That Joy and Grief Collide

It’s beginning to look a lot like that annual festive season,
But I’m not feeling so cheery and for a good reason.

There is an empty seat at the table and a missing impish grin,
And all the frivolous merriment is honestly wearing quite thin.

Every merry season’s greeting seems to sting by default,
And I cannot tell if it’s an antiseptic or if it is salt.

Still, under all the hollow exuberance is something I cannot deny,
A Hope so deep and true that runs steadily though all else has gone awry.

This pain is real, but it is not a reality in a vacuum alone,
There is also a gracious comfort, more than I’ve ever known.

Emmanuel is still Emmanuel and no pain can scare Him away,
He still draws near to the brokenhearted and weary today.

Yes, there is a dark shadow cast by death and loss,
But I cannot deny the juxtaposition of Hope from a manger and a cross.

And here I find, that grief and joy collide,
For even the deepest darkness cannot find a place to hide.

There is still light shining brightly in this season,
I cannot look away from it and for a good reason.

Don’t Take the Christmas Story for Granted

It’s Christmas and it’s a time when family traditions thrive. Over the years, we get rather accustomed to the traditions of the season. The special dinners, the fresh baked cookies, decorating the tree, the candlelight church service, opening presents Christmas morning…

We also become very accustomed to hearing the basic Christmas story of Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary and placed in a manger. We’re accustomed to hearing of the shepherds, wise men, and angels. We see it visually in the small nativity scenes on the mantle or in the yard. We hear it in the sermon at church. We hear of it in carols. Perhaps we even read it ourselves. Even many who have little to no experience with church or Christianity in general know the story. Perhaps because it is so familiar or perhaps because we are just so accustomed to it, especially in this country, we take the true Christmas story for granted most of the time. I’m guilty of this too. When we take the story for granted, we miss out on the overwhelming display of love and God’s character that is revealed in just the physical arrival of our Savior on this earth some 2000 years ago.

Jesus left a paradise better than ANY earthly paradise you can think of and came to the earth in the form of a baby. Jesus left a place free of suffering to come into the world where there is an endless supply of physical and emotional suffering. People both rich and poor must face suffering but the impoverished often face additional plights. Jesus was born into a life of poverty where he surely faced some physical discomfort. He could have come in the form of an independent adult king and the simple fact that he came down from heaven for us would still be astounding. He takes it steps further by coming in the form of a baby that needed its mother’s nurturing. He was born under harsh (and rather unsanitary) conditions and placed a feeding trough for animals. I mean seriously! The Savior of the world…the King of Kings…came into the world as a dependent baby, was born in a smelly stable, and laid not even in a cradle but in a borrowed feeding trough. Just take a moment for that to sink in.

From day one Jesus could identify with the plights of humans. He was born right into the mess of this world. He came to get messy. He came to deal with the mess we made and the sin we bore. The story of Jesus’ birth is not some trivial story but rather a crucial piece of the overall picture of God’s extraordinary, unfathomable love for His people. This Christmas I pray that you and I take some time to be in awe of our wonderful God and the event that we celebrate with traditions and fanfare. May we never take Jesus’ birth for granted.



It is the never satisfied black hole of wanting.

It devours people like a lion devours prey.

Most of the time we do not give much thought to our greed. Our society so often portrays the idea that more is better. The media is littered with advertisements and messages about how you, the viewer, need some specific product to be happy or healthy. People are always striving for more. We go on a shopping trip to satisfy our momentary longing and in the end, our closets burst at the seams and our cupboards are filled to the brim. Yet soon after, we find ourselves longing for that new outfit, new snack item and that new smart phone. More. More. More.


Someone looks into their almost empty closest looking for a coat or sweater to keep them warm…but to no avail. Children somewhere own only the clothes on their backs. Someone is worrying about how they will afford food to feed themselves and their family. The cupboards, if they even exist, are bare.

It’s an uncomfortable thought. It’s especially uncomfortable when you remember how in the Bible, Jesus tells us to give to the poor. (And He isn’t talking about a few cans of food or a few bucks here and there although those cans and dollars sure can add up and help).

I’ve always struggled with greed and selfishness. I suppose it’s a part of being human. Still, it’s one of the things I hate most about myself.

More than likely, if you are reading this, you live in a house, have a computer, have Internet access, and probably much more. Heat? Food in the fridge and cupboards? Phone? Books? Extra clothes in your closet? Shoes? Toiletries?

Thought so. And yet, if you are like me, you still have a list of wants a mile long.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this Thanksgiving, let’s keep the thankfulness going. We shouldn’t just be thankful for one Thursday a year. We are blessed with many more things than we need. With the Christmas shopping season already underway and Black Friday right around the corner, let’s remember those that have less. Our shopping trip may satisfy our temporary longings but the only One that can truly satisfy the wants of our hearts is God. I’m not saying it’s bad to have nice things but selfishly focusing getting more of those things all the time is. Greed and a good relationship with God aren’t compatible. Which one will you pick?

