"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

Christmas was only days away and we still didn't have a tree. Living on a college-student's budget with our first baby on the way and barely scraping by, we couldn't bring ourselves to spend $25-50 on something we didn't need. It seemed kind of trivial when I told God how sad I felt that we couldn't afford a Christmas tree. Then I felt guilty knowing there were others who needed so much more.

But that year, I discovered how much God cares about the longings of our hearts and, if we're looking, He'll show us His heart for us in them.

On our way home from a friend's house the Sunday night before Christmas, my husband, J.J, and I noticed the tree lot near our apartment had marked all their trees down to $10! Grins stretched across our faces as we made plans to buy one Monday night as soon as J.J. got home from his part-time job.

The next evening we walked down each row of the tree lot looking for just the right spruce to fit in the corner of our one-bedroom apartment. Feeling sentimental and slightly maternal, I realized that picking our first Christmas tree was going to be almost as difficult as choosing our child's name.

I took way too much time. The sun went down quickly, the tree-lot started to close and the spotlights shut down. There we were, standing in the pitch dark without a tree.

My creative and very patient husband pulled his car into the rows of trees and flashed on his high beams. Suddenly, the bright lights dispelled the darkness and standing in front of me was the most precious tree I'd ever seen. Although it had some droopy branches and a gap on one side, I pointed at it and told J.J., "That's the one I want!"

I couldn't wait to get my little spruce pine home. Later that night, with my hands wrapped around a cup of hot cocoa, I sat on our couch looking at it. I thought about how sad I felt earlier when the darkness made it impossible to see the trees. Yet, when the beams of light illuminated the lot, my heart filled with hope.

Etched in my mind was a picture I wouldn't forget, a memory that drew me back to another time marked by darkness - a time when I wasn't choosing, but needed to be chosen.

Just when it felt like all my dreams had died and my hope was gone, the Light of God's unfailing love punctured the clouds of darkness and depression surrounding my mind. It happened on another cold winter's eve in January 1989 while I was sitting in the balcony of a church hoping to hear something that would fill the empty places in my heart. Feeling His spirit tugging on my heart, whispering words I longed to hear, I sensed God saying, "Renee, you are the one I want."

He'd been trying to tell me for years, but I had allowed the wounds of my past and the words of others to convince me that no one would ever want me.

At some point, I think most of us have felt like the little Christmas tree and me. Scarred by disappointments, we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection, we hope no one will notice our empty places. Like the fate of my spruce pine, it seems the only way we'll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first.

First Peter 2:9 reminds us that through Christ we are chosen! God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts. Sweet friend, I pray that you will hold onto the truth that God sees you today, and He wants you to hear Him declaring with all His heart, "You are the one I want!"

Dear Lord, that spruce pine and I have a lot in common. Even with my gaps and broken branches, You chose me and made me part of Your family through Jesus. Thank you for sending Your Son to bring Light in the dark corners of my life and to bring endless hope to my heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.