Category Archives: Family

Preparing Our Hearts

Several years ago I discovered the tradition of the Jesse Tree, a tradition of using ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the promised Savior. This has been life changing for me.

I am one of those people who struggle emotionally at Christmas. I stress over choosing gifts that I think others will like, I worry about finances, I become irritated as stores become crowded with holiday shoppers. I simply didn’t enjoy Christmas for many, many years.

Thankfully, I discovered the Jesse Tree. The first year I created ornaments out of Shrinky Dinks to hang on a little wooden tree. I used a guide that I found online and each night we read the corresponding scripture and hung the ornament on our tree. It was simple but effective. I felt a weight being lifted off of me as Christmas approached and I found myself actually enjoying Christmas for the first time in years.

Each year our ornaments have been improved a little and we’ve used different reading plans, some with devotions to accompany the scriptures each day.

Last year I purchased The Greatest Gift by Ann Vonskamp. I have to say this is one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. This book is beautifully written and the daily devotions that go along with the scriptures helped me focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the promise of a Savior. I can honestly say that last year was the best Christmas I have had in years.

My circumstances didn’t change. There was the ever present traffic that comes along on Black Friday and hangs around with us until the New Year, the stores were crowded with shoppers, I had a full schedule of events that surround Christmas, the indecision of holiday gifts still plagued me and yet, my heart was at peace. The things surrounding me weren’t changed, I was. My heart was prepared for my Savior.

This year I decided to share my secret with others. I am hosting a Jesse Tree Ornament Swap. I started very late and haven’t found the required number of participants but I have adapted the plan so that we can still complete the swap. This year I have 7 friends each making 8 copies of 3 different ornaments in the set, and I will be making the remaining 4 ornaments in the set.

I am very excited about this event. It’s added one more thing to my already full plate but somehow it is already making life easier. I’m busier than ever but more intently focused on Christ. That is the magic of the Jesse Tree. Each day we are focused on Jesus and that makes all the difference in the world.

I hope you find a way to focus your heart more intently on Christ this holiday season. Don’t forget to stop, step back, and make time to spend with The Lord during this busy time of year. I promise, you won’t regret it.

Fifty Cents a Day

Tonight as we drove to my parents house we were discussing many controversial topics in our society but had come around to discussing adoption and how so many people will take in many animals and worry and fret over the pet population without giving a second thought to the many children in need of adoption. As we arrive at my parents house and are getting out of the car Sweet G (who is adopted and is very aware of that fact) pipes up from the backseat, “Now I just don’t believe in adoption but I’d give fifty cents a day so a hungry child could have food to eat.” I think he was afraid we were in negotiations on whether we wanted to add to our family again. LOL He wants to make sure the kids get fed as long as they aren’t sharing his mom and dad. I’m afraid he felt like his place as the baby in the family might be in jeopardy.

Climbing Out On the Crashing Waves

A little boy sits crying because he can’t be in the sack race. Tears create streaks down his dirty little cheeks as the wash away the dust from a hot summer day. “Why can’t I be in the race?” he sobs.

“Buddy, you just can’t be in the race,” his mother answers.

“But why can’t I Momma? I can do it! Just watch me! I’ll show you I can do it!”

“It’s too hard. You just can’t do it. You have to be able to jump to play that game.”

“I CAN jump! Let me show you that I can,” he pleads.

“I wish that you could but you just can’t. You have CP. Your body just won’t do that.”

Through sobs he manages to say, “I wish CP didn’t exist! I wish I hadn’t been born with CP!”

I’ve dreaded hearing those words for over 10 years. I knew that someday I’d hear them. It was inevitable. The surprising part is that they haven’t been said before. Most kids realize their limitations much younger but Sweet G is different. There is nothing average about my Sweet G. He looks at life through a different window than most of us. His spirit is strong and true. He is kind and good. Anything is possible in his eyes.

As a small baby his favorite song was Dream Big by Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband. I remember thinking how cool it was that he loved that song so much because with his disability he was going to need to be able to Dream Big. I began to think of the words as a prayer for him.

When you cry be sure to dry your eyes
‘Cause better days are sure to come
And when you smile be sure to smile wide
Don’t let them know that they have won
And when you walk, walk with pride
Don’t show the hurt inside
Because the pain will soon be gone

And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
‘Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big

When you laugh be sure to laugh out loud
‘Cause it will carry all your cares away
And when you see, see the beauty all around and in yourself
And it’ll help you feel okay
And when you pray, pray for strength
To help you carry on
When the troubles come your way

And when you dream, dream big
As big as the ocean blue
‘Cause when you dream it might come true
When you dream, dream big

As he got a little older his favorite song changed to The Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns. That song gave me so much hope and peace and again I prayed those words as we sang them together.

