Aunties M & Em

Thoughts on Faith, Family, Food, & Fun!


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Christmas Movies & Cookies

Here in the Midwest, we were hit with the first winter storm of the season…complete with freezing mist and a little snow last night.  At my house, we got about 1/2 inch of snow, with the balmy high temperature of 7 degrees.  I spent today with Hallmark Christmas Movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Christmas treats.

But it didn’t start out that way…this weekend was supposed to be our family get-together with Mom’s side of the family.  We were going to drive up Friday night; I was going to start the marshmallows and make the dough for a treacle tart.  Saturday I was going to make the tart, S cookies, and cut up the marshmallows…and then spend the afternoon celebrating Christmas with my immediate family, aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandma.

Yeah.  That didn’t happen.  The freezing mist moved into the area Friday afternoon, and my normal 45 minute commute from St. Louis’s Dogtown neighborhood turned into 3 hours of sitting, rolling, and sitting again.  By the time I got home Friday night, I had just about cracked up, and even if the roads had really been safe, I was in no condition to even be a passenger – I really, really don’t like driving in icy conditions.  And my drive time was peanuts compared to some of my other coworkers and friends!  Anyway…

So the travel plans changed to Saturday, and I was going still make the S cookies at the very least.  Until the whole family looked at the weather forecast and then the current conditions.  Mother Nature cancelled Christmas!  Well, okay, that’s dramatic.  Steven and I decided to make the most of the day before more freezing rain set in, and we were able to finish our Christmas shopping yesterday instead of today – yay!  By the time we went to bed last night, our church had decided to cancel services to keep everyone safe, so I knew I had a very relaxed day ahead of me today.

I woke up early, oh, say 4:30 a.m. and started watching Hallmark movies.  Every so often, Lori Laughlin would be featured with a Countdown to Christmas moment (7 days to go, y’all).  In it, she talks about holiday baking and how there is one particular apple pie that has to make every year…even if she was stranded on the moon, she’d figure out how to make it.  Lori goes on to say that it’s her way of still connecting with her dad, even though he has since passed away.

That simple statement had me thinking.  What is the one recipe I have to make every year, no ifs, ands or buts?  For me, it’s S cookies, which are a Nelson tradition…come heck, high water, or freezing rain, I will make S cookies.  I even made a batch shortly after our wedding (our anniversary is December 23), and mixed them by hand because I didn’t have an electric mixer of any kind.

But just why do I have to make them?  I had never really thought about it before…other than it’s just not Christmas without them.  But it really resonated with me when Lori said that when she makes the pie, it still connects her to her father.  It got me thinking, and I realized it’s one way for me to connect with my Grandma Nelson, Dad’s mother.  She passed away when I was two, so I didn’t really get to know her.  But she taught my mom how to make them, and in turn, Mom has taught me.

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Em & Grandma Nelson, circa 1979

 

 

I wish I’d been able to know her…I know she was a great lady, and I would have loved spending time with her in her kitchen.  But I am so grateful that the people in my life who did know her tell me and Gregory (and my cousins for that matter) stories about her and my grandfather.

Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I won’t be sharing the recipe with you.  You’d have to be part of the Nelson family, either by blood or marriage, in order to learn…Dad doesn’t even know how to make them!  Mom and I didn’t teach Jessi until she and Greg were married…and she’s doing a splendid job of keeping it in the family!  I don’t know how far back that tradition goes, but I’m not willing to monkey around with tradition!

So now I’m ending this crazy winter-weather weekend with more Hallmark Christmas movies (why does A Royal Christmas have to start at 11 p.m.??  I can’t stay up to finish!) and sharing these thoughts with you.  Lori Laughlin shared one of her favorite things about the holidays, and it’s the same as mine: baking and making Christmas cookies and treats!  I love the comforting process of mixing the dough, forming the cookies, and sampling the broken ones (all in the name of quality assurance!).  And while homemade marshmallows are a new tradition for me, I love watching the sugar syrup and gelatin transform into luxurious marshmallow crème, and knowing that I made the perfect topping for my hot chocolate.

Merry Christmas to you all…and I hope Mother Nature doesn’t interfere with anyone’s Christmas plans from here on out!

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Why I Don’t Go to Church

I know the title of this article may surprise and shock many friends and relatives. But the truth is, I haven’t gone to church in a very long time.cross in tetons cropped

I believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is my savior and I know that someday when I die, I will go to heaven and live with him forever.  I’m a Christian.

As a child, I was born into the church, baptized, attended Sunday school and vacation bible school, was in youth group, and sang in the choir.

As an adult, I was active in the church, taught Sunday school, vacation bible school, and children’s church, directed the choir, and led praise and worship.

Hubby and I wanted this for our family, too. So we raised our children in the church where they were baptized, attended Sunday school and vacation bible school, were in the youth group, and attended church camp.

If the church doors were open, we were there.

So what happened? Why don’t we go to church?

We got burned out. Sorry if this sounds lame to some that have never experienced it, but pretty much plain and simple, we got burned out.

If it were only from not being able to say, “No”, we would have gotten over it a long time ago. And believe me, we have tried to go back to church from time to time over the years.

We got burned out on people, especially those in leadership, who said they were Christians but treated others judgmentally and even harshly…in the name of Jesus. People who preached love, but their actions were anything but loving. I realize no one is perfect and I don’t expect perfection. But love and acceptance isn’t that hard of a concept.

So, what brings all this to mind today? What is fueling the anger and hurt so much that I just have to write about it?

I have been wanting to try going to church again and have made plans to visit one in the very near future.  This morning I thought, “Let’s watch a local church service (a different church than where we’re going to visit) that is on TV and see what God has for us today.”  I chose one that I’ve watched before and thought was good.

