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Give thanks with a grateful heart

I am in the attic, taking stock of holiday decorations stored in boxes, deciding which to bring down this year. On top are some photo albums, and I stop to remember as this song begins playing on repeat in my mind: “Give thanks with a grateful heart/Give thanks to the Holy One/Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son…”

Living on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge had its perks for students with families: first-class music compliments of the “Golden Band from Tigerland” fall practice sessions, innovative art shows featuring professors and students, speeches and concerts by world-renowned personalities and performers. In summer, the AgCenter students produced yummy ice cream in true farm-to-table fashion long before it was trendy; and at Christmas time, the forestry students showcased their trees ready for living rooms during the holidays.

Kathy and I took turns pulling the Radio Flyer wagon with infant son Kyle tucked into one of Grandme’s afghans from our apartment at the gates of the university to the opposite corner of LSU near the AgCenter. The tree lot smelled of resin and sap, and the jolly talk and laughter made it festive. The forestry students sorted the trees by height and fullness––prices based on both. In the back, among the shorter gap-branched trees, we chose our Christmas pine. Not quite Charlie Brown-style and not destined for the grand halls of River Road, it was just right for our married student housing apartment.

“Give thanks with a grateful heart…”

The photos in the album tell the real story. The decorated version was a beauty occupying the entire corner of the far wall of our small living room. Crocheted ornaments dominate the decor, and Grandma’s keepsake pieces have center stage.

But there is another photo of that tree sitting outside the apartment. The photo shows a perfectly pruned and trimmed white pine––on the front side only! On the backside, the tree is clearly missing two-thirds of its branches and needles!

“Give thanks with a grateful heart…”

The Daily Reveille announced the AgCenter tree sale “for every price-point” and we calendared the event. Before we paid, we told each other it would look perfect tucked into the corner; we smilingly added that our ornaments would look more plentiful since we would only decorate a third of a tree.

“And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’/ Let the poor say, ‘I am rich/ Because of what the Lord has done for us...’”

My sweetheart and I will share our 40th Christmas together this year, and there are photos of every tree to the present. This year, I mentioned to Kathy my idea of traveling to Alleghany County for a live tree, and her eyes lit up. We reminisced about all of our trees, live and life-like, through the years, and out came more albums. We looked for the ornaments that are now treasures tucked into the branches. We watched our family grow and the houses and apartments change over time.

“Give thanks with a grateful heart…”

As this blessed Season comes around again, we are anticipating a very different kind of celebration, and we wonder, with you all, how the holidays will look and feel in 2020. Maybe more than ever before, the Reason for the Season must remain uppermost in hearts and minds gathered to worship the birth of the Savior Who came among us in simple and humble manner to become the One Who takes away the sins of the world. May our joy be found in no other, and may each of us look to the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Homeword is written by Jim Edminson, Charity & Children Editor

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