Category Archives: Holidays

The Jesse Tree: Wrap-up

Hello, dear friends. I’m praying that you had a wonderful, blessed, Christ-filled Christmas. 

Our family had a wonderful time doing this project and we achieved the goal we had set out to accomplish: to keep the focus on Jesus. It was truly meaningful. And I am so glad we did it. It was, however, a learning curve!

It seems like a good idea to come up with a conclusion to the Jesse Tree series to remind myself of a few things for next year. Every time I finish a project or event (like the Sunday School Christmas Program) I think, I need to make a list of things that worked and things I need to do differently next time. And then I never do it! Having you all here has kept me accountable. So in case you are doing the Jesse Tree, this list may be helpful to you, too.

1. Split the activity into two parts – Morning and Evening. In the morning, pull the ornament, hang it on the tree and read out of the story book or read the Scripture. In the evening, do the song, activity and read what wasn’t read in the morning.

2. Sing more songs / Christmas carols. I was so intent on finding songs that fit the theme that we missed our usual singing by the light of the tree time.

3. Find meaningful activities to do less often. The activities overwhelmed me a bit. Some seemed too grandiose to do within a day, while others didn’t seem to fit or were less meaningful. And honestly, I would rather do more difficult stuff less frequently if it has meaning. Our Passover meal and Lights Out nights were incredibly special and the kids got a lot out of the parallels. I’d also like to find more crafts to do for next year.

4. Have the kids make their own Jesse Tree ornaments. Our family ornaments that Shane and I made are special, but I will want my kids to have their own for years to come.

5. Replace ornaments instead of adding. The tree got really, really full and the kiddos didn’t know how/where to place the ornaments. Had I told them to simply replace one of the plain colored balls I had already placed, it would have made for a less crazy tree. 

6. When in doubt and time runs out, Scripture is the most important. There were days that we were rushed for time and were trying to cram it all in. In the end, the Bible says it best.

Did you who did the Jesse Tree along with us come up with good tips? PLEASE share them here! If you did any activities or came up with different songs that you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to hear from you!

Happy New Year!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

The Jesse Tree: Day 22 through Day 25

 

Day #22 – John the Baptist

Scripture: Luke 1:5-25, 39-80

Ornament: The Dove – Although the dove represents the Holy Spirit, it is also relevant for John the Baptist. His mother received the Holy Spirit while carrying John the Baptist, and later when he baptize Jesus in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Dumbstruck”, pages 69-71 and “Jumping for Joy”, pages 75-77

Song: See Suggested Activity

The point: John the Baptist was key in the fulfilling of Messianic prophecy. Jesus had to have a forerunner as we discussed on Day 21 with the minor prophets. John the Baptist was also literally in Jesus’ family tree because he was Jesus’ cousin, (per Scripture, it appears that they were second cousins), and was from the tribe of Levi.

Suggested activity: Watch “John the Baptist Sing-Along.” It’s about 6 1/2 minutes long. (Watch it here)

 

Day #23 – Mary

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38, 2:15-19, 33-35, 46-51

Ornament: The Pondering Heart – Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.”

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Mary”, pages 72-74

Song: “Silent Night”

The point: The character of Mary is clearly key in Jesus’ family tree. She was His mother. And God chose her for a reason, or perhaps many reasons. We don’t know a ton about her, but we know, based on our brief glimpse of her, that she was humble, submissive and obedient to God, courageous, and thoughtful. In a few different places, we see that she “pondered these things in her heart.” What a precious weight to carry in her womb and on her shoulders. As a side note, it’s neat that Mary’s lineage from Levi and story are in Luke, where Jesus is presented greatly as a Healer and Priest.

Suggested activity:  Watch one or more versions of “Mary Did You Know” and/or “Breath of Heaven” and discuss what Mary would have thought or felt. Here are a couple of our favorite versions.  Pentatonix or Mark Lowry with Voctave singing “Mary Did You Know”, and Sara Groves singing “Breath of Heaven.”

 

Day #24 – Joseph

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

Ornament: Carpenters’ Tools 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Worst of All Possible Times”, pages 78-80

Song: 

The point: Joseph was a very special man. In very few verses, his character is fleshed out as a man of honor, faith, courage and tenderness. Although he knew that Jesus was not his flesh and blood, he raised Him as his own and was His adopted father. He taught Jesus his trade, for one. As a side note, it’s beautiful that Joseph’s lineage from Judah and story are in Matthew, where Jesus is presented as the King of kings.

Suggested activity: Watch “A Strange Way to Save the World” and similarly to yesterday, focus on Joseph and how he felt or what he thought. 4Him’s version is probably my favorite version. (Watch it here)

 

Day #25 – Jesus

Scripture: Luke 2:1-40, Matthew 2:1-23

Ornament: The Manger

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Wonderful News”, “The Cunning and the Wise”, “Angels” and “The Brightest Star”, pages 81-93

Song: Sing as many favorite Christmas carols can today!

The point: JESUS. He IS the point of all of this. The Jesse tree was created to show the 

Suggested activity: Read the entire Nativity story today.

