Each Christmas it happens. There’s the Christmas I dream about and the Christmas we have. You know the Christmas you dream in your mom dreams: sipping hot chocolate by the fire, reading T’was the Night Before Christmas to your bright-eyed, attentive children. Maybe you’ve already played Monopoly together. Or Yahtzee as a family. Everyone patient and polite, with some laughter thrown in. You add tinsel to your tree. The way Grandma taught you, one strand at a time, strategically placed for glow factor.
But here’s the truth. I’ve never added tinsel to our tree. Not once. That sounds like a nightmare with the Bicknell boys. At my grandma’s house with just my well-behaved older brother and me, the hanging of tinsel went perfectly every year. One shiny little strand at a time just like Grandma directed with Lawerance Welk singing in the background.
You shouldn’t lust for something you don’t have. This morning I got a lesson from the Ghosts of Christmas past like Ebenezer Scrooge. The Good Lord took me on a tour of our old Christmases. And I cried.
This lesson came because of envy. I was blog hopping after seeing an invitation in my inbox to join a blog tour spotlighting farmhouse Christmases. I can do that, I thought for a moment. We have a farmhouse. Christmas lights. Cute kids. But by about the third blog I toured, I realized the Bicknells would never fit in unless I lied.
For one hot second, I considered lying. How hard would it be to post a picture of our beautiful tree?
I know I’d need to remove the half-naked boy standing on the windowsill, but I could use this photo instead. Almost everyone loves babies…
Nobody needs to know my grandson was just taking a breather from crying when one of the boys snapped this picture. He went back to wailing a moment later because he’s pretty fussy, but for a second, all is calm, all is bright at our house.
And this really is our farmhouse mantle. Before decorating it this year, I removed three nerf darts and maybe a dried frog. It kind of looked like a mummified frog. The dust was an inch thick as well, and in this photo you can see our fanlight remote controls if you look closely. We keep the remotes up on the mantle to keep them away from the boys, but this has never worked. We would have to tape the remotes to the ceiling to stop our sons, and truly, I don’t believe this would help. The boys have carried in a tall ladder to get something they want up high. At six-years-old, Cruz hauled in an eight foot ladder to decorate the tree again this year. He carried in the ladder last year and the year before too. Last year, I worried he’d break one of my favorite ornaments, so I broke it before Cruz did, trying to keep it out of his dirty little hands.
Cruz especially likes my bird ornaments. This year, he finally managed to break my last German bird. I cried, “damn it!” when it happened, though I’ve been doing really well not cussing since I realized cussing (mostly at our dogs) isn’t the Christian thing to do. Cruz went and hid in his bed until I walked down the hall and apologized to him for losing my temper.
Sad. I know. And a “German bird,” you ask? “Why, yes.” When we lived in Germany, I collected bird ornaments. Glass ones. Why birds? Why not? Trying to save my glass birds from our ruthless toddler several years ago, I bought some cheap styrofoam birds for Cruz to stick in the tree. A couple of years ago, he hung them upside down. I thought the Naughty or Nice ornament couldn’t have been more properly placed above Cruz’s birds that year. He still moves these two little birds all over the tree every Christmas. They are like our elf on the shelf, except we’ve never played elf on the shelf because Cruz on the loose is enough mischief for one farmhouse.
How do you think Cruz’s styrofoam birds would do on that farmhouse Christmas blog tour?
I could post this picture of him in the tour too, yelling because he can’t reach something he wants. Probably a German bird. Or I could use the sweet photo below and pretend we are all innocent cuteness. But the truth is, I didn’t plan Cruz’s cute mismatched boots. He dressed his two-and-a-half-year-old self. I was exhausted that year. Before I snapped this picture, I’d told Cruz to let go of the string of lights. A hundred times let go, but back then, he never listened. So yeah, this is was our real Christmas farmhouse a few years back.
And honestly, I cried because none of my Christmas dreams have come true. We don’t do hot cocoa by the fire. The one time we tried, the boys spilled their chocolate everywhere and that was awful to clean up. Imagine these boys with cups of steaming cocoa in their hands. And yes, our boys still dress this way year around. They’re just bigger now so being half-naked looks more savage than cute.
Sadly, I don’t think we would qualify for that Christmas farmhouse blog tour. Though I could post this picture of the three wise men up in our window sill.
