Category: Uncategorized

Now Hiring: Communications/Administrative Specialist

Now Hiring: Communications/Administrative Specialist

A new position has been created as a result of Sean Langdon’s departure from the Mission Center Leadership Team. This position represents some of the responsibilities Sean held, as well as some of Ashley Whitham’s current responsibilities, and will be primarily an administrative position. Please see the Position Description for full details of responsibilities, qualifications, and duties.  Starting salary range: low- to mid-$40K’s, depending on qualifications.

If you are interested in applying for this position, please submit a letter of interest and resumé to Jill Brunette at jbrunette@cofchrist-gpnw.org.

This vacancy is open until filled. Please contact Kim Naten at knaten@cofchrist-gpnw.org if you have any questions.


<strong>Calling for a Rustic Re-do</strong>

Calling for a Rustic Re-do

As Community of Christ summer camps wind down for the year, let’s all take a moment to reminisce about sharing laughs with family and friends, singing songs at the campfire, delicious meals in the dining hall, and enjoying the nature of our beautiful campground. If you stayed in a rustic cabin, you may also remember the sore back from an uncomfortable mattress, or the stuffy and dark cabin with it’s tiny windows that never open when you want a breeze, but refuse to close when it gets too chilly. Ah, the joys of camp! 

While of course we have a soft spot for the original rustic cabins that we all know and love, the camp is in the process of refurbishing and updating those beloved cabins. Updates include: new (and more effective!) insulation, bigger windows, new doors, added electrical outlets with USB ports, and super comfortable double beds (no more smacking your head on a bunk bed in the morning!). The refurbished cabins are brighter and more comfortable, as well as more energy efficient and environmentally sustainable, all of which contributes to the longevity of our beloved campground. 

While those of us who grew up attending camps at Samish may have a nostalgic fondness for the rustic cabins, those who attend the campground and retreat centre for the first time as an adult may not understand the appeal. This includes newcomers to Community of Christ camps (or aging C of C campers who don’t have the same tolerance for those rock hard bunks!), as well as many of the new groups that share our gorgeous campground. Did you know there are Buddhist retreats and artist groups that frequent Samish? I can understand why these groups would love our campground, and can also imagine that these groups would appreciate a more comfortable, modern, and accommodating private place to continue the zen and creativity. 

Some rustic cabins have already been refurbished (check out A, B, C, and D 1 or 2 next time you’re on the grounds!) and the next round of refurbishment is set to begin in October. We are lucky and grateful to have had all of the labor done by camp friends who have lovingly volunteered their time, as well as some who have donated or reduced the price of materials. Only $3,600 (USD) covers the cost of a cabin refurbishment, which buys increased comfort, energy efficiency, and appeal to a wider audience. Consider making a donation, either personally or with your family or congregation, to help update our rustic cabins so everyone can continue to enjoy the campground for years to come. Every dollar helps! 

If you would like to contribute to the rustic cabin refurbishment fund, please contact Jeff Cravy (Samish Island Camp Treasurer, siriusandpenny2@gmail.com) or Bill Campbell, (Samish Island Camp Board President, kayzeta@gmail.com) to arrange donations. 

Sean Langdon Elected to Serve as Chair of Board of Directors of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon 

Sean Langdon Elected to Serve as Chair of Board of Directors of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon 

Submitted by GPNW USA MC President Kim Naten

It is with great pleasure that I share with you the news that Sean Langdon, Invitation Support Minister, Camping Ministries Director, and part of our Mission Center Leadership Team, was recently invited to serve as Chair-elect for the Board of Directors for Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO). After some prayerful consideration and conversation with the rest of the Mission Center Leadership Team, he accepted the nomination. On Wednesday, February 2, Sean was elected by the Board of Directors during their Annual Meeting to serve in this role, beginning in April 2022. This position serves in a 3-year leadership cycle (each cycle running from April to March): Chair-elect (2022), Chair (2023), and Immediate Past Chair (2024).  Sean has served on EMO’s Board of Directors since 2019, sitting on the Theological Dialogue & Education Committee during that time. During the period in which Sean will be serving as Chair-Elect and Chair, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon will be searching for, and hiring, a new President and will celebrate its 50th Anniversary as an organization. In his new position, Sean will play an integral and significant role in each of these major events. This is a volunteer position, so (happily) Sean will continue serving in all of his current Mission Center responsibilities. Below is a brief description of each of the roles in which Sean will serve EMO over the next 3 years:

