Category Archives: Pondering While Pedaling

Christmas Small Things: Cookie Cutters, Gift Tags & Such

As much as I enjoy my monthly Southern Living magazine, I feel woefully inadequate when the December issue arrives.

The covers always have immaculately decorated multi-layered white cakes with elaborate garnishes. This year’s featured edible vintage ornaments.

One of my friends always posts a picture of the cover on Facebook with the caption: “Another cake that I will never make.”

I was thinking about how our over-the-top holiday expectations relate to a book/Bible study I just finished called Church of the Small Things by Melanie Shankle. The message of the book is to focus on the small things rather than waiting for the next “big” thing.

I’m never going to bring home the 12-foot flocked tree from the Christmas tree farm on the top of my van. (Or is it a vintage red truck?). Fresh garland won’t be running down my staircase and my family won’t be wearing matching monogrammed pajamas.

There are galas never attended (or even invited to), gingerbread houses never made, the “perfect” gift never bought.

And, in Louisiana, none of our Christmases will be white, either.

But if Jesus could be born in the simplest of surroundings, do we really need these things to have a Merry Christmas.

As I tossed the Southern Living aside, I looked at my own Christmas small things that still bring great joy– a grainy photo of my then 12-year old daughter when it DID snow in Louisiana a few years ago. Another is  a fragile cinnamon gingerbread ornament made by my other daughter that has miracuously stayed intact from second grade through pharmacy school.

And, then I remembered my box of Christmas cookie cutters — small things but when put to good use can bring a lot of joy .

My favorites are the smallest ones, part of a boxed set.  I remember the little angel tea cakes I made for a children’s Sunday School party and cheese straw “croutons” in the shape of Christmas trees and candy canes that gave a festive touch to tomato basil soup.

So instead of spending time in this final week making the perfect Christmas dessert or buying the perfect Christmas gift, think about the “small things” or “tiny cookie cutters” in your life that you can use to bring joy this Christmas?

Savoring hot chocolate in a Christmas mug with an old friend.

Making personalized gift tags with old photos or craft your own

Or sharing your faith as big as a mustard seed.

Or your widow’s mite.

Or a word aptly spoken.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

A 60-Year-Old Who Acts Like She’s 6

Between one daughter’s wedding plans, garden planting, my husband’s retirement, and other daughter’s impending pharmacy school graduation, I am faced with the reality that I am turning 60 this month.

It’s a milestone birthday, not quite old enough to draw Social Security but way too old to do some things like rollerskate (or, heck, just get up off the sofa easily on some days).

 

I don’t know what I expected 60 to look like when I was young but truth is at 60 I still like to do the things I did when I was six. Such as:

 

Ride My Bicycle. This has even increased over the years. I read one report that the biggest increase in bicycle riding during the years ahead will be coming from women between 60 and 80. I’ve joined this club and have plenty of company of people—both men and women—in that age group.

 

Eat Way Too Much Popcorn. It was my favorite snack growing up. True story: I once got a popcorn kernel stuck in my ear that had to be extracted by the doctor. Today, I have quit buying microwave popcorn, and have rediscovered how wonderful it tastes popped on top of the stove. Frugal as I am, I rarely complain about the price of movie popcorn and can usually polish off a big tub by myself.

 

Sing Jesus Loves Me. I have the pleasure of teaching first graders at my church. These children are 50 years younger than me, but I still love sitting in the little chairs, coloring and talking about Bible stories. We don’t sing Jesus Loves Me enough now, but today I’m singing along while listening to Mary Beth Carlson playing on Pandora’s Solo Piano Radio station.

 

 

The other day I was looking through some old papers and found my progress report included with my kindergarten graduation certificate in May 1963. I had just turned six then, but a lot of what my teacher, Charlene Davidson, wrote is true today.

 

“She is different from a lot of the children in that she doesn’t ever seem to need to please other children to be happy herself. … If some of the little girls don’t include her in their playing, it rarely seems to bother Jane—she just finds something else to do.”

 

Well, truth be told, I have gone through stages of people pleasing in my life but hopefully I’ve come back around to those kindergarten days.

 

So it’s true.

 

Ride my bicycle. Enjoy popcorn. Sing “Jesus Loves Me.” Be yourself.

 

Like the book says, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

 

Pondering While Pedaling. . .Gluttony of Delicacy

I like riding my bicycle in nature, letting my thoughts come and go freely.  The other day I was thinking about God’s bounty of tomatoes, peaches, corn, etc., and the pies and bacon and such that go with it.

We have been eating really well at our house this summer. So well that it has made staying on Weight Watchers maintenance plan difficult. So well that I have been pondering the sin of gluttony.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit, although Paul wasn’t talking strictly about food when he wrote about the fruits of the spirit in Galations.

Gluttony is far more expansive than overindulging at the all-you-can-eat buffet. That’s the gluttony of “excess,” which includes far more than food. There are plenty of other examples in today’s society—cars, home décor, sports and their “must-have” equipment, entertainment, etc.

And then there is the gluttony of “delicacy.” My food has to be top of the line. This more subtle form of gluttony is addressed in C.S. Lewis’ s The Screwtape Letters. In Screwtape Letter #17, the older demon,  Uncle Screwtape writes about this as he is attempting to coach the younger demon, Wormwood, on how to take down a human being. This type of gluttony may go unrecognized because the quantities are smaller, the concentration is on “properly made” and “insatiable demand for the exact” rather than on excessive consumption.

That may be the snob who carries personal preferences way too far – refusing all but the the perfect vintage wine or only the prime Wagyu steak.

I’m guilty of both types of gluttony. I’m prone to obsess about all things food. I like to read about it, watch Food Network, talk about it and take pictures of meals. This gluttony of delicacy may include foodies who can’t get enough “food porn,” gourmets who insist on the best and healthy eating addicts who may take clean eating a bit too far.

Why do I only have Kalamata olives and albacore tuna in my pantry? Taste preference: yes. A bit of “delicacy” gluttony: yes also.

That’s all for now. I’m off to watch Ina Garten.

1 Corinthians 6:12-13

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. … I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them….”