It finally happened.
After 37 Christmases with 3 children, their loves and our 7 grandkids I guess it was inevitable.
In National Lampoon worthy fashion, this year the Christmas tree fell over.
Now, to be accurate, we have two trees. The formal, pretty one we call “Mom’s tree” and the other is the “family tree”.
This small, well-worn family tree is my favorite because it holds 37 years of memories–ornaments representing every phase of life for our growing brood.
That was the tree that fell.
Well honestly, it had a little help falling over.
The helper’s name is Isabella…she is almost two-and-a-half.
I affectionately call her Pebbles because she is tiny compared to her gargantuan younger cousin Silas, who with equal affection I call Bam Bam.
I could have foreseen Bam Bam knocking over the tree, not a problem. But Pebbles, not a chance.
Guess she showed me!
Our post-Candlelight service, Christmas Eve celebration was in full swing. You know the scene–too much food; too many cookies with wayyyyy too much sugar. Laughter, stories, teasing…and off the charts noise nearing ear-shattering levels.
Five of the seven grands were present–including the two-year-olds, Pebbles & Bam Bam. To say it was “active” is an understatement.
Caleb, our middle son and Isabella’s dad, had just fallen into his long winter’s nap when the sound of shattering ornaments and the scream of Bella’s older sister, Sophia, crashed through the chaos.
We all ran to the living room to see 8-year old Sophia desperately holding the now horizontal tree to keep it from falling on the completely oblivious culprit, Isabella.
The subsequent attempts to prop up the fallen foliage were purely futile and fairly hilarious.
It was sheer chaos. Utter craziness. Wacky madness on steroids.
A few years back I dubbed these moments “sacred pandemonium“.
- Pandemonium because of the wild, uproarious, unrestrained chaos of so many different people having so much fun in one place.
- Sacred because the chaos is in the context of the most intense, intimate and deeply committed love-relationships we can have.
I have always wondered about families who never experience this level of crazy. I don’t envy them, I just wonder what it’s like because I have no clue.
Growing up with four siblings who sprouted untold number of young’uns, I have known nothing in my life but the wild wonder of a big family.
For me, this organized chaos is…
…the joyful dance of a playful God expressed in the rub and reality of people who don’t know any better than to love each other unconditionally.
It struck me later as I looked at the pitiful tree propped up in the corner that there may never have been a time it was more beautiful.
Because it so well represents our perfectly imperfect family.
We have had more than a few broken ornaments in our history. Far too many less-than-photogenic moments and ugly chapters we’d prefer to leave out of our biopic.
There is no doubt we resemble that crumpled family tree a lot more than Mom’s perfect, artistic evergreen.
And that is a key part of what makes us who we are.
Those flawed imperfections are a big part of the reason we each have compassion for the broken, mercy on the fallen, grace for the lost and hope for the desperate.
Like the shattered ornaments Dianne and I have been gluing back together, we are a family that believes in second chances, new seasons and fresh starts.
We don’t do judgment and place a lot less emphasis on our quick-draw opinions because when we take an honest look at ourselves, we see that crippled tree.
Yep, we got knocked over and to this day look kinda propped up.
But we are still standing!
And the wrinkled pictures from our history can still reflect God’s glory–even in our most imperfect states.
What a relief. We don’t need to be flawless…just faithful.
You see, God is no stranger to chaos.
God started this whole gig we call our world with a simple act: His loving Spirit brooded over chaos until He coaxed out creation (Genesis 1:1-2).
Then Jesus came into a world gone mad and showed us how it looked when God lived among our nutty neighbors.
And one day, out of this crazy mess He calls His Church, He will draw out a Bride fit for a King.
Paul pictured it this way: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
You never know whose tree has just fallen or who is propping up their lives trying to hold things together.
So compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience are the hallmarks of those of us who remember when our ornaments were smashed on the ground.
Being “in Christ” means we are all tucked in here together. We each bring our own “stuff” and hang it on that Tree. Some of it is lovely and some looks like the worn-out, hand-made bangles that have seen their better days.
But one thing is sure, God loves his brood of hyperactive, silly, imperfect and too often ridiculous kids.
And He is still breathing over this sacred pandemonium.