The Christmas House

This is the story of an ordinary day when an extraordinary God showed up and gave me a gift beyond my wildest dreams: He gave me His love and our Christmas house. Never in a million years did I imagine how my life was about to change.

It all began with a phone call. I was about to be given the results of my mammogram.  “We’re sorry,” the voice on the end of the phone compassionately recited, “Both your breasts have significantly changed since your last visit.  We’d like you to come in for an ultrasound tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.”

The worry began to accelerate as the minutes between today and tomorrow passed by.

I imagined the worst possible outcome. By nightfall, I was planning my funeral, and sleep seemed like the only option that might relieve my insanity. Just as I approached my bed, I stubbed my toe on my grandpa’s porch furniture-crowded tightly against my bedroom wall. I was filled with anxiety and drama as I thought to myself: “That’s funny God.  I never did get a porch to put it on in this life.  Never mind, maybe there’s a front porch in heaven.”

“I hope you leave the light on for me.”

“Goodnight God…see you soon.”

The next day I went in for an ultrasound. The moments passed by in slow increments, until eventually the outcome was determined.

“You’re free to go!” they said.

“Just loaded with harmless cysts.”

After so many minutes of dread, it’s no wonder that my relief found me immediately on the phone the next minute to share my good fortune with a friend!

“Guess what?”  I exclaimed! “I’m not dying today!”

And then rambling on as I usually do, I added:

“I can’t believe I even thought about my grandpa’s porch furniture!”

With great disgust and horror in her voice, my friend reprimanded me on the spot.  She told me to grow up, and more importantly, “to be thankful!”   That seemed like a fair enough trade off…my life would be totally complete without a porch to put it on…for at least I had my health. So, I decided I would indeed need let go of that dream immediately.

Dreams are over-rated.  So much of what we desire is unimportant anyway.  But this dream- prior today, was very important to me.  I had stared for hours looking at romantic home magazine issues for years, dreaming of my very own “old house.”  Since I was a little girl, I longed for a house just like my grandpa (the man who I’d loved more than anyone else in the world.)  My favorite magazines featured old homes with nooks and crannies decorated for the holidays with glorious Christmas trees color coordinated and artfully displayed in many rooms. I had remembered how my grandma had several trees throughout her home and it seemed to me that it was the most magical place in the world to be. And that became my secret wish also…to have a house just like theirs where I could put a tree in every room.  Whether it made sense or not…every time I drove past an old home with a porch where I could put my grandpa’s porch furniture and perhaps a Christmas tree in it with all the twinkling lights my chest stung. This ache became so familiar that it became a part of my very being. Letting it go would be next to impossible for me.

Here was the problem.  I could go and try to promise God I’d be thankful to live in my split- level home without a single nook and cranny and no front porch forever.  I could burn every copy of my Victorian home magazines and vow to never look at them again…and yet…Could I promise God my heart wouldn’t sting when I drove past an old home with a porch on it? Could I give up my dream of having a Christmas tree in every room? Could I truly change my hearts desires and replace them all with gratitude?  I was thankful to be cancer free…but what would I do with my desire? Did you ever have a dream that never died?

Before long I would discover what to do with my dreams.

I will never know why God would begin to reveal His heart to me in this way, but He did. Little did I know that the bible study I was attending about a woman in scripture with an alabaster bottle that she poured lavishly out on Christ’s feet would change my perspective forever. It was a costly encounter for it was expensive perfume and all that she owned. I do not understand to this day why God used this illustration to pave the way to one of the most significant encounters with Him in my life, but I am completely changed. My concept of how intimately aware of the smallest details of my heart God truly was, was completely transformed.  I did not know before this study how mindful He was of my every thought, hope or dream. Soon I would be led to pour out the contents of my heart at Christs feet as well.

That prompting to empty the contents of my heart began with the 2 women left at the table from the study that day and one question from the study guide: “What’s in your alabaster bottle?  It felt safe to confess my dilemma to them. “The thing is,” I said… “I know what’s in my alabaster bottle. It’s the one thing that I’ve never given to God…It’s just that, every time I imagine giving it to Him…I know I’ll eventually take it back- maybe not this month…or even this year, but eventually.

The two women at the table stared at me in disbelief.  I was prepared for the worst lecture of my entire spiritual life.  I began defensively to attempt to explain how I did not know how to tell God the truth. I was so sinful that sometimes it seemed as if I wanted an old house more than I even wanted Him. But before I could get very far…one woman managed to break in and say:

“Don’t you know that God wants to give you the desires of your heart?”

I stared blankly back at them.


“Give God your Alabaster bottle.”  She said.

