"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Working at Grace - The Christmas Tree Saga

Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your branches.  And it is time that you went up, once and for all! I mean it is the season, right?

I had been dropping hints to both my husband and my son, how I like to get the Christmas tree up early. And that I thought it was time to go get one. My hints fell on deaf ears.  They were both busy. My husband was having some difficulties with his hand and things simply didn’t seem to be working out.

I sought out my son’s help, texting him: “If we don’t get a tree pretty soon, I am not going to even want to put one up.” This was late for us; usually, we have our tree up the first few days in December. I hadn’t been feeling that well myself, and I was really feeling like putting a tree up was way too much work for only a couple weeks in advance. Truthfully, I didn’t really feel like having a tree at all, and I knew if we waited too long, it just wasn’t going to happen.

My son quickly texted back. “If you get the tree, I will help you put it up tonight when I get off shift.”
Alrighty then! I can do that. I had an appointment in the little town where we like to get our trees, anyway. I headed in early, so I could get everything done before my appointment; that way after, I could just head straight home before it got dark.

I also had several boxes in my car that I was planning on taking to Goodwill. It should work out perfectly. Take the boxes to Goodwill, go get the tree, and be just in time for my appointment. But we all know things, never work out perfectly. I arrived at Goodwill simply to find a sign that read: “Out to lunch. Be back at 2:00.” 
Ok, well that’s just a little bump. I will just go get the tree. Surely one will fit in the car if I move some of the boxes around. But we all know….

I started looking at the trees. They were beautiful this year. I found one that I really liked, perfectly shaped, but it was just a bit smaller than we usually get. I knew the guys liked the bigger trees.  So I looked a little further. And Bingo! I found the tree I couldn’t live without. It was beautiful!  A Grand Fir! And it was so fragrant the minute I pulled it up from its leaning position to get a better view I had no doubt that it was fresh. Ugh! But would it fit in my car? 
I went into the store to ask the clerk, if I could pay and then come back with a pickup. Could she set it aside for me for later? “No, we can’t do that”, she bluntly told me.

“Ok. Well then, can I see if I can fit it in my car before I pay for it?”
“Sure”, she kindly responded.  “This is a small town. We trust you. And all the proceeds go to our local food bank.”

Oh how I liked that. Now I realllllly wanted this tree. So I went back outside to look at it again. Yeah, it was perfect. I carefully drug it over to my car so as not to wreck any of the branches, and truthfully so as not to hurt my sore leg any further. There was no way, I could lift it. The next dilemma occurred to me as I opened up the back hatch of the car. How was I going to lift it in there?
That’s when I heard a voice behind me. “Would you like some help with that?” Much to my surprise, it was a woman; about my age. But I was smart enough to answer in the affirmative.  “Would you mind?” I quickly answered.

Then began the struggle. And oh what a struggle it was. I think the woman came to realize she was dealing with someone who was really quite daft. There was no way this tree was going to fit in this car. And when she saw all the boxes…Oh MY!!! But she had a spirit of determination, just like me. She was however, a little more worried about the tree then I was. She was not about to let any of those branches get bent. When I suggested we put the point forward so it would rest between the seats all the way through, she about had a heart attack…”But you will ruin all the branches when you pull it back out.”
I relented. And we turned it around the other way…but there was no way that was going to work…and it also became apparent that she was wrong. No matter which way we put the tree in, the branches would be bent the opposite way, either coming in or going out.

We pushed, we shoved, we pulled; we changed positions. We moved more stuff. It just wasn’t happening. Then she spotted a tarp that had never been out of the package on the floor of my car. “Can we use this?” she politely asked.
“Sure!” I enthusiastically responded. I immediately saw the benefit in what she was thinking. A little grace had just come our way.