The Jesse Tree: Day 16 through Day 21

Day #16 – Solomon

Scripture: I Kings 3:5-28, I Corinthians 1:18-25

Ornament: The Scroll – This represents all the wisdom which Solomon wrote, especially the Proverbs.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Wisdom of Solomon”, pages 57-60

Song: “The Wise Man and the Foolish Man” (Watch it here)

The point: Beside Jesus, Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. It’s important to point out to our children that wisdom didn’t come with age, but because he asked for wisdom over riches or fame. We can also point out that we can do the same as James says that we should, (James 1:5-6). In addition to Solomon’s wisdom, this is a good devotional to discuss that preaching of the cross is foolishness to this world. It could indicate why God chose lowly shepherds to be Jesus’ first visitors. 

Suggested activity: Have your children color a picture about this story. There are many to choose from on the internet. Just Google “Solomon asks for wisdom coloring page”. 

 

Day #17 – Elijah

Scripture: Matthew 11:13-15, 17:1-13, Luke 9:28-36

Ornament: The flame – The flame represents the fire that fell from Heaven on Mt. Carmel to 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Idol and the Still, Small Voice” & “War and Peace”, pages 61-68

Song: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Watch it here) 

The point: Elijah was a key prophet in the Old Testament who delivered God’s judgement on the Kingdom of Judah. He is key because it was his spirit that fell on John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. He is also one of the two, Moses being the other, that appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus met with a representative of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) and He came to fulfill both. 

Suggested activity: Under construction

 

Day #18 – Major Prophets

Scripture: Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7, 11:1-10, 35:5-6, 40:3-5, 53:3-5

Ornament: The Lion of Judah – This ornament was originally made to represent Daniel, but the more I studied, the more I feel that Isaiah was just as key, if not more so in relation to Messianic prophecy. One of those prophecies, (in Genesis and Revelation, interestingly enough) refers to Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. 

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Operation “No More Tears!”, pages 144-151

Song: See “Suggested Activity.” However, this is a nice sing-along-video with lyrics to one of my favorites”the Messiah,” called “For Unto Us a Child is Born” (Watch it here) 

The point:  The major prophets really flesh out what Jesus would look like when He came and what His character would be. They made clear what it was we were to look for in the Messiah. Isaiah especially says that Jesus would be born of a virgin, the wonderful counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, of the root of Jesse, called a Nazarene, a healer and preceded by a forerunner. Jeremiah had more prophecy relating to Jesus’ death and resurrection. Daniel is important for two reasons. First, he very clearly lays out that the Messiah would come according to a specific timeline, both for his first and second comings. He also was a wise man in Babylon. Tradition says that he started a school and that the wise men that came from the east very likely knew the prophecies foretold about the Messiah and followed the star because of Daniel’s influence on Babylon. Interesting thought, at least.

Suggested activity: Watch/listen to the full “The Messiah” throughout your evening. Many of the beautiful prophecies are skillfully put to music by Handel.

 

Day #19 – Esther

Scripture: Esther 1-10

Ornament: The scepter – Just as the scepter was extended to Esther so that she could approach the king, Jesus blood is an extended scepter by which we can approach the King. (Hebrews 4:16)

Story: Neither The Jesse Tree or The Jesus Storybook, have Esther, but like Rahab, Esther played an important part in Jesus’ story and it’s good to include her. Read the Scriptures

Song: “What would I give” (Watch it here) (I had never heard this, but it’s lovely and worth a listen.)

The point: As mentioned above, Esther is not mentioned in either book. But like Rahab, Esther played an important part in Jesus’ story and it’s good to include her. Although God is not once mentioned in the book of Esther, His fingerprints are all over it. Had Esther not been willing to submit to God’s will and approach the king, the Jewish people would have been destroyed, and with it, the tribe of Judah specifically. 

Suggested activity: If you can, read the whole story of Esther. It’s written so beautifully in the Bible that it’s as readable as a children’s storybook simply as written. 

 

Day #20 – Ezra/Nehemiah

Scripture: Ezra 7, Nehemiah 8-10

Ornament: The Watchtower

Story:  The Jesus Storybook, “Get ready!”, pages 170-175

Song: “Nehemiah’s Song” (Watch it here) 

The point: Nehemiah and Ezra completed rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, which was also necessary for the Messianic prophecies to be fulfilled. There is no 

Suggested activity: See song – this is almost seven minutes long. It’s less a sing-along and more a story set to music. Kinda neat. 

 

Day #21 – Minor Prophets

Scripture: Hosea 11:1 (Matthew 2:15), Jonah 1:17 (Matthew 12:38-41), Micah 5:2 (Matthew 2:2-6), Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6

Ornament: Bethlehem

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Get ready!”, pages 170-175 (This is repeated because it covers both yesterday and today. You do not need to read it twice.)

Song: “O Little Town of Bethlehem,”  (Watch it here) and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”  (Watch it here) 

The point: There were many prophecies given in the minor prophets pointing to Jesus. Hosea is the one who said that he would be called out of Egypt, Micah prophesied that he would be born in Bethlehem and Malachi that he would be preceded by a messenger/Elijah. In addition to those, Zechariah and Jonah prophesied of his life, death and resurrection.

