Each year during advent, individuals within the meeting tell their personal advent story......of the time Christ arrived in their life. The stories are represented with a tree ornament hung on the tree in the parlor. Each story is as unique as each person's tree ornament. Below are three stories from this past advent season.
December 2007 Advent Stories:
Kate Jessup (below), Jeff Clark, Terry and Sharon Reynard (below), Jenny Baldwin, Brian Young, and Kevin Hale.
My father died during a flu epidemic in 1920. As there were six of us kids and no Welfare we were put out in homes as well as the Orphans Home. My brother Leroy and I were put in William and Malinda Macy's home who was acquainted with my family. It was a good Christian family and since they were older we were to call them Grandma and Grandpa.
We went to church twice on Sunday and prayer meeting Wednesday night as well as prayer at bedtime and each meal When I was seven one Sunday Grandpa didn't feel like going to church so I was to stay home with him since it was very cold. He was reading the Bible to me and I was sitting close to him with his arm around me. He asked if I would want to give my heart to Jesus. I said yes! As the song goes "Heaven came down and Glory filled my soul'! It seemed I was in a daze and when I realized we were both laughing and crying it was so wonderful!! So all down thru the years I have cherished that wonderful feeling. The memory helped in my growing up years as well as caring for my Family. And I still have it!!! I brought a little golden bell for a memory for I want to hear those "Golden Bells for you and me"
Terry and Sharon Reynard in front of the 2007 Advent Tree
Terry Reynard: THE ROAD TO REPENTANCE – MY ADVENT STORY December 2007
My earliest recollections of spiritual things were of Mom’s teaching me to “say grace” before we ate.
I wish I could honestly tell you those were happy times in a Christ-centered home with lots of love, but such was not the case.
I hear people today talking about ‘tension being so thick they could cut it with a knife;’ but back then, we were living it! We had meat & ‘taters’ on the table. But most of the time, beefing & bellyaching were the main course. It’s a wonder we kept anything down! I’d have gladly traded those peas and hominy on my plate for some real peace and harmony.
God seemed a lot closer to us when Mom & I were in church. We went to Buena Vista. It was a real relief sitting in those pews listening to her aunt, Rev. Zelma Mills, preaching about heaven.
Buena was Mom’s comfort station; her corner in which she felt free to stand & sing, or sit & sob.
I couldn’t understand what was happening to us because I was still a small child at the time. I just knew she felt better out at Buena, and so did I. They talked a lot about heaven, and that was nice.
Buena still holds a warm spot in my heart because that tiny congregation of country folk didn’t seem to mind that I was a sickly bucktoothed kid. They overlooked my awkwardness when they discovered I could carry a tune. They got even more interested when I began reciting pieces of scripture. “That boy’s going to be a preacher some day,” they said.
As time went by and my understanding grew, I began realizing that there was something missing in my life. I tried shaking off the spiritual numbness with the notion that perhaps “salvation” and “right-living” were just something I had to grow into, sort of like second hand clothes. I was wrong.
When Dad gave up on farming in 1959 & moved us into town, I thought life would get easier. Mom joined the local Nazarene church and took my younger sister and me with her. That was okay at first, but after being there awhile I learned there was more to “churchliness” than just showing up and singing. So I went through the motions of “getting right with God!”
Not long after my alleged conversion, I awoke to the realization that I still had to act as if my penitence was real. I stayed because I didn’t have the guts to go elsewhere.
After getting caught in the draft in 1965 & spending two years in the military, I moved away from home in the spring of 1968. I got an apartment on the south side of Muncie and started working at a place called Paul’s Press as a printer’s ‘devil’ -- an apt description for what I’d become by then.
I may have decided “I don’t need nobody,” but soon found out I couldn’t live with myself either!
Just when things seemed their darkest, I remembered something a concerned Christian once told me: “God loves you right where you are but loves you too much to leave you there.”
