Our blessings

A home near ours in Yorktown, Virginia, lights up the night, 2012

A home near ours in Yorktown, Virginia, lights up the night, 2012

“…remember that our blessings outnumber the lights. Happy Christmas to all.”
Betsy Cañas Garmon

Every time I think I go overboard with decorating my Christmas trees or gift wrapping, I see someone whose efforts to make Christmas beautiful leave mine in the dust.  But the house pictured above may surpass anything I’ve ever seen.  For a video that shows a bit more of this display (complete with my own amazed narration), look here.

I am so grateful for all the efforts, large and small, that go into bringing seasonal cheer to every corner of our world.  From the bright, sticker-decorated die-cut wreath someone hung on Jeff’s door (and all the doors of active duty service members) here at the hospital, to the trees and decorations at the Fisher Houses, to the festive cooking, music and atmosphere that abounds seemingly everywhere I go, all combine to lift our spirits and brighten our days.

I hope you will be surrounded with the good will that shines especially brightly at this time of year.  Feel free to post links to your favorite Christmas carols, or send photos of holiday decorations you’d like to share.  Let’s keep the blessings growing and glowing!

One year ago today:

Sit quietly in a room


  1. Susan

    Julia, a whole new blessing for me, was hearing your voice, narrating your tour of the display. I hadn’t heard your voice before. I hadn’t thought about that. So it was a delightful gift this morning.
    On another note, I am away from home this year, with no decorations, and a friend came with decorations, and helped me make my apartment festive! And the decorations were so different from what I own at home, that it didn’t even make me homesick at all, just happy. I’m so grateful to those who take the effort to help us prepare.!

    • Thanks Susan! It’s a real gift for me to hear someone who LIKES the sound of my voice 🙂 since there are those who get way too much of it!!! Seriously, I am so happy you have some decorations now. I agree, it’s good that they were different. I find that part of the secret to getting past homesickness or any other kind of longing for what is not currently available, is to focus on the newness of where one is now. Our son Matt has a real gift for that. He could be whining about being sick of sitting around all day every day and missing his usual parties, Christmas dance, etc. but instead he and Jeff are watching the Celtic Woman Christmas special on TV, and he is just happy as can be to be sitting here with us on this snowy day. Hearing the Christmas music I thought: this will always be a unique Christmas in my memory, one I hope to remember as the time Jeff came out of the shadows of cancer and got well for good. I hope you will always remember this Christmas as a special time with the friend who helped you decorate for the season. Thanks for sharing with us about it!

  2. raynard

    Julia, I think it’s either “a epiphany” or a senior moment( psst don’t tell noooobody lol) I went past a house on the way home from work last week. For a minute , I had a flashback of that house in ‘Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation lol A classic holiday movie ( along with Home Alone).. Just the other day, I seen a show about people obsessed with Christmas decorations.( And I though I was “OCD” about where I hang up my keys and place my work bag as I head out the door lol) Tell Jeff( We are going to have to be like”The “A” Team” to get him to Philadelphia next year for”a real Philly cheesesteak & “Rita’s Real Italian Water Ice. “Cough, Cough “OOH OOH, Can we Go to”The Flower Show? I think next year it starts the first week of March .( Amtrak to 30th Street Station, then Septa to the stop that The Convention Center where it is held is upstairs over you..Now back to your regular scheduled program .. Be blessed

    • Raynard, Jeff smiled and almost laughed when I read him your “A Team” plans to get him to Philadelphia next year. I think we have a pretty good shot at it. He enjoyed it when we were there before. We went to both of those two rival cheesesteak places downtown (I can’t remember the names of them) which I guess is sort of a touristy thing to do, but we had fun. We even did the Rocky thing climbing (not running though) up the steps of the museum. It’s still snowing here – hope you are enjoying the winter wonderland!

  3. Janette Roberts

    Praying Jeff is gaining strength after operation and hope you can be home for Christmas. Love the video of the neighbor’s decorations.

    Lovingly, Jan

    • Thank you, Jan. We are hoping Jeff will be coming home in a few days – hooray! and then I can be wrapping presents and decorating the tree in between checking on him. As I told him, if you have to be stuck at home for awhile, there is no better time for it than at Christmas! Thanks for being with us here.

