Overnight Sweet Buns

Are traditions running and ruining your holidays? It can happen. When certain time-consuming activities or labor intensive food items are demanded by family members (or your own excessive expectations) to the point of stress for the one providing them, I say stop! Take a look at what you’re doing and consider the benefit/cost ratio. Is the benefit of that tradition worth the cost to your stress level – honestly? Is it worth what it costs you in term of focusing on the celebration of Christ’s nativity?

Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial or constructive and I will not be mastered by anything, or become a slave to it, (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). I have certainly found myself enslaved to certain family traditions in the past and it wasn’t pretty when measured against the stress within me and the resulting behaviors. Dinner with too many food items on the table… too many material items purchased for too many people… too many events… too many expectations… not enough focus, not enough peace.

Of course there are times we make legitimate sacrifice of ourselves for the good of our family, times when the labor and expertise we invest in a tradition result in something so valued and appreciated, providing treasured memories and genuine pleasure we consider the benefit well worth the cost. But do pause for a moment to consider. Is it possible the sacrifice of yourself is promoting a sense of entitlement within your family rather than appropriate enjoyment of a tradition?

We have an old family recipe from my grandmother for wonderful, sweet holiday bread rolls which dominate one entire day of life. They require the cooking of a potato for the dough in the morning and the preparation of dough all throughout that day, punching it down, separating it and letting it rise several times to get it very, very light. In the evening the rolls are formed individually by turning them in the hand with much finger work and placing them on the baking tins. The buns are covered and allowed to rise all night, thus the title “Overnight Sweet Buns.” First thing in the morning of the next day they are baked, filling the house with wonderful fragrance. They can be done ahead of the holiday and frozen, but then you miss that fragrance and the fun of having them fresh-from-the-oven for breakfast on the holiday morning.

A few years ago I gave up the honor of making these rolls because of the intricate finger work involved. If I can’t play guitar anymore, it’s obvious my fingers aren’t up to bun-making, either. Family members picked up the trust and continued to make the rolls because they are delicious and a holiday tradition, after all!

This year the family discussed the benefit/cost ratio and came to a profound conclusion: the cost was higher than anyone was willing to pay! No one volunteered to make the buns, so there were no Overnight Sweet Buns on our Thanksgiving table this year. Did I miss them? Yes. Do I wish my family had added stress to their lives in order to provide them for my dining pleasure at that meal? I do not!

I give you as much permission as I am able to impart – reconsider your traditions. If they are fun and fit well into the holiday schedule and are appropriately appreciated, that’s great. If there are some that cause undue stress, see if family members are sufficiently vested to take up the obligation, allowing you to turn your attention elsewhere for more peaceful holidays.

Holidays Hard?

Family not all warm and fuzzy? Have you suffered a loss this year that now plays havoc with holiday traditions? Are you wishing someone would beam you to January 2nd, with the hoopla behind you? My heart aches for the large percentage of folks for whom it’s hard to find things for which to be thankful while choking down turkey and the holidays are anything but merry.

Please don’t give up. Don’t give in to the sadness and let it rob you. Change happens to you; transition happens inside you, where you make choices. I hope you will dig deep inside and then choose to look outside yourself to find someone who can benefit from your friendship – perhaps someone else who dreads the holidays. If we acknowledge there are many such folks, then there are many who need a word of cheer and some extra love in the coming days. When we determine to bless another person with our friendship we absolutely cannot help but be blessed in the process, lifted up and out of ourselves.

You are an important part of what’s going on or you wouldn’t be here! I pray that you will rise above your own grief, discomfort, or just plain disgruntledness and seek the help of God to bless someone else during the next few days and weeks.

I would love to hear how it goes. I wish for you better holidays than you expected!

With my love, Kitty

Gratitude

Gratitude must have an end point, a receptacle. We need a place to deposit our appreciation. I believe the resistance to thanking God is what gave rise to the phrase “Turkey Day.” If we are thankful, we must be thankful to… the one(s) from whom our blessings come? Our parents? Our own hard work? Our own ingenuity and enterprise? Where did those blessings truly originate?

If we are honest we must express gratitude to the God who gave us life, health, ingenuity and enterprise, parents who provided some measure of something – at least they didn’t abort us and many parents loved and nurtured us wonderfully well. These are gifts from Creator God. Can we just acknowledge his good gifts and give him thanks?

