Monday, December 08, 2008

A Lonely Lighting

I did something today I have not done in 25 years. I put lights on the Christmas tree all by myself. Since my first son was old enough to walk, I have engaged my children in helping with this holiday duty. First Matt, then Josh, then for many years my "right hand man" Benjamin, then in the last few years Bethany; each has been my assistant tree-light hanger.

Today, after a week trying to find a time when Bethany could help me, I used some time on my day off to do it myself, pensive and brooding the entire time.

You see, I love Christmas trees. I have two rules for Christmas trees:

1) Use a real tree! Artificial trees are for artificial people. (I do not understand why people get mad or offended when I say that - do you?) A tree needs to die to provide me Christmas spirit!

2) Hang the lights, baby! Keep hanging lights until the tree becomes a serious fire hazard, then add two or three more strands. My hero is Chevy Chase's character in "Christmas Vacation" who blew the power in the whole block with his Christmas display.

For some unknown reason, the Christmas tree has been crucial to me.

And the help of my children has been one of my greatest joys. We have always had a great time adding string after string after string after string to the tree. Once, Ben and I put 15 or 16 100 light strings on a regular 7 foot tree. It was luminous.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really not sad. I understand that my kids just don't have the time anymore.

Matt is off to his grad studies researching how to make computers think and make "The Terminator" a reality. He and Catherine seem happy.

Josh is reveling in being a newlywed, and is about to graduate from Liberty and head to Southeastern Seminary.

Ben, well what can I say? We are glad to have him home, having expected he would be off to college this year. When a local school gave him a full-ride music scholarship, he stuck around. So, all in all, its a plus. But he is going to school (most of the time), is co-director of the prep show choir at the school he graduated from in May, is practicing hard so his band can become the next Casting Crowns, and is starring in "Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings" in the local theatre. (If you are in the Sioux City area in the next couple of weeks, you HAVE to attend - it is one of the most enjoyable musicals you will ever attend.) That was what dominated his time this week and prevented him from helping out with the lights.

Bethany is involved in 6 different extracurricular theatrical productions and has been just about as busy as Ben. So, my most recent assistant hasn't had much time to help her old man with the lights either.

So, I did it myself.

But that's okay. And that's my point today. Life changes, and that's okay. Remember the old light-bulb jokes? "How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb?" "Change? Change? We liked the old light bulb!"

I loved it when my kids were little. I loved watching them grow up, coaching them in baseball, soccer, basketball and track. I have enjoyed my kids as teenagers. Now, they are grown up and busy and active, and I still enjoy them.

I'm glad Ben and Bethany are involved in the activities they are involved in. I'm proud of the people they have become.

But things have changed. Life is different. We sometimes try to prevent the process of change, at home and at church. Parents hinder their children from growing up, trying to maintain the authority they had when the kids were 3 when they have become 17. Churches resist change and so do church people. We don't want new music styles, or new programs, or new ways. Lets just keep things as they are.

We need to embrace change. Yeah, its a little sad that I didn't have an assistant for the lighting duty. But life is good these days. Why moan and groan that they aren't like they used to be? They are not, and never will be again. We can long for the good old days, or we can embrace the days to come. Its hard to do both.

So, the lights are on the tree. Ben is practicing with "Rocks Cry Out" (his band). Bethany is at "Royal Players" finishing their skits for Magdrigal this week. Jenni and I are home alone. And life is good.

Now, if I could just get one of those two older kids to make me a grandpa. Then, I will no longer have to light the tree alone!

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