In Memory of a Boy I Never Knew

The sign in front of the school caught my attention. Just a name and two dates, one the date of birth, the other of death. A little boy, one of the students, had died just three days shy of Christmas and the school was in mourning. I went home and looked online for information about him. Who was he? How did he die? How was his family holding up? I found a photograph, his sweet smiling face showing no signs that the end was near for him. I found an online memorial with remembrances, prayers and letters of encouragement to his parents. I found out where he attended church and the hospital where the end came. How he died remains a mystery to me. This child’s death was a blow to me, though I didn’t know him. Any child’s death is a tragedy and as a mother, I realize it could be me in mourning and I hurt for his parents. But this is more personal: this precious little boy was born just eight days after my youngest child was born. He is now dead and my child is alive. But what if it had been my child? My sweet boy who finds a reason to laugh no matter what is going on around him–I can’t imagine losing him so young. It could happen, of course. It happened to these parents. And I ache for them.

No, I didn’t know this lost child and I do not know his grieving parents but I think about them, wonder how they are coping. I pray for them every time their loss comes to mind. There are many prayers…. Their loss of their precious little boy, so near my own son’s age, reminds me to hold my child a little closer, a little longer. To pray deeper prayers for him, to be more diligent to teach him the everlasting truth of God’s holy Word. It reminds me daily to simply to love him, breath in his sweetness and never lose sight of the fact that life is so very fragile. As long as God wills that we live, nothing can get in the way. But we simply don’t know how many days, how fleeting the hours, that have been appointed to us and to our loved ones.

So tonight, I am remembering this little boy that I did not know. I am thanking God for his life and wishing he were still living. I am saying a prayer in a long line of prayers for parents who are hurting. In three days, the one month anniversary of their son’s death is coming up. I can’t imagine their pain. I wish I could see them, tell them I am praying for them and simply say “I’m sorry for your loss”. I’m sorry–there’s very little else that could be said except I’m praying for you, which I’d also say. I can’t do that. I’ll probably never be able to do that. But I can remember their son’s life and praise God for it. And I can cherish my son’s life, indeed all my children’s lives, just a little bit more.

May God be praised.

In memory….

 

Silent Christmas Bells

December is a time of joy and rejoicing. A time for family, gifts and giving. A time of cookies and candy, cakes and pies, eaten ’til you’re full to bursting. A time of lights, trees and pretty paper, glittering quietly and speaking of joys to come. Mostly it’s a time for rejoicing in the Savior’s birth. He came; what more could matter?

I keep busy in December. I’ve never had much money, don’t have hardly any now, but there’s still things I can do for my children. Though finances do not permit much in the way of giving, I can make a pie, roll out some homemade cookie dough, wrap sometimes meager offerings given from the heart. The busy fun keeps me focused on better days but behind it is a shadow of sadness. December is a time of death and sorrow in my family. I have lost four family members in this sad month. Spread over time, still their deaths count down my December days and mark them in longing for what once. So I keep busy so that, though I remember and want to remember, I won’t remember too much.

Mine isn’t the only family where silence cuts through the darkening eve on cold December days. As we, the families of Christmas past, remember our loved ones, as a tear of sadness tugs at our hearts, we must also rejoice in Christmas present and Christmas yet to come. There are many reasons to rejoice. So much to do, to pray, to decorate, to plan, there’s hardly time to be sad. Little ones eyes filled with hope and joy fill folks with enough happiness to let them make it all the way through January if they’ll let it. Expectations, times of celebration and happiness, gatherings and coming together once again to share the love God has blessed you all with are bigger and better blessings than any of us deserve. But you don’t have to have a family to wrap a present or bake a pie. Children aren’t required to decorate a tree. It’s a time of rejoicing so find someone who needs someone to rejoice with and get busy doing so. No one should be alone at Christmas. But even if you have no one to celebrate with, or even if you abstain from such trappings, you mustn’t abstain from that which is the real cause of all rejoicing. Jesus came. He came over 2,000 years ago but the bells proclaiming His birth have never rung louder, at least for those of us who love Him. He came and He came for me. Nothing else is needed for Christmas to come.

