Still Makes My Heart Happy! Age to Age

450px-trio_of_handsI thought of this post as we walked the four blocks to the nursing home yesterday to once again perform our Christmas program for the residents.

I saw the connections happen again this year – just like last year and the year before that and the year before that. 

And my heart was happy.

From December 17th, 2015

Age to Age 

Directing our church’s Christmas program is one of the highlights of my Christmas season.

And one of my favorite parts of directing is taking the program on the road to our local nursing home.

Every year I give the kids the same talk.

“I don’t care if you mess up a song or forget a line. I just want you to smile and have fun. If you have fun on stage, your audience will enjoy it. And when we are done, I want each of you to go around the room, take the hand of each and every resident and say Merry Christmas.”

This year was no different.

My older kids knew the drill, but I had some younger kids who had never done a program. They looked at me like I had suddenly sprouted reindeer antlers. Touch old people? Weird.

After church, we had a potluck, put on costumes, packed up props and walked the kids the four blocks to the nursing home where the staff had the residents ready and waiting.

When we had finished presenting the program – which was adorable in it’s imperfections – I prompted the kids to start their “Merry Christmas’ing”.

As my older kids started the rounds, the younger followed.

Small hands, sticky from the potluck dinner, reached out and touched older hands – hands that had seen hard work, loved babies, clapped in joy, and wiped away tears.

Work worn hands that are now so smooth the skin is almost translucent.

I heard the sweet “Merry Twistmas” and saw young eyes full of imp and mischief looking into eyes that had seen much of life.

I saw the hand squeeze. The tentative smiles.

And it happened.

A connection was made.

And then another.

And another.

Those kids started to see beyond the wheelchairs and wrinkles and discovered real people.

Those residents looked into sweet young faces and remembered.

Both the young and the old were blessed.

And there was joy in my heart.

Peace and Hope to a Broken World

It’s the first of December.

As much as I wish I could write a lighthearted post about Christmas – I have to admit that my heart was heavy today.

It seems as though the last few weeks have been filled with sad news.

Dear people suffering through hard things.

Loss. Pain. Uncertainty.

Broken hearts. Broken bodies. Broken dreams.

Everywhere from the national news to my inbox, I’m reminded that we live in a broken world.

Yet, as my heart wept again this morning over more painful news, God brought the opening song of our children’s Christmas program to mind.

It begins on the streets of Bethlehem and the plaintive sounds of a violin is heard mournfully crying, “O come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…”

Then the children start singing –

“Who will save us? Who will comfort those who cry?

Who will free us – is He right before our eyes?

How long must we wait for deliverance?

When will God turn his head and hear us?

And bring peace and hope to a broken world.

And bring peace and hope to a broken world.”

That cry is still heard today.

People are searching for hope.

For peace.

For comfort.

People are still living in darkness and fear.

People are still asking when God will turn His head and hear them.

But the story doesn’t end there.

It goes on to tell about a baby born to a virgin mother.

It tells of angels proclaiming the news to shepherds on the hills outside of Bethlehem.

A Savior is born!

Emmanuel!

God with us!

The children continue to sing –

“That holy night, when mercy fell like rain,

and God broke through our darkness and our pain.

That holy night, when love came down to earth.

Emmanuel with us, in a fragile baby’s birth.”

God broke through the darkness.

He broke through the pain.

He sent mercy!

That holy night brought hope.

It brought peace.

The world all around us is broken and hurting.

We have the answer.

As we enter this Advent season, may our hearts know it.

May our lives reflect it.

May our words echo it.

He will save us. He will comfort those who cry.

He will hear us, He has opened up our eyes.

Jesus is king, King forever.

Praise to God who is faithful to save us.

He is peace and hope for a broken world.

That’s what my heart needed to hear today.

How about yours?

 

 

 

 

Potluck Chicken

Some people call them basket dinners, others fellowship meals, but our church calls them potlucks and we have one the last Sunday of every month.

We love them!

But I’ve struggled through the years finding something to bring. The oven at church was always full – so it needed to be something in a crock pot.

It also needed to be fast, cheap, and easy to make.

And – after that one embarrassing potluck when my meatballs where raw in the center – it had to be fully cooked.

Enter – Potluck Chicken!

I developed this recipe one Saturday afternoon in desperation. It proved to be a big hit – especially with the kids – and has become my signature potluck dish.

The ingredients are simple – just thawed chicken legs and some Montreal seasoning (I use my homemade version which can be found here).

The secret is time management.

The night before, I line a sheet cake pan with aluminum foil. This helps with clean up.

Then I take the thawed chicken legs and sprinkle them liberally with the Montreal seasoning mix and lay them on the tray.

I cover the tray with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.

