Doughnut Traditions

It seems that almost all of our family’s special occasions are somehow punctuated by the food we share.  It’s not that we don’t enjoy spending time together or that we don’t value the reason for the holiday; it’s just that the love of good food runs deeply in our family.  I have a nine-year-old nephew who puts every family get-together in the context of the food that is served.  He remembers a beautiful, spontaneous, autumn outing on Summit Lake as “that day when Aunt Trista fixed that chili that I wouldn’t eat” and a certain birthday celebration as his introduction to peanut butter “scream” cake (also known as peanut butter sheet cake).  He gets his love of food honest.

When I was a little girl, I remember family members making a big deal about my maternal grandma’s from-scratch walnut fudge, her crunchy peanut brittle and her fluffy white clouds of divinity.  That stuff was all right for the grown-ups, but I was mesmerized by her cocoa brownie cubes that had been individually rolled in powdered sugar and piled high on a cake stand and her buttery, gooey caramels that had been individually wrapped in wax paper.  In later years, I remember helping my mom to make some of these same sweet treats, and I still continue to make some of them for my little family today.  I have learned to appreciate the focus it takes to get that peanut brittle to just the right temperature and the patience it takes to cut and wrap all of those caramels.  Not to mention the expense of all of that butter!

The memories I associate with my paternal grandmother’s holiday food center more on the savory—namely her turkey & noodles with mashed potatoes.  For a number of years, I completely skipped over the roasted turkey, stuffing (especially if it had oysters in it!!) and cranberry sauce in favor of Grandma’s perfect turkey & noodles.  I still can’t get mine to taste like hers!  Even when I make noodles from scratch, there’s still something not quite right about the consistency.  She was a self-described “pincher and dumper” when it came to measuring, yet her food always turned out heavenly!

My mom has continued the tradition of good food for our family.  Whether it’s angel food birthday cakes topped with whipped cream and toffee bits, Polish mistakes served piping hot at Christmastime, oven-baked porcupines for family dinners or ginger ale with cranberry-juice ice cubes, Mom makes sure that we are fed well and that get-togethers are festive occasions.

One of my favorite food traditions involves making tender cake doughnuts on Thanksgiving morning.  I guess I was probably 8 or 9 when this tradition began with my mom and siblings.  I remember that Dad would often go hunting on Thanksgiving morning and would come home to enjoy the sweet treats Mom left for him under the cake dome.  When I got married and discovered that getting together on Thanksgiving Day was especially important to the Hill side of the family, my mom graciously suggested that we move our family dinner back a couple of days to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  What a blessing that was to us!  Our crew makes every effort to wake up at Mom’s on that Saturday morning to continue the doughnut-making tradition.  Oftentimes, my brother and my nephews are there to join us when we pull out my mom’s worn Betty Crocker cookbook and turn to the batter-splattered doughnut recipe.  We put in an old Kenny Rogers Christmas CD and make a lot of noise–as well as a lot of mess–in our breakfast production.  We also make a lot of memories.  And, of course, those memories are what are truly the sweetest.

This article was originally published in HER magazine.

 

Focus

It has been a long time since the candidate who held my vote has taken up residence in the White House.  2017 will be no exception.

However, I will continue to respect the office of the Commander-in-Chief.  I will continue to require my children to speak of him with courtesy.  I will continue to pray for him and for his family.  I will ask God to give our new President-Elect wisdom, a spirit of humility and the courage to do what is right.  I will also pray God’s protection over his family–from within and without–as they continue to live under the harsh scrutiny of a very outspoken people.

I give thanks, again, that out of the hundreds of other points on the globe, I was born here–in the land of the free and in the home of the brave.  A place in which most of us can easily afford the luxury of not fighting for our survival.

Let me not lose sight of the fact, Lord, that the world still turns at your command.  You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Thank You for being my one true certainty in these uncertain times.  I choose to continue to focus on You.

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More Like Marta

Some time ago, I wrote about how we rescued Marta from the bottom of the pecking order among our egg-laying flock.  She lived in the woods for a while, making occasional appearances, while she recovered both physically and emotionally from the trauma her feathered “friends” inflicted.  She has now taken up residence in our barn, and she remains a gentle and friendly bird.

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We have discovered that Marta is at least partially blind.  She responds to audible cues much better than visible.  As a matter of fact, we occasionally startle her when we’re working in the barn.  The other day, after helping my son, Isaac, settle his turkeys into their winter home, Marta was under foot during the process.  I moved her to the other side of the gate so she didn’t get stepped on.  I then turn around, and she’s nose-to-beak with our tortoise-shell cat, Patches.  Just calmly checking each other out.  Marta has allowed both of our adult dogs and one of our puppies the same privilege of up-close-and-personal examination.