I emphatically began to disagree with her request.

“After everything God has done for me, I cannot go before Him and ask for something so incredibly insignificant.  I have life…I’m not dying of cancer.  Some people don’t even have that.”

“We’re going to pray for you.” they said.  “We’re going to pray that you give God the desires of your heart.”

“You go right ahead.”  I added sarcastically, trying to get them off my back…”but you should know something up front:  “I’m not going to do it!”

“We’ll be praying for you” they said… “And by the way- be specific.”

All week long her words haunted me: “Don’t you know that God wants to give you the desires of your heart?”

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday went by before the guilt of keeping secrets from God began to haunt me.  I suppose it’s ridiculous to think that God doesn’t know my heart already…still…there’s something totally wrong with asking for more when you have everything you really need…isn’t there?  Either way…I decided I would be satisfied with what I had. I refused to confess. I wanted to force myself to forget all about it. Have you ever done that? Have you ever stuffed something so far down that inside of you that you are in denial of your true feelings?

When Saturday came, so did the carpenter who was building our “Trek deck.”  Our other deck had rotted, so we we’re replacing it with the material that would never rot-because my husband had always told me “we will never move.”

Something else was being replaced that day as well (my heart) but I didn’t know it …yet.

I could take it no longer.  I had to go and get a big soda…and purge myself of the guilt I now felt for being so deceitful before God.  I knew my friends had been praying because the Holy Spirit seemed to be as prompting me too, just as they were.  I ran up to my husband and said, “I’ll be right back.”

“You’re leaving now?”  He looked at me perplexed.  “The carpenter just got here!”

“What about the kids?”

I had the keys in my hand and was already halfway down the driveway.

“Hurry back!” he muttered.

Hurry was the operative word.  There was a kind of urgency that seemed like none other I’d felt before.  Honestly, I couldn’t tell you why it was so important for me to let go…but I needed to do it-even if I was going to feel the pain in my heart as I did it.

With a 64-ounce Diet Coke in hand, and my van parked in front of the Holiday station…I gave God my whole heart.  Here’s what I said:

“I know what’s in my alabaster bottle God…and I’m sorry I haven’t given it to you sooner.  It’s just that I have been given so much and to ask you for more- seems wrong.  But now I see that to keep my heart from you- is what’s wrong … Forgive me for hiding.  Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted an old house – and I don’t know why.  But today I’m giving that dream to you.  You can have it and I will do my best not to take it back.  So here it is God… My friends said, be specific:  so, here’s my specific desires:

My husband hates change, and he says we are never moving…but if I ever did have an old house it would need to make my husband happy, or he would never move.  You see God…Mark was a forester, and trees are so important to him. When he was a little boy, he had a big yard.  Currently we hardly have a yard at all.  So, if I ever did have an old house, It would have to have a big yard with mature trees for him to enjoy looking at. (And of course, a deck) And worse, since we currently live across from an open space and down the street from the beach, it would need to be near the lake without neighbors too closely by. Unfortunately, old homes seldom have big yards.  I’m reminded of my husband’s garage- a 2 car garage- And I know Lord old homes seldom have that.  But Lord he loves that space.

Lord, unfortunately, if I ever did have and old house, the house would need to be completely updated.  You see my husband is not a carpenter- and we can’t afford repairs…so it would have to have mostly new windows, aluminum siding, a newer roof.  Because he and my children currently enjoy a family room, somehow, it would have to have a finished basement…which also rarely happens in old homes.  And I’m afraid of old basements God…so it would need to bright-and not musty.  And worse, if I ever did have an old house, our split-level home has an office in it…and Mark loves his own space.  I could never take that from him.  And harder still, we cannot afford an upgrade on one income, so somehow, we would need to have a home in the same price bracket.

Lord God.  My Children hate change.  So, if I ever did have an old house, we couldn’t go far.  My children love their school.  It would need to be in the township, so that they didn’t have to lose the friends they love.  My son Daniel would love to sleep upstairs, instead of in the basement, so it would need to have three bedrooms up so we could all be together.  Also, God, my children are notoriously messy with their shoes and boots when they come in the door.  So, if I ever did have an old house, it would need to have a mud room-so that I wouldn’t always yell at them when they come in from outside.

And as for the neighborhood, it would need a park in it, just like the park where all the kids play in this neighborhood.  My kids love to do bike jumps, and long to play football in their very own yard.  So, if it could have space to run and play…they would love that.

