The Story of My Family Told With Christmas Ornaments

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Thanks to these annual gifts from my mother-in-law, my family has developed a tradition of having new custom Christmas ornaments each year that show the current situation of our family. I always thought the ornaments were nice, but this year as we unpacked our ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree, it hit me how these yearly gifts actually told the story of my family, dating back to 2006, the year I met my wife Jennifer. So here it goes… learn the story of the Davis family via a display of Christmas ornaments!

Our Christmas tree in 2013 Kokomo, IN. It is full of both purchased and personal ornaments.

Our Christmas tree in 2013 Kokomo, IN. It is full of both purchased and personal ornaments.

Jennifer and I met in September 2006, and we celebrated our 1st Christmas together that year. We both lived in Nashville, TN at the time.

Jennifer and I met in September 2006, and we celebrated our 1st Christmas together that year. We both lived in Nashville, TN at the time.


We got engaged a week before Christmas (just 3 months after we met) in 2006.

We got engaged a week before Christmas (just 3 months after we met) in 2006.

We got married in July 2007, and our story as a family truly began!

We got married in July 2007, and our story as a family truly began!

Our 1st son was born in September 2008.

Our 1st son was born in September 2008.

2008 brought many highs and lows for our family. Our 1st child was born, and I graduated from Lipscomb with my Masters of Theological Studies. Unfortunately, we also lost Granddaddy, one of Jennifer's grandfathers. I lost my first grandfather in 2007. Will's name (William) is a family name taken from the middle name of my grandfather Poppy who died in 2007, and it is also my dad's and brother's middle name. Our 2nd son Samuel would eventually be born and named after Granddaddy.

2008 brought many highs and lows for our family. Our 1st child was born, and I graduated from Lipscomb with my Masters of Theological Studies. Unfortunately, we also lost Granddaddy, one of Jennifer’s grandfathers. I lost my first grandfather in 2007. Will’s name (William) is a family name taken from the middle name of my grandfather Poppy who died in 2007, and it is also my dad’s and brother’s middle name. Our 2nd son Samuel would eventually be born and named after Granddaddy.

Our family expanded to 3 in 2008, and we were overwhelmed with joy to be parents!

Our family expanded to 3 in 2008, and we were overwhelmed with joy to be parents!

In 2009, we moved from Nashville, TN to Guntersville, AL. I began a 2-year stint as a bi-vocational minister, working at Decatur Christian Church and Domino's Pizza. Our family did not expand any this year. I also lost my 2nd grandfather Pop in 2009. It was a very emotional funeral, but I was glad he got to see me graduate from college and grad school, as well as meet our 1st child.

In 2009, we moved from Nashville, TN to Guntersville, AL. I began a 2-year stint as a bi-vocational minister, working at Decatur Christian Church and Domino’s Pizza. Our family did not expand any this year. I also lost my 2nd grandfather Pop in 2009. It was a very emotional funeral, but I was glad he got to see me graduate from college and grad school, as well as meet our 1st child.

Our daughter was born in October 2011, expanding our family to 4.

Our daughter was born in October 2011, expanding our family to 4.

Our daughter came into the world while we were still living in Guntersville, AL.

Our daughter came into the world while we were still living in Guntersville, AL.

Julie Beth was very welcomed by loved ones.

Julie Beth was very welcomed by loved ones.

Julie Beth's 4th personalized Christmas ornament shows how everyone was excited that we now had not only a son, but also a daughter in our family.

Julie Beth’s 4th personalized Christmas ornament shows how everyone was excited that we now had not only a son, but also a daughter in our family.

Our baby girl got a lot of attention, but we did not forget about Will in 2010!

Our baby girl got a lot of attention, but we did not forget about Will in 2010!

The Davis family grew from 3 to 4 in 2010.

The Davis family grew from 3 to 4 in 2010.

We still lived in Guntersville in 2010, but we moved to a new rental house (our 4th home in 4 years).

We still lived in Guntersville in 2010, but we moved to a new rental house (our 4th home in 4 years).

Will turned 3 in 2011.

Will turned 3 in 2011.

Julie Beth celebrated her 1st birthday in 2011.

Julie Beth celebrated her 1st birthday in 2011.

Jennifer's "1st Baby", our dog Ellie died in 2011. It was a very traumatizing experience to find that Ellie had been killed by a coyote in the middle of the night.

