Friday, December 27, 2019

A Gift for You . . . From You

As you toss out the Christmas gift wrappings, consider gifts to upwrap for yourself in the new year. Look back with 2020 vision. What do you wish you had done in 2019? What are your regrets? What might you have completed by now if you had only started? Look ahead. What possibilities do you see in the following areas of life?

·       Health – How might you improve your health? A new condition I developed requires I eat a low-salt diet. Now, I’ve always known that too much salt is bad for you, so I go light on salt when cooking. But I never realized the sodium content of processed foods or restaurant fare.

I try to consume less than 1500 milligrams of sodium a day. Do you know that a slice of bread holds anywhere from 130 to 230 milligrams? American cheese can have up to 400 milligrams in an ounce. Even lean chicken meat, because it’s infused with a water/sodium mixture, contains sodium.

Then there’s restaurant food. My favorite Olive Garden minestrone has 810 mg.; the bread sticks with garlic topping, 460; and the salad with dressing, 770. Guess I’ll eat fruit for breakfast and dinner if I lunch at Olive Garden.*

Yes, it’s hard. It requires time and effort. But it leaves me feeling healthy and well. So it’s worth it all. What adjustments in the areas of diet and exercise might make you feel better? Think about it.

·       Family and Friends – How might you improve relationships? Sometimes we get too busy to entertain, too busy to visit. But our mental health depends on good relationships.

One Sunday afternoon we, on the spur of the moment, visited a son’s family. While they were surprised, they welcomed us, and we enjoyed a delightful time.

We are social people. We need each other. I would like to invite people in or visit people at least once a month. Bill and I could visit shut ins. We need to cultivate friendships and stay in touch with relatives.

·       Enjoyment – What gives you pleasure? Last May I listed a dozen short day trips Bill and I might take during the summer months. I cut the list into slips and put them in a jar. Each week we pulled a slip and did what it said.

These were simple pleasures. For example, we browsed through The Kitchen Shoppe in Carlisle, dined at BJ’s in Selinsgrove and went to the movies. Simple pleasures. Maybe you’d like to take a vacation or just start a stamp collection. Put something on the calendar. Or in a jar.

·       Generosity – I need to be more giving. I’ve started by looking at my clothes. As I put away the last of my summer clothes, my storage chest overflowed. So rather than buy a tub, I sorted enough clothes to give to charity so that I could add the rest of the clothes to my chest.

Do you use the library? Do you contribute to its upkeep? What charities do you support? Each year I make a donation to Samaritan’s Purse in honor of my grandchildren. They send you cards to give honorees telling them that you’ve purchased a goat for a family, etc., or, as I did this year, contributed to a missions hospital. I have a grandson training to be a doctor, so I thought that would be a good choice. Then, of course, there’s your church. Do you tithe? Think about how you might cultivate a more generous life.

·        Spiritual Growth – Do you feel connected to God? Are you confident that if you die tonight you will go to heaven? You can be. Jesus paid the price for your salvation. You can read all about it in the Bible. The gospel of John is a good place to start. Do you know if you spend 5 minutes a day reading your Bible, you’ll read through the New Testament in a year. Here’s a link to such a plan:

Do you take time to pray? Yes, God already knows your needs, but how does he get to know you if you never talk to him? We talk to our spouses and our children and our friends and our coworkers. Don’t neglect taking to God.

Think outside the box. Pray about world events while reading the newspaper or watching the news. Take a walk in nature and thank God for the beauty of creation. Before you fall asleep, thank him for the blessings of the day. He wants to hear from you.

I’m assuming you go to church. If you don’t, the new year offers fresh opportunities to connect with a congregation. Visit churches in your area until you find one that challenges you to worship and grow.

In closing, I remind you that you will not have 2020 vision as you look ahead. Only God knows what lies around the bend. (“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11) But you do yourself a huge favor if you enter the year mindfully rather than helter-skelter. Sit down with a pen and have some fun thinking about what God might have for you in 2020.

*Ate at Olive Garden yesterday and discovered a Mediterranean menu with light, lower-sodium foods! They also offer a light dressing for the salad and bread sticks without the topping. So happy!

No comments: