Every Christmas I see pictures of brightly lit Christmas trees surrounded by mountains of presents inside elaborately decorated homes. I see videos of Christmas shoppers standing for hours in crowded malls and checkout lanes. I won’t criticize anyone who enjoys the bustle and excitement of Christmas shopping, but I have never wanted to spend the holiday in that way.

Instead I prefer to create a simple, quiet Christmas of few gifts but many meaningful memories.

I don’t really decorate. My daughter grew up in apartments where we had limited space and little money for trees and tinsel. For years we had a two-foot table-top tree that my daughter decorated with tiny ornaments and lights, and that was adequate for our cozy home.

Though we have a larger home now and more room to decorate, we also have a high-energy dog who leaves a path of destruction everywhere she goes, and I don’t feel the need to fill the living room with decor and greenery I drag out of the boxes in the garage. This year I draped my corner shelf with garland and white lights, hung a wreath on the door, and declared that enough for me.

I buy few gifts. We already have too much stuff. Everyone in my family has much more than we need, and I don’t want to add to the burden of unnecessary possessions. Every time we have moved, I’ve donated carloads of kitchen gadgets to Good Will, unloaded bags of clothes and boxes of books on friends and family, ditched leftover furniture in apartment dumpsters, and generally gotten rid of more than my share of excess. I cringe to think of the wasted resources we throw away every year and I don’t want that amount to increase.

I don’t want gift giving to be the focus of my Christmas celebration, so I give my daughter and son-in-law one gift each, a gift card, and a few odds-and-ends. A few others I care about receive a gift and many good wishes. I don’t expect anyone to buy me more candles and figurines to fill my dusty shelves. I know that with the love of a few friends and family members, I have everything I need.

I concentrate on spending time with people. I like to cook, and I enjoy planning quiet dinners, gathering the family, and watching old movies together. I appreciate going to parties and events, and spending my time talking with old friends and coworkers who share my life throughout the year.

This year I hope to attend the Christmas play written by my friend Susan and produced by her church. I will spend time in my own church remembering that the birth of Jesus is the reason we celebrate the Christmas holiday at all. And I will be grateful for the gifts I have already received: my home and my loving family, supportive friends and encouraging colleagues, the feeling of meaning and purpose in my life, and the hope that the future will be even better in the years ahead.

This year I pray you celebrate Christmas in the way that is most meaningful for you. I hope you receive all you wish for this holiday season.

How do you like to celebrate Christmas? What traditions do you enjoy?


It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn toward gratitude, and we are made more aware of the many gifts and blessings we share. Here is my list of the top 10 things I am grateful for this Thanksgiving.

I love spending an evening at home with my family, and I’m grateful anytime we can share a quiet dinner together.


Apple pie and coffee are a perfect ending to that dinner at home.

I’m starting a new quilt to wrap around someone I love. I’ve collected a pile of old tee shirts that will soon become something new and useful.


I love to spend an afternoon reading on the couch. This is what I’m reading now.



This cute electric heating stove creates cozy warmth for my home.


I love my old soft, fuzzy slippers,



And my old owl print pajamas.



Every year I get nostalgic about classic Christmas films. My favorites are: It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and Elf. Click here to check out the Freeform Channel’s 25 Days of Christmas movie schedule.


I love this great source for Christmas presents. I won’t spoil the surprise by showing photos of the gifts I bought, but I recommend ordering from John’s Crazy Socks. When I received my order, I was touched to also find a personal note from the company’s co-owner, John. A portion of sales proceeds supports the Special Olympics and Down syndrome awareness.

I am grateful for my family, for my husband, my daughter, and son-in-law, for Bratty Maddie, and all the friends who have supported and encouraged me throughout this year. Thank you all, and I wish you the happiest holidays!

What are you thankful for this holiday season?


I am thankful for the autumn leaves, cooling breeze, and sunlit skies.

I am thankful for God’s constant care and the ways he shows his faithfulness each day.

I am grateful for warming mugs of coffee or cider and all the tastes this season brings.

I give thanks for another day to make a difference and move a step closer to fulfilling my goals.

I am grateful for time to spend with family and friends, for warm dinners around the table, and for the home that shelters and comforts us.

I am grateful for the knowledge that all life has meaning and we are all loved by God.

I hope that you will know you are blessed and feel the love and presence of God. This Thanksgiving season, I offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s unending love and grace.

What are you grateful for this season?


Father, thank you for all the goodness of your creation that surrounds us. Please help us see all the beauty in our world.

Thank you for all you do to protect and provide for us, your children. Please be always our leader and King, our advisor and friend.

Help us follow the guidance of your Spirit as we learn to live and grow in peace. Help us help others by giving generously with care and compassion.

Be with us always to show us your ways, and teach us to show others your love. Thank you for the love of your Son who promises eternal life in your presence.

We love you, and we ask you to help us remember how blessed we are to share life in this country.



“What is that supposed to be?”

We stopped before a crooked metal staircase that stretched up into nowhere. The plaque on the base read, “Where We Goin’?” and “Please do not climb on sculptures.” For a moment we contemplated the mysterious meaning of the twisted metal. I snapped a picture, then we moved on.


This morning the wind blew gently, stirring the leafy branches of the trees and the waving stalks of grass. The breeze blew mist toward us from the fountain in the center of the lake. Birds called overhead, and a blue heron watched us from where he stood in the water.

This morning I walked with my daughter, around and around the lake on a winding, narrow path. We walked through bright and sunny spots, alternated with shadowed and shady areas. We enjoyed the cool morning air, the warming summer sun, the sounds and scents of trees and water. We contemplated the towering metal sculptures that stood beside the lake’s circling path, and we enjoyed the time we set aside to spend together.

I love these leisurely walks with my family or longer wanderings by myself. A walk allows me to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, birds and flowers, trees and grass. Walking reminds me to be grateful for the grace of seasonal changes, sky and sun, wind and earth.

A walk clears my head, awakens my thoughts, clears a way for new ideas and inspiration. Walking allows me time to think, consider my purpose, and wonder where my path is taking me.

A walk with someone I care about offers a time for reconnection and conversation, sharing where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing, or just commenting on the world that turns around us.

“Look, there’s a ground squirrel.”


“He’s gone.”

Walking makes me feel alive and grateful for all the world has to offer. A walk encourages me to commune with the God who created that world and gives us the power and freedom of movement to enjoy it.

This morning, I encourage you to take a walk with someone you love. Find a way to step outside and enjoy the brilliance God has given us to share.

For information on the physical and emotional health benefits of walking, click here or here. For tips on beginning a walking program, check here; or for a plan on losing weight by walking, try here.

How can you enjoy a walk on this summer day? What is your favorite aspect of taking a walk outdoors?


This morning I am giving thanks for all the blessings of my life, and I am considering how I can best use this day.

Today I am thankful for warming summer breezes, blooming flowers, and sheltering trees.

I am thankful for the love of family and the support of friends who share my life.

I am thankful for receiving all I need and possessing an excess to share with others.

I am thankful for the protection of God’s love and the knowledge that he is ever with me.

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:29).

Today I can pray for someone besides myself and ask God to share his comfort, courage, and peace.

I can meet someone else’s need by sharing what I have and showing my compassion for others’ troubles and cares.

I can leave my comfortable, safe places to meet others in need wherever they may be.

I can encourage my friends with positive words and wishes for their success.

I am thankful for you! Thank you for reading these words and sharing my goal to support and strengthen others.

What are you thankful for today? How can you use this day to comfort and inspire someone in need?