Monthly Archives: December 2015

Imperfect Christmas

Imperfect Christmas

imperfect Christmas ibelieveinjoy

Imperfect Christmas

by Joy

My family and I spent the day driving up to the mountains up North by the Mogollon Rim to pick out and cut down our family’s Christmas Evergreen tree. The process itself brought so much anticipation and suspenseful joy. Waiting to get the permit for weeks… Packing the snow gear into the jeep… The amazing moment of finally holding the official permit in our hands… And then the jubilation of 4-wheeling up the mountain and finding the perfect spot to pick out our perfect Christmas tree.

jeep mogollon rim ibelieveinjoy
After another hour of speculating, comparing, deciding, we finally turned and all saw THE TREE we instantly agreed on. There were millions of trees in the forest but this one was special to us. We made a connection. A relationship. Right away we laughed at one crooked branch that looked like a smile. One twisted bunch of pine cones that shimmered like a star in the evergreens branches.

With snow at our feet and the sun on our backs, we bent down with a handsaw and each took turns sawing at the beautiful bark. On hands and knees, each of our kids sawed their hearts out and then dad and mom finished the cut, while everyone yelled, timber!

Ecstatic cheers and giggles erupted and then snowballs flew like confetti. We had cut our own Christmas tree!! Like a prized jewel we loaded it onto the top of the jeep and made sure it was safe and secure.

our christmas tree on jeep ibelieveinjoy

“Is she OK up there?!” The kids took turns asking as we drove the two hour ride from the mountain Mogollon rim back to the city. “Yes she’s doing great,” we replied, and we smiled as the whistle of the wind through her needles sang us our going home song.

We had been preparing a month for her arrival, and the empty tree stand isolated in the center of our living room now received its mate. The tree branches, uneven, yet inviting, burst forth in generosity stretching farther than expected into our living room corners.
The crooked branch giggled at us and we laughed back at it. It was a little odd looking yes, but the purity from nature: the imperfections, true reality, un-photo-shopped excellence provided us a reprieve from everything mass commercialized , genetically modified, artificially & intentionally altered.

We loved her. Imperfections and all.

We immediately gave her water and began decorating her with hand-made trinkets from over the years. We trusted her imperfect branches to hold our cherished family memories dangled from ribbon and decorated with lights.

christmas ibelieveinjoy

“Ding dong!” The doorbell rang, and our neighbors rushed in from a day of shopping. We clamored to introduce them to our new family member, THE TREE.

“Ohhhhhh. It looks gooood.” Said their response but their faces seemed like, “that’s kind of a funny looking tree.”

After they left I sat there amazed that anyone couldn’t see the beauty in my tree. The 28 years it spend growing (we counted every ring on the trunk to date it as soon as we had cut it down) seemed like a personal blessing to us. The time we spend getting to know the tree in the forest and see where it started, and how far it had come. We knew of the imperfections and we loved it anyway. Not to mention how we cared for it for the long two hour drive back home earlier that same day. We had a relationship with this tree and it could never be understood at first glance.

I realized that as Christians at Christmas, we are like this tree.

Some might think that because we believe in God that we should be perfect. But I’m not. I have imperfections and weaknesses and branches that stick out too far.  I might look odd to a number of people. I may stand out. And, just like that tree, where I stand today is a long journey away from where I started.

But I’m in a relationship.

I believe that as I spend time tending that relationship with God that he will continue to grow me, change me, and develop me.
Some days, we run the risk of cutting down and judging others at first glance by their imperfections.
But that is not the measure of our lives. At Christmas especially, many of us are waiting, expecting, looking for perfection from so much around us. We seek perfection from gifts,  holidays, people, and even from God.

But I’m learning this year that I should never let my expectations of perfection cause me to miss out on appreciating reality.

As Christians, at Christmas and every day, we have an amazing opportunity to be our imperfect selves ~

To appreciate the spot we began, to recognize the parts about us that are imperfect and may need to be trimmed back, and to embrace the reality that where we stand today is not the same spot as where we started.

And to be thankful for the gift of being in a relationship with a loving God. Even though we are not perfect, we cannot be afraid to shine his light from our life.

We are given the responsibility of carrying God’s gift of love in our imperfect branches.

We are given the responsibility of carrying God’s gift of love in our imperfect branches and he gives us his gift of grace which makes us new every morning. Rooted in that relationship, during the Christmas season and every day of the year, we can continue to grow every day, just like the Christmas evergreen trees. Imperfect branches of progress illuminated by the perfect gift of loving grace. 

Loving kindness never fails ibelieveinjoy

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Sweet Potato Pecan Delight

Sweet Potato Pecan Delight

by Joy

Disclaimer: contains affiliate links.

Sweet Potato Pecan Delight

This recipe is too good not to share. I love organic sweet potatoes. I love them any way they are cooked. Yet, for the holidays, I wanted a sweet potato side that everyone would love. I spend years perfecting this recipe, and now you simply get to revel in the delight of it. I call it Sweet Potato Pecan Delight. You can thank my family for the years of trial and perfection it took to create this. They were always eager to sample it!! This is one of my indulgent sides because I only make it during the holidays. You can easily substitute items out to meet your food needs. I  make one tray without the pecans for my girls who are allergic to nuts. Here’s what to do:

  1. Assemble your pan (I used this style because it was a gift) and preheat your oven to 350F.

Sweet Potato Delight ibelievinjoy 1

2. Peel 6 organic sweet potatoes. Cut into even cubes. Boil until soft (about 15 minutes or so, test with a fork).

3. Once they are soft through, strain out excess water and place while still warm into a large electronic mixing bowl. (Do not allow them to cool off). Place into the electronic mixer the warm sweet potatoes, 1 stick of organic butter such as my favorite, Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter – Unsalted (8 ounce), 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract, 1/3 cup of organic brown cane sugar. Blend until completely smooth and no big chunks.

4. If you can refrain from eating the entire bowl at this point, place the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan. If your sweet potatoes were very large, this might fill up two pans. You want the depth only about 1 inch, you need room for the delightful pecan topping.

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5. Set the sweet potato trays to the side and now use a clean medium sized mixing bowl to prepare the delightful pecan topping. (I only make this once a year! Ok, maybe twice 😉 You will need: 2 cups halved or roughly chopped pecans (such as Jansal Valley Raw Pecan Pieces), 1/3 cup organic brown cane sugar, 1/4 cup organic flour of choice, 5 TBS butter. 

Sweet Potato Delight ibelieveinjoy 26. I always mix these items together with clean hands. The reason is I like to keep the structure of the pecans and I can feel instantly when it is perfect – the mixture should resemble a crumble with the pecans each coated in the delightful topping.

I always make the topping by hand.

I always make the topping by hand.

7. Once the topping is finished, sprinkle it in an even layer on top of the sweet potato filled pans. This is now transforming into your new favorite holiday dish ~ Sweet Potato Pecan Delight. Depending on the size of your sweet potatoes, you may have one or two pans made. You can easily make more crumble if you need to. You basically just want a thin layer over the entire top of the sweet potato.

Sweet Potato Delight ibelieveinjoy 5

8. You now have done the hardest part ~ refrained from eating it before your guests. So, you can either – cover with foil and wait until you need to cook it (can prep it all in the morning and cook it just before dinner time), or you can cook it right now. 

9. To bake it: keep uncovered. Bake @ 350F until warm throughout (about 30 minutes) then increase to 400F and bake another 10 minutes or so until the top layer is just crisp. Do not burn those pecans 🙂 This dish is so easy, so delicious, and will delight your family and guests. Enjoy your special day! Love ~ Joy

Sweet Potato Pecan Delight

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