When you get married at Christmastime a whole lot of Christmas shows up at your door.

It’s like the world wants to give you a Christmas send-off.

We got Christmas plates.

And Christmas ornaments.

And Christmas wreaths.

And light up banners that blink and sing and say Merry Christmas.

And a giant Santa with a mail slot where people can drop off Christmas cards.

And this.

This hand-stitched nativity.

My grandmother gave it to me.

I can’t even imagine the time and the effort and the workmanship that went into creating this entire set of three wise men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, a shepherd, a camel and a sheep.

But truth?

In shameful Christmas news?

At the time she gave it to me, all of the hours and hours and hours of work she had spent was totally lost on me.

I was young.

I was full of Christmas decorating opinions.

I knew everything about everything.

I knew it all.

And the one thing I knew is that I wanted new and modern and sparkly and every last little Christmas detail totally coordinated and matchy and magazine-worthy.

All that sparkle and coordination and new and modern certainly…

…did not include a hand-stitched nativity by my grandmother.

And so?

I packed it away.

I wrapped it in tissue and relegated it to the bottom of the Christmas bins.

You know.  The one you open and look into and shrug your shoulders and roll your eyes and think why am I even keeping all this?

And you close it up until next year.

Years and years and years went by.

My grandmother passed away.

And still, the nativity sat, tucked away, forlorn and neglected.

And then?

One Christmas I decided I was down-sizing.  I was going to get rid of all the Christmas stuff I didn’t need and didn’t want and didn’t decorate with anymore.  And I finally opened the bin I had been shrugging at all these years and found this nativity set at the bottom.  When I caught my first glimpse of it again, I almost gasped.

I saw it with new eyes.

I saw my grandmother’s curly head bending over each piece, stitching and stitching and stitching every tiny detail with her gnarled hands.  I saw the hours she spent tenderly, carefully, sweetly crafting an heirloom for generations to come.

I saw the love in every line.

With her gift, she was teaching me what truly matters.

Wise men stitched by a wise woman.

She wanted me to understand that Christmas isn’t simply about the sparkly and the shiny and the new.

That Christmas isn’t about a perfect home and a perfect ornament display.

That Christmas isn’t about what you don’t have.

Or what you want.

Or what you are going to get.


It’s about what you give.

It’s about taking a moment for someone in need.

It’s about celebrating all the gifts you have already been given.

It’s about reminding yourself about what’s truly important.

It’s about the joy that took place all those years ago on an imperfect Bethlehem night….

…and a nativity stitched from the heart.

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  1. Image for Richella Parham Richella Parham

    Oh, KariAnne. This brings tears to my eyes. All the love stitched into that gift--and all the love poured out for us in that Bethlehem stable. Bless you. Thank you for having eyes to see.

  2. Image for CathyAnn CathyAnn

    Another heart warming story! You have such a gift with words and your grandmother had a wonderful gift of creating and giving your an heirloom that will forever keep her close to your heart.

  3. Image for Lois Munn Lois Munn

    Thanks to God we continue to grow, from my want for danish modern furniture in the 60’s to my collections of painted tin tole trays, American Fostoria and hammered aluminum! Your blog is such a delight!

  4. Image for Erin Kaven Erin Kaven

    I feel the same about all the knitted afghans in my house. The one's in kid colors that we shrugged at as kids, the one's in my family's 70s color scheme that my mom and dad had until they passed that now belong to me. All the love to wrap up in on a cold day that I totally didn't get when I was young.

  5. Image for Shirley Shirley

    Oh my, this beautiful story made me cry. This is the BEST nativity set I have ever seen -- a priceless treasure! You have truly touched my heart.

  6. Image for AmyG AmyG

    Ohhh how sweet and what time it took to add all that love into each stitch. What a lovely addition to your Christmas decorations now that you took a look with new eyes. Just like the afghans my Gram made for each of us and for each Great Grandbaby. Now that I learned to knit I marvel at her work and time and love she put into each afghan. Time is sure an educator for sure.

  7. Image for Jo Ann Bohanno Jo Ann Bohanno

    How Beautiful and heartwarming. Can you send a pic of each piece? Being 76 1/2 years young I would like to make my version. It’s wonderful. I have never seen anything like this. Thank you

  8. Image for Nancy Nancy

    Beautiful in so many ways. Beyond all the pretty decor...I too have found myself wondering if my children will have memories of our Christmas Home and the reason we celebrate the season. This year I hand stitched our stocking and hand embroidered their names. I couldn't help thinking that someday they may look at these and remember me doing it while we watched Elf. It is truly about the gift we were given and not whether or not our homes are perfectly decorated. Sometimes we rush and it feels like Christmas is something we have to "get through" rather than celebrate it.

