packing up christmas

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Yesterday I put the Christmas decorations away.

I’ve always enjoyed the process of unpacking each item- like opening a gift- and then at the end of the season packing them up again- like tucking them into bed.  Most of our decorations and ornaments are unique mementos from loved ones and vacations, marking a special time in our lives. And as the mom in the family, I know where each trinket came from and the significance of each ornament.

I never used to give that much thought.

But in 2011, when I first found out I was sick with cancer, one of my early thoughts (and fears) was if I died, no one would know the history of our Christmas decorations. That may sound silly, but our family’s story is wrapped up in our holiday treasures. I needed to know that my kids would know our story, and be able to pass it on someday.

So I’ve begun to label some of the items and, more importantly, share with my family the stories behind each ornament and each decoration. And as I share the history with my kids, the memories come alive.

We remember and warmly talk about Uncle Tom (Todd’s oldest brother) when we set out all the old world Santas that he collected before he passed away. We carefully handle the hand-painted glass ornament Todd and I bought on our trip to Austria in 1994 and the ruby red slipper ornament Papa gave Katie the year she was Dorothy for Halloween. We lovingly put out the Hummel nativity that my mom gave us- piece by piece over the course of many years, and smile at the broken head of one of the kings (oops!). Seeing my grandmother’s antique plastic reindeer sitting on my kitchen window sill brings her memory close to me. And we see how our family has grown over the years in the kids’ handmade ornaments that hang on our tree.

Having had cancer (more than once), I don’t take time for granted. It’s precious and it’s fleeting and it can be unpredictable. And as I put each decoration back in its box yesterday, I wondered what my life will be like a year from now, when I take them out again.

This past year held surprises that I could not have imagined last Christmas: recording an album, singing with an orchestra and a full choir, leading a new service at church, my dad having to endure two back surgeries… And I wonder- with some anticipation and also with some trepidation- what this coming year will bring.

I just don’t know. None of us really do.

But I do know that God is good and he is faithful- he promises to work all things together for my good, and he promises to be with me always.

And I want that to be enough for me.

So I hold out my hand to the One I trust to guide me and lead me through it all. I know that whatever sharp turns life may take this year, I am secure in the love and comfort of my Shepherd, who is all I need.

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