A Fresh, New Year. Hello, 2015!

The new year opens before us like a fresh, crisp notebook – waiting to be filled, written in, inspired. Welcome. I’ve always liked the beginning of a new year. A chance to start fresh. A chance to move forward. December is a time for me to step away, to look back, to reflect, and to surround myself with love and memories. This year I was able to fully embrace all of it. I took advantage of all of it. I actually, really, stepped away. I didn’t write, at all, in December, and I hope you’ve missed me. I hate to take long blog breaks, but during this season of my life, my littles are my very top priority. I gladly let everything else slide, as we truly enjoyed every day of December – of this Christmas season. It was such a special year. N is 4. A is 16 months. It was magical. We baked, we played, we created, we read, we crafted, we put together a special Jesse Tree, we decorated, we explored, we looked at lights, we visited Santa, we shopped, we played more, we baked more. It was easily one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. We were together. We enjoyed!

Now, January is here and it’s time for a new beginning. Fresh air. New hopes. Possibility. Let’s all just take a deep breath together. Ahh. And, onward march. For me, there are no resolutions. I make goals, plans, lists, etc. But, I don’t make resolutions. I just don’t. I don’t make A New Years Resolution. I find them discouraging somehow. Disappointing. Stifling. Rather, I make a list if things I’d like to happen. The key word is “like.” I’d like these things to happen. If they don’t, it’s okay. They give me something to work toward. Goals. Projects I’d like to tackle. Dreams for the future. Plans (if they be God’s will) for the year. Generally they follow the same sort of tune and this year is no different. Organize and Simplify. But, this year I want to take it a step further. Organize. Simplify. Deepen. Not just our home, our routine and our lives – but, also our hearts, our spirits and our bodies. There are lots of things, words and ideas that fall under these categories. Lots. But this is the gist … of my list (insert snort/chuckle). To organize, simplify and deepen. And, the big word for the year, I believe, is TRUST. We made great strides, spiritually, in 2014. Huge strides. Huge changes. We joined a church. We actually GO. We are becoming more involved. R was baptized. Like I said, big strides. This year, we will attempt to go further. To trust more completely. Stress less. Worry less. “Read, Pray, Trust, Obey.” These words will be our guide as we tackle our lists, goals, plans and dreams.

Let’s take one more deep breath. Ahh. Hello, 2015!! Let’s make it a joyful year!

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The Jesse Tree – A New Tradition

First, with a thankful heart, I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving. I hope you are spending the holiday loving on your sweet family. But, if you aren’t, if your day will be spent working, or if the holiday feels bittersweet to you … my prayers are with you …

Honestly, though, today my heart is focused on the upcoming Christmas holiday. I’ve tried to plan a little more this year … though to be perfectly honest, we all know what happens when we plan … life laughs in the face of our plans, right? But, by plan, I don’t mean decorate or prepare my home. I haven’t even touched any of that yet. My decorations are still in the attic. Maybe next year I’ll “plan” to decorate earlier. This year, I’ve been attempting to prepare my heart for the holiday. I truly want to focus our family’s thoughts and hearts on The Lord this year, as He is The Reason For The Season after all. There will still be plenty of Santa, our Elf-On-The-Shelf, Christmas cookies, Christmas movies and reindeer in our house. We do love those things too! But, I want to raise my children with a clear focus toward God. What better time to start then now?

Have you heard of the Jesse Tree? Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve been doing it for years. If so, good for you! I’d love to hear from you about how your family incorporates this tradition. Feel free to comment below and share with the rest of us. If you are like me, and you are just discovering this amazing tradition, maybe you can start with me …

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I was initially inspired by an article on Missional Motherhood (which is a fantastic resource for women, by the way) titled Teaching Your Children His Story With The Jesse Tree. So, what is the Jesse Tree? To put it simply, it is an advent re-telling of the lineage of Christ. It’s told in a chronological way (from Creation to the birth of Jesus) that makes more sense to our children … and, honestly, to us too. Each day, starting either after Thanksgiving or on December 1st, a new ornament (one that you can create, download, buy, etc.) is put on your Jesse Tree, representing the story for that day. My plan is to keep this tradition as simple as possible this year as my children are only 4 and 1. Then, I’ll grow it as they grow. I don’t want this to feel like a hassle, something else that we have to do. I want it to be enjoyable, easy, fun and meaningful. This year, we will read the Bible verses and story for each day together, then we will create the ornament for the day with foam paper, crayons, markers and yarn. The ornaments will be messy, childlike and … wonderful! I’m going to place a small tree in the dining room that will act as our Jesse Tree. The Littles can add their handmade ornament each day and decorate this tree as they choose. I’m not looking for pretty or perfect here. I’m looking for meaning and memories.

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The goal, with the Jesse Tree, is to have a more intentional Christmas. To approach the holiday with faith and the desire for our children (and ourselves) to grow spiritually. To create meaningful traditions and memories, while allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate their precious hearts to be drawn to Him.

Let’s do it. Let’s create meaning.

A list of helpful resources for you:

Missional Motherhood

Ann Voskamp

Blessed Beyond a Doubt