This is the kind of calendar year that retailers don’t like. Thanksgiving fell very late so this Christmas season is compressed into less “shopping days” than some. Even though December 25 always happens on the exact same day, in a year like this it sneaks up on us, giving us less time to shop and fuss. Maybe that is okay now and then. I must confess that however the dates fall, somehow I am always among the unprepared and last minute category of folks.

Our town has a wonderful fund raiser every year for a very special group of our citizens, the developmentally disabled. It is an amazing philanthropy in which those very special folks are paired with an advocate who often becomes a friend for life. Ordinary folks with oversized hearts help  their protégé with everyday things that would be a struggle for them. They help with things like balancing a checkbook or getting to doctor appointments, but it goes much deeper than that. 

The event is a holiday tour of homes. Each year five or six gracious families allow a herd of total strangers to tour their home for this worthy cause. The houses are beautifully appointed for the holidays and the appreciative crowd,  made up mostly of women, look forward to finding ideas and inspiration to recreate in their own homes. The homes are gorgeous and decorated to the hilt. Some are downright breathtaking and most are quite large and well above the average home in every way.

Maybe it’s just me but I find a certain irony in all of it. A parade of perfect homes on display to help the less fortunate, less perfect among us. I wonder if some women go back to their own home tinged with envy and discontent. This is not the intent at all but still, I think it happens. As a former retailer with a large gift shop, I enthusiastically fell right into the frenzy of more, more, more.

Rewind a few years. Once in a while a home with far less splendor and amenities happens on the tour and it captures the heart of the visitors for a reason they have a hard time expressing. Maybe it is the very imperfection and charm of a smaller, simpler home decorated with great love that speaks to some inner wisdom. Maybe it is the stories that whisper from little treasures collected over a lifetime that tug at memories of simpler, more intense feelings when things really felt special in their heart.

I don’t know what the answer is for you but whether you live in a castle, a cottage or a cabin, I believe it is embracing gratitude for what we have that makes our home beautiful and the love that lives there that creates the magic. Think back to the happiest Christmases of your childhood when you felt like your chest could explode with the joy you felt and I bet it had nothing to do with the house where you lived. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. There is no criticism meant at all.

My message is simple and heartfelt. Just as there are all kinds of people, there are all kinds of homes. In God’s eyes, every human is perfect just as they are and cherished by Him. I encourage you to love the home you have, where you are, with what you have and those with whom you share it. Treasure where you are right now and invite God into your home for the holidays. I promise you will see beauty shine brighter than ever before in places where you least expect it. 

Think back to first Christmas. It happened in the most humble of all places, a stable. And yet, there was never a place more filled with beautiful, radiant light and Jesus is the reason. Hold that close to your heart and you will see everything around you with new eyes and be filled with joy. 

crooked house by Stan

Betty Streff

Betty Streff began her career as a customer service representative for a large corporation in Omaha. Four years later she found herself to be a farm wife in a small rural community with limited opportunities for women. After a humbling self assessment, she listed her assets as talents for sketching, sewing, and the natural ability to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Using these and her optimistic nature, she began stitching up some bibs and pillows for a craft show, who wouldn't? Over the next 25 years she became a serial entrepreneur obsessed with studying faith, spirituality, leadership, motivation, and management as she developed her businesses. Betty has spent the last few years working in corporate America in the hospitality and manufacturing world and she continues to immerse herself in the study of what makes people tick. The explosive growth in the relatively recent science of positive psychology fascinates her. Betty devours everything she can find on the subject and is especially intrigued with people who thrive no matter the circumstances and in discovering ways that happiness and optimism can be learned. She is currently exploring ways of sharing and cultivating the exciting possibilities with both individuals and businesses. She and her husband Steve have been married 45 years and are blessed with 2 incredible daughters, 2 fantastic sons-in-law and 6 amazing grandchildren.