  I am so over this!

But I had the kids help out a bit after Scott moved the tree back to the corner.  He got it “standing up on its own” again, and after we arranged the decorations back on the tree, we started our Saturday morning.

Later that afternoon, we hear a whoosh!, a clingy crashing sound, and Patrick yelling, “Whoa!”

Then, “The tree fell over again!”

I’m so glad we had him there to interpret the sounds for us!

So Scott went back in, picked the tree up…leaning it ever so straightly against the wall, and I?  Well, I took one look at the decorations scattered across the floor and said, “Well, kids…you go ahead on this one!”  Then I walked away.

So here it is, MY Christmas tree:

My real, live Christmas tree, ever-so-slightly leaning against the wall!

This pretty much resembles the state of my life right now…chaos, messy, and not quite orderly! It makes me crazy, insecure, and I feel a little unstable right now, but that’s okay.   Sometimes perfect isn’t what we need!  We all have phases in our life where everything isn’t perfectly in it’s place.  And just how the tree is currently depending on the wall for a bit of support, I am so blessed to have my awesome husband, church family, friends (whether near or far), and most importantly, God, to help me through the times I’m feeling a little disheveled.  I tend to tell myself I am weak for needing help and support, but I’m learning that is not true.  God created us to need Him and each other!

So I’m thankful for my Freaking, Frustrating Christmas tree, because even this silly story gives me a little perspective into how life can be.  When we can’t stand on our own, it’s okay to lean on the support of our friends, family, and God – it doesn’t mean we are weak, it just means we need a little help every now and then.  And even if things aren’t quite perfectly in place, we can remember to take time to appreciate the little blessings that can so easily be missed if we all we do is look at what isn’t working!

So this year I am practicing (though I have not perfected) the art of taking time to smell the pine-scented needles and appreciate the season of our life for what it is – it’s a time of change, growth, & establishing new relationships for us…It’s also a time for me to stop and appreciate the amazing husband who didn’t give up on getting me a Christmas tree even when I was ready to throw my hands in the air!

And least but not least, it’s a time of celebration and beauty as we approach Christmas day and prepare for all the amazing things God has in store for us in the new year!

Oh, Christmas Tree…Oh Freaking, Frustrating Christmas Tree, Thank you for the insight to my life as it is today!

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It’s been about 2 1/2 years since we left Ohio for Arkansas. I really wish I would have kept up with my blogging during that period, but maybe it’s best that I didn’t. While I loved living in Arkansas and so many good things came out of it, I have to admit that the period we were there was one of the hardest times in my life.

There were so many changes that occurred during that time, as well as painful lessons, trials, loss, and revelation. Scott’s sister and her children moved in with us briefly as she and her husband attempted to save their marriage. First, it was just her teen son as she arranged for him to fly in and get settled first as she finished up last minute arrangements back home. That was an adjustment period itself and I regret that my kids struggled with some of the influence he had on all of us, as well as the leniency we showed him because we were trying to make the changes he was going through a bit easier to adjust to. I think our kids felt that we were making too many exceptions for him while holding them to a different standard, and I think they were right. We later learned that they had been exposed to some things they shouldn’t have been exposed to when we weren’t around. It wasn’t until he was gone they felt okay to talk to us about some of their experiences. It really got to me to think that my own children didn’t feel that they could talk to me about their concerns.

Finally, my sister-in-law made it in, and her husband promised to help get the family business settled back home and then he and the other three kids would join her and her oldest son. At that time, we were going to a smaller church we’d found and were just beginning to get involved in, but when my sister-in-law expressed that she was not happy there, we agreed to try to find a church that we could all agree on and go to together. And then we ended up not really going to church at all.

Later, when it was clear that my sister-in-law’s husband wasn’t really devoted to making the changes he needed to make in order to save their relationship, and when it was obvious he wasn’t going to move down to Arkansas as promised, a divorce followed and we all said goodbye to our hopes that they would make it, to each other as his sister and kids moved back, and to the hopes that our family could all finally live in the same town and settle down.

