During this season, we are featuring holiday memories from some of our staff women and pastor’s wives, along with their favorite recipes. Enjoy!

One of my favorite holiday memories actually comes from my first year of marriage.  Lyle and I were living in Budapest, Hungary. As missionaries, we were keenly aware of the generosity of believers stateside who made our life possible, and so it was important to spend that money wisely. We wanted what little Christmas budget we had to give gifts to our families stateside (and the postage to get the gifts there!).  We debated over purchasing a tree, but real trees were relatively cheap, and since we were spending Christmas without family, we splurged for the tree, hauled it up the five flights of stairs (no elevator!) and set it up.

Then came the dilemma: what to put on it?  Some generous Hungarian church members had given us a few Christmas ornaments they’d decorated themselves. I think we had 5 of those. Our tree, though green and fragrant, looked slightly bare with only 5 ornaments. But we got creative.  Some thoughtful American soul had sent us popcorn. Now this wasn’t the Orville Redenbacher pop-in-the-microwave kind, and we didn’t have a microwave anyway. This was your 1960’s Jiffy Pop over-the-stove-flame popcorn, the kind with the metal handle that forms a ring around the pan (Some of you are too young to know what this is but Google it. It’s still available at Walmart, even).

So we strung that popcorn, and Lyle, his creative juices REALLY flowing, took the metal ring/handle and fashioned it into a star. We covered it in aluminum foil and voila! We had a beautiful topper for our tree. We were pretty proud of our work, but the best part came on Christmas morning.  We had each budgeted $5 to spend on the other, which was a lot of money for us back in 1992 (Now, if you know the story The Gift of the Magi, ours may sound vaguely familiar, but there were no pocketwatch chains or hair combs involved)! He got me a beautiful pair of blue enameled earrings, and I found him a novel in English (a rare treasure in those days).

We have spent 24 Christmases together since then, all with a larger budget. We’ve accumulated many ornaments and decorations and had beautiful trees, presents piled high underneath many years. But when I think of a Christmas where we truly experienced “peace on earth,” I think of that year when Jesus had blessed us through the sacrifices of others first so we, too, could give.

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Pumpkin Dump Cake

1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin
1 10 oz. can evaporated milk
1 cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers and/or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9×13 baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir to combine and pour into pan. Sprinkle cake mix over pumpkin mixture, followed by graham crackers and/or nuts. Pour melted butter evenly on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes until center is set and edges are lightly browned. Serve warm.

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Shelli Jarvis is wife to Life Group Pastor Lyle and a willing volunteer at the HCF Amarillo Campus.