Friend, how are you doing this holiday? This week I talked with several women I admire—from different stages of life. And we agreed that the holidays could collapse us. Our good hopes to make things extra special both woo us to dream big and wound us.
They snicker, “You’re never enough.” “They might say no.” Or “They don’t want what you have.”
What can we learn this week from Lydia, a woman who put herself out there to do good things for others? What helped her persist? What can help you?
“I believed in God, one larger than the gods that filled my city of Philippi. Though a Gentile (non-Jew), I understood that this Yahweh I’d heard about was the One to worship.”
“Then a man named Paul, a Jew who was rumored to have killed people who followed The Way, came to my place of prayer.”
“Oh, the things he said! It’s like something inside of me was opened, and I could see that Jesus was indeed the Messiah!”
“I asked to be baptized, me and my whole household. After that, I invited them to come to my home. It did take some persuading, but they came.”
“Now I see the blessings God has placed on me and my business. All I have is now God’s, and I want to share and bless others for Jesus Christ!”
We can think we have nothing. Or at least, nothing much. Maybe our most precious resource is time. We only have an hour—we can’t make an ongoing commitment. Or energy? We only have enough ooomph to do one or two extras for the holidays.
Some of us think our gifts or homes aren’t enough. We might have old carpet or a dated kitchen.
Just the other day, I was frantically doing errands. I’d lost my wallet and had to travel the next day I had called seven places and was looking high and low for where I might have left it at the drugstore. Then I briskly walked across the street to the Post Office, multitasking by talking to my college-age daughter and mailing a package. As I left, I noticed a lovely lady with a colorful scarf and peaceful smile and thought, “That looks like my sister-in-law.” But my sister-in-law lives many states away, so it couldn’t be her, I decided. And for a moment, I thought, “That’s good because I have GOT to find my wallet, and I have got to keep going!!!” I looked again, though, and realized it WAS my sister-in-law! I stopped, hugged her, and we talked.
I breathed in the joy of being with her and asked what brought her to town. I stood in line with her as she mailed her package too, and then I asked if she’d like to walk the three blocks to our condo. And as I did, I checked my phone, “Do I have a meeting in 20 minutes? Maybe I have just enough time to show her our new place?”
I decided to ask God how He’d like to guide my unexpected. I sensed a voice saying, “Check your meeting schedule and if you’re free, ask if she’d like a cup of tea.” I did, and I was.
And I did have her for tea! She and I sat for a lovely moment of pause, over cups of tea and snacks I served up in less than five minutes.
I learned stories about her life I had never known. I learned insights from her family I needed to know. She’s ahead on the parenting journey, and her stories spoke of how she sorted through seasons I’m in now. By my “giving,” I received. It only took a single moment of heart-willingness to trust that God could handle my lost wallet, which guided me to open a literal door to this extra gift of enough.
The point is not to have an entire day to set aside, nor a grand fete (though those are fun) but to welcome people into a safe, warm moment of companionship. Sure, bring out the china mugs for those cups of tea (I did!). And grow past the cringe (I did) of having to quickly put out new placemats because you spy crumbs and food splotches that had never been there, you’re sure, until this moment.
Whenever you invite someone into your home, they may make a passing comment about the pretty mugs. Or kindly say their placements are, well, in need of washing too. But when they leave? You’ll celebrate God’s way of being extra-enough.
While I’m glad I didn’t need to persuade my sister-in-law to come over, Lydia had to persuade Paul and his companions to come to her home.
You might have to be persistent, too, with your invitations. We never know what inner dialog a person has that might lead to them saying no the first time. Listen carefully to God’s nudge, but don’t think the first no is a forever no. And the moment they offer to bring something, take them up on it.
If Lydia had to persuade Paul and his companions, you might need to do a little convincing, too. Sometimes even with friends and family, we have to convince ourselves to leave our warm homes in winter with early dark evenings! But when we know someone lives alone or has had a hard year, it’s okay to be lovingly persistent.
One idea is to invite people to Christmas Eve services. Many who don’t usually attend church appreciate an invitation to a candlelight service or “ceremony of carols” that tells of Jesus’ birth through music and Bible readings. Offer to pick them up, or you might wait at the church to help them easily find a seat. Maybe you attend service online together—in your home with hot chocolate or from miles away (you can arrange easily to have packets of hot chocolate delivered, or just get a single-serve one like these, which are delish and super fun to make, and send it in an envelope by mail).
Say someone gives a firm “no” to your invitation. Then what? You might try a little gift-giving:
- When you do your holiday baking (if you do, I’ve put a family-favorite recipe below), make an extra dozen or two.
- Handwritten notes mean so much. Tell the person something you treasure about them.
- If you’re a crafter, make small gifts to keep on hand. Creating them is a great time to pray and ask God who needs it most.