  • Chair Elect – The Chair Elect shall serve as chairperson of the Personnel Committee and perform such other duties as may be presented from time to time by the Board. The Chair Elect shall succeed to office of Chair upon expiration of the Chair’s term. In the event of the permanent absence of the Chair, the Chair Elect shall serve the unexpired term of the Chair, in addition to the Chair Elect’s scheduled term as Chair.
  • Chair – The Chair shall preside over all meetings of the Board and shall discharge such other duties as may be prescribed from time to time by the Board. The Chair shall designate the members and Officers of each standing committee, and of each other committee created by the Board from time to time.
  • Immediate Past Chair – The Immediate Past Chair shall serve in the temporary absence of the Chair, serve as chairperson of the Board Governance Committee and perform such other duties as may be prescribed from time to time by the Board.

Please join me in congratulating and expressing prayerful support for Sean as he prepares for this new responsibility within the ecumenical community. I know that he will bring many gifts and blessings to his new role with EMO, and that we will be richly blessed as well. 

“We Shall Overcome” | Racial Justice Week 2022

“We Shall Overcome” | Racial Justice Week 2022

In January 2021, the Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center sponsored its first Racial Justice Week. It was a week of storytelling, education, awareness, worship, and dialogue. Since then, we have continued the conversation with the “Healing Justice” series, a look at how the criminal justice system negatively impacts and targets communities of color and the healthier approach of restorative justice. With January of the new year just around the corner, we are ready to share plans for “We Shall Overcome”, Racial Justice Week 2022.

If you have questions about any of these events, please contact Sean Langdon (425-293-6366 | slangdon@cofchrist-gpnw.org)

Wednesday, January 12 | 7 – 8 PM (PST)
Faith & Formation presents “Global Theologies”
During Racial Justice Week, Faith & Formation will begin our winter series on exploring global theologies by first looking at Liberation Theology, which has its roots in Latin America, and how Christians sought a relationship with God that emphasizes freedom from the oppressive systems around them. 

To join this event, click here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/119087405?pwd=RjkrWG9LWHRQTXY5clk4MGYwY083dz09

Alternatively, join the conversation by phone: 1-253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 119 087 405
Passcode: 508636

Faith & Formation creates an online space for participants to go deeper on topics on various religious topics. This online opportunity for learning and discussion meets every Wednesday Evening and is facilitated by Ashley Whitham. Faith & Formation is a ministry of Community Connections.

Thursday, January 13 | 7 – 8:30 PM (PST)
“Healing Justice” Part 4
The final part of the four-part series exploring the themes found in the documentary “Healing Justice” from World Trust. From World Trust: “Healing Justice explores the causes and consequences of the current North American justice system and its effect on marginalized communities. The film walks back through the history of violence that has led to our current system, bringing into focus the histories of trauma – on a personal, interpersonal, community, and generational level. This powerful documentary addresses the school-to-prison pipeline, the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform, and the importance of healing and restorative practices.”

In Part 4 we will go deeper in looking at the practice of Restorative Justice and what to do with what we have learned from this series. This final session will be facilitated by Ron Harmon, Kim Naten, and Sean Langdon.

If you have not had a chance to view the documentary or would like to watch it again, we will play it at 5:45 PM (PST). The documentary is just over an hour in length.

