Pineapples at Christmas? (Angel in the Kitchen)


Anyone who’s visited our home knows we’re crazy about birds! The walls in nearly every room are adorned with framed prints depicting bluejays, woodpeckers, cardinals and herons, to name a few. But there’s another decorating theme running through Woodhaven: pineapples!

We have friends in Hawaii who continue to send us gifts of handcrafted bowls, spoons and plaques featuring this giant golden fruit, but recently one of them jokingly proclaimed, “You guys need to pick another theme!” She said she’d just about exhausted all the tchotchkes that are available in the “Pineapple State”! Aloha?

So why are we crazy over pineapples? We have the design mounted above our kitchen entrance, on the wall next to the French doors, etched on goblets and mugs, imprinted on coasters and dinnerware; pineapples adorn our candlesticks and napkin rings, our serving pieces and — best of all — the centerpiece we place on the table each year at Christmastime. And as if these decorations weren’t enough, one of us greets our guests wearing tiny gold pineapple earrings! (Hint: it’s not Tom!)

One of these guests, a teenager named Nicolas who was visiting with his parents, spent nearly an entire weekend wandering about the rooms at Woodhaven counting all the pineapples he came across, including a few crafted into the antique furniture. Trust us, his imaginative little game of “Find the Pineapples” kept Nicolas busy for hours. That’s not to say, however, that the inside of our home looks like something out of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop! We try to … ahem … maintain a modicum of good taste and sensible order at Woodhaven!

Nevertheless, Nicolas finally asked quite politely, “What’s up with all the pineapples?” To answer this question, we need to return to the Colonial Days of America.  No, we don’t need a time machine, we can get there by car! We live within easy driving distance of the first capital of Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg, where the past of over 250 years ago is daily re-enacted.

As we stroll down the streets of Williamsburg we see … pineapples — lots of pineapples — on and above the doors, decorating signs and wreaths, even imprinted on tourist maps and brochures. In fact, the pineapple is one of the official symbols of this Colonial town, because the fruit has an interesting place in its early history.

Christmas decoration featuring pineapples, adorning a building in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

Columbus had discovered the pineapple on his second trip to the Caribbean in 1493. He took the spiky-skinned fruit back to Spain where it became both a novelty food and a sign of status and wealth. Europeans weren’t able to grow the fruit. At least, not until the first hot-houses were constructed — and those were only built on the grandest estates. So the tropical delicacy had to be imported from the Caribbean; and the fruit had to survive the long humid trip across the Atlantic. Much of the fruit rotted before reaching its destination, but the pineapples that did make it to European tables were expensive indeed!

In Colonial Williamsburg, England’s headquarters in America during the 1700s, pineapples continued to be viewed as luxury items. Whenever the fruit arrived on British merchant ships, a prosperous hostess would quickly send a buyer in the hope of claiming one of the scarce fruits. When she succeeded, she’d place the exotic fruit at the center of the dining table, where all her guests could admire it. At the conclusion of the meal, the pineapple was carved and served to her guests, who considered the rare and expensive fruit the ultimate expression of her hospitality!

The pineapple soon became the symbol of sincere and abundant hospitality, proclaiming “Welcome!”; “¡Bievenidos!”; “Shalom!” — and we’re all for hospitality! In fact, we believe that if people everywhere were more hospitable, we could solve most of the ills of our world.

But that’s why the pineapple motif appears throughout our home. We want our guests to feel welcomed at Woodhaven! And hey! Wanna know what’s really neat about hospitality and the pineapple? Pineapples contain a unique protein enzyme known as bromelain, an all-natural pain reliever. So again, the pineapple is a fitting reminder to be hospitable; because when you welcome people into your home, your act of hospitality goes a long ways to relieving the pain of isolation, loneliness and rejection.