First thing the next morning, I remove the plastic and put the pan of chicken in the oven at 350 while I shower, eat breakfast, and get dressed.

Then – Just before I leave for church – I take the chicken from the oven and put the legs and any juice in my crock pot on warm. I throw away the aluminum foil and quickly wash the pan.

That’s it!

The chicken legs bake for about 90 minutes to 2 hours and are fall of the bone tender.

They could be eaten immediately, but will stay warm and wonderful for hours in the crock pot.

You could bake them immediately and skip the whole refrigerator step, but there’s something wonderful that happens when the spices sit on the chicken overnight!

Either way they are yummy!

Enjoy!

 

Of Wood Chucks and Butternut Squash

Did you know that wood chuck’s love butternut squash?

I know this to be true because I sacrificed one to bait the live trap last week to catch the furry little varmint who was trying to move into the pole barn.

It worked! That wood chuck ate every piece of that butternut squash as he awaited his fate.

When my husband told me the news, I jokingly replied, “At least he had a good last meal!”

To which my husband responded, “I think I’ll just take him with me to work and let him go at the river.”

I won’t repeat my reply.

Fast forward to that afternoon. Nate and I went to help some new neighbors move in about ten miles away and Jan joined us later, after work. When we were finished, we sent Nate home alone so the two of us could ride home together.

I had a few minutes to sit in the suburban alone savoring the peace and quiet after the busy afternoon before Jan joined me.

We took off down the gravel road, and I proceeded to fill him in on every little detail of my day (as only a wife can) and was in the middle of a long – but very important story – when he suddenly stopped the Suburban on a bridge.

I paused mid-sentence and asked the obvious, “What are we doing?”

He pulled on his gloves as he said, “Letting your little furry friend go.”

What?! That creepy rodent of unusual size was sitting behind me the entire time?! I shuddered at the thought.

I don’t know what was worse – sitting there in blissful silence while a beady-eyed wood chuck sat menacingly behind me or if he had a made a noise and announced his presence.

I think the latter.

“I thought you were going to let him go this morning on the way to work?” l asked while he carefully grabbed the trap from behind me.

“I couldn’t find a good spot”, he replied as he carried the cage to the edge of the concrete bridge and opened it.

I won’t repeat my reply.

But I wasn’t happy as I sat in the Suburban and watched my husband try to get that critter to leave the cage.

After several minutes I had had enough. I grabbed an extra set of gloves, marched across that bridge, picking up a stick as I went and then -mumbling something about pesky varmints and husbands who should listen to their wives – I whacked the cage where his back side sat with a primal scream that sent that critter running.

“And you better not show up at our place again!” I yelled as he disappeared.

My husband laughed.

The laughing stopped two days when he looked out the window and saw a wood chuck hobble across our yard.

My husband said it might not be the same one – but then again – it might be limping with a sore backside from a ferocious whack!

I won’t repeat my reply.

But I did sacrifice another butternut squash to catch that furry nuisance.

And this time he didn’t get another chance.

At least he had a good final meal.

 

From The Archives: October 21, 2011

Packing

I seriously laughed out loud as I reread this one! Thanks Peter!

Packing and the Teenage Male

I spent a goodly part of one week helping Peter pack for his 10 day trip to Teen Pact Venture in Tennessee.

With 5 days on the road there and back and another 5 days at camp – it seemed to me that he needed a little guidance.

I helped him find more jeans, a suit coat, dress slacks, a outfit for golf and raided his dad’s t-shirts to make sure he had enough.

I carefully counted and folded and made nice piles for him.

I even bought him new underwear.

All the while there was this annoying little thought that kept coming back – “Why am I doing this? Peter is a teenage boy who has been known to wear the same clothes for days at time…”

But the mother in me couldn’t let it go.

I was even kinda proud as he drove off on his adventure because I knew that he was prepared.

It didn’t last long.

I was brought back to reality within minutes of picking him up after his return trip.

He looked good and was sharing story after story of his time away – laughing and joking with his siblings.

Finally the mother in me just couldn’t wait any longer – so I asked him, “How did your clothes work out? Did you have enough of everything?”

“Well”, he responded, “I basically wore these jeans pretty much all week.”

(His sisters slide further away from him on the van seat.)

“What!” (I’m remembering all those trips up and down the attic stairs digging through his winter clothes to find enough jeans) “How about t-shirts? Did you have enough t-shirts?”

“I had way too many – I really only needed a couple.”

“A couple!” (You were gone 10 days! What about my neat little piles of carefully folded and counted shirts?!)

“Oh dear. What about your underwear? Did you have enough… No! Stop! Don’t answer that. I really don’t want to know.”

Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Next time I’ll let him pack himself. 🙂