What Are My Gifts?

IMG_2284Last weekend was designated as “Christmas cookie weekend”. I began with my mother’s oatmeal cookie recipe which I have made about a thousand times. As my daughter and I prepared the ingredients, I could already smell them baking in the oven. Mmmm…

When I looked at the finished batter, something wasn’t right. It was way too creamy. What went wrong? Long story short, too much Crisco. I accidentally doubled the prescribed amount which explained the greasiness of the dough.

While a relatively easy fix – just double the other ingredients – my beloved Kitchen-Aid mixing bowl was not big enough. I transferred all the ingredients to a large bowl and began to hand mix the dough. If you’ve ever tried to mix oatmeal cookie dough, let’s just say, it’s no easy task. After several minutes and a discovery that my triceps are in worse shape than I thought, the dough was ready.

I went on to bake chocolate chip, peanut butter, and butter cookies. Sad to say, there was a hiccup with nearly every batch. In the end, they all turned out great and as the empty containers…and my scale have already proven, they tasted good too.

During the process, I couldn’t help but think of my mom, who as I’ve written about many times, performed Herculean tasks with ease during this time of year. Homemade breads, pies, cookies, and ravioli – the list goes on and on. With six kids and a husband who worked nearly 24/7, I still don’t know how she managed to deliver a picture perfect Christmas year after year.

My mom was one tough cookie. Grace under pressure was her moniker. She rarely broke a sweat and when she did, you knew it was the real deal. Although I aspire to this same strength, I’m no match for my mom which was evidenced more times than I can count this past year.

Perhaps it was her Southern upbringing. Perhaps it was her love of family and the holidays. Either way, my mother was the picture of calm and strength during the holiday season no matter what was thrown her way.

As you’d expect, I miss my mom the most during this time of year. No surprise. While logically I know she’s in a better place, is surrounded by loved ones, and is likely enjoying a bountiful Christmas in another realm, my heart aches for her presence. My arms want to reach out for one more hug and my eyes long to see her embrace my kids and hear her comment on how much they’ve grown.

I know my mom is with me. I know she is looking out for me. I see evidence of it from time to time. Most recently, it was during my commute to work when I chose to take a different route. A tug – a nudge to look right, revealed a cleaning truck with the name “Hazel” on its side.

Seeing my mom’s name warmed my heart and brightened that moment beyond words. As my eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled, I knew my mom sent that truck my way during a particular tough time to let me know she ‘had my back’.

As my children and I celebrate our Christmas holiday, I’m certain my mom would be happy that I’m building some traditions with them. While there’s no comparison to her efforts, there will be homemade pies, lasagna, and of course, what’s left of the Christmas cookies, to share.

Maybe she’ll smile as I set the table with the Christmas dishes and silver she gave me years ago. She’ll likely chuckle as I struggle to get everything ready in a timely manner. But mostly, I think she will be proud of me…and I hope proud of herself that she instilled this love of holiday tradition in me; that she provided an example of strength and grace and love of family.

As you celebrate the holidays, may you be aware of the great gifts your loved ones have shared with you. Recognize them. Celebrate them. Above all, tell them how much you appreciate them. While I know my mom knew of my deep love for her, it sure would be great to tell her one more time and hear her response.

May God abundantly bless you and your loved ones this Christmas season and may you know of the unconditional love of which He shares with all of us.

Jen’s Gem: You have so many gifts. Be sure to share them with people you love.

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