One of my favorite books as I learn to become an effective culture-maker in my home is Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper. When I read it several years ago I was struck by the idea of making a Jesse Tree, which basically uses symbols as ornaments to show my kids the story and/or attributes of Christ all the way through the Bible. This year I finally did something about it and organized a co-op in which myself and some of my friends made 15 copies of 2-3 different ornaments, then we had a party and took one of each ornament so we each had a complete set (and had some sets to give away as well.) There is an ornament for every day of December, beginning with Genesis on Day 2 and going all the way through to Revelation.
I also wrote a devotional, for my own benefit primarily, and I figured I would share it on my blog.
Here is the full 14-page PDF but it's not proof-read yet so I will be doing that as I post it each day ;)
Here is day 1:
Day 1 - Introduction to Jesse Tree
Read Isaiah 11:1-10
Symbol: Stump with Shoot
Christmas is coming soon! It will be here before we know it. Though we have 25 more days of waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the people of God had been waiting for thousands of years before He finally came to earth to die for our sins, rise again, and bring us back to God. God promised a Savior earlier in the Bible and more frequently than you might expect, and the Word is filled with prophecies and expectations that all point to Him.
To get our hearts focused on Jesus, we are going to use a Jesse Tree. Every day we will put a new ornament on the tree that symbolizes a person or event in the Bible that talked about Jesus before anyone even knew what His name would be. Hopefully through this study we will love Jesus more deeply and see how the Bible is one big beautiful story that even involves you and me. The Bible contains 69 books written by more than 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years, but the whole Book tells one story. In Luke 24:27, Jesus was talking to some of His disciples, “and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” He started at the beginning of scripture and went all the way through to the end and showed his friends that He was in all of it!
As we read in Isaiah 11, Jesus was like a green plant shoot coming from a stump of Jesse. Tree stumps are usually a sad thing to see because it means there used to be a great tree, but it has now been torn down. Israel was once a great nation, and David (the son fo Jesse) was one of their most famous kings, but there came a time when their sin destroyed them and Israel became almost nothing. But God promised to a hurting people through the prophet Isaiah that there would be something green and alive coming from a stump…He hasn’t forgotten His people and He will bring something even better: His very own Son.
Jesus would come from a long line of people—many of whom made huge mistakes!—including King David, and his dad Jesse. Jesus chose to come as a shoot, a little acorn sprout—a little baby. Let’s fall in love with Jesus more and more as we see how the Bible tells His story.
ornament by my friend Whitney
Here are some lovely moments, tough lessons, and cute pictures from this past month!
At the beginning of this month, we went camping at Sebastian Inlet State Park on the east coast of Florida. We felt like we had the beach all to ourselves, and the crashing waves were incredible reminders of God’s power. Peter and I enjoyed sitting by the campfire after we put the kids to bed. He knows how to make the perfect golden marshmallow, and I discovered that roasting grapes is a terrible idea. But we're really terrible at making time to just sit together, so it was nice.
In Vero Beach, we visited an art museum, which was a fantastic experience. There are so many good reasons to take your kids to art museums. We’re built to behold.
Stephen started a leaf raking business and a foot massage business, and it’s been adorable. He uses his income to pay his employee (Piper, who spends her money buying foot massages), re-invest in the business, and buy craft supplies and gifts for others. It’s all quite adorable and I love it.
Evey turned one and has been such a delight. Piper has made noticeable progress in her personal maturity and the kids have been a joy overall.
What I Learned:
Whelp, we elected a new president. When I told Stephen the results, he said, “Uh-oh.” I asked him what he would’ve said if Clinton won and he said “Uh-oh, too.” He gets it. Either way, America has lost. Sad day. We’ve been learning about the Roman Empire in homeschool, and it’s been crazy watching even the strongest, biggest empires fall and become almost-forgotten ancient history. I’m not saying that America is an empire, but this awful election combined with studying world history has really tested whether I think this world is it, or if I really do believe there’s an everlasting kingdom coming someday where truth and righteousness reign. I have great reason to believe the latter and I must never forget it!
