Baking with the past

By Snow

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. My siblings, nieces, and extended family members spent a few hours together at my brother’s house on Christmas Day – as socially distanced as possible in this year of COVID-19.

I am usually the last one to arrive, but I knew someone else was still missing. I kept looking around, trying to figure out who it was, waiting for that last family member to show up.

Then, I realized who was missing.

Mom.

This was the second Christmas since she passed away. While I was blessed to feel her very briefly a couple of times during the event, Christmas and other family gatherings are not the same without Mom’s physical presence.

Everything seems off. The amount of drinking has gone way up, for instance. This would not have happened in front of Mom. She almost never drank alcohol. Following her example, I don’t drink at all. I never have, and I don’t like being around it.

At the same time, I realize alcohol is how some people deal with pain. Some of my family members still seem to be in a lot of pain when it comes to losing Mom. While I certainly miss her – especially on Christmas, her favorite holiday – I know where she is. I also know she is free now, free of the earthly body that held her back in the last decades of her life.

I am blessed to have Jesus. I am blessed to have the Holy Spirit. I am blessed to have a personal relationship with God. Yes, life can be painful at times, but they help me through it by bringing me peace, filling me with joy, and blessing me with love. Yes, I experience perfect love through Jesus, and I experience true love through my beloved JC. I am so grateful.

Yes, I know where Mom is. She is with Jesus now. I have not really lost her. Rather, she is simply ahead of me on our eternal journey and interacting with me in different ways than before.

When Mom passed away, I was blessed to inherit a number of her personal items. The ones that mean the most to me are her Bible, her recipes, and her 45 RPM vinyl records.

Throughout the lives of me and my siblings, Mom baked special cookies at Christmas. Mom’s cookies were an indelible part of Christmas for us. Since I have her recipes, I have picked up the mantle of baking her cookies over the last two Christmases to continue her legacy.

Her 45s date back to the 1950s. She played and danced to them so much over the years that they can’t really be played anymore. Instead, I made an iTunes playlist of the same songs. I play her songs whenever I bake her cookies.

My apartment has memories of Mom everywhere, especially my kitchen – which includes elements of her kitchens past. In that kitchen, surrounded by memories of Mom, playing her music, using her cookie recipe, I baked seven sheets of Mom’s cookies on Christmas Eve. I say, “I” baked them, but really, I truly believe I was just being Mom’s hands through much of the process. I could feel her with me, almost the entire time.

It is hard to describe, but I feel her most often as small bursts of joy – about where she used to rub or scratch my upper back when I was a youngster. I can also “hear” her in my head at times – though usually more like a thought or a feeling than a direct voice. For instance, I knew she wanted me to give some of her cookies to JC’s mom this year. That is exactly what she would have done were she still physically here.

Mom loved Christmas and would decorate all over the house, including the bathroom. That is how I know if someone is truly dedicated to decorating for Christmas, if the bathroom is included. In the living room, Mom used to put out large, plastic figurines of an elf riding Rudolph, mice playing on a Christmas present, and a Santa Claus sleigh. There was also a Santa doll and a Santa mug. There were many other decorations over the years as well, but those are the ones I remember most from my childhood.

Credit: JC

Last month, I was thrilled to find a Santa mug at Hobby Lobby that was reminiscent of the one Mom used to display. Larger than the one Mom had, I realized these mugs would make the perfect containers to give my siblings Mom’s cookies this year. To better accommodate the mug, I made a few of the sheets of cookies in “bite size” portions – half of the size that Mom normally made.

When I pulled the mugs out on Christmas Day, my siblings immediately connected them with Mom’s mug. They also voiced hope they contained Mom’s cookies.

The cookies ended up being hits in their new bite-sized configurations. I was told they tasted like Mom made them.

That’s because she did make them.

Thanks to Jesus, Mom lives forever, and so will I. The Son of God suffered on the cross to save us from eternal death in Hell.

2020 has been . . . a year. None of us could have predicated how swiftly the entire world would change. My advice continues to be, look for the blessings and keep your eyes on Jesus.

Thank you for reading our little blog. Know that JC and I are praying for you.

May Jesus bless you with a wonderful, active, and healthy New Year!


“Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man. What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”
1 Corinthians 15:47-53

Unwrapping Christmas

By Snow

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”
1 Peter 1:3-4

The last time I posted here, it wasn’t even Halloween yet. Now, Christmas is rapidly approaching.

My understanding of the meaning of Christmas has changed over the years. As a kid, though I was aware by age 5 or 6 that the holiday was in observance of the birth of Jesus, Christmas was about Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Charlie Brown, and presents, presents, presents.

Now, I have to admit to you, 40-some-odd years later, I still love Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, and good ol’ Charlie Brown. When viewed in the proper context, each of these symbols can teach us something about Christmas – or, at least, joyful living.

Santa Claus: Finding joy through giving (Acts 20:35)
Rudolph: Accepting and finding value in misfits (Matthew 20:16)
Frosty: Living in the present (Matthew 6:34)
Charlie Brown: Seeking and recognizing the true meaning of Christmas (Luke 2:8-14)

Credit: JC

Here in the United States, retailers have all but commandeered Christmas and slowly corrupted its message. With endless “Black Friday” sales, we are constantly reminded to, “Buy! Buy! Buy!” The fate of the nation’s economy is in your wallet.

It has irked me as well that Christmas slowly has been genericized. For example, I recently heard a commercial that said, “Coming this holiday.”

Which holiday?

This holiday.

When is “this”?

December 25.

You mean, the holiday formerly known as “Christmas”?

Shhh! Don’t say that too loudly. Someone might hear.

I mention this because I have recently changed my mind on what I once perceived as an insult to Christianity. How recent? Since I started writing this post, as a matter of fact.

Around the time I made the mistake of getting married to someone I did not love, I got caught up in the annual shopping frenzy. For me, “Christmas” devolved into racking up thousands of dollars in purchases each year, most of which I “covered” with credit cards. While those days are over, I am literally still paying for them.

My point is, let them have their “holiday sales” and “holiday shopping.” Have your fun, too, within reason, but there’s no need to attach Christ’s name to any of that.

Christmas is about the birth of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. We can’t even comprehend God, much less His power. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is present everywhere and every time all at once. He is the embodiment of love. God has all of this and more than I could ever hope to describe.

This same God chose to come to Earth in a physical sense over two thousand years ago, in the form of His Son, as a mere human – one of us, yet not. The Son of God became the Son of Man.

According to Genesis 1:27, we are created in the image of God. However, we are imperfect reflections of God. He is holy. We are sinful. Jesus, even in human form, is the perfect image of God, for He is God.

Matthew 2:1-12 tells us that wise men brought the young Jesus gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts were of value to humans of the time, but of what value were such trinkets to the Son of God?

Today, we still give one another trinkets at Christmas. Oh, sure, the actual items slightly change over the years. Today, they might be a gold necklace, AirPods Pro, and a Yeti mug.

But none of these gifts, then or now, have any intrinsic value. They have no eternal value.

Let me repeat, they are absolutely worthless.

Even a handmade gift truly crafted out of love has no value in the item itself, but, rather, in the eternal quality of love (God) associated with it. See 1 John 4:16.

During His life, death, and life on Earth, Jesus gave gifts of eternal value. His gifts were crafted of the purest love. Perfect, eternal love. His gifts included His sermons, His perfect example to us (what we attempt to emulate today with “Christlike behavior”), unconditional love, joy, peace, and the Holy Spirit.

The most incredible gift, forged out of His love, His blood, and His body, Jesus ever gave us is our salvation. Despite the enormous weight of our sins, He made us right with God for all of time.

No other gift could ever top that one. No holiday sale could ever provide a better deal. No holiday shopping spree could ever compete.

Here’s the thing about a gift, though. It doesn’t serve its purpose unless you accept it.

Jesus has already bought and paid for your salvation. No refunds or exchanges. All you have to do is unwrap it by accepting Him (John 3:16).

If you do not yet know Jesus, will you pray with me to accept His gift?


Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for the eternal gifts He has offered the world. Please forgive my sins, including those I do not see.

Lord, I accept Jesus in my heart. He is Your Son and my Savior. He took human form and died for me and my sins on the cross. He made me right with You for all of time. No matter what mistakes I have made or will make, He has already covered all of them with His body and His blood. On the third day after His death, He was resurrected. He has defeated death such that I, too, will have eternal life. I give my sins to Jesus. I lift up my hopes to Jesus. I give my fears to Jesus. I am His for all of time. I accept His gift. I accept His unconditional love.

In the precious name of Jesus I pray.

Amen


Merry Christmas, everyone! May Jesus fill your days with joy, love, and peace.