Archive | December 2015

Holiday Stuffing

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Isn’t she cute?

“He provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Acts 14:17 NIV

We are in the hustle and bustle season again. No snow on the ground yet to slow travel to a crawl, but traffic is still bumper to bumper. “Extra” shoppers crowd the streets and the shopping aisles from Thanksgiving until after we have welcomed in the New Year. If I get stuck idling in traffic, which inevitably happens, I ask myself the same question every year, where do all these people come from? The grocery aisles are crammed and checkout lines are long, but if I need to buy groceries, the “extra” folks must get hungry, too.

Folks around here who celebrate this winter holiday probably have a to-do list to remind them that they still have gifts to purchase and wrap, plus trees to decorate with lights and ornaments, and trays of cookie dough to bake, which will fill houses with the warm aroma of ginger and cinnamon. Finally, family and friends will gather to eat, open gifts, snack on delicious remainders, and, of course, make snow angels if one is lucky enough to have freshly fallen snow. As the afternoon draws to a close, merrymakers, chilled to the bone from outdoor play, will sip hot chocolate between bites of soft gingerbread cookies. There are bound to be a few sugar-coma-induced naps, most likely for those with less pep in their step.

Your version may vary slightly or a lot. Mine exists mostly in my memory. I experience sadness every year around this time since losing my firstborn to suicide. I have family who visit, and I love them dearly, but there is one forever missing from our family gatherings going forward. He is still much loved and remembered. If you follow my blog, you know that we often talk about loss and all the many “someones” we love and miss. It’s just not the same without them with us at holidays.

Holidays are supposed to be filled with the pleasure of sharing good food, love, and laughter. Many of us will come from all directions to spend time together. We share favorite foods and stuff ourselves. We enfold those we love as they arrive, and hug the stuffing out of them. When the holiday time is over, we return home stuffed with memories to treasure and savor until the next special gathering.

My mind quite naturally goes to a memory where the word “stuffing” is a verb. With your indulgence let’s segue to a warm month so I can share a memory that takes me back to the days when my children were young explorers, and summer vacations were filled to the brim with activities. Since my husband and I are in the sunset years of our lives, we find ourselves pulling out these old memories to enjoy again and again.

One particular summer Grandpa had joined us, and we were spending our vacation in Yellowstone National Park having a grand time. Off the beaten path we stopped to watch a chipmunk diligently doing her business. Shhhh, kids. Be careful not to scare her. Excited children aren’t naturally quiet, but Ms. Chipmunk was too focused on what she was doing to be chased from her territory.

Then we got an idea. We had some crackers in the car. Let’s feed her! Certainly she’d like the crackers we packed to snack on as much as we did, so out came the tasty wheat squares. We tossed one in her direction and waited. She darted here and there and then got a whiff . . . food . . . and without having to work for it. Nice! Now began the fun watching her stuff her face. Ms. Chipmunk quickly discovered that putting a square cracker in her round pouch was not as easy as it looked. With her tiny paws she worked it round and round, as if trying to smooth off the edges to make a way for it to go in. Finally, in it went, and she scampered off with her treasure. She must have dumped her booty somewhere nearby because we didn’t have to wait long until she was back for more. Again and again we tossed a cracker to her and watched her maneuver it just right so she could haul it away in her “purse”.

What fun we had feeding and watching Ms. Chipmunk stuff herself for future meals. What fun we have had over the years gathering for holidays, making memories, catching up with each other’s lives, laughing and playing, and yes, stuffing our faces. Not unlike Ms. Chipmunk, we’ll likely do it again this year. Although it hurts to celebrate without all of our children present, they will always be in our family circle of love.

In spite of our losses, we still have blessing to count, do we not? An added bonus for believers is that we are grateful anew for the Christ child.

“May the Lord himself, who is our source of peace, give you peace at all times and in every way.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 GNT

NIV = New International Version; GNT = Good NEWS Translation

 

 

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2015. 2 Comments

Bake It Forward

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Holidays will forever be bittersweet at our house. If this holiday season is the first since your precious loss, I am so sorry for your added pain.

I remember facing that first Christmas after the loss of my firstborn. I dreaded it going in, and was grateful when it was over, finally to have tunes on the radio other than the familiar seasonal ones. So it will pass again this year, but maybe, just maybe, there will be some special memories to linger after the holidays are over.

Here’s a thought: if you are looking for a way to keep yourself occupied this season, and you enjoy baking, why not “bake it forward”? (I will explain in a moment.) Sometimes the tantalizing aromas of sugar, butter, and spices mingling in the oven can be as soothing to the soul as they are to the tummy.

One of my Christmas traditions has always been to bake a variety of cookies. I send large tins to work with my husband, and take containers piled high with sweet treats to my neighbors. I won’t admit that my cookie receivers are “guinea pigs”, but I will admit that I love trying new recipes along with the old tried and true. I have loved the excuse to look through my assortment of cookbooks. The holiday season usually finds me studying the colorful cookie photos from my many cookbooks, which are stacked high in an already bulging cupboard.

As much as I look at cookie and other festive recipes, I don’t love the holidays like I did years ago. The old traditions aren’t fun anymore. I so miss my firstborn who loved food. He would be the first to sample hot cookies right off the baking sheet or stick his finger in something being prepared, moaning that he was going to starve before the meal was ready. I would shoo him away, smiling to myself . . . his larger than life presence is greatly missed. I miss his feet under my kitchen table. You feel the same?

I know how hard it is to keep up with holiday traditions year after year. The first Christmas after my firstborn’s death came four months later. I think I was still numb, because I set about . . . probably on autopilot . . . baking up a storm like I had done every other year. I guess I didn’t want to disappoint friends, neighbors, and the guys in my husband’s shop who had come to expect a tin of homemade treats to add a little joy to their holiday spirit. Granted, I did start baking early, even before Thanksgiving, stashing the cookies in the freezer. I suppose that was my way of getting the baking out of the way before the radio began playing holiday music that would bring on the tears.

The next year found me dreading the whole baking thing. Why bother were the words going round and round in my head. But my family loved the old traditions, so out came the flour, butter, sugar, and all the other essentials for baking batch after batch of fragrant, mouth-watering goodies.

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If cookie baking is your thing and you are looking for a way to stay focused on other things, here’s an idea I heard advertised on the cable cooking channel. The idea is not new, and variations abound if you google, but HGTV calls it “bake it forward”. Here’s the gist of it:

  • Food Network is promoting Bake it Forward to help end child hunger by teaming up with No Kid Hungry
  • When #BakeItForward is used on Twitter, Food Network will donate to fight child hunger
  • Simply bake your favorite treat – share it on social media with the hashtag “#BakeItForward” and Food Network will do the rest
  • Food Network has set a goal of providing 1,000,000 meals to children in need
  • Promotion runs 11/1/15 through 12/31/15

Even if you are focused on your pain and operating on auto pilot this holiday season, try to remember the important things like: the delight in a eyes of those you love, happy children with smiling faces and sticky fingers, the expression of utter bliss on the face of a teenager biting into his favorite cookie, a hug from behind when your apron is well dusted with flour, or your favorite carols sung in soft candlelight. Whatever your favorite traditions, they are precious gifts in no need of wrapping. Mark them in your mind for later remembering.

~ Life is made up of moments of time, never to be repeated. Your memories will help to carry you through hard times of healing. ~

“Don’t hold back—give freely, and you’ll have plenty poured back into your lap—a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, brimming over. You’ll receive in the same measure you give.” Luke 6:38 VOICE

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 4, 2015. 4 Comments