For some the Christmas bells ring silently, at least for a little while. Those who have gone on before, if they were His, are rejoicing in ways we can only now hope for. Their Christmas is better than anything this old world has to offer. We may miss them, yes, but we can rejoice that they lived. And that we were given the blessing of sharing our lives with them. Silent Christmas bells for always and ever? With a Savior like ours? Not likely. In fact, it’s impossible.

Christmas is coming and with it comes a shadow of sadness for some. But it is also ushering in gingerbread men dressed up in sticky sprinkles and too much icing. It beckons with glittering lights that reflect, in some tiny way, the hope and joy that Christmas itself brings. It extends its hand in silent cheer, a perennial hope for tomorrow; it withdraws its hand, just for a moment, to bid goodbye. Goodbye to our loved ones. Goodbye to yet another Christmas. But never goodbye to love or to hope or to cheer.

Silent Christmas bells? Yes, they exist but only until the hope dawns in our hearts. And then they ring for joy for the Savior not only was born but died and was raised again. He lives. May all the earth rejoice!

 

 

Marley and His Message to Scrooge by R.C. Sproul

(This is not my article but I love the message. I’m so tired of the Bah! Humbug! attitude of certain Christians when it comes to Christmas. Christmas is a time of rejoicing in the Savior, a time of reflecting on the goodness of God in sending Him, and a time to relax and enjoy my family. So, for those of you who aren’t going to quit being a Scrooge no matter what evidence is presented to you that celebrating Christmas is not a sin, I offer you a heartfelt, joyful, Merry Christmas!)

Bah! Humbug!” These two words are instantly associated with Charles Dickens’ immortal fictional anti-hero, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge was the prototype of the Grinch who stole Christmas, the paradigm of all men cynical.

We all recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge was a mean person – stingy, insensitive, selfish, and unkind. What we often miss in our understanding of his character is that he was preeminently profane. “Bah! Humbug!” was his Victorian use of profanity.

Not that any modern editor would feel the need to delete Scrooge’s expletives. His language is not the standard currency of cursing. But it was profane in that Scrooge demeaned what was holy. He trampled on the sanctity of Christmas. He despised the sacred. He was cynical toward the sublime.

Christmas is a holiday, indeed the world’s most joyous holiday. It is called a “holiday” because the day is holy. It is a day when businesses close, when families gather, when churches are filled, and when soldiers put down their guns for a 24-hour truce. It is a day that differs from every other day.

Every generation has its abundance of Scrooges. The church is full of them. We hear endless complaints of commercialism. We are constantly told to put Christ back into Christmas. We hear that the tradition of Santa Claus is a sacrilege. We listen to those acquainted with history murmur that Christmas isn’t biblical. The Church invented Christmas to compete with the ancient Roman festival honoring the bull-god Mithras, the nay-sayers complain. Christmas? A mere capitulation to paganism.

And so we rain on Jesus’ parade and assume an Olympian detachment from the joyous holiday. All this carping is but a modern dose of Scroogeism, our own sanctimonious profanation of the holy.

Sure, Christmas is a time of commerce. The department stores are decorated to the hilt, the ad pages of the newspapers swell in size, and we tick off the number of shopping days left until Christmas. But why all the commerce? The high degree of commerce at Christmas is driven by one thing: the buying of gifts for others. To present our friends and families with gifts is not an ugly, ignoble vice. It incarnates the amorphous “spirit of Christmas.” The tradition rests ultimately on the supreme gift God has given the world. God so loved the world, the Bible says, that He gave His only begotten Son. The giving of gifts is a marvelous response to the receiving of such a gift. For one day a year at least, we taste the sweetness inherent in the truth that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

What about putting Christ back into Christmas? It is simply not necessary. Christ has never left Christmas. “Jingle Bells” will never replace “Silent Night.” Our holiday once known as Thanksgiving is rapidly becoming known simply as “Turkey Day.” But Christmas is still called Christmas. It is not called “Gift Day.” Christ is still in Christmas, and for one brief season the secular world broadcasts the message of Christ over every radio station and television channel in the land. Never does the church get as much free air time as during the Christmas season.

Not only music but the visual arts are present in abundance, bearing testimony to the historic significance of the birth of Jesus. Christmas displays all remind the world of the sacred Incarnation.