  9. Image for Barbara Barbara

    Now that is a treasure! I've never seen anything like it- love it!♥ And as always I love your words♥♥♥

  10. Image for Rachel Rachel

    I am so glad you kept it! Sadly, in our cleaning zeal we don't always realize the value of some things. My mother saves everything and my mother-in-law saved almost nothing. I am trying to get it right!

  11. Image for Diane Diane

    You couldn’t see it from where you are but you just got a standing ovation...a hallelujah...a amen to that...!!! You couldn’t have said it more perfectly then you did! Thank you so much and Merry Christmas!

  12. Image for Pamela Smith Pamela Smith

    What a beautiful gift! I have stitched many handmade items and I know how much work goes into something like this, but I also have wanted the perfectly matched decorations. I'm so glad you kept this and now have such wonderful memories of you grandma! What a wonderful heirloom!

  13. Image for Julianna Julianna

    Oh Karianne...what an incredible labor of love! Truly your grandmother loved you very much and knew who she was making this for. I'm sure her prayer was that someday you would appreciate her gift of love as a true representation of His Gift of love! Prayer answered! Wishing you and your family a Blessed Christmas season!

  14. Image for Regina Merrick Regina Merrick

    I seriously JUST read "Hello, Goliath" in your "You've Got This!" devotional, and now I read this! We're all planting seeds - your grandmother planted the seeds of appreciation and being "perfectly imperfect," and you're planting the seeds of encouragement! Thank you, KariAnne! I needed BOTH of these messages today!

  15. Image for Lisa a Stark Lisa a Stark

    I never reply to the blogs I love but this one made me cry. Why don't we have this kind of wisdom when we are young? When I first saw the sweet picture of your grandmother's hand stitched nativity I immediately gasped. Recognizing the time and thought it took to make. And those pearls!! How wonderful it is that you never got rid of it!! Mature eyes!!! One of the great advantages of aging!! Merry Perfect Nativity Christmas!!

  16. Image for Toni Toni

    Several years ago on Christmas I opened a gift my mother gave me....a humble little Chinese man figurine. I burst into tears at my 2 teenage sons amazement. "You are crying over that!?, they commented. Then I explained to them that this was something my grandmother had that she had passed to my mother who treasured it and now she was passing it to me! The "baton of family memories". The story that came with it was the treasure. Grandma had spotted it in an antique store as a new bride....it was $10.....a fortune back then that she knew she could not afford. She passed it by but then went home and dreamed about it one night. She decided that she was meant to have it so she saved and saved until she could go buy it. After Grandma passed away, my mother treasured it then for many years in a small collection of Asian items. So when she gave it to me......it represented the passing of time.....that I would not always have my mother, just as she no longer had her mother, my grandmother. THAT was the story I hoped my sons would grasp.

  17. Image for Cristie Cristie

    I can’t thank you enough for making each day a new post comes from you! Your words always give a smile and heart hug everyday Thank you friend!

  18. Image for Patty Patty

    A breathtaking family treasure. You inherited your amazing creativity from your Grandmother. What a gift. You are blessed. Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas.

  19. Image for Kris Kris

    Look at that sweet lamb stitched onto the shepherd! I used to stitch crewel work and yes, this was a labor of love for your grandmother. I've always had a hard time reconciling the "look" I want in decorating versus using items which have been made or given to me, so I understand where your younger self was coming from. I'm glad you were given new eyes to see the beauty of this nativity. I will try to remember that as I know my kids will gift me with handmade items that may not match my decorating aesthetic but which echo their love.

      1. Image for Kris Kris

        Jo Ann, it's in the first and last pictures. The lamb is stitched right onto the shepherd--they aren't separate. Merry Christmas!

  20. Image for Laura Harrie Laura Harrie

    KariAnne, I look at my Christmas decorated mantle and there hangs my Christmas stocking my grandmother made for me on my first Christmas. She made giant felt stockings for all her grandchildren. It is a treasure to me and I know how you treasure your beautiful stitched Navity by your grandmother. Somethings you just can’t buy, they are made with love.

  21. Image for Barb Barb

    What a sweet story! And darling nativity set! Thanks for reminding us what really matters. :) (P.S. I think the Hallmark movie idea someone mentioned above is a good one!)