Jennifer’s “1st Baby”, our dog Ellie died in 2011. It was a very traumatizing experience to find that Ellie had been killed by a coyote in the middle of the night.

In 2011, the Davis family moved to our 5th home, the church parsonage in Decatur, AL. My youth ministry job at Decatur Christian Church went from part-time to full-time as we were in the middle of a church merger, a very unique experience.

In 2011, the Davis family moved to our 5th home, the church parsonage in Decatur, AL. My youth ministry job at Decatur Christian Church went from part-time to full-time as we were in the middle of a church merger, a very unique experience that changed the church name to Lifebridge Christian Church.

We did have 1 major surprise in 2011, as we became pregnant with our 3rd child!

We did have 1 major surprise in 2011, as we became pregnant with our 3rd child!

Sam was born in May 2012, expanding our family to 5.

Sam was born in May 2012, expanding our family to 5.

Will turned 4 in 2012, and his ornament shows his growing love for Memphis Tigers basketball.

Will turned 4 in 2012, and his ornament shows his growing love for Memphis Tigers basketball.

Julie Beth turned 2 in 2012, and she started to love princesses.

Julie Beth turned 2 in 2012, and she started to love princesses.

Our family grew from 4 to 5 in 2012. Toward the end of the year, I accepted the Children's Ministry job at Fairfield Christian Church in Kokomo, IN. We spent Christmas packing up our house and preparing for a major New Year's move for our family from Alabama to Indiana.

Our family grew from 4 to 5 in 2012. Toward the end of the year, I accepted the Children’s Ministry job at Fairfield Christian Church in Kokomo, IN. We spent Christmas packing up our house and preparing for a major New Year’s move for our family from Alabama to Indiana.

2013 was a year of firsts. Our family moved away from the South for the 1st time, venturing to Kokomo, IN for a new ministry opportunity. We experienced the coldest temperatures and the most snow of our lives in only half an Indiana winter. We also bought our 1st house and finished paying off all our other debts in 2013!

Sam turned 2 in 2014. He started his 1st preschool, learned tons of new words and to talk in sentences, and found a few favorite TV shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Paw Patrol and Julius Jr. He really loved trains in 2014 as well.

Julie Beth had quite a year in 2014. Her love for princesses made our 1st family trip to Disney World a dream come true for her. She played her 1st sport, indoor soccer, along with gymnastics lessons. She turned 4 years old, started speech therapy and got to be the flower girl in her uncle Jon’s wedding. Some of her favorites in 2014 were Doc McStuffins, sour cream from Chipotle, drawing/coloring and playing dress-up (especially in princess costumes).

Will grew up quite a bit in 2014. He played indoor soccer and basketball in the winter, and he played outdoor soccer in the fall, scoring multiple goals every game he played. He was brave enough to try out for a travel soccer team for kids 2 years older than him, and while he did not make the team, they invited him to practice with the team for a year as a “red-shirt player.” He started kindergarten at a small private, Christian academy, which has been an amazing experience for our family. He memorized lots of memory verses and really developed a love for learning.

Our dog Lucy joined the family at Christmas 2013. She quickly became someone the kids cannot get enough of in 2014, and the kids really love to take care of her too.

2014 began with the coldest, snowiest Indiana winter in over 50 years, and our family could barely handle it. There were about 20 days in the negative temperatures, with wind-chills falling as low as -30º, and we had about 60 inches of snow! After we survived the winter, we took our 1st family trip to Disney World with Jennifer’s family, and then went on a family beach trip to Sandestin, FL with Stephen’s family. We were the busiest we have ever been, with kindergarten, kids’ sports and church events. Stephen became an avid runner, and he ran his 1st marathon in October 2014. Jennifer started working out too, and she had to learn to balance the hectic schedule of our lives. On a sad note, we did lose the very last grandfather that Jennifer or I had, as her “Granddaddy” passed away in June 2014.

2015 Davis Family Christmas Ornaments

2015 Davis Family Christmas Ornaments

2015 was another year of big changes for the Davis family. We moved from Kokomo, IN back to Guntersville, AL to live near family again. Stephen switched from being a full-time children's minister to being a full-time stay-at-home dad and part-time stay-at-home worker. Jennifer went back to work full-time for the 1st time in 7 years. We went camping twice and visited family more often than we had in years. 2015 had many ups and downs, but once again our family was very blessed this year!

