In November 2011, Katie Mable, a Garden Spot Village team member, wrote a children’s book. The manuscript was inspired by her husband Skip, who was a graphic artist. Each Christmas Skip created what he called an ArtisTree, a holiday gift for his clients that reflected his family’s life for that year. While trying to design the 2011 ArtisTree, he was in the midst of mourning the loss of his father and mother.
Skip and his sister, Betsy Peterson, who lives in Iowa, served as each other’s creative inspiration. One day, as they were sitting at their respective computers 1,000 miles apart brainstorming the idea of using acorns to honor their creative mother and their generous father, they each turned an oak leaf upside down and discovered that it looked like a Christmas tree!
The ArtisTree idea was solved! Skip and Katie made edible acorns from chocolate and small cookies and then decorated gift boxes with oak leaves.
But Skip had a bigger idea. He said to Katie, “I think there’s a story here.” Inspired by watching Skip and his siblings celebrate the lives of their parents, Katie sat down to write a children’s story. Within a morning, she had a complete manuscript, entitled: The Orphans and The Oak. Because Betsy played such an important role in discovering the link between acorns, oak leaves and Christmas, Skip and Katie asked if she would illustrate the book. Betsy, in her whimsical folk style of illustration, drew some inspirational images and created a 3-D model of the book’s main character Tupper. Later they shopped the book idea with an agent, but the demand for children’s picture books was in decline and they couldn’t find a publisher, so they put the idea on the shelf and immersed themselves in living life.
On Thanksgiving Day 2018, Skip set out on his traditional Thanksgiving run. He collapsed and did not recover. In the midst of mourning Skip, Katie was contacted by one of his colleagues who knew about the book project. The colleague said, “Katie, will you let me help you bring The Orphans and The Oak to life? You need it, your children and grandchildren need it, I need it, and others might need it too.”
Katie and Betsy decided it was the right thing to do. Together the women embarked on a yearlong journey of discovering the world of international publishing. They launched the book in early November 2019 and were overwhelmingly blessed by the support of readers in Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Along the way they had multiple “God moments”—moments when they deeply felt God’s leading on the journey. They met amazing people who guided them, offering advice, support and encouragement.
What surprises them is the joy experienced in sharing the story with other people. “When I place the book into someone else’s hands—and I can offer some encouragement or just a smile—that brings me comfort, healing and happiness as well,” Katie says.
“The evidence of care and the opportunity that God has stewarded to us overwhelms me,” Katie adds. “It’s a reminder to me that we all have gifts from God. We may not all be called to write a children’s book. But if we steward the opportunities that God provides, we will be blessed and God will get the credit.”
As Katie and Betsy continue to share this story with others, people are inspired and lives are impacted. They are finding triumph despite pain, happiness through giving, joy while grieving and healing by sharing a legacy of living forward.
THE STORY IN A NUTSHELL
An acorn, Tupper, dreams of becoming something he’s not—he desires to be a fir tree because he sees how everyone loves the fir, even bringing them into their homes once a year. Alas, he grows into a mighty oak tree but is not happy because he thinks he has nothing of value. One day near Christmas, two newly orphaned children—a boy and a girl—walk through the woods where Tupper is standing and discuss their dilemma. Where will they find a gift to share with their friends and family to reflect their generous father and their creative mother? As Tupper listens to their sad story, he cries tears (his leaves) and one falls on the boy’s shoe. The girl exclaims, “Look, it’s a Christmas tree!” Together the orphans gather Tupper’s leaves to give as Christmas gifts. And Tupper learns that he can bring joy just by being who God made him to be.