As you might have guessed from my last post, this has not been an easy month at our house. My personality type loves quiet and calm and everyone getting along. None of that has been true this month-- not for one single minute. As a result, I have not been full of Christmas cheer. At one point, in fact, I had to have the entire family get down on our knees and pray that God would give us the ability to be kind to each other. As soon as I said, "Amen!" my daughter said, "Trixie was being annoying."
One day last week, I was feeling done before I even started. My husband was traveling for work. I had hoped to go with him on his work trip to see the lights in New York City, but it was obvious that the toddlers could not handle the trip, so we had cancelled. I was exhausted and the kids were on overdrive. Finally I decided that I had to get them outside. The sun was actually shining and it was obvious that they needed to do something with all of their energy. An hour later, I finally had everyone dressed and ready to head out the door. Blessedly, it was a mild enough day that it didn't even matter that the two-year-old was refusing to wear his coat. We set off to walk our dog and were tempted on to a street that we normally bypass because we saw an abominable snowman in someone's yard. When we got closer to the yard, we were delighted to see that they also had a purple hippo, a goose and goslings, a Snoopy and four frogs in Santa hats.
We walked farther down the street, admiring the Christmas displays as we went, and I saw my daughter pick up a red velvet ribbon. This particular daughter is the ultimate trash-picker. She once convinced her brother and sisters that collecting old avocado pits was the coolest thing ever. She currently has five old tissue-boxes stuffed with odds and ends in her bed. We walked a little farther and my second daughter said, "Can I go back and show Ella something?" They both came running excitedly back to me, "It's a little lace pillow that says Joy."
Mabel held a white pillow trimmed in eyelet and embroidered with the word JOY. Despite being picked up off the side of the road, it was still remarkably clean.
My grumpy answer, of course, was "That is not coming into my house!"
But Ella, who always has a solution, yelled, "We need to make a tree for our ornaments! We'll make it on the back porch."
We turned the corner and what did we find? A full barrel of branches someone had cut off of their Christmas tree. "Our tree!" the girls yelled, and ran over and picked out a long branch.
Ella hoisted the tree limb on to her shoulder and we headed home. The girls set up their tree on the back porch and put their two ornaments on it. They added a few found treasures that were destined for the trash at our house and a few homemade paper hearts.
Then the next day we set out on our walk again.
"Let's go find more ornaments!" the girls exclaimed.
"We're probably not going to find anymore." I muttered.
That day, we came home with an Ariel ornament and a scruffy wooden heart. The kids excitedly showed their dad the tree when he got home.That night when he walked the dog, he headed to the same street and came home with a large glittered ball ornament.
Today, we set out for a walk again. The girls said, "We have to go back to the treasure street and get more ornaments." I suggested we try a different street, but had no luck, so we headed back to the same spot. I was absolutely positive there was no chance we would find an ornament today, until I was the one who saw it: a red polka-dot cat on the side of the road. Then we crossed the street and I saw another, a slightly-busted hand-painted plastic ball ornament.
Stumbling along in the muddy trenches of motherhood, I couldn't see that there was joy lying right there in a puddle on the side of the road. It took walking through the tough parts of life with my kids to see it there waiting for someone to pick it up.
Our Christmas tree has been decorated and lit for weeks now in our living room, but it's the tree on the back porch with all of its shabby, misfit ornaments where joy lives.