I am so thankful that Gwen and Tim include us in these events. Sadly some of my friends don't have close relationships with their adult children and miss out on these wonderful times of celebration. I was thinking about this today as I made Ken's very favorite Christmas treat....Grandma's Filled Raisin Cookies. This particular cookie was a staple of Ken's childhood, made by his Grandma Baker. She knew just how much Ken liked these cookies and always made them for him. As I was rolling out the dough today, I noticed my trusty wooden rolling pin.
This is a small, wooden rolling pin that I have had my entire life. It actually belonged to my mom and my dad made this. I was struck with the joining of our two families in this cookie baking event. My dad's wooden rolling pin, rolling out the dough for Ken's Grandma's cookies. I just love the symbolism of this. Two families with very different traditions, yet somehow Ken and I have managed to meld them together into our own unique set of traditions. And now Gwen and Doug are melding that set of traditions with another families and are establishing their own, new and wonderful traditions. I love sitting back and watching which things Gwen and Doug find valuable enough to blend together in their new family units. Gwen and Tim and the kids spent an entire day making candy to give away as Christmas presents. Gwen mentioned that she remembers doing this activity for over 30 years! Yes, I have many fond memories of our kitchen table piled high with candy as we divided it up for gifts for teachers, friends and co-workers. And then yesterday Doug texted me with a question about the sugar cookies I always make. So it seems that Doug and Susie are keeping that tradition alive in their own new set of traditions.
Christmas is a time for blending and sharing and traditions and love. Unfortunately, sometimes our expectations can get in the way of all of that. It is awfully easy to expect to have events and/or activities at a certain time or in a certain place with certain people. I learned a valuable lesson many years ago when Ken and I didn't have any family living close by. We were forced to come up with a whole new set of traditions that didn't include being with our families. We hung on to some things (like those wonderful raisin cookies), but we shifted our focus. Instead of bemoaning the lack of family around us, we celebrated with our church family. We always went to both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. We made an entire day out of driving around and looking at Christmas lights. We had friends who also didn't have family close by. So we celebrated Jesus' Birthday with our own party (held in the afternoon/evening of Christmas day). There was always laughter, fun and food at these gatherings. When our kids reached that age when there was a "significant other" in their life, we willingly let them go to spend time with that new family. What fun it was to increase our family size this way! And now we are blessed with grandchildren. Recently, while talking with a friend, she was surprised to learn that Ken and I are alone on Christmas Day. She seemed to think that this was a horrible, terrible thing. But it is just all part of that blending! We have so many times when our family is all together. And those are important and wonderful times. We will all be together this year, on Christmas Eve. Some years it is on a totally different day. What matters is that we are together. I love having Christmas Day to reflect on the meaning of the holiday. I love listening to the story, told each year, yet always so amazing. After all the blending of our family traditions, I love that Gwen and Tim and Doug and Susie want to establish their own ways. And for them, it means being at home, celebrating Christmas Day with their own family units
Something wonderful happens to ingredients when you blend them together. They take on the flavors and consistency of each other. The end result is usually an amazing brand new thing. There is no question that each ingredient is very much a part of the creation. And one missing ingredient can ruin a finished product. It is an exciting thing to blend together family traditions and watch what the finished products look like.
One thing is certain. Family struggles at the holiday over who will be coming and where you will meet and even what you will eat and what day and time you will be together or ending up being alone on a day that is really just another day on the calendar, fill the hearts and minds of so many. But if you just shift your focus and think about the mixing and blending ingredients, and then remember that the love and the sharing are what really matter. All of those struggles don't matter much and can't change the message of Christmas. Jesus came for all of us. Whether we have family around us or not. Whether we keep all of our traditions from the past, or come up with new ways and new ideas. Jesus came to earth as a baby to share His great love with the world. It is that amazing love that helps all of those ingredients blend together into a wonderful new thing. Jesus is the reason for the season and keeping that as the most important ingredient in your family will bring peace and harmony and happiness. Happy Blending!
Jesus, thank you for the reminder that all of the things that feel so important in our life are really small compared to your great sacrifice to come to earth for us! Thank you that with your love and peace in our hearts we can adapt and change our traditions, blending them together into new and wonderful ways to celebrate your birth. Holy Spirit, comfort those that are lonely or hurting this Christmas. Help us all to look out for the person who might need a hug or a smile. Thank you for Christmas. Amen