How do you feel about the holiday season? Do you dread it? Do you welcome it? Are you over-the-top bursting at the seams with excitement for it? Do you love buying and receiving gifts? Or is this season a financial strain for you? Feeling pressured, do you choose to go into debt in order to give more than you can afford?
Do you have a big “family tree” with many of the branches coming together to celebrate? Or do you have a “family bush” with step-people, ex-people, half-people, etc. that makes it a difficult season? Do you have gobs of friends that gather for all sorts of parties? Or do you have only a few friends but they are busy with their own families during this time? Perhaps you have a combination of all of this along with some good, some strained, or maybe even some estranged relationships?
For those in the “bush” category, you are my people! I see you and I feel you. This season can be especially hard as we navigate how best to celebrate with all of the bushiness.
For those of you who have strained or estranged relationships, you are my people! I see you and I feel you. It is difficult to not feel sorry for ourselves—especially when we see all of the big beautiful trees—not Christmas trees but people with lush family trees.
For those of you who get “wrapped up” in all the wrapping up of gifts you are buying—regardless of how empty your pocketbook might be, you are my people—I’ve been there and done that. It can feel especially heavy as we frantically search for the perfect gifts for everyone in order to see their joy—despite the lack of money in our bank accounts. And it becomes even heavier as we face the reality of the debt we accumulate in order to give what we don’t even have.
I wonder, is there a better way? We can’t change others, our past, or our mistakes. So, what can we change? How about our attitude and our ways going forward?
One of my dearest friends, Stephanie, has the most glorious family tree you can imagine. As our friendship has deepened and we spend more time together, I often hear her speak about her parents, children, siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, etc. There are so many branches and twigs that sway wonderfully together, I sometimes feel jealousy starting to bubble up.
But then I change my attitude and I speak the truth to myself. We are different. She has a tree because she and the people in her extended family have made decisions to be pruned by the Master Gardener (God) so that it could grow beautifully. I have a bush because the people in my extended family made different decisions, choosing instead to prune themselves—cutting off branches and stunting their growth.
I can’t change who the gardener was or those I had no control over. But since I have control over myself, I can choose the Master Gardener to help shape my tree going forward. And I don’t have to be jealous of Stephanie’s tree—I can be thrilled that she gets to enjoy the beauty of it and grateful to have a friend who is willing to love me and my bushy past.
Another of my dearest friends, Lisa, has a thorny-kind of bush. Her extended family did some bad pruning, taught her how to prune poorly, and she’s been pricked in unimaginable ways. But then she found the Master Gardener and has begun to allow Him to prune well. That being said, it takes time for us to see the fruit of what good pruning can produce. So, as she waits, her heart is often sad for the losses she has endured.
In the middle of October, Lisa was struggling with the sad feelings she was experiencing and she didn’t want them to worsen during Thanksgiving. So, she reached out to me for prayer. I prayed for her and also encouraged her in things she might do—including inviting her to my Thanksgiving table. Lo and behold, the most glorious thing happened—she and her husband flew halfway across the country to be a part of our family for Thanksgiving. I cannot tell you how many “thanks we were giving” to be together in a bushy-sort of garden.
I have been studying Proverbs in my Bible lately. I’ve read this book many times, though I’ve not always understood some of the verses. So, this time, as I am combing through the chapters, I’ve been seeking help beyond my study Bible. In one of my quests to understand a passage, I sought help online and happened upon a website called Letgodbetrue.com. The website breaks down each and every verse from the entire book of Proverbs. How wonderfully helpful it has been to understand verses that I never grasped before.
Proverbs 27:10 (KJV) says “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of calamity; for better is a neighbor that is near than a brother far off.” What, does this all mean?
Let’s try a different translation (NIV) for more clarity as I often do. “Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family, and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.” Do you understand the verse better in this version? I still struggle.
Letgodbetrue.com helped me grasp the meaning of the verse by explaining the bits and pieces of the passage and then putting it all together. I love that I found this resource to help me more fully understand what I am studying.
For this particular passage, the website talks about what a great friendship entails then it goes on to say, “When trouble comes, and it will come, you want a real friend to stand with you, one that loves at all times and considers your problems to be his own. You want a friend that thinks the same way as you and will stand with you no matter the cost or difficulty. A cultivated friendship based on character, conviction, truth, and wisdom will far surpass the expected help of a natural brother that is only connected to you by blood and name.”
How wonderfully this speaks to my heart—especially during this season. I have two sisters by blood—one is a full sister and one is a half-sister. Sadly, I am estranged from both. Yet, in this season of thankfulness and everything that is supposed to be good, I have been given a reminder that I am incredibly blessed to have my two sisters in Christ—Stephanie and Lisa!
Further down in Proverbs 27, more words of wisdom had me perplexed in verse 18 which says, “The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit, and whoever protects their master will be honored.” Good grief! What does it even mean?