Peter strongly encouraged that I hire a bi-weekly housekeeper, and I’ve been very troubled every time I’ve considered this in the past. I have a lot of stigma associated with hiring a housekeeper (much of it probably as a result of the movie “The Help”) and I kept telling myself “I should be able to do it all.” The reality is, however, at least at this point, that I cannot. So having someone come every other week to do some deep-cleaning has been a tremendous, albeit humbling, blessing.
I also learned that I have become far more materialistic than I realized. I have accumulated so much stuff. Just because something would be awesome for me doesn’t mean that it is awesome for me. I have enough stuff to live multiple full lives, and yet I’m finding my own life to be chaotic and unpeaceful. So I’ve begun to do a lot of purging and a lot less buying. Last night I stayed up till midnight going around the house filling garbage bags with anything we don’t love, and I’m hiding the bags for a month to see if we actually miss any of it. I’ve even been using grocery shopping excessively, which resulted in a pantry-cleaning marathon that looked like this:
It’s been a humbling month. I’ve seen aspects of my character that were even worse than I imagined. I had a conversation with a friend that lasted many hours and over which many tears were shed, but through her, God poured out so much wisdom into me and I saw so many ways in which I desperately need to change.
I quit Facebook a couple weeks ago and it has been so liberating! I’ve gone through a bit of an identity crisis (I have all these sweet moments and nobody will ever hear of them!) but it’s made me question whether I really believe that faithfulness is profitable. If I pour myself out for those who are actually in my life, I can still have a life full of meaning, right? Um, duh! So it’s been great not feeling angry, jealous, annoyed, self-righteous, or insecure every time I get on my phone.
Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson - Rich, original songs from Old Testament to new celebrating Christ. Love, love, love.
A Slugs and Bugs Christmas by Slugs and Bugs - Half the album is full of goofy, fun songs, and the other half is meaningful and still kid-friendly.
I’m still trekking through the Bible. I’m not going to finish it this year (bummer!) but I think I’ll finish the OT this week. It’s been a goody study. Nahum surprised me some really potent stuff:
Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger?
His wrath is poured out like fire,
and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.
The LORD is good,
a stronghold in the day of trouble;
he knows those who take refuge in him.
But with an overflowing flood
he will make a complete end of the adversaries,
and will pursue his enemies into darkness.
(Nahum 1:6-8 ESV)
Stuff I Wrote:
Things I Love About Evangeline, Year 1
9 Ways Social Media is Hurting Me
When You Give a 4-Year-Old a Nikon...
Meaningful Presents for Anyone That You Can Order Online
And now for a picture of my cute Piper:
No parent is excited about giving their kids the latest pricey plastic toy that will get old after a month. No spouse gets pumped up about buying socks or spending loads of cash on a needless toy helicopter. And by buying our families worthless junk they feel entitled too, we're unknowingly robbing from their joy as well. So I beg you to go against the grain and buy your loved ones something meaningful. These are all my hand-picked favorites that I personally own and love. (And I'm not getting paid for this post! These are truly just my favorite things.)
For young children:
Elephant Pants (approx $8/pair on clearance) - My kids love how comfy these pants are, and I love that the elastic fits them no matter how big they are. Plus it's easy to find a matching pair for you! Sign up for their emails so you get notified of good deals. I'm expecting some awesome sales on Black Friday.
Miracle Maker DVD ($5-6) - This is an extremely well-made claymation story about the life of Jesus, which sounds boring and potentially irreverent, but the art is breathtaking and the script sticks to the Bible well. They even portray Christ's agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. My kids reference this movie all the time when we're talking about Jesus and it's so good for all of us.
Water WOW Books ($4-5) - These are made by Melissa and Doug and the most compelling aspect for me is how reusable they are. When you paint the black-and-white thick-cardboard pages with water, they quickly come to life with color, but as they dry the color wanes and they're ready to be re-used. These are great for road trips too.
Usborne Shine-a-Light Books ($13) - I've never seen a book like this but I've bought four; watch a video demonstration here. You use a flashlight to shine through the book and it shows you hidden images. It's seriously awesome and even educational. It hurts for me to pay that much money for a children's book, but I've found that almost all Usborne books are worth the money (plus I've been able to find most of the older books used for $3.50 on Thriftbooks.)
