Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: Christmas

Traditions and Recipes

recipe2.jpgI love reading and writing. Those pursuits and how my faith affects them is what this blog is all about. But I have other hobbies too. In honor of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I’d like to share one of them with you.

I hold many fond memories of these holidays. No other time of year focuses so heavily on things like family and tradition. And one of my favorite activities is enjoyed more at this time of year than any other.

I remember my grandma baking at Christmas. Every year she made divinity, peanut brittle, and lace cookies to share with friends and family. I picked up the hobby after my freshman year food and nutrition course in high school. Every year since then, I’ve collected holiday cookie recipe books and spent hours in the kitchen. Before kids it wasn’t unusual for me to make 120 dozen different cookies and candies. Now, I’m lucky to get 20 to 30 dozen, but that’s okay. One day I’ll be able to devote a week to baking like I used to.

I look forward to creating in the kitchen every year. This holiday season, as thanks for sticking with me and this blog, I’d like to share some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. Come back every Friday for a new one, and if you get the chance take a look at some of my review and writing posts too. Today’s recipe was passed down to me by my grandma. It’s a staple of my cookie list every year, just like it was hers. I hope you enjoy it! recipe1

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Mary’s Journal

I’m pretty sure Mary would have enjoyed journaling, especially journaling about her experiences with the birth of Jesus. I realize the shortage of paper and pens in biblical times prevents us from knowing this for sure, but I have a feeling about this one. Stick with me for a minute.

Jesus was Mary’s first born. She was new to everything about having a child, the morning sickness, the Braxton Hicks contractions, the cravings. First time expectant mothers often have a rosy outlook about even the worst parts of the process. Every milestone, pleasant or unpleasant, is met with unbridled excitement. With the first born, the mothers tend to keep every ultrasound picture and document every step of the journey. With the miraculous circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, there was so much more for Mary to want to remember.

Being a new mother isn’t the sole reason I think Mary would journal. In fact, it’s really only what I think Mary would have journaled about. My belief that Mary would have a shelf full of journals stuffed with all her precious memories comes from two separate passages of scripture. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary shares a heartfelt song of praise with Elizabeth. She has given a lot of thought to where she is in life and what God is doing in and through her. That kind of praise and creativity begs to be recorded and looked back on regularly.

The second scripture is one short verse in Luke 2:19. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While everyone else who had been touched by the events of the Christmas story was out telling the story to anyone who would listen, Mary took the time to let everything sink in. We know from the previous passage, Mary wasn’t afraid to share what God was doing. But she wanted it to be deeper than that. She internalized the events and let them change her. She didn’t just enjoy the events. She let them become part of her. I imagine these things were what gave Mary strength at the end of her son’s life, and the fact that she wanted to take them in as deeply as she did is one more reason I believe Mary would have loved to find a journal under the tree at Christmas.

Whether or not Mary would have recorded the events of her life if possible, we can still take a page from her book, so to speak. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of what God has done for us through the birth of His Son. We get caught up in all the things we need to check off our to-do lists, and we forget to praise Him for what He has already done. We fail to let everything He did then and all He is doing in us and for us now really sink in and make a difference in our lives. We need to learn to take time to “ponder them in our hearts”.

By the Book: Whether you journal or not, use this holiday season as an opportunity to write out a prayer of praise to God. Don’t rush it.  Take time to think about all God is doing in your life before beginning your prayer.

