Simply Christmas

Family Christmas partyMy earliest memories of Christmas involve family and friends in fellowship around the holidays.  We made homemade candies, snacks, and goodies, and took them to family and friends who were celebrating Christmas. At my Gran’s house, we would set up the tree (originally the aluminum tree) and color wheel (it’s for the aluminum trees; you couldn’t put lights on it because it was metal). We shared a meal and sang Christmas carols and Gran’s favorite hymns.

Gran was no longer able to go to church in her wheelchair, but she loved the worship time shared in her home with my aunt and her sisters leading the singing, and playing the accordion and keyboard.  My childhood best friend’s Mom had an open house on Christmas Eve where we all brought snacks, and she always had the best decorated sugar cookies and an open heart to share God’s love with others.   We grew up going to church and Vacation Bible School together, then later taught in VBS.

It was a simpler time of unlocked doors and allowing us kids to play outside until dark…But I truly believe it was a time of learning how to share God’s love and blessings with others.  We give gifts to symbolize the gifts the 3 Wise Men took to Christ. But it has become so much more now—people take out loans to get the biggest and best gifts.  Nothing I remember that truly reminds me of Christmas shouts how much money someone spent on a gift to me or my family.  We learned how to share with others and God has blessed us in return.

As a matter of fact, my husband and I don’t usually exchange gifts anymore; we plan a trip together to make more memories and spend time with each other or our family.  We gave up on that crazy madness of trying to read each other’s minds, obtaining or giving the “perfect gift,” and now we enjoy the season of Christmas and celebrating Jesus with each other, family and friends.

Seek out time with God and bless others as you go about this crazy, busy season.  Jesus is truly the reason for the season.

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Mounds Bars by La Moine Schrib
This recipe was always at the Shipman Christmas on the dessert table when I was growing up, and now I am the one usually bringing it.  It’s a family favorite of mine.

Serves: 10-20

1 stick butter/margarine
1 pkg graham crackers plus 2 extra full crackers, crushed
¼ cup sugar
1 heaping cup coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg milk chocolate chips
1 tsp peanut butter

Melt stick of butter/margarine in 9×13” pan at 350 degrees.  After melted, sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over top.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with coconut then drizzle sweetened condensed milk over top and bake until golden.  Allow to cool.  Melt chocolate chips in microwave (about 1 min) until wet looking.  Stir in peanut butter.  Ice bars with chocolate and cut into squares.

This post was written by Paula Gowman. To read more about her, click here

How I Defeated Fear with Cherry Pie

cherry-pieAs a kid, one of my most favorite places to be was in the kitchen. Standing next to my mom and watching her maneuver her way through the kitchen was incredible to me! I wanted her to teach me everything she knew about cooking. I wanted to become a great cook, and not only feed my family, but anyone else who walked into my home. To this day, I get so much joy from being in my kitchen and cooking food for people.

My sister-in-law recently got married and she asked me if I could make a few pies for her wedding. I was honored to be able to help contribute to her special day and immediately said yes. I opened our family’s cookbook and browsed around, and finally decided I wanted to make a cherry pie! But I wondered if it would be “good enough” for the wedding? The thought crossed my mind to make a homemade pie crust, but I was a little unsure about that because I had never made one before.

That’s when the fear, negative thoughts, and doubt started rising up in me. I told myself that I just simply couldn’t do it, that it was going to be way too hard, and if I tried it and failed, then I would be letting my sister-in-law down. After believing all those lies, I made the decision to just go with the good ‘ole store-bought crust.

A few days passed and I started thinking about the decision I had made, and I didn’t like it. Why was I so fearful? I walked into the kitchen and noticed the verse written on our chalkboard: 2 Timothy 1:7 –

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

That was just what I needed to hear! God reminded me just then that He did not design my spirit to be fearful and timid. He designed my spirt to be full of power, love, and self-discipline!

Self-discipline is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

God gives all of us the ability to control our feelings and overcome our weaknesses. The power to do that lives in us and it cannot be taken away!

I want to encourage you to do whatever it is that has been holding you back lately. Whether it is an art project on Pinterest; trying a new recipe for supper; implementing new changes at work; standing up for someone or something you believe in; trusting your children to make the right choices; submitting to your husband, or letting unhealthy relationships go.

Everyone has fears; that’s part of life. But at what point are we going to stop letting fear control us? You have to stand up to that fear, look it in the eye, and tell it, “You have no stronghold over me!” If you don’t, then the enemy has won, because fear is not from God.

I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

Psalms 16:8

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Incredible Pie Crust

2 1/2 C. Flour
1 tsp. salt
2 T. sugar
1 1/2 Sticks cold butter, cut into 1/4in pieces
1/2 C. Cold shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 C. Cold water

Combine 1 1/2 Cups flour, salt, and sugar then mix together. Cut in butter and shortening with a pasty cutter until its all mixed together and resembles cottage cheese. Add remaining flour and mix. Sprinkle water on top of dough and with a rubber spatula, mix dough and liquid with a folding motion, pressing on dough. It will be very tacky. Divide dough into 2 balls. Place each ball onto a large square plastic wrap and flatten into a 4 inch disk. Wrap plastic around dough. Refrigerate 1 hour. May keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days. If not using right away you can put dough into the freezer. When ready to use let it defrost in refrigerator and then roll out for your incredible pie crust. Makes 2 pie crusts.

This recipe was given to me by my cousin Chana Miller Van Houten.

This post was written by Rae Leach. To read more about her, click here

 

 

 

Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake

cherry dump cake 2For the summer months, we are going to be posting some fun summer recipes! Enjoy!

To me, this recipe is one of those things that just screams “summer”! Dump cake is so named because you literally just dump everything in a pan, spread out the layers, and bake. Easy, right?? Then you can go back outside and enjoy your summer 🙂

Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake

Layer:
1 (20oz) can cherry pie filling
1 (20oz) can crushed pineapple with juice
Sprinkle with 1 box of yellow cake mix
Cut and evenly distribute 2 sticks butter over top
(Optional: shredded coconut and 1 c. chopped pecans)

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.

This post was written by Heather Dillard. To read more about her, click here

Love, Thanksgiving, and Cherry Pie

cherry pie picDuring the next several weeks, we will be enjoying a beautiful series of very special holiday posts! Some of them are from familiar writers, and some are guest posts…All are from remarkable women whose words will be sure to give a breath of fresh air to your spirit during this holiday season! Keep reading for inspiration, encouragement, and of course, yummy recipes!

Last Thanksgiving began with the unmistakable sound of shattering glass. We had just arrived at my in-laws and when I opened the rear passenger door to our car, I watched helplessly as the coconut cream pie I had made slid out and crashed onto the pavement. Thus began a holiday that turned out opposite of what I had expected.

My husband and I are both from Plainview and have most of our family still there. We have a big lunch with his side and then turn around and have a big dinner with mine. We really have to pace ourselves so as not to end up in a food coma by the end of the day! The in-law lunch went by rather smoothly except for my pie debacle, but my family dinner was not the usual. We headed to my aunt’s house where—come to find out—the stomach bug had started to make the rounds. My parents only joined us for dinner for a very short time because they took food to Momo (my Dad’s mom) who was very ill. Then to cap off the night, while driving back to Lubbock, my kids whined about how they were hungry because they wouldn’t stop playing long enough to eat.

Expectations can be a slippery slope. If rigid and unrealistic, they can prevent you from experiencing all God has to offer. I often find myself building up in my head how special occasions, especially holidays, should look. Then as I go to bed that night and reflect on the day, I battle the disappointment of things not meeting my lofty expectations. If I’m not careful, I will find myself blinded to the love happening in precious moments that aren’t found within “the plan.”

We live in a time where social media, if we let it, can add to our unrealistic expectations. Rather that being inspired by Pinterest or celebrating one another’s accomplishments seen on Facebook, we feel inadequate in our own experience and start adding things to our check list to make it “better.” Great is the temptation to compare our journey with others.

My husband and I teach our boys that we have two main rules in our house: love God and love people. Everything else is simply a subcategory of these commandments that Jesus gave to us. As I am instilling these into my children, I am attempting to embrace them for myself. These are the only expectations I want to have for the upcoming holidays. My hope is that I am able to roll with the punches that life can throw at me, but still graciously honor my Father and those around me by laying down my life and plans.

My parents were my greatest example of this last Thanksgiving. As I said before, they were only at dinner for a very short time. They made a plate for my grandmother, even though she had to be coaxed to eat even a few bites. She was at home, where in the last month she had stayed, because of some unsteadiness and a severe fall. Momo’s health was suddenly going downhill fast. I watched as my parents selflessly jumped in to help her. That night my parents physically cared for her when she couldn’t care for herself. In the days and weeks to follow, my parents relentlessly served Momo with grace and love—allowing her to spend her final days with dignity, honor, and compassion.

This, for me, was truly a picture of loving God and loving people. As I look at last Thanksgiving, I am able to laugh off the splattered pie and late-night hungry kids in light of witnessing the beauty of my Mom and Dad walking out God’s commands.

Maybe you are dreading the family drama that seems to inevitably happen when your family gets together. Maybe you find yourself having to work and be separated from those you love most, or maybe you have a sick little one this year. Whatever our holidays look like, I pray that the things that can bring us down would pale in comparison to loving and serving our Creator and those around us.

At the end of the day, my Thanksgiving will look different than yours, because it is uniquely mine. But what is the same—what we all have in common—is a God who loves us and gives us the ability and choice to love those around us. So I embrace my Thanksgiving in all its distinctive qualities (and celebrate you in yours), and I rejoice in the beauty of what we all have in common through our God.

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My passion for baking and creating desserts began with my grandmother. The following recipe is a favorite of my family’s that she would make for the holidays. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Momo’s Cherry Pie

Ingredients
3/4c sugar
1/4c flour
16oz. can red, tart cherries packed in water
Pinch of salt
2 TBS Cold butter
9 inch double pie crust
Ground cinnamon

Separate the juice from the cherries and place in a saucepan. Add sugar, flour and salt and stir to combine. Cook over low heat until juice turns clear and sugar is dissolved.

Place cherries in uncooked, prepared pie crust. Cut butter into small chunks and dot cherries with them. Pour cherry juice mixture over cherries. Cover with top crust and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes then lower temperature to 350 degrees and cook an additional 30 minutes or just until browned.

*For added texture you can swap out the top crust for a streusel topping.
1/3c sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1/2c + 2TBS flour
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2c COLD butter cut into pieces

Combine all ingredients except for butter in a bowl. Add butter and using a pastry cutter or your hands, mash until the butter is the size of small peas. Sprinkle over the top of the pie and bake as directed.

This post was written by Meredith Riddle.

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These Are a Few of my Favorite Things….

‘Tis the season…to relish the simple joys and extravagant gifts the Lord has filled our lives with…three of our favorites being Family, Friends, and Food!

Memories flood in of cozy nights and days nestled in our homes with laughter, snacks, games, fireplace crackling (or pouring smoke profusely into my house – it depends on which memory)…a silly family talent show, reading Advent devotions around lit candles, skyping with relatives far away, wrestling strings of obstinate Christmas lights (very calmly and serenely, I assure you) while watching “White Christmas” for the umpteenth time…always getting along in perfect harmony, peace on earth, good will to men. 🙂 Through it all, we are cementing these lasting, meaningful memories of what Christmas means into the hearts and minds of all our generations.

And what about our dear, true friends? Life would not be the same without them! However many you have, cherish them! This is the perfect time of year to find ways to make them a priority and express how much they mean to you. Worshiping together, caroling in the cold, preparing homemade gifts for others, shopping, putting up another friend’s Christmas decorations when she can’t, planning surprises, receiving surprises, sparkly outings, excited children, serving special meals, goofy white elephant gift exchanges, sharing recipes and EATING together!! These are a few of the memories we share with our bosom buddies from holidays of yore.

Speaking of food (and we were, weren’t we?), have you ever stirred cut-up chunks of old-fashioned gumdrop orange slices into your chocolate chip cookies? Mmmm…that says Christmas at our house! White chocolate popcorn and pretzels, sausage balls, bubbling wassail on the stove, spinach dip, cranberry coffeecake, fireside coffee, green chili cheese ball, pumpkin-anything, fudge…did I mention D’Ann’s gingersnaps?!  (See recipe below!!) I better go get busy! 🙂 The holidays may elicit a whole different set of delectable desires for you and yours. What speaks “Christmas” to your loved ones’ tummies and hearts? Go make some delish culinary memories for those tastebuds God gave us to enjoy!

Each of us has our own personal little sphere of lives and hearts to touch. Don’t pine and whine for what you don’t have this season – get the Christmas reference?  🙂 – instead thank God for the people and the things and the extraordinary giftings you do have. Pour yourself into nourishing and nurturing right where you are and watch God multiply it while He magnifies Himself.

Let’s take the time in these coming weeks to slow down, be present to those near and dear to us, look into each other’s eyes, absorb the warmth of the festive lights and fragrances and music and flavors, and laugh a lot. Our fellowship is full of beautiful, incredible, life-giving, Christ-centered women – each of you!! Let’s be a sisterhood of Kingdom women who learn how to cultivate an atmosphere of celebration that comes from our abundant hearts, not necessarily from an abundance of costly decorations, or perfectly designed crafts (thank you, Pinterest!), or lavish piles of presents. Many love-filled Christmas blessings, joy, and peace be upon you as we embrace some of the best parts of the holidays – our treasured families (immediate and extended), our precious friends, and a yummy array of food to share!

D’Ann Cypert’s Famous Gingersnaps

(none better in the whole wide world)

¾ cup butter-flavored Crisco (now you see why!)

1 cup sugar

1 egg

¼ cup molasses

2 cups sifted flour

1 Tbls. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. salt

sugar to roll in (no, not you – the balls of dough!)

Cream Crisco & sugar together. Add egg and molasses. Sift flour with other dry ingredients, then add one cup at a time. Mix well. Shape dough into large marble-sized balls. Roll in sugar. Place 1” apart on cookie sheets. Do not flatten. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Makes 3-4 dozen.

This post was written by Jill Brown, loving wife to Greg Brown, an elder at Harvest Christian Fellowship, incredible mom to two amazing young men, Levi and Luke, devoted teacher at Plainview Christian Academy and a loyal friend to all she meets.