- Look for free events online, like luminary walks, and invite someone to meet you there. Bring a cute scarf as a gift to keep her warm.
- As a meaningful, simple, and budget-friendly Christmas gift, send word blessings. Pick a word that you believe describes a person as God created them. Write it on decorated card stock and mail it. Or find an inexpensive frame and put it inside. One year my daughter bought a small mirror and wrote words in Sharpie pen that describe all the qualities she adores in her dad. He treasures that mirror to this day, and I love looking at it and knowing she “sees” him well.
And, as a gift to you? A prayer to pause the not-enough nasties:
Lydia was a business owner and God-worshipper. She knew what she had (and I’m sure was aware of what she didn’t) and offered it to Paul and his companions, men who were strangers. Take some time to write down what you do have. (Try hard to skip over what you know you do not.) Thank God for those blessings, no matter how big or small. You might pray a prayer like this:
God, thank you that with little or much time, little or much money, and little or much energy, You can allow me to be an agent of Your love this season. Thank you that there is no greater joy than finding You are enough for me, and You make my time and my gifts and my energy enough for those You put in my path. I love You, God, and better yet, You love me. Thank you!
And don’t feel you need to pray this alone! To seek prayer or find a way to know God’s love even more this season, go to stonecroft.org/know-God.
What Lydia had to offer was enough.
What I had to offer was enough.
What you have to offer is enough.
And what God wants for each of us is more than enough.
Naomi’s Recipe of the Week:
Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
What I Love About This Recipe:
Food gathers people—and sends messages of caring that are remembered long after the dishes are washed or tossed. And cinnamon rolls, perhaps because they involve an investment of time, especially convey that love.
Our daughter has made this recipe to gather neighbors during the holidays. We put apple cider and spices into a crockpot, go out on a walk with neighbors who want to brave the Colorado cold, and then come back to these ooey-gooey rolls, people licking their fingers, warming their hands by the fire and around the mugs, and lingering and laughing.
So, hey, I might rename these, Relationship Rolls! (And note that, on these days, my role wasn’t baker, but kitchen-and-cider provider. And that was enough!)
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 Tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 1 packet instant yeast (1 packet yields ~2 1/4 tsp)
- 1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 3/4 – 3 1/4 cups Bob’s Red Mill Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2 1/2 Tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 1/2 cup pumpkin butter*
- 1/3 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped (optional)
- 2 Tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 1 Tbsp pumpkin butter* (optional)
- 1 Tbsp organic cane sugar
- 1/4 cup raw pecans, chopped
- DOUGH: In a large mixing bowl in the microwave (or in a small saucepan over medium heat), heat the almond milk and vegan butter in 30 second increments until warm and melted, never reaching boiling. Remove from microwave (or stovetop) and let cool to 110 degrees F (43 C), or the temperature of bath water. It should be warm but not too hot or it will kill the yeast. If warmed on the stovetop, transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl at this point.
Sprinkle on yeast, sugar, and salt and let activate for 10 minutes. Then add cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice and stir. Let it set for a few minutes, then whisk in pumpkin purée.
Next add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky. When it is too thick to stir, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball, adding flour as needed.
Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with oil, and add your dough ball back in and roll it around to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle.
FILLING: Brush with melted vegan butter and pumpkin butter, then add sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and the pecans.
Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and situate seam side down. Then with a serrated knife or floss, cut the dough into 1.5 – 2 inch sections and position in a well-greased 8×8 square or comparable sized pan (you should have about 10 rolls as original recipe is written).
TOPPING: Brush with vegan butter mixed with pumpkin butter, sprinkle with cane sugar and pecans, and cover with plastic wrap. Set on top of the oven to let rise again while you preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 C).
Once the oven is hot, bake rolls on a center rack for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and crusty on top. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
For a glaze, try my dairy-free cream cheese frosting or the simple glaze I share in the notes below. Add a Tbsp of pumpkin butter and/or a dash of pumpkin pie spice to add more pumpkin flavor.
Cinnamon rolls should keep covered at room temp for up to a few days, though best when fresh. You can freeze at the stage where the dough is cut into cinnamon rolls and placed in a pan. Cover well and freeze in a pan, then let thaw for at least 6 hours before baking. Cover and set on top of the oven while preheating to help rise. Bake as instructed.
*Pumpkin butter can either be purchased at the store or made at home – I love this recipe from Oh She Glows. If you go the store bought route, just check to make sure they’re vegan friendly!
*For a simple dairy-free glaze, melt 1 Tbsp vegan butter and whisk in 2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. Mix and gradually thin with dairy-free milk 1 tsp at a time until pourable but still thick. Add 1 Tbsp pumpkin butter and/or 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice for more pumpkin flavor.
*Adapted from my World’s Easiest Cinnamon Rolls
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without pecans or glaze.