And as for me, Lord.  If I ever did have an old house, I have always dreamed of one with a porch-just big enough for my porch furniture.  And God, I’m an artist with A.D.D. and I could never have the patience to strip layers of old wallpaper off- so if it could have white walls for me to paint upon I would love that.. I also love dogs, but I hate keeping carpet clean, so if it could have hard wood floors in the living room, hard wood floors in the dining room that would be perfect.  And Lord, I have always dreamed of having a large eat in kitchen.  Most old homes never have large kitchens, but…I would love a kitchen with a wooden floor-large enough for company.

And so it went…I prayed systematically through every secret desire of my heart.  As I did so, I felt strange…and wicked.  I never prayed expecting an answer.  I didn’t think of God as a genie in a bottle, or some sort of spiritual Santa Claus- Frankly, I was afraid I was insulting Him with an ungrateful heart.   I simply wanted to give Him the desires of my heart- and since I didn’t know any better…and my friends had said to be specific- I was.  I was trying to be obedient.  And as best as I could figure…once the purging was done, I could faithfully say I did it.  I gave God my heart…and now there was nothing left to hide. (At least on that day.)  “O.K. Lord,” I said, “I did it! Have you ever been completely transparent with God? Have you dared to give to Him your dreams and place them safely in His hands? Watch and see what happened when I did.

This was a moment to remember. My dreams were now safely tucked into Gods hands. And that Saturday was the day my life began to radically change.

I took a big gulp of my pop.  I had to be getting back.  But just then, the strangest thing happened.  I had the clearest thought.  Out of nowhere, it intercepted all others- six words really:  “Take a drive around the township.”

At this point I was stunned.  I took another sip of pop.  It seemed to come in command form.  I sat there reasoning with myself…wondering why I would think such a stupid thing.  Then it came again-same words, same thought: “Take a drive around the Township.”

At this point I began to talk back to God…

“Look, God, I think I’m cracking up…because I think You are talking to me…and it’s not like I’m Moses or anything…truth is, I should’ve stayed on Paxil…if this is you God…I’m gonna need a burning bush.  I have got to get home to my kids…cuz my husband is gonna kill me…I’ve already been here awhile and…

Take a drive around the Township!”

(Son of a gun, it came again…only this time stronger still.)

At this point I was crabby.   I could only assume that I was nuts…and I couldn’t believe that I was about to drive into the township-completely unaware of where I was supposed to go.  But just in case it was God…I figured I‘d better go (especially since it came on the heels of my purging and all…but still- I really did think I was nuts…

So I told God….I’m sorry, but I think I’m cracking up.  I actually think your talking to me…and you know what…that makes me nuts?  I’m not anybody.   I’m not Moses, and I am crazy.   So Lord, I’m just going to bee-line back where I came from…and just between you and me, I’m never going to tell anyone as long as I live about this story!  I’m going home.

So as I approached the quickest route home…there it was: one tiny sign.  It was the shape of an arrow, small and indiscrete.  I almost missed it…but it said, home for sale.  I slowed down.  I thought long and hard…

What if….what if it was God?

Just in case, I turned…and as drove up to the house for sale.  I noticed several things about it.  It had:

A front porch

A large yard with mature trees

No house next to it

A two car Garage

Aluminum siding

A park next to it

Access to a private beach

A newer roof

I stopped the van.   I walked up to the house feeling a bit shaky.  What a strange coincidence I thought.  I asked the women who answered the door for a sheet of any sort.  She invited me inside as she went to get one.

There I was, standing in a porch…just big enough for my porch furniture.  She said follow me…and I stepped into a living room with all white walls and hardwood floors.  She noted the new Anderson windows, as we passed into the dining room, also

 with hardwood floors and white walls.

 “Come into the kitchen,” she said.

 As I stepped into the kitchen, I gasped.  It was the largest eat in kitchen I had ever been in, in an old home-with hardwood floors.  I could not speak as she handed me the sheet.  I noticed the deck off the kitchen, and as she handed me the sheet, I could see this home was a lateral move-easily affordable to us.  She then added, “Would you like to see our mud room?

Mud room?  My spirit was still. As she opened the door to the two-car garage, my mind was racing.  Would you like to see our family room in the basement?  We just finished it.

I walked down the stairs into a basement with screens on the windows to let fresh air in, and door to walkout onto a patio…brightly lit…past an office and a ceramic tile laundry room.

Upstairs there were 3 bedrooms…and a surprise claw foot tub in the bathroom. (My favorite.)  Needless to say…every item that I had given God was in this house, in this yard and in this neighborhood.