Walking across to the other window sill to visit Baby Jesus in the manager.
Our nativity scene looks kind of neat up in our second story windows where I place them every year, but this wasn’t because I have a knack for decorating. Our nativity scene we keep up high because our boys, when they were younger, loved mixing them with their dinosaurs and dragons for battles. Which, if you think about it, is pretty true to our spiritual lives. Doesn’t it seem like we’re always in some kind of battle here on earth?
So I’m feeling pretty humble right now. After traveling through our Google photos of Christmases past, I’ve come to the conclusion I like our crazy Christmases even if we never qualify for a farmhouse Christmas blog tour. We do church each Christmas Eve as a family. All our kids go and we now take up several rows, though our oldest son would probably rather be somewhere else.
We kill December rattlesnakes around our farmhouse.
Okay, this was a fluke last year. Usually, the rattlesnakes hibernate through winter, and we don’t see them until spring, but all of our boys can more than take care of themselves. Snakes don’t stand a chance at our house. My sons may not be attentive when I read a Christmas story, but I never have to worry about someone picking on them at school.
And our two son-in-laws just got baptized a few weeks ago at church. The smaller one is six feet tall. When our girls were still under our roof, before they went to college, I used to dream of us being a game family. You know we’d all sit down at our farm table and play scrabble or cards for hours on end. Especially at Christmas when we were all together.
I knew a family who did this every Christmas when I was a kid, and I always secretly longed to be at their Christmas games instead of my own family’s Christmas because my dad and brother hunted on Christmas morning until the afternoon. So we began our tradition of opening gifts Christmas Eve night when the hunters were home. Now my dad has trained my son-in-laws to hunt. Guess we’ll be opening our Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve for the rest of my life, though I think Jake and Drew have better sense than to be gone Christmas morning the way Opa always is out shooting ducks.
Please don’t look at how dirty our refrigerator door is, but read this carefully the way I did last Christmas. I read it so carefully tears filled my eyes. I was ranting in the kitchen about not being a game family, or not opening gifts on Christmas morning, or nobody listens to my Christmas stories when I read them by the fire when I spotted this message.
I can’t remember what I was complaining about last Christmas but “Be thankful for Jesus” hit me like a fish in the face. “Who did this?” I asked with my throat tightening up.
All of the boys looked at me with innocent eyes.
“Well, I didn’t do this. Nobody ever uses my fridge letters but me. I’ve been trying to get you boys to write on the refrigerator for two years and you never touch the letters.”
Still, wide-eyed silence met my throaty accusation. Finally, eight-year-old G2 bravely stepped forward. “I did it,” he softly said.
“Well, thank you!” I said, feeling like a big old Ebenezer Scrooge. “I needed that reminder. Christmas stresses me out. I’m sorry, guys.”
“Why does Christmas stress you out?” One of G2’s brothers asked.
“I guess because I want Christmas to be something it’s not.”
“Like what?” One of the boys pressed.
“Like we’re not a game family. We don’t play games at Christmastime.”
“WHAT?! Yes, we do!” The boys cried in unison. “Remember when you shot me between the eyes a few years ago? You got all of us Nerf guns for Christmas and we played capture the flag. I didn’t know you could shoot like that, Mom!” The boys were growing excited reliving their Christmas memory.
“Oh, great! I’m the mom that shoots her kids between the eyes at Christmas.” But inside I was smiling. See, we really are a game family. We also play Christmas football in the yard. And Thanksgiving football. And football for no good reason. But I don’t have hardly any pictures of us playing because I like playing too.
So doing this farmhouse blog tour has been really good for me. You’re my only audience since I won’t be on any blog tours anytime soon, but I hope you think a little about what makes your family’s Christmases special and unique.
One of my favorite lines is, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I didn’t realize, but while looking at those other blogs this morning of beautiful calm, bright farmhouses, I made the mistake of comparing my home to theirs. I bet none of their farmhouses has a mummied frog on the mantle. Or maybe it wasn’t a frog. It sure looked like a dead little critter to me.
But really, is Christmas about my farmhouse? Or your farmhouse? Or city house if that’s where you live? Or if your family play games on Christmas day? I hope your special and unique family is all together this Christmas. And above all, I hope your heart is light. I pray you have yourself a merry little Christmas and that you’re thankful for Jesus. Because Jesus is the reason for Christmas.