Today, we’re sharing our Effortless Christmas Home Tour as part of the Christmas Homes Tour Blog Hop hosted by the always sweet and creative, Cindy of Cloches & Lavender and Terrie of Decorate & More with Tip!
If you’re new here or popping over after touring Terrie’s festive Christmas bedroom, welcome, we’re excited to have you here.
All season long, I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact I have genuinely struggled to come up with a holiday theme for our home.
This is highly unusual for me because I love themes.
In fact, nothing gives me greater pleasure than finding inspiration and allowing my creativity to run wild with ideas revolving around a specific vision.
But this year, I couldn’t come up with a single concept.
Instead, all I wanted for our holiday home was to recreate a feeling I experienced several years ago while we were at the cabin.
This is a story I’ve never told anyone save for my bestie S who was there to witness it all.
It’s a story about the magic of Christmas moments and the wonders of His love.
And how I came this close to missing out on it all.
Shortly before Christmas, we decided to venture out for dinner at a place we had only ever seen on a billboard while driving up to the cabin.
I should note here I come from a family of notoriously picky eaters.
So, I have no idea why I said yes other than the fact S is a foodie and loves to try all sorts of things I would never even consider tasting, and I didn’t want to disappoint her.
The restaurant was a few towns over, so late one afternoon, we got all dressed up, put the GPS coordinates in the car, and set out for a “culinary Christmas adventure.”
I should also note here, I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at 19. Most of the time, I’m able to manage it on my own thanks to a lot of therapy and hard work.
But there have been entire seasons since then that have been so debilitating, I’ve needed intensive medical treatment and care.
I share this because while I love to travel, being in the car can be extremely difficult. The coping strategies I’ve learned over the years are never more present than when I’m in the car.
Strategies, I continue to utilize to this very day.
The ride to the restaurant started out uneventful driving down one side of the mountain to get to the other. And since the sun stayed behind the clouds nearly all day, the gray skies made it easy to lose track of time.
We drove through winding roads and tiny towns while listening to Christmas music and as I do every year, I wished for a magical snowy holiday.
It wasn’t until my thoughts were interrupted by the prompt, “At the next road, turn left,” I realized our surroundings were no longer familiar.
In fact, there were fewer cars on the road and the lanes were getting smaller and smaller with each mile.
Always up for an off-road adventure, S assured me we were headed in the right direction.
But as the minutes passed, I was not buying it.
The “road” had turned into what can only be described as a cow field that had given way to a footpath in the mountain.
Still, we forged ahead.
With trees and thick brush all around us and our cell phones no longer working, I could feel my fear give way to panic.
Next came the white knuckles around the door handle, the pounding heartbeat, the labored breathing, the sick stomach, the clammy hands, the migraine halo, the hot sting from tears spilling over, and the guilt I had not been able to keep it all in check.
S gently stopped the car and said, “I’m sorry. We’re lost. I know I can get us out of here, but you have to trust me, ok? I need you to do your best to pull it together because the fog is about to set in, and we can’t stay here.”
I wiped my eyes, took a deep breath, and steadied my gaze to take it all in.
It was literally a scene straight out of The Hobbit series with dense forest, patches of snow covering large rocks, ice nestled in the crevices of the mountain, icicles hanging off tall tree branches, and steam rising up from the river below.
In the distance, I could see a large family of deer making their way through the wintery and frosted terrain.
There wasn’t a single car or house in sight. In fact, you could barely see an ATV path.
As terrified as I was at the thought of moving forward, I knew S was right, we had to keep going.
Over the next series of minutes (which felt like hours), we drove over rocks, downed tree limbs, and aging roots as thick brush hit the sides of our car.
The engine was whining, the tires were bouncing, and several times I feared the car would stall out entirely.
I could feel the temperature dropping outside and by the time we reached the ridge, the fog had set in completely.
Two turns later we were back on the highway.
Three stop signs later, we were pulling into the restaurant.
To this day, we have no idea how long we were lost in the woods.
“Can you walk?” S said.
“I don’t know, I feel like jelly right now,” I replied tearily. “This was not the culinary Christmas adventure, I thought it was going to be. And besides, I’m pretty sure I know where the Yeti lives now.”
“I know,” she said, “And I feel awful about it. We basically just stared down one of your biggest fears – getting lost in the woods while stuck in the car – and you handled it like a champ. For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. Your family is not going to believe it when we tell them! We can wait out here or go inside any time you’re ready, ok? No rush.”
We sat in silence for a while as the weight of everything that had just happened washed over us.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to go inside. I just wanted to go back to the cabin, grab a hot bath, and call it a night.
But I was so cold and emotionally drained. I figured if nothing else, a cup of hot chocolate would help lift my spirits, so I reluctantly got out of the car.
The restaurant’s exterior was unassuming save for the giant wood-carved black bears, arms held high holding up the pitch of the roof.
As we opened the glass doors though, it was anything but ordinary.
Thick cedar garlands complete with tiny white lights and large sugar pinecones were draped on the tops of the floor-to-ceiling shelving units that lined the room.
