The most glorious messes

Al, Carla and me on Christmas morning, sometime in the mid-1960s.

Al, Carla and me on Christmas morning, sometime in the mid-1960s.

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”Andy Rooney

I don’t know whether they should get credit or blame, but Mama and Daddy made all their kids into adults who love Christmas. I guess there’s a part of me that never really grew up when it comes to that holiday.  And for us, the delightful disarray starts long before Christmas morning.  Now, as then, our homes become glorious messes of wrapping paper, ribbons, colorful decorations that haven’t yet been put where they belong, and gifts hidden so well they might not be discovered again until June.  It all adds up to the year’s happiest chaos.

I started this year’s Christmas mess several weeks ago, knowing Jeff would be in the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend, by which time I normally have at least the York Christmas tree done.  As I write this, just the tree itself is up, not even adorned with the 3000-4000 lights I usually string on it before adding ridiculous numbers of ornaments.  Given everything that’s gone on this year, the Christmas mess is likely to be around awhile. No worries that it will get cleaned up too soon this year!

During this December, I wish you the happy sort of disorganization that suggests more festivity than frustration.  Cue up the holiday music, sip some spiced tea or coffee or eggnog, and enjoy the excitement!

One year ago today:

To lead a simple life

Hmm, do I sense conflicting themes here? 🙂


  1. One year, my family left for an out-of-town visit on Christmas Day, leaving a mess not only around the tree but elsewhere in the house as well. While away, the burglar alarm went off, and my next door neighbor used his key and accompanied the Deputy Sheriff for a brief search of the premises.
    “We’re too late”, he remarked to the officer, “The whole place has been ransacked!”

    • The surgeons are in the room now (minor setback: apparent infection) and I’m too busy to do much now, but this comment was so hilarious I had to read and post it. Much-needed comic relief! Thanks for the comments everyone, I’ll get to them as soon as I can.

    • Sheila

      As Bill and I were leaving Garden City yesterday afternoon I thought back to this comment and took a last glance around, just in case! I didn’t want to throw up the “abducted flag”! 🙂

      • Sheila

        P.S. We are on our way to Bristol, Tn.

        • Have a wonderful time in beautiful Bristol! Maybe we can meet up there sometime when we next go to Tennessee via car.

      • Aw, why not keep the law enforcement folks guessing?!! I still laugh every time I think about Eric’s story. Someone asked me “is that a true story?” and I said “If you knew them, you might not need to ask.” 🙂 Take it any way you want!

  2. Susan

    Julia, at first glance, I thought your themes seemed mutually exclusive, but I’m going to take the position that they aren’t.
    First, what is simpler than returning to a well established happy tradition? Weren’t times “simpler” then?
    Second, one needs to have enough simplicity in one’s daily life, to have the room (time and space) to make the glorious mess! Evidence that our lives aren’t quite as simple as we would like: your tree isn’t decorated yet this year, and I have just a “rosemary” tree . (My Christmas tradition is to trim my tree on my birthday, which was Sunday, but instead, I was packing to catch the red eye back from Seattle).
    Third…It’s simpler (easier!) to just leave all of the decorations up, than to put them all away again!
    My conclusion is…it’s simply a glorious mess!
    Love, peace, and joy to you this season!

    • Thanks for this explanation – I like it! In fact, I was hoping someone would come up with something like this to reassure me. Re: leaving the decorations up – a longstanding joke started by a friend of ours, is that I need to construct a closet (or trapdoor) where I can just stash my tree away every year so as not to have to fool with decorating it and then taking it down. I might seriously consider doing that if I ever add on to our home! 🙂 But hey, part of the glorious, messy fun is that it’s never quite the same tree from one year to the next! Thanks so much for your tidings of comfort and joy!