Suggested activity: As a family, make a list of things we must do to be ready for when the Messiah returns. Read the story of the Five Wise and Five Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13).

The Jesse Tree: Day 7 through Day 15

Day #7 – Jacob 

Scripture: Genesis 28:10-22

Ornament: Jacob’s ladder 

Story: The Jesse Tree,”Stairway to Heaven”, pages 26-29

Song: “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” (Watch it here)

The point: God repeated the promise that He had given to Abraham and promised Jacob that his seed would be as the dust of the earth and that through his seed (Jesus) would all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Suggested activity: 1) Be a blessing to someone and write a note to someone to remind that person how much God loves them. 2) Find a big, semi-smooth rock and have your children try to lay their heads on it like a pillow and think of Jacob’s fitful night and eventful encounter with God.

 

Day #8 – Leah 

Scripture: Genesis 29:16-35

Ornament: Tender eyes – Leah’s tender eyes or a veiled face. The Bible makes specific mention of Leah’s eyes. And it is likely that they were the only thing Jacob saw when he married her. 

Story: The Jesus Storybook,”The girl no one wanted”, pages 70-75

Song: “Something Beautiful”

The point: It’s intriguing and special that although Jacob’s favorite was Rachel, God favored Leah. He opened her womb and honored Jacob’s first wife. The Bible says that she had “tender eyes” and her name literally means “weary.” God saw how she suffered and blessed her with children. And she gave birth to Levi (Mary’s ancestor, representing the priestly line) and Judah (Joseph’s ancestor, representing the kingly line.) It’s also a beautiful thing that by the time she had Judah, she was no longer pining for Jacob’s, but gloried in God’s love and named her son, “Praise.”

Suggested activity: Look into a mirror and try to see yourself as God sees you.

 

Day #9 – Joseph 

Scripture: Genesis 37:3-36, 50:15-21

Ornament: The coat of many colors

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Dreamer” and “Famine & Plenty”, pages 30-36 / The Jesus Storybook, “The forgiving prince”, pages 76-83

Song: “Joseph” (Watch it here) 

The point: Although Joseph’s coat caused great jealousy among his brothers and was the catalyst for Joseph being sold into Egypt, God saw the big picture and what they had meant for evil, He meant for good. Jacob’s (Israel’s) people were preserved through the famine because of Joseph’s position in Egypt. God makes provision for His people.

Suggested activity: Rehearse as a family some “bad things” that have happened to  you and discuss how the Lord has turned it into something good for you all. 

 

Day #10 – The Passover 

Scripture: Genesis 

Ornament: The blood on the mantel

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Let My People Go!” pages 37-41, The Jesus Storybook, “God to the Rescue” and “God makes a way”, pages 84-99

Song: “When I See the Blood, I Will Pass Over You” (Watch if here) or “How Did Moses Cross the Red Sea” (Watch it here) 

The point: Although the Passover doesn’t point to Jesus’ birth, it certainly points to Him, the ultimate Passover Lamb. God saved His people from extinction by delivering them out of Pharaoh’s hand.

Suggested activity: Have an authentic Passover meal and/or Communion as a family (with parental discretion). We actually just looked up the instructions in Exodus 12 and prepared them instead of following a traditional Seder.

Day #11 – The 10 Commandments 

Scripture: Exodus 20:1-21

Ornament: The stone tablets

Story: The Jesus Storybook, “Ten ways to be perfect”, pages 100-107

Song: “The Perfect Ten”

The point: Discuss that God desired to write His law on the hearts of the people even in the Old Testament times, but the people “stood afar off”, but “Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” The blessing was on Moses because he desired to draw close to God above all else. The people feared the awesomeness of God, but were was clearly a heart problem with the people. But when Jesus was crucified, the veil in the temple was rent in two from top to bottom and allowed us to approach God. Now His law can indeed be written on our hearts.

Suggested activity: Do a memory game and try to arrange the commandments in order. You can also discuss how the first four commandments deal with our relationship with God and the last six are about how we relate to others. 

 

Day #12 – Rahab 

Scripture: Joshua 2:1-24, 6:20-25

Ornament: Red cord (or red ribbon) It’s hard to tell here, but this is a clear globe with a red ribbon filling it. You could do something like this or simply tie a red cord to a branch.

Story: Neither of the two books that we’re referencing had Rahab represented, so we are just going to read the Scriptures.

Song: Under construction

The point: As mentioned above, Rahab isn’t in either version we’re reading. But Shane and I both felt that her story is essential. She is indeed an ancestor of Jesus and it was entirely due to her obedience and not her blood-line. She shows that no matter how deep and dark the sin of your past, when you choose to make God the Lord of your life and turn from your sin, you are part of His family. 

Suggested activity: Look around your house as a family for as many red things as you can find. You could even split into teams and make it a contest.