And on the shelves were jars upon jars of jellies, jams, butters, anything that could be pickled, and cellophane-wrapped bars of fudge.
Next to the cash wrap was an elaborate gingerbread house created by a local pastry chef that was set to be raffled off on Christmas Eve for charity.
In the distance, a 12-foot-tall Christmas tree loaded with white lights was decorated with gobs of red velvet ribbons, gold ornaments, and glittering snowflakes.
The lodge-style fireplace was already roaring and, on the mantel, hung a red felt stocking for every employee.
As we waited to be seated, I couldn’t tell if we were over or underdressed, early or late for dinner, which made me fidget even more.
After a few minutes, we were greeted by a friendly staff member, who took one look at us and said, “It’s fun to get dressed up for dinner, isn’t it? We’re so glad you’re here.”
She sat us next to a large picture window beside the Christmas tree with a full view of the fireplace.
I don’t know how it happened, but I immediately felt my defenses melt away. It felt like we were being welcomed into a stranger’s cozy living room and as I looked around the room, I noticed there wasn’t just one large Christmas tree there were 5.
Our waitress shared the dinner and drink specials and then gave us a few moments to decide. The restaurant was quiet which is exactly what I needed to salvage the rest of the night and my Christmas cheer.
The tables were filled with couples, groups of friends, and several families celebrating the holiday season.
Next to the fireplace was an older man seated alone dressed in a bright red sweater, red and white checkered pants, a red belt with a shiny gold buckle, and bright white orthopedic shoes.
Around his neck was a thin red scarf that made him look part French painter and part cowboy.
About halfway through our meal, the waitress was at our table checking in when the older man shuffled up to hug her.
“I can’t thank you enough for the meal tonight, Linda. It was just what my heart needed,” he said, “The kids have all gone home now and I was feeling a little lonely.”
“Oh, it’s no problem at all. I’m glad you came in. It’s so good to see you out again. How you doin’?” she replied.
It was at this point I gave S a stare only a best friend would understand because I had no idea how to give them privacy without interrupting their reunion.
Sensing our uneasiness, he quickly clued us in, “My wife just died,” he quietly said, “She was the love of my life. We were childhood sweethearts and married for 64 years. She wrote to me every day when I was in the war and she’s the only person I’ve ever danced with or kissed.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss. 64 years is a long time, and it sounds like she was a real treasure.” I said.
“Oh, she was! We were poor when we first got married. We didn’t have a lot of money for things like this,” he said motioning around the room at the Christmas trees and swags of greenery, “We didn’t really need a lot because we had each other though. We created magical Christmas moments every year and we always marveled at what we had been blessed with, the wonders of His love we liked to call them because Joy to the World was her favorite song.”
As I listened intently, I could no longer hide my feelings and before I could catch them tears started running down my face.
He pulled out a well-loved handkerchief, handed it to me, and said, “I didn’t mean to make you upset, honey, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t make me upset, I’m sorry I’m crying on you,” I replied.
“You have nothing to apologize for, you don’t owe me an explanation,” he said as he patted me on the shoulder. “The heart is more tender this time of year, as it should be. I completely understand.”
He hugged Linda once more and as he was leaving the table he said, “I appreciate you letting me tell you about my wife. She was a good lady, a real firecracker, and I miss her every day. Christmas is hard because she loved it so much but I’m going to keep creating magical moments and looking for wonders of His love until I see her again.”
And with that, he shuffled away.
I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve thought about that encounter over the years. To most people, it probably wouldn’t have even been significant.
Yet every time I struggle to come up with an idea be it a Christmas theme, post to write, or room to design, I think about that old man, dressed in his Sunday best creating magical Christmas moments despite his grief and loss.
There’s a good chance your holiday season looks nothing like you thought it would this year. I can completely relate because mine doesn’t either.
But what I learned that day from the encouraging words of a stranger is that we have the ability to create magical moments whenever we want.
Maybe magical for you is to finally give yourself a break. Perhaps it’s carving out time to bake Christmas cookies or make ornaments. Maybe it’s donating your time, energy, or resources to those who’ve had an exceptionally hard year.
It might even be as simple as adding pops of red to your neutral décor because red feels like Christmas to the people in your pod more than ivory and champagne does.
Whatever the inspiration for your Christmas magic, my wish for all of us is that we’re able to hold onto it despite the circumstances around us.
Because when we really look back on this wild ride of a year, we’ll see the wonders of His love have been right there with us all along.
And that, my friends, is worth celebrating.
Up next on the hop is Tammy from Patina and Paint. Once you’re finished there, be sure to check out the rest of the talented ladies on the Christmas Homes Tour Blog Hop:
Other Holiday Home Posts to Enjoy:
- Soft and Romantic Farmhouse Christmas Tour
- A Christmas Message & Holiday Home Tour
- Blue and White Christmas Home Tour at Bliss Barracks
- Effortless Christmas Wreath Ideas
- Soft and Romantic Farmhouse Christmas Porch Tour