Living Happily Ever After


O Christmas Tree

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” (Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas)

Christmas. It’s in the air. Especially in Utah where there are radio stations that begin playing all Christmas music, all of the time…in October!

It causes me to reflect on Christmases past—and Christmas now.

I remember my first Christmas as a married woman, arriving home from work in the early darkness of a winter evening. As I drove up the street, approaching my little starter home, I could see lights BLAZING from a neighbor’s home (glowing in the fashion of the Griswold’s lit up home in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie.) I laughed to myself, “Oh-ho! Now THERE is someone who loves Christmas! I’ve never seen so many lights, in person, on one house! I wonder who the Christmas fan is?”

And imagine my surprise, as I got closer to the spectacle, to see it was my house. Apparently, the fan was me.

Those were also the days of giant, towering, beautiful and majestic Christmas trees.

Enter the unexpected life.

Last year, Christmas was a bit of a struggle. Christmas 2009 was our first, on the heels of a lot of life change. It was lonely and worrisome. I’d never done Christmas lights before. I’d never set up a Christmas tree by myself before. I’d never had to earn my own money for Christmas gifts before. And despite the fact I felt quite healed from much of what had transpired earlier that year, I had to leave the celebration a few times and go up into my bedroom, alone, to cry.

But somehow we got through it.

My children and I had never set up a fake Christmas tree by ourselves before, but eventually we figured it out. (Ok, the honest truth is my daughter did!) My oldest son did our Christmas lights. (I drove home from work to discover all of our bushes illuminated. A special Christmas memory for my first Christmas as a single mother!) And an uncle, a family friend and a small bonus from work helped with the Christmas gifts.We held on to what traditions we could, let a few go and did some things in new and different ways.

Very similar to what you do when an unexpected life hits, actually. Cry, some. (If you’re like me.) Hold on to what you can, let a few things go, do some things in new and different ways and somehow, you get through it. You figure it out. And through it all, you get by with a little help from friends.

A year has passed. I like to (naively) believe we’ve gone through our “firsts” of everything although I’m learning that healing and life, including the unexpected one, is a process. Just when you think you’re healed or have learned what you needed to learn, occasionally something happens that shows you you’re not totally through the process. There’s a little bit left to heal. A little bit more to be conquered. Always more to learn. But with each passing day, and each challenge you rise above, you’re wiser, stronger, better, more capable and always able to see a new tender mercy or count an additional blessing.

And you can look back and see how you’ve grown. How far you’ve come.

For instance, this year, December 2010, yesterday, my children got our Christmas tree. While I was at work, they loaded in the car, drove to Home Depot, looked through all of the trees, chose the one they liked best, paid for it, hauled it home and I arrived home to a Christmas tree on our front porch! (In fact, the only thing they “forgot” to do was take a photo to document the experience.)

Today’s holiday adventure at the Merriman home will include hauling a real tree into the house and learning to master a Christmas tree stand. And if it’s like everything else, every other adventure we’ve encountered since entering our unexpected life, I’m pretty sure we’ll figure it out.

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other.” (Norma Shearer)

The unexpected life.

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