traditions: heirlooms and memories

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. Psalm 77.11-12

Nearly two weeks ago, I hauled out all of my Christmas décor, put up the tree, covered my make-shift mantle with garland and hung snowflake ornaments and ribbon from my kitchen75351646729d66272732505bda8a5151 cabinets. I  stumbled on a box of my Mom’s old ornaments (from before she met Dad) and as I sat on the floor of my living room, I marveled at the intricate details and imperfections of each one. I wondered what Mom had experienced when she received those or what trial she faced as she made each one (yes, there are some homemade ornaments in there).

Now, I know that last statement probably made it sound as if she’s no longer here, but rest assured, she’s alive and well. I just spent time with her this last weekend and it was while I was at home, I decided to haul out the boxes of ornaments from Christmases past.

You see, my parents purchased some new trees (the tall, skinny kind) and new ornaments to put on them two years ago, after the youngest graduated college and moved out. Something new for this new phase of their lives: almost-empty-nesters.

Now, back to those ornaments…

Each year, from the time my parents were married and with the birth of each of their children, they added ornaments to that collection.

There’s the first Christmas together ornament which graced their first tree in December of 1983.

There’s the five year anniversary one from 1988. I showed that one to Dad and he told me of how he picked it out to surprise Mom. I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised when he stated he should probably look for another since they just celebrated their 30th this last November. He usually needs to be reminded by one of us kids and, because of that, you can see why I was surprised. I encouraged him to go for it.

While I was combing through those old, Rubbermaid totes that hadn’t been opened in years, I found the ornament from my first Christmas (along with those of my younger siblings) and every Christmas after – with the exception of a few – until I left for college in 2003. With my folks’ permission, I packed those 15-16 ornaments up to take back with me.

There are so many memories connected with those ornaments and being the sentimental type, well, I decided to continue that family tradition and will be looking for something to add to the collection in the years to come.

I immediately unpacked that box with care when I got back to my apartment in the city and remembered…

1985 – my first Christmas – I may not remember it, but I was definitely there.

1991 – fuzzy rabbits resting on poinsettias – Don’t ask me why, but I was going through a Disney’s Bambi phase at the time and had a thing for Thumper and all of his little friends.

1996 – a giant Hallmark, heart-shaped locket with a family inside – I learned the importance of family and was beginning to discover the importance of relationships in my life. Those two years (1996-1998) were some of the most trying and remembering how God held our family together through that period gave me the strength to get through some of the trials I’ve faced this year.

2001 – a crystal heart – breakable and delicate and highly valued, much like the people God has placed in my life.

…those memories are few compared to the number of ornaments hanging on my tree.

There is a significant importance in remembering and remembering well and it is that connection that I’m making with Jesus.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen of let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4.9

There are many instances in the Bible where God commands that his people remember.


I remember plenty when it comes to my own life and these family heirlooms and Christmas ornaments only serve as miniature memorials; parts of my life story that I can choose to share with those who enter my home during the holiday season.

Like the Israelites, we tend to respond in similar ways. Life is going great one moment and the next, it seems to be in shambles. You’re not sure if you can tackle this next obstacle.

It’s at that moment that God answers, “Look back and remember.”

Remember what, you may be asking.

Remember what he did the last time you faced something similar.

Remember where he’s brought you from.

Remember every little thing he’s done in your life.

Remember his role in creating the person you are becoming; the person you will become.

Remember that he was there and that you are never alone.

There is a significant importance in remembering and remembering well.

How about you?  Did your family do the ornament thing each year? Or do you have other traditions that help you remember? If not, I’ve found incredible use in keeping a journal – I have since I was ten – and it’s amazing to look back, recognize the person you were then and see God’s work in your life. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself of all the things God has done for you, all the heartaches you’ve been through and the deliverance he brought. Then, when you face another trial, look back and remember what he did and trust that he will do it again.

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