A Christmas Story

A friend and I like to walk on the bike path which circles Lake Baldwin in Orlando. The strip of land between the lake and the path is a natural habitat for a variety of plants and animals. Bald eagles and coyotes are among the local residents and I am always on the lookout for photo opportunities.

One morning something seemed out of place in the green landscape. We stepped closer to see a small package wrapped in red paper nestled among the needles of a bushy pine. “I think this the beginning of something,” I chuckled to my friend. In addition to the package, a shiny piece of garland adorned one side of the tree. We agreed the decorations must be someone’s idea of a joke in order to tease passersby to add more ornaments.

A few days later I walked my usual route and noticed many more decorations on the tree. A red and green bow served as a tree topper and bright ribbons spiraled the limbs. Then I noticed a note at the base of the tree inviting the community to add more ornaments in memory of “Bob.”

The author of the note shared a few details about Bob’s life. He loved to walk the path around the lake and started the tradition of decorating the small tree in 2020. Sadly, two months later Bob died from Covid 19. His family wants to continue the tradition in his memory and refers to the evergreen as the Community Tree of Baldwin Park.

The note touched my heart. This was not a joke but a serious memorial to a husband and father I never knew. This humble tree is very different from all the glitz and glamor of the Christmas tree in the Neighborhood Center of Baldwin Park. I prefer Bob’s tree because it represents the people from all walks of life who frequent the bike trail.

I never knew Bob, but I have a feeling I would like him. We have a common bond. He loved nature, walking, and Christmas.

December is a bittersweet time for many folks. I pray the Community Tree comforts Bob’s family as this will be their first Christmas with out him. Tomorrow I think I’ll visit the tree again and if there’s any space left, add a small token to tell Bob’s family they are not alone.

Perfect Peace

Is perfect peace found…

In a cloudless sky?

Or could it exist in a hurricane’s eye?

Can it be perceived in the dark of night?

Or better displayed by candlelight?

Is peace our reward, when all work is done?

A prize for the victor, when conflict is won?

A mother feels peace as her child drifts to sleep.

A sailor knows peace where the waters are deep.

The teacher can’t wait ’till the final bell rings.

The hiker knows peace when the morning birds sing.

The judge proclaims peace when the last word is said.

The waitress will say it’s when everyone’s fed.

The busy store clerk awaits Christmas Eve.

A harried host smiles after everyone leaves.

Perfect peace

Strivings cease

Kept by those

whose trust grows

in the Rock of Ages.

Feeling Deflated This December?

Are you tired of running the December rat race? My race to prepare for Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving and still continues. Social norms dictate my actions. My days are full of decorating, shopping, and baking. One week I attended nine social events. I feel like the burnt out Santa pictured above.

The Pressure to Maintain Tradition

I have friends who schedule a long cruise every December to purposely avoid the craziness. That’s not a bad idea, but I doubt if I would ever be bold enough to change. I’m too much of a traditionalist. Every year I tell myself I’m going to scale down my preparations. Do I really need to bake seven kinds of cookies? Do I need to send cards this year? It’s difficult to stop doing something you’ve always done. Sure, cookies are time consuming to make, but everyone loves to eat them. Cards take some effort to send, but they are a way of maintaining contact with loved ones who aren’t on facebook. 

The Pressure To Feel Happy

 Another dynamic that December brings is the pressure to be happy. Upbeat Christmas music plays in the stores. “Tis the season to be jolly” carries an expectation to be full of good cheer. Unfortunately tragedy never takes a holiday. For the countless number of people who’ve experienced a loss at this time of year, the anniversary of the event brings a time of renewed grief. The idea that it’s somehow wrong to to be sad only adds to their despair. 

The Pressure to Please Others

Each year we are inundated with keeping up with marketing trends. Advertisements pressure us to get new models of gadgets we already have that can do more things and do them faster. Desperate to please our loved ones, we overspend. I like this reminder:

You are not obligated to continue holiday traditions that leave you broke, overwhelmed, or tired.

A Matter of the Heart

One of my favorite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. The Whos of Who-ville had completed all of their holiday preparations. They decorated their homes, prepared for a feast, and hung their stockings on the mantel. But while they were sleeping, the Grinch stole everything. Yet, when they got up Christmas morning, they celebrated as if nothing was missing. They gathered in the town square, held hands and sang to welcome Christmas. This left the Grinch perplexed. 

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. ” 

Dr. Suess captured everything I feel in these two lines. Yes, Christmas will come without all the traditions I usually keep. The gifts I  hastily wrap and place beneath the tree are no comparison to God’s gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The traditions of man cannot match God’s love.  Knowing this helps me reframe the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is an intangible matter of the heart. I want to experience more of God’s love this December. That usually begins by taking the time to seek Him. That’s something I want to do more.

What are your thoughts on December? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you are feeling deflated, may this Christmas give you the opportunity to consider God’s love for you. 

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