Doesn’t Santa Claus paganize or at least trivialize Christmas? He’s a myth, and his very mythology casts a shadow over the sober historical reality of Jesus. Not at all. Myths are not necessarily bad or harmful. Every society creates myths. They are a peculiar art form invented usually to convey a message that is deemed important by the people. When a myth is passed off as real history, that is fraud. But when it serves a different purpose it can be healthy and virtuous. Kris Kringle is a mythical hero, not a villain. He is pure fiction — but a fiction used to illustrate a glorious truth.

What about the historical origins of Christmas as a substitute for a pagan festival? I can only say, good for the early Christians who had the wisdom to flee from Mithras and direct their zeal to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Who associates Christmas today with Mithras? No one calls it “Mithrasmas.”

We celebrate Christmas because we cannot eradicate from our consciousness our profound awareness of the difference between the sacred and the profane. Man, in the generic sense, has an incurable propensity for marking sacred space and sacred time. When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, the ground that was previously common suddenly became uncommon. It was now holy ground – sacred space. When Jacob awoke from his midnight vision of the presence of God, he anointed with oil the rock upon which he had rested his head. It was sacred space.

When God touches earth, the place is holy. When God appears in history, the time is holy. There was never a more holy place than the city of Bethlehem, where the Word became flesh. There was never a more holy time than Christmas morning when Emmanuel was born. Christmas is a holiday. It is the holiest of holy days. We must heed the warning of Jacob Marley: “Don’t be a Scrooge” at Christmas.

Fudge, Punch, and Trusting God

We put up our Christmas tree just a few days ago. Decorations abound. Little hands are fashioning cards and drawings. Christmas is in the air. Sometimes, I get caught up in the light shining in my children’s eyes and I love every single moment of Christmas preparation. Other times, I’m far too concerned about how to pull it all off. There’s been nothing but bad news financially this year and, as we face the new year, there’s little hope that things will get better. I want to do for my children; I just don’t always know how. But, sometimes I forget–Christmas isn’t about having enough money, about getting things, it’s not about a tree, shiny lights or toys. It’s about our Lord, rejoicing that He came. Being amazed became He came for me. It’s about trusting Him. If He can save me, He can provide for my family, plain and simple. He isn’t up to one but unable to do the other. Christmas is also about my family. My beautiful, precious, family. God’s grace and my loves, they are my greatest gifts.

Even though money is beyond tight, like most Moms I like to do things for my family. I may not always be able to do what I want to do but, whatever it is, it’s always done with love. One of the ways I like to do for them at Christmas is by making them a special treat or two. We love fudge and through the years, I’ve made all kinds. On the stove top, with velveeta, chocolate, peanut butter, vanilla and on and on. One of the easiest ones I’ve ever made has to be the one I’ve included here. If you don’t think you can make fudge, guess what? You can. And it won’t burn, it won’t fail, ever. It’s all done in the microwave and it just couldn’t be easier. Sometimes, when time is short, I still turn to this recipe. My family still loves it, even after all these years. After you’ve looked over the fudge, scroll on down and read the Cappuccino punch recipe. We don’t make it every year but when we do, they love this also. Try it, I think you’ll like it also.

***Microwave Never-Fail Fudge***

If you follow directions, it will never fail. While not completely classic, it’s both easy and good. Everybody that I have ever served it to loved it. My children think it’s great that they can make fudge “all by myself.”

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Place chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter or margarine in a large microwavable bowl. Microwave about 3 minutes (until the chips are melted). Stir once every minute as it melts. When melted, stir in the chopped nuts, if desired. Pour into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish. Refrigerate until set.

***Cappuccino Punch***

This makes a fantastic Christmas punch!

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup boiling water
2 quarts milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened
Combine the sugar and the coffee granules and add to the boiling water stirring well until both are dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Just before you are ready to serve, pour the coffee syrup into a large punch bowl; add the milk and scoops of both ice creams and stir until the ice cream is melted. Makes about 1 gallon.
Merry Christmas!

Until next time,

Anna

Soli Deo gloria!