Awareness of sin, the gift of repentance and saving faith are provided by the God who loves us. Those are amazing gifts for which we can express heartfelt appreciation because they transfer us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son.*

If you enjoy relationships that enrich your life (spouse, children, grandchildren, friends) thank God for those relationships and the effect they have on your attitudes and health. If you enjoy sufficient health to work and be productive for your family and society, thank God for that strength and something meaningful (or not so meaningful) to do that puts food in the mouths and a roof over the heads. If your strength is failing and you are in pain, thank God for contentment which can cover your heart and mind like a blanket of new-fallen snow regardless of your circumstances. It can. It truly can! I am seeing it in a couple of my pain-afflicted friends as they yield in submission. “If it’s okay with God; it’s okay with me.” Thank you, Father!

Let’s be people who know what Thanks-giving is all about. We know where to go with our gratitude. We recognize from Whom our blessings flow. He deserves our thanks, and not just on some government-approved holiday but every moment of every day of the life he gives and sustains.

Happy Thanks-giving!

* Colossians 1:13-14

Peeks and Promises

I wrote a Bible Study called “Peeks and Promises.” The concept was to peek into each book of the Old Testament to see some of the promises tucked in those pages about Christ and find where the New Testament tells us those promises were fulfilled in Jesus. I had a great time writing it.

Several months passed before this September arrived and I was asked to offer the study at the church I attend. When we actually got around to having the classes I found myself surprisingly insecure about the study. “Who wrote this thing?” I thought. “It’s so dry and impersonal, just one verse after another. Look-them-up-and-write-your-answers. Oh, dear!” I really thought it was going to be a disaster!

For awhile there I forgot how God feels about his written Word. He loves it and takes responsibility for it, promising it will not be ineffective, but will successfully accomplish what he desires.*

It mattered not how I felt about it; my insecurity interfered with God not one whit. He is taking his Word and meeting the participants in their homes with a measure of fascination as they prepare the lessons, giving them a greater appreciation for the Old Testament and fulfilled prophecy. Class time is exciting as participants express what they are learning. God is even making it personal, helping us to see where these peeks and promises affect our own lives. Imagine that!

I was almost shocked at first. I was so excited to watch God take his written Word and make it come alive for his purposes, to accomplish what he desired – absolutely in spite of me and the unhelpful sense of ownership and people-pleasing that could have ruined it for me.

You know, this can happen on a daily basis for each one of us, too. Every time we open our Bibles and ask God to reveal more of himself to us in those pages – he absolutely loves to do that! He gave us the Bible and preserved it down through the ages so we could read it today and let him use it in our lives to transform us into the people he created us to be. Pretty amazing!!

*Isaiah 55:11

Who Do I Think I Am, Anyway?

Personalizing the Psalms and blogging them for 71 weeks? Who do I think I am, anyway? Well, it certainly was not an attempt to rewrite them but only to research the original meanings of the key words in some their nuances that might have particular application to my life issues and my way of looking at things. I shared them in the hope they would shed additional light to others without diverting attention from God’s original message at all.

It was quite an adventure and I loved it! I found myself drawn in to the love and care of God in ways I had never considered in my previous 55 years of exposure to holy writ. The Psalms are so real! Cries of discouragement, depression, despair are clearly sounded without apology. What? It’s okay to rail like that at God, be that honest?

There is great comfort in the Psalms for the hurting heart. Again and again God shows himself to be the sovereign God who is personal in his power, love and wisdom – acting always to promote the agenda of his glory but also our very best good.

I was personally benefitted in my walk with God as I studied and recorded my findings through these 71 weeks. Whether or not anyone else benefitted is relatively irrelevant. They are there under the title “Psalms Personalized” for anyone to see if interested.

I’ll blog on other things in the future.

From Anne Lamont

My six-year-old associate, who sleeps down the hall about thirty feet away with both our doors wide open, wakes up on many mornings and predicts, “This might be the best day ever!”

Then, in the dead of night, a tiny voice calls out to me, “Nana, will you ever get sick or die?”

Then he cries at the very thought. He terrorizes himself.

I think this says it all.

If you are alive, conscious, and sensitive, which is to say, human, you’re going to have incredible joy and terror this side of eternity. It’s Life 101, life on life’s terms, not on ours, all these things–fear, joy, grace, mess, isolation, communion–all mixed up together.