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Mary's Journal

I’m pretty sure Mary would have enjoyed journaling, especially journaling about her experiences with the birth of Jesus. I realize the shortage of paper and pens in biblical times prevents us from knowing this for sure, but I have a feeling about this one. Stick with me for a minute.
Jesus was Mary’s first born. She was new to everything about having a child, the morning sickness, the Braxton Hicks contractions, the cravings. First time expectant mothers often have a rosy outlook about even the worst parts of the process. Every milestone, pleasant or unpleasant, is met with unbridled excitement. With the first born, the mothers tend to keep every ultrasound picture and document every step of the journey. With the miraculous circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth, there was so much more for Mary to want to remember.
Being a new mother isn’t the sole reason I think Mary would journal. In fact, it’s really only what I think Mary would have journaled about. My belief that Mary would have a shelf full of journals stuffed with all her precious memories comes from two separate passages of scripture. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary shares a heartfelt song of praise with Elizabeth. She has given a lot of thought to where she is in life and what God is doing in and through her. That kind of praise and creativity begs to be recorded and looked back on regularly.
The second scripture is one short verse in Luke 2:19. “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” While everyone else who had been touched by the events of the Christmas story was out telling the story to anyone who would listen, Mary took the time to let everything sink in. We know from the previous passage, Mary wasn’t afraid to share what God was doing. But she wanted it to be deeper than that. She internalized the events and let them change her. She didn’t just enjoy the events. She let them become part of her. I imagine these things were what gave Mary strength at the end of her son’s life, and the fact that she wanted to take them in as deeply as she did is one more reason I believe Mary would have loved to find a journal under the tree at Christmas.
Whether or not Mary would have recorded the events of her life if possible, we can still take a page from her book, so to speak. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to lose sight of what God has done for us through the birth of His Son. We get caught up in all the things we need to check off our to-do lists, and we forget to praise Him for what He has already done. We fail to let everything He did then and all He is doing in us and for us now really sink in and make a difference in our lives. We need to learn to take time to “ponder them in our hearts”.
By the Book: Whether you journal or not, use this holiday season as an opportunity to write out a prayer of praise to God. Don’t rush it.  Take time to think about all God is doing in your life before beginning your prayer.

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Christmas According to John

“They’re going to be just a few months apart. They’ll always have a best friend to play with.” I don’t want to burst the perfectly planned little bubble of expectant parents when they say this. So, I smile and nod and remember the days when those words came out of my own mouth.

My two oldest boys are fifteen months apart. As very young children, they did play well together. They did almost everything together, watched the same shows, and liked the same toys. Then, they started to grow up. Their beliefs of how they should interact with the world around them began to diverge. My oldest became very order and rule oriented. His brother is a little more of a free spirit. One is studious, the other athletic. Both are creative, but in very different ways. As their personalities developed, the comradery they had known as children was strained under the weight of their differences. Now entering adulthood, but still at home, their differences cause more friction than their similarities allow for friendship. (Though I have hope for the future. My own brothers are very different, but they found their common ground since they stopped living under the same roof!)

I am amazed at how unique my sons are. Face it, they share the same DNA. Two apples off the same tree should look and taste the same, right? Often, with people, that isn’t the case. And that is a really good thing. God has a plan for each of my children, and He made them exactly like He wants them to accomplish that purpose. Sure, He has to sand off the rough edges of their personalities, but my oldest is not equipped to fulfill the purpose of the younger brother. Nor is the younger equipped to do what God will call His brother to do. All of my children need to be unique in their personalities and passions because God needs to grow them into the person perfectly suited for the plans He has for them and not anyone else.

It’s good to remember this as we consider our differences with others, but also keep it in mind as we read scripture. Looking for a new Bible study as Christmas approached, I wanted one that deepened my understanding of Jesus. I wanted to revisit the gospels and see the Christmas story with fresh eyes.

I decided on The God Who Cares and Knows You by Kay Arthur. I’ve always enjoyed inductive Bible study, and this one in the gospel of John sounded perfect. The only problem with reading John to get a new outlook on the Christmas story is that John is one of the two gospels without mention of the Christmas story.

All the gospels were written to share the good news of Jesus. Why would John choose not to focus on Jesus coming as a baby in a manger? That’s where the story begins, right? Not exactly. While each of the gospels have the same basic purpose, the men God chose to write them are as different as my sons. They have different backgrounds, personalities, and passions. Things one remembers as important, might not have caught the attention of another.  The people being written to were different as well. They had different needs. So, the focus and information contained in the gospels written to them had to be different too. Tailored by God to meet their specific needs.

John’s sole purpose was to show people that Jesus is Christ, the Son of God. He needed to impress on the recipients the idea that Jesus, born man, was also God from the beginning. So he didn’t start with the manger. He takes us back to creation and establishes Jesus as God the Son before moving through His ministry, death, and resurrection.

Though he doesn’t include the traditional Christmas story, John introduces us to the reality of “God with us” and what that means for us. And because he does this, I can study John and come away with a fresh appreciation for the Christmas story and for our God who loves us enough to write four gospels as unique as the people they are meant to speak to.

By the Book: Read the opening chapter of John. Then, read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke, keeping in mind who the baby in the manger really is.

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