It was dark. We spoke softly, careful not to wake our son. After hours of screaming in pain, our one-year-old was finally asleep in the hospital metal crib next to us.
My husband was telling me of an experience that he had while traveling. He had heard someone explain a special tradition they had. Each year they would hang an ornament on the Christmas tree that would symbolize something they were grateful for that particular year.
His whispering enthusiasm touched my heart and we agreed to incorporate this into our own lives. We would look out for reasons to be thankful and be grateful for everything good that we were entrusted with.
It was a game changer. Sometimes you make a decision without realizing the impact it will have on your life. This time, we sensed that it was important, that it might actually change our lives.
The tingling, expectant sensation. The sweet fragrance lingering in the room. The taste of hope on our lips as we offered our thanksgivings. The heavy presence of a gentle, Holy Spirit resting upon us.
Something radically shifted. And still, everything appeared to be exactly the same.
We still did the same things. Our daily lives were wrapped up in the intensive medical care that our son needed. We were just as exhausted as we had been. But we held on to our decision of being grateful.
Little by little small sprinkles of light began to work their way into our darkness. We treasured the unexpected phone call, the friendly smile from a stranger, the encouraging words from a friend. We journaled every good experience in a diary to our son. Some of the pages were smudged by happy tears. We celebrated each and every day that was not spent in a hospital. We gave thanks to the giver of all good gifts. Tiny sprinkles of light turned into sparks of glory.
Each year we would hang our special ornament on the Christmas tree, celebrating God’s faithfulness toward us. Our circumstances had not changed. Adrian was still in a wheelchair, he was still very ill and his prognosis was just as bleak as before. But then again, God had not changed either. He was still the same All-mighty, all-loving, always present Papa that we knew and loved.
Over the years, the ornaments of gratitude would gradually dominate our Christmas tree. A jet plane for the year we were picked up by an air ambulance and taken from one country to another for an emergency surgery. A nest for the year our family was blessed with three more children. An angel for the year all our kids were able to participate in a Christmas play, including Adrian who would be resting in a beanbag on stage during the entire performance. He was actually able to be a part of something!
Each year we would go through every single ornament and talk about what we experienced through the years, as we raised an altar for our God, bragging about His goodness toward us. He was so present. The branches would bow under the weight of the ornaments, and our hearts would bow under the weight of our gratitude and His glory.
We all carry the weight of something. What do you carry? What weighs down the branches of your tree? You are invited to turn the weight of your heart into praise. Not denying your circumstances, but embracing the One who is present. Always present. Always faithful.