Make Your Christmas More Meaningful

Aaron Burden

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is a few days away. I have been busy but not SO busy that I forget the reason for the season. There are many wonderful sights and sounds during the holidays and it is easy to get caught up in it all- the quest for perfect presents, home holiday decor, parties, cookie recipes, you name it.

Heidi Sandstrom

This holiday, I want to challenge you to think about Christmas differently. Think about it other than presents, alcoholic beverages, and a zillion cookies. To help you, I’m going to share my favorite things about the holiday. This is in the hopes that you will go deeper into your heart and look beyond the tangible into the intangible. And, I’m hoping you will share your favorite enriching experiences with me so I can open my gratitude circle even wider.

  1. Giving. This is the biggest charitable season of all. I try to support my church’s ministries and be as generous as I can afford to be. When my kids were little we rolled up dollar bills and put them in the Salvation Army buckets. We didn’t have much back then but we gave a little every chance we could. I’ll bet you my adult kids still put dollar bills in SA buckets.
  2. Friends. I’ve had numerous opportunities to spend extra time with friends. We do this anyway but at the holiday season it is even more meaningful. The food and presents are nice, but what I really enjoy is quality time and unconditional love.
  3. My family. I took my mom to see The Nutcracker a couple of weeks ago. It was a bit challenging but the Benedum staff (Thanks Steve!) was wonderful. We enjoyed the ballet and I think my mom absolutely loved the experience. I am looking forward to Christmas Eve and Day when I am with many of my family.
  4. Church. My church service and our choir is so beautiful all the time but I especially love the whole experience at Christmas. We had our holiday program recently and all the young ones sang. They sounded like little angels! Church is one of the best ways to experience unity with the reason for the season.
  5. Children. We took Penny to the Christmas Light Up in Clinton, PA.  and it was enchanting. If you want to have a great experience, take a small child to a Christmas event. Sit back and say very little; watch their faces glow. This is why we need to give young ones the gift of our time and energies. Just for things like this.
Mom and I at The Nutcracker

This is a season of love and gratitude. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of the holidays so remember, easy does it. Go for experiences, not necessarily material possessions, and remember to be generous with those less fortunate. This will transform the holidays for you.

What is your most meaningful Christmas or holiday tradition? I’d love to hear from you. Merry Christmas!

 

 

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Kayaking on Raccoon Lake

All photos of Raccoon Lake by Michelene Cain

Every now and then I call a “Family Day”. I want my immediate family there: husband Jim (of course), my two adult kids, Michelene and John, John’s girlfriend Toni and my grandson, Gavin. It’s my way of keeping us connected and supportive of each other. We usually discuss ahead of time what we’re thinking of doing and it’s always something fun.

We were going to go to Cook Forest and canoe on the Clarion River but somehow it just didn’t happen. It’s a two hour drive each way and we’ve all been so busy. My brother in law Chuck mentioned recently that he kayaked at Raccoon Lake (a 10 minute ride from our house) and I was seriously interested.

My friend Mary kayaks and I used to see kayakers on the three rivers in Pittsburgh when I drove into Oakland for work. I have always been interested in kayaking but figured I was past my prime for it. Turns out this is not so. My biggest fear was what happens if the kayak tips over? (thinking my legs would be stuck inside of the kayak)…I asked my brother in law this and he said, “You just pop out. “

He also said you have to wear a life vest and upon hearing that, I was really game.

So we headed down to the lake around 6pm after a nice backyard cook-out, and after laying on the sunscreen and bug spray. The lake was positively gorgeous and well, you judge for yourself. We had a wonderful time!

Do you ever have a “Family Day”? What do you like to do when you get together with family?

Join me on my graceful journey.
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Inspired Expression

I saw a beautiful community mural on the side of a brick building last weekend. It was on the Southside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I couldn’t help myself and walked over to it for a closer look. The colors were what really drew me in.

I have been thinking about the artists who painted such a work of color. Wondered from where they drew their inspiration. My guess is, it was from deep down, in their heart and soul. Perhaps they love color, just like me, and perhaps they love their city. Together those feelings would come together in such a divine way. To have a passion for something that manifests itself in such an expression is truly an inspired gift.

I believe that inside of us all there exists a creative voice. Whether it presents itself through earthy pottery, magnificent culinary creations, delicious baked goods, nature inspired gardens or a comfortable home, it’s there, given to us by divine grace. If we trust the voice and listen, it will be a source of inspired expression. It will fill us with a sense of well being and peace.

For a long time, I worked, focused and lost myself in the day to day grind of things. My poor creative voice must have thought it lost me forever. It feels good to take time and write my Katherine’s Daughter stories. Writing is my divinely inspired expression.

How do you yield to your creative voice? What form does it take? Do you make time for it? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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God Between the Clouds

There was a time when I was afraid of storms. As a little girl, I remember hiding my head under the covers whenever lighting and thunder would strike. I remember telling my kids when they were little that, during storms, God was bowling, just so they wouldn’t be afraid.

Last night, after a whole day in the Pittsburgh suburbs of sun and clouds and clouds and sun, the clouds finally won out. Around 6:30pm, it started to storm. I was meeting some friends at 7:15 and took Route 30 just when the sun was going down and the clouds were letting up.

The sky was so stunning I couldn’t help but stop at a small church and take pictures from the parking lot. Hope you enjoy the shots as much as I did.

Join me on my graceful journey.
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