Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.  Psalm 86:12


Today is Thanksgiving.  I hope you have had a great one.  We have spent the week with extended family, cooking, eating and giving thanks.

Like the holiday itself, the practical benefits of gratitude are well known, but seem to require reminders.  God is very good.  We have been given a world that is both beautiful and productive in meeting our needs.  We have been given people in our lives to support us and keep us on our toes.  Many of us will be given a few extras in addition to this.  We can ignore all these benefits that have been offered to us regardless of our merit, or we can simultaneously acknowledge and enjoy them.

The second option is by far the best for us.  Being grateful is how we were meant to live. 

Here is the list of the things I am most thankful for.  It is not unpredictable.  It might even be obvious.  But it is genuinely mine and very, very heartfelt.

I am grateful for:

1. My history and family that have brought me to this place in my life.
2. My kind husband
3. My beautiful children who continually surprise and amaze me.
4. The possibility of fostering and raising others.
5. This beautiful life I’ve been given.
6. The ability to grow and appreciate it more.
7. The abundance in which every need I have has been overwhelmingly met.
8. Good friends
9. An indescribably beautiful world.
10.   A God who is gracious beyond all measure, and in whom there is no end of new beginnings. 

What are you thankful for today?

Blessed eating on this holiday and every day!


Pa’s Fruit Salad

3 apples unpeeled and chopped             3 oranges, peeled and sectioned
2 bananas, sliced                                        ¼  c. cherries
1 15-oz. pineapple chunks (drained)       ½ c. ch. toasted pecans

Cream Sauce:
½ c. sugar                       2 T. plain flour
1 c. milk                          2 eggs, beaten

Mix and cook over medium heat until thickened.  Add lemon juice.  Cool and add to fruit. – Jane Henderson

 

 

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prepare


“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.

                                    Luke 3:4

 
The gravy was lumpy and the beef had too much salt.  Still, after stirring it in the skillet, I put the Beef Cream Gravy on the table for better or worse.  Dried beef is new to me.  I haven’t done very much food drying for preservation.  A good friend gave me a dehydrator and I’ve used it on tomatoes, apples and a few other vegetables, but never meat.

But it seems that dried beef is a common staple to some of my relatives.  I imagine it may have once been a necessity.  In the day before refrigeration was common or grocery stores carried every type of food in every season, preparing and preserving what was needed to eat took on a far greater importance.  Preparing foods for long-term storage could mean the difference between a meal and hunger.  Lots of time was given to this important and life-sustaining effort, though such necessity is all but unknown to us today.

Still, preparation has been on my mind.  My family has been doing a lot of it in recent times.  Over the past several months, we have been working with the United Methodist Children’s Home in the application process to become foster parents.  Now, toward the end of that process, we are preparing for home visits, cleaning, making changes to our house, cleaning, putting up gates and covering electrical outlets, cleaning.   A new wall has divided what used to be one room into two.  Lots of moving has been involved.  Things have been thrown into disarray, giving us the opportunity to go through, to throw out, to think hard about what we need and what we don’t. 

And did I mention cleaning?  Much of the work we have done in our home isn’t technically necessary.  We are not likely to be refused because of dust on our baseboards.  But I feel the need to make ready. 

It is important to me and to my family – as well as those who are to come – that our home is arranged; that we are prepared.

A dear friend recently pointed out the beauty of taking in a child at Christmas.  As we make room in our hearts for the Christ Child, we will welcome another child in the name of that One.  During every season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas, we prepare our hearts to welcome a newborn savior.  This year, our preparations take on new meaning and new hope as we plan a welcome with a much more urgent purpose.

I try to hold no illusions that this work will be easy.  We are excited and hopeful, maybe even a bit na├»ve, but we know there are challenges ahead.  We are dealing with the messiness of broken lives.  Scrubbing our walls, cleaning our carpets, buying extra Christmas stockings plus toys to go in them may pale against the harsh reality of hurt that has been endured and won’t be easily overcome.

Isn’t this why Jesus came?  To heal the brokenness and the ugliness that is very real among us.  Isn’t this the reason that he was born in the dirt and humility of a rickety stable?  Because our lives are dirty and gritty in a way that no amount of preparation can completely erase? 

