In this brief lull of the Holiday Hustle, I’m catching my breath after a delightful Christmas before we gear up for another round of family gatherings coming up this weekend.
My heart is full, my house has been well used, and my sweet tooth has been revved up on high. (Is it better just to get all the delectable goodies eaten up so they aren’t taunting me???)
Our family pace has slowed a bit yet our rhythms are a little wonky due to clumsy shifting from sluggish relaxation to the next flurry of holiday activity.
I savor our togetherness however it occurs.
Holidays are often an eclectic mix of excited anticipation and a pinch of disappointment when things don’t go as expected, aren’t they?
Beloved coffee cakes may overflow and drip all over the oven, creating a burnt stench wafting through the house instead of filling it with the usual sweet aroma….
In these moments, frustration rises quickly and it’s so easy to feel defeated in our attempts to cultivate holiday traditions.
Moving past the initial grumbling, we tackle the messes and clean up the spills. (We are still the adults after all, right?)
Sometimes we have to go back to the very beginning and try again to get the end result we’re hoping to achieve. We often learn something deeper about ourselves in this unwinding process.
Messes and mishaps remind us to keep things in perspective. Others are struggling with deeper trials and faced with tougher challenges.
None of us can do it on our own. We are small in the grand scheme of things.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the First and the Last,
the Beginning and the End.”
I’m grateful we have a God that provides GRACE in all of our vulnerable mess. He is with us in our humble beginnings. He is with us in the messy middle. He is with us in the aftermath.
It’s comforting to feel His presence always available to us. We just have to push through our distractions to realize He is the First and is the Last in all of it.
As this year draws to a close and we’re scurrying around to tie up loose ends, hopefully we’re carrying with us a little more wisdom from what we have learned about ourselves this past year.
May we lean into the New Year with deeper insight, brighter hope, and more realistic expectations.
This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.
Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.
The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.
We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.
We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.
Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.
Many versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.
We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.
We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor.
Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.
Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.
As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.
Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.
The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.
Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.
As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles, we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.
Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.
Here’s to family and GINGERBREAD all the way!
When I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a week putting up Christmas in our home. It is a highlight in my childhood. We removed everything from table tops and hearth and brought in boxes of nativities, lights and garlands. We played carols and sipped on hot cocoa and apple cider the whole week. We reminisced about ornaments and even decked out the ceiling fan!! It was magical in every sense of the word for me. In the evenings, I would curl up with a blanket in the far corner of the room and bask in the glow of the lights from the tree; I dreamed grand dreams there. It still is one of my dearest places tucked within my heart.
Lean in, Linger, Listen to God’s voice. Let your Loved Ones Touch and Feel Christmas…it Touches Their Lives Forever.
We have these 5 Senses… and the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to play up every single one of those beautiful gifts! It is vital to all of us; young and old, to engage with one another. There are traditions, memories, and new starts all tangled together. There are candle smells, crackling fire sounds, warmth of familiar blankets, and tastes of yummy baking all swirled together in our memory banks. There are joys and sorrows interspersed too… they’re captured in the promise of Redemptive Peace during this month!
So let the children decorate the tree. Give them a step stool so they can stretch on tippy toes to hang their ornament high. Pile books near so that you have the fun of catching them sprawled out by the tree reading in the glow of the twinkle lights. Set up an Advent Box and let the finishing touch of each evening end with something nourishing for the soul and a sweet treat for the taste buds!
Leave space on a table for a puzzle or crafts to be dreamed up. Decorate a Gingerbread House or Cookies and make a HUGE mess!! (And don’t stress about it in the process; let your loved ones AND you enjoy and play.)
As I grew up surrounded by cousins, we annually created a play to perform on Christmas Eve together. We dreamed up the story, wrote out the lines, created scenery even! When the big night arrived, we passed out programs and felt the excitement mount… All our senses were engaged. It was equally as fun preparing those plays to opening the presents. We lingered longer with one another and had so much fun.
As I write and reflect. I feel very blessed to have had so many Touch and Feel Christmases in my life so far. It’s become such a part of me, that I pass that on to my kids from my heart. Whether you share the same experiences or not, it is never ever too late to engage those around you in the same feelings. You can go whole hog, or simply linger in more intentional time with someone; both result from the same desire.
Joy to the World!
No matter what our age, receiving a “treat” makes us feel special and nudges out of our usual routine.
In a recent whirlwind of activities pushing me about in multiple directions, I’ve been trying to catch my breath to capture the “special” in these busy moments.
As adults, we typically refer to family milestones or significant events as “blessings” from the Lord because that sounds mature and “grown up.,” right?
I wonder if we’d recapture some of that childlike joy if we viewed these as “treats” instead?
I’ve been reflecting on some of the “treats” I’ve received recently in unexpected ways, unwrapping them slowly to savor them a little longer.
