Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition at your house?
Ornaments are my favorite tradition.
As I "dress" our Christmas tree I'm flooded with sweet memories. Every ornament holds significance. Every ornament is infused with love.
Every ornament was made by my mother.
Each one is unique, sparkling, elegant . . . like mom. Encrusted with glimmering jewels, pearls and beads, the tree is luminous with the soft glow of faceted gems, gold braid, satin and velvet. No Faberge egg in any museum could compare with her ornaments.
The tradition began the year I was born, and year by year the collection grew. The journey of my life can be traced through mom's ornaments like a roadmap.
At age eight, when I got my first pair of little blue eyeglasses, she made a blue ornament with an intricate design of iridescent stones. The shiny silver beaded ornament swagged and criss-crossed in a spider web of orthodontia-looking wire and braid marked the year I got my braces. The purple satin ball with the triumphant gold crown of the "King of Kings" atop, was made the year I was Miss Florida. A rainbow-colored fan of jewels and peacock feathers marked my first TV series for the "peacock network," NBC. And when I became "Matlock"'s law partner she made a silvery blue-gray ball that looked for all the world like Andy Griffith's gray seersucker suit! The oval rose-colored satin ball covered in sea pearls and lace snipped from my wedding gown celebrated the year I was married.
Through the years Mom's ornaments have chronicled events in my life both big and small . . . joyous and heartbreaking . . . just like life itself.
The year my Daddy died mom covered an ornament with a swatch of his favorite plaid work shirt. It still smells like Old Spice, and every year when I unwrap it, I hold that ornament close to my face and breathe in his memory, the loving fragrance of his life, and thank God that He gave him to me as my dad.
Mom's angel ornament is especially significant; after two devastating and heart-crushing miscarriages mom made an angel ornament to give me a glimpse beyond the realm of earth, the assurance and comforting reminder to me that I have two babies in the arms of Jesus -- and I will one day hold them in heaven.
The following year was equally hard -- two adoption attempts failed and I was co-starring in a TV movie, "A Child Too Many" -- ironically -- about an infertile couple who hire a surrogate to have their baby, then lose the child in a custody battle. That year mom covered a ball with canvas tent fabric and circled it with tiny hand-hewn wooden tent pegs. I recognized it immediately -- Isaiah 54-- "Sing, O Barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy . . . more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband . . . Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide . . . for you will spread out to the right and to the left . . ." Mom's ornament reminds me that I do have the blessing of many children in my life -- spiritual children, women I get to minister to around the country through speaking and books, a slew of incredible god-children, a beautiful step-daughter, and 8 year old grandson.
God has enlarged the place of my tent!
There have been several years of relentless, crushing circumstances and painful disappointments -- things just like you go through in your life: financial crisis, unemployment, health challenges, and a huge forest fire followed by mud slides that left our ranch retreat center we'd build scorched and decimated . . .
In the midst of this mom made perhaps the most beautiful ornament of all. She covered a ball in rough, gritty sandpaper, then scattered it with beautiful pearls; a reminder that the beauty of a pearl is produced -- through pain. As a tiny, gritty grain of sand invades the oyster, the oyster releases a healing fluid until finally the irritant is covered -- by a pearl. Without the irritant . . . it's just an oyster. No painful irritant . . . no pearl. So, just as Mom's sandpaper and pearl ornament reminds me, I remind you, that whatever you're going through right now, trust that God, through all your difficult circumstances, is grinding you, polishing you, AND He's releasing His healing balm over you, preparing you to be His luminous pearl and sparkling jewel!
My mom is 89 years old now, in a nursing home, and nearly blind -- macular degeneration has stolen her vision. A few years ago she gave me the last ornament she could make. It's my favorite -- white and gold, the bottom tassel from the pendant of her favorite gold necklace that I played with every night as a child as she rocked me in her lap at bedtime, softly singing her favorite hymn, "I Come to the Garden Alone." I wrote about it in The Wonder of His Love, in a chapter called "Comforting Love." Every year as I hang that ornament I'm reminded of God's tender care and promise: "As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13).
Mom's ornaments are beautiful. Truly works of art. But more, they are expressions of her creativity and her love, invaluable treasures that remind me of our life together and how well she knows me.
I believe they're also a "picture," a glimpse of how intimately God knows us. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart" (Jeremiah 1:5).
Imagine! He knows our entire lives, from beginning to end, since before we were ever born, before the earth was ever created. Like these ornaments, He made each one of us utterly unique, His exclusive work of art.
We all long to have someone who fully knows what's in our hearts yet loves us . . . and He does. He knows our fears and our delights, every pain, joy, and dream. He sympathizes with our weaknesses and forgives all our sins. He hears all, sees all, and He comes close! He knows us completely, accepts us unconditionally, and loves us beyond measure.
What kind of God is this who would not give up on us wayward people? What kind of God would send His only Son to die in our place so we could live with Him forever? What kind of God would create galaxies, angels, and natural wonders -- yet stoop to love us?
God went to all lengths to redeem you. He stretched through time and space to reach out to you, and sent His own Son to free you. From the most exalted position in the universe, from the uppermost, outermost limits, He did what no one had ever done -- Jesus set aside His majesty and slipped into skin. He shed His glory, traversed time and space and found a home in the womb of a teenage girl -- so that one day He could make His home in your heart. On the cross, He spread His arms wide to embrace you, accept you, and include you. His love reaches deep into our doubts and fears, soothes our hearts, and draws us close.
This Christmas, may you rest in the knowledge that every unique detail and 'facet' of you is known by a loving Father, who pours out His life and creativity and love for you. And as that reality floods your heart, may you be filled with such deep peace and joy that you shine with a rich and luminous glow -- just like mom's ornaments!
"Arise and shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you . . . then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy!" Isaiah 60:1,5
Love and Merry Christmas!
I'd love to hear about your favorite traditions too. Share them--Post your comments here!