A familiar aroma wafted all the way from the kitchen to my office. Joy overwhelmed me as I inhaled the welcoming whiff of Christmas cookies.
I had seen my wife mixing the ingredients and rolling the dough earlier in the morning. Just imagining the taste of the gluten-free Moravian ginger snaps and cookie crumbles made my mouth water.
Neva loves to bake, and the dynamo that she is, she did so even though not feeling the best. After nearly 50 years of marriage, I knew not to intervene.
Baking is only one of Neva’s many gifts for which I am grateful. During the holiday season, she goes into overdrive, providing goodies and other pleasantries for friends, family, and even strangers. That’s in addition to taking the lead in decorating our home for the holidays.
(Please click on each photo below to enlarge them.)
We decorated for the holidays earlier than usual in an earnest attempt to counter 2020’s double-barreled doom and gloom of pandemic and politics. We plan on letting the festive lights shine well into the New Year, too. Hopefully, that effort will soothe our souls and those of others as well.
Strings of lights, wreaths, and trees said “Christmas” even before Thanksgiving. It was our way of being grateful as this long and tedious year winds down. We all need the holiday spirit now more than ever.
We are determined not to let the negative news negate the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Advent season. We weren’t immune, after all. There was nothing fake about family and friends who contracted the virus. We are most thankful that all have recovered or are in the process. Too many others here and around the world can’t say that.
Neva and I are grateful for leaders who do the right things for the common good, whether it concerns the pandemic, raging wildfires, or assisting hurricane victims long after the storms have departed. We rejoiced with the announcements of effective vaccines that will soon arrive, starting with those on the frontlines of COVID-19.
Gratitude always helps the one who shows it. The more you give, the better you feel. Perhaps that is what motivated Neva to bake in the first place. Being productive is in her DNA.
No matter our circumstances, expressing our gratitude, serves as a healing balm. I have often experienced that, sometimes in the least likely of places.
I was fortunate to have traveled to Honduras multiple times on short-term work trips. Our groups usually helped local residents build churches and houses for the very needy.
I vividly remember one situation in Gracias, Honduras, the country’s old Spanish colonial capital. The six of us worked side-by-side with community members to help construct their church building.
Each workday, the women of the local congregation that we were assisting prepared lunch for us. In the cooling shade of her adobe home, the pastor served us chicken noodle soup and refreshing fruit juice. We were most grateful for the food and hospitality.
When I learned that the pastor had killed her last chicken to feed our small group, I was genuinely humbled. Given her gracious sacrifice, we all thanked her profusely.
Showing gratitude works both ways. Study after study has shown that expressing gratitude through productive actions benefits both the recipient and the giver. Our Honduran experience indeed verified that.
Perhaps author Ami Campbell appropriately summed up the purpose for appreciation. Gratitude is the birthplace of generosity, she stated. To that, I say, “Amen!”
In what ways will you express your appreciation to others this holiday season?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2020