Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Missing Those Who Are Missing This Christmas, GIVEAWAY Reminder, & A Special Recipe

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

I’ve been missing Mom and Dad an awful lot lately. Thinking of years gone by and the many loved ones who would regularly gather in our home and around our table. Experiencing a sense of nostalgia-induced melancholy. Sensing my age and all the ramifications those feelings bring to the surface. While Christmas has always been and will always be my favorite time of the year, it can also be one of the most reflective, and those reflections can create a deep sense of sadness as they vividly remind us of dear ones who are no longer here and just how much life has changed. This year, in particular, our lives and world are turned completely upside down, we find ourselves out of our element and comfort zone, and I am finding it especially difficult to find the deep sense of joy I always feel during this special time of year. Please don’t misunderstand my heart—I am deeply grateful for every, single blessing, and oh, my, I am abundantly blessed far beyond what I will ever deserve. I will never be able to thank God enough for what makes up “normal life” for my precious little family of three. Truly, the moments of sadness have nothing in the world to do with my gratitude to God for life as we know it, nor do I ever, for one second, take one blessing for granted. I’ve lived long enough to know that life can change in an instant—the way it has for so many this year.

I have several friends who have lost mothers in 2018 and are facing their first Christmas without them. Those “firsts” are the hardest. The first birthday not baking their favorite cake. The first Mother’s Day not shopping for just the perfect card. The first Christmas not seated at their table or smelling the familiar aromas of their signature home cooking wafting from an old familiar stove. Walking into their home for the first time without being greeted by the tenderness of their voice or feeling the embrace of loving arms. Seeing the table and old, familiar stove missing from their usual spot and knowing she will never stand there again to cook another meal or ask, “Are you sure had enough to eat?” Not that the “seconds” and “thirds” and all subsequent times of facing special occasions will be much easier but those “firsts” are the absolute worst.

This is Dad’s 18th Christmas in Heaven, and I still long to hear him pick up his five-string banjo, turn to me, call me by his favorite nickname of me, and say, “You feel like doin’ a little pickin’?” Oh, what I would give to hear those words coming from his voice and do that one more time! I lost my dear Mom in 2012, and I still long to pick up the phone and hear her sweet voice say, “Cheryl, the Lord gave me a Scripture for you.” I miss praying with them, singing together, having family gatherings, and enjoying the things we used to do. Those memories are made, and there will never be any more this side of Heaven. The starkness of that reality is never more pronounced than during the Christmas season each year. 

I think often of all of the military men and women who are deployed, sacrificing their lives and time with their loved ones just so you and I can stay safe.  It breaks my heart to think of how lonely they must feel at this time of year and how difficult it is for their families here at home.

If we have lived for very long at all, there’s a good chance each one of us is missing someone this Christmas, and life is full of many other reasons that can cause sadness at this joyful time of year. Marital unrest, divorce, longing for what might have been, hoping for wayward children to see the light and come home—not only to yours but to the fold of God, heartbreak, illness, the weight of the care and looming demise of elderly parents, financial distress, failure, wishing to be home and/or with faraway loved ones, hurt, betrayal, abuse, and a plethora of other causes for distress.

Christmas can be downright sad and depressing and that is just a fact of life. The fact that you are a Christian does not negate the fact that you are human. Yes, Christians do struggle with depression—just like everyone else in the world. To say we don’t or that we are exempt from the human condition is to refuse to face reality.

But, how blessed the thought to know that we do not face our battles alone. The Captain of our army is none other than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the One who died to give us abundant life. Jesus experienced and understands depression. He knows sadness better than any of us ever will. The Bible describes Him as a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Turning to Him in our moments of despair is one of the wisest things we could ever do, for only in Him can we find the deep solace we all need.

Whatever you may be going through this Christmas, I hope you will find the strength to lift your head and look to the One from whom comes all help. He loves you so dearly. He cares about the tiniest thing that touches your life. He sees your tears, hears the times your heart silently breaks, and is aware of every moment of anguish. When no one else cares, He does. When your feelings are disregarded, you are despitefully used, and you are beyond weary in well-doing, He will rise up in your defense. He is your Champion, your Rescuer, and your Prince of Peace. He will never stop loving you, no matter what. I have to remind myself of these truths often, as my family and I face unusual challenges and new levels of required trust.

Though Christmas may be different for many of us this year, each one of our hearts can find comfort in the universal, unchanging, timeless message of what this season really means. Our Savior left Heaven to come down to this sin-defiled world because He knew that was the only way any of us would ever have hope of redemption. He was willing to pay the price for our salvation, even though it cost Him absolutely everything. Despite all, this precious, beautiful season, I find that I have never loved Him more.

This isn’t a Christmas song, but it is my favorite song by Third Day and has been such a blessing to me as I prove again and again that all I have to do is call His name, and He is there. I hope you have time to listen, and after you do, please keep reading to find an amazing recipe and special reminder about our giveaway that is soon coming to an end!  There’s still time to enter, so please, please do! I will tell you how below.

Call My Name by Third Day

Apple Dumplings

4 apples, peeled and diced
 2 sticks butter, melted
1 ½ cup sugar 
2 cans crescent rolls
1 Tbsp. cinnamon 
12 ounces of apple juice

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle some over the apples. Toss to coat the apples. Melt butter and mix in the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll diced apples in the triangle dough, and place in a 9x13 inch baking pan. Pour butter, cinnamon, and sugar mixture over rolls. Pour apple juice over all the rolls and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Makes 12.

These are AMAZING and would go great with a hot cup of coffee!!
Speaking of coffee...

Here's that COFFEE GIVEAWAY reminder!!

Matthew and Preslee Gooch of Solid Ground Coffee are giving away a bag of their new Ethiopian coffee beans! This is a $21.00 value! To enter, all you need to do is click HERE and leave a comment. We will do the drawing sometime after church this coming Sunday, 12/16/2018!! You don’t want to miss entering this. Seriously, it is my absolute favorite coffee!! Click HERE, then leave a comment for a chance to win!!!

God bless you, dear readers!