My life, like everyone’s, has been a series of ups and downs. I tend to be a positive person but there are times that even an upbeat person like myself can have down times. Last Christmas Season was one of those times.

There were no stockings hung from the fireplace mantle and no Christmas tree filled with years of ornaments and memories adorning our living room. There was no pumpkin pie cooking in the oven, nor were there any of the sights and smells of the season present in our house.

The reason- a skunk invasion in our home the month before forced us to get rid of anything the skunk sprayed on and the dogs rubbed on. So there was very little of anything left in our home at the time. I started to think of the skunk as the Grinch who stole Christmas.

No couches, no recliners, no area rugs and no curtains. The only thing we had in our home was some hard wooden furniture and a bed. Furthermore, the only reason we had a bed was due to the kindness and generosity of a pastor friend of ours, as insurance did not cover a skunk invasion. So practically everything that makes a house soft, comfortable and inviting was missing.

the inside of my empty log house after a skunk sprayed inside.

Winter brings with it an early sunset so there were more days than not that I would leave in the morning in darkness and come home in darkness. With no Christmas lights to greet me as I arrived, and thoughts of not snuggling up on the couch by a cozy fire surrounded by the sights and smells of the holidays, I started to get depressed. In fact, for the first time in my life I dreaded coming home.

Then one night after a particularly busy day, I pulled into my drive way and saw the flickering of lights in the window. I was on the phone at the time with a girlfriend and shouted I am going to have to go. I see Christmas lights in my window! I jumped out of my car and ran into the house where I was greeted with our small table top Christmas tree all decked out with ornaments and lights sitting in the window where our couch once was, my husband, sitting across the room in a wooden rocking chair and Christmas music playing in the background. It was a beautiful sight.

My husband, who loves Christmas but hates the chore of putting up the tree, took the time to surprise me and make our house look more like a home. A home at Christmastime.

We still had no furniture to speak of and we would not be entertaining friends or family at our house for the holidays, but, for that night, we had Christmas, thanks to my wonderful husband. It was definitely one of my favorite gifts.

Slowly throughout the year we started to replace our furniture, which was no easy feat. My husband and I both keep a very busy schedule and so much of our belongings had special meaning and stories behind them. Replacing them took time.

Fast forward one year and I am sitting on our new couch surrounded by all the trappings of Christmas that I love so much. A fire in the fireplace cast a glow on our family stockings and the mantle is adorned with garland and lights. The large tree stands tall and proud displaying years of sentimental ornaments as the lights flicker. My family is gathered for Thanksgiving dinner and the smells of holiday food drifts through the house as we do our traditional ornament exchange. It was perfect and I think to myself, what a difference a year makes.

There is an expression I think everyone has heard and it goes: The best THINGS in life, aren’t THINGS. Well, no saying holds more truth in it to me this year than that one.

So, in the few weeks before Christmas, I want my husband to know that he does not have to buy me a gift this year, as the best gift he ever got me was free and can probably never be topped.  After all, anyone can buy something at the store, but, how many people can say they gave their spouse the Spirit of Christmas. Life is mysterious.

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