Pass the Eggnog: How to Cope When Traditions Change

Like you, I have family holiday traditions that bring good memories to my heart: my grandmother passing out her ginormous bag of presents at the family Christmas party; my mother’s tin of Texas Lizzies and the special blue ornaments that always hang on her tree; her first phone call after a big snow, playfully singing, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!;” my daughters and I trying to master making creamy pralines in the kitchen and laughing at our epic fails; the many midnight hours putting together those complicated toys from good ol’ Santa.  

Of course I could go on and on with nostalgic recollections, just as my readers. We are all blessed with holiday memories.  

But what if some of these traditions change? What then?

How do we react when grandparents go to Heaven, loved ones move away and it appears that there’s no more cooks in the kitchen? It may seem, in many ways, that the party’s over.  I’ve been there.  I am there from time to time.  We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves, opting for depression and dismay, OR we can accept the fact that some things change for one simple reason: God is growing us.

I choose to believe the latter. 

Why? Because He tells us so. It’s printed in his Word quite clearly. When the Israelites wondered in unfamiliar territory for over 40 years, God provided manna for them. No, I’m sure it didn’t taste as sweet as my pecan pralines or Texas Lizzie cookies, but the manna was enough to sustain this group that had felt hopeless. They must have really been thrown for a loop when the manna ceased altogether. Although it wasn’t all that tasty and could rot quickly, the manna had been enough to uphold them. They’d learned to tolerate it, as it was predictable.

So when the manna stopped coming, some of the Israelites became bewildered, frustrated and angry. “Why would God do such a thing to His own people?” they probably shouted. If you read His word, you already know the answer to the question:

God was preparing them for something far greater.

They were about to be led to Canaan (Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon) the promised land, the land of milk and honey. But God had to ready them first.  While the Israelites felt the dissolving of their manna tradition was a set back, God was using it as an amazing set up.

Dear one, think on that for a second.

Sometimes when God closes a door, it needs to stay closed. We aren’t supposed to continuously try and force it open with a high heeled stiletto or cowboy boot. Perhaps He simply has another door for us to open a bit later, and this time it has an easily-turning handle?

Instead of constantly scuffing an old door and ruining your shoes or misunderstood soul, perhaps God is preparing you for something far less exhausting and heart wrenching?  When traditions cease or change, we can render life as hopeless or hopeful. It’s a choice. To be blunt, it’s all a matter of faith and perspective. 

Perhaps you can find it easier to relate to the infamous Christmas Vacation movie, starring Chevy Chase. While poor Clark Griswold is insistent on recreating old memories, doing everything from watching childhood movies in the attic, putting the electrical breakers into overdrive, and promising a family swimming pool, things didn’t quite go as planned. In fact, it went hilariously off the rails. While we enjoy this fictitious movie with belly laughs, we probably wouldn’t have found it so funny if we were living it up close and personal. In the end, the Griswolds discovered it wasn’t about recreating old memories, it was simply about being together.

Christmas and New Year’s naturally cause us to reflect on the past year. We question our decisions, our relationships, our successes and failures. (Trust me, I’m SO ready to say goodbye to 2019)  But the past is just that—the PAST. Rather than GET DISCOURAGED perhaps we should GET READY.  Let’s have faith that God is preparing us for something even more amazing than we could ever imagine.  

Sweet friends, we must hold on to that fact even when it doesn’t seem fathomable. I’m right there with you.

I will read and reread the story of the Israelites to remind myself of God’s promises. Perhaps you’ve been called to do the same and remind a friend as well? Sometimes we must say goodbye to the familiar, become a little uncomfortable in our own skin and accept change as a positive.

When my grandmother went to Heaven, when I moved to New Mexico and even when I informed my daughters that they HAD to go away to college, I knew all of these life changes would have consequences: our family Christmas parties ceased, I couldn’t pop back to KY so easily for every event, and my kids were no longer a car drive away.  But none of those changes were necessarily bad, although it sure felt scary at the time. I was saddened on that first year when my extended family no longer got together for holidays. I missed my old KY home and my daughters being under my roof.  I became angry, sad and occasionally questioned God about my free-willed decisions He clearly granted.  But remember what I said about faith and perspective?  You might want to reread that again.

