I am extroverted by nature and love spending time with lots of people. I am energized by the crowd. Sometimes; however, when I spend a lot of time with people and have lots of different conversations, I have a hard time winding down and falling asleep. Last week at MOPS we brought our entire remote staff in to engage in our annual strategic planning. I was thrilled because the majority of my staff is remote and we spend most days connecting via Facetime, phone and Zoom so having time in person was wonderful.
I found myself restless at the end of the week. I was processing plans, replaying meaningful conversations and honestly had a lot planned for the weekend as I was hosting a large party at my house. I decided to stop tossing and turning and make my way downstairs so I didn’t wake my husband.
I walked around the Christmas tree and began reminiscing. My tree is a story tree. It is a bit of a hodge podge so to speak but so many ornaments hold sentimental value to me. A green felt ornament with my oldest son, Justin, centered in the middle with his first grade smile. An ornament with Spencer’s old football number, Taylor’s picture secured in a hot glue gunned popsicle stick triangle. Then there is Lexi’s picture,surrounded by gold painted noodles her beautiful smile and the “ I cut my own bangs with play scissors” look that she sported as a preschooler one year. Our first year married Christmas ornament which is now 33 years old. The beautiful ornaments my sister has given me over the years and the ones we have collected on our travels. Then one in particular caught my eye – It says, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”. Santa is kneeling in prayer at the manger. It is sweet. I then glanced over to my nativity scene and the lights from the tree reflected so beautifully on the manger scene.
It is the season, the birth of the Christ child. The celebrations of it all. Looking at the baby Jesus in the manger made me grateful that He is not just the reason for the Christmas season but He is the Reason. The meaning to our earthly lives. This Christmas let’s not leave baby Jesus in the manger. As fellow Christians let’s love all people well and share the hope that is only found in Him. Those thoughts allowed me to settle back into bed and I slept so peacefully.
I realize Christmas can be so hard for many. I know we have had our years when the thoughts of Fa La La seemed impossible. This year many we know are struggling with health issues and the sadness that comes with the loss of those we love. Even more reason to stop and share God’s love. Let’s be mindful of the Reason this holiday season and beyond.
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
Isaiah 9:6 NIV For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In my family it wouldn’t be Christmas without Stritzel. Stritzel is a sweet bread made with slivered almonds, raisins and aniseed. My favorite Christmas treat. I just pulled 6 loaves out of the oven and my house is enveloped with the smell of home baked bread. The smell of this bread baking takes my memory straight to my grandmother’s kitchen. I remember as a little girl mesmerized as she magically worked the dough, braiding and twisting it into perfect loaves. I could hardly wait for it to come out of the oven so I could spread some butter on top and enjoy every bite. It was something I looked forward to every year.
When I was in college, I decided I should learn how to make this bread so one day I could make it for my family. My grandma didn’t have a set recipe written down… just a pinch of this and a handful of that. Her mom had taught her how to make this bread and when my grandma passed away at the age of 94, she had never had a Christmas without it. We spent the whole day together measuring everything carefully so I could try my best to duplicate it. I soon married and moved away but I would call her every year the day I made bread asking her questions, clarifying if I was doing it just right. I would joke and say, “ Calling the Stritzel Hotline.” We both looked forward to those calls. My grandma has been gone for many Christmases now but each year that I pull out the recipe, I wish I could call her and chat. She always had a way of making me feel loved and special.
I am teaching my kids how to make this family favorite in the hopes that one day they will bake it for their children. Christmas traditions are fun and unique to each family, grounding us to our heritage and loved ones. Thinking of my grandma today and thankful for our many years of baking bread together. What is your favorite family tradition?
As I sit at my desk on this snowy December morning, the snow continues to lightly fall outside my window and the evergreen branches look like they have been dusted with powdered sugar. I am baking Stritzel bread today, a recipe that has been a family tradition for us for over 100 years. When my grandma died at the age of 94, she had never had a Christmas without Stritzel. She told me once that her mom and her grandma also had never had a Christmas without Stritzel. I love that she taught me how to make this yummy treat and I am passing the recipe and tradition down to my daughter. My daughter is only ten but I hope one day she will make it with her children. How fun and unique that is to our family. I love Christmas traditions and I enjoy talking to other friends about what is important to them during this time of year.
I was having a chat with some friends this past week and we were all sharing our family traditions. What I loved most about this was the fact that it is not only the tradition itself that we love but those family members that came before us and either started or continued the tradition. As I mentioned earlier, for me the tradition of baking Stritzel bread makes me think of all the fun times I did this with my grandma. I called her Momo and I loved her dearly, and still miss her terribly; especially this time of year. One friend shared how they cut down their Christmas tree from their property up in the mountains and then drink hot coco out of their special Christmas mugs. Another lady shared how they sit around the tree on Christmas Eve and read from the BiBle in the book of Luke where the birth of Christ is retold. Many had baking memories and sledding stories. One family buys matching hats and carols around their neighborhood. Each tradition shared brought a smile to the face of the person sharing, sometimes giggles, and sometimes tears. Christmas traditions are priceless.
Each person and their family story is unique, just like the snowflakes falling outside. I believe snowflakes reveal both God’s creative genius and his concern for the smallest details on earth. Snowflakes form in a variety of shapes and sizes, each a unique creation from heaven, just like you and I and just like our family traditions. A snowflakes journey begins high up in the clouds and continues as it slowly falls to earth where it makes a brief and sparkling appearance on a child’s mitten. In the big scheme of things, our lives are similar, we are only here for a brief moment in time. I encourage you today to embrace your unique self and all that makes up your family traditions. Hoping one day someone I will never get the chance to meet this side of heaven will be baking Stritzel bread.
Enjoy this wonderful holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
Merry Christmas and God Bless –