So we deal with it as best we can, wiping away each stain as we see it.  Trying to create spots of beauty where there the dirt is caked on.  This work is never finished.  Our house will never reach the point of perfect cleanliness or organization, and even if it did, life would quickly take it off course again. 

And I cannot be perfectly ready for this life or for the new one that is coming.  All any of us can hope for is to make do as we go.

I have to accept the fact that we are never fully prepared, never completely ready.  But the Christ Child comes anyway, in the midst of our preparation, to hallow and speed it; to show us which messes to clean up and which to ignore, and to bless our humble efforts in making a home for a child.

Blessings!

 

Beef Cream Gravy
¼ cup butter or margarine          ½ c all-purpose flour
1 t. salt                                            ¼ t. black pepper
2 c. milk                                          4.5 oz. jar dried beef – sliced
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
Melt butter in a skillet.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper.  Slowly stir in milk.  Stir in beef and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened; 10-15 minutes.  Serve over Toast or Biscuits – Lisa Wade

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reflections on All Hallows Eve and All Saints’ Day


Give me your tired, your poor, your trick-or-treaters.  I was strongly tempted to shout this from my front stoop.  We have somewhere between 10 and 15 costumed visitors at our house on your average Halloween night.  Not too bad, but I could do with more.  A few kids came trucked in from other neighborhoods.  Bring it on.                                   

Things were rough on the trick-or-treater’s side, too.  As I walked my kids down our street looking for neighbors with outside lights on, we passed too many houses that were dark; and not in a cute, haunted way either.  What is the matter with people?  Who would turn their lights out on Halloween?  Several families left bowls of treats on the porch if they couldn’t be home to answer the door.  It’s nice to see that some still have the spirit.

I guess it is everyone’s right to be elsewhere, or just otherwise occupied on Halloween night.  No one is obligated to open the door to little beggars – even cute ones – who are looking for candy.   But why on earth would anyone not want to?

I suppose my perspective is a little skewed.  I love Halloween.  My dream is to live in a neighborhood swarmed by fairies, hulks, vampires and gypsies on the night of October 31.  I want my front porch to be Grand Central Station for superheroes and princesses, and for my neighborhood to be safe haven for children with a sweet tooth and a love of the spooky.

I deeply love this holiday that is filled with both history and mystery.  It points to our past and our remembrance of ancestors while also reminding us of the unseen spiritual world. 

Today is All Saints’ Day.  This is the “Hallow” in the “All Hallows’ Eve” that got shortened to the modern title of October 31.  On this day, rather than looking for spirits roaming the earth, we remember the real flesh and blood loved ones who were with us once, but have now passed on. 

This is a holiday began by the church in order to bring the Christian faith into the ancient traditions that became Halloween.  In the time before Christ, the Celtic people of northern Europe would honor ancestors long past while they celebrated the harvest and prepared for winter.  Today, we still use this date to remember the saints who have gone before us.  On Sunday in our worship service, we will celebrate them again. 

It is hard to wrap our minds around the union of these events; the silly spookiness of Halloween and the solemn remembrance of All Saints.  And yet they are cousins, related by a long history.

My family’s Halloween goals were ultimately accomplished.  Our children went to bed happy, filled with sweets and memories of one more night of trick-or-treating.  Families came to our door and received our hospitality in the form of “fun-size” candy bars (as if there were any other kind).  We have made the occasion as bright and meaningful as we are able to do and this is enough to be satisfied.  God is present in this and every day, no matter what we name it.

Blessed eating!

 

We didn’t make our Halloween treats (I don’t think that’s done, nowadays), but here is an awesome cake to celebrate any holiday!

 

Pea Pickin’ Cake
1 box yellow cake mix                   1 can mandarin oranges
4 eggs                                                1/3 c. oil
Do NOT drain oranges.  Mix all ingredients will.  Pour into 3 round, greased/floured cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 min or until done.


Pea Pickin’ Cake Frosting
1 large tub Cool Whip                   1 small vanilla instant pudding
1 can crushed pineapple
Do NOT drain pineapple.  Mix all 3 ingredients.  Frost cake and put in fridge overnight.  You don’t really have to refrigerate overnight but it’s better if it’s in the fridge a day or so before you serve it. – Gena Jernigan