It hardly seemed possible. After 13 moves in 15 years and much fervent prayer, we finally purchased our first house. True, we'd barely squeaked into our humble home in the escalating California economy, but this house was something to call our own.
Finally, we had somewhere to put down roots, somewhere to actually plant all those Mother's Day roses that had followed us around, house after house, year after year, in their cramped mismatched pots.
And Christmas was coming! Walking into each house we rented over the years one of my first thoughts was always, Where will we put the Christmas tree? I loved celebrating Christmas! Nevertheless, deflated by the temporary nature of our stay in each rental, we'd never purchased Christmas lights to hang outside or a wreath for the door.
Finances were tight that first Christmas in our new home, and I made a commitment to God to joyfully make the most of our limited resources. As I scrambled and scraped to personalize it for the holidays, I longed to splurge on one thing—a wreath for the front door. It was our way of hanging out a shingle to say, we live here; we aren't just passing through.
While out grocery shopping one afternoon, I saw the perfect wreath. As I picked it up to admire it, my pledge to faithful, careful stewardship rose in my mind, as did a phrase from Hebrews 13:5—Be content with what you have. Holding the wreath, I weighed its symbolic significance against the pressing value of 12 dollars in our strained finances. Although it was inexpensive, I just didn't have the cash to buy it. Suppressing the inner rumblings of discouragement, I set the wreath down and purposefully walked away.
Throughout the following week, I tried to ignore the rise of disappointment each time I saw a house bedecked with Christmas finery, the inevitable homey wreath hanging familiarly against the front door. If God wanted me to have a wreath, I'd have one, I thought, trying to console myself. In the grand scheme of things eternal, it isn't important anyway. After all, it's only a wreath."
A week later, my husband came home from work, arms bulging with Christmas goodies from his clients. As our kids descended upon him, rummaging excitedly through the various gift bags in search of kid-friendly treats, I noticed some greenery peeking out from under one of the bags hanging on his arm.
"One of my clients gave us something I thought you might like," he said casually as he struggled to free it from the handles of the bag still on his arm. With a smile, he carefully laid a wreath on the kitchen table. It was the one I'd admired a week earlier!
I snatched it up with a cry of delight and joyfully praised God for it. I recounted the whole story for our children who tore themselves away from their goodies long enough to finger the wreath with wonder and a newfound appreciation.
The following afternoon, after several satisfying hours of creative effort, I hung it proudly on our front door, again praising God, whom I recognized as the true source of the treasured gift.
As I stood admiring it, I basked in the abounding blessings of obedience. I reflected on how easy it would have been to give in and buy it that afternoon, and then rationalize the small purchase. I remembered prior experiences of running ahead of God instead of waiting for his provision and the inevitable misery that had followed.
Gratitude to God welled in my heart as I savored the infinite sweetness of receiving my heart's desire from his hand instead of forcing it with my own—even for something as inconsequential as a Christmas wreath. Throughout that holiday season, our special wreath served as a visual reminder of God's personal provision and loving care for our family.
"O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?" (Psalm 144:3-4). Why does God go to such lengths to provide such insignificant items for us? They carry no deep theological weight of glory; they save no souls; they don't seem to further any ministry.
Yet, he provides them all the same. And he often produces them in such delightful, unexpected ways—as a parent surprising a beloved child with a special treat.
Perhaps that's just it. He's a father—a tender, compassionate father who knows exactly how to make each of his children feel really loved. And he doesn't need a reason to lavish his love on us, he just does it—freely, intimately and often when we least expect it. The apostle Paul sums it up well in Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" And I have a beautiful Christmas wreath to prove it.
Bethany Macklin is a freelance writer, speaker, and Christian leadership trainer (bethanymacklinministries.com). She writes women's Bible studies including "Anchoring in God's Attributes: A Safe Harbor." Bethany lives in Northern California with her husband and their two children.
Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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