 

Day #13 – Ruth

Scripture: Ruth 1:8-22, 2:4-20, 4:13-14

Ornament: I didn’t have any barley, but I just filled this empty globe with grains of various kinds. I would like to eventually replace it with barley.

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Foreigner,” pages 42-45

Song:  “The Song of Ruth” (Watch it here) 

The point: As with Rahab, it was Ruth’s obedience that made her a part of Jesus’s ancestry, rather than her blood-line. She chose to make the God of Israel her God rather than the gods of Moab. Because she honored her mother-in-law, she was married to her kinsman redeemer, Boaz, a type of Christ. And as a result, she was the grandmother of King David. 

Suggested activity: Have a “lights out” night except for your Christmas lights. Notice how the the light seems brighter in the darkness and think about how God shines His light in our darkest of times, just as He did for Ruth amid the loss of her husband.

 

Day #14 – Samuel 

Scripture: I Samuel 3:1-10, 16:4-13

Ornament: Anointing oil – The part of Samuel to focus on is that he anointed David to be King, apart from Saul’s blood-line. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Speak, Lord, For Your Servant is Listening,” pages 46-49 / The Jesus Storybook, “The teeny-weenie…true king”, pages 116-121

Song: “Little David, Play on Your Harp” (Watch it here) and/or “Only a Boy Named David” (Watch it here)

The point: No, Samuel was not in Jesus’s direct bloodline. But he was the one man in those days that heard directly from God and it was he who anointed David to be king. He played an essential role in the plan. It was he who heard God tell him, “…For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

Suggested activity: If you use essential oils at all, you could have your children smell cassia oil, which was a common anointing oil in Bible times. 

 

Day #15 – David

Scripture: Matthew 22:41-46, John 10:7-19, Acts 13:22-23

Ornament:  The staff & the crown – This represents that David was both a shepherd and a king. It beautifully pointed to the fact that Jesus would be both for us as well. He is the Great Shepherd and the King of kings. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Shepherd King” and “Dancing”, pages 50-56 / The Jesus Storybook, “The young hero and the horrible giant” and “The Good Shepherd”, pages 122-135

Song: “King of Kings” (Watch it here) and “I am the Good Shepherd” (lyrics as follows)

I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Good Shepherd

And the Good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (repeat)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Jesus is the Good Shepherd

And the Good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (repeat)

The point: Besides the above-mentioned parallel, it is also important to point out that David was a man after God’s own heart. Although he fell at first, it’s important to learn about his character and follow his example of humility and repentance. 

Suggested activity: Recite the 23rd Psalm together and discuss.

 

Friends, I need help! The “Under Construction” places are areas where I don’t have ideas. If you have one, please comment!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

The Jesse Tree: Day 1 through Day 6

Hello, Mama readers!

I have changed the original post dramatically. I tried to keep it similar, but I just couldn’t. Here’s why. 

So here’s what I’m doing: I’m updating the order, symbolism, Scriptures, etc. And I’m only giving alternatives from The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. And as I stated in the aforementioned link, we’re mainly following The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. Pick your favorite for each day and enjoy!

Here are the first six days.

Day #1 – Introduction – The Jesse Tree

Scripture: Isaiah 11:1-10

day-1

Ornament: The Jesse Tree – This ornament can either show a stump or a tree. It’s important to have both the roots and the branches showing. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Introduction”, pages 8-9 / The Jesus Storybook, “The Story and The Song”, pages 12-17

Song: “Come, Thou, Long Expected Jesus” (Watch it here)

The point: Jesus was not only the Root of David, but the Branch. David called him LORD, yet was descended from David. Such a wonderful mystery!

Suggested activity:  1) Plant a seed and talk about roots and shoots as you do. 2) Make a list of people you feel really need to know about God’s love and care throughout the Christmas season and put the list up for the family to see as a reminder to pray for and look for ways to bless them.

Day #2 – Creation 

Scripture: Genesis 1:1-5, 26-27

day-2

Ornament: The World (or the Sun & Moon) – This ornament can either show a stump or a tree. It’s important to have both the roots and the branches showing. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “The Jesse Tree”, pages 10-11 / The Jesus Storybook, “The beginning: a perfect home”, pages 18-27

Song: “The Seven Days of Creation” (to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)

On the first day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me… His light so we all could see.

On the second day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me… the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the third day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the fourth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the fifth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the sixth day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…animals and people, birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

On the seventh day of Creation the Good Lord gave to me…a day to rest…and…praise Him… (pretend to sleep)…animals and people, birdies and fishies, sun, moon and stars, land, sea and plants, the sky up above and His light so we all could see.

The point: Jesus is part of the godhead and as such, was present at Creation. He has always been.

Suggested Activity:  1) Create something special, cookies, an ornament, etc. and think about how special this thing is to you when you are done with your work. Think about how God felt after creating us. (I had already planned to make ornaments and have a baking day with the kids, but didn’t see this until I had already made plans.)

Day #3 – The Fall 

Scripture: Genesis 3:6-9, 14-15

day-3

Ornament: The Forbidden Fruit and the Serpent – This ornament can be any variation of this theme. Last year I just had a red apple. This year I thought, “Maybe the forbidden fruit was purple??” Beside that, I wanted the serpent represented as well because the prophecy says that it is his head that Jesus would bruise.  

