Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Most of us have Christmas traditions and I am no exception. Mine is a fairly recent tradition, dating back to the winter of 1992, which was our first Christmas after my successful cancer operation in Australia. At the time, I felt pretty chopped up and scared. I didn't know if I'd get to see Christmas, 1993. 
James Houston Turner's first Christmas star
Broke, in debt, and in need of a roof over our heads, we left Australia (as required by my visa) and headed for my old hometown in Kansas, where my mom lived in a tiny little two-bedroom green house. She agreed to put us up until we could get back on our feet. We stopped by San Diego, loaded all our belongings into a rental truck (with "Old Blue," my 1983 Toyota 4x4 pick-up, on a tow-trailer on the back), and set off for Kansas. We nearly got stuck in a snowstorm in West Texas, but the skies cleared, the Interstate reopened, and we were able to push on.

That first year in Kansas was hard. Wendy and I washed windows to survive. We mowed grass. Washed cars. Cleaned houses. Shoveled snow. And cut hair. But we made it. And we were happy. The hard times bonded us together stronger than ever and made us resilient and close.

That first Christmas, we went out and got a tree. A farmer let us cut one off his property and we put it up in the little pink house where we were now living. (Yes, we actually moved from a green house to a pink house.) Anyway, we decorated the tree with a few ornaments. But we had no star. So I made one out of a coat hanger, wrapped it with tinsel, and stuck it on top.

As the years passed and I continued to defy the odds by living another year, that star came to represent hope and happiness in the midst of hard times. And that star reminds me to this day about the most precious gifts of all: life and love, family and friends. You see, when I was facing the real possibility of dying, none of the other stuff was important. Everything I owned was unimportant. Any success I had achieved meant nothing. I simply wanted to live. I was not afraid of dying, for I had a deep faith in Yeshua and knew my life was in His hands. But I didn't want to die. I wanted to live and keep loving those around me: my family and friends.

I got my wish. I beat the odds. Here I am. And that star still shines each year at Christmas in our home. That bent, cheap, hokey little coat hanger star made out of scraps. It's an ugly little thing by most standards. To me it's beautiful.
The coat hanger star still shines on James Houston Turner's Christmas tree
I guess I can relate to it on another level, too, because I was once refused a job here in Adelaide because I was too ugly ("unpresentable," was the word used, referring to the facial scars from my operation). Did that bother me? Sure, it did. But a lot of people have it worse. A lot worse. So I realized there were always going to be a few jerks out there who judged people by their looks, and I decided to got on with the important aspects of doing something with my life rather than complaining. So I put up that little star each year as a reminder of everything I do have. It's also a reminder that the hard years need not be unhappy years.

So this Christmas, I want to say thanks. For your love and friendship. And for taking the time to participate in the excitement of my new publishing contract by emailing and phoning me with your comments. It has been a long hard road to get here, but here I am. You didn't have to take the time to write, but you did. You took the time. You really didn't get anything out of the deal. It was your gift to me and I know that. And I am grateful. More than you can imagine.

God bless each and every one of you. May your Christmas be filled with love, life, laughter, and good health.

The rest is but tinsel on the tree.