Thanksgiving Turkey Blues

Some folks get tired of turkey after Thanksgiving is over. We don’t. I always wish there was more turkey to go around. Turkey makes great sandwiches, fantastic pot pies and wonderful casseroles. If I could, I’d cook three, four or even five turkeys just to keep the leftovers coming. I don’t do that, of course (but in my dreams, I do…; ahem, back to reality now…). I’m sharing some of our favorite post-Thanksgiving recipes below. I don’t make each of these each year. What I make depends upon how much time, turkey and ingredients I’ve got. You won’t find a recipe for turkey soup as I’ve never found a recipe for one that I like. Sometimes I make creamed turkey and serve it over biscuits or toast (or potatoes or noodles) and that is very good, but that recipe is not included below, either. What I have included are three of our very favorite, most yummy post-Thanksgiving turkey recipes, recipes that my family loves and will gladly eat year after year (and they always wish for more). If you don’t have turkey and do have chicken, these are good with chicken, also.

 

Turkey Tetrazzini

This is so very yummy! Everybody in my family loves this. I usually double and make two so we have leftovers (which freeze well). Hhhmmm, leftovers of the leftovers….

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

12 ounces spaghetti noodles, cooked
4 ounces canned mushrooms, drain liquid and save it
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken broth
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 ounces diced pimento
1/4 cup butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium stalks celery, finely sliced
2 to 3 cups turkey, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
Cook the spaghetti noodles and drain them. Set aside. Combine the mushroom liquid with the celery salt, cayenne pepper, chicken broth, evaporated milk and the pimento. Set aside. In a heavy frying pan, sauté the onion, celery and the canned mushrooms in the melted butter for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Mix in the spices. Cook gently until it begins to thicken, stirring frequently. Pour into bowl, add the chopped turkey and the spaghetti noodles. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, add the noodle mixture to the pan and top with the cheeses. Cook in prepared oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

 

Classic Turkey Sandwiches

There are many ways to make turkey sandwiches but this is our tried and true way.

Mayonnaise
Turkey
Bread and Butter Pickles
Lettuce
White or Wheat Bread
This couldn’t be simpler. Simply spread the mayonnaise on your bread and layer on the turkey, lettuce, bread and butter pickles and serve.

 

Turkey Pot Pie

This is almost always our day after Thanksgiving Day dinner. This is so good. We never have any leftovers. I could make more (and I usually do) and they would eat it (and they always do). The amount can be halved if your crew isn‘t as hungry as mine is. You can substitute chicken for the turkey. It’s equally delicious. You can also play with this and adjust it as you need to (more of the vegetables and less of the turkey, if that’s what you have more of). Serve with rolls and cranberry relish or sauce.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

10 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 pound baby carrots or equal amount of peeled, chopped carrots
1 large onion, diced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
1 1/2 butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups cooked turkey, bite-size pieces
enough pastry for a top crust (or top and bottom, if you prefer–that’s how we do it; I usually quadruple a two-crust recipe because I like to roll the crust along the sides and I don‘t want any holes in the crust; you might get away with less
2 egg yolks, beaten (for the crust)
2 tablespoons milk (for the crust)
In a large pot bring the chicken broth to boil; add the baby carrots (halve them if you want to before you put them in) and the onions; boil until vegetables are almost tender. At that point, add the mushrooms and peas and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove vegetables from the broth and set them aside in a bowl until you are ready for them. Strain the broth and set aside 8 cups of it. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the 8 cups of chicken broth a little at a time until fully incorporated. Cook until the mixture thickens and has bubbled for one minute. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chopped turkey and the reserved vegetables to the sauce and refrigerate until cool. Prepare your pastry. If you are using a two-crust recipe then put the bottom layer in the pan and pour the filling over it. Otherwise, just pour your filling into a large pan and put the top pastry crust on. Vent it by sticking the tines of a fork in it several times or by cutting several one inch slits with a knife. Mix the beaten egg yolks and the milk together and brush over the top of the crust. Cook 45 minutes or a little more (until crust is brown and filling is bubbly) in a preheated oven.

Hoping you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

God be with you,

Until next time,

Anna

Soli Deo gloria!

Thanksgiving Breakfast

Cranberry Walnut Breakfast Pie

This is our annual Thanksgiving breakfast treat. Often we serve sausage links along side of it. Delicious with coffee!! This is easily doubled and you can leave the walnuts out if someone doesn’t like them. Just add a few more cranberries to the mix. We always make one pie with walnuts and one without so everyone is satisfied. Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!!

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 eggs, well beaten

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (can use vanilla if out of almond)

Combine flour, sugar and salt. Add nuts and cranberries and mix well. Mix the beaten eggs, melted butter and extract together and then add into flour mixture. Stir well. Spread into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.