To join this event, click here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/841448115?pwd=WDFQTzdIYWpPM0p1MWJyTlF0aHZDZz09

Alternatively, join the conversation by phone: 1-253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 841 448 115
Passcode: 043423

Footprints – Prayer March for Racial Justice!
We invite congregations and individuals to organize a Prayer March for Racial Justice in their communities on the weekend of Saturday, January 15-Monday, January 17 (MLK Jr. Day). For this Footprints, you and others will march through your community while pausing along the way to pray for various themes related to Racial Justice. Signs proclaiming themes related to Racial Justice and/or our Community of Christ Enduring Principles or Scriptures are encouraged.

If you or your congregation would like to organize a Prayer March on this weekend in your community, please contact Sean Langdon (425-293-6366 | slangdon@cofchrist-gpnw.org) to receive a recommended prayer march outline and to notify him of the day and time so it can be advertised more broadly. 

Footprints is a New Expression of Community and Fresh Expression of Ministry sponsored by the Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center focused on Community Prayer Walks.

Sunday, January 16 | “Foyer” Greetings at 6:15 (PST), Worship at 6:45 PM (PST)
Sunday Evening Community Connections Online Worship
Kathy Sharp leads this special Racial Justice Sunday Worship. Community of Christ Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chair Gwendolyn Hawks-Blue will bring the sermon. Join us for a worship that is sure to challenge and inspire.

To join this worship, click here:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/841448115?pwd=WDFQTzdIYWpPM0p1MWJyTlF0aHZDZz09

Alternatively, to listen to this worship by phone: 1-253-215-8782
Meeting ID: 841 448 115
Passcode: 043423

Tuesday, January 18 | 7-8 PM (PST)
Holy Hangout
This Sr. High Youth and College-aged Young Adult event will watch and explore the themes found in TheoEd Talks presents “The Double-Sided Pursuit of Racial Justice” featuring Austin Channing Brown. In this TheoEd talk, “Austin Channing Brown offers a compelling look at what the journey towards justice entails in an era of rising racial hostility.” (TheoEd Talks video description).

Dane Mahi and Tamara Benedict co-lead Holy Hangout. Youth and College-Aged Young Adults can contact either of them or Sean Langdon for the Zoom link.

Dane Mahi (541-974-2836) | Tamara Benedict (541-515-8231)
Or email them at holyhangout@cofchrist-gpnw.org

Sean Langdon (425-293-6366 | slangdon@cofchrist-gpnw.org)

Holy Hangout is an online Sr. High Youth and College-aged ministry sponsored by Community Connections for the Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center that takes place on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of every month during the school year.

Giving Tuesday is Just Around the Corner

Giving Tuesday is Just Around the Corner

As originally posted on Community of Christ Webpage.

Join us on 30 November!

Giving Tuesday is a global event that raises millions each year for a variety of organizations. Community of Christ has participated for several years, and we have watched with gratitude as contributions have grown.

A generous matching contribution of $250,000 has been pledged this year. For example, when $25.00 is contributed to Worldwide Mission Tithes that $25.00 becomes $50.00.

Any donation helps! 

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

USA
Donate to Worldwide Mission Tithes on Facebook and by mail. Contributors also can give through eTithing and through text by sending a message to 1-844-964-1444.
 
CONTRIBUTION UPDATES
We will share contribution updates on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Thank you, in advance, for helping us celebrate Giving Tuesday!

Opening Prayer | 2021 Collins Summit

Opening Prayer | 2021 Collins Summit

Sean Langdon offered the following prayer to open the annual
2021 Collins Summit, sponsored by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon,
on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. This year’s Collins Summit focused on
“Christian Nationalism: Exploring the Dangerous Union of Church & State.”

