The holidays have always been my favorite time of year, but this year I wasn’t looking forward to them. The separation from my wife began after Thanksgiving last year. So to me, it’s a reminder of the trials and tribulations of the last year and conjures up nothing but bad memories and dark emotions.
A few days before getting my kids, I covered an event called Festival of Trees in my work as a reporter. The annual event is a week-long charity Christmas tree display in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
I wasn’t particularly excited about covering it because it’s not anything new to people in this area. It’s well-attended every year, and has been a staple for 43 years. I would not have done it at all were it not for the fact that my family was going to watch my sister sing at the event. I had to work anyway, so I thought if I covered this it would justify my being there.
It had been a difficult morning that day. For someone who has never been through a divorce, it’s hard to explain what happens to your emotions.
My ex-wife left a big hole in me. Things were said and done that left a lot of scars. There is anger. There is sadness. There is self-doubt and depression. There is loneliness.
I showed up at Festival of Trees to hear the sounds of Christmas. I did not want to hear it.
I made a few contacts, took some pictures and said a quick hello to my family. I did not want to be there any longer than I had to be.
When I paid for my ticket, the lady at the desk gave me an extra one so I could come back with my kids. If nothing else, it is something to do with them that is free, I thought.
I arrived with my children several days later. Every time my kids are here, we have to start over in establishing boundaries and limitations. Sometimes, it is a fight.
Again, it had not been the greatest morning.
I walked in the door with my kids to hear my daughter say, “Oh Daddy, I love it.”
She noticed Santa Claus was there. I could tell she was interested.
“If you sit on his lap, he’ll ask you what you want for Christmas, and deliver it to your house,” I told her.
“Would you like to sit on his lap?,” I asked.
“Maybe later,” she said. I knew that meant she wanted Santa to come, but wasn’t comfortable with the idea of sitting on the lap of a man she had never met.
After lunch, we looked at the Christmas trees. My daughter loved “The Dress” themed tree and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” My son liked the Donut tree.
As we began looking at the trees, my son pointed and exclaimed with joy, “Light!”
He was referring to the lights on the trees.
I was unusually impatient with my kids that day. When they are here, I make every effort to smile and laugh. They have been through enough in the last year. The last thing they need is a father who is constantly telling them to “stop” or “be quiet,” or other similar statements.
I don’t know why it was so hard to put up with it that day.
On our way home, we made a stop at the Visitor’s Center for the Idaho Falls Temple. (Read my post from a few months ago for an explanation about the temple).
We watched a movie about a man who works with horses. His job is to help abused and neglected horses learn to trust him. He talked about how his job teaches him about the nature of God. He was talking about his relationship with the horses compared to his relationship with his family.
“I want these horses to want to be with me,” he said.
He expressed awe at how submissive the horses become toward him. They learn to trust him and feel secure in his care.
The message was, if he could be as submissive to God as these horses are to him, what a great relationship he would have with God.
That led the film to a discussion about his family
His wife commented about the importance of fathers in the life of a child.
“Some kids grow up without a father in the home,” she said.
I looked down at my son, who was looking at me. The look on his face was one of love. I don’t know why he chose to look at me right at that moment. To me, the message of that act was, “I love you, daddy. I trust you. I feel secure in your arms and I want to be with you.”
After the movie, my kids gravitated to a ten foot statue of Jesus in the room. My daughter sat down at his feet and said, “I love Jesus. Will you take a picture while I sit here?”
Gladly, I obliged her.
My son looked up at the statue and down at his feet.
“Toes,” he said.
“Yep,” I responded. “And hands and fingers and eyes.”
The message I hoped they were receiving was that Jesus, the Father of us all, is as real and as tangible as me, their biological father.
We sat in front of “Jesus” as we listened to a recording of his words in scripture,
“Ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
That’s when I remembered my son’s excited explanation of “light” earlier that day.
Jesus Christ, the “light of the world,” was teaching me about his love, and inviting me to trust and to follow him.
This morning, I found my daughter had made a Christmas tree out of Tinker Toys.
This was significant to me in a couple of ways. Not only had she remembered “the light” of the Christmas trees from a few days ago, she was also experiencing Christmas joy with tinker toys, a childhood memory which I’ll share in an upcoming post.
I am so excited to decorate a tree with my kids this week, and share the excitement of “the light” with them.