I have a new friend who just turned 9 and I was honored to help celebrate her birthday. In a room filled with pink balloons and fun Bible Quilting supplies scattered about, it was a treat to observe young girls engaging with each other in genuine excitement about crafting with scripture. Girlish squeals & endless chatter are not a norm for this Boymom! A peek into this little girl’s world was a delight.
What a joy it’s been to see the Lord unfold our Bible Quilting business/ministry in unexpected ways. Having a front-seat view of mothers and daughters uniting over scripture has been a double-scoop treat for us! I’m grateful to be partnering in this journey with my sister-in-law. The Lord keeps revealing ways he’s knit our paths together for His purpose…a gift that keeps on giving, layer by colorful layer.
My youngest has upped his game on giving me tight hugs at unexpected times. I absorb these squeezes fondly because they keep me connected to him in a special way when pre-adolescent words flop around between us awkwardly sometimes. His playful spirit is a treat amidst all the adulting stuff I have to do.
I was treated to a glimpse of how other teens view my 15-year-old son as a leader and friend by them showing up to put in some hard labor for his Eagle Scout project. As I shoveled and raked beside his friends, I was able to see how they valued his quiet ways and gentle spirit.
I’m grateful for my tenacious husband who plotted over the plan and provided a constant reinforcement for all my son’s endeavors. After 2 Saturdays of our family putting in 12-hour work days, it was a well-deserved treat to see my son’s confident stance and satisfied smile as he overlooked this massive undertaking nearing completion.
And, oh my heart, as I saw my oldest through a photographer’s eyes as she snapped away during his Senior Picture photo shoot last week! All parents of seniors know that our kids are maturing in many ways right before our eyes as they plan their college launch next fall, but it untethers a mother’s heart a bit to see this milestone inch tangibly closer with each shutter click of that professional camera. Click. Click. Click.
What an unexpected treat to view my son from a bystander’s perch as he engaged in witty conversation with a stranger about his future endeavors, allowing snippets of his dreams to fall out loosely between each camera pose. These brief flashes of my soon-to-be-adult-son were quickly scooped up to be cherished with other childhood memories of our firstborn who has carved such a steady path forward.
“Every good and perfect gift is from Above.” James 1:17
As the leaves blush with color and begin to swirl around on our streets, I’m reminded of God’s artistry in nature…how He treats us to something fresh each season. I’m grateful for these interludes of graceful transitions so we’re not thrust immediately into the throes of winter.
I love the layering we get to do in the Fall, hopefully nestling warmth and peace into our spirits as well.
As I walked through the house on my nightly clean-sweep of rooms, I paused last week on this grouping left on a desk. Two sons had mingled parts of their day on this surface. I see this stuff all the time, and usually sort and sift quickly to keep or trash. But for a split moment I was inspired to pay attention before I disbanded the “clutter”.
I felt the need to snap a picture for my memory bank. It means nothing to most eyes that see it, but for me, it reflects two rambunctious boys that I love. The stick and duct tape, the fidget spinner, the rock, the beginning attempts of drawing circles…such sweet pieces of childhood. It’s not something I will scrapbook later, but I will begin to snap more pictures like it for my own heart and memory.
And so I hope to plant a seed for you too as you walk through parts of our mundane days. They are Ordinary a lot of the week, but in that Ordinary, look for the gems that are visually laid out just for you as a gift from God; these snapshots are beautiful reflections of family, love, joy, contentment, security… they are hidden treasures unless you really open your eyes to see.
As I was unpacking boxes from our move, I unloaded children’s books in the hallway with no plan yet of where to place them. Eli instantly sprawled out and began absorbing them as if old friends had just arrived. He lingered there for an hour! (A looong time for a 5-year-old). I kept stepping over him to continue unpacking, but then glanced down and realized that I didn’t want to ever forget such sweet innocence in that moment. You think you’ll remember; but take the snapshot.
So many Saturdays are on the soccer fields right now in our family’s life. My views are similar each week, and I make sure to take a pic or two of my boys playing the sport from time to time. But with my quest to see the hidden gems, I snapped this thinking I would probably delete it once I could actually see it out of the direct sunlight…but oh no, I will keep it. I love it in fact. It has all the components from the quilt blankets laid out each week, to the sibling drifters that are needing busy work and snacks while waiting out a game. To me, it’s a sweet reminder of this season.
And so I have these:
Two leaves that one son thought were worthy of keeping,
A beloved pup that always lingers at the top of the stairs hoping for a pet on the landing below,
A crazy fort that I ran in to while trying to get though my bedroom!
Boys enjoying the quiet process of creating art late at night when the house finally stills… Oh, I don’t want to miss any of these! I probably would not have normally taken these photos last week. The are all just natural parts of our family’s routine. I see them all the time; but this week, through the camera lens, I see the beautiful treasures they are just for me. My heart overflows with thankfulness to the Lord for His abundance in my Ordinary day! You can keep your eyes open for the hidden gems that are laid out just for you too! You see them all day long. When you spot them, snap the picture. You never have to edit them; they are perfect just as they are.