A Family Tree For Christmas, Part 1

December 9, 2009 at 12:04 am 30 comments

Most of you have already put up your Christmas trees. You’ve strung the lights and hung the ornaments. You might even be sitting and enjoying it right now.

There’s nothing like a Christmas tree at Christmas to make it feel like home. Like family.

We chose, for a number of reasons, to put up a very small tree this year. But in actuality, it’s the third year in a row we’ve used this little thing as our family Christmas tree.

You see, I bought it in the Fall of 2007, just after we lost Felicity and I was going through a major money-spending binge (shock does insane things to you). And then when Christmas came, I was too tired to think about putting up a real tree. Plus, we decided to go on an extensive 4-week road trip at Christmas. (Again, shock does crazy things to you.) We spent Christmas #1 without Felicity in Pennsylvania (in our stupor of shock) among our family and friends there.

Then for Christmas 2008, we had just moved into our current house a couple weeks before and the only thing I had time for (and room for among the boxes) was this little tree. Combine that with having a 4-month old baby, and it wasn’t exactly the right time for me to move forward with any elaborate Christmas decorating.

Now it’s Christmas 2009. Christmas #3. (For those of you living without loved ones, help me out here: do you mark your holidays like this? I don’t feel like I have the same inclination to mark other holidays like Thanksgiving or Easter this way. But at Christmas I miss her a lot, and I feel the passage of time more poignantly.)

Anyway… Christmas #3. Another Pennsylvania Christmas. So I figured, “Why go to the trouble of doing a tree when we’re not even going to be here?”

But Orison had other plans.

In his Christmas excitement, one night after dinner, he’d had enough of this waiting around thing (I’m pretty sure it was December 1) and decided to light a fire under Abraham and I. He came into the kitchen and announced that we were all going to the basement right now and, “Dad, you’ll carry the Christmas tree. Mommy, you’ll carry the Advent calendar. And I’ll carry the boxes.”

“Ready… set… go!” And all of a sudden we were putting up a tree after all.

(And no, we didn’t make him carry the boxes.)

I’m planning a couple more posts about what makes our tree, our family tree, special for me. What makes your Christmas tree special for your family?

Entry filed under: Felicity, Grief, Holidays.

Orison Loves All Things Christmas A Family Tree for Christmas, Part 2: The Angel’s Story

30 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nikki  |  December 9, 2009 at 12:22 am

    I love your tree. So simple and homey. I’ve got a little post brewing about our Christmas tree/decorations, so I’ll write about our family tree there, but I need to ask about your advent calendar on the wall. Where did you get that? I’ve been looking for something like that. The advent calendar we have is kind of silly. 🙂

    • 2. Molly Piper  |  December 9, 2009 at 8:54 am

      My mother-in-law used to make them and produce them on a smallish scale for Desiring God.

      They don’t make this kind any more, sadly. I think she’s got another plan in place for a different one, though.

      It’s probably my favorite Advent calendar I’ve ever seen. Wish there were one for you. I’d invite myself over to your house & bring it to you and we could have tea/coffee.

      • 3. nmwally  |  December 10, 2009 at 12:22 am

        Bummer about the calendar. I did some searching at NWBooks & other places online last yr for a nativity advent calendar but could only find cutesy/stuffed toy ones that weren’t quite what I was looking for. I’ll have to watch for the new one, if she comes out with it!

        And hey, advent calendar or not, come on over, I’ll get the teapot goin’! Ha ha. Seriously, a hot beverage would be great sometime. Send me an email or fb message, whenever!

  • 4. Elisabeth  |  December 9, 2009 at 2:09 am

    I love this.

    My mother counts Thanksgivings and Christmases now by my brother being able to walk – last year he came home the day before Christmas Eve finally able to run again. I remember vividly yelling at his other 16 year old peers that if they ever, ever made any comment to him about his lack of mobility I would chew them out like they had never been chewed out before, and I would have done it, too. Some things we totally take for granted.

    And I will henceforth count my birthdays as the benchmark for loosing one of my best friends, Emily. I left for her funeral on my 18th birthday, five days after she was brutally murdered. Somehow it’s important to mark that date, every year. It’s a time to recount grief but also to work one step towards healing – somehow revisiting it and healing go hand in hand.

    • 5. jennapants  |  December 9, 2009 at 11:42 am

      “revisiting it and healing go hand in hand”

      well said. sometimes the opposite is believed to be true. don’t understand that notion.

