Last Updated on March 21, 2018

Okay, I admit it I’m a John Piper groupie. Love everything he writes, says, thinks. I’ve been like this since I discovered Desiring God. (Was it over a decade ago?) Two years ago, I met his wife, Noel. We sort of had dinner. (Not name dropping. It’s true. One of the greatest honors of my life. I was starstruck!) John was the keynote speaker at the True Woman conference where I was doing a workshop for teen girls. I stumbled into the speaker’s dining room at the right time and ended up having dinner with the Pipers, including their amazing teen daughter Talitha!

Now, sit back and note this: Noel is the biggest secret in the Christian world. She’s amazing. (Sorry, John—or Johnny as she calls you in my favorite book penned by her—she might be even more exciting to me than you. At least, she’s more practical for this woman trying to be a great mom!) There is a book that I love that has been on my mind as I approach Christmas. It’s called Treasuring God in our Traditions. It has caused me to look at everything I do—from unpacking the attic full of dusty boxes to mixing up another batch of Christmas wreath cookies to taking the much-too-long annual trek into the mountains to chop down a Christmas tree—with new meaning. I had no idea the power that was in these things.

The book starts with her and John sitting at the kitchen table during their first visit to her then-future husband’s family.

I lifted the fork for my initial taste of breakfast cake. “‘Wait,” Johnny stopped me. “This is the way we eat it.” He dunked his chunk of cake into a cup filled with milk. Then he raised it to his mouth and, with white drops rolling down his wrist, bit off a big soggy corner. [A while later, having mastered the art of the proper-Piper-breakfast-cake-eating-skills she asks “Ma Mohn” for the recipe.] “Recipe? You can watch and write it down.” So, I watched and wrote: Four handfuls of flour, a walnut-sized lump of butter … Thus began the Piper family tradition of Ma Piper’s breakfast cake for birthdays and holidays.

The book stays that yummy (and includes recipes like that famous breakfast cake), but what I really learned is that God treasures the traditions of my family. He was the Author of traditions for His people throughout the Old Testament. He still invites us to His table on a regular basis for the sacred tradition of communion. Why? Because traditions are the equivalent of super-powered family glue.

They keep us together and identify us as belonging. As I write this, I’m in the process of talking three teenagers into a day of Christmas-tree adventure. Didn’t take much. For all the times they beg me to get out of something so they can be with friends or just veg, they were up for this long day of trudging through the forest in the cold to carry a heavy tree with the promise of a mug of hot cocoa waiting at home. They’re willing to climb into the attic and pull out Douglas the Singing Fir, the  crumbling nativity set my mom bought the day I was born, and probably a dead mouse or two. It will be a day of hard work followed by my famous ham, green beans, and potatoes. As always, we’ll pick a Christmas classic to watch when we are exhausted. This year’s winning flick is Elf.

This is our family glue. I’ve seen reports that families who have the simple tradition of eating together raise kids who are less likely to engage in sex, abuse drugs and alcohol, and struggle academically. This stuff is important!

True confession: before I read Noel Piper’s book, I grumbled a little about the dusty boxes. I pressed my husband, Bob, to “just get a fake tree.” I didn’t understand why I had to mix up a batch of Christmas wreath cookies every week in December. Wasn’t once enough?

What was I thinking? Grab one Christmas gift for yourself this year: Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions, and start gluing your family together with new passion … and a freshly made batch of Ma Piper’s Breakfast Cake. After all, the recipe isn’t really made of flour and walnut-sized lumps of butter … its main ingredients are a good dose of family memories, a little bit of edible love, and a whopping dollop of family tradition!

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  1. Lisa Lyall says:

    Having 2 teenage daughters who seem more interested in what goes outside the home, I find myself sad and feeling like “what’s the point” this season. Our usual advent wreath is out but we’ve yet to light it or do our traditional nightly readings and singing. No tree is up as of today. Can you tell by my sharing that your writing was a like a water to a thirsy mama’s soul? Thank you and I look forward to the book! I feel renewed and will go forth and conquer in the power of tradition and the Chrismas Spirit!!

  2. Hi Lisa! So happy to have encouraged you, my friend. I know a thing or two about teens being obsessed with their relationships outside the house. During these years, it is so important not to grow weary in the traditions, dinners together, family nights at the expense of high drama because someone is missing a “critical” party. They’ll survive…and they’ll thrive if we don’t let them bow out of family stuff. So, get that tree up girl…and make the girls help you! Love to you!