I have one simple requirement for our Christmas tree. At some point it must have been alive-read: I want a real tree! I don't have a problem with other people having fake trees, but they are not for me. I love the "trouble" of watering the tree every day, I love vacuuming up the needles, I love the irregularity that can only come from having a tree that grew, in the sun and in the rain, until I brought it home.
And this year, I had the perfect plan for obtaining one. The last three years we have been gifted a tree from the Trees for Troops program. The trees have been beautiful- full, tall, gorgeous trees that probably would have cost somewhere between $45- $70 each. One year we even got a Noble fir! Anyway, now that Joel is no longer in the military, we aren't eligble, so I had to re-group.
I had heard that you could cut your own tree through the Forest Service. The permits were only $10! It would be so great, we would all go out together, tramp through the woods, select a wonderful tree and bring it home. I had done it once before with my parents, and it was fantastic memory. Joel purchased our permit and we were all set. It would be Christmas card perfect.
And it all went downhill from there. We had planned to get our tree on Friday, but when I looked at the weather on Wednesday, (when the temperatures were in the 50's) I saw that on Thursday the weather service was calling for the bottom to drop out: temps in the 20's, snow, and lots of wind. Not exactly ideal tree-cutting weather!
So, we decided we would hurry and go on Wednesday afternoon after Joel got out of school. My first mistake was forgetting my camera. Fail. Then we drove up to the forest, and it was beautiful. I wasn't expecting "perfect" trees, so I wasn't surprised by the sparseness of the growth, I was confident we would find a wonderful one.
The kids were not impressed by our nature trek. It was during nap time, so Carson, usually my outdoor lover, was crabby. Jocelyn was tired of walking up and down-it was very hilly. We were having zero success. All the trees were wrong: too small, too tall, too sparse, bare on one side, crooked... I could go on and on. There were a number of other tree hunters out there and they did not seem to be struggling. They were chopping and strapping trees on cars, no problems.
Part of the reason was that they did not seem to have any problems breaking the rules. The permit specifically states the areas where you can cut trees. Also, trees cannot have trunks thicker than 6 inches in diameter, and you are not allowed to "top" trees- they must be cut off near the ground. I was determined to obey the rules (I must have had a greater fear of the $5,000 fine than they did!).
But that was making it hard. Actually impossible. Finally, we found the most likely candidate we had seen. It was the right diameter, although it was far too tall. But we figured we could pare it down once we got it home. We looked around for a while longer, but not having any more success we decided to go for it. Once we cut it, I realized it was even more sparse than I had originally thought. I chose to be optimistic, though.
It was the PRICKLIEST tree I have ever handled. Jocelyn started singing "O Pokey Tree" on the way home! Both Joel and I sustained various injuries- the tree seemed to be fighting to stay in the forest. But we wrangled it onto the truck and got it home.
Where I realized, that to make it fit in our living room, we would need to cut off about three feet. Of the best part. My little sparse tree would be even more sparse once we cut it down to size. We fought to wrap lights on it, getting poked the whole time. And it wasn't like the Christmas movies. It did not magically become more full once the lights were on.
However, I realized something. Our poor little Charlie Brown tree has character. And we had fun getting it. And it is real. So, I can give in to the imaginary expectations that I so often let rule my life, or I can be happy with what I've got.
And I am. I realized that is what I want all of Christmas (and my life for that matter) to be about. Getting to the true meaning and not being ruled by everyone else's expectations- real or imagined! In the end, I have to live with my tree AND my choices. And I want to know that I pleased the Lord and went with the "real" thing (not that I have anything against other people having artificial trees- I am really applying this to other areas of life!) in all areas of my life. Because I have to live with my tree-and my choices-not everyone else.
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13