  • 6. Gretchen  |  December 9, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I’m also curious about where you got your advent calendar. We don’t have one and I really like it! I like your tree, too. 🙂

  • 7. Marla Taviano  |  December 9, 2009 at 7:54 am

    Praying for you as you miss Felicity. I can’t even imagine.
    Love your tree!!

  • 8. Marla Taviano  |  December 9, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Thanks, Molly! I made the frame. No, take that back. I bought the frame. It’s glass-less. Glued a piece of paper over the farm artwork that was in it. Glued Scrabble letters on top of that. Voila! I also made one that says “WRITE NOW” and one that says “ZANY FOR ZOOS.”

    I have a bit of a Scrabble letters fetish.

  • 9. Laurie  |  December 9, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Christmas is a big “passage of time” reminder for so many reasons. It is bittersweet each year and I suspect that as we age, it is thus, for varied and complex reasons… I pray that even as you mark the Christmas holidays by those without Felicity, you’ll also joyfully look back to such times when Orison was the decorator encourager and helper, the Christmas with the small tree etc..
    Many sweet older ornaments make our tree special and for me, but it’s when I get to hang icicle strands for the finishing touches that does it for me! They are my ode to-retro-fascination-of “simpler times” or something I can’t quite explain just now, but give me 3 or 4 boxes of silver icicles, and I’m lovin it!

  • 10. joyinthevalley  |  December 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

    For me, the warm glow of the lights warms my heart in this snowy, sunlight-deficient season! I keep the tree pretty bare since my kids are prone to touching and breaking so the lights are what make our tree special.

  • 11. Kelly @ Love Well  |  December 9, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Our family tree is a record of our lives. When I was a little girl, my Mom started a yearly tradition of giving each of the kids their own, special ornament to mark the year. For example, the year I moved to college, I got a mailbox ornament with my PO Box number written on it. When I was editor our our college magazine, she found a desk ornament and made a small copy of The Cadence to glue to the top.

    I loved this tradition so much growing up, I’ve continued it with our own kids. So now, in addition to the random bits of handmade ornaments and trinkets the kids collect for the tree, we get to mark each passing year as a unique gift to us from God.

  • 12. pendy  |  December 9, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    Every ornament on our tree is a memory. Some of the ornaments aren’t even ornaments…my daughter’s Christmas hair bow from her baby days, for example. When my son married, I gave them an ornament of his from each year; my daughter is looking forward to receiving hers one day.

    Can I just say I don’t see the point in a department store type decorated tree?

  • 13. Susan  |  December 9, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    I love that little tree! It’s perfect!

    There’s nothing special about our tree this year. We didn’t put any of the special ornaments on for fear of being broken. We didn’t get a real tree for several reasons, but mainly because we are too tired to mess with it.

    But someday……. we’ll be able to fill our tree with ornaments that each have a special meaning to us. Seriously, we have no ornaments that aren’t from a special person or in honor/memory of someone. I had to buy the cheapo shatterproof ornaments for this year!

    I like the best the decorating of the tree, when I get to pour over each ornament, remembering why it is special… whose birth it commemorates or whose death it remembers. (We have several “memorial” ornaments. In fact, I’m really sad I haven’t gotten to do that the past 2 years… *sigh*

  • 14. kara  |  December 9, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I love our tree. The kids decorated it pretty much by themselves…so its ornaments are a bit clumpy and height-challenged….but makes me love it all the more.

    And I do get it…about Felicity.

    Even with all the joy…and Lydi’s adoption…on Dec. 12th Selah would’ve been 2 and it would’ve been so fun to watch her enjoy Christmas…

    I get it and when my heart aches, you often come to mind Molly.

    Thanks for the nice note on Lydi’s adoption.

  • 15. Shannon Archer  |  December 9, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I bought our current tree on clearance after Christmas, the year we became parents. We have video of Josiah crawling after Jeremy while he puts on the lights only days after we brought him home from Russia. We also have video of Tyndie eating the candy canes she was supposed to be putting on the tree when she was 2. It is already starting to look trashed but when I thought about getting another one to replace it while we were putting it up, I immediately thought, “but this is our FAMILY tree!” I imagine we will have it forever…no matter how trashed it gets.