My study Bible helped me decipher this verse a little in breaking it down to say, “With all the problems and concerns a leader has, it can be easy to overlook the very people who most deserve attention—faithful employees (those who attend the fig trees). The people who stand behind you, who work hard and help you get the job done, deserve to share in your success. Be sure that in all your worrying, planning, and organizing, you don’t forget the people who are helping you the most”.
How true this is! In considering the people who have been with us the longest—our core team and truly part of our family, we announced this year that we would be closing Black Friday to give them all a four-day weekend with their families and they would be receiving holiday pay for both days. It was our way of saying “Thank You” and “please share in our success” to all these special people for what they have done and continue to do, and for how they care.
One thing I have learned in the many years of business ownership is that you can teach many things but it’s next to impossible to teach grown adults how to care.
We recently had a video made for our shop by Media Core. There is something about being in front of a camera that makes me uncomfortable—I tend to babble, stutter, and make no sense because the words seem to get jumbled just because the camera is recording me. My how I prayed before the camera crew came! I didn’t just pray that my words would be clear but I prayed that our story would be clear. The bottom line is, we care and our people care—and that is what I wanted to come through.
Media Core made it easy for me. As I sat nervously in the chair for my interview, something about their ways made me more relaxed as I just shared what was on my heart. What they ultimately put together was exactly what we hoped for. Click here to see it for yourself.
Here’s the thing, when people care, work hard, and serve one another in the work place, something amazing happens—serving begets serving. So, as we serve our people and show them how much we care, they then serve our customers and one another to show their care—and in doing this, they are also serving us. It’s is a beautiful full circle of care.
How do you care for others? Where are you on the hard working and serving spectrum? Do you do both with all your heart and energy? Do you see the fruit produced by the way you live your life? Or do you think about how valuable you are and so expect others to serve you?
What is interesting is that Proverbs 27:18 doesn’t just reveal the value of those already in your business family. According to Letgodbetrue.com, it reveals how to become a person that has value in a business for it says:
“Reader, how do you keep your fig tree? Faithful diligence brings honor. Waiting on your master brings promotion. Do not complain; get to work. You need sanctification more than you need education. You do not need brilliance; you need diligence. You do not need an opportunity; you need humility. Your greatest ability should be dependability. Graciousness will always trump genius.”
That’s the care I have spoken of. It is hard to teach someone to care—but when they do care by taking special care of their “fig tree”, the sky is the limit.
This reminds me of my husband, Jeremy who started off as a floor scrubber at a national auto repair chain when he was seventeen. He guarded his fig tree, he protected his masters along the way and he is ultimately eating the fruit of his labor. What is that fruit besides owning a successful business? It is pouring into others and caring about them so that they can go into the world and pour into others and care about them. It’s one of the most rewarding fruits that can come from one who labors over his lifetime.
Friends, has our society lost the good work ethic of generations past? Has it lost the serving spirit and forgotten how good it feels to think of others before oneself? Has it lost the ability to care? Is it because care is not being taught? Is it because we are trying to prune ourselves instead of allowing the Master Gardener to prune us? And when we take the Master Gardener out of our lives, out of our work places, and out of our nation, does the garden change? Does it become many bushes rather than a forest of beautifully pruned trees that produce good fruit?
As we ponder these questions and wonder how to have the best attitudes and ways in life and for this holiday season, I have three pieces of advice:
#1 Choose people—for they are the best gifts.
Recently in a devastating situation in my life, my friend, Stephanie dropped everything—every single thing, in order to make an emergency last-minute long road trip with me. She simply said, “People are more important than things”. She chose me over the things she had planned.
As you go about your shopping and preparations for the Christmas season, might you learn from my friend? Do not go into debt by giving more than you have in your wallet but give all you have in your heart—for one of the best gifts is your time and a heart of love.
#2 Serve people—for the fruit it produces multiples.
Serve people in your home and in your workplace. Serve them in all your ways and in everything you do. For when you serve you will teach others to do the same, you will bless those you serve, and you will be blessed as the fruit multiplies.
#3 Know God—for His pruning is the best kind.
Allow God to prune your family tree and show you how to guard your fig tree. Get in His word which is filled with wisdom and guidance that covers everything—including how to choose and serve people well. And when you are gleaning the wisdom from Proverbs and need clarification, check out Letgodbetrue.com!
Let us end with words from the ultimate Pruner and Master Gardener:
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not for human masters” Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13 (NIV)
And finally, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (KJV)
God is with us—everywhere we go and in everything we do. He is our ultimate gift—the reason we celebrate this season. So, as you celebrate, bring God in—bring him into your heart, into your giving, into your serving, into your family, into your words, and into your life. I wish you all a God-filled and blessed Christmas.