Shine a Light for All to See

23 12 2011

Our Christmas Tree -- all decked out!

We have a family tradition that I absolutely love of cutting down our own Christmas tree every year. There’s a beautiful Christmas Tree farm just a few miles from our house, family run, word-of-mouth advertising only, that we found the year Theo was born.
That year, he was only four months old and I carried him in a Snugli under my down coat. This year, he was big enough to help hold the tree as Don sawed its base. Together, the two of them dragged it out from amongst the hundreds of other candidates, and Don secured it in the back of his pick-up truck.
Some years, it’s been so cold that we literally step out of the truck, run to the edge of the lot, do a quick left-to-right scan, and point to one. Don cuts it down, and we are outta there! This year, we were a bit smarter and got lucky. We decided to go the weekend after Thanksgiving — when temperatures were hovering near the 60 degree mark. That meant we could take our time, stroll through the various types of pines, consider height, width, type of needle.
And, of course, we had to check the tree’s trunk to be sure it was straight. When I was growing up and we went in search of a tree as a family, my Mom, Dad, two sisters and I would split up and search and search for the perfect tree — then call out to the others when we found it, jumping up and down and screaming, “This is the one! This is the one!”
Dad was notorious for ignoring the perfection of the tree’s shape or the fullness of the branches. Instead, he’d bend down, tip his head and look at — of all things! — the TRUNK of the tree. If it wasn’t straight, it was a no-go. “Can’t put a tree properly into the stand with a trunk like that,” he’d say. And we’d all be off in search once again.
This year’s winner was a White Pine. The needles are oh-so-soft and the scent of Christmas filled the house as soon as Don dragged it through our front door. This is really the first year that Theo was able to hang bulbs all by himself. We have a collection of Winnie the Pooh ornaments given to us over the years by our friends Doris and Jim Hildebrand, and that’s what caught Theo’s eye. His contribution was to carefully hang each and every one.
The tree is gorgeous, and with its wide girth, reminds me of a jolly Santa Claus. I love that when we plug in the lights, they shine through our windows and out into the night, where our neighbors across the lake can see and enjoy them. Christmas is about so many things, and right there at the top of the list is sharing its light for all to see.
What am I thinking about as this Christmas quickly approaches? Well, I am anxiously awaiting the joy and delight in Theo’s eyes as he opens his presents on Christmas morning. I am also looking forward to our annual Christmas Eve tradition with my sister, Lisa, and her family. We have a potluck at her house, then continue on to the most beautiful church service of the year — Christmas carols sung by candlelight. And, we are spending Christmas Day as we’ve never spent it before — with friends instead of family. Theo’s best friend, Kai, and his family have invited us over to share the day with them and to enjoy their traditions. We will be experiencing Christmas Japanese, German and American style! And, Kai’s Dad, Marc, will don full garb as a German Santa Claus. We are filled with anticipation at the wonders the day will bring.
There’s also a certain sadness that wells up inside me every now and again. Though I miss my parents every single day of the year, there’s something about Christmas that makes me miss them just a little bit more than on other days.
I also miss the blissful innocence of Christmas just one year ago. Though I was at that time just weeks away from my Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis, I had no idea and we celebrated the holiday season with the joy and relief that our lives had finally settled into a peaceful, happy routine. I was nearing my five-year all-clear breast cancer marker following my Stage 1 diagnosis and treatment in 2006. Don’s business was doing very well, as was my free-lance writing and editing business. Theo had settled happily into his Kindergarten routine. Just days before Christmas, Don and I had popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, poured a couple of glasses and clinked them together to celebrate how far we’d come, the joy we were experiencing as a family after some tough years.
That peace was rocked by my January 12, 2011 diagnosis. And the word that the cancer had spread to my vertebrae just two weeks ago really shook me and my family to the core.
What does it all mean? Of that, I’m unsure, although I do believe God has a plan for me and will continue to use me and my diagnosis to help fulfill that plan. God never promised us that the road would be easy. He only promised that He would be there beside us, every step of the way.
Whatever road you’re traveling right now — be it bumpy or silky smooth — the wish and prayer from my family to yours is that you feel His presence, know without a doubt that He is right there beside you, and that you allow His light to shine through you everywhere you go. As my childhood pastor, Reverend Bill Ritter at Nardin Park United Methodist Church used to say, don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, but take it to the mountain top so that it may shine for all to see.
Merry Christmas to you and yours. May your holidays be merry and your New Year be bright.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson



20 responses

23 12 2011
Cathy Fox

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I will remember to let my light shine all the year through too. God Bless you Amy!