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Paradise Garden”, pages 12-15 / The Jesus Storybook, “The terrible lie”, pages 28-37

Song: “Satan is My Enemy” (Watch it here)  

The point: God had a plan for our redemption through Jesus from the very moment sin entered the world. In His punishment to the serpent, God prophesied of Jesus coming as our remedy.

Suggested Activity: Write a letter to God thanking Him for His plan of salvation for us.

Day #4 – The Flood 

Scripture: Genesis 6:5-8

day-4

Ornament: The Rainbow or Ark – The actual book we’re following shows the ark instead of a rainbow. I had already made the rainbow so I kept it, but I like the idea of the ark because it represents God’s provision for the righteous. But, the rainbow is more colorful and represents His promise to us. (And, it’s just pretty.)

Story: The Jesse Tree, “A Boat Full of Animals”, pages 16-19 / The Jesus Storybook, “A new beginning”, pages 38-47

Song: “Arky, Arky” (Watch it here)

The point: Although God cannot stand sin and had to destroy it, He made a plan of deliverance from His wrath for the righteous.

Suggested Activity: I didn’t really find the activities suggested for this day to make sense. There were “parallels” drawn that were not parallels at all. I would suggest making a list as a family of as many promises of God that we can come up with and hang them somewhere prominent throuth the Christmas season (and beyond!)

Day #5 – Abraham’s promise 

Scripture: Genesis 12:1-4, 7, 15:5

day-5

Ornament: The Stars in the Sky – Later on there will be a single star, but this ornament shows the many, many that were shown to Abraham. I just got a glittery ball ornament and dotted it with a gold pen and it turned out really well. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “Strange Visitors”, pages 20-22 / The Jesus Storybook, “Son of laughter”, pages 56-61

Song: “Father Abraham” (Watch it here)

The point: God promised that the whole earth would be blessed by Abraham’s seed (Jesus) and that his descendants would be innumerable like the stars in the sky.

Suggested Activity: Stargaze as a family and try to count the stars for a minute. Think of the enormity of God’s promise to Abraham.

Day #6 – The Sacrifice

 Scripture: Genesis 22:1-14

day-7

Ornament: The Ram – Last year we used a sheep ornament that I had made in the 4th Grade. I decided to attempt to draw a ram this year. 

Story: The Jesse Tree, “A Test of Love”, pages 23-25 / The Jesus Storybook, “The present”, pages 62-29

Song:  “There is a Redeemer” (Watch it here)

The point: God asked Abraham to offer up his only son Isaac. Instead, God provided a substitute for Isaac, a ram. God offered up His only Son, Jesus, which provided the ultimate substitute for us.

Suggested Activity: As a family, come up with a list of 10 days the Lord has provided for you. Hang this in a place for you all to see it and remember, or place it under the Tree to represent His gift to us.

More to come!

 

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

The Jesse Tree: Ummmmm…this isn’t going as planned.

Hello Friends!

This Jesse Tree adventure has been a learning curve for me. And being the perfectionist that I am, who HAS to see patterns and meaning in anything like this, I’m getting frustrated really easily with this tool.

It’s Day 5 and I am already giving up on Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voscamp. It is WAY too ecumenical for our family. Almost every story is leaving out KEY Scriptures. And there are omissions that I just can’t get past, (like the fact that Abraham was blessed because of OBEDIENCE, not just because he was “special.”)

Anyway, mid-week, we are switching to The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean as our primary outline. I love the story format better in this book and the symbolism is more clear. I can already foresee one or two changes that I will need to make with this one as well, but Shane and I already feel better about this.

Did you know that the Jesse Tree concept has been around for more than 1000 years? Basically every early Christian church had one in some form, be it a carving or stained glass, etc. Because many people were illiterate and unable to read the Bible for themselves, the Jesse Tree gave pictures that allowed people to follow the whole story from Creation to the Birth of the Savior.

Knowing this has given clarification that I was lacking. And it helps me to hone in and focus on what we want to cover in these 24 days leading up to Christmas.

PLEASE bear with all of the hiccups this year. Our 2017 Jesse Tree should look less confusing…I hope!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

The Jesse Tree: Introduction – “A new family tradition”

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…” ~ Isaiah 11:1  

Have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? I hadn’t before last year. I can’t even remember where I heard about it, but the more I read, the more fascinated I became.

Our family has always had a Christmas tree. I love everything about it. The hunt for that perfect one. Placing the lights just so. Lovingly placing each special ornaments, some heirlooms, some new. Watching a Christmas movie while stringing cranberries and popcorn to hang on it. Some years we have themes. Other years are just a hodge podge. And, oh, the wonderful smell it brings into the house! Although I must admit that my allergies KILL ME every year…artificial next year? *sniff*  After all of this, comes my favorite part of all — turning all of the living room lights off, save the tree, the village (if we put it up…this year we’re not) and the nativity lights, and singing songs together as a part of our evening devotions.

