Believe in the Spirit of Christmas

I know its a little early for Christmas but many of you that read this blog are new friends and I want to share with you what Christmas means to me. That way you wont wonder why my house is being covered from floor to ceiling in Christmas this year!

Last year, right at this time I went home and decorated the house I grew up in for my Mom. My Mom had been diagnosed with ALS, more commonly know as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on September 14th and was already having a hard time using her hands. I wrote this post on November 20th of last year on my personal blog….

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to California to help my Mom put her cherished Christmas decorations up. From the first day of my Moms symptoms, when she and I were secretly talking about ALS when no one else would, she would look at me and say, “this is my last Christmas, I know it.” In my heart I knew she was right and the hurt was so heavy it seemed to squeeze the breath right out of me. It was crushing, there are no other words to describe it.

If you have seen my Mom’s home at Christmas you would understand why. Each year she transforms their home into a fantasy turned reality. Christmas is everywhere and I have always loved it. The boxes, smells, and music are permanently etched into my mind and heart. To see it as an adult is one thing, but to grow up in the magic of it each year with the imagination of a child makes the experience surreal.

Knowing this might be the last Christmas with my Mom, I wanted to be there when the boxes were opened. I wanted to know which pieces she loved the most and where they came from. I knew it was so personal for her too and I wanted her to be able to go her pace and let her enjoy it. If this truly was going to be her last Christmas, I wanted to go through the entire process with her.

The first day was hard. Within the first 10 minutes of the week long decorating adventure we were embarking on she fell while trying to get on the chair to fluff the top of the tree. She fell 2 more times that day and it became painfully obvious that her legs no longer had the strength to push up. Another devastating milestone that came much to swiftly. Her fingers did not have the mobility to work the small delicate ornament hooks. She was relegated to sit by and watch as I decorated her beloved tree and put up the Victorian Christmas town that she and I had collected and enjoyed creating together each year.

I have seen my Mom decorate all these years, but never appreciated the experience it is. Every bow had tissue paper stuffed into each of its folds to keep the ribbon perfect. Every box a perfect puzzle maximizing every inch of space. Each box labeled with a date, who it was given by, or where it was from. The labor and the love those boxes hold amazed me. She cares for everything so conscientiously. If a handle breaks on a box she repairs it making it better. The box from the Barbie Dream house I got one Christmas holds decorations, another box is from the He-Man Castle Greyskull given to my brothers. The boxes are as much a treasure as what they hold. Why does current society put such emphasis and pressure on things being new, perfect, and coordinating? We seem to have lost the sentimentality that comes with use and time.

Although I loved the decorations as a kid I never had plans to make my home the same wonderland, mostly because I wanted to go home to my Mom’s wonderland. I wanted my kids to have the exact feeling from Christmas that I did. And yet, here we are and my kids are 6, 4 and 1. Not nearly old enough to have those impressions etched deep enough to be permanent.

As I unpacked those boxes I knew that starting next year I will take Christmas decorating to a new level – to my Moms level. I want my children to have those same feelings of anticipation I feel when the air starts to turn crisp in the fall. The overwhelming feeling of comfort and warmth that comes each season and makes my heart long to go home.

When I returned to Utah I threw myself into life and tried to pushed aside all thoughts of decorating my own home. The decorating process was too raw and personal for me and I didn’t want to think about what next year might be like. I knew I would need to do it, because I didn’t want Caleb and John spending most of their December in an undecorated home. Yet, I was hoping to stay busy enough that perhaps it would be forced to be done at the last minute without the time to think and feel.

And then yesterday, on an innocent errand to Roberts Crafts, I ventured to the Christmas aisle. They had the cutest display of red and white rustic Christmas decor. I first read the sign, “Peace on earth” and my throat tightened knowing that is my Moms favorite Christmas song. Then, I saw another sign that said “Believe in the spirit of Christmas.” That sign touched me. My Mom understands the spirit of Christmas better than anyone I know.

I sat in the aisle deliberating. I wanted so badly to buy them and yet they were not on clearance – Ive never bought decorations before a Holiday, always on after clearance sales! It was more than that though, I wasn’t ready to decorate again, I didn’t want to face my own home and the pressure to create something as beautiful and as meaningful for my boys. I deliberated for about 10 minutes and then decisively placed the signs and some coordinating snowflakes in my cart.

When coming home I started putting them up without even taking Halloween down. I looked around and realized I couldn’t do it like that. I finally had learned its not just about getting the decorations up – its about the process. I halted all decorating and carefully and deliberately put away all my Halloween and Fall decorations. Then I cleaned the kitchen spotless and I dusted the house. Next came the Christmas music, Alabama, the Carpenters, the Osmond’s, all my Moms classics. Only then did I bring all the boxes in and open them.

