View out the kitchen window.

                This is our first Christmas in our new home in Bend, Oregon.  Some of you know that we used to live here 26 years ago and it was from here I began my writing career telling the story of our leaving through the book HOMESTEAD.  We've attended the First Presbyterian Church in Bend a couple of times and I found myself tearful throughout.  Perhaps because of the music and the wit and wisdom of the pastors.  Perhaps because of the warm greetings given by many.  Maybe it's just the joy of sitting beside my husband at a time of year when joy bubbles up at the blessings we've been given not only in living in a lovely home carefully cared for by others before we arrived but to be here in time for a white Christmas with a heart of gratitude and a hope for the year ahead.
                We know that many of you are in transitions at this time of your life.  Some of you are down-sizing as we are.  Some are out of work, worried over health concerns, children or grandchildren, financial problems.   We send you words of encouragement and the promise to "be anxious for nothing." 
                For me, the gifts of this season begin with generosity: God's generous love for this earth and God's people, sending his son to be among us, to teach us the way to live with our neighbors and to give hope for turning around when we have taken wrong paths.  Jerry and I have had so many examples of generosity from around the world this past year and it is our desire to reflect that back to others in the year(s) ahead. We long ago discovered that if we exercise our generous genes, only good things can happen. 
                We have favorite charities -- The Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Young Life, the Moro Community Presbyterian Church, the Sherman Public School Library, Kiva, The Nature of
Words, many museums (Jerry says we could end up in the poor house with all our memberships to historical societies and museums!).   Some years ago we began making contributions on our electric Coop bills each month to assist those needing help with heating their homes.  We've already discovered a non-profit here in Bend, Common Table, that provides terrific meals at low costs (even gluten-free!) and enables people to purchase tokens that can be given to others for a good meal.  It's sponsored by three churches in Bend, Trinity Episcopal, Nativity Lutheran, First Presbyterian.  We have friends connected to each of those churches so it's a natural for us and we expect to eat there often and purchase tokens to give away.
                I share this with you at this time of year as a way of remembering how grateful we are that we have resources to make such contributions through the year.  We do it out of love; we do it for our own mental health.  Dr. Karl Menninger once said that the single most important indicator of a person's mental health was generosity.  "Generous people," he said, "are rarely mentally ill."
                So as we deal with the massive changes in almost every aspect of our lives that this move has created; as we express gratitude that we had a place to move to that we chose while still being able to have the ranch we worked so hard to create, we are also reminded that it is in giving that we truly receive.  However small you may think your contribution of time, treasure and talent might be, each is a gift we give ourselves when we make  a way for others.  That giving keeps us mentally healthy is just an added bonus.
                Jesus received gifts from wise men.  But long before that, he received the gifts of those around him including the cows that kept that stable warm, the roof over his head, and the love of others.  this season I hope you'll remember your own generosity through the year and continue to expand it as witness to the greatest gift of all.  As an old rancher once said to me, you can't repay the generosity of others; the best you can hope to do is pass it on.  It's my prayer that in this season you will pass on the gift of love, grace and forgiveness we've been given through our blessed savior Jesus Christ and we'll hope to do the same.
                                                Merry Christmas!  And Happy New Year!