But over the last couple of years Shane and I have been struggling with just how much we want to focus on this time-honored tradition. Do our kids treasure the nativity scene as much as they do the tree? Are we perhaps placing it above the true meaning of Christmas? We didn’t like the thought of that.

One thing that adoptive and foster parents will relate to, is that we typically don’t have full influence over our children from birth. In some cases, Jesus is not taught at all and Christmas is all about Santa and reindeer. And the tree.

As a family, we kicked Santa to the curb, along with all of his reindeer (or caribou, as Shane likes to refer to them, tongue in cheek) a long time ago. DISCLAIMER: We DO NOT judge friends and family who celebrate that stuff. No, we do not worry about your spiritual condition and pray for you to “see the light.” Seriously. It’s just that as a family, with SO MUCH worldly influence already poured into our sweet children before we ever met them, we are just dialing that way back. WAY. BACK.

But the tree? I just felt that there was a way we could totally redeem that tradition so that our children could enjoy it while still completely focusing on Jesus and the reason He came for us, by such humble means, no less.

And then I found the Jesse Tree! There are different versions, but essentially, all of them have an ornament and Scripture and/or devotion for every day (some beginning the day after Thanksgiving, others starting on December 1) that show how the Old Testament points to the promise of a Savior, and more specifically, Jesus.

As I mentioned, I have come across several versions. Some have crossover with symbolism (i.e. a dove representing Noah on one list and John the Baptist on another…you can see where it would fit either), some focus only on people of the Old Testament, others more on events. Some only have male characters on the list while others have Ruth, Rahab and Esther. So I looked at several lists and haven’t settled on one for sure yet.

Last year we followed The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones and loved it. However, it wasn’t intended for the Jesse Tree and continues several stories after Jesus’ birth. Which is great. And I loved that Leah is honored, as well as Daniel.

I was really excited about using The Jesus Storybook Bible again, but at the last minute…like within the last two or three weeks, it disappeared into thin air. Seriously?! NOW what was I going to do?!

Well, in my search at the library, I found, not only said book, but one simply called, The Jesse Tree, by Geraldine McCaughrean. I haven’t had a chance to read it, but plan on following this one as well to see if I like it.

However, this year, I’m super excited to follow along with Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, but Ann Voscamp this year. I am already finding things that I wish were there, (like Leah and Daniel), but others are included in this, like Jonah and Zechariah & Elizabeth.

So basically, my kiddos and you are my guinea pigs. Aren’t you thrilled?! Next year you may see that I have morphed a calendar of my own. But for this year we’re following a “plan.”

Now, if the book is readily available, why check on my blog? First, although activities are suggested in the Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, we like to add songs for the kids to sing, so I will have a song suggestion for each one. In addition, you can purchase ornaments for the Jesse Tree, but honestly, they’re spendy and our family couldn’t afford them this year. So I’ll show you the ornaments I have made and give suggestions along the way for you to make your own.

We have decided to start with the introduction tonight, November 30, and the ornaments and stories will officially start tomorrow, December 1.

Thankfully, we already had a HUGE advent calendar that I made out of a clear shoe organizer and they’re super easy to make! Here’s where I found how to make it. In each slot I put the ornament for the day and will likely also put the Scriptures on 3×5 cards for the kids to look up. I also put a 3×5 car with an activity on it for them to do, unrelated to the Jesse Tree, (i.e., We’re watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” tonight!)

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Speaking of ornaments, last year I decided to go through my many, many ornaments to try to find ornaments that were already special to our family that would fit the symbols needed. For the missing days, I am decorating plain glass ball ornaments to fill in the gaps. This year I took the time to paint nice “set” of ornaments to use for years to come. This has been a learning curve for me, but hopefully what I learn can be useful to those of you who wish to start this tradition for your family.

Regarding the Scripture readings: Last year when I was searching for a good plan to follow, many of the readings  felt too long for our kiddos’ attention spans and so I tried to find the stories in our Children’s Bible whenever I could. One HUGE benefit to Ann Voscam’s versin is that the Scripture reading is concise, but an integral part, nonetheless. I do encourage you to have children actually find the Scripture in the Bible. It’s good practice and helps their brains connect that what we are reading is God’s Word and not just a storybook.

I am so excited to share this experience with you, my friends!

More to come!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

7 Reasons We Kicked Santa to the Curb

OK…so before you read this post, PLEASE READ THIS: 

Our family doesn’t celebrate Santa and I’m giving some legitimate reasons as to why. But this post is meant to be taken in good humor. I’m not writing this to make anyone feel badly or to criticize. I am writing this to provoke thought and there are some for real questions and points I intend to make. But, seriously. My parents celebrated Christmas with Santa and I never once thought they were bad parents for doing it. In fact, as terrified as I am in the picture under reason #4 , it’s one of my favorite Christmas pictures…because it’s HILARIOUSHowever, I do find it ironic how much people talk up Santa Claus at Christmas time. Yes, St. Nicholas was a pretty stellar guy. But honestly, let’s examine…

Reason #1 – Let’s face it…we’re lying to our kids. My cousin once told me that her family was big on Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And she truly believed in Santa.  Her mom took pains to make sure that the illusion was upheld. And then she found out the truth. And she felt betrayed and lied to. And it took her time to trust her mother again. Let’s let that sink in. You may think this is extreme, but we cannot take for granted that our kids know the truth and are just playing along. They may not. If your kids are as literal and black & white as mine, they may be falling for it hook, line and sinker. And is it worth losing their trust over when they finally figure it out?