It was a sweet afternoon.

First came our nativity, a gift my Mom gave us the first Christmas we were married and had our own little home.

Then the snowmen lace she brought me back from Brussels…next the little rustic snowman and Santa she gave me…then her leftover garlands that had been handed down to me. Everywhere I looked I saw things my Mom has passed onto me, things she gave to me because she thought I needed them, and many things she had given me just because she knew I wanted them. There are so many gifts that she has given me over the years…the potpourri holder she made me…the Santa’s cookie plate that I left cookies on when I was a little girl…the Christmas books with her loving notes in the cover…the Alpine trees we bought with her on black Friday when I was pregnant with Caleb. Everywhere I look my Moms presence permeates our home.

I had a hundred things to do yesterday and all I did was decorate. After helping her in her home I saw mine so differently. Ive always hated that we don’t have somewhere to hang stockings in our home and amazingly I noticed yesterday that my pot rack on the wall had 5 hooks! I was always decorating around what existed, but yesterday I felt freed to turn my home into a blank slate.

I used thumbtacks, nails, scissors, wire, pliers, ribbon, hammers, and every ounce of creativity I had. Creating pushed back my fears of next Christmas and when I would start feeling overwhelmed I would look over and read my new sign:

Believe in the Spirit of Christmas.
I believe.
I believe that next year, although my Mom won’t be here, her spirit will stay with me and carry me through. Next year many of her decorations will probably become mine, but her essence will stay with them. I only hope that I can use them to ignite the same magical feeling in our home that she created all those years for me. Besides the gift of a Savior, the best gift I have ever been given at Christmas was from my Mom…

She gave me the spirit of Christmas in my heart.

It did turn out to be my Moms last Christmas and I did bring home most of her decorations, I have already starting decorating and its been bittersweet, but mostly sweet. I have so many projects, ideas, and traditions I cant wait to share with you this holiday season! But first here is a gift for you today! Many more gifts to come this season!


Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (15)

  • You brought back so many memories. My mother passed away last year just before Thanksgiving and she was a December birthday and LOVED Christmas. I love your display.

  • >I loved your story.It reminds me of my sister.She just passed away from a condition similar to ALS called PSP or Progressive supranuclear Palsy.Christmas will be different this year but I also will be surrounded by many of her creations.The Love and Spirit remains.
    Blessings to you this Christmas…Rosanne

  • >Thank you! I enjoyed your story so much. It made me cry, and I am so sorry for the loss of your mom. Thanks for helping us catch the Christmas Spirit!

  • PⒿ @ $ € € ₦$ ₣®0₥...

    >Hi Lisa, I love your blog and this post. You have a talent for pulling things together to make beautiful vignettes – just the right stuff; never overdone, I look forward to coming back here often.

    This will be my first Christmas without my mom and my step-mom who both died within weeks of each other earlier in the year.

    I was going to skip decorating because I just want to withdraw…but I've decided to give myself the freedom to try some new and different vignettes. Thanks for the inspiration.

    I'm your newest follower. Please stop by and say hi.

  • >As a new reader, I appreciate your story. I am so sorry for the recent loss of your mother. We are experiencing this exact thing with our grandmother this year. I think I will offer to decorate her home, just as you did your mother's. Her house was always over the top and I am so much like her in that way. What a wonderful tribute to your mother, your family's traditions, and Christ's birth. Blessings to you this Christmas season. Looking forward to your wonderful ideas.

  • >Your blog post is one of the prove that you started Christmas work of this year. I am stopping by one of the my facebook friend 's blog land and following you back!

  • >Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt story. My mom too, is very much a Christmas decorator. Not simply inside, but outside too. Every year we spend with her, I cherish, because I now that someday I will share your own experience.

    What I hadn't done, which you so eloquently expressed, is how to translate our own beautiful experience of Christmas with our mothers, into a beautiful experience with our own children. Thank you so much for helping me to look at it in that way.

    This year we are in the middle of building a house and right now we are living in a temporary home. We'll be moving into the new place right around the holidays, so I've been hesitant to create the 'mood' here, since we'll simply have to pack it up. But your post is making me think otherwise. I need to make it special wherever we are.

    Thank you.

  • >What a beautiful post! I am so sorry for your loss, but so very happy you were able to spend last Christmas with your mom the way you did. You will always have her as a special angel watching over you. I can't wait to see all you have to share!

    ❤Mrs. McKown
    Little Literacy Learners

  • >I think this may be my first comment here.

    I am so very sorry for your loss but what wonderful memories you and your mother created together during that week.

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