The sermon was interesting, but then the preacher got to the closing prayer. It has always irritated me when preachers offer up a prayer that is really another little sermon. A little sermon prayer that contains verbiage they wouldn’t say to the people directly, but somehow think it’s OK to put it in a prayer. Well, in this sermon prayer this preacher was praying for our country (that’s OK) and then…he started praying against the “evils of Islam.”  The what?  He called Isalm the anti-christ because they don’t accept Jesus as anything more than a teacher.

I’m sorry (not sorry) but that is wrong. It came out of ignorance and was meant to incite fear and prejudice, all framed in the guise of a prayer.

Loving others means accepting those with whom you disagree and it means praying for them. Many (or most) so-called Christian preachers and other church leaders just don’t get it.

Here’s what Jesus had to say about it from Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor. (Leviticus 19:18) Hate your enemy.’ But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.

Referring back to the sermon prayer I heard this morning, if the preacher had prayed for terrorism to come to an end and/or for protection from terrorism; even if he had mentioned Islamic extremists by name…I wouldn’t have been so upset.  To vilify an entire peaceful religion because of an extremist sect is wrong. It’s like saying all of Christianity is evil because of Westboro Baptist Church and others like them.

This morning’s preacher could use a review of Matthew 5:44.  I also realize that Jesus’ words here are for all of us, including me, so I’m going to pray for him to gain a deeper understanding of love, Jesus style.

Will I visit another church? Yes, I will.

Will I be disappointed in so-called Christians who use their religion to hurt others?  Yes, I will. My faith is in God, not people.

Pray for others. Love them…all of them.

Remember that home is where the heart is, and there’s no place like home!
Auntie M


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I Believe in Love

The Relay For Life was held recently and it was a wonderful event!

So much love and support for cancer survivors, caregivers, family, and friends.

D & J Cancer Crushers

Mother and Daughter Cancer Survivors

Debbie Jessi 2016

Survivors and Caregivers

survivors caregivers 2016

Hubby and I are wearing our orange Believe t-shirts. Our purchase helped Relay team, D & J Cancer Crushers, to raise funds for research, education, support for those fighting cancer, etc.
The orange is to honor my mother, who is fighting kidney cancer.

John Marsha orange for kidney cancer 2016

Love was the word of the day.

Be sure to tell your family and friends like family that you love them. Tell them every day. You never know how many opportunities you’ll have to do so.

I believe in love!

Remember that home is where the heart is, and there’s no place like home!Auntie M


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Christmas 2012

As I sit here at the close of this year’s Christmas Day, I find myself reflecting on past Christmases.  This is by far my favorite time of year.  The air is crisp and cold, and we either have snow or are gearing up for an impending snow storm.  Families and friends are reconnecting, perhaps planning a party, or at least dinner.  For me, I’m celebrating three very different occasions: the anniversary of my hubby’s dad’s liver transplant, my wedding anniversary, and of course, Christmas.

Five years ago, Steven’s dad was diagnosed with liver failure that had no known cause.  He was placed on the waiting list that fall…which just begins a long, stressful wait.  I can’t find the words to describe what it’s like to wait for that one phone call…or two…or three.  Two false alarms, and one “good-to-go” call is what it took before we could finally settle in for a very long night in the ICU waiting room.  Three days before Christmas.  Now, I’ve been on the living donor side of transplant surgery when my dad donated over half his liver to his cousin in 2001.  But it’s a completely different feeling to be on the recipient side…especially knowing that my loved one gets a second life because another family is grieving the death of their loved one.  Because of that family’s willingness to donate their loved one’s organs, not only my family, but also several other families get more time with their loved ones.  This year, we were able to celebrate Dad’s 5th second birthday!  Thank God for medical technology that allows for the intricacies of transplant surgery!

Steven and I met when I was a sophomore in college (Go, McKendree Bearcats!).  He says that after our first date, he went home and told his mom that I was the girl he was going to marry, a story she confirms.  Aw!  In October of that year, he proposed on McKendree’s front lawn, one of my favorite places on campus.  I was so surprised, but found the ability to say yes.  I wanted to finish school first, and he was so understanding and patient…what a blessing!  We were married two years later, on December 23, 2000.  I think our relationship benefitted, though, from such a lengthy engagement.  We were able to learn about each other’s habits, our family’s habits, and really see each other at our best and worst.  Some days we can’t believe it’s been 12 years…and others…well, it feels like it’s been a lot longer.  I am so thankful every day, though, that God blessed me with Steven.  I couldn’t imagine my life with anyone else!

And now, Christmas…my very favorite holiday of the year.  The cookies and candies…the decorations…the twinkle of lights on houses and trees – I just love it all.  Each year, I make fudge for my brother and S-cookies for my dad…at minimum!  I also made animal (cutout) cookies this year, and we’ll decorate them as a family on Friday night.  We’ll get together with Mom’s family on Saturday, and just our six that night.  Steven and I spent time yesterday and today with his parents, as well as this morning with just the two of us.

We started our Christmas festivities, though, with singing in both Christmas Eve services at our church, Leclaire Christian Church.   The service, whether we attend or participate in it, always helps to get me centered on the real reason for Christmas.  Without the birth of Jesus, we wouldn’t be able to know the power of God’s redemptive love.  Without Him, my joy in celebrating Dad’s second birthday and my anniversary wouldn’t be as meaningful.  Without Him, my joy in the Christmas season wouldn’t be complete.  Thank You, God, for sending your Son for us.  Thank You for loving us so much that you give us a second chance…a chance for eternal life.

My greatest wish for each of you is that you have a blessed Christmas, and that the memories of today stretch into the New Year.

Merry Christmas!

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