Reason # 2 – He plays favorites. My hubby told me the other day that he seriously thought Santa liked other kids more than him. His parents weren’t rich, so he would get a small gift from “Santa” every year. Then he would go back to school and find out that his rich friend got a new bike or a Power Wheels. That’s a big disparity. This can cause our kids to ask, If Santa plays favorites, who else does? Do my parents? Does God? 

Reason # 3 – And speaking of comparisons, he is a God-like figure.  “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Instead of our children being encouraged to be good and obey because it pleases God, we’re encouraging them to be motivated to “be good” in order to get stuff.

Reason #4 – Stranger Danger matters…except with Santa Claus. All year long we tell our kids, “Don’t to talk to strangers. Don’t take candy from strangers. DON’T EVER sit on a stranger’s lap! Who knows what a CREEP like that is looking for! Oh, except for this big dude in a bright red suit with a bushy white beard that covers his whole face. Wait, why are you crying? Stop that. He’s perfectly safe. You can trust him!” (see photo below) We need to help our children foster their gut instincts to stay away from people that give them a bad feeling. If your kid is terrified to sit on Santa’s lap, let it go. You can get other cute Christmas shots sans Santa.

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Mom and Dad having to sit on Santa’s lap with me to get the shot, Christmas 1982

Reason # 5 – He gives stores a way to pressure us parents into consumerism and debt to keep the fantasy alive. There your kiddo is, sitting on Santa’s lap. You are straining to hear what they are asking for to make sure you were on the right track for their gifts and then, to your horror, little Suzy asks for a puppy or little Bobby asks for a train set.  That actually happened to us. A couple of years ago while we were in Kentucky for Christmas, Nana and Papa paid for all of us to go on a train ride with Santa. We decided to relent and let the kids  sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted. Up walks Nutkin and asks for a train. Ummmm? We had no idea that he wanted that. He had said nothing. And here we are completely done with our Christmas shopping, thousands of miles from home and only three days before Christmas. Thankfully, Nana and Papa had gotten him a train unbeknownst to us and all was well. But how often does that happen where the parents then make a mad dash to the store, spend more than they intended and stress themselves out? And worse yet, how many times have you heard a store clerk tell your kiddo, “You like that $400.00 toy, huh? Well, maybe Santa will bring that to you for Christmas.” *wink, wink* Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Nutkin dropping the bomb on us… December 2014

Reason #6 – He replaces us as the giver of the best gifts to our children. We all know how hard we work.  We want Christmas to be special, so we scrimp and save to give good gifts to our children. We spend hours shopping, standing in lines, decorating and wrapping gifts. But instead of putting “TO: Johnny, FROM: Mommy & Daddy” on the package, we give Santa, a distant, un-involved magical man all of the credit! WHAT ARE WE THINKING?!  Sorry, but I want my kids to realize that I love them and hand-picked a present personally for them.

Reason #7 – He takes the focus off Jesus. This is a separate point from reason #3 and to me, the most important reason of all. If you are not a Christian, this argument is moot. But to those of us that are, I believe that I can make the argument with little dispute that Christmas is all about Jesus. If we can establish this as fact, then we must examine who we are giving focus to besides Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birthday. Holiday means “holy day.” It’s His day. Not Santa’s or Rudolph’s or an Elf on the Shelf or any other character. Santa often represents commercialism, excess and what we can get. Jesus not only represents, but IS the embodiment of grace, mercy, humility and what God gave…Himself. And what a beautiful present He is!

So dear friends, as this holy day fast approaches, my family and I wish you the happiest of Christmases.

My next posts will be about the Jesse Tree, a fairly new Advent tradition in our family. I’m excited to share my discoveries with you!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

Is tradition worth all this crazy??

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Mark 4:39

I am a girl who loves tradition. I like to have things done the same way every year…especially when it comes to holidays. In fact, I remember the very first time it was casually mentioned by my mother-in-love (I think) when Shane and I were first married that maybe we should have Christmas at a beach house. I don’t remember much after that because I’m pretty sure the room went dark, I may have hyperventilated a little, the room started spinning…you get the idea.

I like my holidays just so. Thankfully, my folks and Shane’s folks get along really well and are all very understanding and so alternating holidays was more the exception and just all getting together as one, big, happy family was the rule when we all lived in the same state. When that didn’t work out for some reason, we were all very content to do Thanksgiving here and Christmas there, but it was still very traditional and very predictable. 

