Holiday Ornament

When I graduated from high school, I began getting serious about my ornament collection.

I mean, I’m sure you understand. All 18-year-olds need to really get focused on the important stuff, like making sure you are well documenting your life through the medium of Christmas ornaments. Also, there is something grown up and forward thinking and very mature about starting an ornament collection. Or so I believed therefore so I did.

For the last fifteen-ish Christmases, my ornament collection has grown. Particularly during my mid-twenties, when I owned my first house and was building my adult life and buying lots of home decor things with my extra spending money because who needs to have a savings account anyways? I accrued ornaments that meant a lot to me.

It’s not that each one has some emotional story attached, though some do. I just have a bit of a rose-colored-glasses view of that season of my life. I thought marriage and family were just around the corner and here I was setting up a home that would soon hustle and bustle with lots of stockings hanging from adorable hooks on my mantel. Those ornaments, the Atlanta Falcons painted ball, the #1 teacher star from a 4th grade student, the lace angel, remind me of a time in my life that was full of dreams.

They remind me of when I really started to grow up.

I kept each ornament individually wrapped and stored in a large plastic container, safe from all harm.

Or so I thought.

Until the Sunday after Thanksgiving when I headed down to the basement to retrieve the box of ornaments and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

Soggy ornaments.

All of them.

Wet. Molded. Stinky. Gross.

I’ll spare you the details of the situation, of how they got wet and managed to remain in some sort of soggy state since the summer [Yes. The summer.], and how I ended up throwing away over half of my Christmas decor in one evening’s purge.

Are you cringing? Is a little piece of you crying and looking over to your tree with a heart full of thanksgiving?

I know. It’s awful.

But in some ways, it’s okay. In fact, in some weird sense, it was good for me. Those ornaments were purchased to build a life that I never had. And every year, as I hung them on the tree, I remembered that.

Two nights later, after the discovery and the purge, the college small group I lead arrived at my house and they each handed me a brand new ornament. I couldn’t contain the tears. While there was nothing wrong with the old, the old was gone. And here were the new – ornaments that speak of my current life, almost every one covered in glitter [it is my favorite color after all], and representing who I am, not who I wish to be.

This year, my tree celebrates a life I love – the good and the bad and the sparkle – instead of a life I want. And I think this is the better way.

PS- I learned how to clean molded ornaments. Just, you know, in case you ever need that kind of information.

By Annie Downs // AnnieBlogs

  • kris scorza-sobieski

    annie, i’m not sure if it’s the missionary kid in me or just the me in me, but i’ve always had a hard time letting go of sentimental things from my past. these remembrances of good.
    when you write “Those ornaments were purchased to build a life that I never had. And every year, as I hung them on the tree, I remembered that.”, it spurs me to look at what i’ve kept with filtered view. a reminder of great things past or a reminder of what i thought i wanted or where i thought i was going.
    thank you for telling that story. –kris

  • Bekah

    Love you.

  • LJ

    Oh i love this so so much. How do you manage to turn the ordinary things into genius life lessons. I think your current life is amazing. Like the glittery kind of amazing :)

  • Beth@redandhoney

    This is simply beautiful, as are you, my friend! Peace and joy to you this Christmas, xoxo.

  • Bindu


    Love this.. Wishing you a joy filled Christmas

  • Barefoot Hippie Girl

    How absolutely sweet that your friends blessed you like that! I would have cried too.=) And I don’t cry that often.=) Merry Christmas!

  • Melissa

    That was so lovely, Annie. How beautiful that you were able to turn the heartbreak into something meaningful. Your perspective on this loss (although ‘only’ material, still very sentimental) is a lesson I will take with me into the new year. Thanks and have a blessed Christmas.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    Annie, thank you! I bought your book for my daughter’s Christmas present (hush!) and am looking forward to reading it with her (she’s dyslexic and we do a lot of read aloud). This, about ornaments and life, so good. I’ve been pondering dried fruit, you know, we are to bear fruit but what happens to all the old lessons? Do they moulder and rot or do they dry up like a raisin in the sun (sweeten, condense to purity)? I think I’ll write a post on that soon. Merry Christmas!! I too, thank God for your life as it is!

  • Monica

    This story makes me feel so understood. I moved out of my family home this year due to a marital separation. When it was time to out up the tree, I realized everything was still there. I wanted the ornaments, but then I didn’t. They represented a life that was non longer my life. I had my daughters bring over their favorites, and started anew. It felt right, and sort of symbolic. Just like yours…

  • Sissy

    Annie, beautiful story it makes me think about our sins that are soggy and stinky to God. And He washes them in the blood of Christ to make us sparkle too.
    And another thought is how we make our own plans in our lives, but once we surrender our live to Christ. Our plans don’t seem so important. God bless you and your family this Christmas.

  • Tammie

    Brava! I love how your story is saturated with grace! And I’m so glad that your friends graced your life with new ornaments!

  • Sarah S.

    My favorite part of this is your college group — that they recognized the need for something to be done. What a precious group and how precious you must be to them. Thankful you have that community!

  • Paula

    The best lessons come from unexpected places. Thank you for sharing this. It speaks to my heart.

  • Larissa

    I am crying….do you have access to my journal?

    You hit the nail on the head. I spend so much time thinking about the life I want, I don’t really truly enjoy the life I have currently.

    I love glitter too!

  • Kelly

    Oh, that completely touched me… thank you so much for that challenge to my heart to live in the where I’m at and not where I want to be or wish I was.

    P.S. Glitter is a great color :)

  • Beth Williams

    Those ornaments, remind me of a time in my life that was full of dreams. I constantly dream of a different life–sort of looking on with rose colored glasses. I need to come to grips/terms with the life God has blessed me with and enjoy each day!

    Great how you can turn a minor incident into a life lesson–Genius!

  • john Ruwadi

    Thank you so much for your story , Christmas this year is especially hard, I am lifted up from your story , I had to leave behind so very much (though still have 2 90+ year old Family Christmas bulbs ) God wants me to look to now, and look ahead

    Thanks again for your story Jer 29 11 to you you will have the desires of your heart

  • Katie @ imperfect People

    I love the symbolism. Great post

  • Pam

    I’m sorry for your loss:) Since the time they were born, I have given ornaments to my grandchildren and my nieces and nephews. I continued with their children as well. I found out recently that one of my niece’s daughters only had her ornaments for her very first Christmas tree when she married. It was a very nice feeling to know she appreciated them. I continue to give ornaments every year!
    I’m so glad for your replacements! The Good Lord knew your need and filled it!

  • Lis

    Absolutely loved this, Annie. I want to remember who I am, and not who I wished to be. Amen.

  • Lauren @ The Thinking Closet

    It brought tears to my eyes to hear about your small group bringing new ornaments to replace the old. What a great lesson to learn to love your life as it is instead of the life you wanted. This resonates deeply with me today.