I drove home as fast as I could, and as my feet hit the pavement, I ran all the way up my driveway.  When my husband saw my face, he turned to the carpenter and said:  “Look at her…she found a house…”

I hurled the sheet at him, but before I could explain he said: “Tammy, we are never, ever moving.  Remember?  You love this neighborhood, this location…and we are building the forever deck…”

My mind was racing as I walked into the house to explain to my two faithful friends what happened.  What did happen?  How did that happen?  How could that even happen?  Why did that happen to me?

As the story unfolded, one of them laughed out loud and said…I’ll just pray that God changes the desire of Marks heart.  And then I laughed.  It was a good story-but that would not happen.  Mark hated change.  He had the same ingredients in his lunch since he was a child…a sandwich, apple, chips and 3 cookies…this man would never move.

I had no clue how to overcome that obstacle. It would take a miracle. Did you know God is in the business of miracles? He can move mountains. But would He move this one I wondered? I was full of doubt. Have you ever doubted that God was big enough to change a human heart?

The events that happened next are significant…to my utter surprise …God did change the desire of my husband’s heart. Somehow, I was able to talk him into just looking at it. And once he did his mind opened up to the possibility that change would be in order. He loved it too. And so, the dream of having an old house with a Christmas tree in every room was on its way! We made and offer contingent upon our house selling. And all was well with my soul.  A few days later everything changed, and our realtor called and gave us the bad news.

“Unfortunately, someone has made a non-contingent offer on this house.  If you want to buy it, you will need to see if you can qualify for a bridge loan and temporarily own 2 houses…”

The war had just broken out and the economy was not stable.  We consulted others for sound financial advice…no one- not one person, advised us to proceed. The 11th hour had arrived.  We needed to give our mortgage company an answer.  We could lose it all for we could not sustain 2 mortgages for long. We were at our son’s basketball game and after the game ended, we began to share with our son our dilemma. Out of the mouth of babes came wisdom beyond his years. My oldest son…just 12 years old said: “What if God wants to see if you trust Him?  Why would He lead you straight to this house if we weren’t supposed to live in it?”  Since we couldn’t answer that question, we told them we would proceed. Our mantra was if we perish, we perish.  We took a leap of faith…and we were now the proud owner of two homes.

At this point in the story, it should be noted…I pleaded for God to come quickly.  I told Him I was afraid. Petrified actually.  I reminded him I would need desperate help in being still and knowing He was God…

That Sunday, our realtor had an open house. He warned me not to expect any buyer from an open house.  To our surprise…the news was good when we arrived home.  Our realtor was practically pale and looked utterly stunned as he reported the story to us.

A woman came up to him and simply said:

“The Lord led me to this house.  What would it take for me to buy it?”

Merry Christmas to me. I was one step closer to the dream of my Christmas house happening. And so, we waited as all of the details fell into place. She indeed did buy our house. Have you ever been so excited you could barely contain yourself? So much anticipation. I had no words. I had no idea why God heard my prayer and answered it.

The best part of this story is yet to come.

As the details were put into place, my husband called to inform me of the closing date.

He said, “It’s all set!  The closing date is January 23rd.”

That’s when I started to cry.  Only the Lord knows this…but every January 23rd, I sing

“Happy Birthday to me…with praise and Thanksgiving to my Redeemer!”

20 some years ago, I was in an automobile accident where upon another driver hit me head on.

As a result, I suffered a hangman’s fracture in my neck.  If my neck had broken one quarter of an inch higher, I would have been paralyzed and on a respirator for the rest of my life-one quarter of an inch lower, and I would have been killed instantly.

It is a miracle that I am alive. Oddly, there was a nurse following behind my vehicle that snowy day on the way to work. And when she came to me minutes before I passed out, I told her I could not move my head. A highway patrolman was also behind me and had a neck brace in his car. January 23rd the biggest miracle in my life occurred and now on that day- yet another miracle occurred. That was the day God was about to give to me the desires of my heart.

I cannot say why I would be a recipient of such amazing love…I can only say that the biggest miracle that I received was not about the house at all.  Although the gift of the Christmas house will always be cherished.  January 23rd…will always be a reminder of the day God gave me Himself: A Father.  A Father who knows absolutely everything about me before I even speak. A heart for me that cares about all the details of my life. And now, wherever I go, whatever I do, I know one thing:  My Father hears. My Father sees. My Father knows.  My Father speaks.

“What’s in your alabaster bottle?” Give God the desires of your heart.

 May you too welcome the Lord into your heart and your home.

Welcome to my humble abode. See how the nooks and crannies are filled with Xmas pictures and pillows and of course trees!  Merry Christmas to all.  Let me help you capture the magic of the season where you reside. Who knows? Once you get started, you too might have a tree in every room!