Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Well here it is: the last day of 2013. Hallelujah!

I don't know about you, but I am happy to see it go. This year I have seen friends betrayed. I have seen people make poor choices and cause others to suffer for those choices. I have been a part of too many tearful phone calls and have had to brace myself for more uncomfortable conversations than I care to recall. This has been a year that has truly been "life-changing." You may have been one of those who has called on me during this year. If so, know that I have counted it as an honor and a privilege to have helped you through your dark time. I have had my share of them. I know. I know. I have never once minded talking with you and praying with you and crying with you. I just hated that we had to be doing it in the first place.

You may have been one of those whom I called on when my head almost exploded. Hey, thanks for being there. Thanks for praying for me. For taking time from all the mess you had going on to get on your knees and go to the God of All on my behalf. I needed it. It worked. Some of you told me to quit my miserable job and I did. Thanks for that. You even told me that my hair looked nice when I was in the hospital. I needed that, too.

As bad as 2013 has been, it has also had its rewards; if the bad stuff hadn't happened, I wouldn't have drawn as near to the Lord as I have. I have pleaded to Him for my own health and well-being as well as for my dear friends and family. I have called on Him for strength and courage and kindness and compassion and wisdom in ways that I never have before. I have sought His Face at the top of majestic mountains and in the deepest valleys. He has been there. And will continue to be there. He promised.

So I stand ready to turn the page on the calendar. Tear that thing right off the wall. Shred it. Toss it out with the burned-out strand of lights and the expired egg nog.

Sort-of. Because when we begin a new year it means beginning it without the loved ones we had to say goodbye to. It's another milestone that they will not be a part of. We'll do things without them and that feels weird. In the first few years following the death of my mother, I remember not wanting anything new. "Something New" was something she had not seen, had not been a part of, and I felt as though I was betraying her and her memory by experiencing it. I later came to terms with all of this with the help of the Holy Spirit guiding me through Scripture. I realized that death and heaven were her reward, not her punishment, and that she was experiencing the best kind of "new." It was ok for me to laugh and smile and do new things here on earth, because she's having a great time with Jesus and I will too, one day.

So we can turn that calendar page, knowing that God is omnipotent and that we go into this fresh, New Year with Him as our strength and our guide and our help. There are unknown and unexpected opportunities for us to share His love and His message of hope and eternal life and I pray that I will not miss one of them. I ask His guidance on all that I do and say and that it all will be pleasing to Him.

I pray that for you, too. Whoever is reading this, may you have the confidence and the knowledge that, whoever you are or have been, God loves you and wants His best for you. Go into this year knowing that. Tell Him your troubles and ask His forgiveness. Forgive those who have wounded you. You don't need to carry that into 2014, either. It's not going to do anyone any good. Just let it go, along with the burned-out lights and the expired egg nog.

Happy New Year!



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I like to bake. I like to take separate ingredients and mix and wait and gently coerce the concoction into something appealing and delicious. I will attempt any type of baking, but my favorite is bread. It takes patience, tenderness, planning, more patience, and love. People tend to like my bread. I know my family does, and that gives me such a huge sense of satisfaction, especially since I'm not one of the Fancy Cookie People.
Yeah, you know them, the Fancy Cookie People. They're the ones whose cookies stop you in your tracks at the cookie exchange. They bring in their magical treats in a plain Rubbermaid container or on a little plate, like they're no big deal. They slip them in between the store-bought wedding cookies and my sugar cookies that resemble the square states with sprinkles. And as the crowd gathers and says things like "They're just too pretty to eat" and "I'd ask for the recipe but I'd never be able to do that!" they just smile and say "Thank you," with that sugary Southern sweetness like the iridescent granules they put on their Angel Snowflake Drops. They make their reindeer with their pretzel antlers and gumdrop noses (no, they would never use something as obvious as a red M&M). They have their snowmen with the Reese cup top hats. Little Oreos that look like tuxedos made to look like penguins looking like they are skating. On a cupcake.


So yeah. I gave it another try. This time with the help of Pinterest. Pinterest, I am sure, was created solely for the purpose of humiliating me and making me feel totally inadequate. While it helps everyone else, it shines light on the things I have not - nor will I ever - accomplish.

                     But c'mon, how hard can a cookie recipe be?

After all, it uses the same ingredients as the Hersey kiss blossoms, and those are easy. (I have actually never made them, either) The butter softened, the flour measured, everything set. Here we go.

Apparently there is something in the chemical structure of the candy cane kiss that is different from that of the regular chocolate kiss. I am no scientist, but I don't think they are supposed to flatten. At first, when they were just soft, I still had hope. But as they cooled, and the stripey kiss began to look like a scrap of circus tent fabric tossed on a sparkly rug, I knew something had gone terribly wrong. And doing something bad to a cookie is like being mean to a puppy. 

 
They're supposed to look like this:
 
 
Unfortunately I can't post a picture of the mistakes. You see, my family ate them. Because they TASTED AWESOME. Take that, Fancy Cookie People. Keep your swirl candy cookie pops. I'll take my Circus Tent Sparkles any day of the week!








Monday, December 2, 2013

This is the time of year that I go nowhere without a list. Actually, it's a small notebook dedicated solely to keeping me from losing my mind. It has a list of the gifts I want to get people for Christmas, the ones I have already purchased, and the ones I may need to have on hand for that "surprise gift" (you know: the one where someone gives you something and you weren't expecting them to, so you say how sweet it was and that they shouldn't have, because really you are wishing they hadn't because now you don't have anything for them and you feel like a total slug! When, in reality, if you had only known they were going to get you something, you would have certainly gotten them something and it would have been amazing. A-MA-ZING! The perfect gift. But now you are stuck with giving them something that seemed great at the time.

Who doesn't need a cutting board/grocery list/pen combination shrink wrapped with a pre-tied holiday bow? NO ONE! Scratch that off the list. Right now. No one needs that.

I also plan my holiday meals, my goodies, my wrapping paper and gift bag needs. If it comes from Target or Walmart, it is in this notebook. Decorations. Shirt sizes. Christmas tree doodles. (I doodle in line- do not judge)

That's the kind of stuff I keep in my notebook. Except I can't find it. It's here. I know I saw it just before Thanksgiving. I had it when I actually started my Christmas shopping early (which I am sure is somehow related to this problem and I haven't seen the last of the repercussions).

It is a small, spiral notebook and it has a blue cover. Or is it black? Either way, I thought it was great because it had the word "notebook" right on the front. (Like someone would mistake it for say, a shoe.) Maybe it should be neon orange and have blinking lights spelling out HERE I AM!

It'll turn up. In January.

In the mean time, I can be thankful that my name is on another list, in another book, and this one will never get lost, it cannot be erased, and it will allow me to bask in the glory of the greatest Gift of all:  Eternity in the presence of the King.

Oh, by the way, I found my notebook. It was in a bag of the gifts purchased in early November. See? I knew I started shopping too early!

I'm in one of those seasons where I just want to retreat. Having the genetic makeup of generations of warriors, those seasons do not com...