Christmas Decorating, Missionary Style


As we were packing to move to Kenya, Christmas seemed so far away…and the daily essentials seemed WAY more important. Now, Christmas season is upon us, and I’m so glad that I included a few of our Christmasy things AND that my neighbors are generous sharers. Here’s a little sampling of how we’re making our first Christmas in Kenya special and festive.

First of all, we are super excited to have a fireplace this Christmas! The stockings can actually be hung by the fireplace!! When I made them, we didn’t have a mantle so I didn’t attach loops or ever think about stocking hangers. This forced me to improvise a little this year. I hid small i-hooks under the wooden mantle, strung some twine and used clothespins to hang the stockings! It looks pretty cute, if I do say so myself! 🙂


Look closely for the snowflakes!

The tiny Christmas tree on the mantle came with the house. A friend gave me these adorable Maasai angels. I brought the tree skirt and nativity from home. (Aaron’s late grandfather made the nativity, and it’s one of my favorite things!) The red Kisii stone plate was a gift from the Weavers, and I thought it was an acceptable Christmas decoration since it was so red. The candlesticks were made by a local pastor. And, the StarWars snowflakes (they’re hard to see but they’re there) were made by my talented and patient husband.

The adjacent wall displays our advent calendar and various other homemade things. I somehow forgot our nativity Advent calendar, so I had to improvise once again. I strung twine from one window to the next and used clothespins to hang 25 squares. (Twine and clothespins go a loooong way when there isn’t another alternative!) The squares are numbered 1-25, and there is an activity on the back of each one. Twelve of the activities are making the 12 ornaments for the Jesse Tree. Others include drinking hot cocoa, making paper snowflakes, and making a nativity scene. So far, Noah and Jacob have constructed the stable and placed animals in it. It’s so cute to see their artistic sides come together with their Bible knowledge! The little tree was a collaborative effort by Aaron, Noah, Jacob and me. (Levi was asleep and hasn’t shown as much artistic enthusiasm as his brothers.)

advent wall

The Advent Wall

the beginnings of the nativity

The beginnings of the nativity…I love the camels!

The dining room has a few Christmas treasures. The tapestry, table runner and snowman towel (more handy-dandy twine!) came with the house. I love my Kenyan Jesse tree! We have completed 3 of the Jesse tree ornaments. Aren’t they cute? The candle was a splurge from our second trip to Kenya. It makes the whole house smell like Christmas!

A close-up of the 3 ornaments we’ve done.

shelf in dinning room dining room wall dining room buffet

Jesse Tree

(Sorry if the crazy curtains are distracting. I have some nice brown ones picked out at, but I haven’t convinced myself or Aaron that it’s worth the cost…They didn’t bother me until I decorated for Thanksgiving, and now they’re really annoying against all the Christmas colors!)

Last but certainly not least, we hung some Christmas lights outside. Our neighbors brought the icicle lights for the entire 5-plex. We had the lights brought over by some new friends. Unfortunately, I ordered indoor lights…the cords are green, not white…It’s a good thing they are under the porch roof and that we’re in Kenya where these details are easily overlooked!


So, there you have it: the Kelley’s First Christmas in Kenya. It’s small and simple. It’s Christ-centered and fun. The boys haven’t thought of a single thing from our regular stash of Christmas decor that they’re missing. However, they are missing Hannah, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and great-grandparents terribly! They wish everyone could come live with us here, which is a nice thought….anyone want to join us for Christmas in Kenya??

Praises and Prayer Requests:

1. Praise God for the true meaning of Christmas. When Christ came down to earth as a baby, His main purpose was to become the Sacrifice for our sins. We are thankful this year that all the media and commercialism is missing from our normal holiday celebrations and that we can focus our attention on Christ.

2. Praise God for one week of radiation down! My dad has 4 more weeks to go. Please help us pray him through the next 4 weeks, and pray that this treatment will cure him completely!

3. Praise God for all of you! We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from all of you! From personal messages to huge care packages, we feel so loved this Christmas!

4. Please pray for the God of all comfort to be so real to us this Advent. We miss Hannah so very much, and we don’t want to celebrate without her. We do praise God that she gets to celebrate Jesus’ birthday with HIM! (And we’re more than a little jealous of her!)

5. Please keep the Weavers in your prayers too…and all the other people you know who have to celebrate without a loved one this Christmas.

Hannah-Christmas 2012

Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Romans 12:12


3 responses »

  1. Stephanie,

    We’re doing a Jesse Tree for the first time this year! The kids are liking it a lot. We made our ornaments in advance and placed each of them in a brown paper bag. Then we numbered the bags and placed them all around the Christmas tree. Each night, they take turns opening the ornaments. So you could save your ornaments from this year and do something like that next year maybe?

    Much love to you!

  2. Oh my sweet Stephanie, everything is so adorable and so meaningful. I envy you, being away from all the commercialism and yes, we would love to come celebrate Christmas with you, Aaron, and the boys. Also, love this picture of Hannah. Miss her and all of you so very much! It is snowing right now and God is painting on His canvas of earth…Beautiful!! Praying for all of you and asking for blessings to be showered over you. Luv ya bunches and bunches!!! There is six inches of snow on the Philadelphia Eagles football field today!!!

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