Traditions hold an important place during the holiday season. Personally, I have had only two. The first is I spend a week around Christmas at my sister’s and second, homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. One tradition I have successfully avoided is decorating my own Christmas tree.

I have plenty of logical reasons for why I haven’t decorated a Christmas tree for over 20 years. I travel too much…Why decorate when I’m going to my sister’s…I don’t know how to decorate…It doesn’t make a difference to me. These excuses worked well for many years, but as I engage my heart in new ways, my traditions are changing.

This year I am doing a new thing – I decorated my first ever Christmas tree with the help and encouragement of Katy Johnson. The Lord has used her presence in my home to expose how the Christmas spirit has been dormant within my heart and He continues to invite me into new places of redemption and hope.

We made plans to decorate the Tuesday before Thanksgiving so we could show off our work to Katy’s family the following day. We unwrapped the tree from the box (yes I bought a fake one), thankful for the lights that were already attached, and began assembling the three sections. With Christmas music playing in the background, I opened another box that had been tucked away in storage for the last 15 years.

Suddenly I found myself distracted as we slowly pulled out the contents of the box. Inside was a small wooden drummer boy and a combination of my mom’s collector Disney ornaments telling the story of the Night Before Christmas along with a few gold balls. It’s been 16 years since I have spent Christmas with my mom and these memories have been hidden away for almost as long, including my Christmas joy.

Katy gave me the honor of placing the gold star on top of the tree and then she began hanging ornaments and commenting on their beauty. I hung a few and my distraction set in again. I busied myself with taking pictures and making our hot chocolate.

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I came back and forth to the tree many times but my heart struggled staying present in the weight of what was unfolding. I am still finding words for my emotions, but one thing I know is I miss my mom and being with her for Christmas. For 15 years I have walked through the motions of the holidays, giving and receiving the best I knew how, but not fully. Hanging her ornaments on my first Christmas tree is a new beginning toward living into more this Christmas season and the years to come.

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The cute six-foot tree is nestled in the corner of the living room with white lights weaving up the branches offering me hope. The ornaments sway with memories of family gatherings and the loss of the one who took great delight in them. As the Christmas season continues to unfold in the days and weeks ahead, I will spend time nestled on my sofa holding both the loss of my mom’s presence and the hope our Savior’s birth brings on Christmas morning.


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Tracy Hanson spent 15 seasons on the Ladies Professional Golf Tour. She is on a journey of embracing her beauty and living more deeply from her heart, and hopes to continue to share her story through full time ministry. Her hobbies include facilitating trips to the Holy Land, riding her motorcycle, the outdoors, and running. She also writes a monthly golf devotional on her website.
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