By Kathi Macias –
I love Christmas. In addition to the wonderful celebration of Christ’s birth on earth, I love the feel of Christmas, the sounds of it, the smells of it—and above all, the tastes of it.
And that’s the problem. As much as I love Christmas, I also fear it. It’s a sort of love-hate relationship, as I wrestle with sugarplums dancing in my head (though I haven’t a clue what sugarplums are!) and calories not just dancing but taking up permanent residence on my mid-section.
Seriously, I go into the infamous twelve-days-of-Christmas season (which really lasts the entire month of December and beyond for me) each year determined not to overeat. I never last beyond the middle of the month because that’s when the need to bake takes over.
“Aren’t you going to make sugar cookies with sprinkles for the guys at work?” my husband asks.
I love sugar cookies with sprinkles—and it’s for the guys at work! How can I say no? The first day of Christmas has officially arrived.
No sooner do I finish those cookies than my husband says, “It would really be great if you could add some walnut brownies to the plate—you know, for the guys at work.”
Yeah, I know. Those poor guys must be starved. One Texas-sized batch of brownies, coming up! And day two of Christmas is under way.
Day three, and I’m determined to eat salad—a spritz of lemon juice in place of dressing. (After all, I had to taste those sugar cookies and brownies to make sure they were okay before I sent them to the guys at work, right? Now I have to make up for it.) But then I see the note on the bulletin board at the clubhouse where we live, asking for donations of pound cake for the annual delivery to the nursing home. How selfish can I be? Some of those elderly residents might not get cake except once a year at Christmas! Who am I to deprive them? (On the plus side, I was so full from sampling pound cake and licking the bowl and beaters at the end of the day that I skipped the salad entirely.)
The fourth day of Christmas requires peanut butter cookies for a neighbor, while day five entails pumpkin pies. The sixth day—halfway there!—has me trying my hand at apple strudel (one of my favorites, so I make two—one for me and one for everyone else). The fudge on day seven nearly sends me over the sugar edge, so I tone it down a bit and make bread on day eight (which, of course, must be eaten warm with lots of butter). By day nine I try making a jelly roll. If the first one turns out crooked, I just eat it and make another one. (Practice makes perfect!)
Who am I making all these treats for, you might ask? The guys at work? The nursing home residents? Absolutely not! They got their goodies, and I blame them for getting me started on this baking frenzy anyway. I’m now going to all this effort just to fill the freezer “in case company drops by.” And in all honesty, we have grandkids who can eat everything in that overloaded freezer in one sitting, so my reasoning isn’t completely faulty.
I devote days ten and eleven to various kinds of candy, all of which are delicious, but by day twelve I draw the line. “No more baking,” I declare. “No cookies, candies, pies, or cakes. I’m done.”
At that point last year, my husband smiled. “That’s great. You deserve a day off. And here, I got you something special while I was in town yesterday.” Tears popped into my eyes as he laid the three-pound box of chocolates on my lap (a lap which was considerably larger than it had been before the onset of the twelve days of Christmas), and he was touched at my emotional reaction.
“Wow,” he said. “I knew you liked candy, but I didn’t expect you to be so happy you’d cry about it.”
Indeed. Once again Christmas had moved me to tears. The next move would have to be to the gym to work off the effects of all that baking. But I’d learned to survive the twelve days of Christmas, and I suppose I’ll do the same this year.
Have a blessed Christmas, dear friends!
By Kathi Macias –
I’ve always been a control freak who wanted everything to run smoothly—perfectly, actually. No bumps or surprises, just—well, a “tight ship,” as they say. And somewhere along the line I got the idea that I could make that happen—if I just tried hard enough. I think it may have started when I first saw Superman on our family’s black and white TV and wondered, Is there a Superwoman somewhere? When I put that question to the adults in my life, theysmiled and patted me on the head and said, “I don’t think so, dear.” So I decided to sign up for the job—a reasonable if somewhat naïve aspiration for a six-year-old, not so reasonable and way beyond naïve at twenty-six. Two decades after the birth of my Superwoman dream, I was still running as fast as I could and getting nowhere. My twenty-year-old dream was going down for the count, and I was nearly at the point of throwing in the towel—until I met Jesus.
What a difference! Now I could latch on to verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “All things should be done decently and in order”—biblical affirmations of my desire to do things right, to do things efficiently and effectively, to do things with power and authority. Finally I was invincible—in Jesus, of course. Now all I needed was a godly role model and I’d be on my way.
I began my search in earnest, reading through the Scriptures until I came to Proverbs 31.Eureka! There, at last, was the epitome of the Superwoman I’d been hoping to become since I was six years old. The perfect woman—perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect housekeeper, perfect entrepreneur—all rolled into one! Not only did her husband and children praise her, but God must have approved of her as well or He certainly wouldn’t have included her as an example in the Bible. My dream was alive and well once again! At last I would be able to “get it all together,” to win instead of fail, to run a tight ship, and to keep things under control. Life was good, and the future looked bright.
There was only one problem. I hadn’t figured on all the loose cannons rolling around the deck of my not-so-tight ship….
