Is it for Reals?

How genuine are you? via @blestbutstrest“Can you deliver this to your mom?” my dad asked as he handed me a small poinsettia plant. “It’s to decorate the library,” he explained, “I bought her a big one for the house.”

He got back in his car and drove on home whilst I continued on my way to the administration building of the school where we work to deliver the plant and to finish running errands before classes started for the day. On my way, I admired the beautiful red leaves and thought about how much cheer a simple red and green plant can bring to a dreary winter’s day.

A week later, I walked into the library and noticed the plant on the checkout counter—only now it had several holes in the leaves. “What happened to your beautiful plant?”

Mom laughed. “The kids keep playing with the leaves when they come in to the library. They rub the leaves and ask, ‘Is it for reals?’” She shrugged. “It’s holding up pretty well considering the abuse it’s taking.”

We shook our heads at the conundrum that our students present. So worldly-wise and weary at times, yet so innocent about things like real plants and the reason for Christmas.

But I wondered, how much did I actually know about the ubiquitous Christmas flower? Turns out, not much. The red part isn’t even a flower!

The poinsettia, a plant native to Mexico, has only been used as a symbol of Christmas since the late 1800s in the United States. But the plant has been part of Mexican Christmas traditions since the 1600s when legend tells of a poor young girl, Pepita, who felt sad because she had no gift to leave at the alter on Christmas Eve (Noche Buena).

An angel encourages her to make a bouquet from some dark green leaves she finds beside the road, and her cousin (or brother—depending on who tells the story), assures her that no matter how small or humble a gift she has to give, Jesus knows it comes from the heart of someone who loves him—and that’s all that matters.

When Pepita takes the bouquet to the altar, the top leaves turn a crimson red and the villagers all realize that they’ve seen a miracle. From that moment on, the plant is known as “La Flor de Noche Buena” (The Holy Night Flower).

How genuine are you? via @blestbutstrestThe Poinsettia (the common name of the plant in the United States due to the fact that Joel Roberts Poinsett—and ambassador to Mexico from the US—brought the plant to the States in the 1820s) plant can grow up to 13 feet high (now THAT would be a conversation starter in any library). The red leaves surround the real ‘flower’ part of the plant. In order for the top leaves to turn red (or ‘bloom’), the plant needs 12-13 hours of complete darkness a day for two months with warmish nighttime temperatures.

Despite popular urban legends, the leaves and flowers won’t kill you or even make you very sick (unless you eat 500 of them). The Aztecs used the sap (latex) to treat fevers and the red leaves to create a dye.

This wealth of information made me think even more. We are more like the poinsettia in the library than we may realize. In a consumer-driven, one-upmanship, my-decorations-look-better-than-yours and I-made-more-Christmas-cookies-than-you-did sort of world, the way we celebrate Christmas matters.

Do our non-Christian friends see us stressed and harried and full of angst over creating the ‘perfect Christmas’? Do they shake their heads just a little as they hear us focus on what ‘Santa’ will bring our kids for Christmas? Do they nod in agreement as we bemoan the debt we’ll incur as we purchase gifts for everyone?

Celebrating Christmas should involve three simple things—lights, memories and actions—not stress, lies and debt.

Jesus is the light of the world. Do we worry more about hanging the lights than reflecting the Light?

Jesus came to humble parents in a dirty stable and lived among us for 33 years. Do we make up stories about a jolly guy in a red suit who miraculously makes and delivers toys to every boy and girl on Christmas Eve, or do we revisit the miracles and the memories of God among us during the Christmas season?

Above all, Jesus acted out his love for humanity by giving up his very life to pay our debts—ones incurred by OUR sins. Do we spend more time racking up debt than contemplating our debt and how Jesus paid the bill? Do we toss a few coins towards the bell ringer’s baskets and think we’ve done our part—when in reality Jesus wants our hearts to lead our hands and feet to take care of the less fortunate and minister to the unlovable? (tweet this)

We’re going to have troubles in this world—we might suffer sickness, tragedy, death, loss and despair. We may live on easy street or at least a pretty comfortable street—but in our comfort do we become complacent. Does our complacency turn us into a mere plastic plant—or are we willing to stay genuine. We might get hurt. But, are we for reals? (tweet this)

Inspire Me Monday Instructions
What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememonday. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!
Take a moment to visit the other hostesses, too! Angie, Cindy, and Denise.


Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • What a beautiful post!! And I love the story you included about the poinsettia; I’m not sure – but I don’t think I have EVER heard this! I am bookmarking this post for later reference…and the deeper meaning of it all that you shared…thank you for reminding us – Jesus is for reals – and the reason we even celebrate Advent/Christmas! Thank you for sharing and for being a part of my blogging world where I receive so much inspiration!!!
    Barbara recently posted…3rd Sunday of Advent – JOY!My Profile

  • Lovely. Thank you for writing this.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…A Book Well Worth ReadingMy Profile

  • Laura

    I never knew the history/legend of the poinsettia plant. How beautiful!

    • I didn’t either! I had to do a little research to find out why in the world people have them as a Christmas decoration :).
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Invoking Your CitizenshipMy Profile

  • Thank you for sharing the history of the Poinsettia. Have a blessed day!

  • Such a beautiful heartwarming story. As I read your post this morning, I kept looking over at my desk where a beautiful poinsettia is sitting. A member of the congregation I serve at and her two grandchildren came in last week to give it to me. It was such a great pick-me-up in the middle of the week. Thanks for sharing your story!
    Tara recently posted…Gentler With Us (A Guest Post)My Profile

  • And that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it, Anita.

    ‘Am I for reals?’

    I’ll keep that front and center …

    Thanks, friend!

    Linda@Creekside recently posted…A Vintage Ornament DaybookMy Profile

    • With God’s grace to guide us and Jesus’ example to follow, it gets easier and easier to be ‘for reals’–but it does take some work to be vulnerable :/.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Invoking Your CitizenshipMy Profile

  • “Jesus is the light of the world. Do we worry more about hanging the lights than reflecting the Light?” I love this! Probably my favorite part of this post. Thank you for reminding me to let Him be seen in my life, in all I do! 🙂
    Laura recently posted…Giggles and GraceMy Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by, Laura! We aren’t all called to change the world, but we are all called to make a positive change in our sphere of influence!

  • I’d never heard thw story behind the pointsettia. How interesting! A beautiful reflection written here that mirrors my heart this year. Loving spending Advent focusing on Jesus and sharing love with others.

    • Amen! It’s so much nice to focus on the ‘real’ things, isn’t it?

  • “Jesus is the light of the world. Do we worry more about hanging the lights than reflecting the Light?”

    Oh, that we would stop and ask ourselves that every day during the holidays. As it is, I’m stressing about getting all my gifts wrapped before this weekend. Sigh. That’s not what it’s about. I do want to give gifts (and I do need to wrap them) but it’s not stress-worthy. May I focus my attention on being Light instead of complaining. Thanks, Anita!
    Lisa notes recently posted…10 Favorite Books of 2014My Profile

    • And thank you for stopping by and taking time to comment–I value interaction–and know how hard it is during this crazy busy season! May God’s peace and joy smooth your frazzles and grant you contentment during this season of stress!

  • Susan

    Am I really reading this for the first time? Love it.

  • I have not ever heard this story before and it is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I may not be looking at my plant in quite the same way this year! May you & yours have a blessed Christmas!