2015 was another year of big changes for the Davis family. We moved from Kokomo, IN back to Guntersville, AL to live near family again. We sold our 1st house and bought our 2nd house, which we hope is “forever home.” Stephen switched from being a full-time children’s minister to being a full-time stay-at-home dad and part-time stay-at-home worker. He ran his 2nd and 3rd marathons, along with numerous races at other distances, and suffered through one of the hottest summers of his life trying to run in Alabama. Jennifer went back to work full-time (for her step-dad) for the 1st time in 7 years. We went camping twice and visited family more often than we had in several years. In 2015 we were once again very blessed!

In 2015 Will made the difficult switch from his old school in Kokomo where he went for kindergarten to his Guntersville Elementary for 1st grade after our family moved. The 1st couple weeks were a bit rough, but he quickly loved his new teacher and school. Thanks to an amazing kindergarten program at Acacia Academy, Will entered 1st grade way ahead in many areas. He has particularly excelled in math and reading. He often reads at least 2 books per day and does very well on Accelerated Reader tests. Most of his books are around the 3rd grade level. Will also continued to do well at soccer, scoring anywhere from 2-7 goals every game and playing good defense. Will is also really into basketball this year, and he has scored 51 points so far through his 1st 4 games. He is very driven to do well at both school and sports, and we are very proud of him!

In 2015 Will turned 7, and he made the difficult switch from his old school in Kokomo where he went for kindergarten to his Guntersville Elementary for 1st grade after our family moved. The 1st couple weeks were a bit rough, but he quickly loved his new teacher and school. Thanks to an amazing kindergarten program at Acacia Academy, Will entered 1st grade way ahead in many areas. He has particularly excelled in math and reading. He often reads at least 2 books per day and does very well on Accelerated Reader tests. He especially loves the Magic Tree House series. Most of his books are around the 3rd grade level. Will also continued to do well at soccer, scoring anywhere from 2-7 goals every game and playing good defense. Will is also really into basketball this year, and he has scored 51 points so far through his 1st 4 games. He is very driven to do well at both school and sports, and we are very proud of him!

Julie Beth has had a big year, as she started an all-day Pre-K program at Guntersville Elementary. This should really prepare her well for kindergarten there next year. She continues to go to speech therapy, and she is making great strides. When we moved she started taking gymnastics at the same place where Jennifer went as a kid and worked as a teenager. She loves gymnastics and may want to take dance or ballet next year as well. She will go and cheer for her big brother, but she has no interest in playing soccer or basketball. She is definitely a girly-girl!

Julie Beth had a big year in 2015, as she turned 5 and started an all-day Pre-K program at Guntersville Elementary. This should really prepare her well for kindergarten there next year. She continues to go to speech therapy, and she is making great strides. When we moved she started taking gymnastics at the same place where Jennifer went as a kid and worked as a teenager. She loves gymnastics and may want to take dance or ballet next year as well. She will go and cheer for her big brother, but she has no interest in playing soccer or basketball. She loves all things princess, and she is definitely a girly-girl!

Sam turned 3 in 2015 and started at another preschool this year, attending Miss Kim's Class, the same place Jennifer went to preschool as a kid. Will also went there for 2 years the 1st time we lived in Guntersville. Stephen and Sam have had lots of time together during the week when the older kids are at school all day. He does not play any sports yet, but he says he wants to play football. We bought him this monkey ornament, but he pitched a fit demanding a football ornament too! Sam loves to build things (Lego's, Mega Bloks, Lincoln Logs, etc.), and while he really enjoys watching Paw Patrol and Miles From Tomorrowland, he has also really gotten into super heroes (especially Young Justice) lately thanks to his big brother.

Sam turned 3 in 2015 and started at another preschool this year, attending Miss Kim’s Class, the same place Jennifer went to preschool as a kid. Will also went there for 2 years the 1st time we lived in Guntersville. Stephen and Sam have had lots of time together during the week when the older kids are at school all day. He does not play any sports yet, but he says he wants to play football. We bought him this monkey ornament, but he pitched a fit demanding a football ornament too! Sam loves to build things (LEGO, Mega Bloks, Lincoln Logs, etc.), and while he really enjoys watching Paw Patrol and Miles From Tomorrowland, he has also really gotten into super heroes (especially Young Justice) lately thanks to his big brother.

Our family dog Lucy turned 2 in 2015, and she has adjusted well to our new home. She mostly stays inside the house or in the backyard, but we discovered that she loves to go running with Stephen, as long as they keep the distance under 8 miles.

