polka dots

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Christmas Tree

I've always had a real tree in my house for Christmas. I would try to find the biggest and the best every year. This has caused "tension" in our marriage as Wes would get frustrated trying to put these huge trees in stands that weren't big enough or have to cut off ridiculous amounts off the bottom of the tree because I got one that was too big. Or we would even wake up the next morning to find out tree laying on the ground. Every Christmas it was the same thing.

So after the boys had left home, I decided to put all the misery of the Christmas tree behind Wes. It just wasn't worth it. Why was I heaping all this on him? Christmas was supposed to be a happy time - and the Christmas tree event was not a happy time for him. So, we went out and bought a very beautiful aritificial one - prelit - 1200 lights. I had to admit, it was a very pretty tree considering it wasn't real. I didn't have the great pine smell in my house like I had with the real tree, but it was worth it. I was very pleased.

After several years, some of the lights didn't work. That was ok, we could put them towards the back, hang a few extra ornaments and hide the fact that they weren't working. However, this year, when we set up the tree, over 400 of our 1200 lights didn't light. Almost half of our tree was dark....hmmmm....this wasn't going to work. Wes worked hours trying to coax them into working. He changed bulbs, fuses, went one by one - but to no avail.

We decided to just add new lights to the tree. However, they didn't match well with the old ones and it was very hard to get them on the tree around the prelit ones. They kept getting all tangled up. We really still liked our tree and didn't want to get rid of it, so we decided to take off all the prelit lights and then replace them with our own.

Once we started trying to take the lights off, we realized that every light was held onto the tree by 2 clips (which had to be taken off with pliers). Do the math - that's 2400 clips. It took Wes and I 8 hours to take off all the lights. By that time, I was so frustrated, I told him to put it back in the box......don't even want to deal with it anymore. This is how my whole year had been - and I wasn't going to go through it with this stupid tree. So, we boxed it up and sent it back to the shed. We just weren't going to have a tree this year - whatever, that was par for our lives this year. Why would Christmas be any different?

After a couple of days, Wes and I came home from shopping and guess what? There was this beautiful decorated REAL tree in my house. Austin, Shawna, Ashlynn, and the babies had come to my house while I was away and set up a beautiful tree for me. My heart soared. My kids loved me enough and knew I needed a tree - even when I didn't know I needed it. They gave up their evening to go pick out a tree (in the rain and cold), buy a stand and lights, go to my house, set it up and decorate it.

I'm pretty sure this will be the best tree ever. I don't think you could ever top it. It's not that it's the most beautiful tree I've ever seen, but the love that eminates from it is staggering. Just another way God is present....He asked my kids to show me how much He loves me. I am overwhelmed.

Looking Back

A few weeks ago, Brendon invited Wes and I to go hear Dennis Jernigan in concert. Dennis is a modern day psalmist and we first heard of him in the early 1990's when we had just moved to the DFW area and were attending Restoration Church. Our worship leader at that time would sing many of Dennis' songs which ministered to our very dry and weary hearts.

Dennis began his concert that night with a great "oldie but goodie". One we used to sing all the time at Restoration. Then he began to share his heart and it was quite obvious that God was speaking to us through Dennis. Our hearts were so burdened and heavy that night. Dennis kept saying, "I usually don't sing this song at a concert....this is one of my songs that I just sing to the Lord. But I keep hearing God tell me I need to sing it tonight." He would sing his song, and Wes and I both could feel God washing our hearts, soothing the broken pieces and making His presence so real to us. The one song that touched me the most was titled, "It's Gonna Be Alright, Child." As I cried through the whole song, I kept asking, "Really, God? It really can be alright, because it sure doesn't seem like it can be." And He is right there - comforting and saying, "Yes...just trust me."

Then Dennis would go back and sing another song from the past. All of a sudden, God started showing me what all He had brought us through to get to the DFW area - from Wes stepping away from a very successful military career, to being hired at American Airlines, to leaving a denominational church which we both had grown up in to a church who sought after the Spirit, to pulling our kids out of school and homeschooling. It was amazing what He had done for us in a short time period. God kept saying, "I took good care of you then. You didn't think it could ever happen. And look how good it turned out. So, if I could do it back then and I've never let you down, I can get you through this one."

At the end of the concert, Dennis said something I have heard a million times, but it sunk in this time.....don't go back and live in the past - but go back and remember. Remember what God has done for you. We had the opportunity to go back and remember that night and we both walked out renewed. The fight was still ahead of us....but we remembered who was fighting for us. He had done it in the past and He was going to do this again.

How thankful we are that Brendon got tickets for us that night! Did he hear the Father tell him that his parents needed to be at that concert? I think so! I love to watch the Father work in my kids and watch them respond. It was an evening of incredibleness - not sure if that's a word but that's what it was.

It's Gonna Be Alright - Dennis Jernigan

It's gonna be alright, child
Even through the darkest night, child
I'll even use the darkness
To teach you how to hear Me

It's gonna be alright now
Even if you don't see how
I'll even use your failure
To help you to draw near Me

So, hear Me, I am calling
Child, come falling, deeper in love with Me
Trust Me, you must let go
Or you will never know, any deeper love in Me

It's gonna be alright, yeah
If you will let Me hold your heart near
I'll even use your sorrow
To teach you how to love Me

It's gonna be alright, child
I'll hold you really close and tight, child
I'll even use your worries
To help you know more of Me

So, hear Me, I am calling
Child, come falling deeper in love with Me
Trust Me, you must let go
Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

Why do you hold on to the things of your past?
Let go and cling to Me and love that will last
How can you know Me if you do not trust My love?
Let go - you'll find My love is more than enough

Hear Me, I am calling
Child, come falling deeoer in love with Me
Trust Me, you must let go
Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

And it will set you free

It's gonna be alright, now
Even if you don't see how
I'll even use your failure
to help you to draw near Me

Incredibly Hard Year

This has been a hard year for the Neelys, and it has really intensified these past 3 months. Our faith has been tested on many levels and I'd love to say that we came out smelling like a rose....but that wasn't always the case. I've had (and honestly, still do have) so many questions for God. So many things that I don't understand....experiences that we've gone through that don't seem to have any reason for them. There were days that Wes and I were just numb....didn't understand at all why.....didn't understand why it seemed like He was remaining quiet. Days where you want to sit in the corner and just cry.

There are too many things to write what's going on, but the biggies: Church relationships being tested beyond reason, my health, American Airlines going bankrupt, the sale of our house falling through, my dad moving in with us, and 2 grandbabies possibly going back to their birth parents.

So, of course, the devil throws all kinds of arrows at you......God doesn't love you anymore....You're not so special afterall....You've must have done something pretty bad for Him to turn His back on you. Wes and I both know that these are lies. But when you are being bombarded over and over and over....sometimes it can be so very hard to fight.

But that's where friends and family come in. I don't know what I would have done without my two best girlfriends. I can't tell you what it means when they come up to you, hug you, and say, "I just heard what's going on with you. You're not walking through this alone. I am here to walk with you". When you feel you can't get back up again, they grab your arms - pull you up and help you walk - never leave your side - even fight for you when you're just not able.

Then it becomes very clear......God is near.....He is walking through it all with you.....and He's chosen your friends to be a physical presence for you. He never promised that life would be easy, but He did promise that He would provide and be there.

He has shown Himself very faithful (again).

No, most of these "problems" have not gone away. If anything they have intensified. But, we're not walking alone and it will be alright. We've had our faith stretched further than it seemed possible.....but when we thought we could stand no longer......He would send along words of love. You'll see what I mean in my next two blogs.