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.
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.