This will be our first Christmas in our own home.
It will be both beautiful and sorrowful because we didn’t buy this house, I inherited it. There is something we often forget about inheritance, one must lose someone precious in order to gain what they longed to pass down.
This is my dream house.
It was my grandparents dream before it was mine. They spent years felling trees from their own land, skinning logs, talking visitors into skinning logs, and finally turning their vision into a home. This house welcomed anyone who stopped by. My grandmother was hospitality personified and despite my grandfather’s gruff exterior he loved company, especially if they were willing to do a bit of work before dinner.
Grandma Autumn started cooking for her family at the age of nine. In her 90s, when she could no longer walk without help, she would still offer to get you something to eat and drink as soon as you walked in the door. I had to quickly say, “I’ll get the tea, Grandma” or she would try to get up, even though she wasn’t able to.
It has been four years since we lost Grandma and five months since Grandpa strode into glory at the ripe old age of 104. Yes, even at 104 he had a busy social calendar. Everyone came up to see him, though he lived off-grid in the mountains.
This house is full to the brim with memories of them.
The best three years of my childhood were spent here. Making homemade parachutes for my cabbage patch dolls and tossing them off the balcony. Watching Gunsmoke and Wild Kingdom together. Grandma waiting with a cup of cocoa and a homemade cinnamon roll when my brother and I came straggling in after building snow forts in the yard.
I have always wanted to live here. But I have never wanted to lose my grandparents.
Pain and beauty all rolled up together. Death and life in a single word.
My grandfather was the one who loved to decorate for Christmas. Colorful lights around the windows, garland on the banister, that manger scene music box that played “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” He made sure their log home shone with Holiday cheer.
This will be the first year we can both have a Christmas tree and also walk through the living room without a slap from the branches. This will be the first year we can have a big tree. The ceiling in the front room goes all the way to the log rafters. Such an incredible gift.
As we start our own traditions here, finally free of our cramped apartment, we will miss them so much. Hanging the lights will make me think of Grandpa. Baking the pies will remind me that Grandma was the only one who could whip up a lemon meringue pie without breaking out in a cold sweat. Christmas presents will remind me of that year both my brother and I got Flexible Flyer sleds, probably financed by them though the tag said “Dad and Mom.”
They both lived long and rich lives, but their loss is still hard.
As we step into the Christmas season, grieving their loss and rejoicing in the fact that our three teenage sons no longer have to share a room, I am determined not to miss a thing. For if I shut out the sorrow, how can I fully live the joy?
God Himself told us that like a kernel of wheat that dies to produce an abundant crop, we must not cling tightly to this world. My grandparents did not cling. They lived a life of service. Through both their hospitality and in founding the Bible camp where we live and work.
They passed their beautiful home on to me, but also left a legacy full of cups of creamy cocoa, slices of pie, and Christmas lights that light up the remote forest for all who wander off the beaten path.
This is more than a house, it is a lifetime of giving. That is what we receive from them this Christmas, not just rooms and a roof over our heads, but the chance to give in new and amazing ways, all because of the faithfulness they showed.
So this Christmas I’m going to get a tall tree, send my husband up a ladder with an armful of lights, and bake a pie worthy of Grandma. We all die in the end, but if we die to ourselves again and again for a lifetime, we will leave an incredible legacy behind.
John 12:24-25—" Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
Visit the wilds of Siberia for Christmas in Kristen’s Gothic Christmas mystery, The Volk Advent.
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