Well we did it. We went and bought our very first artificial Christmas tree. For the past 39 years we have had a live Christmas tree in our living room. There are lots of memories around having a live Christmas tree and for our family most of the memories are good ones. We never had a set tradition for getting a live Christmas tree. We didn't go to the same place year after year but rather, as time and money dictated, we would venture out, usually on a Saturday, to get our Christmas tree. Some years we would tromp through a tree farm with our kids for a freshly cut tree and we'd have the wonderful smell of fresh cut pine in our house. Other years we couldn't pass up the deal of a $10.00 Christmas tree on clearance at Wal-Mart. Nothing says Christmas like pushing a live Christmas tree in a Walmart Shopping cart! No matter where we purchased our Christmas trees most of them ended up being too big for our house. The trees always looked so small outside when in reality they were enormous and they looked enormous when they were set up in our living room. Getting the Christmas tree to stand up straight and secure in the Christmas tree stand was another story and we usually ended up securing the tree with fishing line wrapped around the trunk of the tree and tied to a nail in the wall. When all was said and done all of our live Christmas trees for the past 39 years have looked absolutely beautiful and they filled our house with joy and beauty and gave us a place to gather as a family on Christmas morning.
You may be wondering what made us switch from a live Christmas tree to an artificial one after 39 years. There were so many good reasons for making the switch. No more trying to get the tree to stand up straight or securing the tree so it wouldn't fall over. No more asking.."Did someone water the tree today?" No more vacuuming up pine needles. These were all great reasons for having an artificial tree but the main reason for our decision to buy an artificial tree is that we needed to have our Christmas tree up for an extended period of time this year and we did not think a live tree would last. Our daughter Meredith, son-in-law Todd and granddaughter Payton are traveling to Massachusetts to spend Christmas with Todd's family and so we have set December 6th as our time to celebrate Christmas with them here in Colorado. There was no way we could have a family Christmas celebration without a Christmas tree and there was no way a live Christmas tree would last for the entire month of December in the dry climate here in Colorado. I honestly was not sure how I was going to feel about having an artificial Christmas tree instead of a real one. Would I still think it looked beautiful? Would I regret spending the money on an artificial tree? Would I miss the experience of going out to get a live Christmas tree? And the big question in my mind was.... would an artificial tree feel like Christmas? With all these questions mulling over in my brain, we all agreed that now was the time for an artificial tree and that this would be the year we took the plunge to switch from a live tree to an artificial tree.
So here we are, Christmas of 2015, with an artificial Christmas tree already set up in our living room. Your are probably thinking, "What in the world are we doing with a Christmas tree already set up before Thanksgiving?!" Before you think that we are rushing the season (not true) or that we are super organized (also not true), let me remind you that our family here includes our three year old granddaughter and with that I don't think any further explanation is necessary as to why our Christmas tree is up and lit before Thanksgiving.
The artificial tree was a breeze to set up. It came in three sections, and with our granddaughter's help, Ed had the tree set up in less than 10 minutes. As soon as it was set up and lit (yes, we went all out and bought one of those pre-lit Christmas trees) all of my concerns and doubts about having an artificial Christmas tree vanished. The tree looked beautiful and we hadn't put any of our Christmas ornaments on it yet. I had no regrets about spending the money for this artificial tree and the big question of "Would it feel like Christmas?" was answered with a BIG yes. Honestly, I was so happy to be able to just enjoy the tree without having to drag out the vacuum cleaner to vacuum up pine needles! I also realized that we didn't have to try to figure out where to put up the artificial tree this year. We set it up right in the corner next to the fireplace, the same place as last year. I was so excited to realize that we were beginning to establish some traditions here at Trinity Lane and that gave me such joy! Last year we weren't quite sure where all of our belongings were located. Some were in a storage unit in Fort Collins, some were in the storage sheds here at Trinity Lane and some things here in the house. We had no idea where most of our Christmas decorations were so we just went with what we could find. As I sat looking at our artificial Christmas tree I was so excited that I could say "Christmas ornaments? I know where some are!". That may not seem like a big deal to you but for me it was a huge deal. It meant that we were getting organized, that we were getting settled, that we were putting down roots.
As I looked at our artificial Christmas tree I couldn't help but think about the progress that we have made living together here in this little house on the prairie on Trinity Lane. Last Christmas was our first Christmas together as two families, The Rennells and The Peters and we were still trying to figure out how to make that all that work. I could write a book on all the interpersonal details, issues and situations that have been worked out during our past year living together but I will sum it up into three little words.....it was hard. With tears, frustration, arguments, patience, love and commitment we have put in the hard work required to meld two different families but as always, hard work pays off and now The Rennells and The Peters are living together more cohesively with a few bumps that we smooth out as we go along through our days.
