Sweatpants and fleece thank-you’s …

A friend and former co-worker made me this neat fleece tie blanket as a going away gift. It’s cozy and comfy. It reminds me of her and of our new Minnesota adventures. It also makes me think a little deeper.

We recently celebrated Christmas. It was filled with family, food, games and travel. It was a “dress shirt event.” Christmas pictures, church programs and services… special times. My dad comments every year about the number of people who appear at the Christmas service. The church is full, there is candlelight and extra songs. It’s a special event. It brings people together and is a reminder of God in our lives. We remember the big gift he gave to us by sending his son. We are more likely to go to church and to perhaps thank God… to pray.

I believe that God loves our “dress shirt” thank-you’s but I think he also loves our “sweatpants and fleece” thank-you’s…The every day prayers when nothing out of the ordinary is going on. It’s easy to remember God when times are tough because we are usually asking for help. It’s easy to remember God when amazing things happen – births,  weddings or other great things because  we are so thankful for the good fortune. It’s harder to remember to be thankful for every day things.

I’m reminded of this each night when our youngest son says his prayers. He’s a kid of rituals, routines and familiar things. Each night we read from a daily devotional book for kids and say the Lord’s Prayer, then we thank God. For years, that was my section. In the past year or so, he has started to do the thankful part. It’s interesting to hear what he says. It’s a great reminder to be thankful for the “every day.” Some days he is even thankful for stuff he wasn’t necessarily excited about. He’s thankful for someone else’s good day or exciting event. He’s thankful for ice fishing even though he doesn’t love it. He’s thankful for my good day at work. He’s thankful for going out for supper. It always ends with “thank you for our family and all of our blessings.”

Sometimes our journeys take us down scary paths. We might not have expected a loss or life change, illness or move. We struggle to find meaning and hope. In those times, but also in the regular “lounge in fleece days” I hope you are able to be thankful. I know some days that is the last thing you may feel like doing. It takes strength but it also takes practice. I feel like our daily prayers make God smile because it means we are thinking of him. What are you thankful for today?

Peace be with you on our journey of enough. May you have some sweatpants and fleece thank-you’s to go with your dress shirt thank-you’s.

Season of enough…

Are your cards sent? Did you order enough? Are your cookies made? Did you bake enough? Are your presents wrapped? Did you buy enough? As we enter the Christmas & holiday season, we are bombarded with messages that we aren’t enough. Sales that remind us how much time is left or that time is “running out” often create a false sense of urgency. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the material side of Christmas. (Pardon the wrapping pun) I find myself forgetting what I’ve already wrapped if I don’t have a list. When we moved, I found presents that I had “hid” a little too well! Those gifts were perfect for the boys at the time, but they have outgrown them. Those gifts went to the toy drive instead.

Whatever your level of preparedness, I’m guessing that it’s better than you think it is. Many people won’t remember what gift they got last year, but they will remember the time together. 2 years ago, I was recently diagnosed with cancer. At our family Christmas Bunco, I had a little too much to drink – I’m guessing that will be more of a memory than the gloves I gave someone. I remember my mom doing Wii bowling that included some interesting leg movements (she was not drinking). I remember our games of spoons, my nephew showing off his impressive auctioneering skills, & that one time when we went yulebaching.

I’m blessed and thankful to get to spend time with my family over the holidays. My kids will be fed and loved and given gifts. They don’t fully understand how special that is. I know that there are others experiencing loss, faced with a diagnosis or struggling with other issues. I hope that they can find comfort & friendship this holiday. As you rush from one Christmas concert to another, try to cram in some last minute shopping or bake a few more treats, I wish you enough.

Enough family to make you feel loved. Enough food to make you feel full. Enough activity to make you feel vibrant. Enough peace to last you for the coming year.
Peace be with you on your journey of enough. (& save a cookie for Santa)

The best kind of contagious…

I decided to give you a break from my cancer diagnosis anniversary to let you know about a great book. I’ve followed Nicole Phillips’ column for a while. She writes a weekly column for the Forum newspaper about kindness & recently released a book. “100 short stories to remind you God is good and so are most people.” I bought 4 copies. Guess what 3 people are getting for Christmas? (Aside from 3M products) The book is a compilation of her columns, all good reminders that it doesn’t necessarily take lots of money or time to spread kindness, sometimes you just need to be nice.