On our little farm, we don’t typically encourage freeloading.  This was a certain unnamed party’s concern once Marta moved into the barn.  I pleaded her case, though, and she was given a reprieve.  The icing on the cake is that my oldest daughter discovered where she is laying her eggs.  Good girl, Marta.

I have occasionally wondered if Marta harbors any ill will toward her former coopmates.  They were awfully hard on her–irrationally so.  She doesn’t seem to hold any grudges as she pecks and scratches along the outside border of their confines.  She might appear to gloat a little bit from time to time, but that certainly seems forgivable under the circumstances.

If only more of us were like Marta–willing to leave the flock behind when what they do threatens to destroy us.  Willing to carve out an existence on our own, independently forging our own way.  Willing to give back out of gratitude when we can and staying calm even when the circumstances are a little bit scary.  Willing to not let bitterness change us into something ugly and unforgiving.  Willing to take the high road.

Staying Alive

November is traditionally a bad month for American turkeys.  The vast majority will soon  sacrifice their lives for our dining pleasure on the fourth Thursday of this month.

Thankfully, for these guys (and girls), they are not in the majority.

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Last July, my son decided to buy seven baby turkeys as an investment.  We did careful research on varieties and care, and we opted for a couple of heritage breeds that came with promises of gentleness and friendliness.  Some folks may wonder why we’d want to be friends with our future food, and I understand that.  It just makes the handling much less difficult.  Turkeys get big, and their beaks and toenails are nothing to sneeze at.  Friendly and gentle is good when you have to get up close and personal with them on a twice-daily basis.

Back to July.  After some Divine intervention in getting our truck started, my son and I headed out to meet a couple of friends for the 45-minute drive to the turkeys’ house.  (It takes a special kind of friend to be excited about picking up baby turkeys, and we had chosen just the right family!)  The poultry pick-up went smoothly.  The babies were adorable, and we got all of our questions answered by the very helpful and knowledgeable turkey lady.  We were soon back on the road with a peeping crate of seven fluffballs.

Long story short, the turkeys have been a pretty easy venture.  (We are down to six, but that’s a story for another time.)  Even though my son is their primary caregiver, I peek my head in to their movable coop from time to time just to talk turkey.  They make the most interesting sounds–much softer and more musical than the gobble alarm with which we are all familiar.  They are so naturally curious that any new thing gets their thorough observation.

Yesterday we moved the turkeys to their winter quarters in the barn.  I was a little nervous about how the disruption would affect them–especially the toms who probably weigh about ten pounds at this point.  Things actually went very smoothly, though, and they were soon settled into their new home, curiously checking out every corner and making quick work of all of the spiders.

I went in the house and my son stayed outside to finish moving feeders and to clean the turkey’s waterer.  He soon runs in to tell me that the turkeys have already escaped.  Yikes!  Eventually, we want them be able to free-range in our pasture, but they need to come to terms with their new sleeping quarters first.  Turkeys will automatically go in to roost at dusk, but they must first know where it’s safe to roost.  We planned to confine them to their new pen for a week or so–making sure they know that this is their home–before opening the door and allowing them out during the day.

My daughters and son and I all hurried outside to herd turkeys.  Upon arrival, we discovered that it wasn’t as bad as we had thought.  All six birds were just roosting on top of the gate to the pasture.  Two of the kids went around to the outside and gently pushed each bird back into the pen.  We then caught each one and clipped their wings.  I won’t say that this was particularly easy or enjoyable work, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been with more aggressive turkeys.  I felt bad taking my scissors to such beautiful feathers, but it really is safer for the birds at this point.  If you know anyone who wants to make a feathered headdress, I might be able to help ’em out.

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My son hopes to butcher and sell a few of the birds for profit this Christmas or even for Easter.  Since they were born so late in the season, they’re just not quite big enough to be anyone’s showstopper this Thanksgiving.  I would kind of like to keep a pair, though–a tom and a hen–for breeding.  Not only do I hear that their eggs are fairly valuable, but I think turkeys would be a nice addition to our little farm.

Sometimes, we try something new and it really, really works.  Sometimes, it really, really doesn’t.  For now, these turkeys seem to be working for us.  Either way, we are certainly working for them.  They’ve got at least a month on almost every other turkey in these united states.

Separation from God

corn2I shared yesterday that my lack of obedience causes a division between myself and God.  It was brought to my attention that nothing–absolutely nothing–can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8).  When we accept Him as our Savior, He unites Himself with us by moving in to our hearts on a permanent basis.  He’s just there.  That’s what He promises.  That’s what He does.