As I sat looking at our artificial Christmas tree I was so very thankful that this year our tree was being set up early in the season. OK, maybe setting the Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving is a bit early, but remember we have a three year old here, nevertheless I was so grateful to be able to enjoy it for the Christmas season rather than putting it up on December 24th like we did last year. Last year we were all so horribly sick the 10 days before Christmas. It wasn't just an "I feel lousy sick", but an "I can't get out of bed" sick. Ed, Payton, Todd and I were down for the count and Meredith was the only one who escaped the grips of this illness. I remember her always having a can of Lysol spray in her hand and spraying everything everywhere she went. I remember her coming into our bedroom to see if we needed anything with a mask on her face and gloves on her hands. I also remember that she had no mercy on us if we wandered in the kitchen looking for something to drink. She would immediately banish us back to our rooms the minute we turned the corner into the kitchen. It was December 23rd and our live Christmas tree sat neglected on the porch as no one had the energy or ambition to drag it in, get it set up and get it decorated. There were no Christmas cookies baked and no Christmas music playing in the house. We were slugs and it was two days before Christmas. I remember that we talked about skipping Christmas that year or maybe postponing it till we felt better but no one wanted to do that so we all held out hope that we would all rally at the last minute and be able to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. We did rally last Christmas to the point that we could get out of bed and get the Christmas tree up and decorated but not to the point that we felt like cooking, never mind eating, anything. Getting the tree up and decorated was all that we had energy for and it was not an easy process. Since it was our first Christmas in this house we had not yet developed any traditions around where the Christmas tree would be placed. We did celebrate Christmas of 2014 on December 25th but suffice it to say it wasn't one of our best Christmas celebrations. It was however a Christmas that signified the strength and determination of the newly forming Rennells/Peters Family.
So as I sat looking at our artificial Christmas tree I realized that it definitely was the right decision to get an artificial tree. With our busy lives here at Soaring Wings Ministries the ease of an artificial tree was just what we needed. As I looked at our first ever artificial Christmas tree I couldn't help but think of the progress that we had made since our very first Christmas here last year and for that my heart was so very, very grateful!!! What a fantastic way to celebrate Thanksgiving and to begin the joyous season of celebrating Christ's birth!!!! Here at Soaring Wings Ministries we have so very much to be grateful for but for right now the main ones that come to my mind as I look at our artificial Christmas tree are family, traditions, strength and progress. I love my family! Yes, they get on my nerves sometimes and sometimes I wish that I could be like Kevin in the movie "Home Alone" and run through the house joyously thinking that I made my family disappear but.....my family is my joy, my family is my life and I love them with all my heart. I am thankful for the strength that we gain from working together here at Soaring Wings Ministries as a combined family of Rennells and Peters as one family would not be able to make it here without the other. I am thankful for the old traditions that our family has maintained over the years but for this year I am most thankful for our new traditions. The old traditions give us roots but the new traditions keep us moving forward and with that forward movement of new traditions comes progress. Without progress nothing would change and Soaring Wings Ministries would not grow. I am so very, very thankful for the progress that Soaring Wings Ministries has made during this past year.
I look at our artificial Christmas tree and I have no remorse whatsoever for the decision that we made to switch from a live tree to an artificial one. Yes, honestly, I do think that there is no comparison between a real Christmas tree and an artificial Christmas tree. There is just something about a live Christmas tree but when I look at our artificial Christmas tree I see the joy and strength of family, new traditions emerging and the forward motion of progress. When I look at our artificial Christmas tree standing in the corner next to our fireplace I see God's blessing and guidance upon us as a family and upon Soaring Wings Ministries.
This year, whether you put up a real Christmas tree, an artificial Christmas tree or no Christmas tree at all, I hope that each one of you will take time during Thanksgiving to reflect on all that you have been blessed with during this past year and to take the time to thank God for your blessings. God alone, the creator of all things, is the one that deserves all of our praise and gratitude for all of His blessings in our lives.
I wish each and everyone of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!!
From around our artificial Christmas tree,
On November 4th Dad and I went to Fort Collins to do Donuts with Friends. We were mailed two big boxes of nice winter hats from a friend on Cape Cod. We were also given warm winter gloves and gently used snow jackets and long johns from people here in Colorado, so we packed up these items and headed off to Fort Collins to serve the homeless.
We got to Fort Collins with hot Panera Coffee, donuts, granola bars, and all the winter gear and went to Jefferson Park, our usual spot, but no one was there. That happens from time to time so Dad and I decided to drive around and see if we could find some homeless people. We didn't have to drive far to find where homeless people were sleeping. They were in the old trucks and run down campers parked on a side street in downtown Fort Collins.
We started with unloading the table and gear and before long people started coming out of their vehicles and we were able to offer them all the winter gear we had. They were so excited! They loved being able to pick out their colors and styles of hats and other winter gear.
They enjoyed talking with us over coffee and waking up to fresh donuts. It was a great experience to share with them over a cup of coffee. We got to talk to them about the cold nights, their families, and other life situations. It was truly sharing Donuts with Friends!
One man was so thankful for the long johns and hats and we told him that items were all donated from friends in Fort Collins and Massachusetts and he shared that he was from Connecticut. I told him that I was born there and that we had fond memories of New England. It is a small world.
One man shared about how his wife was going to be sad she missed meeting us. He asked if he could have a hat for her since she was working. We of course gave him an extra hat and he kept saying thank you but that she would have loved to meet us, to share Donuts with Friends.
It is not the big things that God calls us to do for people. He calls us to do the little things, to share what we have, to go to the poor, to share His love and hope with those in need. We are blessed to continue to reach out to the homeless as we try to patiently wait on God's timing on the building addition at the Ranch. We feel blessed by everyone who gives to our outreach and building funds, we feel blessed to be the ones God has called to share with the homeless, we feel blessed to serve a God who loves!
"Give generously to the poor and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land." Deuteronomy 15:10-11
Anita Rennells is the author of this blog. She and her husband have moved to Colorado when Ed retired and are in the process of opening a ranch to help homeless young adults.
Soaring Wings Ministries