The Christmas Nest
By LaWanda Bailey
Shattered. Caroline's life lay in jagged pieces on Christmas Eve. She had dressed her young children in party clothes and handed them over like wrapped gifts to their father for the holiday. Alone, she thought. With the kids gone, even Santa won't stop by.
Strains of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" tweaked her last nerve, and she threw her fuzzy house slipper at the TV screen.
Caroline and her credit cards had marched lockstep through the motions for her kids. They had gone to three tree lots before choosing an eight-foot Scotch pine. The salesman had strapped it onto their car, but Caroline alone had dragged it into the house like a lumberjack and wrestled it into its stand. Stockings dripped from the mantle, and gifts nestled beneath the tree. She had even hung stars from the ceiling. Why in the world did I hang stars? she thought as she yanked two down.
Divorce had flipped Caroline's world upside-down: Now she preferred root canals over Christmas festivities. Weekends dragged on, and work on Monday brought welcome relief. Her children needed twice as much of her, and she had half as much to give. Her single income paid double bills. She ached with the newness of the earthquake that had shaken her life.
Caroline didn't have to spend Christmas alone. She had turned down parties for that night as well as Christmas day. No more good will and holiday smiles, perfect couples and Christmas carols. She was in a mud pit of misery, and she planned to wallow in it, cry till her eyes puffed, scream like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween if the mood hit her.
Caroline curled up on the carpet beside the tree and watched the Christmas lights blink in rhythm to television's "Jingle bells, jingle bells…." Too much merriment. She turned the TV off with her foot.
She breathed in the evergreen scent and exhaled a prayer—"Help me, Jesus." As she looked up through the branches, she saw something wedged between a branch and the trunk…high, close to the top.
Caroline rose, reached into the prickly limbs, and removed a perfect nest, no bigger than a teacup. It was intricately woven with threadlike vines, and the inside was scooped into a cozy haven. She cradled it in her hands, imagining the mother bird and her wide-mouthed offspring. Storms had surely thrashed their fragile shelter there in the woods. Hungry hawks could have easily shredded the vines. Even after the fledglings had flown, woodsmen came with chain saws. When the tree crashed to the ground, the nest held steady; when the flatbed truck bounced along uneven roads, the nest stayed in place; when salespeople displayed the pine, the nest remained fixed.
Caroline remembered the day she drove home with the tree tied to her car, the wind whipping briskly. She had set it up and decorated it. The nest had been assailed from every side. Yet it remained safe, hidden in a secure resting place in the arms of a tree.
If Caroline hadn't been down on the floor, she wouldn't have seen the nest. And if she hadn't been down in her spirit, she wouldn't have learned the lesson.
Caroline's own nest had shuddered during storms and had fallen after financial blows. It had rattled along bumpy roads and hung on when dragged around. And, prematurely, the fledglings had flown from Mom at Christmas.
But Caroline had built her nest in God's powerful arms.
And He held it there, safe, in spite of failings on her part or her husband's; in spite of fears; in spite of loneliness and exhaustion and creditors. Her children would return, and their nest would provide them with warmth and comfort. Outside forces would not destroy their safe haven.
Caroline placed the woven shelter back in the tree and went to her bedroom. She stopped at her closet and pulled out her red satin dress. Maybe I'll go to a party tomorrow…if my eyes aren't puffy.
She cried into her pillow as planned, but she decided against the movie scream, thanks to the lesson of the Christmas nest.