Monday, December 24, 2012

Not a Recipe, But a Story About a Recipe

Grandma's Sugar Cookies. Mention them to anyone in my extended family and they know exactly what I'm talking about. My Grandma, Lena Yoder, probably made more batches of these Amish church cookies than all the batches of all cookies that all of her daughters made... combined. And she had 9 daughters!

When I say "sugar cookies" most people think of a crisp cookie decorated with either colored sugar or icing. These cookies are not like that AT ALL. Grandma's Sugar Cookies are soft, only slightly sweet, with raisins throughout. Think of the top of a very large muffin.

My mother, Joy Courtney, carried on the tradition of making Grandma's Sugar Cookies for family gatherings. This is how my children came to love them, as my grandmother had passed before they were born so they never had any made by her. One of my young cousins calls them "Aunt Joy's Cookies" but even so, we all know what he means!

I started making Grandma's Sugar Cookies at Christmastime when my children were young but since the dough is so very... temperamental... I never had consistent results. Talk about frustrating! But since they always TASTED good, I'd make them despite their unacceptable texture. I've had results similar to large 'Nilla Wafers to ones that spread over the whole pan, dripping off the sides, and everything in between. Some family members (even in-laws) have perfected the recipe long ago and with fewer flubs than I have. What can I say? Comparison is the thief of joy so it is perfectly fine that I am a bit of a straggler!

This year the result was different. My Grandma's Sugar Cookies came out as close to perfect as I ever hope to get! I am not ashamed to admit that I did a happy dance when the first pan came out of the oven. I could hardly believe my eyes! And then when I lifted them off the pan, I think I may have said "YIPPEEEE!" more than a few times. Exciting stuff!  (Note: click on the pictures to enlarge them)


I am pretty sure these results were due to 3 very new circumstances:

#1 I got a special tip, along with a short story about how Grandma made them, from one of my aunts. It was so successful that I wrote it in on my recipe card so as not to forget! As my daughter watched me make the cookies, me telling her the story, I felt as if I were creating a touchpoint for her, us, that connects us to our rich heritage.

#2 I used the very same cookie cutter that my grandmother used for so many years. I "won" it at the family auction last year. Family auctions can be such fun. And sad. But that's a story for another time. Back to the cookie cutter... It is the perfect size for the cookies to bake evenly, creating a lovely butter-toned top and a lightly browned, crusty bottom. Mom and I used to laugh about her saying "The key to these cookies is having a crusty bottom." I sure do miss her sense of humor!

#3 I am now a Grandma. Yes, something special happens when you become a Grandma. "Grandma" should be listed as a superpower. It makes everything more fun, more thoughtful, more real. I can't explain it. It just happens. At least that is how it has been for me. I hope it is for you, as well. I am overjoyed to say that the twins had their first taste of Grandma's Sugar Cookies and loved them! 

You may be wondering why I'm not sharing the recipe for these wonderful cookies. Well, it isn't because they are a family secret or anything like that. I'm not sharing the recipe because the results are as much about the feel of the dough as it is the list of ingredients. It would be irresponsible of me to just give you the recipe only! You just can't separate the ingredients from the "how to" with these cookies. So, if any of my close-by friends would like to learn how to make them, I am willing to provide the recipe AND demonstrate how it is done.     (Edit: One of my aunts just made Grandma's Sugar Cookies for the first time today. She nailed it! Go figure! )

Just as we can only get the desired results for Grandma's Sugar Cookies with both the list of ingredients and the experience of working with the dough, so too must we have the completeness of God's Word to bring the desired result of our soul's salvation. 

I am only recently learning about how truth and grace cannot be rightly separated so if I fumble with the concepts, I hope you are gentle in your correction. I grew up learning a lot about truth. Stifling rule-keeping was what I learned. I don't say that is what I was taught because I could've been exposed to the grace component and it just didn't sink in. Then in an effort to balance that, I jumped on the grace wagon where I didn't concern myself with much truth at all. I slowly learned that that wasn't true grace that I was reading about in scripture, it was just man's efforts to feel good about himself and his sins. Again, my experience. There might have been some truth being taught but it didn't register.

I don't know if it is a condition of humanity or if it is just me and a few other people that I've encountered, that when we seek balance, we end up over-compensating, hoping to find relief from the negatives of one extreme only to find ourselves smack in the middle of another extreme. It is the frying pan v. fire syndrome, I suppose.

Scripture tells us that Christ came to earth full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Why would He need to be the embodiment of both? Because neither truth nor grace can really stand on it's own. Christ's example for us is FULLNESS, not balance. Truth cannot be diluted to accommodate grace and grace cannot be set aside for truth. In short, what truth requires, grace provides for.  Still learning, still leaning. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Godzilla Twins Visit the Nativity

This is my first Christmas as a grandmother so to celebrate that I bought a Nativity playset for the twins to play with while I read to them or sing Christmas songs.  Up until last night I only offered one or 2 pieces at a time for them to explore while sitting in their highchairs.   With this new setup they were a bit tentative at first, choosing to pound on the floor with one piece at a time but they soon decided that total annihilation was what the scene called for.  

Levi was especially intent on testing each and every piece for durability.  Liam was only slightly more gentle in his exploration. They chewed and drooled on each piece in turn, concussed angel and wiseman alike, and flung sheep hither and yon.  They also devoted a bit of time debunking the theory that you cannot force a horse to drink once you've lead him to water (using camel and well as test subjects).

Here they are, Levi in stripes, Liam in plain.  I can hardly wait to see what they do with wrapping paper and boxes on Christmas morning :-)