Any resource I already recommended here.
For mid-aged kids:
The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition ($14 but I bought mine at Sam's Club for $8) - If you want to introduce your kids to Tolkien before they're ready for the full saga, this book is an amazing tool. As a graphic novel it is faithful to the original text and illustrated skillfully. Peter reads it to our kids at bedtime and they're absolutely captivated.
The Journey - This is a well-made album by Seeds Family Worship that has lyrics completely drawn from scripture. These songs---in style and in subject matter---are a little more suited towards older children than the other CD's, but I listen to all of these by myself regardless of kids.
Usborne Sticker Dressing books ($5-7+) - These are so well-made and even educational. Your child will love the illustrations and helping dress up the characters. I have the Explorers book so my kids dress up the likes of Leif Erickson and Ferdinand Magellan, and it's grand. You can buy these books from a rep or get them cheaper through AbeBooks.
Quality watercolor paints - Those Crayola paints and paintbrushes are a joke! If you buy your child (even a 4-year-old) some quality brushes and good paint, it can be surprising how much your child's creativity and self-confidence soars. You can buy a nice set like this one for $20 that includes a water brush, or buy the kind of watercolor paints that you squeeze onto a palette and let dry (this one is $10). The latter is better if you don't trust your child that much and you're afraid he or she will mix the colors.
The Wingfeather Saga Audiobook - Andrew Peterson is not only an incredibly talented singer-songwriter, but an imaginative, funny, and deep-thinking wordsmith. This fantasy series written by him is probably almost on par with LOTR or the Chronicles of Narnia. They are epic and I love them. There's some scary parts, some death, some hard things to reckon with, but it's all so good. I can't recommend these enough.
For teens and grown-ups:
GlobeIn subscription ($10/month) - I've tried a gazillion subscription boxes but I didn't keep any of them because they are so expensive and overly luxurious. But it's super fun getting a present in the mail, so I recommend this one since it's affordable and you can quit anytime. These items are made by people all over the world (and each item comes with a pretty detailed informational card) so you're enabling entrepreneurs worldwide. Plus the stuff is actually useful and awesome.
Microwavable popcorn popper ($13) - Everyone knows that microwave popcorn is bad for you, but that stovetop popcorn is inconvenient, so this little miracle-worker has been amazing for us. I literally don't need to measure anything and just pour the kernels in there, put on the lid, and pop for 2 minutes. It's so easy and yummy.
Elephant Pants (about $16 on sale) - Whether these pants are fashionable enough to wear in public is much debated (I would say definitely but my family disagrees), but what's inarguable is the level of comfort and flexibility offered with these pants. Size 0-12 is all one size (and larger sizes are available) so these pants make great gifts and they can also be helpful for pregnant ladies or people trying to lose weight. They're supposed to have some great sales on Black Friday.
A calligraphy starter set (approx $28) - Spend $5 on one of Lindsey Bugbee's printable tutorials and you'll be amazed at how quickly you learn---her whole blog (The Postman's Knock) is incredibly helpful. Though you can write in calligraphy with any regular pen, there's obviously a notable difference if you invest in an actual nib holder (such as this one for $7) and nibs (such as this 10-pack for $8) as well as some ink (sumi is recommended to start; this is $6.) You can probably get these supplies cheaper from Hobby Lobby if you went in-store.
Thy Kingdom Comics ($14) - You're probably familiar with Adam 4d, the guy behind Babylon Bee who also makes hilarious and extremely thought-provoking webcomics. This book is a collection of some of those comics and makes an excellent gift for a budding philosopher/theologian/apologist.
A Mirror Dimly by Citizens and Saints ($10) - Their sound is electric and unique and their lyrics are rich. This is my husband's favorite band and I love them too.
Hive Pocket ($20) - This game is a bit like a less stressful game of chess in that each type of piece has a different function and your goal is to surround your opponent's Queen Bee with the other honeycomb-shaped pieces. It's a great challenge and lots of fun, plus it comes in a bag so you can bring it anywhere. (Awesome airport game. Less awesome on a moving plane.)