Our family dog Lucy turned 2 in 2015, and she has adjusted well to our new home. She mostly stays inside the house or in the backyard, but we discovered that she loves to go running with Stephen, as long as they keep the distance under 8 miles.

In addition to our family ornaments, each kid has gotten their own ornament each year to reflect what they were interested in that year. We have collected a ton of family ornaments over the last 10 years!

Updated for 2016, you can see that we have collected a ton of Christmas ornaments over the last 10 years!

2016 was, as always, an eventful year for our family. After moving back to Guntersville, Alabama in summer 2015, we started to really settle in to life here in 2016.

2016 was, as always, an eventful year for our family. After moving back to Guntersville, Alabama in summer 2015, we started to really settle in to life here in 2016.

We started 2016 by placing membership at Guntersville First Baptist Church. This was Jennifer’s home church growing up, and her mom, grandmother, step-grandmother, 2 of her brothers and 1 sister-in-law were all members there. We visited another church a few times, but ultimately we wanted to worship with family. We also really liked the group of young families there. While Jennifer and I both grew up in Baptist churches, joining one again was a bit of an adjustment after I spent the last 14 years in Restoration Movement churches (Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches). It was also a big change going from spending most of my adult life on ministry staffs to being regular members. We attended for several months and prayed at great length before we joined, and we ultimately knew that this is where God wants us to be right now. It has really turned out to be a pretty awesome thing because right at the same time we joined there was an influx of other young couples and families who all started coming too. We helped start a new Wednesday night adult group that I co-teach. All the new couples started a new Sunday School class together, and we have class parties throughout the year too. The whole group really meshes well, and it has turned into a wonderful situation for us. I also volunteer on Monday afternoons with the children’s choir. I have nothing to do with the singing, but I prepare and serve the snacks for everyone. Most recently I also started volunteering with the worship ministry running Media Shout during Sunday morning services. Volunteering is much different than being on staff, but it is also nice to help fill needs without having pressure or dealing with church politics.

After being a stay-at-home dad for a solid year and working part-time for my mother-in-law, that part-time job is going away, forcing me to find another way to supplement Jennifer’s full-time income. So this fall I started working like crazy to try and build an eBay home business (Click here to read more about that experience.), which has shown some promise but not been an immediate steady cash flow. Hopefully it will pick up as I hope to quadruple the number of items I have listed this spring. If I that leads to quadruple profits then it could be a pretty solid home business. If not, then I may have to find a job outside the home in 2017.

Jennifer continued working for her stepdad at the Upton Group LLC. She has taken on lots of new responsibilities this year, and she also traveled a few times for work, going to Las Vegas, Ohio, Tennessee and North Carolina.

We had 2 big family vacations this year. We took our annual beach trip with Jennifer’s mom, stepdad and brothers’ families. We have our favorite condo in Perdido Key, next door to the Flora-Bama, and we were there on the 4th of July this year. (Click here to see our view of the 4th of July Fireworks show at the Flora-Bama.) During Fall Break we went to Disney World with Jennifer’s Dad, stepmom and her brothers’ families. Of course this trip was a magical experience, and we are already anxious to go back again one day. I just recently got our Memory Maker photos downloaded, so I plan to go back and write a post next week about Disney World.

In addition to our big family trips, I took a few small road trips with the kids. We went to Chattanooga for 2 days, went camping at South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee (read about it here), visited my parents in Memphis a couple times and went camping at Rock Island State Park in Tennessee.

I also continued running in 2016, finishing the year by running my 6,000th mile in the 41 months that I have been running. Overall my mileage was down quite a bit this year, and I did not run any marathons. However I did take up trail running and ran my first trail race, the McKay Hollow Madness 25K Trail Run (read about it here) in Huntsville, AL. I also completely changed the way that I train, taking up low heart rate based running following the Maffetone Method (read about my experience here). I now run much slower, which is why my mileage is way down.

