True Joy

A close friend’s mother recently suggested that I offer Christmas decorating as a service at Cultivate Interiors (my design business) and I almost laughed. I am not gifted in that arena. My ideas are so simple that you don’t need me to do them, and they work well whether it’s your first Christmas or you have other colors you are trying to work in.

Of course I’m going to harp on greenery and lighting no matter the season. They’re essential to bringing life and warmth in a home!

The first Christmas order of business came the day after Thanksgiving, when my mom and I hung garland over a couple of my door frames. Last year I tried using command strip hooks, but that failed sorely. This year I just put nails in the top of the casing. You have to sweep up the needles every once in a while, but all things worth having require a little work.

Our kitchen remodel isn’t even finished (note the lack of floor transition & range hood) but the greenery makes it festive! In a few places where the branches were unruly, I used florists’ wire to tame them. Though as with anything in the home, imperfection is what makes the garland cozy. If I were a more devoted Christmas decorator, tucking some lights in there would be beautiful.

I bought our stockings off Amazon the first year we were married for next to nothing, and I still love them.

They’re just simple cotton things, so each stocking got a kraft paper name tag tied with a silky green ribbon on top. We don’t have children, but I couldn’t help making stockings for our cats. Four stockings looked better than two anyway!

This year we chose to tuck our Christmas tree in the hallway, just around the corner from our living room. You see it first thing as you walk in the door.

I grew up with a fake tree, and our family tradition was to take it out of the box and fluff the branches together. Let me tell you, fake trees have come a long way. Ours is also fake, but it’s only made of three parts and it’s pre-lit. I absolutely love it. The garlands give off the “real tree” smell anyway, and there’s a lot less to sweep up after than a big tree. As far as ornaments, we don’t have many. We buy them when we travel and have received some as gifts, and it’s been fun to unbox them together. I wouldn’t mind buying some pretty ones, like the glass teardrop ones my mom has. I remember carefully unwrapping them as a kid, knowing they were some of my mom’s favorites.

When the fire is going, the lights are dimmed, and the candles are lit, downstairs feels like magic. The tree has a dim glow in the dark hallway, asking me to pause, to remember what it felt like to be a child. Something deep inside all of us longs for something we can’t quite understand around this time of year- a hopeful sort of mystery. December is the stirring anticipation to feel whole, to experience the fulfillment of a promise.

In my humanness, I try and make the tangible parts of Christmas what fulfills me. We made gingerbread houses with friends while Frank Sinatra sang. I learned how to bake a loaf of rosemary bread for the first time, and served it with a dutch oven full of creamy potato soup. I wrapped the gifts with brown paper and string just like Julie Andrews said. But the sum of all my intentionality and cheer couldn’t stir my heart to

I sat on the sofa one night in tears, trying to online shop a few gifts. My heart felt heavy. This year, we are hosting Christmas at our house, and I wanted to cancel the whole darn holiday. “I’m Scrooge,” I thought, as I googled “Why is Christmas Stressful?” A slew of articles came up that suggested if I planned ahead better, budgeted better, said no to more events, then it would be a relaxing time. But none of those were my problem. We contribute money each month towards our Christmas fund, and we planned in advance this year to make sure we weren’t over scheduled between family, friends, and church. I love hosting and was really looking forward to our time at home, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

But this morning, over biscuits, it hit me. I had put the weight of making Christmas “magical” on myself, and Jesus was begging to take it from me. The lights twinkling in the cold night are mere fragmented reflections of the beautiful Savior. The bread was meant to be broken in remembrance of his sacrifice. The celebrations weren’t supposed to be for the sake of spending time with friends and family, but rather to show a broken world the joy of knowing Christ.

I had shied away from focusing all of my efforts on the only true meaning of Christmas because, if we’re honest, it’s not very popular. Why talk about it if a family member will roll their eyes? Why show emotion over God sending his only son to save us when it might be embarrassing? It’s much easier to turn on a song about Santa and bake some cookies. But we either receive joy through our participation in revealing His glory, or we miss out on something wonderful. The former is what I want.

I didn’t plan on sharing all of this, but I am sure I’m not the only one who has been feeling that way. Christmas is only a few days away, and I want to embrace it differently than I have been! I feel excited and ready to enjoy this time.

I’m wishing all of you a Merry Christmas - especially the ones whose guest rooms are doubling as gift wrapping stations like mine!


Hey there! I’m Briana Strickland. I live and run my design business, Cultivate Interiors, on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina. Let’s husband Madison and I have two cats and are currently learning the trials that living in a fixer-upper will put you through. I am helplessly drawn to nature, tattered pieces that could tell a story, and bringing beautiful, purposeful life into homes. If you head over to my blog ,Instagram, or Pinterest, you can hang out with me while I share client projects, our own home progress, and what inspires me. See you there!