Just a quick note to let you know I've moved my blog to the following address:

Please visit me at REDEEMED...RESTORED...RELEASED: One Woman's Story of Living Free to read more about what God is doing in my life and how He is working those things to set me free. Thanks so much for following, visiting, reading all about it and supporting me as you have done so many times these last few years. If you follow my other blogs, the posts from all three of my blogs are going to be transferred to the new digs for one big blog about our journey to restoration and freedom in Christ.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Internet Cafe Holiday Tour of Homes....

I'm joining the ladies at the Internet Cafe for the Holiday Tour of Homes... Stop on in and see the all things Christmas and beautiful with our friends at the Internet Cafe.
Welcome to my humble abode. It's a chilly 35 degrees outside, so do come in... Take off your coat and enjoy the cozy comfort and atmosphere.

Just behind you there on the door is a very special wreath. I made that wreath the first year Scott and I were married (1998). On the way out you'll be able to get a closer look, but there are five tiny bears in their warm weather clothes on this wreath - three girls and two boys, just like our family. Originally this wreath had a festive metalic ribbon in red and blue on it and a fun swinging snowman who apparently lost his way over the years. About five years ago I replaced Mr. Snowman with the bears and eventually the bow got a makeover, too. It is a very special memory wreath marking the journey of our family from there to here.
Our entry way is dedicated to the children. All children. I'm just a big child myself when it comes to all things Christmas. I love the season, the atmosphere and the stories of Christmas... It's truly the most wonderful time of the year for me. As you can see I have stuffed dolls out for all to see. The blue angel on the table used to adorn the top of our tree with a big bow, but she has a safer place these days as I've added more and more ornaments to our tree.
If you look just to your right, there is a special display with my "pageant" Nativity scene. These little resin figures are precious and were my first official Nativity scene. I purchased them from Wal-Mart about five years ago for some $10.00. They also had a stony stable to host their play at one time, but one move ago the stony stable broke into several pieces and found its way to local dump. Behind the Nativity is my husband's birthday blessing, and there are several pictures of our family on this table. The Santa with the blackboard tells the story of Christmas for me... "Teach the children about Jesus, Luke 2." And the Singing Snowmen under the light are "Wishing You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
That's our "Memory Tree" there to the left, but we'll come back here in just a minute. First I want to show where two very special girls hide out... We'll take a turn to the right and another right to find my Brittany's room. This may be her last year in that room at Christmas - so bittersweet. She may be off to Austin and college next fall... So this year is extra special for me.
Brittany calls these our "Memory Stockings." I spent several weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1997 (the year before Scott and I married) making seven memory stockings. These stockings are made out of the kids old jeans, my old jeans and for the children I bought this fun material with hearts and spools of thread representing how we were making two families one. Each of the kids still has their memory stocking. Megan and Travis took theirs home in 2005 and Brittany and Taylor's stockings mark the doors to their rooms.
You'll see more of these stockings as we make the tour.
There's the nativity table again. The pair of bears on the floor used to light, move and play music but they are tired in their old age so we just let them stand there all pretty like these days. If we met in San Antonio at the Siesta Festival, you will recognize the Justin Dog sitting in the white chair. A perfect place for him as we remember my Jay Bird at Christmas. Speaking of Justin...

This is the beloved Memory Tree which has been the source of much love and much turmoil these last few years. Gratefully, Ye Olde Memory Tree has been replaced with the New Improved Pre-lit model that Mom does not have to kill herself to make beautiful. Ye Olde Memory Tree is also ten years old and found its way to local dump this year as well. The memory tree represents special Christmas memories, with our favorite things like snowflakes, candy canes, snowmen, and so on. It is the family tree. The year Justin died (2005) I just could not bear to put up our enormous Christmas tree so I bought the second tree we display in our tour - the Jesus Tree.

I was so excited about the new tree that year, it didn't even occur to me that some of my family might be traumatized by all the changes so fast. I suppose the new stockings and ornaments just put things over the top for them... But, I loved the new tree and so it made its way to being a permanent fixture in our holiday decor. Now, let's head on in toward the living room.... there's something special here to the left I want you to see.

This little cubby hole with sword and dolls is a special little place. It rests in the middle of the wall that leads into our living room.

On this wall are displayed pictures of my precious boy and some precious songs and poems that mark out our journey through grieving his death and celebrating his journey home to heaven. I wanted to give Justin a special place in our home because though we live apart for now, he is still an important part of our family.

In the sixth grade, my son and father worked on that sword together for a school project on medieval times. Justin came up with the idea, went to my parent's home one weekend and came home with this beautiful work of art. My father taught him how to use the saw and sand the wood to make his vision a reality. It is a beautiful momento of his talent and creativity. It also reminds me that the Sword of the Spirit is one of my offensive weapons in the spiritual battle for my testimony.