Tons of new books you couldn't previously afford (about $3.50 each) - I recently removed 90% of the kids' toys from the playroom and replaced them with books. Unsurprisingly, we are so much happier and it's amazing to watch their little minds and souls become more enriched every day as we read fiction and non-fiction together. Plus I feel freed up to generously give away books I love since they're so inexpensive to replace. I was able to quickly gain a library spanning all kinds of excellent fiction and non-fiction for young kids by buying them used on ThriftBooks (that link should give you 15% off.) It's searchable and you can add out-of-stock books to your wishlist so you'll get an email notifying you when it becomes available. They have a reward program, coupon codes are always available from somewhere on the internet, and shipping is free after $10. I recently bought 22 awesome books for my family for $70. Totally recommended.
Disney weekday passes ($275) - As a Florida resident, a one-day ticket to Magic Kingdom in peak season is $134 after tax. Don't forget to add $20+ for parking. That is insane, especially considering that you can go to all four parks for the whole year (minus weekends and blackouts during the busiest times) for $275. As a passholder, you also get free parking every time and access to dining discounts and all kinds of other stuff. So if you go to Disney every year but you can't afford a pass, maybe you could consider skipping a year and buying a pass next time. There is so much to behold at Disney that one day will be frustrating to you. Going regularly at a leisurely pace so you can stop to smell the flowers? Yes, that is worth it. (If Disney's not up your alley, Busch Gardens is super-great and pass holders get monthly freebies and special access to stuff all the time. You get 15 months for $185 after tax.)
Wet brush ($12 for two) - This brush is such an amazing detangler and it doesn't even hurt. Absolutely changed my life.
iPhone clip-on fisheye lens ($8)- These take seriously cool-looking pictures and you literally just pinch them on and off your phone like you would a bag of chips.
Washi tape ($1-3 per roll) - My kids adore washi tape and I do too. It's essentially re-stickable masking tape that comes in an immense array of patterns and even textures. I use washi tape to embellish envelopes and stationery, but the kids like to make art with the strips and will play with it for hours. It teaches self-control (they learn quickly that they'll lose the privilege if they're wasteful with the tape) and creativity. I like buying them in 10-packs or so from Etsy or Amazon but you can get them from Target too if needed.
I hope you enjoy and you're able to guard yourself from materialism!
...he just might take some beautiful pictures.
One day I put the shoulder strap around my 4-year-old, gave him some quick pointers on how to use my camera (with the limited knowledge I have), and let him run wild. We've done this a few times now and I love his images and perspective. When he's done taking pictures, he looks through each one with me and is very proud of all of them. ("Did you see the cup one? I really like that one.")
These are my favorite pictures of myself that have ever been taken because no person behind the camera has ever loved and known me better than my Stephen.
I hope you enjoy!
I started playing on the computer when I was literally two years old. Since then, I've had a close relationship with the keyboard. My typing speed averages to over 100 wpm. I know how to do lots of things with computers, I have considerable knowledge of subcultures derived from the internet, and I have twenty plus years of experience of possibly being addicted to web. I have learned much from the computer. I have made great relationships through social media. But over the past year in particular I've had to evaluate how much it's been hurting me.
1. A lot of people are addicted to the internet. Do I desire the direction of their lives?
In almost every case, no. Most of my role models---whether they're well-known writers/speakers such as John Piper or they're normal people like my friend Amanda---happen to not be heavily involved in social media. Most of the people that I know who do seem to live in social media, even if they're really cool and I'm fascinated with whatever they post, are actually discontent with their life most of the time and I don't want to imitate that.
2. I am so careful with how much screen time my kids consume. Why don't I show so much care for myself?
Most days my kids are allowed 30 minutes of screen-time max, and it's much better if they get none at all. I notice an enormous difference in their obedience and even their happiness depending on how much they watch and what they watch. As an adult I'm almost certainly less impressionable than they are, but how foolish am I to guard their habits so closely and not even pay any attention to mine? If I'm certain that excessive screen-time will hurt my kids, how can I be certain that it's not hurting me?
