A Christmas tree story, Heather? Don’t you think it’s a little too early for that? I know what you might be thinking. Of course, the other way to think of it is, isn’t it a little too late for a Christmas tree story? Either way, I guess you would be right. But that’s beside the point.
This year, our Labor Day weekend was spent cleaning up our backyard. We had the biggest pile of leaves you could imagine, leftover from last fall and winter. We also had sticks, brush, wood chips and yes, even our 2011 Christmas tree back there. Terrible, right?
For the last eight months, I had been bugging Joe about the junk in our backyard. I’m not a wife who puts out a “honey-do” list for her husband every weekend. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not what I do. (And, truthfully, I haven’t needed to. Joe takes wonderful care of the car and house maintenance and, especially the maintenance of the yard–mowing, trimming, weed-eating, blowing.) But those leaves…well, it was different with those leaves.
Every time I looked out of our rear-facing windows, I would see the massive heap of
a snake pit leaves, and get a knot in my stomach. Then, my eyes would drift to the corner of our yard, where our browned Virginia pine lay, and my cheeks would redden.
What is so hard about hauling this stuff off? Everyone else manages to get rid of their leaves and Christmas trees! I can only imagine what our neighbors think.
Finally, though, Joe agreed that over the long Labor Day weekend (his last at home before beginning to travel for the fall season) we would finally deal with the mess. Though the Christmas tree had been an eyesore–a thorn in my side–for the better part of a year, what we didn’t know was that without that tree, our cleanup would not have been possible.
After spreading the leaves around the perimeter of our property in the back, underneath the tall pines and oaks (to make beds), we decided to burn what was left of the leaf pile. Which was a lot!
The only problem was, we couldn’t get the leaves to catch fire. They were too wet, from the rains we’d had a few days earlier. My stomach was beginning to pain me again. Without a truck or a trailer to take away the mess, it was looking like we were going to be left with the leaves FOREVER!!
But then, my brilliant husband had an idea. He sprinted from the leaf pile over to the corner of the yard, our brush pile, and grabbed–you guessed it–the Christmas tree! Like an Olympian carrying the Olympic torch, Joe hoisted that tree and ran it to the leaf pile, where our neighbor, Bob, was squatting with a box of matches. Joe heaved the tree on top of the pile, and within minutes, the tree was aflame! Not long after, the leaves were burning, too.
Suddenly, “O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches…” started pouring from my lungs. I couldn’t help it–all at once I was so thankful for that old, ugly tree!
Cleaning and burning was an all-day affair–in fact, the leaves were still smoldering more than 24-hours later. At first, our clean-up plans had looked impossible, but thanks to that nasty tree, our plans had been saved. The tree I had complained about for so long had actually helped us accomplish our ultimate task!
The irony of it all makes me smile. Isn’t that just like life? Rather, isn’t it just like our lives as Christians? God takes the nasty in us–the character flaws, the ugly experiences, the disappointments, the heartache–and uses them for our good and the benefit of others.
Paul thanked God for his thorn in the flesh because it made him stronger (2 Corinthians 12: 1-10)! And Joseph, after being betrayed by his brothers, later told them that what they had meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:15-21)!
Are you smelling what I’m stepping in?
As Christians, we can trust that what the enemy brings into our lives for harm, God will use for good! Yes!
I cannot wait to see how God will use the ugliness in my life today to help me overcome my problems tomorrow.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)