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[HOMEWORD] Connecting with family around simple traditions

We all know how to do the big things, and the holidays are filled with big things – attending the church’s blowout Christmas event, decorating the new 9-foot Christmas tree, shopping all the major department store sales, finding a mammoth turkey to feed all the visiting guests for Christmas dinner. Big, like a loud noise, grabs our attention.

My three grown daughters have been making plans for weeks. They arrange their schedules to converge on my house for their traditional Christmas cookie bake. However, making cookies and treats for the holidays began before it was ever “their” cookie bake. It began when they were little girls climbing up into chairs to reach the counters. It began with their mother welcoming them into her kitchen.

Kathy’s mom died this past July. She had battled Alzheimers courageously for nearly 15 years. With Thanksgiving and the approaching Christmas season, I have caught Kathy more than once looking off in the distance. At times, tears roll down her cheeks and I know she must be remembering past holidays.

There is a black and white photo of Kathy as a child in the kitchen with her mom. Kathy stands in a patterned, upholstered chair. Her hair is bobbed, there is a bowl in front of her, and she holds a spoon covered in chocolate batter.

Kathy’s head is turned toward the camera. Her smile is amplified by the chocolate markings around her mouth. Although it appears that her mom has her hands full, she too has a big smile on her face. Mother and daughter connected for a lifetime through baking.

My girls were pre-teens when they first received their very own grown-up aprons. On cookie baking day, the aprons come out of the drawer. The sisters help each other tie on the aprons, and the talking and laughter punctuate the air.

Bowls fill the kitchen counters. Flour, sugar and lots of specialty ingredients come out of grocery store bags. The sisters raid the kitchen pantry for any items they forgot.

Although the cookie bake has all the trappings of being big, it is not the bigness that will make it memorable. The mountains of goodies are not the reason the sisters make this event an annual tradition. It’s actually very simple. In the hectic rush of the Christmas season, the cookie bake is a time carved out of the bigness to connect as sisters.

Jesus’ life became big as people learned of His preaching and healing. He no longer could just walk down a street unnoticed. There were people who followed Him and sought Him to meet their needs. And He did. But He also set aside time to gather those closest to him for communion with Him. The big events would wait.

I listen to the mother-daughter chatter in the next room. For this day, the busyness of the season is set aside just for them. It’s not important what types of cookies they bake this year or any of the years in the past; what is important is their fellowship, the interaction and acceptance of each other as they create memories once again.

This closeness they share comes because they choose to spend time with each other. Even amidst the fast pace of the season, they make time for togetherness.

Some of these treats they create will become gifts to share with co-workers and friends. Some will be put aside for the Christmas eve family celebration after the carol service at church. All who partake of the baked goods will enjoy the fruits of their talents, but I will feast on the memory of their big hearts for each other and those they love, these precious people who make time for one another even during these big busy days.

This Christmas, Jesus calls us to slip away and connect with Him. Leave something undone, politely decline an invitation, and find a moment of solitude and connect and commune. It is, after all, His birthday celebration.

There is a new apron this year, a tiny version of the older ones in that drawer. Daughter Amie’s little Emmalie joins the cookie bake this season, and while she won’t contribute great talent and skill in baking right now, she will join the grand tradition of mother and daughter memory making that will live in her heart for all time. A big moment, indeed.

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