The book gives you lots of examples of how something small can mean a lot to someone else. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in ourselves to think of others. I’m guilty too. We rush about and don’t take the time to listen to others, to smile at the cashier, to ask the server how her day was or to look people in the eyes. If nothing else, maybe it will make you more aware of your fellow humans.

Several years ago, when Dallas was small, we visited family & went to church in Oakes, Nd. They had “quiet bags” for the kids… a bag with some distractions for them. A stuffed toy, coloring pages and crayons, a car, a book etc. Both Cam and I thought this would be a great addition to our own church. The nursery in our hometown church wasn’t “sound proof” and we felt self conscious of our loud toddler. With our tax refund money, we bought cloth bags, found clearance stuffed bunnies, used coupons for etch-a-sketches and found Bible coloring books at the dollar store. I painted on each bag and we filled them up. Over the years, someone brought in 2 stands to put them on and our boys have helped us fill and re-organize the bags. If it makes some parents with little kids feel more welcome and more willing to stay for church with their kids, then that’s great. It was our way of spreading kindness.

There are many simpler examples though… pay it forward in the drive though… help someone who is short on money at the grocery store…visit a nursing home… find out the needs at the local shelter. The ideas are endless.

Each year, for the past several years, my best friend Jessie and our families do a giant baking day. It’s a 12-14 HR marathon day of cookies, candies, bars and snacks. It started when she lived two houses down from us. It seemed like a good idea to use our double oven and kitchen island. Over the years, we streamlined our process and added cooling tables in the garage too. The husbands were in charge of dishes and packaging up the finished product. We each brought our favorite recipes and then doubled or tripled it. We both like to bake, love the chance to visit, and like to share the Christmas goodies. The majority of our treats go to family gatherings, but also to school teachers, mail carriers, bus drivers, co workers and homeless shelters. I know I wrote about this recently, but for us it was a really great tradition… one that we are both missing this year. It’s also one that for us was an easy way to spread kindness.

As we navigate some new paths on our journey, we look towards the opportunity to spread kindness in our new location. I hope you will order Nicole’s book and it will spark some ideas for you too. And, when you are done reading it, do what I did – share it with someone. I gave mine to my new co-worker (with a note thanking her for making me feel so welcome). Peace be with you on your journey of enough… may you have enough  this holiday season to be able to share with others!

What if you could….

I celebrated a birthday this week. In the past, I didn’t think they were a big deal, but events over the past two years have made me realize that every birthday is special. Too often we take each day for granted. I’m as guilty as anyone of trying to plan ahead. It’s been part of my job for as long as I can remember and a part of my personal life too. It’s December 1st, but I’m planning for the weekend, for Christmas, for New Years, for next summer. I plan as if it were guaranteed to me – as if living to 95 is how it’s all going to work out. But ask someone who has lost someone – most times they probably weren’t expecting the loss. They too assumed they’d have more time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel like I was going to die when I had cancer. Actually the sudden death of others is what hit me harder. Both things made me appreciate life more. The saying “life is too short” really made sense and that’s part of what prompted our move.

For my birthday, my sister in California sent me a present & house warming gift. The towels are pictured above. “Bake the world a better place.” What if you could? What if just baking could bring joy and peace and make the world a better place?  While it seems like an unattainable goal, when you stop to think about it, it’s true – you can.

I’ve always loved to bake. My mom taught me how. She was great with making homemade cookies, bars, cakes and pies. We frequently had dessert at meals. While she will tell you that she’s “lost the touch,” her gingersnap cookies never last long & her peanut butter Rice Krispie bars are often requested. To me, baking does make the world a better place. It’s one of the things I do when I’m stressed out because it makes me happy. I’d rather offer to bake something for an event than do anything else. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve had a marathon baking day the last several years … joy. We both (me and my friend who does “baking day” with me) give away most of our baking. Teachers, co-workers, church or neighbors – many people other than just family benefit from our plethora of holiday goodies. We’ve taken several dozen to the homeless shelter every year too. My boys help me bring it in. They get to see the big smiles on the faces of those who wouldn’t have homemade treats. Baking the world a better place, one cookie at a time. Perhaps that will be my tag line some day. Now if I could just make them healthier, I’d have it made!

So, enjoy your birthdays, celebrate with loved ones and maybe even bake something this holiday season. (It can be from a mix or even from the freezer, nobody will know) Whatever you make, share it with someone. You could be making their day. Peace be with you on your journey of enough & stop to smell the cookies.