  • 16. Dana  |  December 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    I kind of mark my Christmases by moves–where we living at such and such a time. 24 moves in 12 years, a marriage which turned abusive, divorce, etc., and so, about three years ago, I found myself in my own place, with my 4 kids, and my Mom helped us buy a not very big Christmas tree, and I had nothing to decorate it with. A friend had a tiny Jesus tree with ornaments that symbolized things about Jesus, and I took off on that.

    For the past three years, then, we’ve gone looking for things that remind us of Jesus, and then we stretched it to things that remind us of Scriptures and truths in them. We found some little apples and the kids wrote (in their varying levels of imperfect handwriting) the fruits of the Spirit on them. A hut reminds us that God is our shelter. We have roses for the Rose of Sharon and various words like “love” and “peace”.

    My kids love unpacking the tree and remembering (or trying to) what each one stands for. “Mom, what’s this piece of candy mean?” “Hmmmm…” My favorite memory this year was my 6-year-old who insisted on digging through all the ornaments to find the music note as her first one to hang. She declared it was hers, and I couldn’t remember why, but as she proudly hung it, she quoted “her” verse (the one she read in a kids Bible song book, which comforted her many nights when she was afraid), “By day the Lord loves me, at night his song is with me.” Psalm 42:8. I was surprised she still remembered the verse and more surprised that she remembered the association with the ornament. It’s been a fun way to recount the Lord’s faithfulness and some of the truths of his word.

  • 17. erron  |  December 9, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Wow! I just have to say all these posts have blessed me so much -and are an inspiration for our young family celebrating our first Christmas with our 5 week old son, Isaiah. Molly, your heart, your honesty, your beautiful spirit continue to bless me and so many others! I love you! Remembering Felecity this Christmas everytime I think of you…

  • 18. Elizabeth  |  December 9, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this past March and will be using the same tree we purchsed 20 years ago. It has survived several moves and so is one of the constants of our Christmas season.
    We prop it on a chair and put the gifts underneath. We are thankful for all the memorable decorations we’ve added over the years too.

  • 19. Kristin  |  December 9, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    i love our (fake, unfortunately), 4 foot skinny tree…the ornaments i’ve had since i was a kid hanging on it….especially my white china bear. i used to turn off all the lights downstairs and watch it glimmer all over the room from the christmas tree lights (always white lights!). after one terrible christmas right after a family tragedy about 10 years ago i remember sneaking downstairs in the middle of the night and turning on the tree lights and and staring at that bear thinking “christmas isn’t magical anymore.” perhaps it was good to wean me, the christmas-lover, away from all the superficial stuff that i loved about christmas. but now, seeing that bear reminds me that i now can create an atmosphere of joy and happiness for my little boy at christmas, and help him to rejoice in Jesus’ birth — and this fills me with joy! i can’t wait to make his christmases beautiful, magical even — for the right reasons — teaching him to hope in Jesus.

  • 20. Chris  |  December 10, 2009 at 7:52 am

    I love the little tree! Maybe you will consider always using it, even during Christmas seasons that are not so complicated.

    It is probably the first tree Orison will remember (and Morrow, too, if you keep using it). And it is a memory of Felicity because she spent her first Christmas with Jesus. At least for me, it seems good to hold on to those things–my dad’s vine, granny’s evergreen tree…I still always take the communion cup that is in the center of the plate because that is the one Melissa always took.

    I can’t say that I always remember the distinct numbers anymore. While I always think of the person we have lost, at some point I couldn’t remember the number of years anymore and I have to stop and figure it out, but I am a good bit older than you are and have more trouble with memory. Still, there is one person that I never have to calculate about the number of years we have missed celebrating Christmas with her. It is eleven years. If you continue to count the years, I don’t think that’s a bad thing,

    Since I’m a mom and a teacher, my favorite things about our tree are the ornaments that my family members and students have given me. Some of the ornaments were for my kids and some were from my kids. Some were for our whole family, like when we moved into our new home. Many of them are home-made, very simple, even distressed, but they are precious!

    We also have some very beautiful, fragile, painted glass ornaments that my mother-in-law passed down to us. Several of them have been broken because when the kids were little we still wanted to use them and let the kids help decorate (although it wasn’t always the kids who dropped them). But there are still several that we still have..

    Then there are the ornaments that Bill and I bought together for special times or in special places.

    And we also have the special treetop star that was on the tree at my husband’s home when he was growing up.

    Our tree is not very classy looking. It is full of all kinds of stuff that doesn’t match, but everything on there means a lot to us.