Growing up, my holidays were steeped with tradition and predictability. I knew where we were spending Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years on any given year. I was an only child with no cousins of my age. And I didn’t mind at all. I loved the quiet, cozy holidays that my family shared. Without fail, I could expect End Times prophecy discussion and politics around the table and quiet snuggles afterward with my grandparents on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Come Christmas Day and the days that followed, we would drive to the beach to my Mom’s folks’ house where I could expect loudness, chaos, tickling, laughter, a dog that hated me and pantyhose Christmas stockings. And I loved both family celebrations equally.

Then one year, when I was in middle school, I was invited to go to Sun River for Thanksgiving with a dear friend of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN! But I remember thinking, This is really differentIt felt so foreign to me.

To a point, tradition can be a really good thing. When we first adopted our boys, establishing family traditions of our own and creating memories was very important and they genuinely loved it. From cutting down our own tree to setting up our heirloom nativity scene, from the Grinch family movie night to ZooLights, from the Advent calendar to new Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve…the list could go on and on.

We have recently added a new Christmas tradition that we’re loving called the “Jesse Tree” and I’ll be sharing with you throughout the month of December how it works.

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The ceramic Nativity scene my Grandma made

But somewhere over the last decade, be it ever so gradual, my compulsion for tradition has subsided. And I am…quite pleasantly…relieved. 

Maybe it started when the traditions of my childhood were replaced with ones of adulthood. More family through marriage, less family through death. The family holidays shifted greatly after both of my Grandpas passed away. My Patriarchs were gone and with them, certain ways of doing things held less meaning.

Maybe it started when we sold our house and we couldn’t host everyone at the same time anymore.

Maybe it started when a large part of our family moved out of state.

Maybe it started when Nutkin was so terrified of the Grinch that we had to cancel our third annual Grinch family movie night.

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First annual Grinch family movie night

Whichever way it started, I think it culminated when we decided to drive cross-country for Christmas in 2014. It was…Truly amazing. Full of memories. Adventurous. Packed with sight-seeing and stops to see friends and family along the way. Exhausting. And very, very different from our “normal.” And we were all OK with it. In fact, we were more than OK with it. We all  absolutely loved it. That year, our only traditional family holiday was Thanksgiving (my favorite anyway) and it was relaxing! Because we knew we’d be gone for the majority of December, and that we were getting new carpeting while we were gone, decorating was nixed. There was no pressure to decorate for Christmas at all. No pressure.

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A highlight of our 2014 Christmas road trip – standing next to the poplars Pa Ingalls planted in DeSmet, SD

There it is. When I think of what I am trying to instill in our children as they move into their teenage and adult years, I want them to hear the words “No pressure,” when they think of the holidays. I want them to hear the words, “relax,” “enjoy,” “cherish,” and “content.” If tradition helps us achieve those thoughts of peace, then it’s a useful tool. But if I feel driven and bound by tradition to the point where my kids get left in the dust while I’m screeching around going from here to there, wrapping this and shopping for that, baking this and decorating that, then what good is it, really?

I’ve been pondering this as I sit in an un-decorated living room writing to you dear friends in the end of October. In a typical year, there would be pumpkins and leaves strewn all about my house starting the first week of September. I have two totes FULL of stuff just for Thanksgiving and autumn, because it really is my favorite time of the year.

But this year, we’ll be breaking tradition once again to be with close friends and family for Thanksgiving out of town. And I have two totes FULL of filing to get done. And other projects to do. And honestly, I could do it all and still have a decorated house. But my kiddos would suffer and my husband would suffer because of all the pressure I would be placing upon myself. 

It’s just. not. necessary. 

Years from now, should the Lord tarry, my kids won’t remember if our house was un-decorated for Thanksgiving in 2016. But they will remember that one really miserable Thanksgiving where Mom was really stressed and we didn’t even have dinner at our house!

I’m not saying  that non-tradition in my new tradition. I’m sure I’ll decorate my house in future years, and when I do, the nativity scene will always have its place of honor right up on the top of our bookshelf. We’ll probably give our kids new jammies every Christmas Eve for many years to come, maybe even into their adult years.

No matter what traditions are broken, or how pared down our Christmas looks, there are certain traditions that we will never, ever set aside. We will always have Christmas-themed devotions throughout the season and we will always read (or recite) the Christmas story on Christmas morning. Some traditions are at the very core of who we are and cannot, and should never be, laid aside. But I find that those traditions weren’t the problem anyway.

I’m just saying that IF I have to break from tradition to keep myself from having a breakdown, I’ll do it and I’ll give myself grace when I do.

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New Christmas jammies, 2013

And, so…I’m enjoying my one pumpkin filled with flowers on top of my piano, and a teeny little gourd that Nutkin picked out at the pumpkin patch on Monday that he has leaning against a lone Yankee candle burning on my dining room table.

And there is a great calm. 

Please know that as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been praying for you, dear Mama reader. I’m praying that during this busy upcoming holiday season, the Lord will speak peace to your soul and that there will, indeed, be a great calm.

What traditions do you hold dear? Have you had to lay any of them aside recently for your own sanity or that of your family? Or are you the type to break with tradition altogether? I’d love to hear from you!

But don’t worry. No pressure.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama