It’s that time of year! We’ve set the November date for our Christmas decorating weekend at Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast. I’m so happy to have my “Christmas Elves” come in year after year to assist with our holiday decorating! It’s a party! We play Christmas music, we eat, we laugh, we hang ornaments and set up nativities, and get an early start of celebrating the joys of Christmas.
Did you ever wonder how our cherished Elves decorating tradition came to be? As is true in many traditions, our Blessings Elves team came together out of need.
I was invited to be on a Christmas home tour about the minute we purchased our home to become Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I’d been collecting ornaments “for the B&B” for many years. I started buying gently used Christmas trees once we made the commitment to 1109 West State Street in Jacksonville, Illinois, a town about an hour away from our home of 25 years. With joy in my heart and stars in my eyes, I happily said “Yes!” to join the Pilot Club’s 25th Annual Holiday Home Tour the following year.
However, two months after we purchased our home (and committed to the tour) we experienced one of the saddest challenges we’ve ever faced. Miles away, just days after Christmas, our two-year-old grandson lost his life at the hands of his birth father while on a visit. I’m not sure anything hits the heart harder than the loss of a child, whether your own, your grandchild, or one you didn’t even know. If anything was a test of my faith, that was it. I said I live by faith. I said I trust God’s plan. Now I had to prove it.
My plans and preparation for a springtime inn opening all came to a screeching halt. I was in a place of deep heartache, sometimes so crushing I could not move. Slowly, with a lot of encouragement from my friends and family, I relied on the Lord to help me manage the tragedy and all that went with it, including parenting a then four-year-old survivor, family challenges, court, victim impact statements, etc.
With the Lord’s help, we opened our B&B in the spring, as planned. I enjoyed hosting guests, developing breakfast menus, doing seasonal decorating – all the things that make innkeeping “fun.” Then Christmas rolled around, and with it, my commitment to the big Christmas home tour. I really struggled with my Christmas joy that year. Sometimes a new experience has a way of reminding us of an old loss. As much as I’d always enjoyed Christmas, the dark memories of the last Christmas season stayed with me. I didn’t know how I would pull it together to get this big old house decorated for hundreds to walk through. So… I asked for help. Seven of my buddies came to the rescue that year and their loving support in that dark time has turned into our beautiful Elves Weekend tradition.
A couple of years ago, Bed & Breakfast Magazine published an Elves Weekend article we contributed to. You can purchase a digital download here. In that article I said, “The heartache from that loss will forever be part of our lives, but it has always been my prayer that the Lord will be honored, even in my most challenging times. That experience has been used to strengthen my faith and has strongly impacted my work in the child welfare field, and I have determined to find joy—even after the hardest loss I have ever experienced.” I have begun to look at Elves Weekend as something we do in Maxwell’s memory. It brings me joy.
I’m so thankful for our Elves – family and friends (and friends that are like family!) that assist us every year. It’s become such a wonderful time of the year that I once again forward to. Although our sorrow will never go away, their support eases the pain and gives us reason to focus on the Christmas season. Watch our Steve Weber Films video below to experience a recent Elves Weekend with us. Check out our website for reservations and watch for our special Blessings Traditions Christmas package so you can experience a Blessings Christmas this year!
PHOTO CREDIT: Justin Hurley Photography, Springfield, IL
Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast is an award-winning all-suite inn located in Jacksonville, Illinois. Hospitality is our hallmark. We offer many amenities, including overnight accommodations in a 130-year-old vintage mansion, Wi-Fi, expansive lawn and gardens, all-season fireplaces, and multi-course breakfasts. Come see us! Our reviews reflect that guest satisfaction is a high priority.
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