I spent most of this past weekend getting my house decorated for Christmas. I really enjoy it, but if I am being honest it can also be frustrating. My son was helping me put lights on the Christmas tree. We had plugged them in to test them and they were all working. I kid you not, we wrap the tree in lights, we plug the tree in and the top half is not lit, so we unplug, check the bulbs, plug everything back in and nope the top is not lighting up. Now, luckily I had a box set aside for just this issue ( obviously, not my first try at decorating a tree) and after another 20 minutes of detangling and re stringing, it lit up perfectly. So I gathered up the long string of burnt out lights and ceremoniously threw them in the trash – Whew – but annoying right?
Well, earlier that morning I was also talking to a friend who said ,”Tis’ the season to be merry and blessed or at my house today it is merry and stressed.” She started telling me the long list of what she needed to do and accomplish in the next few weeks so that Christmas would be perfect. The expectations were high and unrealistic. It made me reflect on how I can do the same thing – see if I am honest that is my natural bent – hustle bustle, fighting perfectionism. BUT We decided we wanted this year to be different. We know that although it should be a season of peace, this month can often make us feel more tangled up inside than those messy strings of Christmas lights. right?
So we talked it out and decided we were putting too much emphasis on accomplishing the tasks than enjoying the season.
See some people will dread the hustle and bustle that this time of year often brings and for many the holiday season comes with irritability, loneliness or depression. Then I think others love the Christmas season but too often worry, busyness, and unmet expectations take their toll.
In either case, as Christians who are celebrating this holy season, we have a decision to make. We get to choose to get bogged down with the stress or bow down in worship.
Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of praise in Luke Chapter 2 vs, 13-14. It tells us that when Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds sharing the good news…
Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – all praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased. See the angels got it right when they joined the shepherds in praising God.
When we choose God this Christmas we focus on having a grateful heart. We can then be better at showing the world love because a grateful heart leaves little room for aggravation at those long lines in stores or the tangled lights or worrying about finding the perfect presents or creating the perfectly decorated Christmas cookies. A heart of worship turns our hearts to giving thanks.
There will lots of choices to make this month – what gifts to buy, where to give and serve others and how many events will you put on your calendar and actually attend. But the most important choice is choosing to be thankful for the gift of Christmas, Jesus. For the gift of love, for his peace.
When our hearts are at peace, our holidays can be too.
Merry Christmas to each of you!
Gratitude, I think many of us if asked would say of course I am grateful for what I have but that statement doesn’t always play out in how we live our every day lives. Right?
Yesterday, my husband and I went for a walk. It was a beautiful fall day in the city of Nashville. Crisp fall air, bright blue sky, and golden leaves shimmering in the sunshine. We walked past the historic First Baptist Church which was built in the late 1800’s. It sits right at the edge of Broadway, right before you get to the main part of the street filled with Honky Tonks and dreams of the young and old singers and songwriters trying to make those dreams come true.
I thought about all the people who have passed through these historic doors over the many years and all the stories of God’s faithfulness. This church still has an active community and I was feeling grateful or at least I thought I was – until…
A homeless man was walking toward us with a rose in his hand. A rose he had obviously picked off of a nearby bush that was still blooming. He went to hand it to me and I said, “oh no, thank you.” He looked me in the eye and said,” I don’t want any money, I just want you to have a blessed day and enjoy this rose.” So I took the rose from his hand and he smiled so big. I thanked him and told him how sweet it was for him to offer me this flower and I hoped he had a blessed day too.
I put the rose in water when we got home and it has opened and is blooming. It has been a beautiful reminder to me to open my eyes to the blessings right in front of me. Isn’t that what gratitude is? Often times it is right there, we just need to open our eyes, see it and be thankful. I almost missed an opportunity to join in another person’s gratitude because it felt awkward. I didn’t have any money with me to give this man, yet he wasn’t wanting anything in return, he truly just wanted to put a smile on someone else’s face. A gift, without any strings attached. A reminder to me of God’s gift of grace and sacrifice.
As we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I hope you will be inspired by this story, share freely your gratitude with others and invite them in to sharing their gratefulness too.
I am praying we all will recognize the beauty of life that is right before us and celebrate that in gratitude.
3/4 c. softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. grated zucchini
2 1/2 c. unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts
Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet until golden brown – approximately 12 minutes.
This recipe takes me back to the summer of 1985 and a day I spent with my Aunt Louise, whom we affectionately called ” Weezie”. She had an abundance of zucchini in her garden that year and together we came up with this recipe. Trial and error, lots of taste testing. A very sweet memory. I hope your days spent baking are filled with laughter and the creation of fond memories for years to come.
I know all of us have, at one point in our lives, sat in the shade of a large tree. The canopy of branches granting us reprieve from the heat of the sun on a warm summer day. You can picture it, can’t you? But have you ever wondered , who planted this tree?
Well, A few weeks ago I took a walk around Centennial park here in Nashville and the trees are gorgeous. They are huge and the size of the trunks indicate they have been here for a long time. As we were reading the tourist signs that dot the walking path, we learned that many of the trees were planted over 100 years ago while the city prepared to host the Centennial Exposition of 1897. WOW, to think the efforts made so long ago were personally blessing me today. The shade these trees offer is incredible and it sets the back drop for all the beautiful gardens that are able to grow in the park today.
I want to share a quote with you that I saw yesterday while skimming an article in the Wall Street Journal and it made me think of those big trees, about leadership, about legacy. It is a quote by Warren Buffet and it says this…
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago!”
Those words have deep meaning. It is the investment we are making now that will have long lasting affects on those we might never even know in the future. It made me think about my family, specifically my kids. What am I doing now that could have a positive impact on them, on their future families? My grandchildren or great – grandchildren – We all will leave a legacy, it is up to us what that will be.
I also think about this in my role as a leader. What am I doing today that could help others in our organization thrive in the future. How is my relationship with God? The relationship that guides all others, am I investing well in it so that my faith is shared and others find their faith in God strengthened too? These are eternal matters, the type of investment that will still be giving shade long after I am gone.
I want to encourage you today to keep investing in yourself, your relationship with the Lord and in your relationships with family, friends and your work. That kind of positive investment will sure to yield benefits for years to come. Your tree that is planted today will most definitely be the shade someone else is thankful for in the future. Invest well!
FOR THE PRETZEL CRUST
2 c. crushed pretzels
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
3/4 c. (1 1/2 stick) melted butter
1/4 c. granulated sugar
FOR THE CHEESECAKE LAYER
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 C. heavy whipping cream
FOR THE STRAWBERRY TOPPING
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 3 oz package of strawberry gelatin
1 pt. fresh strawberries, thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, stir together pretzels, chopped walnuts, butter and sugar until combined. Transfer to a 10” tart pan or a shallow pie pan and press firmly into pan. Bake 8 minutes and let cool completely.
- Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add heavy whipping cream and beat until medium peaks form.
- Spread over cooled pretzel crust.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and cornstarch and bring to a boil. Boil 2 – 3 minutes, whisking constantly until thickened. Add strawberry gelatin and whisk until combined. Let cool 5 minutes.
- Arrange strawberries in a single layer all over the cream cheese layer, then pour gelatin mixture over the top of the berries. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
** This recipe reminds me of summers spent in Minnesota with my Grandma Swenson and the pot luck dinners we had at Aunt Ida’s farm. **