That same night I made my way to special services being held at the Southside Church of the Nazarene. Rev. Walter Greek was the pastor of Southside at the time. I don’t remember the evangelist’s name. However, I do recollect that, when the altar call came, I was already halfway down the aisle; admitting to myself and to God that I was hurting even worse then than I had been all those years ago hearing Mom & Dad fretting and fuming at each other across the table!
I knew I was out of control and headed for a crash with no hopes of survival. I decided if God wanted whatever was left of my life, He was welcome to it. Willingly and without hesitation I turned the keys to my life over to Him and invited Him in that night.
Christ did come in! It happened without flourish or fanfare, but I knew immediately something was different. My fears & fault-finding, the anger and back-biting were all gone; and I was no longer lonely. Soon afterwards, I got back into a Bible-believing church.
That transition began what has become an almost 40-year ride with Christ behind the wheel. We’ve been together through some of the most glorious and most grueling experiences you could imagine! But even when the times were tough, His promise of “always being there for me” held true.
For my Advent ornament I’ve chosen a key fob; my way of letting you know that God still holds the keys to my life.
Sharon Babcock Reynard Advent Story December 2007
To be able to tell my advent story I have to include three things. First would be nature or the outdoors. Second is my family which includes my immediate family and my church family. Third would be music which has played an important role in my life as well.
I have always been fascinated by God’s smallest creations. As a child I had my Mom and Dad on their hands and knees many times looking at tiny insects that I saw on the sidewalk in front of our house. When Mom and Dad brought my sister and me to Sunday school at this church, music became a vital part of my life. The hymn that meant most to me at around age 6 was In the Garden. We would sing this hymn almost every Sunday and the words of this hymn started to form the foundation for my first real encounter with Christ. At this time I was also in first grade in school. We were going to have a Christmas musical production for the entire elementary school. The song that the music teacher chose for our class to perform is a Christmas song that many of you probably have never heard. It spells the word Christmas and has a meaning for each letter. The background of the song is this. A young boy thought that Christmas was only a day to receive lots of toys, but his mother taught him to spell Christmas in a special way so he could understand the true meaning of this day. The song goes like this: C is for the Christ child born upon this day H for herald angels in the sky R means our redeemer I means Israel S is for the star that shown so bright T is for three wise men they who traveled far M is for the manger where He lay A is all He stands for S means shepherds came and that’s why there’s a Christmas Day. After rehearsing and then performing this song for our parents and families, I had a warm glow inside me. I didn’t quite understand why then, but looking back now that little song brought the true meaning of Christmas home to a young girl’s heart as well.
The advent of Christ into my life has been a growing and evolving process. There isn’t a particular point in time that I can say, “this is when it happened.” It has been a series of small steps. Our involvement as a family in both Sunday school and Meeting for Worship at this church gave me a seeking heart.
The next encounter was when I was about 13 years old. I believe it must have been the Ministry and Oversight committee at that time offered a membership class for anyone wishing to become a member of the church. It was offered to our class and we all participated. At the conclusion of the classes, the minister asked us if we had accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. I had the head knowledge that Christ loved me from my Sunday school teachers, but I hadn’t taken the step of asking Him to be my Lord and Savior. The minister helped me take this step. I don’t think that at this time I fully understood what this meant. I did feel different, but I didn’t know why. A few weeks later we were accepted as members during a Sunday morning worship service. This church family welcomed me and really made me feel a part.
The next step of faith I took was during the John Wesley White Crusade we had here in Winchester in the early 1970’s I believe. I was participating by singing in the Crusade Choir. One night during the altar call, I went forward and renewed my commitment to Christ. This time I did know what that meant. To the best of my ability I would let Him be Lord and Savior of my life. I would do my best to follow His teachings and trust His direction for my life.
Since that time the road has not always been smooth. My life has contained more difficult times than I ever would have thought possible when I was young. At times is seems like I’m taking one step forward and two back. I have done things in my life I’m not happy about. I have made some bad choices. Whether I was aware of it or not, I have disappointed and hurt people I love and care about. For that I’m truly sorry and ask their forgiveness and His. This is what I have come to realize over the years. We have a loving and merciful Father in Heaven. He will and does forgive our sins when we confess them to Him. Oh yes, the scars will still be there, but the sin itself will be forgiven and forgotten. God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m still a work in progress. With His help and guidance, I plan to continue growing and maturing in my faith. I have come a long way, but I also have a long way yet to go.