A stocking cap hangs there so Justin is again included in our holiday celebrating. We barely notice the memory wall these days. People who don't know about our loss, often don't notice it either. It's just a family thing... The willow tree dolls represent me and Justin and the big hearted kid we all loved. Just little keepsakes from a life lived fully in 17 years.

From Justin's death three years ago I also captured the heart of Mary and what it must have been like for her all those years after Jesus went to be with His Father in heaven. She knew she would be with Him again someday, but life went on here on earth for her as well. Mary lived on in the legacy of her son Jesus. You know given choices many of us would not have chosen the difficult road that we have traveled in this life.

I'm sure Mary felt the same way as she watched her precious firstborn, the Son of God, hanging on a cross dying a criminal's death. Mary was flesh and blood like you and I. I'm sure her heart begged to understand why God had allowed this to happen to their Son. But, time would tell the story and Mary lived on in the glory and legacy of her Son's life - she lived all the way home. I want that to be my story as well. That the legacy of my son's life is in the story that our lives tell in spite of our loss not defined by it. I hope you are blessed as I reflect on the meaning of Christmas in light of my experience.

Of hearth and home... The night I took this picture it was a balmy 72 degrees... My husband had to be restrained from putting me in shorts with his beloved fires. This is our fireplace. One of the most exciting features for me when we moved to this home. I had not had a fireplace to decorate since my children were babies, so this was an extra special treat. You will begin to notice a theme... SNOWMEN, SNOWMEN, SNOWMEN. They are everywhere. You will also notice six beautiful red stockings. They are the ones I purchased for that first Christmas after Justin died. His stocking was not replaced. It hangs there in the center - as he will always be that husky 17 year old boy in my mind's eye so his stocking will always be as it once was - at least as long as my girls are around to dictate it to me... Just kidding, that was my choice not theirs. But, they will most likely carry on this tradition long after I am in the grave. Their brother meant the world to them and they hold onto these little momentos with great love.

This table sits beside the chair next to the fireplace. My mother gave me the beautiful angel holding a dove this year for Christmas. It says "Joy and Peace" on the hem of its robe. I told my husband as I put these things out this year that it perfectly represented the year I have had with God. For God's Joy has returned to my life unabated in this third year, and as healing came through the summer months and was sealed with Isaiah 60:20 on August 23rd, peace settled over me like a warm, snuggly blanket that feels like the embrace of God. Of course there is yet another nativity - a bisque music box... "For Unto Us a Child is Born..."
In the kitchen I placed the lone stocking of an ex-boyfriend. We've decided to designate this as the "un-named" beau stocking until one of my daugthers marries. Then we will have a new stocking to add to our collection. It's just a touch of christmas for the kitchen. The Grapevine Stars are two of my favorite newer decorations - I bought them the same year I got the Jesus Tree.
And there are the last two memory stockings in the collection. Mine and Scott's. The red plaid material is from the shirt I wore on our first unofficial date. It hangs on a refurbished garland as I had to disassemble and reassemble the entire thing to get it to look right hanging in its new home on the island in the kitchen. More Snowmen atop that Island. I won them at pokeno and bought them at the grocery store. The sleigh and Snowmen in the center of the bar are Avon and they sing about dashing through the snow with a fun light and song display.

More Snowmen, more Justin... And CANDY! Must have candy at Christmas... though my Waistlines Cries out NO MORE! Have a few as you view the very special Jesus Tree. Ornaments that represent the birth and life of Christ and anything heavenly including a sweet little ornament that says "I love you all dearly, now don't shed a tear... I'm spending my Christmas in heaven this year." A special reminder of my son's safe keeping. All things promised, all things made new! Oh Glory, I cannot get there too soon.

Back to the door we go. Thanks for stopping by. Boo Mama is hosting her tour of homes on Monday, so I will be back with the outside decorations... then. So for now. Have a blessed day and come back to see us again real soon!


with love, from the Bentham Household.


luvmy4sons said...

I enjoyed your tour of your lovely home, but I enjoyed the tour of your precious heart more. God bless you. I was brought to tears as you spoke of your son Justin and how though he is in heaven he is still a part of your life. What an awesome son he must have bee nand what an awesome mom you are. Your faith shines like a star in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.

a woman found said...

What a lovely home. Full of love I can tell!!!


Patty Wysong said...

Wow! So pretty, Michelle! I needed a tissue, but it was so worth it to see your beautiful decorations! I love snowmen, too! ;)

paintergal said...

I love the idea of the memory stockings: joining two families into one.
I'm sure this is a bittersweet time of year for your family as you think of your loved one who is no longer with you.