Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Tour

As Christmas fast approaches, I thought I’d take you on a tour of our festively decorated home. First of all, I have to make a disclaimer, or maybe two. This will not be one of those sumptuous house tours I love to watch, where everything matches, is trendy, and oh-so-elegant. All, and I mean all, of my decorations are either vintage, homemade, finds at thrift stores, or gifts along the way. Secondly, everything cutesy, sweet, and sentimental rules the day. This was the first year I didn’t put up the popcorn strings that my boys made when they were little, but only because I didn’t have room.  I still have their ornaments made from clay and construction paper in elementary school, and yes, they are on the tree.

There was once a time when my Christmas was a pretty stark affair, and I relied on paper chains and paper drawings of gingerbread men, stars, and tin soldiers. In fact, I even think this tree itself was a castaway. That was an amazing, never-to-be-forgotten Christmas, because if it had not been for my family sending gifts, there would have been nothing under the tree for my babies---a very, very hard time. And because I know what it is like to do with so little, I unpack SEVEN boxes of Christmas trinkets every single year with a renewed sense of gratitude and wonder and waves of memory.  What really gets me is how little I purchased myself.

We’ll start downstairs in the family room. The tree is loaded with ornaments,  little wooden ones I tole painted, crocheted ones from my late grandmother, two military ones representing hubby and son, initials of our granddaughters, a few pieces my husband bought while in South Korea, and even one from Mount Vernon,  commemorating our visit to George Washington’s home.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus perched on the windowsill were made by my dear departed auntie; their bodies are made of plastic Ivory soap dish-washing bottles, and they were made for me when I was a little girl. I believe Auntie Mavis is who I take after when it comes to art-making.  The Sheriff is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of my hubby’s years in law enforcement, given to us by his mom.  I snatched up the tree-topper from Goodwill. For many decades our tree had gone without a topper, because I couldn’t find one I really liked. This one was so unique that I had to have it, and the price was certainly right.

A few touches near the television. The crispness of white is a nice counterpart to all the colors in the tree. The arrangement is in a Korean lantern that my son bought me as souvenir when he was serving there in the Air Force. I also like to keep gorgeous Christmas cards from year to year and continue to display them, a free and easy way to add holiday accent.


So many good memories are symbolized in this cozy corner. The snowman came from a lovely senior woman back in my house-cleaning days, and the little elves at the far left were a temptation I couldn’t resist back when I was working at a non-profit charity that had an adjoining thrift store. I really like placing the Pere Noel by the globe at the top of the cabinet for a more ethnic feel. He was a gift from hubby’s brother.

Now, who could resist these little guys, really?  Especially the precious one that is reading the book, a little man after my own heart. The golden bowl filled with holly was once used by my husband for Buddhist ceremonies, back in the days when he lived all over Asia.

And now onto the library. These cards came a few years back from a secret Santa, who’s identity we do not know to this day. They are whimsical depictions of the twelve days of Christmas, and are delightfully and carefully hand-crafted. On the day of ‘five golden rings’, a kindly stranger knocked on the front door and presented me with another card.

Inside was the message, “He sees all that you do, and He is pleased”, along with five crisp 100 dollar bills.

The timing and sheer anonymous generosity of this gift was so divinely perfect that it sent us both into tears of utter joy, and yes, it sent us to our knees. We were sorely needing automotive repairs at the time, and had been doubting God’s providence, wondering again if I needed to go back to an outside full-time job, even though my being away from home so much would radically affect our ministry. These cards mean so much to the both of us, and give me spiritual ‘goosebumps’ every year that I display them. Our Father loves us beyond our wildest imaginings. This card stays in my Bible at all times, reminding me that God is not just some lofty, abstract presence; He cares about ALL of our lives, even the most mundane details, and He uses wonderful people to achieve His purposes.

Just another touch of the holiday on my cabinet of domestic books. The little snowman is Target’s mascot, “Snowden”, a reminder of my mother’s days working there. The red placemat and flannel poinsettias were made by a relative in the 1990s, and have come out every year since.

On our way upstairs, there’s a little something I did to spice up the laundry room.  The tree was given to us and decorated by my mother-in-law when we were in the middle of a lot of life transitions and couldn’t unpack our own tree that year. I simply adore it…it’s apparent she knew how much I crave red at Christmas. The little placard down below was painted by my daughter-in-law. And the chair was going to meet a dastardly fate beside the dumpster…until I rescued it and gave it a new paint job with some left-over house paint.

At the top of the stairs, is our nativity scene. This was purchased back in the 1990s at the store, ‘Legends’, once a fixture in almost every mall.  I’m afraid those stores have passed into the mists of legends…sorry, pun totally intended. (smile) I liked this set, but didn’t like how it was painted, so meticulously repainted it. Aside from its obvious significance to hubby and I as followers of Christ, it also brings back vivid memories of Christmas in 2005. We were living in the attic/servant’s quarters of a Victorian mansion in Pennsylvania. I never fail to remember how soft and deep the snow would fall outside our broken stained glass window, trudging up those steep Allegheny hills from our local library, and the warm smiles in Grandma’s kitchen. These were the only ornaments we could easily access in the jungle of packing boxes, and they were such a grace note in our nearly bare apartment. The ribbon tree was also made by a friend, and the trimmings around the scene came from South Korea.


What priest’s home would be complete without some happy singing monks? (I tend to think hubby resembles the one on the right.) This charming little music box plays ‘Joy to the World’, and was a gift as well from a friend.

I like to keep a much more formal air about this room, since it is where we tend to entertain and do pastoral counseling. Everything on this table was a gift, including the very fine—and I daresay—expensive crystal vases. Those were both filled with enormous flower arrangements and sent to my job from a former boyfriend, long before I met my dear hubby, who after 14 years, has indeed proven himself to be the love of my life.

Tucked inside the lawyer bookcase are three angels that fascinated me as a child in the 1970s…

A little vignette of snowmen—or snowboys, as my kids used to call them—cheer up the bathroom, along with some seasonal embroidered hand-towels and a pine-cone and pearl ornament.

And lastly, the kitchen…

More gifts from friends,  I can’t get enough red from Christmas, but I also have such a passion for warm, soft yellows…

We have had our Christmases of abundance, and we have had those where there was less. Frankly, the more I look back, the harder it is to distinguish between the two. Sometimes the darker and bleaker it was, the more brightly that Star could shine. I sincerely wish you and yours all the blessings you could wish for during this season of wonders.

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