Last weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.
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.
As the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in creating and constructing.
The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.
Grandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.
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.
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.
Our family has done Thanksgiving in many different ways over the years. We’ve hosted the dinners yet also driven the miles to do the rounds between all the families. We’ve squished in family projects in lieu of big family gatherings. Some years we’ve taken off for a family getaway instead of sticking with tradition.
One of the ways we’ve reclaimed our own family connections going into the holiday season is to share a few hours together baking pies. Several years ago I said “yes“ to one of my boys who asked if we could cut into one of the pies to have a taste.
So, we began having “pie for dinner” on Thanksgiving Eve, letting go of the expectation of showing up to our family gig the next day with fully intact pies. We feel a little giddy with the power of “eating dessert first” and having pie as the only thing on the dinner menu.
As we were winding down our Pie for Dinner night this year, a candle was enthusiastically blown out which splattered wax all over our white tablecloth. Although a little chagrined, we tried not to let it overshadow the scrumptious fun we had just had together. We walked away from it, piecrust crumbs and all.
The next day after returning from a festive and full family dinner, I gathered up the tablecloth and stuck it in the freezer to deal with later. (I read about this handy trick somewhere, so I gave it a whirl.) Yesterday morning I attempted to get the wax to flake off. No luck! I threw it in the washer with mild hopes that some laundering magic might make the wax disappear. Nope! It morphed into a smooth patch of muted blue splotches…and is on the verge of being downgraded to a craft tablecloth. Oh well!
As I’ve gone round and round with this silly thing, I’ve realized I can get worked up about it or come to peace with it and move on…because we know the next season’s messes will be upon us before we know it, right?
Along with the jingly bells of the season, we hear the buzzing of pressure all around us.
Sometimes our calendars fill up rather than our hearts.
We can easily get pulled into holiday stress, feeling the fractures sneaking in. Or we can remain steadfast in seeking out the joys and peace of the season, one choice at a time.
When we’re tugged to get our shopping done early or to be among the first wave of holiday cards arriving in busy mailboxes, we need to intentionally slow down to pull together rather than apart.
We know we need to choose relationship over finding just the “right” gift…one heart decision at a time.
“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…” Luke 2:19
It’s okay to take a break to ponder…and perhaps reflect on the bigger picture.
People all around us are hurting. Families are facing loss. Friends are financially squeezed. We can all use a dose of PEACE rather than fall to pieces when we get overwhelmed with holiday stress or encounter another flavor of brokenness.
We can strive to give thanks for the overflow of one season blurring into the next, preparing our hearts one day at a time.
If you were to ask me what Ordinary Threads is all about, my heart longs to share with as many women as I can; as many women as my voice can reach in my small pond, but with the Lord’s ripple effect, to help them understand what an amazing gift God has given women when it comes to family and children. In this generation especially, with media pressing in and pressing hard on the minds and in the hearts of our youth.It is still within the home that the Lord is crying out to women to hang on, hold tight and layer your family with prayer and love and tradition.Don’t blindly let them be taken away in what the enemy would so easily love to inflict: a hook-up with the world and a non-connect in the home.
Ordinary Threadsand this blog is about sharing with women how to live each day with purposeful intention in every single thing that we do. From cooking and cleaning, to tucking in our children at night, loving our spouse well and all the while focusing on our Lord. When we write weekly, our hearts are pressed in to share with women how to take things like menu planning and errands and chores, and to layer them into the growth of our family instead of pushing the family aside as we plow on.Ordinary Threads is a step of Faith for us, and each time we take that daily step out of our comfort zone, the Lord shows up!He continues to flood our hearts with so many beautiful things to share with women, that its sometimes hard to even keep. But it is exciting and it is a process, and our Lord never rushes His design.
