Grateful Praise #2: The Star–My Christmas Story (and A Love Story, of Sorts)

The sun outshines it (2) (800x576)

It’s been almost three months since I last posted, and as is usual for that situation, I’ve made an already long time longer yet.  That’s because the more time there is between posts, the more I feel that I must write something brilliant to make up for my slothful ways which means, of course, that I become paralyzed because, well…nothing I write seems brilliant enough.

But who wants to hear yet again about my silly neuroses?  How about a Christmas story?

Yes, I know that Christmas was, like, over a month ago, and possibly no one wants to hear a Christmas story in almost-February, but that’s what I’m feeling thankful for right now, so I reckon a Christmas story is what you’re getting.  Even worse, I suppose, haha, it’s not even a fresh Christmas story.  It happened two years ago.  Nevertheless…

Longtime readers of my blog know that we’ve had a bit more than our share of hard times, so I won’t rehash those.  Suffice to say, it’s sometimes been a challenge for us to stay hopeful, though we have remained ever thankful for our many blessings.  So, two years ago a few weeks before Christmas, when Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said, “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe some good luck?”

“I’m afraid I’m fresh out of good luck, ma’am,” said Tom.  “But how about some elf magic in the workshop?”  (As most of you know, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man is a carpenter and handyman, and I have more than once been the lucky beneficiary of his handiwork.)

I thought for a second and said the first thing that popped into my head.  “Well, you know I’ve always wanted a star.”

We’d talked about it before.  Ever since we lived in Roanoke, Virginia, known as “Star City of the South” (because of the huge illuminated star that shines over the city from atop Mill Mountain) I’d been yearning for our own star.  But we’d had a lot on our plate since then, and there had been scant time for star building.

Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man frowned.  I could tell he had something a little more modest in mind.

I was about to tell him it was okay—something else (maybe some shelves?) would be fine, when I thought No.  A star—a big glowing, shining, radiant star—was exactly what I needed.  What we needed.  Something to remind us that there is always hope, to help us remember to always keep our eyes steadfastly on the light.

Tom sighed. “Okay…sure.”  He’d seen that look in my eyes before. “A star it is. I’d better get started.”

It took him a lot longer than he thought it would.  Stars—at least the kind that perfectionistic carpenters that take great pride in their work make—are harder than you’d think to construct.  Thank goodness we had a couple of crackerjack mathematicians in our family to consult about angles and such (Thanks, Benjamin and Cameron!)

I stayed out of Tom’s workshop in the weeks it took him to make our star because I wanted to be surprised.  I actually had no idea what it would look like, although I did know that this was not going to be some quick cardboard cutout covered with tin foil.  All I had asked was, if possible, to make it so it’d still look pretty in the daytime.  And to make it at least big enough that our neighbors could see it.  You know, in case they needed a little hope to hold onto as well.

When he brought the star out, his smiling handsome face shining right in the middle of it, I cried. It was splendid.  It was beautiful.  It was absolutely perfect.

The stars of the show! (2) (590x800)

Star Man--My hero (2) (587x800)

We got it up just in time for Christmas that year.  And after Christmas was over, we couldn’t bear to take it down.  So now it stays up year round.

We illuminate it, of course, during the Christmas season.  After all, that’s what inspired it.  The bright, shining star that led the shepherds and Wise Men to the baby Jesus is a beacon of hope and faith and salvation to many.  But we turn it on at other times, too.  It shines to show friends, traveling in the dark, the way to our home, and it glows to welcome our children back to the fold.  We turn it on to celebrate happy times and we turn it on to give solace in sad.  But mostly, it’s to inspire hope.  To help us (and perhaps others) remember that even in the gloom, there’s always a light somewhere.  To remember always to keep our eyes fixed on that light.  To remember that God is there, even when we can’t feel His presence.

And, too, when I see it, I think of who made it for me.  Anyone who’s been through extended hardship and pain will tell you that it can bring you closer to those you love, but it can also push you apart.  To be honest, it’s been a little bit of both for Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and me.  I’m not ashamed to say that—to pretend otherwise would seem disingenuous.  Looking at the star and remembering his dear face right in the middle when I first saw it reminds me of the love that brought us together twenty-six years ago.  I know that that love is still there, even when obscured by weariness, by sadness, by pain.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of remembering and focusing on the good, on the light.  Sometimes, love (the lasting kind, that is) is a conscious and committed choice.

I say “sometimes” because, as someone who stayed longer then I should have with an abusive man, I am painfully aware that sometimes, the only healthy choice is to leave, when you can clearly see that there is no light left in your relationship.  My years with Tom have been hard in many ways, and there are cracks, but…oh!…there is so much light shining through those cracks!  And I believe that when you both choose to turn to the light and remember the good, to be generous and forgiving, love and hope can and usually will prevail—love over hate, light over darkness—shining even in the darkest night.

Bright and shining star (2) (800x600)


18 Responses to “Grateful Praise #2: The Star–My Christmas Story (and A Love Story, of Sorts)”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Incredibly beautiful story AND writing. I love all your posts. They are uniquely YOU and always an inspiration to me. Please write more!

  2. Chris Says:

    That was brilliant in so many ways! Thank you.

  3. Betsy Adams Says:

    OH Beth, I LOVE LOVE LOVE it….. Ask him to make me one now…. ha ha (I wish!!!)…. It is absolutely gorgeous. That’s truly the best gift you could ever have gotten for Christmas… Thanks for sharing.

  4. bonniejacobs Says:

    I thought the light in the dark was the best of these photos, except the sunset beyond your star was so beautiful, except Tom’s face in the middle of the star was even better, except I really like the smile on his face in that other photo. Oh, shucks, each one is the best!

    As for the writing, it’s always so special. It’s been hard to write thank-you notes (without my dominant right hand) or to type (with only one hand), but I want you to know getting a get-well card from you made my day — actually for more than one day — and the card is still in a special place where I can look at it and feel better all over again. Thank you so much for being you. P.S. It was eight weeks ago today that I fell and shattered my shoulder. I’m getting better and can use my right hand and arm for light-weight things now.

  5. Kay G. Says:

    Dear Beth,
    What a beautiful post! So happy to see a post from you again!
    And I LOVE that star that Tom made, with his face right in the middle of it makes it even better. I am so happy that you decided to keep it there year round. YES! We need something to remind us to keep HOPE year round!!

  6. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Oh Beth, that was beautiful. I love how you left it up all year and how you light it once in a while. What a wonderful face Tom has! Just so you know, there have been plenty of times where Kurt and I bickered because we were under stress. That’s, in fact, when we do most of our bickering. But today he made me new barn doors. And I love him like you love Tom.

  7. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    As usual–HARD CORE and so gentle at the same time!!!

    I am pleased to the core to hear this. This makes me remember something they said about Jesus speaking in the temple–“they were amazed at the gracious words coming from his mouth.” Something about Jesus shone through the cracks in those people’s hearts. That’s our job, too, to speak those “gracious words”, to let people know the truth in kindness.

    I love you, always. And I agree with Chris.


  8. birdsandbenjamin Says:

    And I should also mention–is this OK?–your “slothful ways” paragraph really got me tickled–I know the back and forth “bickering” that our own minds throw against us, which you seem able to fend off much of the time with humor.

  9. Jeff Says:

    Beautiful, just beautiful, Beth. As I read, Leonard Cohen’s Anthem echoed in my mind.

  10. Jayne Says:

    I don’t blog so often anymore either my friend, and like you, sometimes don’t want to sit down to write and share just for the sake of something on the page. What a special story of your star and your light (in God, in Tom, in your kids). Oh, how we all see your light shine here, on us, and it’s such a blessing. Love you.

  11. Bikbik & Roro Says:

    O.. what a lovely story, dear Beth. What a star, and what a man! I love his sweet, beaming face! And my word, that star looks so uplifting and beautiful against the night.

  12. Rebecca Says:

    Wow! Uncle Tom is so talented! I’ll bet he could build my Sylvanians an awesome treehouse 😀

  13. Plowing Through Life (Martha) Says:

    Beth, I can’t tell you how much this story touched me. How beautiful this is! How amazing that star is, and how amazing your husband is. He looks so proud of his work, but more than that, he looks so happy to have done this for you. And that, my dear, is what love is all about 🙂 This is a wonderful Christmas (and love) story fit for any time of the year. Thank you for sharing it. I love the last image of it all lit up!

  14. CountryDew Says:

    Lovely writing, as always, Beth. I don’t know how I missed this post, I thought I had checked your blog not long ago. Time must have passed more quickly than I thought! I love your work and wish you’d write more – I strongly suspect anything that flies from your fingers would be a thing of beauty.

  15. Ana Says:

    oh Beth, this is amazing!! I love it so much!

  16. Ana Says:

    Beth, Benjamin’s statement just touched me in such a deep level that words will never be able to describe… he was young and already so full of wisdom.

  17. Ginger Says:

    Thank you for sharing. True and real. And lovely.

  18. Clara Melvin Says:

    My Dear Beth, Here it is almost July and I am just now reading this post. Shame on me! What a story. I’m so glad I found it today. It brightened up my whole being. Maybe I will get back into blogging. I miss my blogging friends!

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