Oh, Holy One, Sacred Guide, Loving Parent,

Whether it be physically present in this space or connected by your Holy Spirit through the power of modern technology, what a blessing it is to be in community tonight. To Learn. And to Grow together. But also, to continue the uncomfortable but necessary journey of deconstructing our fears and prejudices and the lies that our history has taught us and make way for truth to be born. Truth that comes from listening. Truth that comes from awareness. Truth that inspires an intention to seek forgiveness for the sins, not only of our own, but of those who have come before us.

God, we know that much harm has been done in your name. We know that your name has been used in ways that have brought fear, and pain, and distress, and God, yes, even death, to your children and this earth. We confess of the ways that we might have been players of this sin in the past and in the present, whether it be directly so or standing by and ignoring your nudge to stand up, speak, and do something about it. We know, O God, that this sin that I speak of is often perpetuated by religion and people who claim to follow you, but it is not of you. So as a people of faith may we not only confess of what has been and what is, may we commit to you and to our brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings in communities near and far at this time, and always, to do better. To be better. To build better. And again, to always listen better.

May we open ourselves now to letting your Holy Spirit not only flood the places that we gather from tonight but also the vessels of humanity that is each and every one of us. May we be open to the ways in which the spark of the Divine is igniting in us a new but continued sense of urgency to live out the holy text from the Prophet Isaiah that informed the mission of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 4.

“For the The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And just as this text was Christ’s mission statement, may it be ours as well.

Oh God, there is much darkness in your land but there is also hope and light. May our eyes be open to the realities of the world around us but with a resolve to respond in ways that upholds the dignity of story and person and concern.

Oh, Holy One, I’m reminded of a beloved hymn that we now sing often in my faith community. May the text from that hymn be our plea and resolve at this time. 

Come and bring light to a people in darkness. Come, set us free from the chains we have made. We are your people, the flock that you tend. Lord, open our eyes once again.

To the ones brokenhearted, To the plight of the poor, To the innocent children: Open our eyes. Teach us compassion and love.

To the victims of violence, To the ones who seek justice, To those sitting in prison: Open our eyes. Teach us compassion and love. 

When a color divides us, When the darkness surrounds us, When we choose to look elsewhere: Open our eyes. Teach us compassion and love.

To those full of life’s sorrow, To the needs of the lowly, To the ones who seek peace: Open our eyes. Teach us compassion and love. 

To those suffering illness To those trapped by addiction, To those lost or forgotten: open our eyes. Teach us compassion and love.

Come and bring light to a people in darkness. Come, set us free from the chains we have made. We are your people, the flock that you tend. Lord, open our eyes once again.

May it be so. Amen.


To watch the 2021 Collins Summit, click here: https://youtu.be/-K7pyY2tUYI.

From Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon:

At the 2021 Collins Summit we explored the challenging topic of Christian Nationalism, the belief that the United States is defined by Christianity, and the government should work to keep it that way.  Our speakers Kristin Du Mez, New York Times bestselling author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, and Kaitlin Curtice, author of Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God offer their unique perspectives on Christian Nationalism, helping us to understand it and imagine a better way forward.

GPNW USA MC Conference 2021

GPNW USA MC Conference 2021

As a spiritual venture, boldly follow the initiatives into the heart of God’s vision for the church and creation.
Then, in response to growing insight about God’s nature and will,
continue to shape communities that live Christ’s love and mission.
– Doctrine & Covenants 165:1b –