23 12 2011
Amy Yongblood

God Bless You Amy

23 12 2011
Amy Lange

Sending you light and love, dear Amy! Merry Christmas to you and Don and little Theo! I hope you and Don still uncork a bottle of champagne and toast to the beautiful family you have and the wonderful work you are doing to help others.

23 12 2011

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday celebration – you deserve it!

23 12 2011
Sharon L-S

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Missing your parents at the holidays never really goes away but remember as long as you have your memories and carry them in your heart they are never far away.

Your friends multi-cutural Christmas sound wonderful. Enjoy!!

Wishing you a beautiful healthy and fun 2012.

23 12 2011
Marie Petrides

Amy wishing you and yours a Blessed Holiday. May God continue to bless you with Good Health, Happiness and Good Wealth. I wish you piece of mind and and strength in mind and body always…….All my Best Marie

23 12 2011
Debbie Loumakis

Beautifully said Amy! I know it will be a wonderful Christmas and I can’t wait to hear about it and see a few photos soon after.

Much love to you all!

23 12 2011
Laura Kasischke

God bless you, Amy. The new year will be full of miracles for you, I feel very sure. xoLaura

23 12 2011
Sara Nickerson

Beautiful sentiments, Amy! Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas, and a Happy New Year filled with lots of miracles. Still praying for you!

23 12 2011
kerri daugherty

Amy merry Christmas to u, don an theo. May your day day be blessed with all the love and happiness u guys deserve. Do still make s toast this year to how special u are and how u touch so many people’s lives. Merry Christmas

23 12 2011

You have so many lovely memories, and you will create many more. Wishing you all the blessings of the season, and renewed health and strength in the New Year.

23 12 2011
brian Murphy

Another beautiful blog! We 3 will think of you 3 guys . . . and hope that your Christmas is every bit as wonderful as your writing and your spirit–to Amy, Don, and Theo! Love from Brian, Toni, and Lauren

23 12 2011

From my Family to yours i wish you all the happiness and joy of the year and years to come! You are just so amazing!!!!!

23 12 2011

Merry Christmas! Please feel my BIG HUG that I am sending you!! I think about you and your family everyday!!! OX

24 12 2011
Deb Peters

This blog brought me to tears…I wish you, Don and Theo a very Merry Christmas. We as readers all wait for the joyous day when you and Don can once again uncork a bottle of champagne and toast each other for driving through all of the bumpy roads and once again making it to the silky smooth road. Sending hugs your way….

24 12 2011
Debbie V

Amy – Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and your family.
Debbie (also a stage four sister)

24 12 2011

Merry Christmas my dear friend. I was hoping you would write an entry for Christmas – thank you for this gift. Your light shines bright for the world to see. May you celebrate God’s love on the birthday of His great gift and remember what it meant and continues to mean in terms of His promise and the beauty of hope. May your day be one of joy and celebration with your family and friends – and may you be enveloped in the soft glow of His light.

26 12 2011
Karen (Hildebrand) Roth

Merry Christmas, Amy! I hope the celebrations outshone every expectation, followed by some heavenly family time during Theo’s break.

Aren’t memories wonderful things!?!? May 2012 hold a perfect balance of treasured memories, fantastic “carpe diem” days, and powerful belief in a joyful future!

27 12 2011
Aunt Doris Nielson

Amy, the tree is perfect! I have great memories of my mother, my brother, Jim and me trudging through the snow from one Christmas tree lot to the next until we found the right tree. Then Jim would take the heavy end and I would take the top and Mum would pay the man. It took about half hour of trudging back home through the snow but that beautiful tree and its gorgeous smell through the house were worth it all. And we had fun doing it! Nice memories. Memories are a gift from the God who loves us and came to show us love on that first Christmas night. May God grant you a 2012 filled with wonderful blessings and memory-makers. God bless you, Amy, Don and Theo. love you!

5 01 2012
Kris and Bill Ritter

Keep that light shining …. and shining …and shining!

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