You see, I had a family—meaning, I shared my life with other human beings. Not only were those other humans imperfect (and yes, I was aware that I was imperfect as well), but they didn’t consider me Superwoman at all. It seemed the harder I tried to organize them, the more unruly they became.
After years of trying to get them to march in lock-step, keeping their rooms clean, their clothes hung up, their homework done (I’m including my husband in this line-up!), I achieved nothing except exhaustion. And then one day—finally—I fell to my knees and cried out, “God, I’m tired! I just can’t do all this. It’s not fair! Why do I have to do everything?”
If God chuckles—and I imagine He does—He undoubtedly did so at that moment. In fact, I think I may have heard Him, even as He silently but firmly answered my question: “Nearly everything you are doing is by your own assignment. All I asked you to do was come and sit at My feet. Sadly, you’ve been far too busy for that.”
Talk about a reality check! And so Superwoman hung up her cape, apologized to her family, and reduced her to-do list to one item: Spend time with God. At last I had figured out that if I did that one thing, God would see to it that the rest got done—with or without my help. And as time went on, much like the Proverbs 31 woman’s experience, my husband and children rose up and declared me blessed.
By Kathi Macias –
One of my all-time favorite shows was “Kids Say the Darndest Things” with host Art Linkletter. Art has long since gone on to his heavenly reward, but once in awhile I’ll see a rerun of an old program and realize how hilarious it was. Nothing was scripted, nothing rehearsed—just natural and spontaneous, which no one does better than kids.
I remember a time like that with one of my granddaughters. Brittney was four or five, and I took her with me to run some errands. On the way home I wanted to stop at the cemetery and leave some flowers on a relative’s grave. I decided it could be a good learning experience for Brittney, so we talked as we made our way to the gravesite.
“What are all those numbers under the names?” she asked, peering down at the headstones as we passed by.
“Those are the dates they were born and when they died,” I explained.
She thought about that for a minute, and I realized this was quite a challenge for someone her age. I decided to give her some examples.
“This lady,” I said, “was born in 1938 and died in 1989. That means she was 51 when she died.”
Her eyes grew wide, but she didn’t say anything. Quite obviously she concluded the woman was quite elderly.
I then pointed out one who had died quite young—in his twenties. She nodded and continued on.
Then we stopped to gaze at an ornate headstone that caught her eye. She tried to read the dates, but when I realized she was struggling, I intervened, explaining that the woman was 98 when she died.
Brittney’s head snapped up, her brown eyes nearly popped out of her head, and she said in a voice tinged with awe, “Wow, she was ready!”
After I quit laughing, I realized I’d been handed the teachable moment I’d hoped for and promptly used her comment to talk about “being ready” before we die.
And then, in August of this year, my 90-year-old mother went home to be with Jesus. Was she ready? Absolutely! Brittney, who is now almost 21, sat with many of her cousins at the memorial service to honor this matriarch of our family.
One of the little ones in attendance, Annabelle, was not quite four at the time. She’d been hearing statements to the effect that her great grandma was dead and wasn’t quite sure what that meant. But when she couldn’t find Grandma anywhere, she’d shrug and say, “Grandma’s dead,” as if that explained her absence.
As the hour-long service went on, with some of Mom’s favorite songs being sung, a video shown about heaven and “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me playing in the background, not to mention the favorite memories shared by many who loved her, I wondered what the youngest member of the family thought about all that was going on.
I didn’t have long to wonder. As the service came to a close and people gathered around to offer hugs and condolences, Annabelle ran up to us with her blue eyes shining and a smile spread across her face.
“Grandma’s not dead,” she announced, as if she’d just made the most wonderful discovery ever. “She’s in heaven!”
Whether Annabelle had figured it out on her own or with the help of the memorial service—or whether an angel had whispered it to her—she was right. And she had reminded each one of us of the great truth that if we’re truly “ready”—as I had explained to Brittney years earlier—our loved ones who go on before us are not dead at all. They are simply in heaven, worshiping the Savior who ensured their safe passage through the valley of death into the presence of the Father.
By Kathi Macias –
September has always been my favorite month of the year. Seriously! Even—especially—when I was a kid. Yep, I was one of those “nerds” who loved school and couldn’t wait for summer vacation to end so we could get back into the classroom.
Most of my friends and both of my little brothers thought I was nuts. They were more like those two kids in the Staple’s commercial who drag up and down the aisles, looking like they just lost their best friend, while their dad leaps and dances through the store, tossing school supplies into his basket before racing toward the check stand.
I’m one of those people who, given half a chance and unlimited funds, would be a perpetual student. I absolutely love the challenge of learning a new topic and then acing a test on it.
And that’s another reason my younger brothers weren’t all that wild about September. They would show up in a new classroom and, as soon as the teacher spotted their unusual last name, hear her declare, “Oh, you must be Kathi’s brother. We’ll expect great things from you this year.”
As I progressed from grammar school to junior and senior high, I also loved the excitement of running for (and usually winning) a spot on student council. Entering the science fair was another treat because it meant I could spend my evenings and weekends working on my project while my brothers did silly things like playing outside or watching cartoons.