My ornament has a heart shaped pendant. I chose a heart to represent love, forgiveness and thankfulness. That Christ loves me even when I don’t feel I deserve it. It also represents the love of my family and friends and the love and care of my church family. Forgiveness because, from day to day, I seek and receive Christ’s forgiveness for anything I have done wrong that day. I also seek the forgiveness of any other person I have hurt that day. It represents thankfulness, because I’m trying to live my life in an attitude of thanks for all the blessings great and small that I have been given and to thank Christ for these blessings every day. The pendant also has dried flowers in it to represent God’s tiny creations in this world that mean so much to me. The flowers also stand for nature and the outdoors where I truly feel close to God. Flowers also represent the fact that I am still in a growing process. I have also included a copy of the little song that sparked my faith walk with Christ as a child.
Photo of Austin Cox and Walter Mills working on material for the archives.
A Guide to the Parlor Christmas Tree's Personal Advent Story Ornaments
Rob and Val Pearson ('98) Miniature Membership Certificates
Rob and Val were asked to join Peaceful Valley Friends Church after attending there for several years. Rob and Val read that they were supposed to have accepted Christ into their lives before becoming members, but they knew they had not taken that step. They invited Christ to enter their lives, then they joined the church.
Dianna McFarland ('98) Little Church and People
Dianna told us that the faithfulness and kindness of a small group of God's people at Bloomingport Friends Meeting during her childhood was instrumental in bringing her to the place in life where she saw her need to receive Jesus as her Savior and Lord.
Ron Ferguson ('98) Little Loaf of Bread
Ron told of being raised in a solid Christian home and church, going forward to an altar to accept Christ at an early age, and believing all the correct information, but not genuinely entering into a living relationship with Christ until faced with having to choose between several good college scholarship offers. He knew it was a life-determining choice that called for real spiritual direction, and he awakened to his need for the Spirit. The bread recalls a Rainbow Bakery ad for its 8-hour baking process saying "quality takes time."
Irene & Bud Bosworth ('99) Card re. Evangelistic Crusade
In 1979, the Bosworths attended a John Wesley White evangelistic crusade in the area. They each sensed the Spirit of Christ speaking to their hearts, and they went forward at the invitation and committed their lives to the Lord. They placed a card on the tree which reads, "Just knock......Jesus will answer."
Cleo McFarland ('00) Doorway Ornament
Cleo read Revelation 3:20 to us, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone will open the door, I will come in to him...." Cleo was aware of Christ's knocking at his heart's door throughout his life but he waited until 1992-93 to actually open his life to the Lord and invite Him in. Cleo says it was the best decision he ever made; he has never regretted it. Cleo crafted a wooden ornament of an open door.
Brian Lilly ('00) Little Model Bus
Brian points to an incident during college as the time he moved into a living relationship with Christ. While on a concert tour in Florida with Anderson University's wind ensemble, he became very ill and was quite distressed and worried as well. A Christian colleague prayed for him with such caring compassion that Brian came to a new understanding of God's love and a new commitment to live for Him. The ornament symbolizes the ensemble's tour vehicle.
Pam Ferguson ('00) Wreath Ornament
Pam placed a small wreath ornament on the tree and explained that its circle symbolizes for her a lifetime of ongoing arrivals of Christ into her life in new awareness and freshness. As a young girl she was very aware of sin's effect on her life, and she asked for God's forgiveness. Her grandfather's example of walking with the Lord filled her with a desire to know God that way. Her marriage to Ron and their involvement in various ministries ever since have brought new awakenings to God's grace and goodness. Her eyes were repeatedly opened to fresh arrivals of Christ's Spirit during exciting growth and profound hardship during her years in Africa. She prays that the pattern will continue throughout her life.