 As we have journeyed through this pandemic, we have experienced profound loss. Loss of social interaction, “in person” worship and potlucks, camps and reunions, sacred and important life celebrations, and even people close to us. With the pain also comes the blessing of awareness and opportunity for new beginnings. This period of time has also invited us to journey inward and take a closer look at what matters most in preparation for the outward journey of mission that invites us forward. This journey is cyclical and is foundational for the path of the disciple. It is with this understanding that our online mission center conference this November will explore the theme of “A Spiritual Venture: Discern, Discover, Do.” Inspired by Doctrine & Covenants 165:1, we will examine three different areas of spiritual venture in which we are engaged. As we gather on Zoom for a Moment of Blessing and Delegation Orientation on Saturday morning, November 6, we will focus on the theme of “DISCERN: A Vision is Set Before You.” As we move into the afternoon, “DISCOVER: In Harmony with Christ’s Mission” will guide us through our Business Meeting. On Sunday morning, November 7, we will experience an invitation to respond at the Pastors Breakfast and Communion Worship with “DO: Shape Communities that Live Christ’s Love and Mission.” As we close our conference weekend together, we will then circle back to our conference theme as we share in a closing campfire-style worship on Sunday evening. In preparation for our time together, we invite all who share in this spiritual venture of discipleship in Community of Christ to journey deeper with Doctrine & Covenants 165:1. One way to do this is to use the practice of Dwelling in the Word with this scripture passage at least once a week between now and conference. Click here to download. What new insight might you gain? Where is the scripture text inviting you to respond to mission? May our journey towards conference be just as important as our time together online during conference.

As was the case last year, this will be a Non-Delegate Conference, meaning all members in good standing are eligible to attend and vote on the business items being presented. Voters will need to meet the technological requirements of using zoom with video capability for the business meeting, plus an online voting website/app. If there are multiple voters in the house, multiple devices may be required for voting. There will not be a call-in option for conference. In addition to the proposed 2022 budget, you can expect at least 2 Resolutions from the Leadership Team to be presented.  

We are also excited to announce that Katie and Zac Harmon-McLaughlin will be our guest ministers for the weekend. As most of you know, Katie is the Director of Community of Christ’s Spiritual Formation Team, and Zac is the Dean of Seminary for the church. We are very much looking forward to them sharing with us in a variety of ways in November! 

As we always do, we are asking Pastors to send their “Good News” stories to us for inclusion in the conference packet. We would love to hear about what is happening in your congregations and New Expression groups! This year we would like all pastors to send your reports to your Cluster Leader (Sean, Donald, Ashley, or Kim).  If you are a New Expressions group, please send your stories to Sean. 

Downloads

Download Conference Flyer
Proposed 2022 Operating-Missional Budget and Explanation
2021 Statement of Financial Position
Proposed 2022 Congregational Allocations and Explanation
Proposed Resolution regarding Mission Center Contribution to Bridge of Hope Project
Proposed Resolution to Amend Operating Guidelines

Intergenerational Retreats 2021

Intergenerational Retreats 2021

Registration now open for GPNW Mission Center Intergenerational Retreats!

Numbers of COVID-19 cases have been on the decline, and our hope is that we can offer a healthy, safe opportunity to gather and fellowship again. Each of our campgrounds will be hosting a 3-night retreat, with relaxed schedule and lots of time to spend together. We’ll have classes, worships, campfires, and more! Contact the Directing Team if you want to get baptized at the retreat!


Remote Intergenerational Retreat
July 22-25, 2021
Directing Team Contact: Katie O’Keefe-Knobel
(541) 350-3258 | katieandmick@gmail.com

Retreat Fee: $45
To get all the information about the retreat, food service, and what to bring:
Download Information Packet
Register Online
Register by July 8th!


Samish Island Intergenerational Retreat
July 29-August 1, 2021
Directing Team Contact: Cindie Ellwanger
(253) 350-6206 | wangerx4@aol.com

Retreat Fees: $135 per camper 12+ (first 2)
$100 per camper 12+ (each additional)
$85 per youth 6-11
$10 per child 0-5
To get all the information about the retreat, food service, and what to bring:
Download Information Packet
Register Online
Register by July 15th!


Lewis River Intergenerational Retreat
August 1-4, 2021
Directing Team Contact: Ashley Whitham
(360) 521-4562 | awhitham@cofchrist-gpnw.org

Retreat Fee: $85 (Adults 12+)
$65 (11 and under)
To get all the information about the retreat, food service, and what to bring:
Download Information Packet
Register Online
Register by July 16th!

