Friday, December 4, 2015

What I Learned in November

Our son and I read through Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, by Ann Voskamp, in November. I wanted the reading to be slow and comfortable and lacking the guilt of previous years. "Oh no, we are three days behind, we have to hustle." We used a different Jesse Tree book for many years. Last year, I bought The Greatest Gift, also by Ann Voskamp, to read, myself, and this year, we bought Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Highly recommended (both of them!). Beautiful drawings. Unwrapping has a large print format, kid-friendly, colorful, and full of thought-provoking insights and stretch-your-thinking challenges. The ornaments can be purchased or printed off her website. I tried to pick a favorite quote. No such thing. Here is a thought, from page 106:

"When we love in little ways, the big things unexpectedly begin to happen (they won't be expecting that!). In little places, through unexpected people, the story is unfolding and unwrapping all around you and in you, the light overtaking the dark. And it's like you can see the new Kingdom bursting in right now - how all the lit up trees and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
The story that is happening is better than the greatest fairy tale ever told - because it's all true."

In November, I read Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle, as a devotional book. As a Christian, she writes about the dilemma of creating Christian art. What defines art as Christian? Does it matter? Her conclusion, as she weaves her powerful words about faith and work (for her, writing, but it applies to any creative pursuit), is that whatever we do, our faith will show through, will influence what we do. She compares work and prayer, that both require discipline, listening, and a willingness to be vulnerable. Again, attempting to pick a favorite quote - not happening.

"Once the child has learned to read alone, and can pick up a book without illustrations, he must become a creator, imagining the setting of the story, visualizing the characters, seeing facial expressions, hearing the inflection of voices. The author and the reader 'know' each other; they meet on the bridge of words."

Seth Godin writes a blog about business and creativity. This month, he wrote,

"The most important lesson is this: If you spend too much time looking for your next big break, you'll be stealing your opportunity to do your best work. Which is the most important break of all."

We had a white Thanksgiving. The snow fell, quiet and calm. I love the quiet of a snowfall - the stillness, the gentle hush that covers and changes the landscape with a cozy uniform of white.

One of our girls made Texas Roadhouse Loaded Sweet Potatoes. Oh my. They say on their website, "...we have trouble deciding whether or not to categorize it as a side item or a dessert." Yes!

Bake sweet potato in oven at 425 for 35 to 45 minutes until tender. (Obviously, make more than one)
Remove at once and prick with fork to let steam out - be careful, steam will be very hot.
Cut a 1 1/2 inch cross in the center of each potato.
Using oven mitts open the potato by pushing the ends toward the center until filling starts to push through the cut.
Place 1/2 the marshmallows into the sweet potato (a small handful)
Pour 2 oz of your favorite store brand caramel sauce over the marshmallows (or use recipe below)
Place the rest of the marshmallows over the caramel sauce (another small handful)
Put the potato back in the oven on an oven safe pan. Broil.
Let cook another minute or two, keeping careful watch.
Remove from oven when marshmallows start to brown.
Serve as soon as possible.

Honey Caramel Sauce
4 tbsp butter
1/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 c honey
In a saucepan add butter and whisk in brown sugar; do not boil. Add honey and continue stirring fro approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
Thanksgiving sunflowers, now wilted. Very van Gogh.

After Thanksgiving, we decorated for Christmas, the snow falling, our favorite Christmas music playing - delightful!

 Emily Freeman (this post is linked with hers) quotes Dallas Willard,
"Relentlessly eliminate hurry from [your] life."
I allowed these words to filter through my days in November, and they are a prominent goal for December, also.  A process, not always an achievement, but words worthy of attention and focus as we move into these next weeks of Christmas and on into the New Year. Whatever you do, hurry is not necessary.


  1. This is a lovely post and very much needed today. Last year I read thru the Greatest Gift, but I did it fast, not wanting to get behind. And the point is to take time and savor!! It will be read again more slowly :) And I love the idea of reading Walking on Water as a month's devotional. I've never read the book although it is on my shelf. So it is next on the list. I love the van Gogh-y flowers!!!

    1. Thanks, Brooke. I think Walking on Water is the one book, along with the Bible, I would grab. Faith, writing, life skills, family - it is all in there. Yes, I think you should read it :) Mine is marked up with yellow, blue and pink highlighters, and blue ink for the different times I have read it. Fun, and colorful.

  2. Love this list of what you've learned and so many beautiful quotes!

    1. Thank you, Alison. I love quotes - I collect them. And now, we have a granddaughter who loves words and quotes, too. Fun to exchange ideas and quotes with her, to see her growing and loving words.

  3. I've heard so many good things about Madeleine L'Engle - I must read her!

    Well, now, I recently used homemade Texas Roadhouse Cinnamon Butter on baked sweet potatoes - pretty similar to yours, eh? Let's just one word comes to mind while eating them - "FEASTING."

    I love it - "whatever you do, hurry is not necessary."

    1. Yes, when Emily quotes, "Relentlessly eliminate hurry from [your] life," I am reminded again and again to slow down. Appreciate, enjoy, be aware. Too easy for me to become that crazy windstorm blowing through and disrupting everything...
      I will look up that recipe for Cinnamon Butter. Sounds amazing - love the smells and flavors this time of year!

  4. We need to slow down and enjoy everything.