Welcome Our Twelve Days of Christmas countdown continues and today we have our seven swans a swimming. Did you know swans are considered to bring good luck? I learned this and some other trivial facts about swans this week. Thank you for joining me as I share a few swan facts, my favorite swan story, some inspiration from God’s Word, and an EASY slow-cooker meal for your busy nights. Note–I may receive a small compensation from affiliate links seen on this blog post. For additional information, please see my Terms and Disclosure page.
Food For Thought We sing about swans in this Christmas carol, watch ballets performed about them, see them at weddings and in city parks. So what’s so special about a swan? Well, obviously they’re a bird and they swim, like ducks and geese. But what about their symbolism? What makes people want to use them in performances and special events? Swans are symbolic, but the meaning can vary depending on cultures and contexts. Swans can represent compassion, freedom, and beauty. Many eastern cultures consider them to be symbols of good luck and believe they hold healing powers. Swans are also a symbol of music as they are thought to, at least mythically, sing well. This is where we get the phrase “swan song.”
My favorite story about swans is The Ugly Duckling. This is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson, first published in 1843. Most are familiar with this story, but if not, let me give you a quick synopsis! To summarize briefly, a mother duck’s eggs hatch and among her adorable little ducklings is a very homely creature that doesn’t fit in. This poor little one is teased and treated very badly by everyone. He never seems to find a place to fit in as the seasons change and he spends the winter alone and miserable. In the spring, he sees a flock of beautiful swans. As he admires them, he anticipates the ridicule they will express, but then is shocked when they welcome him into their group. As he glances at his reflection in the pond he sees that he is a beautiful and majestic swan, just like them. It’s such a feel good story with a nice happy ending. It may be a fairy tale written for children, but many adults are able to identify with the feelings and emotions the cygnet (that’s a baby swan, BTW) is feeling.
Were you an “ugly duckling?” I certainly was! Just so I don’t get too wrapped up in a pity-party here, I will say I’ve always had great teeth and I never had to suffer with acne, so blessings there! But my body proportions have never been quite right. I started growing really early, but by 6th or 7th grade I was completely done growing and everyone else kept on growing past my 5’2” stature. I’m also genetically predisposed to having a large frame. Yes, I was the chubby/fat kid, even though I was always active. I began life with blonde hair that decided to turn mousy brown and it seriously lacks volume. I always took care of it, but my hair just wouldn’t take those super cute spiral perms that were so popular at the time. Luckily, I did have friends. I didn’t have to roam alone like the ugly duckling, but I also knew I would never be accepted into the “beautiful swans” group…you know, the cheerleaders and coronation girls. But what I learned after junior high and high school, is we all eventually find our “flock of swans.” We find a group and we look at each other and think, “Hey, you’re like me and I’m like you,” and there’s a bond. And that special bond rarely has anything to do with how we look on the outside. It is an incredibly liberating feeling when you finally realize you have found the family to which you belong, appearances aside. I once read that being accepted is just as much of a human need, psychologically speaking, as food and shelter. That is what we all want…to be accepted by others and feel like we fit in, and not the outcast of the group like our ugly duckling character at the beginning of the story. And to my beautiful “flock of swans” from college, if you happen to be reading this, thank you so much for showing me what unconditional love, friendship, and acceptance truly are, your lessons are still with me!
Today’s Sciptures God accepts each of us every day, right where we’re at. He accepts me when I show up to church in jeans and a sweater. He accepts me when I’m on my knees and sobbing, with no words to express my pain or hurt. He accepts me when my behavior is surely an embarrassment or disappointment to Him. He accepts me when I’m trying my best, and failing. He accepts me when I somehow manage the mess and chaos around me, without losing my temper. He accepts me in the car, in the grocery store, on the couch, and on my sick bed. He accepts me in my sweatpants, without make-up and jewelry, and before I brushed my teeth. God’s acceptance knows NO LIMITS! What an amazing feeling when we can embrace that thought and know it’s truth! Here are a few passages from scripture that I think reflects the idea of God’s acceptance of us, if we hold onto our faith.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who ever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Acts 10:34-35 “Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”
Colossians 1:21-23 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation–if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
Today’s Recipe Are you finding yourself busy with hectic schedules and holiday errands? Be sure to check out My Top Ten Ways to Calm Down post, and here’s an easy recipe for your slow cooker, perfect for those busy weeknights. Chicken Thighs with Mushroom and Herb Gravy. I served mine with noodles and sautéed onions…great comfort food on a winter night.
Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushroom and Herb Gravy
- 6 chicken thighs
- 1 large or 2 small cans mushroom pieces, drained
- 1-2 onions, sliced
- 2 TBS low-sodium dried herb seasoning (I like Penzey’s Mural of Flavor)
- 1 jar mushroom gravy
- 2 TBS butter
- 2 TBS flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- cooked mashed potatoes or egg noodles
- additional sautéed onions and mushrooms, if desired
In slow cooker, place chicken thighs, sliced onions, and mushrooms. Sprinkle with herb seasoning and pour in mushroom gravy. The gravy will thin out as the chicken cooks, but will add a lot of flavor. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. When ready to serve, remove 2 cups of broth/gravy from slow cooker. In small saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Slowly pour in reserved broth and continue to whisk until thickened. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Serve with mashed potatoes or egg noodles and sautéed onions and mushrooms, if desired.
Suggested Products for today’s post A slow cooker is a busy mom’s best friend! I also recommend a large glass measure and whisk for making the gravy. Links verified 12/13/17 at 10:50 a.m. CST.