The last time I wrote, it was just after Thanksgiving.  I told you how badly we wanted to be out of our Bed and Breakfast (on our property), and into our log house by Christmas.  Well, Christmas has come and gone.

A couple of weeks after Thanksgiving (mid-December) I realized we weren’t going to finish in time.  We were nowhere near ready to move in.  Traditionally, by this time of year, we have cut down a tree in the New Mexico forest…



…or we buy a fresh tree from a tree farmer the day after Thanksgiving.

Our household is FULL of Christmas traditions that we look greatly forward to.  But, now…we had NONE of them.  We couldn’t.

We had been working from sun up until 10 or 11pm every night.  Or, if we were out of supplies for the next day’s tasks, we would routinely stop working around 7, head to dinner with the girls, and most nights went on to Home Depot or Lowes (local hardware stores that are 30 minutes away), and wouldn’t make it back and into the b&b until 10pm or so. (Here are 3 different runs to hardware store…night after night.  Didn’t take pics of all of them.  ALL of the carts you see are ours.)IMG_8074



Almost through the second week of December I told Steve we needed to stop this goal of getting in by Christmas, finished or not.  It was just too much unnecessary pressure for both of us.  Granted…he and I work best with extremely optimistic and focused goals.  (We NEVER would have gotten as far as we have had we not had such extreme goals. ) However…now it had come time to sit back, enjoy the remainder of the season, and rest a bit.

We needed to prepare the kids that we’d be spending Christmas in the b&b… and we would have to be ok with that.  I didn’t want December to come and go, and miss all of it.

Even though the building pressure was off now…the sadness was still there.  It was mid-December.  We weren’t in.  We didn’t have a tree.  We didn’t have our traditional decorations, no ornaments, no wreaths.  Everything was in storage.  We couldn’t bake a single Christmas cookie.  No family dinners to cook while watching Christmas movies.  No place to put wrapped gifts for family and each other….and no time to buy gifts, and therefore no gifts, yet.

When you’re used to being immersed in tradition, it’s very hard to go cold turkey.

It was all very emotionally and mentally exhausting for all four of us.

I prayed about it, as usual.  The Lord always, ALWAYS helps me in some way when I unload on Him.

He immediately answered me by filling my head with reminders and visuals about what it must have been like for Mary that first Christmas night, in a stable giving birth.  I know it was Him…because “Mary” was not on my mind at the time.  mary-kissing-baby-jesus-homemakerchic-com

The thoughts He put in my head were that she was going to be a brand new mother, away from her mother and father, and all siblings and extended family…and about to give birth for the very first time….in a barn full of animals and their mess.

I remember what my first time to give birth was like.  I was terrified!  I was so thankful to be in a hospital with people who could reassure and coach me.  But, that didn’t quite compare to the comfort and relief I felt when my mother and mother-in-law, and sister were there to bestow advice and example to me, and encourage me.

Poor Mary.  She didn’t have any of that.  In fact…she was in a different town, and in a barn (or cave).   She was literally laying in a stable that held the cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, or whatever animals the inn owner had.  She had to lay on hay.  (Perhaps soiled by the animals.)  Not exactly the ideal surroundings or comfort level expectations most new moms would choose or desire when giving birth.  PLUS, she had the added (and I can’t fathom!) nervousness of knowing Who she was about to deliver…and raise.


She had to lay Jesus in the animals’ feeding trough.  That’s what a manger is.  They were stone or wood at that time.


manager-stone-carved I have dogs, and see their bowls after they eat.  Dried up slobber mixed with food residue.  YUCK!  That’s what was likely under Baby Jesus in that manger trough.

But…this was the reality.  This is where Mary had to be for the birth of her first child.  This is where she spent the first Christmas.  Therefore, who was I to complain or be down about my present living accommodations for Christmas?

Sure, our Bed and Breakfast that we’re living in is a bit cramped (to say the least).  Building supplies are everywhere.  No kitchen to cook or bake traditional Christmas foods in.  (Can you see why we’d be a bit bummed?)

The mental picture of Mary’s circumstances at Jesus’ birth helped give me perspective.  Plus, the realization that much of the world throws “Holiday” parties, decorates homes and entire towns with trees, lights, wreaths, and gifts…(NONE of which would be done at all had Jesus Christ never been born that night)….but then doesn’t include The Birthday Boy to His own party.

We weren’t lacking Jesus…we were lacking the party for Him.   So, we had to change that.

We went out and bought a 12′ pre-lit Christmas tree and a large box of balls.  The kids loved decorating it and plugging it in.  Suddenly, it looked a bit more like Christmas!



As I thought about Mary and her birthing experience, I realized that the three wise men visitors who arrived with gold, Frankincense and Myrrh must have told Mary all about the new star they had seen from their other countries, that led them straight to her child, whom they called The King (which is why they went to see Him).

Mary then relayed the details of that night to Matthew, Luke, and John, whom she personally knew very well…and they wrote those details of her memories down for us to read about in the Bible.  Matthew and John were close friends and Apostles of Jesus; they were with him every day for 3 years, and heard and saw everything he said and did.

She must’ve been in absolute awe, and extremely humbled that foreign worshipers were bringing the most expensive gifts she could imagine to her child, and that they had seen a new STAR in the sky…that was in the sky just for her baby.


Luke is the other Gospel writer who gives us details about the night Jesus was born.  Not only did Luke know Mary, John, Peter, Matthew, and Paul, but he gathered all the eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life that he could find, from the people who heard and saw for themselves.  (He was a doctor, but seemed to be an investigative reporter-wanna be!)

According to what he found out from those who were there, the shepherds saw angels in the sky, were told that the baby was God, went to see the baby for themselves and worshiped Him, then went everywhere in the town telling everyone everything the angels had told them when they were out in the fields.  They were so excited!

Mary must have heard every detail about that incredible angelic visitation straight from the shepherds’ excited mouths when they came to see Jesus.  Just think…angels in the sky…all for her baby!

She must have relayed those details to Luke (her friend), because Luke wrote, “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” (Luke 2:19)  She had to have told him that.


Each evening we stopped working at 5:00, cleaned up, and headed out to do Christmasy things with the girls.  All of this was helping our attitude and state of mind a lot.





Then, just 2 days before Christmas, we were driving in the car.  Reese mentioned how Santa wouldn’t have stockings to put her gifts in.  Steve’s heart instantly sunk.   We hadn’t thought about the stockings.   Reiley suggested we buy some cheap ones at the Dollar store.  But Reese said, no, they had to be ours from home.

Fortunately, Steve had been working at installing our fireplace that week, and had already begun framing around it.  So, we had a good 2×4 to nail the stockings to.  We just had to go find them.

He and I secretly headed to our storage unit.  We returned with our traditional stockings, pictures of the girls over the years sitting on Santa’s lap, and some of our ornaments.  We decorated without the kids knowing.  (It wasn’t anywhere near my best decorating moment…or a “decorating moment” at all… but it would have to do for now.)20131227-012531.jpg








We finished putting out a sparse few of our traditional things, and then went to clean up.  It was Christmas Eve.  Time to head to my mom’s house for gift exchange and dinner.  It was a beautiful evening!  My mom really went all out for dinner.  Lobster, roast, shrimp, salmon, sushi, tortellini, and more.  She absolutely spoiled us rotten!!  Plus we got to take all the leftovers HOME!!   20131227-015328.jpg



After a perfect night with my mother, sister, nieces, and family, it was nearly midnight and time to go to bed.  We pulled into the driveway of the log house, about to head back to the b&b, and loved what we saw.  We could see our tree glowing through the log home’s void front door.  The kids were so excited…


Before heading off to sleep, the kids had one request.  They were extremely eager to give each other their gifts they had made.  Reiley had bought Reese a raw wood jewelry box (Reese collects boxes).  She painted it with the pink wall paint from Reese’s old room that Reese loved so dearly, sprayed it with shimmery glitter, and put decorations all over it.  Then she filled it with goodies.

Little Reese had made Reiley leather bracelets that she had hand-stamped the words  “love”, “faith”, and “believe” into them using leather stamping tools. She had also selected a few extra treats to go with them. (Reiley has always adored anything Native American.)

The girls were beaming as they opened each other’s presents…even in the cramped b&b.  It made no difference where we were.  Their gifts, and the love they had for their sister was all they cared about. It warmed my heart.

The next morning we put on our robes, and walked up the long sand road from our B&B to our log house, in the cold, to see what Santa had brought, and to open our gifts to each other.  In the daylight, the girls could now see the familiar ornaments Steve had put on the tree, their pictures, and childhood advent calendar on the wall.

I asked if spending Christmas this way turned out ok?  They both immediately said, “YES!”   They were SO happy.  Our wise neighbor, Jacob, was right….it would most definitely be a Christmas we’d always remember.  There was no front door.  It was cold in the house; cold enough to blow steam from our mouths.  But, we had a fire in the partially finished out fireplace.  It was all we needed.  (My camera would NOT focus for so many of these…sorry.)20131227-020339.jpg



We then packed up and went to Steve’s sister’s house and spent a blissful day with his family, eating a fantastic lunch, opening gifts, watching fun movies, and just RESTING.  (The best gift of all, in my opinion.)

To borrow the words from the book The Grinch Who Stole Christmas….Christmas “came just the same,” whether we were in the log home or not.  For all the worrying we did in the weeks leading up to it…it was perfect, in a unique and unforgettable way.

I will never forget the “perspective lesson” about what Mary must have felt like that night, in a less than ideal environment, and having MANY unexpected strangers come visit her.  And, like Mary, I will keep the memories of this highly unusual Christmas (and experience in general) near and dear to my heart.

On that note, here are pictures of what all has been accomplished over the past few weeks:

The propane tank was installed.


The septic tank is in (though not connected).


IMG_8086 IMG_8094 IMG_8097 IMG_8099 IMG_8102The kitchen window is cut out.


The kitchen walls are almost completely rocked.






Fireplace and chimney are in. Framing around it is almost done.  We will rock it soon.IMG_8279



Walls are painted with a historical olive paint color.  (Almost done with them)


The elk antler chandelier (that Steve made from sheds) is hung, and animal mounts are up (to get them OUT of his cramped taxidermy studio).  I distressed and stained the stair stringers.  They still need varnish.  I distressed our 4×4 railings, but I still need to stain and varnish them.  We used rebar as the spokes.  Symbolic; rebar holds our logs and whole house together!  Plus it’s CHEAP!!   Here are pics of the 4×4’s I distressed, the railing, the heads, chandelier, and paint.









I sanded each Walnut step front and back, and have put 2 coats of Waterlocks varnish product on them so far (no pics of that).  I need to do one last very light sanding (maybe), and put another layer or two or varnish…and then done!




I painted the front door a deep wine red. We also bought colored glass to put in the smaller squares, and I’ve drawn an elk design to etch in the middle window panel.  Hopefully it’ll all be put together and hanging by this weekend (the 4th of January).






I sanded and stained the bathroom floors, and our closet.  It’s my hope to have them all varnished twice by the end of this week (by January 4th).  I don’t have pics of our bathroom or closet.

We still need to clean up these logs, chink them, stain the vertical log, and paint walls, etc.  This is really only a picture of the stained floor.  I’ve also been sanding the Walnut countertop for the girls’ bathroom.  Today I put the first coat of varnish on it. It should be ready for install and sink by this weekend.


The article about us came out in the La Vernia newspaper this week.   It took up almost the entire front page!!  That has been lots of fun.

The reporter, Pascalle Bippert, came back out, again, a couple weeks ago with her husband to see the house, and brought us a huge tub of fried chicken!  We were STARVING, and I was dreading having to go deal with lunch to feed the family…and here comes the Bipperts!  Perfect timing.  THANK YOU!


Many friends have called or texted this past couple of weeks, asking if they can come out and see us.  It’s so great to see everyone!   We are soooo richly blessed!!!!  Thank you all for contacting us and heading out to see us!!

This first pic is of Ken and Tasha…who are also going to build a log home based on LHBA training class…most likely in Colorado.  (Jeremy…your new neighbors!)  FABULOUS couple.   New friends!  They asked if they could come see us.  We enjoyed lunch together and a tour.  We hope they’ll be back again very soon.













Well…that about wraps up this blog update!    Any guesses what our New Year’s Resolution might be??  (wink wink)  To go on to the next post, click here: “Perspective”.  If you’re just stumbling upon this post from the internet, click here: “What is Cottonwood Creek?”

And now, from our family to you…



2 thoughts on “Christmas

  1. What a wonderful christmas story. (both yours AND Christs.)
    I would have loved to had the same kind of food spread that you had…. but I would have been eating alone at my house. :+)

    Great progress and great pics.



  2. Hi Steve and Gretchen, thanks again for having us over to see your wonderful home and wonderful fellowship! We can’t wait to see as you finish your home and move in. We look forward to our next visit to San Antonio!


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