Monday, December 24, 2007

Old Mister Kringle is Soon Gonna' Jingle...

Home for the holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Good Day

I had the best day I've had in a long time this week.  It started out with a lot of giving, but as is His custom, I got back so much more than I ever anticipated.  (AND it involved baking cookies!  Which, if you remember, always brings me joy...)

Merry Christmas, neighborlies!

This is a recipe I wasn't expecting to thrill me, but boy howdy was I surprised!  These warm, spicy cookies rich with ginger and molasses make the perfect companion to a steaming mug of tea.  They're big and pillowy-- just substantial enough to qualify as the perfect mid-afternoon snack (or have two for dinner like me!).

Giant Molasses Spice Cookies
*Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes "Giant Ginger Cookies"
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/2 cups flour
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Then add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Pour in molasses, honey, and vanilla, and stir to combine.  Slowly add flour, ginger, soda, cinnamon, allspice, pumpkin pie spice, and salt until just combined.  Then shape the dough into large balls using a 1/4 cup measure.  (They will be BIG!)  Place dough balls on a cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When ready to bake, place 6-8 balls of dough on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes.  After removing the cookies from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  When cooled, dust with powdered sugar.  (Makes about 20 cookies)

Friday, December 7, 2007

It's Christmas

Note: The below entry is long. And sad. But so is a lot of my life, so if this type of thing scares you I'd just get out now... :-)

It's December 7th. 17 1/2 days until Christmas morning when I'll wake up in my satin pajamas and pull my big fleece robe tight around me, and pad down the hallway to the living room to open presents. Last year was the first Christmas without my momma. It was so bad. I mean, nothing cataclysmic happened-- no tree fires, no financial despair, Dad, Brother, and I were in perfect health. But with Mom gone, even the lights on the tree seemed dark.

Being the lone woman in this now three-legged dog of a family, I watched my male counterparts assume their usual positions for opening gifts on the sofas around the tree. But this time it was different. It was always a slight conundrum to see who would share a couch while unwrapping seeing as there were three places to sit, and four of us. Usually Brother and I each claimed a sofa, with Dad taking his throne in the big armchair and Mom would sidle up next to one of us kids, eagerly taking pictures in-between telling us the order we should unwrap (so we didn't open a "big" one too early in the game), and puttering to the kitchen to put cinnamon rolls in the oven. But not last year. Last year the three of us sat each on our own place, and the problem was no more. That sofa never seemed so big.

For the past two weeks I've been trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've been vaguely sick every day (now I realize the result of an allergic reaction last week), but something in my soul has been off. Like my insides have got the shakes... I went from having some of the most intimate quiet times I've had in my life, to feeling like my spirit got bagged, beat up, and shoved in the trunk of a getaway car. Disoriented, shaking, not knowing which way is up and who or what I should be fighting against, I worked myself into a bit of an outside frenzy in order to try and quiet the storm inside, but nothing seemed to even come close to calming me down.

Then it hit me suddenly last night: It's Christmas. And I miss her.

"Is that all?" I thought, "I always miss her!"

But it's Christmas, my spirit pressed. Christmas.

Yes it is. It's Christmas. A time that is so precious and sacred in my heart because of the reverence and joy I saw my Momma take in it every year. Christmas. When piles of presents jumbled beneath the tree were more than just "stuff", but things my mom had spent hours agonizing over, often buying, then returning, then buying again, trying to decide just what would delight her family's heart the most. Christmas. When the house would smell like roasting pecans and closets were magic-filled danger zones where presents lurked... "Nobody go in my office closet! JESSICA- Don't open the third drawer of that cabinet!" Christmas. Oh, Christmas! How on earth could I think that this season could go by without my heart feeling yet another set of aftershocks from the quake that broke it over a year ago? How could I mistake these spirit-tremors for anything but the shivering of grief?

They say that knowing is half the battle and relief is what filled me when I realized the source of much of the chaos inside... I know grief. Intimately. I know how to open myself beneath its scalpel that lets poison go rushing out, I know how to subject myself to its searing iron that burns as it cleanses, I know how to lay as still as I can, broken dreams and dashed hope and wounded faith bleeding from every incision, gritting my teeth as the tears pour and my wounds are sewn shut. Yes, I know grief.

And it's Christmas. Another one I'll have to spend without my mommy. The second of many, I'm afraid. But I'm going to lay myself down on this workman's bench, and try not to squirm too much as my wounds are cleansed. Because He called me to this life, and I'm going to live it.

So as I light my Christmas candles this year, and bake batches and batches and batches of cookies as the scent of toasting pecans fills the air, I'll wrap my presents on Christmas Eve like I always do and think of her. I'll try not to compare the cold feeling that seems to have taken over our home since she left with the warm bustle I can still remember filling this house all December-long, and think about what Christmas in this new world can look like. It might not be full of joy for a long time, and that's okay. I hope. Because Christmas isn't about her, it's about Him, and this year, like every year, I'm going to try and remember that.

"I want so much for Christmas to be a beautiful and warm time when we feel God's closeness and worship Him for the hope and salvation He has given us. I want so much for my children to feel that, because it is the only true Christmas memory and 'tradition' that can remain unchanged from year to year. People change, circumstances change, finances change. Only the truth of what God has done for us and how much He loves us-- that never changes. In over 20 years of walking with Him, I have had just about every kind of Christmas. Busy ones, quiet ones, crowded ones, lonely ones, rich ones-- and many, many poor ones! But my favorite time each Christmas--and the setting is never quite the same-- is when I feel His presence, His holiness, His faithfulness-- and just have a quiet moment adoring Him. That is my true Christmas."
(Momma, 12/04)

May your days be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

That's My King

This is a transcript of a sermon by the late Dr. S.M. Lockridge, a pastor from San Diego, in Detroit in 1976. Something more personal will follow soon, but until then... I've got nothing to top this.

My King was born King. The Bible says He's a Seven Way King. He's the King of the Jews - that's an Ethnic King. He's the King of Israel - that's a National King. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of Heaven. He's the King of glory. He's the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that's my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don't try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing.

He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King. He's God's Son. He's the sinner's saviour. He's the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He's the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That's my King.

He's the miracle of the age. He's the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He's the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That's my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. He's the master of the mighty. He's the captain of the conquerors. He's the head of the heroes. He's the leader of the legislatures. He's the overseer of the overcomers. He's the governor of governors. He's the prince of princes. He's the King of kings and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . . but He's indescribable. That's my King. He's incomprehensible, He's invincible, and He is irresistible.

I'm coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can't contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hands. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him. The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. That's my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I'm talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He'll have no successor. There's nobody before Him and there'll be nobody after Him. You can't impeach Him and He's not going to resign. That's my King! That's my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We're around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God's power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honor and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? Forever and ever and ever and ever. . . And when you get through with all of the ever's, then . . .Amen!