Dec 05

Last night as we were going about the evening routines, Brad said, “Oh, one of the neighbors called and said not to worry if you see something happening outside tomorrow afternoon.”

“Something happening?”  I arched my eyebrow in a “What in the heck does that mean?” kind of way.  A herd of wildebeests?  What does he think is going to happen outside tomorrow?

He shrugged and said, “Just go with it.”

I shrugged in return and didn’t think anything else about it.  I’ve said yes to a lot of weird things over the past two years.  I even accidentally did a television commercial–I thought I was going for publicity shots  a-la-before-and-after-teeth-whitening, and ended up reading a script in front of a teleprompter and a green screen.  Whoopsies.  You should have heard me explaining that one to Brad… “What did you do today, honey?”…


My doorbell rang this afternoon and outside there was a very nice gentlemen, whom I call Christmas Magic Man.  He informed me that a bunch of neighbors have rallied together and arranged for the exterior of our house to be decked out for Christmas.  So while Greta napped and I did mom jobs around my house today, there were two guys outside making Christmas magic in my yard.

When Christmas Magic Man rang the doorbell again to tell me he was finished, I had to blink back the tears as I saw that the entire profile of our (very, very high) roof was lined with pretty white lights, and there was a wreath with a bright red bow on every window of the house, including a gigantic one on the window above our front door.  Our house looks sparkly.  And cozy.  And happy.  It’s also the exact image I had in my head of the dreamy “someday”  holiday plan for our house.  The twinkley white lights, the wreaths on the windows–how did our neighbors know?  It’s perfect.

This month my house looks the way I feel when I am super-duper joyful.  Looking at it makes me joyful.  Isn’t that an amazing gift that my neighbors gave me?  They gave me Christmas joy.

Maren and her friends audibly OOOOOOHHHED and AAAAAAAHHHED when they saw it after school.  They wiggled and danced with joy and wonder.  (And, okay, so did I.)

Brad got home, and was also dazzled.  He made a few trips outside to see which lights should be on to best highlight it all.  We spent a good part of the evening shaking our heads at the creativity, the generosity, and the overall awesomeness of this gesture.  Our neighbors are amazing.  I look around and I am awed at the caliber of people who surround me.  You just keep raising the bar, people.

I sure am glad to be raising my daughters in this neck of the woods.  I want my kids to grow up seeing this kind of love.  I hope all the parents who gifted this to us take their children on a walk by our house and tell them what they did for us and why.

And the funny thing is, I still don’t really know the whole story of how this came to be.  I think I’ve identified the ring-leader, and I’m pretty sure the last conversation of any quality I had with her was three summers ago when we were both at the pool.  She’s a blog reader, and comments to let me know she’s cheering me on, and we know lots of the same people.  But this Christmas Magic thing is the kind of the thing I’d do for a best friend, not a neighbor acquaintance.  I’m just keeping it real that I am nowhere near as awesome as the amazing people who are loving me through cancer.  I’ve talked with at least six families who admit some involvement, but they are all mostly just full of smiles at being able to share in giving of this gift.  I’m told that more blanks will get filled in tomorrow.

With all these people doing all these creative things for us, the gauntlet has been thrown down: I’m brainstorming on what surprise blessings my little family of four can give away this year.

I’m blessed.

Don’t mind me, I’m just glowing in my cozy, joyful house.  Thanks Neighbors.  You rock.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  — Matthew 2:10





  1. Brwynn /


  2. Belinda /

    Seriously cool–I’m reading your blog from a-far, and loving, well, all of the love! You have awesome neighborfriendblogreaders, and I’m loving the love from the ATL… post pics! We want to be OVERJOYED too!!! xoxoxo

  3. LOVE this!!

  4. Rachel /

    This is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ at its finest. Tears of happiness for you.

  5. solomama /

    Beyond wonderful! The creativity of our communities is astounding at times. Congratulations on having such fantastic neighbors!

  6. AMAZING. Such a real and kind and beautiful tangible way to help that is beyond logistics and right to your heart!

  7. Michelle /

    The Human Spirit continues to amaze me everyday. Love that you are experiencing it!

  8. Gave me goosebumps – you are in a special place to experience some of the best parts of humanness. I can’t wait to see it! Will you post a picture?

  9. What a blessing! Praying for 50 all day today.

  10. Amazing……….Humanity, Spirit, Love, Goodness……..it still exists. Thank you for sharing a wonderful story. May God continue to bless you daily!

  11. And I thought “Miracle on 34th Street” was my favorite feel good Christmas story…now I have a new one…”The Christmas Lights in the Anderson’s Neighborhood”! You’re truly surrounded by Santa’s elves…simply magical.

  12. Amy Wheeler /

    What a blessing to be surrounded by such wonderful people!! I still miss our little neighborhood in North Liberty and what we had there. There really is something to be said about raising your kids surrounded by giving, selfless people. We could not be further from that where we are now, and it breaks my heart. So, so glad to hear people are being so supportive of you and your little family. What a gift.

  13. Tiffany Green /

    That is so awesome and your joy blesses them twice as much as the blessing you feel, I’m sure! You are surrounded by some special angels! God is so good!

  14. Your gift for writing is wonderful. Thank you for being willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly with anyone who’s willing to read. I am humbled by your gracious spirit, your honesty and our God! I will continue to pray for you and your family. “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” Psalm 29:11
    Love, Your fellow Northstar-ian

  15. Bonnie J /

    :-):-):-):-):-):-):-) so exciting and sparkling. The Lord truly desires to bless and fulfill the “desires of your heart” along with your family. Christmas card with you all in front? Love seeing The Body of Christ in ACTION 🙂 Intentional Love love

  16. Marion /

    Simply awesome! You deserve every twinkle of every light placed on your home! Enjoy the season, my friend. I know you will!

  17. This is truly awesome and glad the 4 of you can enjoy such a wonderful gift. I thought there would be a picture…just sayin 🙂

  18. Maureen /

    Awesome although I think we are going to need to see a picture 🙂

  19. Kristen /

    Tears in my eyes…there is so much good in the world. Thinking of you and yours!

  20. kathleen /

    This is what Christmas is all about…enjoy the magic!

  21. Sharon Hajek /

    This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine. Every neighbor, of every age, let their little light shine and it is wondrous. It is love radiating back on you and your family just as your love radiates to them and us. There is a reason we each have tears when we read this blog. It confirms our deepest beliefs.
    Have fun assigning names to those countless lights!

  22. WOW! I am so happy for your families special gift of “light”. Stay cozy 🙂

  23. Patty Wheeler /

    How awesome… Yes Jen there is a Santa Claus!

  24. The phrase “It takes a village” applies to our entire lives, I believe. A village to help us thru the times when the nuclear family isn’t enough. You have a Village that you have lived in, grown and nurtured. It is coming back to you in the ways that you have paid it forward. And it is amazing to watch and be witness.

  25. kathy swim /

    If things get a little boring … there’s always gingerbread houses to decorate. One year we did one and then after Xmas my son said the family dog was eating it after we saw some damage. Grandma caught our son red handed a day later. It was pretty funny!!!!! He was only 4.

  26. Jessica /

    I am in tears at this level of awesomeness! Hearing this makes me strive to do better & love more on those that I don’t know very well in my own community.

    Thank you for sharing your journey on this blog. It has and continues to inspire me!

    Praying with you girl! Merry Christmas! God Bless! 😀

  27. Colleen /

    Wow! What an amazing gift! This completely reminds me of your house growing up. I always loved seeing the work your Dad put into decorating. I looked forward to it every year. I am so happy that you can share this joy with your girls. Oh, and don’t discount yourself. YOU ARE AWESOME!! The fact that you are going through so much physically and are still able to be there with your family, going strong every day. That is amazing! So, let others do for you what you would do for them. That is the awesomeness of human kindness. Do unto others as you would have done to you. God Bless you Jen!!

  28. jackie /

    Hey Jen, I am so happy for you and your family. I know what a gift it is to have wonderful neighbors bless you with their love and friendship during such a very difficult time like battling cancer. The feeling you are describing is nothing other then God’s grace. Nothing can describe it. It fills you up with a joy so pure that all you want to do is smile. I happen to tear up too!! But I’m a cryer:) LOL. Blessings to you my friend! You all deserve all the love and grace you can get!!