  3. raynard

    Julia thank you for sharing your picture. I remember all the years, my mom”dragged a real Christmas tree in until”she figgured out the color by number ones are better”.. The question for me today is “who got the angel that sat up on our trees all those years? I think my wife”watched too much McGuiver& ‘A’ Team cause she “adapted/overcame got resourceful & “made up a plan as she went along.( She made a Christmas tree of of that green tinsel and hung on the wall with lights.( This will be the first year without”a Charlie Brown Christmas tree lol.. I guess now we can all hold hands in a circle singing”Nat King Cole& Andy Williams.( no you didnt think I was going to say ‘We are the World& Lion King “Kubya” I digress lol Be blessed

    • Hey, that gives me a whole new idea for a decoration! To hang it on the wall sort of like a wreath, except shaped like a Christmas tree, with lights and ornaments and everything. It would be a great thing to hang in a window, too! But I know I will always have some sort of 3-D Christmas tree standing somewhere in my home. I just love them. One of the blog readers said she alternates real trees with artificial ones, and this year is her “real tree” year. I had to go to an artificial one in 2000 because I finally figured out the weight of all my ornaments was killing my fresh Christmas trees long before Christmas! I had 8 and 9 foot tall trees that STILL looked like Charlie Brown’s tree! But I draw the line at the aluminum kind that turn colors. 🙂 That tree in the photo is one of the rare ones of that type we used to have – we usually had a Scotch Pine or other very dense tree, and that’s the kind I still like best. Hope you will have a very fun Christmas season this year!

  4. tpeastin

    Here I go commenting…again! (Talk about breaking my internet resolution!) My comment is not so much about today’s picture/commentary, although you have a wonderful way of describing things that often make me want to actually BE there…such as today amongst the chaos of the wrapping paper, ribbons, lights, and ornaments and the joy that goes along with it all.

    Today I’m commenting because of a comment I read on the Upper Room this morning that I’d like to share with you. I don’t know how often you read the Upper Room online anymore due to Jeff’s recent surgery…but you are often mentioned by name in prayer concerns. This morning, in Monte’s recap of Monday’s comments, he responded to a reader named Laura who visually lifts up the readers in prayer. Monte added that he prays better when he has a picture of the person, and he specifically mentioned praying for you, Jeff, and Matt because he can picture you. I copied the comment below:

    “As I am enjoying my few minutes of quiet devotion time, I am visually lifting you all up in his loving, healing, and peaceful arms! May you feel his loving embrace throughout the day as you encounter the good and the bad and aim for HIS Commandments!” (Laura—I hope we all are visualizing others as we devote; I know many of you prefer to not have pictures, I honestly can pray better for those of you that I have pictures of—and I do picture you in these times—case in point—Julia, Jeff and Matt)

    Well, I had not planned on being so wordy…I am just grateful for our awesome God who provides us ways to keep our fragile human spirits going when times get tough. Love, Pat

    • Pat, thanks so much for taking the time to send this to me. I love long comments! I am so grateful to know that the brothers and sisters at Upper Room have not forgotten us; I have been mostly absent from there for so long as I try to balance my activities in this strange new set of circumstances. I feel my first online obligation is to this blog and its readers, so I tend to prioritize that. Plus I find that hearing from folks here tends to energize me, which is something I can always use more of these days. I agree about the pictures being helpful. It was so, so hard for me the first time I put any photo online. Even on Facebook I didn’t put a photo for a long time, using it only to read others’ pages. Yet I so enjoy seeing others’ photos, that I started to feel guilty for taking what I was not willing to give. I so appreciate your sending me the photos of you and your family, and telling me more about your own story. I do find that it helps to be able to visualize someone when I read their comments, but it’s not necessary; just a nice extra. Thanks so much for copying the comment for me here – please tell Monte, Sarah, Cindy, Dan, and all the UR “regulars” whom I don’t see on this blog that I am thinking of them and hope to be back eventually. Special thanks to you, Merry, Raynard, Jena and so many others who take the time to drop by here and check on us! 🙂

      • And of course, Mike, who has been steadfast in his support from the very beginning!