  • 21. Abbie Kampman  |  December 10, 2009 at 9:18 am

    I loved this post. However, I am very interested in that advent nativity calendar that is behind the tree–can you email me about where you bought it (Or how you made it??). I would love to own one myself! What a great idea 🙂 Or you could write a post about it…either way! Thanks!

  • 22. Abbie Kampman  |  December 10, 2009 at 9:19 am

    just read the above comments on the nativity calendar. bummer! i wonder if your mother in law could tell us how to make one??

    • 23. joyinthevalley  |  December 10, 2009 at 7:49 pm

      Great idea! An online video tutorial is in order. After all, that’s how I learned how to fold a fitted sheet 😉

  • 24. Rachel  |  December 10, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Praise the Lord for Orison. I remember as child hearing that children were a blessing from the Lord, and I thought it was some sentimental phrase about cuddling with cute kids and cheesy Christmas photo cards.

    It wasn’t until I became a mama that I began to experience the life-altering blessings that He gives us through our children. I can’t count the times that Ava with a turn of a phrase has brought me back into the present or shaken off a stupor of sadness.

    I love how Orison pulls into Christmas completely unaware of the gift he is giving you.

  • 25. Sarah Johnson  |  December 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I loved this post.
    My husband and I have been married 5 years and have had a tree for 3 of those years. I like that my mom gave me all the ornaments that my grandparents gave to me each year for Christmas when I was little so I can now put them on my own tree.
    I love the white glow from the lights. It makes me pause and think, “all is calm, all is bright.”

  • 26. Meredith  |  December 10, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Hi Molly,

    That is a BEAUTIFUL tree! Hooray for Orison for taking the initiative. It sounds as though you are going to have a VERY exciting Christmas this year.

    I used to look at the trees in shopping catalogues and in department stores – so perfect – all decorated in one colour only…all gold baubles and gold ribbon and gold tinsel…or all red…or all blue. They always look so beautiful.

    Our own tree has a crazy mix of decorations that don’t match at all. But every single decoration has a special story – a gift from a special friend, a decoration bought by us at a special time to mark a special occasion like the birth of a child, a precious decoration made at Kindergarten. Each year we put our tree up very slowly, remembering the background of each decoration and giving thanks for the person who generously gave it to us or giving thanks for the special memory (and people) it marks.

    We live in Australia where sadly we do not celebrate Thanksgiving Day. But in our family, the day we put our Christmas tree up is our Thanksgiving Day. So it doesn’t look perfect like the glossy ones in the shops. But it couldn’t be more perfect.

    Have a blessed Christmas. Thanks for your beautiful blog.

  • 27. Jen  |  December 11, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Molly!
    I’m actually doing a few posts on our families’ Christmas traditions- we’re having so much fun with the kids! What is special about our tree this year, is that we are following “The Advent Jesse Tree” for the first time (our oldest is 4 so first year she could REALLY start to understand) and I’m loving the simple yet sacredness of it all. But I love our Nativity tradition too…so much fun for the kids, and fun for my husband and I to make Mary take naps and rest and sit on the donkey, etc. I bet Orison and Morrow would enjoy it and can only guess that Abraham and you would make it fun as well. Hope you all have a blessed Christmas. How special it will be for you to one day be reunited with your Felicity all because of this very holiday…God sending His Son to earth as a babe that we might have eternal life with Him forever.

  • 28. Laura @ Texas in Africa  |  December 12, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    I have a dinky tree that I bought at Target for $15 my first year of grad school when I was so homesick and cold I couldn’t stand to not have some lights in my little apartment. It’s barely holding together anymore and I will probably replace it at the after-holiday sales, but I don’t know if I can get rid of it. I’ve been to 36 or so countries since then and try to bring home an ornament from as many as possible. My collection is such a good reminder of God’s grace that has brought me safe thus far…

  • 29. Phoenix  |  December 13, 2009 at 8:09 am

    My husband passed away this year. Christmas seems to intensify the feelings of loss. We put up our tree last night. Our Christmas decorating was also prompted and orchestrated by a small child.

  • 30. Karen  |  December 14, 2009 at 12:41 am

    I love this tree…and i love that Orison took the initiative to get that tree out.

    This is my first Christmas without my baby daughter. I know I will be counting Christmases as I have been counting months. I sort of wish this month will fly quickly by…just this year…but then I remember I will never get this time back with my four little ones still at home. Ahh, so I continue to move forward, navigating through this journey…


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