3. Caring what people think about you is exhausting.
Nobody really seems to talk about how much they like getting likes, but I'll just say it: it matters to people...or at least people like me. If I posted something, I would first spend an embarrassing amount of time figuring out what I would say, and then after I posted it I would check back a scary-frequent number of times to see what people thought of it. Guess how satisfying it is when you get lots of likes? Not at all, because I don't think it's possible to ever get enough likes, and there will always be people who are getting more likes than you, and what do likes accomplish for the world? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They are the definition of "empty praise."
4. Real change happens in real relationships.
I feel like so many people in my generation drank the same Kool-Aid and we all think that we need a big platform. We need to change the world by being famous. That is dumb, dumb, and more dumb. (And it happens to not be the strategy of Jesus.) One time I wrote an article that got almost 5000 shares on Facebook. That was a really big deal for me. But after three days, no one cared. I believe the pen is mightier than the sword, so I think writing articles is important, and having people read them is important (obviously, since I'm writing an article right now.) But I'm pretty sure that by now almost everyone has forgotten about it. And I'm pretty sure that my real-life relationships with others---especially as I raise my children to be world-changers---have more shaping influence on the culture than my article did.
5. What was I even consuming?
I try to be careful about what infiltrates my body and mind. I generally don't eat fast food or candy bars. I would never dare to read a random book off the Bestseller list. I don't even trust the radio to pick good music for me! But what in the world am I consuming when I spend 20 minutes scrolling on Facebook? Meme, meme, angsty post, life update from someone I never see, meme, self-centered post, Bible verse I'm not actually gonna read, mind-numbing viral video, 1000th picture of someone's baby, biased article, etc. Maybe this attributes to why millennials such as myself struggle heavily with depression and anxiety in disproportion to the rest of society?
6. Who is my neighbor?
The wonderful and frustrating thing about social media, especially as an ENFP personality type, is that I now have access to, I don't know, 10x as many people as I would otherwise? And it's true. Through Facebook I've made meaningful connections or re-connections with people I never would have otherwise. Sometimes those have translated into real-life interactions and I'm grateful for them. But I also felt so connected to so many people. Heartbroken for so many. Discouraged by so many. I felt like I needed to help everyone on Facebook, meanwhile neglecting the people I actually see regularly. My margin for friendships is only so large, and while I love the world, I'm missing out if I try to be friends with the whole world. I need to love my neighbor, the people I actually see (or should be seeing.)
7. My Facebook feed is not representative of America's cultural landscape.
According to my Facebook and Instagram feeds, about 80% of America is between 20-30 years old, was raised in a Christian home but no longer believes, aligns with liberal values, is addicted to traveling, and really likes eating out and drinking coffee. I hope that doesn't sound judgmental; I love these people. But that is simply not an accurate picture of my nation's people. This recent shocking election (and the primaries that won Trump the nomination even though at the time I only knew 1-2 Trump supporters) proved this. I need to get out and actually know people.
8. Some things are never a waste of time. Social media almost always is.
Physical exercise, scripture memory, reading good books, meeting up with people, praying, playing with my kids, writing a letter...I doubt that I would ever regret spending time doing those things. They are valuable. I only get 1020 waking minutes in a day and those activities are certainly worth some of them. But scrolling on a screen, chuckling here and there, but overall feeling somewhat hateful towards humanity? I don't feel great afterwards.
9. There's a better way to give and receive ideas outside my immediate sphere of influence.
There have been few times when a meaningful Facebook or Instagram post or a meme really stuck with me longer than thirty seconds after I saw it. There have probably been few times when I made a Facebook or Instagram post that impacted anyone who saw it. But there have been some blogs that have certainly have changed my life. There have been many books that have even more memorably done so. That's why I hope to see and create media that contains more substance.
I'm not trying to say everyone should quit Facebook forever. Most people, especially my friends who are a bit older than me, have way more self-control than I do, and since so many people live on social media, it's important that there are thoughtful and kind lights among them who are putting true and helpful content on those platforms. But as I established earlier, I'm an addict. That is not healthy. I need to give myself more dignity than that.
Please do consider how your time on the internet might be affecting you and whether you really like the person you're becoming because of it. I really don't like the person I've become, and I'm excited about moving forward.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 26, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 6, 4, 3, and squishy-baby. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today