Samish Invitation for Volunteer Work

Samish Invitation for Volunteer Work

We know many of you have missed the privilege of going to the Samish Island Campground during this time of closures and restricted travel. While it’s true that the camp is essentially closed, the on-going tasks of maintenance and care still need to be done.  

If you are able, and would like to go to the camp and help with any number of tasks that need to be done, you can arrange to go there and spend a day or more helping with something you like to do. The jobs and tasks vary and we have a list of things that need to be done. 

It’s recommended that families or small groups go so as to comply with World Church, Mission Center and County health rules and guidelines. The Camp Manager can help you decide if your group fits the guidelines if you plan to go and spend time helping with work or projects at the camp. 

Make no mistake, we need lots of help especially since this will be the second year in a row where we have not been able to schedule the “work week.” Work Week has been where we’ve had many busy volunteers helping at the camp and we find our tasks are mounting with our lack of help.  

If you’d like to go and help, please contact the Camp Manager, Chris Steinel and make your arrangements. Chris’ email is samishislandcamp@gmail.com ; email is the best way to get a hold of him. 

Thanks for your support and help! Download Work List of Tasks

The Candy Tree

The Candy Tree

By Travis Rees, Salem Congregation

Family traditions usually have interesting roots, and Christmas traditions can often have much deeper roots.  My family has a tradition that was born out of a dark time.  But it can be the dark times that bring us closer together, and even put a spotlight on what is truly important.  That’s what happened when we invented The Candy Tree.

It was the winter of 2004.  We had just welcomed our sixth child and first boy into our family a couple of months earlier.  I had lost a great job about a year earlier, and I was trying to figure out where I fit in the world.  I was working a job that I wasn’t terribly happy with, doing commission sales.  Sales jobs have highs and lows… when things are great, they are great.  But the downturns can put you into a tight spot, especially if you’re not good with money.  I was terrible with money, and the last few months of 2004 was a downturn of abysmal proportion.  We were struggling just to pay our rent, and even had to seek public assistance to help with our utility bills.  The Salvation Army generously gave us a basket for each child so that they would have presents to open on Christmas.  But other than a few stocking stuffers, that’s all that our kids were going to get.  We couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree.

Even though times were tough, our bills were paid and, thanks to food stamps, our cupboards were full.  We would not be cold or hungry.  But knowing that all of our kids’ friends would be opening up bicycles and Playstations and the ‘cool toy of the year’ in a couple of days, while ours were getting a knock-off Barbie and a hat with matching gloves for Christmas had raised the tension in our home to a boiling point.  My wife, Steffani, and I were taking our frustrations out on each other.  The night of the 23rd, when we realized we were down to our last $5 in cash and about $20 in food stamps to last until after the New Year, our arguing got to a point that it might wake the sleeping children in the other rooms.   Steffani grabbed the keys and left- determined to do something about the bare Christmas we were about to have.

She had a plan to try and bargain her way into a Christmas Tree.  Even though the cheapest live trees we could find were in the $30 range, she proceeded with confidence that she could play on the sympathy of a local lot attendant, and trade our last $5 and a great sob-story for a tree.  She settled on a lot in a strip mall close to our home, and found it abandoned.  The ropes that cordoned off their section of the parking lot as well as the attendant that normally worked there were gone for the holiday.  All that remained were the cinder blocks that surrounded where the lot had been, and a few trees lying on the ground.  Knowing that these remaining trees would end up on a burn pile somewhere, and knowing that no one was going to come to bargain with her, she grabbed a tree and threw it into the back of our van.  Still possessing our last $5, she ran into the discount store to look for decorations.  She was able to find a couple of strings of twinkling lights for a dollar each. 

