I/Eye Witnesses to redemption see the shimmers of God’s transforming power even in the fragments of our lives.
We know that all things work together for the good
For those who love God,
Who are called according to God’s purpose…
Who then will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness
or peril, or sword?…
No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life
nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–from Romans 8: 28, 35-39
One by one she took the boxes out of the dusty, battered trunk and set them on the sofa. There didn’t seem to be as many boxes as there had once been, but she knew that none were missing. As the girls finished putting the string of lights on the tree, she took the tops off each of the boxes and checked the ornaments for hooks.
They were so shabby.
Here was the box of glittered balls and bells she found at a flea market years ago in Kansas City. The paint was chipped and most of the glitter lay scattered at the bottom of the box like flecks of broken glass.
In the next box were the home-made gods-eyes and nursery school baubles that the girls had collected over the years. Crudely painted by chubby little hands, she had once thought them absolutely beautiful. Somehow, somewhere along the line, they began to look a bit tacky. Still, the girls had made them themselves. . .
The wooden ornaments she had painted the year the three of them had been on welfare had seemed to hold up pretty well. Oh, she could see where she had been careless with her painting, but who could blame her? She had been so angry during that year. It was a wonder she had been able to concentrate enough to paint!
Carefully she opened the box with the six corn-husk dolls. They had been her mother’s, part of the do-not-touch-because-they-are-so-expensive ornaments her mother had put on the tree every year. She had wanted all 24 of the dolls after her mother died, but now she was glad she only had six. They were delicate, but she didn’t feel she had to handle them with particular care.
The next four boxes were full of Woolworth’s cheapest glass balls in various sizes. She had picked them up soon after her divorce, because they had almost nothing to put on their meager Christmas tree. She had forgotten to take any of the ornaments she and her husband had collected in those first years of marriage, and then she was too proud to go back and ask for them. Many of the balls had faded over the years, their cheap luster dimmed in the darkness of the trunk.
The last box held a few miscellaneous treasures–the home-made cloth ball she had won at a church event, two plastic manger scenes that had come from a coupon offer, the six pieces of English walnut shells she had cut after reading about making your own ornaments in Women’s Daily, and the hand-painted mouse-in-a-stocking that Linda had given her when she left St. Louis.
She sighed. Wrapped in the stringy piece of cotton batting they used to cover the tree stand was the star. Well, it wasn’t exactly a star, but had a star embedded in the plastic cone that was to grace the top of the tree.
The girls each quietly took a box of ornaments and began to place them on the boughs. Not much was said. The bickering of earlier years, when one or the other wanted to put this piece here or that ball there, was gone. As the girls worked, she knelt down and gently wrapped the cotton around the base, rearranging it time and again to hide the stains. All too soon the boxes were emptied and put back into the trunk. This year they had decided to forgo the tinsel (too much trouble) or popcorn swags (too much time).
So it was that the time had come. They turned out the overhead light. She put a record of Christmas music on the recorder. The girls helped in the final step–one placed the star on the top of the tree while the other plugged in the lights.
Across the room the three of them stood and watched the magic happen. They each let out a sigh, as if they had been holding their breath, wondering if it would happen again this year.
It had. The tree was beautiful! Not a chip or scratch could be seen. She was tempted to say it was the most beautiful Christmas tree they had ever had, just as she had been tempted to say the year before, and the year before that. The glass gently reflected the colored lights, adding a sparkle throughout the tree. Tucked here and there, like special jewels, were the many little odds and ends of their life together, the bits and pieces that, put together in just this fashion, looked stunning. The tree was theirs–their memories, their pains and joys, a reflection of their collective journey.
And it was good.
“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God.”
Janet E. Beatty is the first guest blogger to provide an “I Witness” story of redemption. Janet lives in the Bay Area in Northern California. She is an ordained Presbyterian minister, a gardener, a writer, a mother, and a grandmother-to-be.
Thank you, Janet, for being an “I Witness.”