Remember the time you walked through your house with a camera just to have proof that the place was tidy for 5 whole minutes?
Or maybe that’s just me.
Apparently, I got a little snap-happy with my camera while photographing our Christmas decor, so I’m sharing even more details of our home all decked out. (You can see last week’s Part One and find a full list of sources too.)
So what the hey. This is probably the only time of year our house is truly spick and span after a cleaning rampage to prepare for holiday guests, so might as well document it with the camera, right?
Jenny, the sweet gal behind the keyboard at Evolution of Style, asked me to join in for her 12 Days of Christmas Tour of Homes, and I’m never one to turn down a good holiday party (especially if “ugly” sweaters are involved).
I hope you came prepared with your jingle bell clad red cable knit. 😉
I have to confess to you. We’re not big gift givers in our house, at least not the kind you can buy in a store.
We’re more the quality time spending, make memories together type of people.
When I was growing up, my parents worked hard to give my brother and I amazing presents to open on Christmas morning. We loved getting the huge surprises that I know, now that I’m a parent myself, couldn’t have been easy to provide without a chunk of financial planning.
Once I grew up and Robert and I got married though, the big Christmas presents weren’t possible for us. I love finding the perfect gift and wowing someone I love with the exact item I knew they wanted.
But just four years ago, I was making a beginning level teacher’s salary, funding a lot of my own classroom’s supplies, and Robert was finishing his degree on the GI Bill while we lived in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment.
Money was tight, and we were just barely making ends meet. We decided for our very first Christmas, it was not worth going deeper into debt to fund big presents for ourselves and our family.
When Olivia came along a little over a year later, the finances got even tighter. I was scared. Really scared. And it took a lot for us to swallow our pride. My parents were so gracious to open up their home to us and let our new little family move in with them.
Don’t get me wrong; I was extremely thankful. But I felt like a failure. Robert felt like failure. I was 25 years-old, with a teaching career, a husband, and a newborn, and had to live with my parents. But I prayed so hard through all of it and knew God had a plan as long as we trusted Him.
Our second Christmas together, Robert and I again, made the decision to forgo giving presents, and squeaked out just enough to buy a couple little things for Olivia and handwrite cards of appreciation for our parents.
Exactly 1 year later, after feeling the lowest of low, after the struggle of balancing my teaching job and being a new mom, after testing my faith like never before, it all made sense.
In that one year, I discovered that it was an amazing blessing to have my parents around in those sleepless newborn nights (and days). In that one year, Robert not only graduated from college on the GI Bill, but made the Dean’s List and President’s List multiple times.
In that one year, Robert and I both got new jobs and became debt free. In that one year, we bought a house! This house.
In December 2013, we unlocked the door to our very first home that we could finally call ours. And the other proverbial doors just kept opening from there.
And in looking back, I know every single bit of those blessings came from Robert and I holding hands together each night and praying for a way through the tough times. We owe so much to my parents (and his) and to trusting God’s plan.
In the beginning of it all, when I felt like an utter failure, something amazing happened. And that failure shaped so much of what is now our success so that we (hopefully) can help others.
And you know what? This Christmas, even though we now have the financial wiggle room to afford buying presents for ourselves and our family, we’ll still be keeping it light on the gift giving.
Because if we had to choose between going to the mall for a day to shop for a present for our family or actually spending the TIME that day to be with them, we’re going to choose the quality time.
I love decorating our house with our thrifty finds and DIYed decor because it makes us even more excited to share it with the ones we love.
A place setting made just for a friend lets them know you’re excited to have them there.
A cozy living room makes you want to snuggle up with someone and settle in for a movie night.
And while we’ll certainly DIY gifts for our family, like we often do, as our way of telling them we love them, we’re not going to be shoving our way through the holiday sales lines to show them we care.
I really hope that doesn’t come off as sounding “bah humbug”, but really…is that what Christmas is supposed to be about? Bustling around, stressed to the max, swamped in holiday traffic just to wrap up things under the tree that will one day end up at the local thrift store? (Believe me, I see it there all the time.)
If you’re breaking your neck to make Christmas perfect, stop. Right now.
Because the perfect Christmas can be as simple as giving a handwritten letter to someone who needs to know they’re loved.
The perfect Christmas is as simple as pulling a little one on your lap to read a story.
The perfect Christmas is as simple as acknowledging what it’s supposed to be about in the first place: love.
And if you’re the Christmas loving bunch like we are, you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars on decor to make it special. Surround yourself with what makes you happy, with what tells your story, not what you feel pressured to buy.
Spread joy, be the light, and be giving of your time.
And if you feel called to be giving of your wallet, give it to those who need it most of all.
Because if it weren’t for the people who were giving of their own time and money when we needed it, I don’t know where we’d be.
I hope so much that your Christmas this year is full of love and light with beautiful moments that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
If you want to check out the entire 12 Days of Christmas Tour of Homes from the beginning, you can see the full list below. And if you have your own holiday home decor to share, we’ll be hosting a big link party on December 15th!
Merry Christmas, sweet friends!