As we celebrate the holidays, please consider opening your heart and home to those around you. And not just your family members. Extend your social circle beyond your friends and relatives. Reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, and the members of your community who often get left out of the Christmastime festivities: singles and people who have lost loved ones; military spouses whose husbands and wives are serving away from home; college students who can’t make it home for the holidays; shut-ins, who spend most of their days in isolation; and  anyone else you happen to meet on the byways of life who can use a little love and reassurance.

The pineapple and hospitality: both let people know they are welcome! “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Peter 4:9 NASB) “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” (1 Peter 4:9 NLT)


Simeon’s Dream (Encouragement for Creators & Dreamers)


Do you feel you were meant to accomplish something truly wonderful in life, or to play an important role in a history-making event? Are you still waiting for that long-held dream to come true? Have you been struggling so long to achieve your goals and see your hopes fulfilled that you’re beginning to wonder if you ever will? Then keep the faith, dear friends — no matter how long the dream takes. An old man named Simeon did just that, and he was greatly rewarded for his faithfulness!

There was nothing particularly remarkable about Simeon, at least not in the areas most people value: he wasn’t rich or brilliant or well-connected in society. But the man who would later be called “The God Receiver” never stopped believing his Lord would keep His promises and make Simeon’s “impossible dream” a reality. According to Luke 2:25 (ESV) “…there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

“The consolation of Israel” was the single greatest dream of God’s Chosen People, prophesied throughout The Old Testament, and it would be fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah, who would take away the sins of the world and be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32 ESV) Hundreds of years had passed but no Messiah; and no indication that the dream was any closer to coming true. Simeon never lost faith, however, because “…It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:26 ESV)

Because Simeon had faith in God, an unshakable confidence that his Lord would keep all of His promises, he continued to pursue his dream — despite being advanced in years, and having already waited for what must have felt like an eternity. Simeon continued to do his part. And he continued to listen for God’s direction, until one day when “…The Spirit led him to the Temple.” (Luke 2:27 NLT)

Simeon could have said, “Not again!” He could have figured he was in for yet another disappointment, and really, he could have given up on the dream long before. Instead, he left the comfort of his home and he did what he’d done countless times before. He went to the Temple where, on this umpteenth visit, all his fondest hopes and dreams came true. Mary, the mother of the Messiah, and Joseph, His earthly father, had “brought in the child Jesus … according to the custom of the Law….” (Luke 2:27 ESV) And guess who — because of his faithfulness, because he refused to give up hope, because he continued to pursue his dreams — was present for one of the greatest events of all time?

Simeon held the Christ-child “in his arms and blessed God,” proclaiming, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples…” (Luke 2:28-31 ESV)

Multitudes would see the Messiah fully grown, after Jesus Christ officially embarked on His earthly mission to take away the sins of the world by becoming the ultimate atoning sacrifice — once, and for all. (1 Peter 3:18) But Simeon got in on the ground floor; he got a “peek behind the curtain”; a visit backstage; and the realization of a dream hundreds of years in the making!: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 King James)

Simeon also got to make history that day, when he prophesied over the baby Jesus. “And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel….’” (Luke 2:33-34 ESV)

Yes, every 25th of December we commemorate the arrival on earth of the baby Jesus, and the fulfillment of Simeon’s dream. But like Simeon, we need to realize the story of the Christ child doesn’t end with His birth in a Bethlehem manger, or His initial visit to the Temple. These were simply two important steps in God’s grand design, a plan announced from the time of the Patriarch Abraham, to reconcile the world to the Father! (Genesis 17:4-6)

Still waiting on your dreams to come true? As with Simeon’s dream, some things just take time — but God’s timing is always perfect, and He keeps His promises. Our Heavenly Father is always active doing His part. So we need to continue to do our part: stay in faith, stay tuned in to God, and stay the course. Keep moving forward. Win the small victories; and accomplish your goals one step at a time. Even God’s plan of salvation unfolded over thousands of years. By comparison, should we lose hope and give up on our dreams after a handful of false starts, disappointments, and mere “moments” of waiting? No way!