December 01, 2009

Dusting off that old Christmas decoration...

you know, the one that's put up every year? 

Its time to break out that "stop being a brat Brooke - you're incredibly blessed" blog from a couple of years ago.

This time, my tears were warranted.  All of my Christmas ornaments suffered some mildew damage from their storage in the crawl space this summer - including the antique glass bulbs that belonged to my beloved great-grandmother and two of our "first Christmas" ornaments.

Most everything is salvagable, but I cried last night as Jay tried to wash off the first Christmas ornaments, only to declare them done for.

So, as I've done every year, its time to look back on Christmas remind me that decorations, even those with sentimental value, at the end of the day are just stuff. 

This Christmas season, more than usual, I have been overcome with this heavy feeling of guilt. Not for something that I have done wrong, or for something that I should have done but didn’t. It’s a sense of guilt that comes from the great blessings that I have in my life, and even more so a sense of guilt for not always recognizing those blessings.

For example, as I walk out of the store with my arms full of packages – well thought out presents, for recipients who already have more than they could ever need – how could I walk past the bell ringer without dropping a little something in the bucket for those that might not otherwise have life’s necessities? Or while I’m out on the day after Thanksgiving trying to grab up those great deals, the clerk at the Dollar general asks me if I would like to donate a toy for Toys for Tots. After spending what felt like $100 in gas to hit every end of the county, how can I say “no” to paying $2 so a child can have a new toy this Christmas?

Two weekends ago, Jay and I put up my Christmas tree, and once again I did a great job of overlooking how blessed that I am. I put the tree together (purchased on sale last year after Christmas for a very good price) but wasn’t pleased with how it fluffed. I noticed too many bare spots on the tree that I just couldn’t seem to cover up by moving the branches around.

For what I’m sure seemed like an eternity to Jay, I cried and considered not having a tree if that “pathetic” thing was the best I could do. From there I slid into self pity mode. Poor me, I never have anything new. I buy everything on sale. When will I ever be able to have anything nice?

Having no experience with how to deal with the fit of a 2 year old, he ignored me and tried to fluff the tree as best he could. When I finally decided to snap out of it, we put the decorations on the tree. We started with the regular bulbs – antique glass ornaments that were my great-grandmother’s. Then we added the Hallmark ornaments that I have received as gifts over the years, and finished with the tree topper that my mom gave me the first Christmas that I moved out on my own.

It was a real chore to get all the presents – purchased and wrapped in a timely fashion – under the tree. There just wasn’t enough room for them. As I stepped back and looked at the finished product, I realized just how much I had taken for granted.

I was lying on my bed in a pair of $150 designer track pants crying because I didn’t own anything nice. Mind you I didn’t pay $150 for them, but they are “nice” to say the very least. As I was pouting in my room, my wonderful boyfriend was looking after the tree, trying to fix it to make me happy. I remember 2 years ago putting up my Christmas tree all by myself and how sad that it made me that I didn’t have a significant other to share the season with.

Of course I’m blessed, not only to have such a wonderful heirloom from my great-grandmother, but I was also blessed enough to have her in my life for over twenty years. Not many people have that opportunity. And finally, the presents crowded under the tree. How could I not see how well I have it? To be able to buy my family exactly what they want, something I know that they will be thrilled to have…

These epiphanies usually go as quickly as they come, so it wasn’t until this weekend that I had another bout with thankfulness. Friday night was the City’s Christmas party…excuse me “Employee Appreciation Dinner”. The dress code was casual, but I love dressing up and took this as an opportunity to do so. Digging through my things, I found a silver sparkly halter top with a shrug that a friend had given me.

I like to pretend that she outgrew it; realistically I just think that she isn’t the type to wear something like that more than once or twice. While I should be thankful that I have a friend as giving as she is, but realistically I was more excited at the thought of being able to fit into one of her shirts. While I could have passed the shirt off as one that I had purchased new on my own, I took more pride in the fact that I was wearing a shirt formerly owned by someone who resembles a stick insect. (I say that in the most loving, jealous way possible!) Rather than setting for “thanks”, whenever anyone complimented me on my shirt I was proud to let them know exactly where I got it!!

My church has what they call “The Christmas Store” where people in our community who are less fortunate can come and get food, clothing, hygiene items, and toys for Christmas. Saturday morning around 9 o’clock I headed over to wrap the Christmas toys – items with gift tags “To: Billy From: Mom and Dad”.

It made me thankful that the Christmas my family was in need, there were people that surrounded us with love and helped us out.

People from my father’s workplace, our church, and our extended family, brought truckloads of food and toys so that we wouldn’t do without on Christmas, not to mention the house payments and electric bills covered by these same people who loved us. I felt ashamed that I knew of that Christmas, but remember nothing of it myself. Thankfully my mom assured me that I have a very good reason for not remembering – I was only 1 ½!

My 4 year old sister and I were blessed that year with gifts, but were too young to understand that the real blessing was the people around us that were so caring. I would be irresponsible for me, now that I’m in a position to help, if I didn’t pass these blessings along.

As I got ready Saturday evening, I was reminded of another blessing in my life – my parents, and my maternal grandparents are all still living and in good health. As I dressed in my black pants and dark sweater to go the funeral home for a coworker, I had to take a moment to thank God for my family’s health – something I continually take for granted.

Just yesterday I was annoyed with my mother for making me even more late for work, ringing my doorbell at 7:59 to drop off homemade fudge and cookies. Just as I was about to electronically comment on how annoying it was, I noticed a friend’s comments on her mother’s deathiversary. How many people out there would love to be late for work because their mothers showed up on their doorsteps, much less baring homemade goodies?!

So let me take this opportunity to say a big MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and prayers that God will bless your life as much as he has blessed mine!


  1. Yeah, it's amazing how easy it is to take things for granted until suddenly you know someone who is in dire straights. Just recently I've become VERY thankful for my marriage, after having someone close go through a divorce. Ridiculous that it takes one family falling apart to make you thankful for your own.

  2. AMEN. Life in itself is so chaotic and unhappy (the world itself is suffering), and sometimes we forget the blessings that God bestows on our lives. =) I think so often about how small our house is and how big one of my close friend's house is (seriously, it's over 1,100 feet BIGGER than my house), and then I think, "I HAVE a house. I'm not worried about not being able to pay my bills. I'm getting my Ph.D. and my husband is getting his master's degree. WHY am I whining??" There are sooo many other things I whine about,

  3. So true. We are all so blessed. We need to take time to remember and it's unfortunate that sometimes it's life's hard trials that remind us of our blessings. Merry Christmas to you too!

  4. This is such a beautifully written post. It's so true...I'm guilty of the same thing. Though I'm trying to change my way of thinking...this year, I had the kids participate in Operation Christmas Child and it felt really good to do something nice for children who are less fortunate.

    We are all very blessed but sometimes we get stuck on what we don't have versus what we do have.

  5. Thanks for the reminder! I can get whiny, too, while driving around in my [paid for] van, fully clothed, with a full belly & maybe even an expensive coffee. While most of what we are blessed with aren't things that we can buy, anyways!

  6. Thanks for this post. You brought tears to my eyes.

  7. I needed to read this...

    I get especially bratty when it comes to my house and stupid, tangible things that I should be falling on my face thanking God for. But I always criticize them instead.

    I get these glorious revelations sometimes that remind me of what I've got - and they break my heart...and I'm thankful for that too. =)

  8. what a heartfelt post....Merry Christmas to you!

  9. Thanks for a heart felt post that made my eyes a little teary.
    I think Christmas can really bring out those emotions!


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