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O Christmas Tree…

December 3, 2013

So, yesterday many of you may have read about our Christmas tree mishap on Facebook. For those of you who missed it, let me give you a quick recap.

As soon as I heard Mercy Anne’s bus coming down the road, I also heard a large crash in the living room. Tree down. Broken ornaments, water, needles were everywhere. My brother answered my desperate call for help and came to help me fix it, as I had to hold the tree up or it would fall again. Tree is now tied with a piece of kitchen twine to the bay window.  While cleaning the mess off the floor, the smell of smoke assailed me. Turns out Mercy Anne accidentally let the microwave popcorn go too long. Way too long. Could barely breathe. Windows open. House smelled horrible. Still does.

Merry Christmas from the Janssens!

Amidst the mess, I just had to laugh. Memories of our first Christmas tree in Holland came flooding back.

So….time to resurrect an old Christmas post about Christmas trees.

Laugh and enjoy!!


Christmas trees are interesting things. I believe they can give a glimpse into the soul of a person…or not. I have seen some beautifully decorated trees that inspire awe but tell me nothing. It could be anyone’s tree. My Christmas trees will never grace the covers of Southern Living or Better Homes & Gardens. You see, I don’t view a Christmas tree as a work of art but rather as a collection of memories.

Our ornaments are a jumbled assortment representing our lives. As we unpack our treasures, we often say, “Oh, do you remember when..?”

I still have an ornament I made in Kindergarten at Vandalia Christian School. One of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Cates, assisted us with our project. That was also the year I chose to give my life to Jesus. Fittingly, the ornament I made is a colored picture of Mary and baby Jesus. Every time I see it, I am reminded of Mrs. Cates, Kindergarten and how Jesus saved my life.

Then there’s the ornament that always makes me and Anton laugh because it reminds us of our infamous Charlie Brown Christmas Tree:
It was our first Christmas together. I was so excited to be decorating my own home for Christmas. However, at that time in Holland, the selection of Christmas decorations was beyond pathetic. I looked through the stores and thought, “You’re kidding right? This is IT??” This young, southern American girl felt very homesick and lost. In desperation, I bought a string of Santa lights and a string of Christmas bear lights to put on the tree. Thankfully, Mom had given me all my personal ornaments when I left home, otherwise my tree would have been void of personality.

So, one cold December night, Anton and I decided to go to a tree lot below our flat. It was time to buy our first Christmas tree together! Full of excitement and inexperience, we found a tree we liked, paid for it and headed home. We carried the tree to the flat, hopped in the elevator and by the time we made it to our floor, I swear half the tree was lying on the bottom of the elevator. Undeterred, we walked to our door, leaving a trail of needles on the breezeway. Now came the task of putting the tree in the stand. As Anton had never had a Christmas tree growing up, this was new territory for him. After much wrestling with the inept tree stand, our tree was upright and almost naked. I unpacked the strings of colored lights I had bought. Within seconds, I decided whoever designed the lights in Holland should be shot. OUR lights are one nice, long strand that then connects to another strand and you can keep going. The Dutch lights loop to the plug and the separate strands do NOT connect to other strands of lights. Now, there is already a shortage of electrical outlets in Dutch homes. Try adding Christmas lights and you need multiple strip outlets, which is so attractive (NOT). We got in our first Christmas light fight; a tradition that we carried on every Christmas in Holland. After the colored lights finally graced our tree, I added the Santa and bear lights. The effect was hideous.  But I didn’t want to admit it to myself. We merrily added our ornaments, stood back and congratulated ourselves on a job well done.

The next morning, I happily awoke, excited to see my tree in the light of day. I walked into the living room and my tree was lying on the floor. Oh, what a sad sight! Anton and I managed to get it upright again…but it wouldn’t STAY that way. Like I said, it was an inept tree stand. I resorted to desperate measures. Finding a piece of purple yarn, I looped it around the tree trunk and then tied the other end to one of the handles of our china cabinet. It worked. I looked at the tree. Really looked at the tree. And I cried. And then I felt convicted…While people in other parts of the world were dying for their faith in Christ, I was crying about a stupid, ugly Christmas tree. (see photo and note piece of yarn holding up the tree)

first Christmas tree 001

A year later, we managed to find a lovely tree and my mom sent us an ornament to commemorate the event…an ornament of Holly Hobby holding a perfect little Christmas tree in her arms!
But, I wouldn’t trade that first tree for the world. It helped create some hilarious memories we laugh about to this day.There are my babies’ first ornaments…ornaments that track our growing family.There’s the ornament shaped like a locket with a photo of Anton and me on the inside to remind us how precious our marriage is and how God brought us through troubled waters. There are ornaments the kids made with little hands now grown bigger…captured childhood hanging from my tree.Yes, on these branches hang a multitude of stories…a disorganized collection of life lived. The fact is, life is not perfectly arranged, with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed. Sometimes, life is downright messy and ugly. But, isn’t it amazing what twinkly lights can do to an old house or an ugly tree?? Suddenly, they become magical and charming. God sent His Light, Jesus. If we let Him, Jesus can wrap His light around our less than perfect and messy lives and make them beautiful. So, maybe my tree IS a work of art if it can remind me of that one achingly beautiful truth.



What a terrible looking tree, but what great memories. Kind of Charlie Brownish.. Love you guys.

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