(Did I mention I was a firstborn? A type-A personality? An over-achiever? No? But you already figured that out, didn’t you?)
All well and good…until school becomes a thing of the past and real life happens right in front of you. Then what?
My husband and I married young—very young. Eighteen, to be exact. And we did so in the month of September. In the two years that followed, we had two babies, thirteen months apart. For the very first time in my life, I realized I did NOT know everything, nor was it necessarily fun to try and learn. Diapers? Are you kidding me? That was definitely before the days of disposables. (You don’t even want to go there.) Sleep deprivation? I set a new record that even “Sleepless inSeattle” hasn’t come close to breaking.
You know the one thing I did learn during those first couple of years? That a human being who weighs less than my head and can’t even sit up can at the same time absolutely take over the lives of two adults. Throw a second pint-sized person into the mix, and life as we knew it was over.
There were times during those early years of non-stop diaper changing and midnight feedings that I didn’t think I was going to make it. Suddenly straight-A averages and honor roll listings didn’t mean much. All I wanted was to be able to sleep more than 30 minutes at a time and to be able to eat an entire meal in one sitting.
But before I knew it, those years were behind me. Now, as another September is upon us, I look back on those early years with nostalgia. If I had them to live over again, which ones would I choose—the years where I couldn’t wait to get back to school and learn something new, or the years when I witnessed my child’s first smile or heard his first word? Hands-down, the sleepless years with my little ones.
September is a good month to reflect on the past…and to prioritize the future. Perhaps that’s why the Jewish calendar starts in September, rather than January. I’m approaching this September with a song of praise and thanksgiving in my heart and on my lips for all that God has blessed me with through the years. I encourage you to do the same.
By Kathi Macias –
I can’t remember if the “eggrolls” title above was a book or a movie, but my dad was famous for saying it every time he took us out for Chinese food (which wasn’t often, as people ate out a lot less often in those days—took too long to harness the horses to the buggy, you know).
Seriously, with Mom and Dad in the front seat and us three kids in the back, we’d have the “eggrolls” discussion long before we arrived at Hissing Dragons. “Let me do the ordering,” Dad would say (as if that were a novel suggestion). “I know how to get the most food for the least money, including free eggrolls. So just keep your mouths shut until the food arrives.”
Since all I really cared about were the fortune cookies, that wasn’t much of a problem. But fifty-plus years later, I realize how much of my dad’s training has stuck with me. My husband absolutely adores Chinese food, so we go out to eat it fairly regularly. The minute we sit down and open the menus, I start looking for specials—two-for-one, buy-this-and-get-that-free, etc. I can’t tell you the times I’ve ordered something I don’t even like just because something else I don’t dislike quite as much comes with it.
Old habits die hard, as they say, and my 90-year-old mom is the proof of that. In the facility where she now lives, she shares her meals with two table-mates, Rita and Laura. The three of them compare notes about health, families, activities (or lack thereof)…and food. That, of course, is a big one. My mom actually called me the other day to complain that they served liver and onions for dinner, something she refuses to eat.
“So are you still hungry, Mom?” I asked in response. “You know, I left some sandwich items in the refrigerator in your room. You can ask your caregiver to help you make a sandwich.”
“Oh, no, I’m not hungry,” she assured me. “I seldom eat what they serve for dinner anyway because I’m still full from lunch.” (That’s not surprising because they finish lunch at 12:30 and go back down to the dining room for dinner at 4—just long enough in between for an afternoon nap.) “It’s just the principle of the thing,” she explained. “I hate liver and onions, and I thought you should know that’s what they gave us for dinner.”
Sigh. I’m never sure how to handle that sort of situation, so I usually just change the subject. But as much as she despises liver and onions, there is one meal at the facility that ranks at the top of her favorites list: eggrolls. At last twice a month they serve eggrolls (along with a few other items) for either lunch or dinner, and Mom always calls me to rave about them. But the last time she had them, she also had a revelation that really rocked her world.
“They give eggrolls to everyone,” she said, amazement evident in her voice.
“And why wouldn’t they?” I asked.
“Well, I just assumed I got them because I share a table with Rita and Laura, but today I noticed there were a couple of people sitting at tables by themselves, and they got eggrolls too!”
It was nearly too much for her to comprehend, though she quickly added that it wouldn’t be fair if they didn’t get them. After all, it was sad enough that they sat by themselves at mealtime; there was no reason to punish them further by depriving them of eggrolls.
I’ve learned a lot watching my mom age, and not just about eggrolls and who’s entitled to them. I understand a little better now that the Scriptures tell us that the death, or passing, of God’s people is precious in His sight. And it isn’t limited to that one moment in time when a believer takes that last breath and departs for heaven. It is the sometimes lengthy process, that cutting of earthly ties so we can finally soar into God’s presence. Barring some unexpected event, Mom will probably get there ahead of me, but I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if, when I arrive soon after her, I find she’s already sitting at the banquet table, sharing eggrolls with my dad. Something tells me they won’t mind if I join them.