Nita Burton ('01) Empty Gift Sack
Nita told us that she was not sure of the exact date or place of Christ's entry into her life, but she is certain of her love for God and her faith in His salvation. Childhood experiences at Poplar Run Friends Church were important to her spiritual formation. The responsibility that accompanied parenthood helped her see her need for God. Florence Comer invited her to Winchester Friends 25 years ago, and she has worshipped here ever since. The fellowship and ministry of this church and a ladies' Bible study group have helped Nita make many recommitments of her life to Christ. The empty gift sack ornament symbolizes both her lack of a precise moment of conversion, and the feeling of spiritual emptiness that prompts each of us to invite God to come and fill us with His loving presence.
Betty Locke ('03) Star Ornament
In childhood, Betty learned about salvation from a Sunday School teacher at Williamsburg Friends who sadly died the week before Betty was set to join the church. As an adult, she had to work Sundays and fell out of church participation. After 9/11/2001, Betty heard televangelist Robert Schuller tell listeners to "get to church," and she chose to become active at Winchester Friends.
Nickey Pelser ('03) Globe Ornament
Nickey described her fear over her family's 1999/2000 move from South Africa to Indiana. Christ "arrived again" to her in the form of a book about courageous women in the Bible, helping Nickey find courage to leave home and family for life in the USA.
Karen Peters ('04) Watch Ornament
Karen noted the similarity of "advent" and "adventure." Sensing spiritual need and accepting Christ's arrival into her life as a teen at a Methodist church camp marked only the beginning of a lifelong adventure of marriage, parenting, praying kids through college, praying for the salvation of loved ones, learning about God's faithfulness in faith-promise giving, and many other experiences. Karen's ornament testifies that throughout those adventures, God's timing has been flawless.
Norman Peters ('04) Wooden Hymnal Ornament
Norman was first carried to church at Peaceful Valley Friends as an infant. His first church memories are of Saratoga Methodist, where he accepted Christ as Savior in his youth. He was most challenged and influenced by the words of hymns, including Just As I Am; Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior; and Almost Persuaded. Norm made his ornament as a visual expression of Psalm 40:3, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."
Letha Cox ('04) 6-Inch Ruler
Letha read Proverbs 22:6 ("train up a child in the way she should go...") with gratitude that her family considered church participation important. She still has her Cradle Roll certificate from Carlos Christian Church where she walked to Vacation Bible School while staying with her grandmother. She remembers especially enjoying singing Jesus Loves Me and Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam there. At age 13 at the Nazarene Church's VBS in Lynn, Letha accepted Christ as Savior. In high school, she rededicated her life to the Lord at church camp, and she knows God has been with her and helped her through all the experiences of adulthood, transforming her life a little at a time, "inch by inch."
Austin Cox ('04) Ornament with Winchester Friends Photos
As far back as he can remember, Austin's parents took him to church where he enjoyed both worship and Sunday School and nurtured belief in God. It was at church camp as a youth that Austin committed his life to live inwardly and outwardly for Christ. At Winchester Friends, he participated in youth groups and the choir, but he was most influenced by the mentoring of godly adults in the Meeting who lived as examples of Christlikeness. His ornament proclaims the value of the church family to his spiritual life.
Marsha Kritsch ('04) Crystal Glass Heart Ornament
Marsha does not remember an exact date when she accepted Christ, but she recalls enjoying Sunday School and church as a young child, and in 6th grade she went forward to an altar and was baptized in the church of her parents. Although the denominational transition was not always easy, she knows that the Lord led her to her Quaker husband and to Winchester Friends. When her young children experienced serious illnesses, Marsha learned to see her kids, and life in general, as gifts from God, and to be thankful for what she had rather than fret over what might be lost. Christ has come to her in the form of growing closeness to God and steady spiritual learning. Her ornament symbolizes Marsha's gratitude for the clear heart that results from God's gift of forgiveness.
Evelyn Fields ('04) Lace Angel Ornament
Evelyn recalls being brought by her dad up the steps into Winchester Friends and attending Sunday School in the parlor behind the lowered partition around 1914 (at age 6). Six years later, after her parents had moved to a farm north of Winchester, the family went in a horse-drawn sled to revival services at the Clear Creek church. When evangelist Zelma Mills gave the invitation, Evelyn saw her father walk to the altar with his arms raised saying "I want to be saved." A few minutes later, Evelyn's parents came to her and asked her to accept Christ, too -- and she did.
Tony Kritsch ('05) Little Red Bucket
Though uncertain of a specific date or place, Tony knows that a day came in his young adult life when he heard and obeyed Jesus' invitation to "come, follow Me." Tony can identify a long, growing awareness of Christ's arrival in his life, evidenced by his awe at helpless baby calves that so soon prance around uncatchable; a handful of planted seeds that yield an abundant harvest a few months later; the beauty of nature he enjoys in his daily work; godly parents who encouraged his spiritual journey, and a loving wife who joined him in it; and loving children married to committed spouses, and two beautiful granddaughters. Tony believes the Psalmist undersold the case; he should have written "My bucket (not cup) runneth over....!"
Jennifer Hines ('05) Compass Ornament
Jenny was not raised in a churchgoing family. Her parents divorced when she was 17, and soon after that she began attending a Catholic university. During her sophomore year, spiritual stirrings led her to begin reading her Bible and attending mass. In her senior year, she met Tim and experienced the gentle kindness of his Christian family. Tim helped her overcome struggles with low self-esteem by showing her she was God's cherished, artistic workmanship (Eph. 2:10). Jenny feels that with inward guidance and divine timing, God led them to Winchester Friends and is teaching them new values (prayer, environmental concern, foster parenting) and blessing them with the miracle of Enoch's new life.
Tim Hines ('05) Puzzle Piece Ornament
Tim grew up in a committed Methodist family. He took part in youth groups and summer camps, and at age 13 he accepted Christ. He experienced the usual spiritual ups and downs as with his family he trusted the Lord through house moves, financial hardship, and other struggles. After graduating from college but still not knowing which direction to go in life, Tim can see he was led by the Lord to work in a juvenile detention facility where Jenny's mom worked. She introduced Tim to Jenny, and "the pieces have fallen into place." (Matt. 6:31,32)
Mary Ketring ('05) Bethlehem Stable Ornament
Mary attended grades 1-8 in a country schoolhouse with a teacher who taught morals, began each day with prayer in the classroom, and sometimes asked a student to give the prayer. Each Christmas, the school gave a Christmas play. At age 8, in the midst of that year's "living Nativity," Mary first came to understand the real meaning of Christmas. She has sought to walk with the Lord and grow in faith ever since.
Reed Ketring ('05) Compass Ornament
Reed traces his walk with God back to age 6 when his Arba Friends pastor took him to Indianapolis for a Tabernacle Radio Program. Reed remembers being challenged even as a child by the show's theme song, "When You Left this Morning, Did You Think to Pray?" A later Arba pastor Bob Toesch set a good example for Reed and his friends to follow. In school, Reed got sidetracked by sports and girls, but the Lord drew him back, partly by leading him to a godly woman who became his wife. Later, when job and family responsibilities distracted him spiritually, his children helped steer him back. Reed sees further evidence of God's guidance in their being drawn back to Winchester in retirement to a faith community that has helped them through the sorrow of their daughter's death.
Bob McHolland Norman Rockwell Ornament
Bob's earliest childhood memories include regular attendance at the Church of Christ in Branchville, IN (a "little church in the wildwood" sort of place near Bedford). When he was 12, his family moved to a home north of Winchester. Since they had no car, the Main St. Christian pastor Lee Jackson came and picked up the family and drove them to church. Bob's father became a lay leader in the church. As a teenager, Bob and his brother John went forward to accept Christ at a service and soon were baptized. When he later got a job working long hours at Anchor Hocking, Bob's church participation fell off, but after his marriage to Rosemary in 1955, they became part of Winchester Friends and have been active in worship and ministry ever since. Bob's ornament suggests that "humble beginnings" are no impediment to God.