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He’s holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. ‘Boy, you’ll never win!’
“You’ll never win”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again “boy, you’ll never win!
“You’ll never win”

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don’t seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

For the most part we have Dreamed Big and listened to the Voice of Truth but every now and then I have forgotten to have big dreams and sometimes I’ve listened as the giant says, “He’ll never win.” But not Sweet G, that is, not until today. Today he realized that dreams aren’t always enough and in his weakness he took his eyes off of Jesus, focused on the waves crashing all around him, and listened as the giant laughed and said, “Boy, you’ll never win.”

One thing I know is that although Sweet G had a moment of weakness tonight, tomorrow will be a different story. Tomorrow we will stop and listen to the sound of Jesus singing over G as He says, “Do not be afraid. This is for My glory,” and out of all the voices calling out we will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth!

He Came From a Long Line of Losers

A couple of years ago I started a new Christmas tradition for our family. I made small charm-like ornaments and a stick tree that serve as a Jesse Tree. It has become a nice addition to our nightly bedtime routine during the days leading up to Christmas. Each night we place that day’s ornament on the Jesse Tree and read the scriptures that tell the Biblical story associated with the picture on the charm. It really is a wonderful way to see God’s plan for our salvation through His Son, Jesus.

Tonight our story was from the book of Ruth. As I read the scriptures telling the story of Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi I would elaborate on parts to help Sweet G better understand. When I read the part where Ruth was gleaning the fields of Boaz I began to explain that Ruth and Naomi were poor widows and that Ruth worked very hard to gather the wheat that was left or dropped in the field. I told Sweet G that Ruth was an ancestor of Jesus and that her family had worshipped false idols but she had chosen to follow Naomi and worship the one true God. At this point in my story Sweet G asked, “Is it sort of like a long line of losers?” After a short chuckle I began to regain my composure and the thought hit me that G wasn’t really that far off. I reviewed the story of Abraham and Sarah, how Abraham lied and Sarah laughed when God promised a son would be born to them. Noah, although found righteous, at one time became drunk. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and hid from Him, then lied about their actions. I skipped ahead to Rahab the harlot and realized that Sweet G spoke the truth when he suggested that Jesus came from a long line of losers. It provided a great opportunity to share with G that God uses average people and loves us in spite of our poor choices.

I’ll never hear that country song again without thinking of my sweet Savior. “He comes from a long line of losers. Half outlaws, half boozers.” I’m so thankful that God can take someone who has a sinful past full of mistakes and regrets, someone whose family tree may have some questionable characters hanging in it and choose to love them and use them for His glory. Grace, grace. God’s grace. Oh, how sweet His love is.

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

Life is filled with ups and downs and twists and turns. I use to become very anxious about the changes in my life but as I grow older I find that I can see how God uses my circumstances to shape me into a better person. Today was one of the days of life that have the ability to leave you discouraged and depressed.

Wednesday is therapy day for G. He has all three therapies on Wednesdays so that gives me + – 3 hours to myself. I had planned on using the time today to get some housework done. We were about to eat lunch when we made the discovery. J turned the kitchen faucet on and nothing happened. We had no water whatsoever. I had not yet taken a shower and was going to be taking G to therapy in less than an hour.

After a few minutes of bewilderment my sweet precious husband who has way too much on his plate lately discovered that he has been riding around with our water bill and payment in his work bag. He made out the check in plenty of time but in all the chaos, that is our life, he forgot to deliver it. Our water had been cut off for non-payment.

At one time this kind of thing would have sent me crashing over the deep end but today it was simply a little inconvenience. It just wasn’t important enough to get upset over. One phone call to the water department (payment and $50 late fee paid on the phone) and the matter was resolved. My husband was much more upset about it than I was. To me it is just a funny story to remember. If that is the worst thing that happens I think we will be okay.

I did find it amusing that this situation occurred the day after I announced that I was taking control of my life. The truth is we only possess a certain amount of control. Things happen. We make mistakes. Life is not perfect but that does not mean that we can’t enjoy living it. You can’t sweat the small stuff and you can’t let it get you down. At times like that you have to find the humor, give a little chuckle, and move on.

Days like today make me realize how much I love my crazy, sometimes chaotic, sweet, sweet life.