  4. MaryAnn

    Hearing the joy in your voice is a blessing to me today! Years ago while visiting my uncle in San Jose, CA; he insisted we go see THE decorated house. Almost all of the items were motorized. The display was huge, like your video, a train went around the perimeter, etc., etc.

    • Wow, we didn’t ever make it to that one – although we have fond memories of “Candy Cane Lane” in Vacaville!

  5. Jack

    The narration was the best part! You’re a Southerner! Like me!! I worked for a multinational company based in Amsterdam; on the first trip of many there over the years, the CEO of the business, a Dutch guy that spoke 5 or so languages, lived in Chicago for a while, listened to my presentation, kept looking under the table as I spoke. After a couple of times, I asked him if he had dropped something. He said no, but he wanted to make sure I was wearing shoes!

    One of the important things I do to ground myself when I’m feeling burdened is to number my blessings. Even in the midst of such trying circumstances, it took only a few minutes of counting to realize you’re right. 1 Thessolonians 5:16-18. Rejoice!

    • Hi Jack, I loved that story about the poor Philistine who kept looking under the table. It reminds me of something a very likeable and forthright person in California asked me back in 1990: “Do you find that people assume you are less intelligent than you are, because of your accent?” I started to tell her that we are taught early on to make allowances for such ignorance, but I only laughed and told her that I have always been proud of my Southern accent. It’s funny because I never hear it myself. I also adopted the obnoxious habit of answering, when people ask me where I’m from, “Brooklyn.” 🙂 I get a few looks that way.

      When I consider the circumstances and the era of the people to whom Paul was writing Thessolonians (“no boat, no light, no motorcar” as the Gilligan’s Island song used to go) it’s really sobering to wonder how the saints of ages past would see our petty complaints. To be able to rejoice in all circumstances is to be free indeed – it’s a goal to keep striving for!

  6. Roger Brown

    Julia, that house is still decorated in all its glory this year. We love to take unsuspecting friends/family to see it because it is sooo over the top, but in a nice way. Merry Chrsitmas to you and Jefff and hopes of seeing you guys soon.

    • I am so glad Mitzie and Robert told us about it. I couldn’t believe we had not been there before. Truly tourist-worthy! Merry Christmas to you and all your family – it may be in the New Year before we see you again, but we very much hope to be home from the hospital soon and maybe even in York County for Christmas Day.

  7. merry

    Julia, thanks for the Christmas video, as you say its over the top! 🙂 I enjoyed hearing your voice too…I’m from south GA. People comment on my accent, like you I don’t hear it. lol
    I love to decorate for Christmas, the lights, good food and family.
    I’m so pleased to hear you and Jeff may be home for Christmas. Wonderful.
    Christmas Blessings 🙂

    • Merry, I’m so glad you liked the light show! I’m glad I never lost my Georgia sound. I’ve explained to people before that there are different southern accents from different parts of the south. I can notice a Kentucky or Tennessee accent more easily than one from Georgia. I love them all, though. I hope y’all are having a great Christmas season!

  8. Sheila

    Julia, my southern sister (separated at birth) whose voice is music to my ears! I am so glad to know that Matt is able to share time with y’all and help those hospital hours pass quicker. What a delightful video and the narrative is excellent. I know there can’t be any electrical cords with those trillion lights! My thoughts, throughout the day, are so often of you, praying that Jeff is continuing to improve. Remember, if Dolly Parton calls to wish you a “Merry Christmas” it’s probably me! 🙂 Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks so much for the thoughts and prayers. I have been singing Jeff that song “All I want for Christmas is you” and it looks as if I just might get my wish. 🙂 I’ll keep y’all posted and meanwhile, if I hear a “holly jolly Dolly” voice I’ll know it’s you!

