"Yeah, we don't have a Christmas tree this year."

charlie brown So... where to start.  Let me start by saying that your response to my last post was humbling, encouraging, and unanticipated.  After I said that to one of our pastors who read it, he asked me what I was expecting to happen afterwards?  I didn't and don't know, honestly.  I must say that I wrote that post more for me than any of the others I've written.  The fact that it connected me to so many of you in such deep ways was a beautiful surprise.

I literally saw the numbers of readers rise by the thousands daily.  Any savvy business person knows that the best thing to do after a post and response like that is to consider something like (a) posting soon and consistently afterwards, (b) capitalizing on momentum and pushing for subscribers somehow, (c) throw out thoughts of support groups or writing a book.  Did I do any of this?  No.

I, instead, took the last month to respond to every single one of you that messaged me and shared your own story with me.  I appreciate your patience as I read along, wept beside, prayed over, and replied to all of them.  Then, once I finished that, I froze.  What do I write about now?  Anything else seemed too frivolous.  Then, maybe I thought, it should be lighter to balance it out.  Then, I feared, what if people don't read?  Or scarier, what if they DO and it's a let down?

So, with questions unanswered and out of an act of discipline (and an unexpected midnight second wind), I'm just going to keep writing.  That's how this thing started and that's what I'll keep doing.

This Christmas will be the 13th Christmas that my McHusband and I have spent as a married couple.  If you've followed this blog at all, you surely ("don't call me Shirley") picked up on the fact that art, DIY-ing, painting, making music, writing, cooking, sewing and anything-with-which-I-can-get-my-hands-messy are a big part of this blog.  So, it may surprise you that 5 of these Christmases we didn't even put up a Christmas tree.  Yes, you read that correctly: FIVE! The title of this post has been what I've said for over a third of McHusband's and my Christmas celebrations!

This year, I waffled back and forth on it - and the McBabies didn't seem to be too vocal about it either way - and I eventually decided to put up a tree.  It's fake.  And pretty ugly.  It's shorter than I am.  It has one burlap garland that fits around it only twice.  It has a pipe cleaner wreath that one of my McBabies put on the top.  McHusband put lights on it and I let each McBaby pick one ornament to put on it.

I know, I know.  I sound like a real buzzkill.  The thing is - I know my kids. I know that they would rather play "Guess Who?" or have music time or read stories or bake cookies or paint or make advent calendars or play in the snow or snuggle up to The Polar Express than redecorate the house and honestly, it felt like an either/or this year.  EITHER put up a bunch of stuff and maintain it and keep the smallest McBaby off/out of it OR take it all back out to the shed and simplify so that all of those other things took the forefront.  The other thing is - I know my husband.  He would rather play Scrabble, play music, read/bake/hang/watch a documentary (I know, we are so adventurous) together than spend our time putting up more stuff.

Maybe it's because I'm doing a Christmas "tour" that both didn't seem to be a feasible option or maybe it's because I'm tired or maybe it's because I'm lazy...  but, I think it's actually because all we need is the small glow of a Christmas tree - something to hold a few special memories on it of Christmases gone by, the nativity - the reason for the season, and our advent bunting - some acts of kindness that we've all been blessed to do daily while counting down to Christmas, and that is more than enough.  There's already enough clutter around here without adding stuffed snowmen and bowls of ornaments.  There are already enough little hands that don't need more breakable things or, worse, more rules imposed because of the decor.

I know myself too.  I have visions for dinner parties, showers, luncheons, and other events of this kind.  I like themes, color palettes, one-of-a-kind decorations and I know that if I can't follow out the whole vision, I'll either spend all my waking moments alone finishing them or feel saddened by the lack of completion.  There's no in between.

The motif this year is to keep it simple.  We may not have boughs on the stairwells, lights on the whole exterior of the house, or any stockings hung, but my children will know what Christmas is about.  It's about Jesus.  It's also about a family that huddled together in the midst of wonderful and terrible times as they navigated the birth experience.  We will huddle together ourselves, right here.  We will open a few gifts probably (once I buy some...) and we will know that this year has brought our own wonderful and terribly times, and yet we navigate the birth experience of being made new by a baby in the manger yet again.  And we will celebrate, just as that first family Anno Domini did.

Merry Christmas.