Christmas Tree

December 1984:
A young couple sit together in their tiny apartment discussing their decorating plans for their first Christmas as husband and wife. The ink on their marriage license is barely dry, having only been married for three months. They are both college students and their only source of income is from his part time work with his father and the generosity of their parents. Their bills are paid and they have plenty to eat but frivolous purchases aren’t made. Desire to make every experience special urges them to purchase a small tree only two feet tall. A strand of lights and a box of cheap wooden ornaments accompany the small tree back to the couple’s home. The young wife cuts a star from yellow construction paper and her husband fashions an angel from a paper plate. A decision can’t be reached on the choice between the angel and the star so the couple makes one of many compromises as husband and wife. The star is glued onto the front of the angel before they are both placed on top of the tree.

December 1985:
The same young couple travel to a Christmas tree farm and choose a beautiful tree to place in their home for their second Christmas. The earthy scent of the tree fills their home as they place the same lights and wooden ornaments on their tree. A new ornament is added to commemorate this year spent together. The young woman strings popcorn and cranberries to add as a garland for their tree. Memories are being made and traditions are being formed.

December 1986:
The couple now live in their third home. It is a small brown house two blocks from the center of their small hometown. A beautiful artificial tree is purchased for their new home. Pretty ruffled curtains hang on the windows of their home. A new living room suite, television, washer and dryer, a beautiful oak dining set and refrigerator have been added to their possessions since their last Christmas. A new ornament is added to their tree to honor another year spent together.

December 1991:
This year two ornaments are added to the Christmas tree. One ornament for the couple and one for their baby’s first Christmas. Each year they have added a new ornament to their tree. Popcorn and cranberries are strung by the young woman like many years before. This is a special Christmas because it is their first year as parents.

December 1994:
The couple built a new house this year. It is their first Christmas in the home they have dreamed of for so long. Two new ornaments are added to their tree.

December 2003:
A new baby graces the lives of the little family bringing with him new experiences and new ornaments to represent them.

December 2011:
Two trees grace the couple’s home. They live in their fifth home. Their two sons have grown. The oldest is a sophomore in college and the youngest is eight years old. Three ornaments will be added to a tree that is already filled with 27 years worth of ornaments. One of the cheap wooden ornaments is hung on the tree along side many others that have been added over the years. There is a birds nest with a dove nestled in the branches of the tree. It was made by the woman when she was nine years old. Beside the nest hangs a beaded ornament made by the man when he was nine years old. Ornaments that represent babies first years, tee ball, a trip to Disneyworld, a new job, graduation, the first year of college. A lifetime of memories fill the tree.

I came across that first star angel when we were decorating our tree. I have kept it all these years. It brought a smile to my face as I remembered how it felt to be 18 years old, sitting in the floor of that tiny college apartment cutting that construction paper star to put on our bare tree. God has blessed me more than I deserve. That young girl could never have imagined how full our Christmas tree would be someday, filled with the ornaments that represent the memories we have made together. Our Christmas tree has been ever changing like our lives. Someday soon our oldest son will move out and begin his life as we did. He will carry all his ornaments with him when he goes and his first Christmas tree will be filled with memories of Christmas past.

Thankfulness

As I started to write this post tonight I began to reflect on this past year. I found myself thinking of all the bad things this year has brought to my life and the many things I have lost. That could have been the beginning of my annual spiral into holiday depression but it wasn’t. Before I was totally wallowing in self pity I thought of a verse from the Bible.

Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Immediately, God reminded me of all the blessings this year has been filled with. My baby had a successful surgery and has made great strides in therapy, my oldest is half way through his second year of college, my husband was given a steady paying part time job to supplement our income, our family is healthy, my Sweet G is making great progress in school, we have a home, plenty of food to eat, we had a pretty good little garden that is still producing food and enjoyment for me, I have had a million laughs at the things Sweet G has said to me, enjoyed morning snuggles and bedtime stories, had close to 52 “campouts” with Sweet G (T filled in for me on a couple of Friday nights), I celebrated the 27th anniversary of the day I married my best friend, made a few new friends, and made some more great memories with some old friends.

2011 has been bittersweet but then again isn’t that a pretty good description of life? We wouldn’t know the depth of our blessings without hardships to compare them to. I have learned a lot about myself this year. I also discovered the value that others place on me. I learned that blood isn’t always thicker than water but the blood of Christ that covers my sin is binding. I am His and He is mine. Nothing can separate me from His love. I do have many things to be Thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving!