We really tend to get caught up in "stuff", especially this time of year. Making your list and checking it twice - what do I want, what am I going to get my brother, I have to find the cutest wrapping paper and the best deals! But when it comes down to it, this is meaningless. Yes, you will like your gifts and your mom will love that necklace you bought her, but these are still just things.
This is the season for giving gifts, but we often forget what the real gift should be. This season is about love, people. God loved us so much that he sacrificed his only child for us (can you imagine that?! Your ONLY child! Take a second to think about how you would feel if you gave up your child?! I'm heart-wrenched just thinking about it!). In turn, Jesus himself loved us so much that he willingly sacrificed himself, he died, for us! Those are big gifts. That's bigger than any Barbie Penthouse that Mattel can make.
Even if you don't believe in God, or you aren't sure about the whole "religion thing", you should believe in love, because love is true. I'm not just talking about finding your soul mate here. Think of your Mom, your sister, your cousins and aunts, your BFF from first grade, your dog. The lady down the street who always smiles at you, the mailman who always takes the extra second to bring that box to your door. Love is real, and it surrounds you everyday. Are you willing to give the gift of love?
There are so many people who are in need, and not just this time of year. So please, instead of focusing on going to the mall and getting that perfect present, think about what gift you can truly give this year?
- Heifer International is a wonderful organization that helps people around the world who struggle to feed their families. By giving the gift of a chicken, rabbits, a goat, or even a cow, you will give a family the ability change the future of their lives. It's simple. You give $20 and buy a family a flock of ducks. The family learns to care for the ducks, gains vital protein into their diets, they can also begin to sell feathers, meat and eggs, their ducks help to fertilize and remove bugs from their crops. You could change a family's entire way of life.
- World Vision is another great organization where you can buy gifts that include livestock, clothing, food, water and shelter for children and families around the world. Is your mom a teacher? Why don't you outfit an entire classroom in Africa in her name? Is your uncle a businessman? Why not help to fund a microloan so someone with a dream can become an entrepreneur and feed his family?
- Help someone in need right in your neighborhood. Maybe they just need a meal, or a gallon of milk, or a pack of diapers. Ask your local pastor, your neighbor. One way or another, you will find a family in need.
- Help out your own child's school. Ask your son's art, music, or science teacher what new materials they could use for their classroom. Donate some new toys or books to your daycare, or better yet, a daycare in a lower income area.
- Have your kids help you buy presents for babies and children that are homeless. Or who are very sick, maybe even dying, at the hospital. And while you are there, ask any parents you see if you can bring them some lunch, a cup of coffee, anything they might need.
If you can't afford to really give something away, think about where you can give the gift of your time, your presence.
- Go to a homeless shelter or food bank and help cook dinner. Then sit and eat and talk with the people who are spending the night there.
- Go to a holiday party at a home for mentally handicapped adults. Many of these people have been abandoned by their own families, because they are different and require extra attention. But some of the most beautiful souls I have ever met have been mentally handicapped. Personally, I think they are a gift from God, because they get to keep their child-like innosence. They are love.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter. Cuddle, walk, play, and brush. Maybe bring someone home with you. Animals have feelings, too, and if they are in a shelter I can guarantee they are lost and scared, and need a reassuring pat. In fact, I challenge you to seek out the ugliest, dirtiest, most hyper one you can find, because I bet that is the one no one else is paying any attention to.
- Spend a few hours at a nursing home, play some cards, listen to some stories, hold someone's hand. Help feed someone. Nursing homes are often understaffed, and I know that growing old can be scary, but imagine if that were you, wheeled into the hallway to sit all day, by yourself? What if you no longer had the ability to feed yourself and had to wait for hours before it was your turn to have a nurse feed you?
- Offer to babysit for a friend (for free) so they can go shopping by themselves, and maybe even take a shower (you have no idea how big of a gift that could be!).
- Bake some cookies for someone, maybe for someone you don't even know.
The need is there. Do you have enough love to give?
This delicious sourdough banana bread is a new favorite. Not quite as cake like as some other banana breads can be, with also a bit more spice due to the lemon zest and ginger, its makes a great winter breakfast - especially warmed and slathered with butter!
Sourdough Banana Bread (Wild Yeast)
Yield: 2 Loaves
85 grams olive oil
85 grams butter, melted
300 grams brown sugar or honey
4 whole eggs, at room temperature
12 grams (1 Tablespoon) vanilla extract
grated lemon zest from 1 medium lemon
280 grams whole wheat flour
6 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
2.3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) baking soda
10.4 grams (1 Tablespoon) baking powder
3.8 grams (2 teaspoons) ground cinnamon
1.7 grams (1 teaspoon) ground ginger
475 grams mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
480 grams very ripe mashed bananas (about 4 medium bananas)
3/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts (I forgot to weigh this, sorry!)
Preheat your oven to 350.
Buter two metal loaf pans.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (paddle attachment), beat the oil, butter, and sugar (or honey) until smooth and combined.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Add the vanilla and lemon zest and continue to beat on medium-high speed until the mixture lightens in color.
Add the sourdough starter and mix on low speed until it is almost fully incorporated, but there are still a few streaks left.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix until just barely combined.
Add half of the smashed banana and mix.
Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and banana, alternating and mixing gently after each addition and end with the last of the flour.
Stir in the walnuts.
Pour into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour, or until a tester in the center comes out clean.
Cool for 30 minutes in the pan before taking the loaf out to cool in a wire rack.