“Ain’t it funny how life changes”? Lyrics from that song settled in my heart as I pulled on my sweatshirt and walked toward the beach as dawn dimly lit the November sky. Crossing the dunes, a memory from January 2009 – when dead Christmas trees were piled along the tall dunes – caused me to wonder as I walked. I thought of how my holiday celebrations changed when Tim, who loved live Christmas trees with lots of lights, was called home to Heaven. Holidays changed again when James, who loved our singing Christmas tree and the two holiday seasons we shared as man and wife – went home to Heaven two days after Christmas! Sometimes, it’s anything but funny how life changes.
Writing a story about those dead trees on the beach helped me as I hoped it would other people experiencing life changes and holiday heartaches. Wondering about the homes where each tree stood in splendor when they were alive, how those families celebrated, and what life changes family members gathered around those trees faced brought life to the dead tree story. Handwritten messages from readers told of heartbreaking and happy holiday celebrations within their family circles. Their words of encouragement whisper, ‘keep writing’ when life changes come without warning. So, I do… with joy and gratitude for the good news love stories He stirs!
My recent walk was a fresh reminder that Christmas trees are standing tall and twinkling in most homes. What a wonderful family tradition that brings precious memories long after children have grown and gone or loved ones have been called Home. Seasons come bearing painful memories that make decorating the tree and doing family traditions difficult. Keeping the sweet spirit of Christmas alive in our celebrations takes prayer and patience. Giving gifts of time and understanding can bring life back into lonely hearts throughout the most wonderful season of the year.
Thinking of those dead trees from years ago, I wondered how each family that shared Christmas around those trees had suffered pain, separation, death, or celebrated marriages, graduations, baptisms, and other red letter days. Pain comes to all families in one season or another, but God promises to bind wounds and heal broken hearts. And He does, in His perfect timing!
Though life changes and holidays can usher in heartache, joyful peace and promise flourish in families who know Christ personally and keep Him front and center in all things. This ensures “Happy Everything” will thrive in our hearts and homes when we trust God’s Word to bring good from bad according to His plans for our lives. Holiday happiness and heartaches happen! Handling each as Christ would awakens our hearts to experience exceedingly great JOY!
Singing my own version of, It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, I turned and started my trek home stepping in the wet sand still showing my footprints headed in the opposite direction. Remembering many beach walks through sweet and sour seasons when I would turn at this spot and head back home, I stopped to kneel and spend a little time on my knees in the sand. Talking to Jesus when the sun is about to peep above His majestic ocean erases pain while giving promise and peace beyond all understanding. Standing tall with a spring in my step, I headed home singing songs of joy even though life changes and celebrations will be different for many people this holiday season.
Life changed for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Imagine the changes she faced from the season she received a divine message that she had been chosen to be the mother of God’s Son to the season when she witnessed her Son being arrested, falsely accused, beaten, mocked, and made to carry the cross to Calvary where she would watch his painful death. From cradle to cross, Jesus changed lives by spreading the good news gospel through sharing stories and living humbly and honorably by God’s greatest commandments…loving Him with all our heart, mind, and soul, loving neighbors as ourselves, even loving enemies. Mary came to mind again, as I shuffled my feet in the sand and stood in awe of the One who gave His perfect Gift so that we might be saved from our sins and have a precious, personal relationship with Him. Mary’s painful memories were swept away, like the waves that drift back to sea, as she wept for joy when her Son, Jesus Christ, arose and ascended to Heaven to sit by the right side of His Father. The promise of Heaven for Mary, for all God’s children who ask Jesus in their hearts, repent of sins, and live closely connected to Him is real. Heaven is God’s gift that keeps on giving…forever and ever!
So, this is Christmas…I thought! No matter the season we face, we should celebrate in faith and let the love of Jesus shine for all to see that Christmas is about Thee…not you and me! Soaking up sights and sounds along the shore where our family has enjoyed making memories through the years, I neared the home stretch of my morning walk. God’s gift of daylight was gently unwrapped with a cool November chill and hint of color spreading across the horizon. The beauty of His creation reminded me just how much I love early morning walks with my Best Friend…and the joy of Christmas bubbling within.
Ain’t it funny how life changes for good when Christ is the center of our Everything! God is good – God is great – for celebrating Jesus’ birthday…I can hardly wait!
What about you? I pray for your close walk with Christ and Happy Everything too.
Becky Spell Vann is the owner and operator of Tim’s Gift and The Learning Station.