Louise Cox ('06) Yarn Girl on a Tree Swing
Louise went to Sunday School and Christian Endeavor at White River and Jericho Friends. Her first thirty years were especially difficult due to severe asthma and a weak heart. In 1933 at age 19, Louise decisively committed her life to Christ at a White River revival meeting led by evangelists Nettie Springer and Inez Bachelor. Sitting that afternoon in a rope swing in the maple tree at her parents' house, she remembers feeling clean and free and very close to Christ. Throughout her life, Louise experienced Christ's ongoing arrival through scripture study and memorization, and prayer.
Walter Mills ('06) Birthright Membership Certificate
Walter's parents were active members and leaders of Winchester Friends, making him a birthright member of the Meeting since his arrival in 1920. During Aaron Napier's pastorate in 1933 or 1934, Walter went to the altar to receive forgiveness of his sins and to give his life to Christ during revival services led by evangelist Willard Trueblood from California. He has ever since welcomed Christ's faithful arrivals through participation and leadership among Friends at the Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Meeting levels.
Mary Bailey ('06) John Deere Tractor
Mary's Quaker family moved to a farm in Michigan not long after her birth in Columbus, Ohio. She received solid spiritual training at home, at Raisin Center Friends Meeting, and at a church camp near Cleveland. Mary cannot recall ever not knowing of Christ's love, but she knows there was an early moment when she chose to live for the Lord, and she remembers times of rededication in response to Billy Graham messages seen on TV. Christ's presence was especially real to her while driving the tractor and working with horses on the farm, and in the sad times following the deaths of her husbands, and in many good times with Friends in Winchester.
Marcella McHolland ('06) Globe Ornament
Like many others, Marcella does not point to one moment that marks her conversion to Christ, but she is certain of its reality. She knew God's help in growing up with four brothers, in being led to marriage to Jim Bolinger, and in raising their children amidst the challenges of life on a family farm. She experienced God's presence in the care of medical staff, family, and Friends during a month's hospitalization as she slowly relearned how to live following her stroke on Friday the 13th in September 1996. Marcella knew Christ's presence and strength through Jim's ordeal with cancer that resulted in his death in 2004. And Christ's arriving has continued in her life through an innocent haircut for a friend that resulted in her November 2005 marriage to John McHolland. Her ornament proclaims that nothing in the world is beyond God's power.
Joe Zell ('06) Red Social Security Card
Joe grew up on his family's farm southwest of Farmland. His family walked about a half-mile to attend the Union Congregational Christian Church each Sunday and most Wednesday evenings. During a worship service in 1926 or 1927 when he was 13 or 14 years old, without any altar call or public invitation, bashful Joe decided to invite Christ into his life and stood up to praise the Lord for saving him. After graduating from Stony Creek High School in 1930, Joe for awhile held a $15/week job at a grain elevator and was not happy that Roosevelt's new Social Security program reduced his pay by 15 cents per week. Throughout his 69-year marriage to Rosa Mary Sutton; in raising three sons, herds of livestock, and annual crops on three different farms; and through various ministries in the church, Joe knew he was serving God and found all the security he needed from Christ's abiding presence in those things.
Ellen Craig Angel Tree Angel
Ellen's upbringing was that of a typical Friends church kid in Fairmount, IN. She knew and accepted the biblical story of Jesus' life and message. She marks one clear arrival of the reality of Christ's living presence when, seven years after her marriage to Dale Craig, his grandmother died in 1971. She had been pastor of an "apostolic Friends" church near Fairmount for nearly 40 years, and her death left the congregation distraught. Ellen prayed that God would somehow use her to help those grieving Friends, and she soon found herself doing things uncommon for her -- comforting people, speaking at the funeral service, and understanding the reality of eternal life in a new way that gave her inexplicable joy in the midst of sad circumstances. She continues to know Christ's presence in experiencing that same joy that always comes from being used by God to help others.