As the sky turned black, winds swirled with billowing gusts. The poor visibility concerned me because my boys were still on the four-wheeler in the field, looking for a Christmas tree.
Finally, I heard the welcome sound of the engine come roaring over the hill from behind the barn. Relieved, I grabbed by coat and went out to greet them.
“We got the perfect tree!” They yelled against the wind. “It’s a huge one.”
The only thing I could only see was a huge snowy heap dragging behind their vehicle. When they hoisted it up for my inspection, my heart sank. It was a huge one all right. It towered over us, at least eleven feet tall, and defying all pine tree logic was absolutely square!
“Don’t you like it, mom?”
“Ohhh, guys – uhhh – sure – it’s, uh – square – it’s uh…”
“It’s a SNOOPY TREE, Mom. It needs a home.”
It needed a home alright, but did it have to be mine? This was, by far, the ugliest Christmas tree I’d ever seen. The pine needles scantily fringed the end of the branches. Pruning the shape would leave us with sticks. Then, if we hack a foot off the top and bottom to fit our ceilings, it will be even more square!
My reaction was a bit deflating, I could see it in their faces. “We’ll fix it up – uh – good job, guys.” They weren’t fooled.
This was MY year for a perfect country Christmas tree. I’d spent hours crafting one-of-a-kind primitive ornaments. MY tree was going to rival anything Country Living Magazine had to offer. Now a gargantuan, dysfunctional pine growth was about to dominate the entire corner of my living room. I was heart broken.
It left a hefty trail of pine needles as we dragged it through the house. We had to rearrange every piece of furniture in the living room so IT would fit. Trying to anchor it into our old, rusty metal tree stand was a job. (We lost a lamp during that process) Next came the musty ornament boxes from the crawl space.
The one job I loathe, and swear every year to never do again, is untangle the bird nest of twinkle lights. No matter how carefully I package them up, I’m convinced there is a twinkle light demon assigned to sabotage your decorating experience.
I tried hanging the lights in a triangular pattern, in hopes that at night – if you squint – it would look like a pine tree. My grumbling went into high gear as I hung my ornaments over the cords and bald spots. The boys were long gone.
“DAD’s HOME!” they yelled as they thundered to the door to greet him.
“What’s all the excitement?” He said dropping his book bag on the floor.
“We have a surprise, Dad. Come see. Mom hates it.” They were pulling him toward the livingroom when he saw my face.
“How was your day?” I just rolled my eyes. Then I heard: “Wow! Look at that. I love it. Great tree, guys. You did an awesome job.” I was sure he meant to say: great, now I won’t have to do it.
Before I could grab his attention, he disappeared upstairs to lie down for his usual nap before dinner. I just sat and stewed. All that work and it’s still ugly. I couldn’t stand it another minute. I had to hear what Bill really thought. So, I tip-toed upstairs to our bedroom.
“Huh-neee, are you asleep?” A low grunt emanated from beneath the covers.
“I have to know what you really think about the tree?” Without a breath I added, “Isn’t it the ugliest tree you’ve ever seen? I just hate it… and with all the work I did on those…”
The blankets rolled again, and I heard him mumble, “It’s only a tree.” Silence. End of discussion.
Just a tree? JUST A TREE? I was incensed. Making no attempt to be quiet, I retreated down the stairs. I took a giant step over our 95 lb. Coon dog sprawling across the doorway to the kitchen. “Us girls are outnumbered around here, Babe. The only way to get them more interested in the tree is if we hung Hostess Twinkies and shotgun shells all over it.”
Later in the evening when everyone was asleep, I went into the living room to have a quiet time. There in the corner sat the square tree. I hated to admit it did look pretty in the dark with all the twinkle lights. I pulled my chair in front of the tree and picked up my guitar.
Snow was still falling in giant flakes outside leaving delicate arches on each window pane. The house was silent and peaceful. As I softly worshiped the Lord, a question crossed my mind:
“What’s the difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a king’s palace?”
“Certainly the shape.” I sighed.
He continued. “The difference between this tree and a tree you would find in a King’s palace is that this tree never had a Tender. It had to grow up in the fields where harsh winds and winters scarred its shape. This little tree never felt the skillful hands of a gardener. Just like you. But, you are no longer growing on your own. You have been uprooted from the field, adopted and planted in the King’s personal garden. Now, the skillful Gardener will prune away every wounded branch, and lovingly tend and shape every new branch that grows. He will ornament and adorn your heart with His fruitfulness.”
The little square Christmas tree suddenly began to twinkle and shimmer more radiantly. The reflections danced around room – as if filled with joy. Though the tree itself was still imperfect, the light shining in the tree made it beautiful. And all those ornaments, that I didn’t think the tree deserved – are just like the ornaments of His fruitfulness – worn only because of His grace.
I could see that this homely, square tree was no mistake. It was a gift from God.
While the snow drifted higher, and the tree shown brighter, there was nothing more for me to do but give thanks for this most beautiful Christmas tree. Thankful. He welcomes us, square branches and all, to be tended by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This story is true. It is my gift to you this Christmas. Feel free to read it to your families and share it with your friends. Thank you for all the wonderful comments and encouragements this year. I pray that your holidays will be happy and your joy will be full. God bless you… Love Marji