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The first year I lived in Colorado, I was 22 and fresh out of college. My sister, who was in high school at the time, came out to visit me at Thanksgiving, and we bought some decorations to spruce up my one-bedroom apartment. We got twinkle lights, fake-pine garlands and some red velvet bows — it was all very exciting. But the crowning glory was the tree. The two-foot glimmering, shimmering fiberoptic tree with a snowflake garland.
For the next nine years, I “decked the halls” with that tree — through five different residences. And though it was admittedly a bit paltry for a Christmas tree, I didn’t mind. It had sentimental value. And every year I took a trip back to my home state of Washington for Christmas, where I could enjoy the real tree at my parents’ house.
This past weekend, as my husband and I decorated for Christmas (and the little ones "helped" by removing ornaments from the tree), I placed that little tree in a corner. And as I adjusted its snowflake garland and a little more glitter sprinkled off, I realized something — this was my “single Christmas tree.” That little tree got me through a lot of lonely Christmases. And though it carries the bittersweet memories of holidays on my own, it also feels a lot like an old friend. It reminds me of how much God has done in my life — both through my single 20s and now in my 30s, which include a husband and children.
Friends, it can all change so quickly. In “Alone for the Holidays,” I talked about how the holidays were always a hard time for me to be without my own family. I wrote these words about the Christmas before I began dating my husband:
"As I snuggled up on the couch with a blanket and watched my nephews tear into their gifts, I had no idea that my future husband was experiencing his own melancholy Christmas back in Colorado. That we would meet for coffee three short weeks later.
"Though my attempts at holiday happiness had been futile, God knew what I needed. Though I was weary of spending Christmases alone, God knew that it was the last one. And though I glimpsed the promise dimly, He was already fulfilling it."
I think that’s the reminder of my little tree. God gave me just what I needed at every step of the way — even when it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for — and He continues to do so. My tree may look a little different now — a little bigger with a few new ornaments — but both trees shine brightly. And both remind me of God’s faithfulness.
How do you decorate for Christmas? Do you have any decorations that are especially meaningful to you?
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:D D'aww. I love this.
I am so looking forward to having a tree again! I remember the first year I moved out of my Mom and Dad's my best friend (and roomate) and I drove down to Jo-anns and bought ourselves a plastic pre-lit wonder with red-and-gold garland and kitty-friendly ornaments because we were GOING to have a Christmas tree, dagnabit! ;D I put that little tree up every year I lived with my roomates, and every year I was single.
... and the last two years, I haven't been able to put one up at all! Last year, we moved to Alabama and my stuff didn't join us until the first week of December, and this year all our stuff is in storage awaiting the move back to Ohio! All my fall decorations and Christmas decorations have been waiting in their plastic tubs for two years now. My husband helped me put up my Christmas tree the November we started dating and we haven't put one up together since! My "single Christmas tree" has never gotten the opportunity to blossom into my "married Christmas tree." I can't wait until next year, when our house will be done and we'll be able to put up OUR christmas tree for the first time ever. :3
I decorate! I got my Christmas tree my first year out of college, too - a $20 Target special. The box brags that it's "pre-lit", which really means that the wires of the light strand try valiantly to fill the gaping "you can see the wall behind it" holes between the branches. It's sort of a pathetic tree, but I love it and call it my Charlie Brown tree. :) I just place the ornaments strategically to hide the biggest gaps.
I have a few other decorations I put out, but my condo is small, so it's not many. However, this year I'm really excited to display my nativity set (tonight, actually!). It's the one my parents bought when we lived in Europe when I was tiny. We've had it practically my whole life, but they've always made comments that they don't love that particular one (it was the best they could find at the time, I guess), and they'd like to replace it someday. So *I've* always said that when they do, I want the old one. I guess it has more sentimental value to me than them. Anyway, they quite unexpectedly gifted it to me on my 30th birthday this spring, so this will be its first December in a new home.
Each year I kind of waffle and debate whether I want to take the time and energy to put up the tree, when it's just for me, and I'm not home that much anyway. But then I always decide that it would be much more sad to forgoe those traditions just becuase I'm the only one in the house.
--Well-done. That little tree is an "Ebenezer" of sorts for you.
--Great post :) but you always do write from the heart and it touches hearts. I am in the place of being alone and far away from family and this season is making me miss them more this year. But as you said God can change my singleness any moment, its been 3 Christmases with out family away from home and it always gets me down to think how many more lonely Christmases life will bring but :) the hope is this might be the last one or not but the God I love who is so faithful through all the seasons is always there and faithful. Thanks for the post, very encouraged. Merry Christmas Suzanne to you and your lovely family.
--I love Christmas, and I love Christmas decorations. Last year was my first Christmas in my own place, so I had fun with the decor...I put up a 6-foot live tree and everything! This year, though, I can't seem to get in the Christmas spirit. I haven't put up a tree at all so far, and I honestly don't know that I'll bother with any decorations.
--It's kind of funny that I came across this at this time of the year, especially with how I have been feeling lately. It is almost as if it was written just for me. Thanks for writing this and not forgetting about those of us who can't exactly feel the Christmas joy when we are facing yet another lonely holiday. And to add to that, facing yet another lonely birthday (I turn 30 this month).
I'm single. None of my prior relationships have panned out despite my best efforts. I am still patiently waiting for my future husband. I live far from home. I come from a broken home, so even the ability to go home to the family I do have over the holidays is not without its own heartaches. In the meantime I work hard and try to make the best of my situation. I have a pretty busy and active lifestyle. I try to be a good and true friend to others.
Nevertheless, I do grow weary, and this is the first year that I am certainly not in the holiday spirit. And no, I have not forgotten the real reason for the season (Jesus of course). But to be honest i am tired of having the same things happen to me over and over again. I have Christmas decorations (including a little tree with lights), but I have no desire to set it all up this year when I have no one to share it with. I have decided this year not to send out any Christmas cards. I used to send out tons of cards in years past, but realized that I was often at the bottom of other friend's cards lists, often times not getting any cards in return at all to let me know how they were doing. I have also sent out texts, calls, emails, Facebook messages and posts in the past to wish others well during the holidays and to see how they were doing, but hardly ever got a decent response in return. And no, it wasn't because they were too busy or preoccupied or somehow missed my messages - especially when I discovered that they were communicating with other friends without a problem. I hate to say this, but my circle of friends that I was once close with - the large majority got married and had kids, and since I was still remaining single despite my best efforts, I was eventually forgotten and left in the dust. I tried to be a friend and keep in touch, offering my time and support especially when the new babies came, but eventually it didn't matter.
As for my birthday this month...here I am turning 30, and my situation certainly isn't looking any better. I couldn't get friends together last year to celebrate those of us that had December birthdays (I guess everybody was busy and no one responded to my emails anyways), so I ended up spending my birthday alone. I anticipate a similar scenario this year - I have pretty much decided not to invite others to go out because I don't feel like being rejected again or cast aside simply because I'm not considered important enough in other people's lives or schedules. Yes, I realize everyone is busy, but at least I make the effort to make time for others, even when considered inconvenient.
The church I attend - I like the church but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a strong singles presence for my age group - I am a minority in a sea of couples and families....and everyone is too busy to make the effort to get to know the single person when they are busy with their own families or getting to know other families. Yes, I have made efforts to be friendly and introduce myself, but everyone is just...too busy to pay attention when you respond a quiet "no" to the key questions asked of you, primarily "Are you married?" And "Do you have kids?" Oh how I wish I could just go to church with my own family back at home...but sadly, even if I were living back at home, I wouldn't even be able to attend church with them due to the extenuating circumstances of a broken home.
Only Jesus truly understands my pain. Him and no one else. And how thankful I am to have Him, because more often than not He is the only true friend and reliable man that I have in my life. Everyone and everything else pales in comparison to Him.
To those of you out there, still single, and perhaps without good family support, anticipating yet another lonely Christmas and possibly a birthday, as well as other holidays throughout the year: remember that you are still a child of God, and you are just as valuable a human being as anyone else. You are still precious and cherished in His sight. He knows your pain, and He will see you through it. Let no one tell you otherwise. God's word trumps all other words. Other people may toss you aside as a single person, but God will never do that to you.
In the meantime....there are still a few small sparks of Christmas spirit still alive within me...I have been trying to contribute to different charities, donate Christmas gifts, and reach out and spend time with others who do welcome my time and friendship....cooking and baking with others and for others is uplifting for me because I love learning about preparing food and sharing it with others.
--Great post Suzanne. I love how you don't take for granted the gift of marriage since you were single all those years.
We decorate. ..but don't do the tree. I'm blessed to share a place with my sister and have family nearby.
I'll certainly think of and pray for those who are alone this Christmas.
Sweetsmile, I pray that God will bless you this Christmas.
--Christmas was always a big deal at my parents' house; and, while I lived with my maternal grandparents during the 2 1/2 years of Bible College, I dutifully helped my Grandma set up her tree, decorate, and distribute her 70 + snowmen throughout the house. When I got my own apartment, I found an excellent deal on a 6-foot Christmas Tree (fake & pre-lit), and decorated it with all the ornaments I'd collected since I was a kid. I cut out paper snowflakes (yes, like the ones you usually cut out in elementary school) and hung them in my windows. Then I went to the dollar store & the goodwill store got fake pine garlands, mini Christmas lights, and red velvet bows to hang in swags over my valances & doorways, and got materials to make my own wreath for my front door.
After those are all set up - Christmas cookie time! I don't have a lot of money, so many of my Christmas gifts & decorations are hand-made. :)
"I used to send out tons of cards in years past, but realized that I was often at the bottom of other friend's cards lists,"
Oh, my heart aches for you, because the same thing always happened to me. As a single, we have the time to think of all of the people we treasure and write them heartfelt cards. But they are busy with their spouses/children and sending out cards always falls to the bottom of their to-do lists. :(
I wrestled with this and ultimately decided that I send out cards because I WANT to stay in touch with these people, and even if it seems one-sided, they are still important to me. So I still send out the cards and if I even get one in return, I'm blessed.
You are in my prayers!
--Suzanne, there was one part of this beautiful post that resonated with me so much - reflecting on your last single Christmas.
I didn't know it, but last year was mine. It was the first year I didn't have all of the *angst* about being lonely. I was surrounded by family and felt so loved, even though I was the only single one. I didn't wonder when it would be my turn. I think God was telling me that next year it would be different. The peace was so amazing.
I thank God for that, that I was able to enjoy that special moment. Everything's changing now. In 2 weeks, my boyfriend and I will board an international flight and then he'll meet my family (all 50+ of them!) for the first time.
I offer this story as hope. I am 35 (eep!) and had many sad Christmases where I felt very alone. But God CAN change things and He did for me.
--I like to decorate my apartment with red and green streamers, wreathes, ribbons, lights, and a fake tree my cats chew on. Some Christians tell me its wrong to celebrate christmas no matter what, and that my decorations were an affront to their God. Well, I pointed out the sundry array of Christian symbols that used to be pagan (Darwinists weren't the first ones to borrow the fish symbol), then asked a question. I said, "do you really think the God who created everything and engineered our universe, the author of quantum mechanics, light travel, and the human genome, really cares how I decorate my living room?" I'm not sure how religious syncretism in christianity ever managed to produce what I call "the God of no nothing", but he keeps coming up in conversations during festive holidays, especially christmas. May we all enjoy our decorations this year. And if people don't decorate for christmas that's fine too.
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