The holidays are a busy time for everyone. But for my family, it’s a little more hectic. All of our kids, my wife, and Jesus have their birthdays between 22 November and 25 December. On top of that, this year, in our infinite wisdom, my wife and I decided to close on our new home the week before Thanksgiving. No, that didn’t turn out to be the best idea. Add to the normal insanity of the season a move, unpacking, and all the stresses that come along with relocation, and this has been one crazy Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
It’s inevitable that during a move, certain items will get misplaced. It’s not that they are lost forever, it’s just that they’re gone for the moment. But what a frustrating moment that can be! Well, during this move in particular, I lost something that meant quite a bit to me.
On the day after Thanksgiving, my wife, my three kids and I dug through our recently moved boxes, and found all of the ones containing the Christmas lights, tree, decorations, and most importantly, the ornaments. One of our favorite things to do at Christmas is go through the old boxes and reminisce about the ornaments as we put them on the tree. There’s the cheap ornament we got the first year we were married. There’s the ornaments we got for each of my kid’s first Christmases. There’s the ones I’ve gotten at old jobs, that had special meaning, and other’s that are more plain. Somehow, they all make it back to the tree each year nonetheless.
There are a few I like a lot, but there is one that is my favorite. I got it one year as a teenager from my aunt Barbara and Uncle Bob. Unfortunately, my uncle Bob was killed in a car accident last summer. The small brass and stained glass cross, which always held a prominent place on the tree in years past, meant even more this year.
So this year, as we unpacked the boxes, tins, bags, and other containers, one by one we talked about the ornaments and what they meant. And the entire time I anticipated finding that old familiar cross. Sadly, as we unpacked the last of the ornaments, it was nowhere to be found. We looked back through all the packages, but somehow, this cross was misplaced during the move.
A few times in passing I mentioned that I wished I had that old cross to put up, and that somehow the tree just didn’t seem complete without it. The kids asked if I was sad, and I told them I wasn’t, but deep down, I was. I know, it’s just an ornament, but I wanted to put it up this year, in honor of uncle Bob, and our first Christmas without him.
The day after we put the tree up, it still didn’t seem complete without that tiny cross. As I stared at the seemingly large empty spot on the tree, one of the kids asked me what I was thinking about, and I told them I was just a little sad about not being able to find that cross.
About a half hour passed, and my eight year old daughter Ellie, and middle son Samuel told me they had something for me. They had me sit on the couch and close my eyes. First came Ellie’s surprise. I felt her put something in my hand. I opened my eyes (after receiving permission of course) and there in my hand was a crude cross that she had made out of paper. As I admired her art, Samuel brought his in too. Both had taken the time to cut out, decorate, and write on my new cross ornaments. In the center of Ellie’s, cross, she simply wrote, “God.”
What a profound reminder at Christmas! Ellie and Samuel took something that would have been a void for me, and with their simple gesture, filled that void with love until it was overflowing. I hugged Ellie and Samuel hard, and swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat. Their loving effort reminded me of how blessed and loved I truly am-even in the midst of sad times.
I still have a special place on the tree for the other ornament if we ever find it. But now it will have to share space with the two paper ornaments. Though the other two aren’t brass and stained glass, they hold as much meaning, and will remind me of that moment when God reminded me of his love through my kids at Christmastime.
Jay Blevins, the author of The Last Fall and Survival & Emergency Preparedness Skills (OakTara, 2010), is also a contributing writer to Tyndale's Holy Bible: Mosaic (2009) and has written articles in publications such as Celebrate Life and Calvary Chapel magazines. www.thelastfallbook.com