Tag Archives: tradition

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.

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.

Autumn Memories

Fall is here and it brought along with it memories of years gone by. Years of running and playing with T underneath trees adorned in beautiful jewel colored dresses. Soft breezes nipping at our noses causing them to turn red and become as cold as ice. The absence of summer’s birdsongs make it almost too eerie to stay outside but we have hide and seek to keep us busy. I am content to be outside until darkness begins to close in around us because I have the king of the hill by my side.

The memory of another fall day comes into focus. I see a tow-haired boy about two years old running through a pile of leaves. His giggles rising above the sound of an approaching train. He is dressed in red overalls and a white turtle neck. His speech is filled with the sounds of y as he excitedly tells me to, “do it yike dis.” Suddenly he is transformed into a cowboy and takes off “yiding a buwll” with his arm flailing wildly as his head nods back and forth bucking to the rhythm of the imaginary bull. Slowly the sun begins to set and my heart starts to break as we have to let this day end.

Memories of hayrides with fellow homeschoolers push themselves the the center of my attention. Bowls of warm spicy chili lend us their heat as they fill our stomachs. The sounds of children laughing float down to parent’s ears as the adventurous children climb higher into the rafters of the barn over mounds of fresh bails of hay. Sweet songs and giggles dance into the night as a tractor pulls a wagon loaded with families nestled in sweet fresh hay. All too soon this day is over and reluctant children are shooed toward cars and home.

Six years ago we started hosting a Halloween party in our home. We have several special families that have come to our home year after year to celebrate fall with us. A traditional supper of chili and hot dogs is served before we all set out in my neighborhood for a fun night of trick-or-treating. There are special memories being made for adults as well as children. Each year is a little different as one by one our children grow too old to dress up and participate in the ritual of going from house to house gathering candy. This year our kids sat in the floor, sorted their candy, and began trading with each other. I sat and soaked in their energetic giggles and silly comments, knowing that there will never be another Halloween quite like this one.

The last memory comes into my mind in a rush. It is a cool fall evening after dark. Children begin to explore a haunted forest filled with witches and monsters and their screams fill the night. They play hide and seek until one by one parents arrive to retrieve them. This will be the last Halloween of their childhood. The next time Halloween will hold the same excitement will be years in the future when they take their own children trick or treating.

Life has a way of slipping by you if you’re not careful. I find that it’s the little spontaneous moments that keep returning to my mind. As I go through life I pray that I don’t forget to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures a day can bring. They are always there waiting for us to seek them out, if only we will try. Ready or not, here I come!