Monday, November 26, 2012

Living Gratitude

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I want to hold on to thankful.

I want to see God's good gifts. I want to recognize and celebrate blessing. I want to live in a don't-take-it-for-granted way.

And I want my boys to live gratitude, too.

So that's the beat of my heart. I want to press the day through a lens of thanksgiving.

Until we climb the steps to the attic. Until we pull the plastic Christmas tree down.

"Mom, I want a real tree. Like the ones we had before," Samuel says. We're lugging one-third of the way-too-green tree down the curved stairwell. "This color is weird. And it doesn't smell good."

He's right. I miss the romance of the cut-your-own-tree thing. It was tradition. We'd go out the Friday after Thanksgiving. The lot we went to was rustic. We'd bundle up and trudge over a bridge. We'd climb hills. We'd roam and wander and wind through trees, looking for the perfect tree to satisfy all. It would be a Douglas fir. Short needles. Old-fashioned looking. Not too big. Not too small. Not too perfectly shaped.

But perfect for us.

Hauling my in-laws' old tree from upstairs wasn't the same.

"I know, Samuel. I'd rather have a real tree, too. But we decided to use this one.  It's frigid-cold outside. Real trees dry out fast. And Logan leaves tomorrow. If we want him to help, it has to be today." I tug the tree but the branches are stuck in spindles. Remember gratitude. "We're lucky Grandma and Grandpa gave us their old tree."

A half-hour later the tree's in the stand. We fluff branches. A decade of dust fills the air. The tree is even greener in the light. And the shape is too perfect. It's a perfectly shaped plastic tree.

And I begin to fuss. Lament. Complain. So much for the sweet trip to the woods. So much for the boys tugging on the saw. So much for strapping the tree to the Suburban and listening to Christmas music on the way home.

Lonny and the boys fluff on.

But all I see is the dust. And a homely old tree. A tree that smells like attic. So much for the evergreen scent. So much for tradition. So much for memories. They're out the window, too.

I complain louder.

Lonny offers to shove the tree back into the attic (and I think he means it). He offers to take us to get a tree. But now it's too late and it's still too cold and suddenly I'm a woman who can't be pleased.

And the boys chime in.

"We don't like this tree."

"This isn't fun."

"I'm starting to sneeze."

"Let's go get a tree."

Now we're a wild, nagging, ungrateful bunch. The tree is in the corner, but the small boys and I hack it down with words.

And I look around. And it hits me that we're mourning a tree, but it's really gratitude that's been lost. There's not even a shred left. Thankful has gone ugly and Mama set the tone. Related Post: Mama Sets the Tone.

Lonny and the two big boys fall into chairs. And I want to fall into tears. I need to ask for forgiveness. I need to set things straight. I need to pull things together but I don't know how.

My grace is sufficient. It's sufficient for you.

Is it God? Will it cover my blunders? Will it wash over my mess?

We sit for awhile. I apologize and I'm broken. I hurt for what we've lost. For what I've taught the boys. But their grumbling continues. It's too late. We've gone full swing.

Then Logan stands. He begins to string lights. Grant lifts a strand, too, and they're winding lights over the tree.

 They're covering the unlovely with soft, golden light.

And I know it's His grace that covers me, too.

His grace is sufficient.

It swells in my heart.

It swells in my home.

The little boys lift strands of lights. They want to join in. The complaints are quiet. There's chatter and laughter and togetherness and love.

And me?

I'm humbled. I stand and watch.

And I'm living gratitude after all.


  1. Lovely, as usual. I have found that we set the tone for our kids a lot of the time, too. Whatever mood I'm in, so are my boys. If it's a bad one, it just seems to spiral out of control. It's hard to take a step back and put ourselves on the right path again. So glad you were all able to and have a nice day after all.

  2. Thank you, Kathy. "Spiral out of control" - yes, totally lived that one. Thanks for understanding.
    It is so hard to hit that right path again...grace, grace, grace...