Right now we are taking this journey ofBible Quilting. We have been honored to share it with many of you already, and the fruit that is growing from seeds planted is tremendous! We give God all the glory for what He is doing with this plan.It has not been easy, and we have felt spiritual attack and residue that comes with it.At Ordinary Threads, our hearts want to impress on women to cling tight to the Lord when these storms arise.We are seeing more fruit then we could have imagined on our own rising out of hardships that we have weathered together.
As I am currently packing my house up and about to move my family into another house, my heart is reflective of the layers that are here. I feel tears start to come at different parts of the day as I walk through these rooms. It’s a flood of mixed emotions as I jostle the thoughts of excitement in setting up a new space and making it our own, and continuing the layers of our home.
The ordinary threads that we all are, when woven together under the Creator’s workmanship, produce a beautiful quilt that brings layers of warmth, security and assurance to where our children belong. God gives each woman the threads to weave this masterpiece with Him. It is called a Home, and there are many wonderful layers within it.
Our writing has always been intentional in showing families how to use the layers of life in a Christ-like way. Cooking, Laundry, Sports, Church, Homework…all the glorious and the yuck of a day interwoven.
When we began this blog, it was from a stirring in my heart to share the layers of life with other women. My sis-in-law came beside me, and we continue to walk it out weekly with the Lord.
Daily life can get swept up in weeks, months and years. I’ve heard many times the phrase, “looking forward to when they can do that!” in reference to children. When mine were all itty bitty, I remember wanting to work on my art but deciding it would have to wait till my kids were grown… and that’s when the Lord impressed upon my heart to, “paint in the mess”. If I waited, I would miss out on the growing process of my own Faith while watching the literal growth of my babies. He wanted me to have both. It’s hard to layer both in my life;its messier, but I’m reminded that this world is messy. If God was waiting for perfect, we would miss out on sunsets, and wildflowers mingled with the weeds.
In the mundane of each day that is necessary: cook, clean, school, appointments… at Ordinary Threads, we work with purpose to infuse layers between the ordinary. It’s with love, music, stories, milestone markers, generations, outreach, traditions…that we weave it all together. We are looking forward to sharing so much more life together with you.
So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded. Hebrews 10:35-36
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.
Here’s the question: “How do you carve out one-on-one time with a child when you have so many?”It’s a very good question! I am asked about it a lot, which is humorous since I am an only child and had all of my parents’ attention. So I am learning as I go, and asking the Lord for insight often. Here are some tools I’ve found that work for us in our home, that at times feels like a whirling dervish!
This is the day the Lord has made! Psalm 118:24
We do most activities together, which I like because I see so much learned in sharing, compromising and helping one another. But every one of us wants to be seen, heard and loved. I want to know each child’s personality, dreams and ambitions. This is where our “dinnerhelper” spun from… there is usually one night that we can all come together and share a meal each week. So I have one child help with preparing our meal. When we first started this, everyone was eager to help and they all hovered in the kitchen. I asked one son to stay while the others went to play; (no sharing on this one).
I had to relinquish control and speed of prep-time at first. What a nine-year-old can help with versus a three-year-old are vastly different! But I learned that giving them the tools of grating cheese, layering a casserole, working a can opener and following a recipe are great life-skills in training. And the three-year-old is just as content in “helping” as he stacks the measuring cups or counts out the paper plates. Conversation began to emerge with my oldest, goofiness grew with my second son as we added music to his nights; we danced and sang while we made dinner! My younger two became even more cuddly after singling them out. It has been a win-win all the way around for each of us.
When I was little, my grandmother fried chicken and made the most delicious chocolate ice-box pies. My mom made hearty soups from scratch. I’ve watched both beautiful women cook side-by-side and create chicken-and-dumplings and hot apple pies that I still dream about! Food is a great layer to a home; it evokes such detailed memories in one’s soul.
So grab a pan, stir a bowl, dance and whisk something for a loved one. Try a new recipe or cling tight to a treasured one. Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy the meals!
In the ordinary days, watch and see were you can carve out these memorable moments. They can be found in our daily tasks.