When she got home, she pushed the tree through our door and told me what had happened.  We grabbed our tree stand and put the tree up as quietly as possible so as not to wake the children.  We decorated it with the strings of lights and the few heirloom ornaments that we had.  We stood back to marvel at our tree and were both unimpressed.  Even with a few presents underneath it, the tree looked… barren.  The lights seemingly retreated into the boughs and the sparsely placed ornaments reminded me of the ‘sad’ Christmas tree from an old Charlie Brown holiday special.  We had to do something else.  We scoured the house, looking for anything that might make an acceptable substitute for a tree ornament.  But our search came up empty.  We thought of some ways we could make-shift some ornaments: frosted sugar cookies in sandwich bags and popcorn garland came to mind and was what we settled on.  Now feeling a little more optimistic, Steffani started baking, while I ran to the store in search of popcorn.

When I got to the grocery store, I saw the ‘seasonal’ aisle was still decked out in a Christmas theme, though the shelves were looking bare.  I walked down, just to see what they had.  To my surprise, everything that was on the aisle was on clearance sale, and one item struck my eye- it was the Christmas candy.  There were boxes of little Christmas chocolates- Santa’s and snowmen and reindeer shapes, wrapped in different colored foil.  They were on clearance for a quarter apiece.  I made the executive decision to abandon the popcorn strings and began filling my basket with discounted candy, making sure that there was one of each flavor for all 6 kids.  I used the calculator in my brain to track how much I was buying, making sure I didn’t exceed the $20 we had left on our food stamp card. 

When I pulled into the driveway with a sack full of candy, I felt like Jack when he came home with his beanstalk beans.  Tensions between my wife and I had died down since we formulated a plan, but I wasn’t sure if this deviation was going to escalate them again.  The opposite was true instead… she was thrilled.

She continued baking and cutting cookies into seasonal shapes, frosting them with different colors of icing she had made, while I carefully attached loops of ribbon to each piece of candy so it could be hung from a bough.  We both worked while the kids slept, and we finished each of our jobs at about the same time.  We decorated the tree and went to sleep.  We knew that this wouldn’t make up for the lack of presents, but at least it seemed a little closer to the kind of Christmas kids expect to be able to have.

December days are short, and it was still dark when our kids woke up.  The only light was the twinkle of the Christmas lights as the kids emerged into the living room.  Their eyes all burst open wide, shedding the sleep that still encrusted them, and their mouths were agape with grins.  Almost simultaneously, the girls exclaimed, “WOW!”  The lights twinkled and reflected off the metallic cellophane wrappers, making multi-colored light dance in the air.  They breathed life and love and joy into our home with every little and unique flash.  Their brilliant incandescence was all the light we needed to be able to see the wonder and excitement in each child as they circled the tree, examining and exclaiming how amazing it was, but careful not to touch, appreciating the fragility of what they saw before them.  They kept saying heart-filling words like, “Amazing!” and “Cool!” until one of the girls beamed, “This is the best Christmas ever!”  which the other girls agreed with quickly.  Steffani and I held each other and smiled through our tear-streaked cheeks.  They were right.  This was the best Christmas ever.  As we got hung-up and twisted ourselves over the things that we didn’t have, we forgot to cherish the things that we did.  And it took the unbridled joy and unapologetic love that our children showed us when they first caught sight of The Candy Tree to be able to see that.  We spent the rest of the day laughing, and loving, and playing.  And eating tree candy.

Every year since then, we have decorated our tree with candy.  One of each flavor for each child.  And it serves to us as a symbolic reminder of what the Christmas season is all about.  It’s a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and the gifts that we are all given through his life on Earth.  It’s about spreading the joy and love that Christ taught us to spread, and to shed the shackles of a material world.  It’s a time to celebrate the fact that the ability to laugh and love are among the greatest gifts God has given us, and spreading those things to others is our greatest gift to ourselves and to each other, and also our gift back to God.  And every time that one of the kids says, “Dad, can I have a piece of tree candy?” I will remember that first Candy Tree and how blessed I truly am.  I hope you all have a Candy Tree of your own.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira Extra Text
Cape Town, South Africa