The first year I lived in Colorado, I was 22 and fresh out of college. My sister, who was in high school at the time, came out to visit me at Thanksgiving, and we bought some decorations to spruce up my one-bedroom apartment. We got twinkle lights, fake-pine garlands and some red velvet bows — it was all very exciting. But the crowning glory was the tree. The two-foot glimmering, shimmering fiberoptic tree with a snowflake garland.
For the next nine years, I “decked the halls” with that tree — through five different residences. And though it was admittedly a bit paltry for a Christmas tree, I didn’t mind. It had sentimental value. And every year I took a trip back to my home state of Washington for Christmas, where I could enjoy the real tree at my parents’ house.
This past weekend, as my husband and I decorated for Christmas (and the little ones “helped” by removing ornaments from the tree), I placed that little tree in a corner. And as I adjusted its snowflake garland and a little more glitter sprinkled off, I realized something — this was my “single Christmas tree.” That little tree got me through a lot of lonely Christmases. And though it carries the bittersweet memories of holidays on my own, it also feels a lot like an old friend. It reminds me of how much God has done in my life — both through my single 20s and now in my 30s, which include a husband and children.
Friends, it can all change so quickly. In “Alone for the Holidays,” I talked about how the holidays were always a hard time for me to be without my own family. I wrote these words about the Christmas before I began dating my husband:
As I snuggled up on the couch with a blanket and watched my nephews tear into their gifts, I had no idea that my future husband was experiencing his own melancholy Christmas back in Colorado. That we would meet for coffee three short weeks later.
Though my attempts at holiday happiness had been futile, God knew what I needed. Though I was weary of spending Christmases alone, God knew that it was the last one. And though I glimpsed the promise dimly, He was already fulfilling it.
I think that’s the reminder of my little tree. God gave me just what I needed at every step of the way — even when it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for — and He continues to do so. My tree may look a little different now — a little bigger with a few new ornaments — but both trees shine brightly. And both remind me of God’s faithfulness.
How do you decorate for Christmas? Do you have any decorations that are especially meaningful to you?
Copyright 2013 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.