Archive for November, 2011

Slow Holidays

Are you already in HOLIDAY OVERDRIVE?

I just read a blog post about the importance of holiday traditions; the headline was, Creating Memorable Moments. My immediate thought was, "Can we actually 'create' memorable moments?"

Being the creator of memorable holiday moments is a pretty daunting responsibility, don't you think? Producing, or making the holidays 'happen' generally falls on the woman. Yes, we love it and yes it makes us crazier than the proverbial fruitcake.

We can ponder and plan and purchase, trim the tree-bake-decorate-wrap-craft our little hearts out but who knows whether there will be any memorable moments? I just want to sit by the fire with a cup of hot tea, enjoy my family and let the memorable moments happen all by themselves. I know for sure they don't happen when I'm running around like a mad woman. 

This year my goal is simply to create some space in our crazy schedules for a memorable moment to occur.

There's a Slow Food Movement, why can't there be a Slow Holiday movement? The by laws could include a sustainable activity schedule, (and sustainable budget) locally handcrafted gifts, valuing community and traditions, reaching out to the poor and making time to celebrate the birth of Jesus with family and friends. That's a movement I could support!

MOM'S FRUITCAKE COOKIES

I didn't appreciate these colorful gems much as a kid, but now they're a taste of home. Feel free to change up the fruit to your liking: raisins, currants, dried apricots, add coconut or a dash of bourbon or rum – yum!

  • 4 cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup candied cherries, cut in 1/4's
  • 2 cup dates (cut up)
  • 1 cup mixed candied fruit

Sift flour, measure, sift again with soda and salt. Cream butter then add sugar and eggs. Beat until light and fluffy. Add buttermilk and flour, then add remaining ingredients. 

Chill for several hours. Drop by heaping teaspoon about 2" apart on greased cookie sheet. Top with cherry.

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown

Makes 8 dozen

Tradition or Treason?

How will you celebrate the holidays?

Words fascinate me. Hauling out my five pound Webster's 1828 Dictionary and logging on to www.etymonline is a regular part of my writing ritual. In his book "Grace Notes," author Phillip Yancey says, 

“As a writer, I play with words all day long.  I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside.”

Crack them open …. I love that! That's really what etymology is all about: studying the origins of words and how they evolved. For example: the word etymology is derived from the Greek eutmos which means real or true. Ology refers to the study of science of something. 

I'm writing an eBook about the holidays so I looked up the origins of the word tradition: its from the late 14th century and has roots from a word that meant to "deliver, surrender or hand over." That made total sense. What I read next about made me fall off my chair:

Tradition is a 'doublet' of the word treason which also means "a handing over, delivery or surrender." 

Whaaat? I'm writing about holiday traditions – such a warm, comfy-cozy, feel good topic and now I find out it has something in common with treason. 

Follow me here as I take a side trip down Santa Claus lane:

Could our unrelenting insistence on observing traditions, both old and new, cause us to somehow commit treason? Yes, if you define treason as 'violation by a subject of his allegiance to his sovereign.' 

If Jesus is our ultimate sovereign then I believe it is possible to commit treason when our traditions get in the way of celebrating his birth. I'm not saying to do away with the Christmas tree, nor am I against traditions. But if we spend the next 5 weeks in holiday overdrive without a thought to our savior and sovereign Lord, we have essentially "handed over" or "surrendered" our allegiance.

I don't know about you, but this sort of puts my 'Bake more, Buy more, Be more' mentality into perspective. This season I plan on making a focused effort to surrender my plans for His. That's a tradition that's worth handing down, don't you think?


Limitless

In the movie, Limitless, Bradley Cooper plays the character of  Eddie Morra, an unsuccessful, totally blocked writer who after ingesting a top-secret 'smart pill' suddenly finds his productivity explodes, depicted onscreen by hundreds of letters of the alphabet which fill the room as he types. In just four days, Eddie manages to write a book, which prior to taking the drug, existed only in his head. 

When I saw that scene, my heart literally leaped in my chest, because I experienced something similar about six years ago during a focused time of prayer. I saw myself  sitting at my desk, pen in hand, while letters of the alphabet floated around the room. Suddenly the letters swirled into a cyclone shape and wrapped themselves around my pen. Pretty strong confirmation that I was to pursue my writing, which I did, although not quite at the same speed as Eddie. I became a freelance writer and in my spare time I wrote about my passion for hospitality and the Shared Table. 

Well, that floating alphabet all but floated away about a year ago – that's how it seemed anyhow, at least when it came to writing. Looking back I realize I was too angry and too perplexed to write. 

There were still plenty of letters running around in my head, but the only thing swirling around my pen (keyboard) was dust. The ABC's in my mind spelled out words like: disappointment, anxiety, loneliness, confusion, and pain.

"Are you blogging?" my husband would ask me.

"I got nuthin'," I responded.

Nothing, as in nothing to say that was encouraging, motivational, inspirational or positive. "Gloom, despair and agony on me- deep, dark depression, excessive misery," became my new theme song. 

Yessiree, I was pure joy to be around. Normally when I'm in that kind of funk I can at least journal and there were times, in a rush of emotion when I did, but never to the level where I could work through my emotions. I did write down my tormented dreams/nightmares, and tried to make sense of them. But WRITE? BLOG?! 

All I can say is there are times in life that are so gut wrenching they're hard to put into words, times that render you speechless. 

Interesting word, 'render'.  It's from an old French word meaning to give back, hand over, give up, or surrender. After a pig is slaughtered, the farmer rends (extracts, melts) the fat. Have you ever seen one of those old cast iron cauldrons at an antique store or flea market? One of their many uses was to render the pig fat to make lard – the process required a really hot fire. I could relate to that poor pig cause I was right there with him. My fat was being rendered and I felt pretty thin. 

 

 

During that time I prayed Psalm 18 a lot: "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters."

I pictured Jesus literally coming to my rescue; "He rescued me because He delighted in me," even though my actions and attitude weren't the least bit delightful. One day I picked up my husband's guitar and strummed the four chords I knew as hard as I could and sang songs to God as loud as I could. Anything to drown out the incessant voices in my head. 

Guess what? Once I stopped fighting the rendering process, and began to praise God in the midst of it, He melted my heart: the anger was gone, the fear began to dissipate and He started to pour new songs into my heart; simple songs of hope and songs of praise, declarations of God's love for me:

"I am a child of the most High God

I am not forsaken, I am not forgotten

I am forgiven and free."

Once I got that back into my head and my heart, I was able to forgive.

Little by little I am learning to live once again in the simple truths of who I am in Christ. And the words are beginning to come back.

My situation hasn't changed all that much, but God is changing me, so there is hope. We talk a LOT, God and I, and even though I tend to monopolize the conversation, He manages to get in a word or two edgewise. HIS WORD, written and spoken, has encouraged me, chastised and strengthened me all these months. I'm excited about my future! It's not me or my words that are Limitless, it's God. 

So here I am writing once more, not nearly as in depth as I'd like, just sticking my toes in the water. I'm still processing everything I've learned, wondering how much of my story I should share. I know some of you, many of you, are in that boiling cauldron of troubles right now, too and I pray you will be able to endure. You have to – for the rest of us! We need to see what you'll look like when the fat is rendered and the new, thinner but stronger you emerges from the flames! Sing while the water's boiling in your pot! Float.

In my original post I invited you to "pull up a chair" and become part of the conversation; your journey is important to me. I really don't want to travel these roads alone, do you?  Let me hear from you and let's continue the conversation. And I'll work on being more real.