Loving both Christmas and crafts, I was happy to help my friend Janie with her project of making new Chrismons for our church’s Christmas tree.
The Chrismon is a symbol used to represent Christ, and many churches use them in their holiday decorations. My church places these ornaments on a beautiful eighteen – foot tall tree in the sanctuary, but over the years, the Chrismons had become worn, and it seemed time to update the collection.
Various members volunteered to help, so a group of us made our way to Janie’s house one afternoon to get started. I had a little over an hour before I had to pick up my son, so I figured I would finish the ornament in about forty-five minutes and be on my way. If only it had been that simple.
Poor Janie’s beautiful house looked like a dozen Las Vegas showgirls had exploded inside the front door. There wasn’t a surface in her dining or guest rooms that wasn’t covered with sparkly gold sequins, beads, feathers or shiny glitter. Her poor little dog had fur dotted with gold and the carpet gave a little “crunch” when you took a step.
I chose to make a harp, in honor of our music director. Ten minutes into the project, I was highly annoyed and ready to tell the Music Director to make her own danged harp. Janie was the Nick Saban of Chrismons and insisted on perfection. Each individual tiny bead had to be pinned and glued in a precise manner onto the base she had cut from foam.
One by one, tinier and tinier, each bead was applied. Cross-eyed, with glue sticking my fingers together, I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“I’ll just have to come back another time to finish.” I told Janie as I zipped out the door. A few days later, I regained my determination and sat for two more hours working on the vexing Chrismon.
A holy attitude should have prevailed, but in all honesty, my thoughts were anything but pure. This project was far more time consuming and involved than I had bargained for, and I would have never volunteered for this kind of thing, had I known the persnickety details.
Days turned into weeks and finally poor Janie let me take my ornament home to finish. But even then, I was so busy with my regular life as a Mom, it was hard to find the time to complete the task.
Finally, Janie called and asked how my work was coming along. “I’m almost finished.” I said, with my fingers crossed. “Well, you have the last ornament and we really need to get it back as soon as possible.” Janie said. Wow. Talk about guilt. I’m never last at anything. As a matter of fact, I prefer being first place, star student. But not only wasn’t I near being finished, my harp looked like something that had been made by a four year old, who had run over it with his tricycle. Twice.
Begrudgingly, I sat and spent hours trying my hardest to get the little beads into a straight line. I took it to the porch for better lighting, but the sequins blew away. I dropped a tiny pin on the floor, and my beagle ate it.
After much agony and grief, the harp was completed. I delivered it to Janie who was merciful and kind, and didn’t complain about the tardiness or condition.
Then, a few weeks later, I walked into the sanctuary, and there it was.
The completed tree stood tall and caused all who saw it to catch their breath in amazement. Sunlight streamed through the nearby stained glass windows, causing the ornaments to sparkle so brightly we had to blink our eyes.
On the tree, hung an angel made by a woman who had just lost her husband to cancer and a dove crafted by a teenage boy from a broken home. A fish covered in sequined scales had been created by a man in his early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, whose wife lovingly assisted and guided his hands. There was a shimmering cross, made by a woman who had checked her son into a drug treatment facility earlier that month and a crown of pearls made by a lonely widower.
The tiny defects on the Chrismons had disappeared, and when grouped together, the ornaments looked stunningly beautiful. Like the crafters themselves, God had taken the blemished and broken to create something precious and valuable.
And there was my harp. Made by a busy, perfectionist, impatient and frazzled mother of teenagers.
That morning, I saw lessons of patience, perseverance and hope all hanging on the tree. And I was reminded that like the ornaments, we don’t have to be individually perfect to come together and form something beautiful in the eyes of God.
This story first appeared in the column, “Southern with a Gulf Coast accent” in the Gulf Coast Newspapers.