Scott and I really struggled during all this as we went through some major trials ourselves that tested our relationship and shook us both up a bit. Scott ended up taking on two separate roles with the company he works for – that is two full-time careers – and ended up in a near zombie-like state. That was miserable for both of us because even when he was physically present, he really wasn’t even there during a time when our entire family needed him as we went through other issues and hardships. When he asked his boss for help, he was promised resolution and assistance but nothing ever happened. Months followed and nothing changed. He and I both tried to deal with this and other issues on our own and in our own way, and that only made things worse. I think we both ended up hurting each other and ourselves in the process.

On top of that, I was already vulnerable due to other things going on, and ended up dealing with major self-worth and body image issues. I was fed a few lies about myself, and because I tend to believe the lies a lot easier than I do the truth, I lost myself. I was miserable inside, and couldn’t help but think that he was comparing me to every other woman out there. I suddenly only noticed every physical feature other women had that I didn’t and felt that there was no way my husband could be happy with me – with all my flaws. My scarred, stretched belly, and broken down body was ugly after having his children. How could he NOT want other women after looking at me? What was I? I was a stay-at-home mom…a housewife. What could I possibly have to offer him that was so great? Suddenly, I found myself striving too hard for my husband’s approval, affection, and interest. I noticed I was spending more time on my make-up, hair, etc.

Next, I contemplated plastic surgery. I even called and made an appointment to see a plastic surgeon for a consult – twice. But deep down inside I knew I would hate myself for trying to cover up the damage with a superficial bandaid of sorts. So I cancelled the appointments both times knowing it wasn’t the answer for me. I knew my problem wasn’t going to be fixed with surgery. I’d still look in the mirror and be the same insecure and lost woman trying to grasp hold of whatever it was I needed in order to feel whole and valued. I didn’t need to fix my body, I need to fix my head and needed healing in my heart and broken spirit.

So instead, I ended up going to counseling.

During this time, Patrick went to counseling too. We discovered he too, was struggling with his own issues. As we took a step back and really looked at the situation, we realized that our whole family was falling apart in a sense, and we couldn’t keep it together on our own. We realized we were relying too much on our own strength to make it through the hard times, and we really weren’t strong enough to make it on our own. We realized we’d kind of put God up on the back shelf and stopped seeking and relying on Him to guide us through the darkness.

The darkness – it was so, SO dark. Even as I read this, I can feel the darkness, the desperation, the helplessness, the sadness, the emptiness – all of it, attempting to creep back in.  I never ever want to go back to that dark place again.

But somehow, by His patience and grace, we made it through as truth was revealed and healing set in.  We learned a lot. Our dependence on God has grown as we realized how easily we slipped into a state of self-reliance. We now realize how He truly is the only one holding our family together.  It is not us!

We are weak without Him, and we will never make it if we try to do this on our own. It’s humbling and inspiring at the same time, because through all of the darkness, we’ve had a taste of His goodness.  He didn’t let us down, even when we were letting Him and each other down.

So here we are now, just as life was finally starting to get back to “normal.”  Just as I was finding myself again.  Just as I was truly establishing relationships and just as we were enjoying life even through the craziness…we suddenly are called to move back to Ohio.

And as I type all this out and reflect on the last couple of years, I am thankful that God had the patience and grace to work even in the darkness to reveal His truth to us.

It’s funny too, because it seems that God wants to make sure I don’t forget.  He seems to be speaking to me through my 3-year-old a lot lately.  Just last night she asked me a very serious question as she was coloring in her book, “Mom? Do you need Jesus?”

“Yes, America! I DO need Jesus!”

“Yes you do!” she replied enthusiastically.

The truth is, we all do.

YOU DO.

He is not just a free ticket to Heaven, He is so much more.  He is a loving God who wants us to be free from the things that hold us captive in our lives.  We do not have to be slaves to our sin, our past, our pain, nor weaknesses.  Where we are weak, HE is STRONG.  If we are willing to give ourselves to Him and totally rely on Him and walk in obedience, He will rescue us!  But we have to be willing to rely on Him to meet all of our needs.

He truly is a good and loving God, and I need Him!

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