  5. Roger

    There is something magical about Christmas and seeing the colorful packages under the tree. And the earlier the packages are under the tree before Dec 25 exponentially increases my anticipation. Just to let you know, I’ve never been good at waiting whether for what I’m going to open or for what others get to open. Anyway, this year we will have two more grandchildren (Aaron and Mandi have taken in two foster sisters who will soon be theirs permanently by adoption) to buy presents for and we’re just not waiting for it to be all legal and everything! 🙂 See what I mean about not being a good waiter?
    I am sorry to hear of the infection Jeff is dealing with now and will be praying for it to be treated without further complications. God bless you and your family, Julia and may you have the best messy Christmas ever…I know we will!

    • Thank you Roger! My sister’s son and his wife are in the process of adopting twin siblings (a boy and girl, Braxton and Bailey, whom I have already dubbed “the honey B’s”) and even though it’s not completely final yet, I’m with you, let the celebrations begin!!! So much to be thankful for this Christmas!!!

  6. I love this photo. What a great time you were all having. I am impressed you are keeping your holiday spirit. Have fun. I love you.

    • Love you too Amos. The holiday spirit comes and goes, but I re-visit it as often as possible. Long day today – more info tomorrow we hope.

  7. Sheila

    Julia, what a fun time you kids were having. Christmas mornings are so special as anticipation finally gives way to the awaited moment. I’m sorry to read that there’s a problem today. Maybe that can happen with such a major procedure. Be assured that the prayers are many. Love, Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila, hopefully it will not be a major setback although it will mean longer time in the hospital. Jeff has been in good spirits and for that I am so thankful. Christmas morning was such a big deal at our home when we were kids. Mom and Dad would give us an “up no earlier than” time and we all would meet in Eric’s room about 30 minutes prior, to count down to the time – usually around 4:30 a.m.! I knew I was getting older when I didn’t mind the getting up time getting later and later! My parents did not spoil us with too many gifts and treats during the year or even at birthdays, so Christmas was a really big deal to us! I am glad, too. Thanks so much for being here with us and sharing our lives. Those prayers continue to be needed and appreciated!

  8. Ellis Anderson

    I’m sorry to hear you had a day that wasn’t easy. Sending hugs and warmth to that little girl in the picture who I see completely in the woman I know. You have changed so little apparently, in spirit and in looks!

    • Thank you Ellis, you are generous as always. I read years ago that the name “Julia” means “youthful one” – not sure if that’s true, but if so, I guess there could be worse things. As one who was always told I looked and acted more childish than my age would suggest, I got sensitive about it, so now I’m super happy to be 57 and counting – nobody can call me a child anymore! 🙂

  9. Loved that quote and of course the picture too. You look so pretty!
    Whenever I read about Christmas I feel so sad that my girls never get to experience the real Christmas. We have memories from our childhood but the kids are so unfortunate in that aspect.
    Enjoy the blessings of the season along with some happy chaos!

    • Thank you Bindu, I too feel sad that your girls cannot enjoy the same merriment you remember, but perhaps someday they will. I appreciate your kind thoughts, prayers and good wishes for us during this difficult time. As you do, I cherish my memories of happier “Christmas past” celebrations and hope for more of them in the future.

  10. What an adorable photo Julia ! You all look so happy and look at teeny tiny you with all that blonde hair 😀 It’s remarkable how some grownups are so easily picked out of their childhood photo’s while others change so much. You my dear, look just like young Julia.

    I’ve been going so darn slow this year. I do have the tree in place but no decorations yet either. I just got out the Winter Pots two days ago, all greened but need decor. Our weather has been very uncooperative and unseasonable cold (-36 C with the windchill this morning). We’ve been hammered with snow too which makes the roads a misery, then last week a lady backed into my car as I drove through a parking lot. I feel like I’m in catch up mode every day. One day I decided to stop freaking out and just do it all at a reasonable pace and actually enjoy every part of it 😀

    • Excellent advice – I plan to do that same thing, just enjoy the process, don’t worry about when (or if) it all gets done. I feel a bit better knowing I’m not the only one who’s running late this year. I keep telling Jeff, one aspect of getting older is learning to be content with moving more slowly. I think he will probably be better at that now. So everything has a silver lining, I guess.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: