Tasteful Decorating

Tasteful Decorating

A Guest Article by Clarita Yoder

by Guest Writers | November 15, 2014

The very word “Christmas” evokes such warm emotion for so many people! This holiday is celebrated the globe over by various people, even by those who do not even know its meaning.

For some, Christmas means cold weather and snow, being bundled up in warm coats and gloves and scarves, and coming indoors to warm up by the fire with hot chocolate. They can truly sing, “Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening...”

For others, Christmas might mean running the air conditioner, playing a game of football outside in short sleeves, and sipping lemonade to cool down. And they sing songs like, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas...” and “If only in my dreams...”

However varied each experience may have been, we have hopefully come to realize that weather is not the real meaning of Christmas. Yes, we may have been accustomed to one or the other, and perhaps moved from one extreme to the other and had quite a shock! But, weather is not what determines Christmas, or the spirit of Christmas.

 

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It’s interesting, really, how what we grow up with can be associated with what is correct, or right, or wrong. I was in my twenties when I went on a mission trip to Asia, and our team leader hammered into us that the culture there was “Not good, not bad; just different.” This was said over and over again, and it’s something I still think about years later when I relocated to a different part of the United States after I was married. There are things that seem “right” about different seasons, depending on where we have lived and experienced pleasure in life. But, wherever you may find yourself, I encourage you to think outside of your box, and ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the beauty that is there—the beauty that is His, most of all. It is there to be found.

Edith Schaeffer, author of The Hidden Art of Homemaking, has been one of the most influential women in my life in how I view my home, in choosing joy and contentment wherever I am, and in viewing my home as a piece of art: “I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a palace) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of ‘art’... It seems to me that whether it is recognized or not, there is a terrific frustration which increases in intensity and harmfulness as time goes on, when people are always daydreaming of the kind of place in which they would like to live, yet never making the place where they do live into anything artistically satisfying to them. Always to dream of a cottage by a brook while never doing anything to the stuffy house in the city is to waste creativity in this very basic area, and to hinder future creativity by not allowing it to grow and develop through use.”

Mrs. Schaeffer also said something very profound, which is the “why” behind the art of homemaking: “There are various art forms we may or may not have talent for, may or may not have time for, and we may or may not be able to express ourselves in, but we ought to consider this fact—that whether we choose to be an environment or not, we are. We produce an environment other people have to live in. We should be conscious of the fact that this environment which we produce by our very ‘being’ can affect the people who live with us or work with us.”

Our homes create an environment. We are an environment. So the question is not if we are creating anything worthwhile; the question is what are we actually creating? And is it a life-giving atmosphere and environment? Is it sharing Jesus?

And that brings us the idea of having a home at Christmastide. What is the environment that we are wanting to create? What is the message we are wanting to portray, not only to our families, to our fellow Christians, but also the world around us? What do they perceive about the things that matter to us, about the God who matters most of all?

What we need is not a list of things that are acceptable or not, but a need to examine our own hearts and ask the Lord to purify our motives. Why do we decorate as we do? Why do we not? Is the fear of man driving us, or the desire to please particular people? Do we want to be noticed and admired? Or are we waiting until our ship comes in and we can finally have all we want financially, so we’ll just sit by and wait until then?

There may need to be a readjusting—a realigning of our hearts before the Lord—because sometimes we take the gift of a room, or a house, and turn the focus on us. But the Lord has given us as women the potential for creating an atmosphere where Jesus can be seen and glorified, and that is a tremendous opportunity!

So as we go into the Christmas season, let’s talk about just a few ways to create an atmosphere in our homes. Not every person’s style will be the same, and that is the beauty of diversity. I prefer more neutral colors, while others love a vivid burst of color. Each one is beautiful, and neither is wrong. But the motive behind each must be pure, and a desire to create an atmosphere that reflects the character of Christ.

Christmas is one of my favorite seasons to “fluff my nest.” I absolutely love it! But I don’t have many large bins in storage with Christmas décor; I prefer to use the more natural elements to bring into my home. I love to bring in armloads of fresh pine to place around the home—bringing a feeling of warmth and a delightful smell as well!

I grew up in the north on a property filled with large evergreen trees. Each December we’d bundle up, dash outside to clip fresh greenery, and stumble back inside a half hour or so later, nearly frozen to the bone. But the green pine would fill the house with a wonderful scent, and my aunt would come and help us make fresh wreaths for the doors and windows, and it was a wonderful time!

I don’t live in the north now; I live in the warm south. There are no evergreen trees or even Christmas tree farms to go to in December, but there are little tented shelters where the Christmas trees are brought in from hundreds of miles away. It doesn’t seem quite the same to buy a long pine garland from Lowe’s in flip flops with the air conditioner running as it does from a charming tree farm on a snowy day, but sometimes you just choose to make do with what you have available!

And so I collect greens and free branch clippings from the Christmas tree locations, and make wreaths and garlands, and place little snippets of greenery around the house. Did you know that Christmas tree farms always trim around the bottom of the trees before they sell them? And these clippings are normally thrown away, unless you go and politely ask if they have any tree clippings they would like to have taken off their hands! Normally this is given free of charge, and I leave with a trunkful of fresh pine to use about the house! There are many great tutorials on how to make a wreath, if you enjoy doing things yourself, or you can buy wreaths cheaply and add some pinecones, ornaments, ribbon, or whatever you like! But do use real pine if possible; the look and the smell cannot be replaced by faux pine! I love the smell of fresh pine, and also love the symbol of the vibrant life of Jesus.

I also love how Scripture can be displayed so beautifully through writing, or even a single word. One year I found a picture that inspired me, and I wrote the names of the Messiah on a chalkboard. It was such a beautiful reminder of who Christ is through the holiday season! My husband is a carpenter, so he often has extra pieces of wood and lumber left over from jobs. I found one of them and wrote PEACE in large letters on a four-foot board, and placed it at our front entrance. I want the spirit of Jesus to be clear in this home, and that it’s His life and love that flows here!

Snow holds a very nostalgic feeling for me, but there is no snow to be found there I live now. (The local folks talk about the “foot of snow” they had about twenty-five years ago; in reality, it was a remarkably rare two inches.) Rather than focusing my thinking on how my kids aren’t experiencing my favorite winter activity, I found some faux snow in bags at the store and brought it home. We went out to the front porch and had a snow party! No, it’s not like real snow by any means, but it gave my southern children a bit of snow fun without the bitter cold!

My husband and I love to do projects together, and last year he helped me make a marquee sign with the word JOY on it that I placed on our living room mantel. That particular holiday season had been a difficult one; there had been great loss through the death of a dear friend in the previous year, and I was deeply affected by it. But I chose the word JOY because I wanted a constant reminder of what Christmas truly is—it is about the Savior of the World, the King of Kings, and He is the reason for joy even when we walk through very painful times. That one word was a precious reminder that this world is not the end of the story; that there is so much more to look forward to!

There are more ideas to be found than can possibly be carried out humanly, with the all the sources available online, and especially Pinterest. One search of “Christmas Wreath” and you’ll get a hundred ideas! And while they can provide a source of much inspiration and enjoyment, the goal is not to have a home that is enviable.

A dear friend of mine once made a comment that I’d adopted as a motto: “I want a home that blesses, not just impresses.” A home that blesses is one that is focused on Christ and on others. One that tries to impress is focused solely on oneself, and leaves a great void when it comes to warmth and invitation to others. You are the atmosphere of your home, much more so than your décor.

So whether you have one room of your own or a little flat somewhere, share a space with roomies or have a large and generous home, don’t wait to make it a place of blessing! This Christmas season, offer who you are—the Jesus within you—as a way of blessing those around you.