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Will started 2nd grade in 2016, and he has continued to excel both at school and sports. He started the year with rec league basketball, averaging over 12 points per game, and he ended the year with basketball, now playing for a more competitive program with a local basketball academy. We have a basketball goal at our house now, and he is always outside practicing. He was going to play baseball, but he broke his arm (again) this spring. He played U-10 soccer this Fall, and he was the youngest kid in the league. I coached the team, and we had a great season together. Will really grew as a player, and I taught him (to the best of my ability) to play goalie. Will is good at offense, but he is a natural defender like I was when I played soccer. He hates to let the other team score goals, and he worked hard to be a dominant defender and aggressive, fearless goalie. Once the ball was inside the 18-yard box, he went after it hard as the goalie, even if it meant he occasionally got kicked in the chest or face. In addition to sports, he also sings in the church and school choirs, and he loves playing Xbox, Wii U and Nintendo 3DS XL.

Julie Beth continued doing gymnastics, which she absolutely loves, but she also played soccer this year.

Julie Beth continued doing gymnastics in 2016, which she absolutely loves, but she also played soccer this year.

Julie Beth once played indoor soccer in Indiana, and she wouldn’t really do anything during the games. She hated it, and I thought she would never play again. However with her brothers playing soccer, she decided to give it a try again. She and Sam played on the same team together, and I was their coach. Coaching 2 soccer teams kept me busy all Fall! She was actually really good and played smart and aggressive for her age. If she wants to keep playing, I think she could be a pretty good soccer player, but her true love is gymnastics. She is constantly doing cartwheels all over the house instead of walking. She wanted a trampoline for Christmas because she uses one at gymnastics, so now we have a trampoline in our yard, which has been a huge hit so far. She also got a small balance beam for Christmas. We did end the year with some very sad news, as her gymnastics instructor just found out she has pancreatic cancer and has to shut down her gym. She was also Jennifer’s gymnastics coach when she was a child, so everyone is pretty upset about that. Julie Beth has to go to a new gymnastics gym in 2017, so that will be a big change and a longer drive.

Besides sports, Julie Beth had a monumental year as she started kindergarten! She loves school, and she particularly loves art. When she’s not tumbling around, she can be found drawing and coloring for hours. She also started losing baby teeth this year, and she lost both of her front teeth in December. Her 2nd one got knocked out by Sam (it was already about to fall out) in a trampoline collision.

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Sam was finally old enough to play a sport in 2016, and he was very excited to play soccer on the “Green Geckoes” with his sister.

Because we requested that Sam and Julie Beth be on the same soccer team, they actually moved Sam into an older age group. We thought both age groups would be together when we made the request, but in reality Sam should have been playing with all 4 year olds. He was the youngest kid in the league, and it showed! He was a handful for me to coach, as he liked to basically do the opposite of whatever I said. He would purposely kick it toward his own goal in games, and he would refuse to go in the game when I told him to. He would also sometimes just lay in the grass when he was supposed to be up helping his team. I got frustrated, but he was just being a 4 year old. He wants to play again next year, and he wants me to be his coach again.

Sam had a big 2016 because he got to start going to school with his big brother and sister! He got into the Pre-K Academy at their elementary school, so for 1 year only, all 3 kids are at the same school together. This will not happen again for 10 years till Will is a senior and Sam a freshman in high school. This is the first year Sam has gone to school all day, or 5 days per week, and it has been bittersweet for me. Having all 3 kids in school till 2:15 lets me work on eBay during the day, but it is sad that I lost that special time I got to spend with Sam everyday last year while the other 2 were in school.

Besides school and soccer, Sam also really got into video games this year, and we spent many hours this summer beating every level with every character on Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. We accomplished 100% completion of the game, which was quite an achievement. He also got a 3DS XL like his brother and has started playing Pokemon Sun & Moon. Sam also loves to play with action figures and to build things with Legos. He especially loves Star Wars Lego sets, and he will play with them for hours. He got his introverted personality from me, and he rarely speaks to anyone at school or church. However at home, his mouth never stops running.

All 3 kids played sports this year. Sam and Julie Beth played soccer on the Green Geckoes, and Will played soccer and basketball.

All 3 kids played sports in 2016. Sam and Julie Beth played soccer on the Green Geckoes, and Will played soccer and basketball.

Jennifer's grandmother Mama Rie passed away this summer, so that was a huge loss for our family. She was 87 years old and lived a good, long life. She joined her husband Granddaddy (Sam's namesake) in Heaven after being apart from him for 8 years.

Jennifer’s grandmother Mama Rie passed away in summer 2016, so that was a huge loss for our family. She was 87 years old and lived a good, long life. She joined her husband Granddaddy (Sam’s namesake) in Heaven after being apart from him for 8 years.

Check out my other Christmas posts, including stories, videos, crafts, song motions and more!