      • Sheila

        You must know I’m smiling …..:-)

        • I told Dolly she had a “sound-alike” and she was concerned until I told her you didn’t sing for a living (as far as I know). 🙂

  9. raynard

    Julia “great minds must think alike. I can tell you exactly where I was this morning singing the same song. I-95 headed to work and it just started snowing. those 2 cheesesteak places you were referring to were “Pat’s & Geno’s in South Philly. Have you both ever been to Lancaster PA? No not “Dutch Wonderland( I wish I may I wish I might lol) But Shady Maple Smorgastborg or Sight& Sound with those Christian Plays with the live animals. I seen 2 so far, In the beginning ( about Adam& Eve) and Behold the Lamb.( Jesus going to the cross). Hey Jeff, “Plan B could always be “NASCAR ( I live about a hour from Dover where they have several races a year and people go( whats that song “Little Richard sings( cough cough”Tootie Fruitie”( I could of said”Coo Coo for Cocoa Puffs lol. nuff said be blessed

    • Raynard, Jeff and I have been planning a trip to the Lancaster area for the longest time – we want to go to Gettysburg and Hershey too, but as with so many places within an easy drive, we keep saying we’ll get around to it and so far never have. It’s one of a few places he said he wanted to go to as soon as he could, after he was first diagnosed last year. When you say “Dover” to me, I think “military hops to Europe” but Jeff won’t even think about trying it until he is retired. You and Jeff can go to NASCAR while I babysit the waitlist at Dover. BTW our York home is really close to a NASCAR track and we’ve never been even one time. Cars are among the one percent of things in this world that don’t interest me! I’m glad there are a few things not on my ridiculously long list of stuff I want to do. Stay warm!

  10. OH MY!!! That’s a lot of lights. I remember one year I went home with Janet to her parents and she took me around to a neighbor who had lights and music. It was amazing but this makes it look kind of little. I hope I can come to York someday during this busy season so you can take me there. Hope all is well. Love you.

    • Everyplace we’ve lived has had a house or street with lots of lights, often a friendly sort of competition among 2 or 3 neighbors, it would seem. However, this one beats all I have ever seen. The neighborhood next to ours in San Antonio had some amazing life-sized scenes that were quite unique; each house with a different one featuring the sorts of automated characters you see on Disney ride. Skaters on a frozen pond, North Pole scenes, trains and that type of thing. But no show to rival Disney’s Main Street electrical parade, which this one definitely does. Today was a L-O-N-G day but the good news is that they have transitioned Jeff to the Fisher House where he’s staying in the room with Matt and me; if all goes well, they plan to clear him to go home on Monday. Love to all the Hills – have some extra fun for us this season! I may just fix myself a cup of decaf tea in honor of you and HM while I finish these comments.

      • You don’t like decaf. 🙂 I am so glad to hear good news. Give my love to the boys.

        • You know me well, my friend – just this moment I am drinking chai green but I gave in and “spiked” it with a black tea bag. Hee-hee.

  11. Michael

    Here is link for the interview with Wynton . I listened to it again.

    • Thanks for the link, Mike. I really enjoyed listening to Wynton.

  12. May Jeff continue to heal and may you come home soon to enjoy a special, grateful Christmas. xo

    • Thank you! We continue to hope and believe that gift will be ours soon :-).

  13. Nancy

    Thank you so much for sending me the cards of your blog! I keep them with me so I can give them out to my counseling clients and others who may need them! I hope you have a very blessing-filled Christmas!

    • Nancy, you’re welcome – I appreciate your sharing them! Hope you, your loved ones and clients all have a great Christmas too!

  14. Sheila

    Julia, this is a belated comment about Dolly (think I recall she’s a favorite of yours). We have friends that work closely with her and they introduced us to her when her new “Pirate’s Voyage” was opening here. Uh, uh, uh…. what to say? I blurted out, “I’ve always thought I talk like you!” and she agreed, “Well, you do!” She is very gracious and so tiny, especially her waist! Not to be a NAME-DROPPER but I couldn’t resist! 🙂 Sheila

    • Sheila, I think that is so cool! I would love to meet her. My sister helps to administer a literacy program for at-risk students in the public schools in Alabama…one of the programs they use was started and still subsidized by Dolly Parton. She seems to have a heart as big as her…hair! 🙂

      • Sheila

        Julia, starts with a “B”…….Blonde hair! 🙂

        • Oh, yeah…I knew I was leaving out something big!

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