  22. Image for Lynn Mosher Lynn Mosher

    Oh, sweetie!!! AMEN and AMEN and AMEN!!! Applause! Applause! Such a lovely gift. And don't we do this in our lives? God gives us a gift (of whatever kind) and we don't think much of it, so we wrap it up and bury it. And then, one day, we find it again. And it begs to be displayed. And it blesses so many others. And we wish we'd unwrapped it sooner. Thank you for the blessing, dear one! ❤

  23. Image for Carrie Purkis Carrie Purkis

    Made me cry, and remember how I am just the same. Thanks for softening me. This is so beautiful, and a beautiful reminder of God's gift, that he never pushed on us but wants and waits for us to receive.

  24. Image for Kelly Kelly

    Karianne, thank you for sharing your story. The important thing is that you did recognize the time and love that went into every stitch of this beautiful treasure. Your grandmother is looking down on you and smiling. Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  25. Image for Cheryl Cheryl

    Oh my goodness! What a beautiful hand-stitched nativity!! I can't even imagine the time and love that went into creating the masterpiece. I don't know why we sometimes think our decorations should be showy and glittery. Jesus was born in a humble stable, lacking all show and glitter. Your grandmother's nativity is a true symbol of Christ's divine birth. Cherish your gift and pass it on to future generations!!!

  26. Image for Terri Terri

    What an amazing and oh so beautiful legacy she left you............It was and is..alllll about the Story .... incredible... "sniff... sniff..." ...... that Nativity is priceless !!!

  27. Image for Linda F Linda F

    What a precious, precious gift to have and remember your grandmother by. I have hung on to a few different things my grandmother made through the years but did not appreciate at the time. Love looking at them now and thinking of her with a smile on my face. Saving them for my children to have and hope they will some day appreciate them as the wonderful family keepsake that they are. Merry Christmas!

  28. Image for Ruth Ann Ruth Ann

    Oh my.....there are no words. What a priceless treasure. Thanks for sharing and helping us remember the important things. I have some treasures too.....this reminds me to cherish them even more. Have an amazing Christmas celebrating that birth!

  29. Image for Connie Connie

    It does take age for us to realize a lot of things. I am 77 years old and I can understand as a young bride you didn't realize what you had, but your grandmother knew that one day you would treasure this gift she made with her hands. There is a time for everything and you found this treasure just when you were suppose too and now understand what you have. I am sure your sweet grandmother is smiling in heaven as she sees your heart and feels your love.

  30. Image for Cyndie Cyndie

    Oh my goodness, you did it again. Brought tears to my eyes. And as an older, wiser, mother-version if yourself, those eyes have no option BUt to see and feel, literally, the love that she put in. I have those items sitting at the bottom of boxes that get passed up and try as I might to downsize, some treasures will remain. Whether or not I put them front and center for all to see, their true sentiment is not get overlooked. Thank you for reminding me.

  31. Image for Marjorie Marjorie

    What a special gift! I agree that when we are young we don’t appreciate things like this. Like you, I had a December wedding on the 22nd. We will be celebrating 56 this year! So many blessings over the years. Happy Anniversary to you two also in December.

  32. Image for Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor Rev. Suzanne L. Taylor

    May the Lord God bless you, KariAnne, for all the joy, memories and love this blog awakened in us all.

  33. Image for Suzanne Suzanne

    Thank you so much for this wonderful story that made me very emotional over family momentos I have and have disguarded. Please leave a copy of this story with your nativity so that when you are gone your family can read it. The nativity is so sweet. Enjoy!

  34. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    What a beautiful story!! But your stories always are so touching. The other day I felt a little blue and as I was unpacking boxes of stuff to put away I found a box of my mamma's cards she'd sent me throughout the years. I save cards. My Hubby doesn't understand it. But it keeps me connected to the important people in my life. Whenever I'm blue it seems that something from my mom and dad shows up. It makes my day. Sending hugs!!

  35. Image for Melissa Melissa

    I'm so touched by your story. I miss my Wise, Patient, Sweet, Lovely Grandma May. Thanks for sharing your stories with us. Your honesty and sense of humor brings joy to many! Melissa May🙏☃️❤️

  36. Image for Cin Cin

    Sooo thankful you use it. Made me cry, I understand not using it back then, but since I am a stitcher and made each child, soouse and grandchild Christmas cross stitch stockings, I know the love and care and time effort. Thankfully my kids use them. Sadly my sil, her kids no longer use them since they got married. She doesn’t even know what her kids did with theirs. I am sure your gramdma,your angel sees your nativity out and is smiling thinking she got the message. Hugs and Merry Christmas


    So glad you didn't give it away. You would have lost something very precious. Anyone who sews or quilts understands the amount of work that went into this. God protected you from giving away something that would be significant to you later. It's absolutely beautiful and she did a beautiful job.

