Mary and Martha Throw a Christmas Party--5 Minutes for Faith

Whew! One big holiday down, one big month to go! How are you feeling about it? Are you ready, or not? Excited or exhausted? Anticipating or apprehensive?

Every year I get a little more excited about the month leading up to Christmas. I didn't grow up with any formal Advent observances. The churches I grew up in didn't have Advent readings or Advent candles. When we finally attended one that did, it seemed odd that in my solidly Christian upbringing, I'd completely missed out on such a long-standing tradition. It was so familiar within that church, that they didn't explain it for us newbies, so I still felt like I didn't "get it."

So I was happy to get to our church this morning and see that not only is Advent being observed on Sunday mornings, but they gave us tools to use within our own families. I'm looking forward to incorporating some of the traditional elements of Advent with the newer traditions we've created as a family.

I've shared a little about our family Advent traditions. I've already started getting the books and songs ready to begin on Wednesday evening. Although they're still a little focused on their Christmas lists, I can see that my boys are happily anticipating our Advent activities too.

I haven't always been so Christmas minded during the season. As I wrote this post for 5 Minutes for Faith I was reminded of one of the reasons these traditions are important to me; I have a tendency to get caught up in the details of making things special and I can miss the big picture, the real reason any of it matters. 

There was one specific Christmas when (even though my name is Mary) I played the role of Martha to the hilt. Follow me over and let me know if you're more of a Mary or a Martha when it comes to Christmas.

(And then come back throughout December as I share a storybook and a song for our "25 Stories of Advent" tradition.)

A Taste of Thanksgiving...

This was originally posted a couple of years ago. I pulled it up because I'm making the recipe this week, but the message was a good reminder for me; maybe it will be for you as well. 

It's ironic that the time of year that's supposed to be about family togetherness, thankfulness and good cheer is--all too often--an unfortunate reminder of just how flawed most families are. It's certainly nothing new.

Remember Joseph? The son of clan patriarch Jacob (who got the title of "oldest" son by tricking his father and brother), Joseph was clearly daddy's favorite. And he had no trouble reminding all his brothers of that fact.

When they tired of listening to him gloat and feeling "less than," they threw him down a well. They at least had conscience enough not to leave him there to die, so they sold him to a passing Egyptian caravan to be a slave.

He did work his way into a place of favor and
 when his family needed his help years later when faced with famine, he forgave them and took them in with the famous line "What you intended for evil, God intended for good."

It can be hard to imagine that some bad family dynamics can be used for good, but at least there's always that glimmer of hope. I know I've got a long list of ways my family was (and is) far from perfect. Some of those experiences taught me things to avoid in my own life; some give me better understanding of other people.

Maybe most important, I've learned that harboring grudges does nothing for me. Forgiveness isn't about setting my "hurter" free, it's about setting myself free from the bondage of the past.

A few years ago I was reminded that I've done my own share of hurting; Jesus went to the cross because of the wrong I've done. But my forgiveness is complete and He doesn't hold any of it against me. 

May this Thanksgiving be just such a reminder for you.

Nutted Wild Rice 
This is a recipe I created a number of years ago to go as a reminder of the forgiveness Joseph offered his brothers. The combination of the grains and fruits and nuts is symbolic of putting aside differences and coming together.

1 cup mixed long grain and wild rice
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teasp. curry powder (this isn't a curry dish, the curry powder just adds a nice depth)
1/3 cup diced, mixed dried fruit (peaches, apricots, apples, raisins, etc)
1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/3 cup toasted pecan or walnut halves
3 tbsp butter (optional)

Bring chicken broth to rolling boil; add mixed rice and curry powder.

Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 30 to 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat.

Stir in fruit and nuts, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Add butter; fluff with fork before serving.

It's a great side dish with turkey (could be a really nice change of pace to go with the leftovers); throw some chopped turkey in to heat through in the last 5 minutes of cooking and it can be a one-dish meal.
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