If this is true, then why do I feel such a division in my relationship with God when I am not doing what He is calling me to do?  Well, the fact of the matter is that sin does separate me from God.

Wait.  What?

Even though God stays right where He says He’s going to stay, I pull away.  Because of guilt, because of shame, because of a rebellious heart, I create an emotional division between God and myself.  When my sin goes unchecked, I dig my ditch deeper and wider, forsaking the intimacy and protection my Lord offers.  I isolate myself out of pride or regret.  I listen to the voices of discouragement, doubt and defiance whisper in my ear, and I pull further away from my Heavenly Father.

It’s ridiculous, really, because God is still there.  Waiting for me to come to Him in repentance and humility.  He’s ready to hear me pour out my heart and to heal my wounded spirit.  Like the loving daddy He is, He longs for me to crawl up into His holy lap and surrender, once again, to His will.  He is not the One who moved.  I am.

When we feel forsaken by God, it is just that–a feeling.  It is an illusion of our injured imaginations.  The Bible shows us repeatedly that this is something people often feel.  Think of Job.  Think of Jonah.  Think of David.  Our emotions have remarkable power.  They can trick us into believing that almost anything is real.  The truth is, though, that God does not abandon His people.  He may withhold His blessing for one reason or another, but He does not jump ship and leave us to fight through this broken world on our own.  And, for whatever blessing you feel is being withheld, there are literally dozens of blessings that are freely given.  Our problem is our perspective.  We feel the division that we ourselves have created, and we accuse the very One who promises to be our refuge in times of heartache.

That’s like being wet from the rain and blaming the umbrella that got left in the car.

My friends, we have so much at our disposal.  The same Power that created the starry host, fragrant flowers and autumn leaves lives in us.  He is waiting for us to pour out our hearts to Him.  He longs for us to crawl up into His lap.  Regardless of the distance we have created, He is still there.  Waiting to be our safe place.  Our refuge.  Our Prince of Peace.

Maybe it’s time to give Him another chance.  He is waiting for you.

 

Obedience. Blah.

Yeah, the title kinda sums me up.  I love to be obeyed, but I don’t necessarily enjoy obeying.  I like my kids to jump right in and do what I want them to do with Pollyanna-like sunniness, but I can’t say that they’ve always gotten a real solid example from me.

Actually, they kind of have.  I do a pretty decent job of obeying God in pretty much everything that everyone else can see.  Unfortunately, though, there are a few things God wants me to do (or not do) that only He and I know about.  On those things, I often miss the mark.  Big time.

It’s a shame, too, because the things He asks me to do are simple things that have the potential to make a big difference in someone’s day–a card in the mail, an encouraging email, a lunch invitation to a friend, a compliment to a stranger, time in His Word.  Easy stuff.

Then why is it so hard?

I don’t know if I just think I’m too busy with important things to drop what I’m doing and obey or if I feel compelled to know why in the world God would want me to do whatever He’s asking me to do.  The reason for my non-compliance doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that I’m not obeying my God.

Jesus has this still, small voice that He often uses.  It’s actually difficult for me to hear on occasion.  I tend to be the kind of girl who takes a two-by-four on the side of the head.  Subtlety often escapes me.  I’ve learned, though, that practice makes His voice more easily heard.  Because of my habit of disobedience, His whisper has long been easily lost in the loudness of my life.

I want to do better.  I’m committed to doing better.  James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins”. 

Sin keeps me from living the life God has called me to live.  Whether I consider my sin to be big or small, it creates a division between my Savior and myself.

And, to be honest, my kids may not actually see my disobedience, but they do share some of the consequences.  If there is division between Jesus and me, my kids are not getting my best.  I don’t want them to have a broken momma, but a momma who is whole and alive in Christ.  I want them to see me doing little things for Jesus–things that are maybe out of my comfort zone or things that maybe don’t make sense.  I don’t want to model a safe, white-bread sort of faith.  I want them to see the richness of full surrender to the Bread of Life.  I want them to see Him in me.

Waiting for Jesus

II Peter 3 talks about the return of Christ, the day when He comes to take those who love Him to heaven. I have looked forward to that day since I put my trust in Him when I was just a kid! I sometimes want to get complacent in my faith, to just sit back, hold and wait for Him. But I’ve got stuff He wants me to do in the waiting.

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” (v. 14)

I don’t want to meet Jesus with excuses on the tip of my tongue. I want to be at peace with my Lord.