  38. Image for nita nita

    Oh my...a treasure straight filled with love straight from the heart! Lovely and I'm so glad you found it all those years later to display with love in your heart for your grandmother.

  39. Image for june june

    Beautiful story. It could be a Hallmark movie:) Her handwork is just so special. Imagine with your eyes closed what she was thinking as she created each stitch...probably wondering about your future with the new hubby and what beautiful children you would have. I wonder if she predicted you would be the amazing writer that you are?

  40. Image for Susan Susan

    So glad you kept it!! Its just adorable... When we moved to a different house 3 years ago I had a giant garage sale. I had so much stuff in the attic. I got rid of a ton. One day I was visiting one of our antique stores downtown and I saw two things my mom had made. I had to buy one of them back... he is a hand stitched gingerbread man. Now he sits in an antique child's rocking chair at Christmas...

  41. Image for Dorothy Carter Dorothy Carter

    Would love a heirloom by Grandmother or Mother. Glad you kept it. Hope my Grandsons will remember me at Chrustmas.

  42. Image for Andree Andree

    Love your post! I remember watching my grandmother crocheting. She loved making doilies the more intricate the better. My Aunt told me that Grandma was the best at this skill among her sisters and cousins I have been blessed to have many of her creations. I love setting them out, even with a house full of boys. She taught me how to crochet all those years ago and now I’m trying to learn more stitches. My goal is to be able to make a doily like my grandmother.

  43. Image for Betty in Arlington Betty in Arlington

    Karianne, thats better than a thrift store find! So glad you have that Christmas nativity memory to share and pass down! I have a collection of nativities from thrift store finds! I like to sometimes give one set away when I feel a friend or relative needs one. So you have that precious memory of grandma, too! Merry Christmas with happy nativities!

  44. Image for Shelly Brummett-Powell Shelly Brummett-Powell

    Please please keep that in your family pass it down! My husband's precious Grandmother made a large bedspread, I think it is crocheted, it is brown, orange and white. The colors of the seventies. I have never liked it, but have kept it because she made it and put do much love in it, as my husband looked just like his Father, her only son that passed away at 25. He was her favorite Grandson and everyone knew it and why. I have thought of donating it, but I just can't. We were not able to have children, so I don't know what will become of it, but it is precious.

  45. Image for Cheryl Cheryl

    Beautiful story. I think that we all wanted new and glittery and shiny when we were young and only come to truly appreciate the hand-crafted with love when it's too late to truly express our thanks. Somehow, though, I think that all of those hand-crafters knew that the day would come when we would be mature enough to truly appreciate the gift.

  46. Image for Mimi Matthews Mimi Matthews

    Oh my goodness, I have goosebumps and tears!! What an amazing gift of love that was! And it is exquisite!Thank you for sharing! My sister made me some ornaments through the years, and I truly treasure them (both then and now) since she died 3 years ago. So these are the only ones I'll have from her-ever. Those works of love and care are the best!

  47. Image for Michele M Michele M

    Amen! What a treasure - and your grandmother was wise enough to know you'd get to this place. It takes time. She knew it. Treasure it always - it is an awesome gift. ♥♥♥ You have such clever and talented family. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  48. Image for PJ PJ

    Oh, KariAnne, what a beautiful treasure! Please don't judge yourself for not appreciating in previous years. The time is right, right now. Wishing you an amazing day! XO, PJ

  49. Image for Louise M Adkins Louise M Adkins

    Lovely Nativity. I give my daughter and grandchildren things I make in hopes that someday they will realize how much I put into making the gift was showing how much I loved them! Merry Christmas!

  50. Image for Jolyn Jolyn

    This is truly the reason for the season. Is there any chance you can post pictures of the whole set? I'd love to see it!

  51. Image for Libbi Libbi

    Oh my goodness, these are so beautiful!!! What a treasure to have!! My grandmother needle-pointed a large stocking for me with my name on it when I was born, it's absolutely gorgeous. By the time my sister came along 2 years later, her eyes had gotten too bad where she couldn't finish one for her, so only I have one. Now married, we have matching ones, but I still hang my childhood one somewhere else in the house because it is so beautiful!

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