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For Your Marriage

Domestic Church Retreat Day Five: The Tree that God Grows

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Day Five: The Tree that God Grows

A Story about Perfect Imperfection

This past Advent I started a Jesse Tree. I was tempted to go all in, DIY style, with the help of more seasoned mommy crafters who host their annual Jesse Tree swap in town. But, the temptation wasn’t strong due to my complete lack of skill and patience to deal with anything calling for glue, paint, or toothpicks. Instead, I was lured by the beautiful display of perfectly hand-painted wooden disks portraying each symbol of the Jesse Tree that I found at a local gift shop. For a few dollars I could opt out of the messy affair of gooey toothpicks and paint-smeared fingers; it sounded like a glorious plan.

Later at a White Elephant Party, I happened to notice a simple but radiant little Jesse Tree on the hostess’s piano. It was decorated with homemade symbols of different proportions, colors, and textures. It was multi-dimensional and dynamic; it made my Jesse Tree seem flat and uninspiring.

As I behold my children – each unique and exquisite in their own way – I’m reminded of the homemade Jesse Tree. Each branch held a symbol sculpted by a different person’s hand, bearing the stamp of the crafter’s creativity and cleverness. Each child bears the mark of the Creator and bears His image in a unique way. Each child is a blossom upon my family tree or a young sapling that needs to be cultivated, watered, and pruned. But, like the challenge of the Jesse Tree, I often feel inadequate before the challenges of raising these young saplings. My craftiness isn’t tested, but my calmness is. My inner Etsy isn’t tested, but my self-control is!

Part of the great parental privilege is that God provides His grace, and it suffices. It is enough to rely on His gracious help to assist us in every challenge. Yet, with social media awash in images that deliver a message of external perfection – so much so that “Instagrammable” is a new word – it is hard not to feel inadequate and insufficient. It is hard to admit that I am not ‘the Etsy type’ and my children’s nursery is not ”Instagrammable.” Likewise, it is hard to admit time and time again in confession that I have failed to be patient and forbearing with my children.

Time and time again, however, with the grace of God, as a couple, we are reminded to simply love each of our children well and to recognize that He is the Crafter of our tree, our little domestic church, and of each of its blossoms, and He will make it grow.
– Julia and Francis

To Think About
Choose one or more of the following questions to reflect on with your spouse:

  1. In what areas of your marriage or family do you feel inadequate or incapable?
  2. How can you and your spouse or family establish greater trust in God’s grace?
  3. Think about a present challenge in your life. How will you and your spouse meet this challenge with the help of God?

Prayer to the Holy Family
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

in you we contemplate
the splendor of true love;
to you we turn with trust.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
grant that our families too may be places of
communion and prayer,
authentic schools of the Gospel
and small domestic churches.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
may families never again
experience violence, rejection and division;
may all who have been hurt or scandalized
find ready comfort and healing.

Holy Family of Nazareth,
make us once more mindful
of the sacredness and inviolability of the family,
and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Graciously hear our prayer.
(AL, 325)

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