The gift not yet opened, 2016

Hello everyone. Since I won’t be doing a Christmas tree this year, I thought I’d feature a photo of one from past years. If you have decorated a tree this year, feel free to send a photo to, and I’ll post it here. I hope you are finding some moments to enjoy this festive season. May you experience childlike excitement at the possibility of a literal or figurative gift not yet opened.  ** Scroll down to see some other unique and lovely Christmas trees shared by readers!

Our Christmas tree, 2011

Our Christmas tree, 2011

“The most splendid Christmas gift, the most marveled and magic, is the gift that has not yet been opened. Opaque behind wrapping or winking foil, it is a box full of possibilities…Often what precedes is better than what follows, even when, like Christmas Day, what follows is good.”Gregg Easterbrook

As with other happy events, the anticipation that builds during the holiday season is often just as exciting (or more so) than the day itself.  As the old saying goes, “getting there is half the fun.”  If the stress of shopping, baking, wrapping and decorating has you undone, try slowing down long enough to actually savor the tasks themselves.  Perhaps it will help if we think of the future as a gift not yet opened.  Rather than focusing on what irritates or worries us, let’s enjoy the wonder of the present, and the hope for beautiful things that may lie ahead.

Sue's Christmas tree, 2016

Sue’s Christmas tree, 2016


A friend gave Susan this feather tree for her new apartment.

A friend gave Susan this feather tree for her new apartment.

Jena's miniature tree

Jena’s miniature tree

Patricia sends her Christmas greetings to us, along with a photo of her glowing tree.

Patricia sends her Christmas greetings to us, along with a photo of her glowing tree.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    So true – I will think about that: ‘the future is a gift not yet opened” (a present!). Wow!

    • Susan, maybe it’s even many gifts not opened. When I rattle the packages to try and figure out what is in them, one of them sounds like a trip to New England to see you sometime. 🙂 As Mr. Rogers says, we can grow ideas in the garden of our minds.

      • And THAT is the good idea of a fertile mind! 😉

        • Hee-hee, I got a million of ’em, as Jimmy Durante supposedly said.

  2. Ann

    I’m not putting up a Christmas tree either so this will be fun to watch 🌲🌲🌲🌲

    • Ann, in 2012, not long after Jeff’s diagnosis when we didn’t put up a tree, I found out that the big payoff comes after the holidays, when we didn’t have to take it down. 😀 😀 😀 Hope you enjoy that part as much as we did!!

  3. Veronica Brown

    God bless you and keep you this season. Sending love, prayers & gratitude for your faithfulness. Veronica.

    • Thank you, Veronica. I definitely need prayers for the faithfulness. I am hoping it can take many forms because my own version of it has changed considerably. I John 3:2 has become a favorite verse for me! I appreciate your presence and your encouragement.

  4. Faith T McDonald

    Hi Julia, Thinking of you and praying for you today! My Christmas tree is half decorated–when its finished, I will send a picture…

    • Hi Faith, how are you? It’s always such fun to hear from you. If you get time to send a photo, I would love to see it, but don’t worry if you don’t find the time. I can imagine it in my own mind and it looks gorgeous there.

  5. Beautiful, Julia. My heart is with you.

    • ❤ ❤ ❤

  6. MaryAnn Clontz

    Much love, Julia! Hoping you get to spend loads of time with those wonderful grandsons!

    • Me too, Mary Ann. I keep thinking of how mired in grief we were when Jeff was first diagnosed, so much so that even the news of a grandchild on the way seemed meaningless to us because we were too numb to really comprehend it. My faithful friend Peggy wrote to me immediately to offer her help, and in that letter she wrote “somehow, some way, this child will be a blessing to you.” How prophetic of her– that’s exactly what happened. I will be forever grateful that Jeff got to hold and love not one but two grandsons before he left this earth. Give our love and holiday greetings to everyone in the NorCal Republic who remembers us! 😀

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        We remember you & your family with much love & joy!

  7. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I hope you’ll find comfort as others share their photos and their prayers for you and your family. I hope memories will numb your loss of Jeff and Mr. Carlyle and offset the emptiness and sadness that you’re going through. Love you dearly! 💛🎄🙏

    • Sheila, thanks so much for knowing and remembering “the big picture.” Alongside the devastation of missing Jeff’s physical presence, I am STILL missing my sweet Daddy too, especially at this time of year. As Mr. Dickens wrote, “he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us…” So I’m stringing some lights on the railing of our Verandah, and adding some spice to the tea, and lighting a candle, and meeting you there right now! Love you back, dearly! ❤ ❤ ❤

  8. I love your laden with love tree. I have a miniature one in the den too. I’ve often thought about what it would be like not to do all the decorating. As I age, it gets harder and more fatiguing to do it all.

    • Marlene, I so agree. Age has a way of forcing us to turn loose of things whether we are inclined to do so, or not. Even before Jeff died I was running out of steam to do so many of the holiday (and everyday) things I once enjoyed. Since his death, it’s all pretty much flatlined. I expect it will revive somewhat, but never to the same degree, and I’m OK with that. I may do as you do, and switch to a miniature. Getting older is a privilege that is not without graces and blessings, that’s for sure.

  9. Julia, It just may be a good idea to have one gift wrapped, yet when opened one finds but an empty box. What seems initially a disappointment, can be, in reality, a great joy. For the emptiness can be filled with any number of possibilities we wish, that can possibly make us the person we desire to be.

    • Alan, what an interesting idea! I’ve never heard it before, though it reminds me of an Easter story that touched me many years ago. I feel as if I have been delivered a great big gift of emptiness that I don’t want and can’t return. You have helped me to see that in a different light. Thank you!

      • First, Julia; you are welcome my friend. My Advent leading to Christmas has been bolstered in knowing that I have helped you in some way.
        I loved the Easter story. It reminds me that those around us, even our loved ones, may cause us challenge, and often through no fault of their own. Yet they give us a chance to understand the love of God. Because they impel us to love them even under the most difficult circumstances. You see: I’m sure we too are often a challenge to God. Yet, He loves us sill.
        A Blessed Christmas, Julia.

        • Alan, how true. There have been so many times when I have felt sad, exasperated, impatient or disappointed with someone, and then immediately thought “I guess this is how God feels about us sometimes.” It’s a good dose of perspective, and a much more potent incentive than fear. I hope you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful year in 2017!

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