“Now we just need something to tie the tarp to the tree,” she informed me. So I immediately started looking through the boxes that were going to Goodwill. I found some telephone cords that had never been out of the package. “Let’s use these!” I exclaimed.
So we busied ourselves with getting the tree tarped. Of course, the wind was gusting some pretty good gusts about this time. That’s how things go, you know. But we got it tarped. In the process, the window screen I had taken to have rescreened for my son’s new house, had gotten set out of the car until we could get the tree in, and the screen had been blown away never to be seen again. UGH!

But once tarped, the lady was comfortable with putting the tree in top-end first. It still required some repositioning of items, pushing, pulling, and shaking of heads. I finally remembered the back seats would lay down, and we could put the boxes on the seats when they were laid down. The head rests that had been so bothersome would then no longer be a problem. But I could only get one seat down. The other would not budge.
But one was enough. We pulled/pushed the tree the direction of that seat, and we finally had success. The tree was in!!

I thanked the lady (profusely), put the rest of the boxes back into the car and made my way back into the store to pay for the tree. As I headed into the store, I turned around to take another look at the lady and give her a wave good-bye. Oh my! If you could have only seen the expression on her face. It clearly read: “ARE YOU GOING IN TO PAY FOR THAT TREE??? YOU MEAN YOU HADN’T YET PAID FOR IT?  YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO TAKE THAT EXACT TREE?????  YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO PUT ME THROUGH THIS???” YOU, LADY ARE QUITE DAFT!!!!

Oh yeah! Pretty sure that was what she was thinking. I paid for the tree, delivered the boxes to Goodwill, went to my physical therapy appointment; and was home before dark. But that is just the beginning of my Christmas tree saga.

Christmas Tree Saga - Part II

Once I got home, getting the tree out of my vehicle was the easy part. It came out the way, I knew it would braches, pushed up – the way they are supposed to be. And of course it had helped that we had tarped it…sort of tarped it, that is.
I carefully drug the tree to the porch. Not so much for the tree’s sake, but for my own. I didn’t want to un-do what the physical therapy had just done. And there it would stay until Matt got here to help me put it up.

I busied myself with preparing dinner. I was going to make one of Matt’s favorites – beef stroganoff. And I had stopped and picked up his favorite pie for desert. No, I didn’t have time to make a home-made pie today.
But then I waited.  And I waited and I waited; and I waited some more. No Matt. Finally, about 9:00 I gave up and went to bed. There would be no sparkling cider, apple pie and Christmas tree decorating tonight.

I had just gotten into bed, when his text came. “I’m sorry! Late call. I will come now.”
“No, you don’t have to.” I texted back. “It’s late and you will have to get up early for shift tomorrow.”

“I want to,” he responded. “I feel bad for letting you down.”
“No.” I gave him easy grace. “Dad will do it.” I lied. I knew better. Dad wasn’t going to do it. Because I wasn’t going to wait that long.

“But you can stop by and get the pie I bought for you, you so can have it for shift tomorrow.”
“Ok. See you in a bit.”

Grace is good. He got here about 10:00 pm with apologies on his lips and in his heart.
"Don’t worry” I told him. “I understand. Was it a bad call?”

And he proceeded to tell me what details he could without violating anything that he should not reveal.
Listening as he shared, my heart was warmed. This was worth it all to see my son so happy with his job and so rewarded by what he does.

It is going to take a special woman to be the wife of a firefighter or police officer. She is going to have to have a servant heart exactly like them. Because it is a servant heart that is the thing that is most required to do the job that these men and women do. Their spouse will have to understand that, and be patient. They will need the same giving, servant heart in order to survive any of it. There is no room for self, for those (as well as their families) in either of these occupations.
“I will do the tree, Mom. It’s too big for you to do.”

“No, it’s late and you have to get up early. You need your sleep,” I reassured him. I will always be mom, first.
“Thanks for the pie, Mama! Love you.”

Christmas Tree Saga - Part III

I woke early, just as I always do. Late hours, don’t prevent me from waking at my normal time. Bullet is in control of that. He wants breakfast and he wants to go out for potty. And he wants both, like right NOW!

So once the animals were all taken care of and after I had a few minutes with a cup of coffee and some reading, I knew exactly what I would do next.  I was going to tackle that tree.  Now I knew this was going to be no easy task. I remember trying to put our tree up alone once when Matthew was little. The most difficult part was sawing off that base, so that it would be open to receive water to keep it fresh. I remember being in tears before I finally got that stupid base sawed through. I must not have had a very good saw.

So, it was this time. Four saws and quite a few tears later, I had made it through that base. Don’t know why I can’t saw!  But I CAN’T saw!!! “Lord, PLEAAAAASE let me do something right just one time.”
Sshh sshh sshh sshh sshh sshh sshh. Bam, I was finally through and I have the little round disk to prove it. I had received some much needed grace.

Alrighty then, let’s get this bad boy into the house. That wasn’t easy either. But with the kind lady’s advice fresh on my mind, I was smart enough this time to be paying attention which way the branches would be going when I pulled it through the door. This time it was going to have to go in base first. UGH!!!
But I did it. I had already gotten the stand out of the garage and laid down some towels to protect the carpet, just in case any moisture would be leaked. I was going to water that tree DAILY one way or another. I wasn’t about to lose all the efforts of my sawing and have it all be for naught.

Next challenge…lifting the doggone thing into the stand. Shouldn’t be doing this! For sure! But sometimes, one just gets so fed up with not being able to do anything, the anger just pushes one through. Such was the case, this time. Thank God for my anger. That tree would still not be set up if not for my raging temper. I wasn’t about to have all my sawing go to waste. That tree was going to be in water within a half hour or I was going to die doing it. Somehow by the Grace of God, I did it…and didn’t die.
Grace is good.

And sometimes just every so often, so is a little anger. But of course the tree was crooked. And I was pretty sure there was no way I would ever be able to make it straight by myself. But at least it was in water.  I gave up.
It was time to get ready to meet my friend, anyway, for the Christmas shopping we had planned. That’s when the phone rang.

“Jan, I’m sorry!  I can’t go.”
Well then, now I have time on my hands and that crooked tree is dead center in front of my face for the whole rest of the day. I can’t live like that. This is where Matt says, I have too much of my dad in me. The perfectionist that can never wait.

I remember someone telling me once that I was a perfectionist.  “I can’t be!” I had exclaimed. “Nothing that I do is ever perfect.”
The person just walked away laughing. I don’t remember who that was. I remember I was confused. I didn’t “get it”.  I do now. Perfection doesn’t mean things are perfect or are ever going to be. It means a perfectionist just has to work a little harder at understanding grace.

But back to that tree. I had the whole day. I had to get it decorated now that I had the time, and that meant I would have to get it set straight in the stand…all by myself. That meant getting down on my hands and knees to adjust the screws. I can’t do that right now…get down. If I do, I might never get back up.  But there is that thing in me, that just won’t relent…that thing that is going to make a tree fit in a car whether it fits or not….yes…that thing!
So down I went. I unscrewed and screwed…I pushed and pulled and pulled and pushed some more. I stuck my bad leg out and then I pushed the other one out. My arms were holding on to the chair…somehow I had to get up. I pushed with my arms and somehow managed to get up off the ground. I looked at the tree. It was still crooked, but not nearly as bad.  I made my way down to the floor, once again. I screwed and unscrewed…pushed and pulled.

I worked…and I mean I worked at getting up off the ground again. I looked at the tree. And miraculously….I saw – Grace!
Let the decorating begin!




  1. Oh, my goodness, Jan! You are definitely way more determined than I would have been. I would have given up on the whole thing long before I ever got to Part 2 of the saga!

    We were at someone's house last night and she has beautifully decorated it for Christmas. Multiple Christmas trees in different rooms. Seasonal touches on every shelf and nook and cranny. It was lovely. And as I looked around all I could think about was how much it was going to be for her to take it all down and put it away in a few weeks. LOL. Guess I'm just lazy.

  2. haha Not lazy at all...maybe just different priorities. I always admire people that can decorate like that. I don't have the knack.