Not As Planned

Would you believe it’s taken me over a week to fully enter this New Year?!

It’s taken me that long to recover from December – which did not go as planned.

 

I had a crazy allergic reaction that started Thanksgiving weekend, and by the time I lost my voice 2 weeks in, we started to suspect that I might be allergic to our Christmas tree.

So mid-December. my wonderful husband and son banished me to the basement for a few hours while they un-decorated the tree, took it outside, cleaned all the ornaments and lights, manhandled the artificial tree from the attic, put it up, threw the ornaments and lights on it, and vacuumed everything.

My heroes.

 

If you have ever lost your voice you know how exhausting it is.

I spent a lot of time in the recliner.

I did almost all of my Christmas shopping from that chair.

(God bless Amazon and the UPS drivers.)

I watched every single new Hallmark Christmas Movie. And some old ones.

I listened to hours of Christmas music.

And I discovered that my kids and husband are rock stars.

They dipped, baked, mashed, rolled, wrapped, and vacuumed my entire to-do list.

Everything. Even the things I had given up on.

They each took a part of our big Christmas Eve meal and made it happen. It literally showed up in front of me on the table they had beautifully decorated.

It was a humbling and beautiful gift to realize that after years of making Christmas for them, they could now make Christmas for me.

Yep. December was quite a month.

My voice is finally back, and my energy is returning.

And even though December did not go as I planned, I can see God’s hand in it all.

 

Faithful and kind.

My prayer journal is full of so many answered prayers.

 

And I am thankful.

I can say like Samuel –

 “Thus far has the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7: 12)

Thus far.

I’ve been letting that truth soak deep inside the last few days.

But I think I’m ready now.

Let’s see what God has in store for 2018!

 

 

 

 

 

I guess it’s no wonder I’m slowly moving into 2018.

 

 

 

A Star in the Sky

My husband made me cry last week.

More than once.

They were good tears, though.

Happy “oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-believe-you-did-that!” tears.

For years I’ve admired Christmas stars on top of grain elevators and church steeples. There is just something in their beautiful simplicity that speaks to me.

 

 

So he made me one.

A big one.

And put lights on it.

And somehow managed to climb a ladder in the cold with it on his back to hang it on the light pole by himself.

Now – every night at 5:00 – my star starts shining.

And my heart sings.

I’m pretty sure that’s what love looks like.

 

 

 

 

 

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!