I’ll confess, I didn’t hear the Christmas tree come crashing down in the middle of the night. I vaguely remember my husband asking me if I heard dishes shattering. Just another bizarre dream, I thought. No thief in the night would waste his time on my 24 year old Macy’s everyday china and my kids only use paper plates.
But the sad reality was quite evident the next morning as the tree rested wearily against the back wall, strands of garland huddled in random clusters clinging to bent branches for dear life, and many an ornament had been reduced to its hook and a single hanging shard of painted glass after meeting the hardwood floor unexpectedly in the night. My husband took a dustpan and broom to the glittery mess and collected what salvageable pieces he could find scattered about the living room and placed them in a bowl on the kitchen counter.
I’m rarely accused of being sentimental. In fact some of those ornaments I’ve been hanging on low branches, hoping that the cats would do some dirty work for me. They’re always in trouble, anyway. But seeing the Baby’s First Christmas – 1994 figurine with its sweet little face in three pieces, or the crystal snowman with my daughter’s name etched across its belly missing its head and scarf, stopped me sadly in my tracks.
I grabbed my glasses and found a bottle of Elmer’s glue in the cabinet and the snowman’s head behind the sofa. For the next hour or so, I gently secured memories back together, like a puzzle that contained life in its very pieces. They now hang more beautifully than I even remember them looking on our upright and secured Christmas tree, six restored ornaments with faint scars and tiny chips, each with memories and dreams held tightly together with love.
Has something come crashing down in your life recently?
Are there pieces scattered, lost, broken around you?
Sometimes it’s only when things seem beyond repair that we realize how precious they are; how much we cannot bear to part with them. Keepsakes we treasure. People we love.
Be careful as you clean up the mess. Pay attention to what you keep and what you throw away. Some pieces are sharp. Some pieces are just debris you don’t need.
But if you look closely, if you search even in unexpected places, if you are gentle with yourself and with what you hold in your hands, you may find enough pieces that matter most to love something beautiful back to life.
May the God who is making all things new be the glue of your life this Advent season.
This column was originally published on Dec. 19, 2012.