Room for Cream

Hot Tea Anita Austvika UnsplashIt was a crisp but comfortable winter day in Austin. Steve and I were still Houstonians at the time, but had come for a visit and were doing the requisite South Congress walk. We passed all sorts of gift shops and food trucks, none of which merited much of a stop for either of us. Then we saw it—Tom’s Coffee Shop. Tom’s looks like an old but well-loved house, complete with two porch swings and a basket of blankets. Inside, there’s all sorts of coffee and tea from which to choose and a decent array of tempting snacks. Steve saved a spot for us on one of those cozy swings while I placed our order. Remembering that we were on vacation, I asked the barista to leave plenty of room for cream. Then, heading over to the “fix up your cup” table, I added a healthy dose of dairy and agave to each steaming treat and headed outside. We sat. We sipped. We watched the people go by.

I’ve lived in Austin for over a year now. I’ve only gone to Tom’s once since our move, and for a rather quick stop at that. Life fills up. We’ve had other great adventures in lieu of tea on Tom’s porch. But now we’re heading into the holidays and I’m reminded that it’s okay—maybe even very important—to leave “room for cream” more often than not.

Of course, I’m not really talking about half and half. I’m talking about the little extras in life, the non-essentials that actually add a great deal of pleasure to the basics. If you’ve already conquered your type A tendencies, you may not need to read any further. If you’re like me, though, you need these reminders:

Yes, God made us to glorify him, and that often means putting in a great deal of effort as we seek to do his will and follow his lead.

But, he also created us to enjoy him, and I think that includes enjoying the world he made and the pleasant moments he puts within our grasp. We don’t need to stay in constant accomplishment mode. Otherwise, he never would have said, “Be still…”

As the holidays come calling, there’s certainly value in answering with gusto the opportunities to bless others and spread the word that Christ the Savior is born.

But maybe this is the year to remember that celebration is meant to be a gift, not a challenge. A few quiet moments here and there (with tea, perhaps?) may be more important than planning or attending a perfect party.

And so, as we move from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’m wishing you a wonderful holiday season and plenty of moments with room for cream!


Photo by Anita Austvika  via


Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas, and may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him!

Thanks for reading!


The Candy Cane (By Beth Smith)


(For the next four weeks, each post will be an abridged excerpt from Every Wednesday Morning, written by my mom, Beth Smith. If you want to read all 64 devotional essays in their full length form, you can grab a copy of her book at )

Welcome to the Christmas season! Since candy canes are popping up in stores everywhere, I thought I’d share with you a few legends regarding their origin:

  • One story says that in 1670 a choirmaster at the cathedral in Cologne, Germany, handed out sticks of sugar to his young singers to keep them quiet during the long Living Nativity Ceremony at Christmas, bending them into shepherds’ crooks in honor of the occasion.
  • Another says that in 1847 a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, decorated a small spruce tree with paper ornaments and white candy sticks.
  • We do know that, around 1920, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as Christmas gifts for his friends and family, twisting and bending each piece by hand. The story goes that in the 1950’s, a relative of Bob’s invented a machine that automated the candy cane’s production and made Bob’s Candies, Inc. one of the world’s largest producers of that Christmas treat.

I thought it would also be interesting to look at some of the Christian symbolism of the candy cane today:

  • Turned with the curve up, the candy does indeed look like a shepherd’s crook. We know that Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for us.
  • The “J” that the candy makes when the curve is down stands for the name of Jesus. And that is the greatest name of all. It calls us to worship and brings power to our prayers.
  • The hardness of the candy is a reminder that that Jesus is the Rock. He is stronger than anything the world can throw at us.
  • The white of the candy points to the purity of Jesus. Christ was without sin, even though he was tempted. Because of this, we can go to him for help with our own temptations.
  • The red stripes on the candy may stand for the blood Christ shed for us on the cross. In the words of an old hymn, “His blood can make the foulest clean.” His death, his blood, covers our sins so that we are made right with God.

Who does Jesus want to believe in Him? All of us. All of us! It is not his will that even one of us be lost. That’s what Christmas is all about.

So maybe it’s not “just a candy cane” any more. It’s a reminder of our Lord and his love for all of us. Merry Christmas!

I Get To


Welcome to the holiday blitz. Are you ready? I’m not asking if your tree is already up and your shopping started and your cookies baked… I’m wondering if you are ready inside. I am, by the grace of God, more ready than I’ve ever been, because this year I’ve looked at Christmas, Easter, and every other big moment in life and realized they aren’t as important to me as the little moments in life. I’ve asked myself a dozen times what is important to me. Trees and shopping and cookies are nice, but they don’t really make the cut. Family, friends, worship, rest, health, noticing life—those things make the cut.

Last year, we didn’t put up a tree. Christmas happened anyway. This year, I only put up half of our decorations. The other half can have its turn next year. I will shop, but I’ll remember that, during my last visit with 6 month old Nick, his favorite toys were an empty shampoo bottle and a red Solo cup. ‘Sorta wish I’d learned all these lessons when my children were small.

There will be moments in this holiday season, and in all the seasons thereafter, when life outpaces me, when it will seem that the demands to serve are greater than my time and energy allow. Then I will try to remember what my pastor taught me last week. “I get to” is an attitude that will trump “I have to” every time.

Do you have to do the dishes or run a bunch of errands? I have a wheelchair-bound friend who would love to get to do that.

Do you have to read a stack of papers or pay a stack of bills? My nearly sightless friend would gladly trade places with you for a day.

Do you have to rise in the wee hours, yet again, to care for a sleepless child? My sweet daughter-in-law calls her midnight vigils “bonus time” with her baby. She gets it. She gets to.

This year, I will think first before diving into what I once thought was required of me at Christmas.  If it isn’t important, I just might skip it. And when my list looks long anyway, I’ll remember that, regarding all that life requires of me both now and as the new year begins, I get to.