Day 14 of Holiday Traditions // Sandi Hodge

A Time for New Year Margins

I grew up in a family that owned a seasonal business and, wouldn’t you know it, that business peaked during my two favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My parents worked long hours during this time. My brother and I were well provided for, loved and  taught a strong work ethic. My parents always made sure we had plenty of presents to open. However, they were absolutely exhausted by the time Christmas came.

As we grew older, we celebrated at home without extended family and, honestly, there wasn’t much to it. I remember longing…I mean, having a deep, heartfelt longing for a room full of noisy family, holiday food, and Christmas chaos. But can you just imagine how my precious parents felt? The last thing they wanted was a room full of people.

I resolved as a young mother that I would celebrate the holidays to the hilt - and I did. When we lived in Atlanta, we hosted the family Christmas party for my husband’s huge family and also a party for 25-30 close friends every year. We had craft night and made those beautiful sweatshirts - you remember the kind - the ones with material cutouts from Walmart. We made delightful smelling cinnamon ornaments and elaborate gingerbread houses. We fed the homeless, attended preschool programs, dance programs, and directed choir programs. We went to the Macy's parade AND the Nutcracker. We baked dozens of cookies and made special recipes. I pretty much created a schedule full of Christmas chaos…the kind I had dreamed of celebrating. It was magical but by Christmas Day, I was absolutely exhausted...just like my Mom!

A sweet friend from bible study pointed out that maybe God didn’t intend for us to partake of EVERY good thing and perhaps we would benefit from my being a bit more discerning with our schedule. Really??? My feelings were hurt but that initial reaction eventually gave way to conviction. I was giving no real consideration to what went on the calendar. And so, I began to pray about how our family would spend our holidays. Many “things” were eliminated.

But the traditions that have remained constant for us are the simplest of things. We decorate the tree the same way every year. John and I place our wedding angel on the tree first and then in birth order each child hangs their “first” ornament. Then the music gets turned up as we complete the decorations with the evening usually ending in a talent show. The noisy family fun that I longed for as a child fills our home. On Christmas Eve, we open family gifts and then head to the kitchen table to play games. Before bed, we prepare the pineapple cheese casserole that we have had EVERY single Christmas morning for 28 years! I look around at the mess and my heart is so full!

As my friend challenged me so many years ago, I would encourage you to set aside time to evaluate how your family is spending holidays and how you will be spending your time in general for this upcoming New Year. Ask God if there are things that you need to let go. God wants us to have the desires of our heart but sometimes we need to create a little margin in our schedule for Him to work.

“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” Hebrews 4:11

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Father God,

Forgive us when we get ahead of you. Thank you for placing people in our lives that gently guide us back to center. Thank you for giving us the deepest desires of our heart.

Because of Jesus, Amen

  • What drives you to feel like you have to do it all? Confess any pride or insecurities to the Lord and walk in forgiveness!
  • Pray over your current schedule asking the Lord to show you where adjustments need to be made/desires need to be changed.
  • Ask your family to tell you three things you do that makes them feel important to you.
  • What would make your holidays and 2017 with your family more enjoyable for you and for them?

Please share your response in the comments section below or join the conversation with our Facebook Community Group. #undividedwomen

// Sandi

Pineapple Cheese Casserole

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 6 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 2 (20 oz.) cans pineapple chunks, drained but reserve liquid for first step
  • 1 to 2 cups of medium or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 cup Ritz Cracker crumbs

Butter a shallow two quart casserole. Mix together the first three ingredients and pour into casserole dish. Spoon drained pineapple chunks over mixture. Cover pineapple with grated cheese. Mix Ritz Cracker crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over cheese. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until brown and bubbly

Sandi and John have been married 31 years and little did they know when the journey began that God would give them 3 children…7 years apart. Sandi grew up in Dothan and graduated from Auburn University beginning her married life and career in Gwinnett County, Georgia. After working for Gwinnett Schools for several years, she became the Preschool Director at her church for the next 10 years. Sandi and her family moved back to Dothan in 2005. She enjoys reading and traveling as well as her volunteer work with several local organizations. Sandi now runs the family business, Shute Pecan Company since her Mother’s retirement in 2011. She and her family attend Wiregrass Church. Sandi loves Dothan and always enjoys the opportunity to tell customers visiting the area about what makes it GREAT!