I hate this more than I can say. I don’t like everything to touch.

Also, I don’t love that at sixty-one, your skin can still break out, even as the wattles hang lower, like roman shades, and you might still get audited, or shingles. Not to mention that every so often, out of the blue, a sniper sneaks back into the tree and picks off someone without whom you can’t–or at least don’t want–to go on.

Or that other people, like obviously Jimmy Carter, handle fearful news with faith and elegance, while you KNOW that you will be more like a cross between Kylie Jenner and Ed Grimley.

While we are at it, I am a tiny bit tired of having issues around food and my body. I would like–and expected–to be all well by this age, which is to say, I’d mostly want healthy food. Really?

Also, I do not love that when you get older, your feet hurt fairly often because you walk a lot BECAUSE EVERYONE FUGGING TOLD YOU YOU HAD TO IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A GOOD OLD AGE. P.S. For the record, I refuse to eat kale. PPS. I have lost all confidence in lettuce. It is basically green crunchy air.

But back to my associate.

It is not helpful to tell each other cute things we saw on bumper stickers, whether our beloved people are six or sixty. It is condescending, and patronizing, and it make us turn on you. And yet! Two very short sentences do help, have saved me for often that I can recount:

The most important is “Me too.” Yes, joyous and scared, chosen and lonely, healing and cuckoo, all at once. Yep. Me too.

The second is, “Courage is fear that has said it prayers.” Courage when your kids leave, or you lose them, or evil pulls on them too hard; courage for the limbo of sick parents, and cold silences and dark nights. I think often of the weeks after the end of WWII, in the refugee camps for orphans and dislocated kids. Of course the children couldn’t sleep! But the grown-ups discovered that after you fed them, if you gave them each a piece of bread just to hold, they would drift off. It was holding bread. There was more to eat if they were still hungry. This was bread to hold, to remind them and connect them to the great truth–that morning would come, that there were grown-ups who cared and were watching over them, that there would be more food when they awoke.

Wow. I mean, HELLO, the fourth great prayer. Hello, are you really there? I am! I’m right here, and I’m semi-okay, and you are right here, too, or at least down the hall, with the door wide open.

We are each other’s holding bread.

Yesterday my pastor quoted Gandhi saying that there is so much hunger in the world that God comes to earth as bread.

We are so hungry! And we get to call out to each other in the dark, and the parents of our childhoods will not be pissed off that we have woken them. Our closest people, our chosen families, now say we can call them if we need to, and they will say, “It’s fine that you called. Yes, me too! I know what that is like. I know exactly what that fear and isolated feel like. I’m listening, honey.”

When my darling grandboy cannot get himself back to sleep, I don’t tell him I promise never to get sick or die. I just go fish him out of the fear and the dark, and tuck him in next to me.

Reach for me, bread of God.

And then when the light returns, who knows? This might be the best day ever.

My Mess is My Message

I make no apologies for the fact that I am craft-challenged. I stand in open-mouthed amazement when observing those who whip out from their imaginations beautiful creations with nothing but raffia, glue guns and glitter.

Last night I joined friends to create bleach pen designs on shirts. I had mine all mapped out because the words were long and I just knew I would end up without enough room if I weren’t very careful. So I was very careful about the spacing, but I moved it too soon and the letters touched each other so their bleach joined other portions of the shirt, causing little white blotches and patches. Considering what I wrote, the end result was really quite appropriate: “I am a frequently failing follower of Christ.”

Before we began one dear saint saw my markings on the shirt and inquired as to the words I was going to write. When I told her she said, “Oh no, but you’re not!” “Oh yes, I am,” I replied. “I fail him many times every day.” “Well, but, don’t you think we should keep that to ourselves?” she asked. “Absolutely not!” I answered. “I think we need to be far more honest about it within the Christian family than we are!”

I thought of that woman’s children and wondered if they were ever able to acknowledge their failures to themselves, their mother or their God. If we go about “keeping to ourselves” the fact that we continue to sin after we are born again, we present a totally inaccurate picture of the amazing, extravagant grace of Jesus Christ. We most likely have left the grace of God at the cross where we were grateful for the salvation it provided, but have missed the intervening years of its wondrous power to lift us up when we fail, dust us off and keep us moving ahead in peace and joy, with power and motivation to keep trying to obey.

I am currently wallowing in the truths of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”IMG_2618