If these big life changes had never occurred, my family and I would have missed out on a heapin’ dose of blessings: my extended family wouldn’t have learned to create their own family traditions with their own children and grandchildren; I would have missed out on living in a beautiful part of the country, where I’ve formed some of the most meaningful friendships in my life. 

My daughters might not have spread their wings, grown into confident young women and realized that abundant life experiences can exist outside their comfort zone.

Did I expect such blessings were just around the corner when I cried tears of sadness and frustration?  I think we both know the answer.

I may not smell my mom’s cookies in the oven this week, but I’m learning to bake my own. My grown daughters find great joy in receiving them from me in the mail. They’re calling me now for recipes and my heart can’t help but swell.  

I look forward to seeing my family in a few weeks, and we’ll recall old memories and together make new ones. No, they won’t be the same and instead be ever-changing. But isn’t that how we grow? 

As I look outside at the Taos snowfall, I can’t help but notice my rose bushes that look sad, pruned and now covered in ice.  Quite simply, they appear absolutely hopeless. But in a few months, the snow will cease, the weather will get warmer and my beloved roses will bloom and smell just as sweet. Again, it’s simply a matter of faith and perspective.

Until then, I will hang onto God’s promises and I pray you will as well. BE OF GOOD CHEER! God has an amazing plan for you! Excuse me as I close out this blog post, for I have cookies in the oven and have pralines to make. I used some beloved family recipes that have been handed down for years.  They’re listed for you below.

Be brave as you create new memories with friends and family. And for goodness sake, stop the hand-wringing and instead hold them up to praise Him. Remember, He has a recipe for your life that was created just for you. Get out there and savor every bite.

Warmly,

Angie

Mom’s Texas Lizzies

Ingredients

(be prepared, batter is better if chilled overnight)

2 sticks margarine (If you use prefer butter, use 1.5 sticks. In my experience)

2 cups dark brown sugar

4 eggs

1 cup of bourbon or whiskey (I use either Crown Royal or Woodford Reserve)

1 t.  nutmeg

1 t. cinnamon

2 t. baking soda

Dash of salt

3 ½ cups of self-rising flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, spices, baking soda and salt. Slowly mix in whiskey and flour. Then fold in cherries, nuts and raisins as listed below.

1 ½ cups of English walnuts (I only use pecans but it’s a matter of preference)

1 ½ cups of pecans

1 ½ cups of golden raisins

1 ½ cup of dark raisins (I only use the golden, but mom uses dark also)

1 lb each of candied red and green cherries

CHILL OVERNIGHT

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop by teaspoonfuls 2” apart. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden. Enjoy! They’re a perfect sweet treat with a cup of coffee in the morning.

Angie’s Pecan Pralines

(I’ve found that the buttermilk ensures the pralines are creamy and not grainy)

Ingredients

1 ½ cups of toasted, coarsely chopped pecans (toast ahead of time in a 375degree oven for 10-12 minutes. This gives a better pecan flavor!)

1 ½ cups sugar

1 cup of buttermilk

½ cup of light brown sugar

½ cup of light corn syrup

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp.  table salt

1 stick of unsalted butter

1 tsp. real vanilla extract

Lightly coat the inside of a heavy bottomed pot with butter.  Then in this same cooker, combine sugar, buttermilk, brown sugar, syrup, baking soda and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Allow sugar to dissolve and bring mixture to a  boil. Cover with tight-fitting lid for 1-2 minutes to dissolve any remaining sugar crystals on the sides of pot. Uncover and insert candy thermometer.  Boil mixture and stir gently until temperature of  the mixture reaches 240 degrees or soft-boil stage.  REMOVE from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Let mixture stand 10-20 minutes until it resembles thick caramel.  Stir in pecans and stir with a wooden spoon until no longer glossy. (about 2-3 minutes).  Spoon onto parchment line baking sheets and allow to set for 30 minutes or so. Store in between layers of wax paper in a sealed container. Great for gift giving!