Do you have a special Christmas tradition that you share with your children or grandchildren? Are you looking to start a new one? Today in our December to Remember series, award-winning novelist and dear friend Gayle Roper shares how one of her favorite family traditions began…
“I’m the smallest kid in my class,” ten-year-old Ashley wailed. “I’m the slowest and the dumbest and the skinniest and the ugliest!”
I looked at our beautiful granddaughter. She was small and chances were she’d always be quite slim and she might well be the slowest, but she was far from dumb or ugly.
“You’re like a butterfly, sweetheart,” I told her. “You might not feel pretty now, but you’re going to grow into something lovely and graceful, just like a butterfly does.”
Shortly after that conversation Chuck and I were shopping in a gift shop where I saw a colorful enameled butterfly just the right size for a ten year old. We gave it to her, and though she seemed less than impressed, I hoped it would remind her that she was special, unique, and was going to break out of her chrysalis and become a wonderful young woman.
At Christmas I saw another butterfly made to be a tree decoration. We gave Ashley her second butterfly, and a tradition was born.
Each year we give her another butterfly or two, and we have chosen a symbol for our four other grandchildren too.
Brianne, our quiet, thoughtful, tenderhearted girl, gets hearts.
Abbie, wide-eyed, trusting, and enthusiastic about everything, gets stars.
Devan, strong-willed and fierce in her passions, gets angels.
And PJ, our lone grandson and the guardian of the Roper name, gets snowmen.
We give the kids their tree decorations at the family Thanksgiving meal so they can put them on their trees and enjoy them for the whole season. We make a small ceremony out of presenting the ornaments. In recent years we have added a verse to each bag, and we ask the child to read her or his verse before opening the presents.
Ashley and her butterflies get II Cor.5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Bri and her hearts get I Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Abbie and her stars get Phil.2:14-15: “You (shall) shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”
Devan and her angels get Ps.91:11: “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”
PJ and his snowmen get I Tim.6:11: “But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”
We picked the symbols when each child was quite young, and they have turned out to be more appropriate for each one than I’d ever have thought. Our prayer is that as they eventually take these decorations to their own homes some day, the qualities of the verse that illuminates their special symbol will be firmly rooted in their hearts and minds and evident in their lives.
Gayle Roper loves stories and tells them every chance she gets. An multi-award winning author, she teaches at women’s events and writers conferences across the country. Visit her at www.gayleroper.com. Follow her experiences with grief at www.widowsjourney.com.