Pistachio Drop Cookies: The Story and the Recipe

So I know I haven’t been here in a while. It’s been crazy with finals coming up and lots of other things going on. Today was my last final exam this semester (calculus). Soooo glad that’s over. Anyway, one of my last assignments before classes ended was to write a process paper. Part of the assignment was to pick apart at a recipe or how-to and also tell a story along with it. Since I wrote about a certain type of Christmas cookie, I decided to post my essay here too. Enjoy. 🙂


It is that time of year again. Christmas carols are heard on the radio, shops and homes are decorated with garlands, bows and lights and people are rapidly planning for various Christmas festivities. Long standing family traditions commence once again. Christmastime is a wonderful time of year. One common holiday tradition is cookie baking. People bake cookies all year round of course but December is a time when many of the fancier, unique, and festive cookies are made. We devour chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies all year round but at Christmas time, we devour these kinds of cookies and more. Of course, amongst a hectic schedule, finding time and energy to make cookies from scratch can be nearly impossible. Many cookie recipes can take several hours from start to finish. Many people thus decide to buy cookies at the grocery store or to buy frozen cookie dough. While these cookies can be delicious, there is nothing like warm, freshly homemade cookies that you make yourself.

When I was in kindergarten, my class spent a day making various types of Christmas cookies with our teacher and some parent supervisors. All the recipes were relatively simple but they all produced scrumptious holiday treats. My favorite type that we made that day was the pistachio drop cookies. Since kindergarten, I have made these cookies almost every Christmas. When I was younger, I made them with my mom’s help. A young child baking cookies with a parent or grandparent is an excellent bonding experience, especially on a cold and snowy day. Perhaps you remember baking cookies with mom on a snow day or baking cookies with a beloved grandparent before Christmas. As I grew older, I started baking these cookies on my own. Given the simplicity and ease of the recipe, I am still able to bake these cookies amidst a crazy schedule. I have often found myself making several batches of these cookies throughout the holiday season because they are consumed quite quickly in my house.

In order to make pistachio drop cookies, one first needs to acquire all the necessary ingredients. To make a batch of about 35 cookies, you will need two packages of pistachio instant pudding mix, two eggs, ½ cup cooking oil, two cups of Bisquick, 18 red maraschino cherries and sugar. The pistachio pudding mix gives the cookies their rich pistachio flavor and their festive green color. The cherries are placed at the center of the green cookies and make the cookies look like little red and green Christmas decorations. Over the years, I have discovered that using the “healthy” version of Bisquick works just as well as the original version. Using the “healthy” version can make these little holiday morsels a little less of a guilty pleasure. The pudding mix and the Bisquick are made of multiple ingredients, which makes the ingredients list relatively short and simple. Most of these ingredients are readily available at the store. Sometimes finding pistachio pudding mix can be a challenge but generally the grocery store will carry this flavor. I tend to keep an extra couple of boxes in the cupboard throughout the season so that I do not have to run out to the store the next time I impulsively want to make pistachio drop cookies.

The actual baking procedure is short and simple. The first step is technically not part of the actual recipe but can help make the baking process less of a chore. First put on some upbeat Christmas tunes in the kitchen. If you want, you can sing along and/or dance to the music while you work. Upbeat music in the background can make almost any chore seem more fun. To actually make the cookies, you need to mix the pudding mix, eggs, oil, and Bisquick together.  Unlike many other recipes, there is no particular order in which to mix these ingredients. Cracking eggs can be a challenge for children or inexperienced bakers. To avoid the problem of eggshells in the dough, I suggest cracking the eggs over a separate bowl before putting them in the mix. By doing this, you can pick out any pieces of shell that might have broken off. After the dough is mixed, roll the dough into little balls with diameters of about 1.5 inches. After forming each ball of dough, roll the ball in sugar. The easiest way to do this is to pour sugar onto a large plate and roll each individual ball in the sugar. You can start out with a half of a cup of sugar on the plate. You may need to add a little more sugar on the plate later in the process. Place each sugar covered ball of dough on a ungreased nonstick cookie sheet. Each cookie should be 1.5 inches apart. You will likely need two cookie sheets. Then cut the maraschino cherries in half. Since these cherries tend to be juicy, I recommend placing the halves on a paper towel for a few moments in order for some of the juice to drain. If you do this, you will prevent a lot of cherry juice from running over the cookie dough. The red juice can turn the tops of the cookie more tan than green. Take each cherry half and place in the center of each dough ball. Press down only slightly (again, to prevent too much juice from draining on the cookie). Once all the sugar covered dough balls have cherries on them and are on the cookie sheet, place the cookie sheet on the middle rack in an oven preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the cookies bake for ten to twelve minutes. My suggestion is to check the cookies after ten minutes of baking time and put them back in the oven if need be. You know the cookies are done if the edges and undersides of the cookies are slightly tan in color. Be careful not to burn yourself when checking cookies and removing them from the oven. Always use oven mitts when removing the cookie sheet. When checking the cookies, pull the cookie sheet out, place it on the stove top, and check the cookies undersides using a spatula to lift the cookie up off the sheet slightly. Once the cookies are baked, leave them on the sheet for about five minutes. After that, use the spatula to lift each cookie off the sheet and onto a cookie cooling rack. The final step is to sit down and sample these freshly made morsels of pistachio goodness.

These cookies are prefect for Christmas parties, holiday bake sales, cookie swaps, or just for general consumption at home. Whether you have been baking for years or are relatively new to the world of baking, these cookies are sure to be a success. During my freshman year of high school, I introduced this recipe to my confirmation mentor from church. She bakes all kinds of sweet treats but had never made cookies like these. We made several batches for the Christmas fair and she had to admit that these easy to make cookies were delicious. These cookies may be easy to make but sometimes the best things in life are also the simplest. Perhaps you can add this recipe to your repertoire of holiday baking recipes and traditions. Christmas cookie baking is not just about making cookies but rather about making unique, fun and creative cookies. It is a time to honor past tradition and to develop new traditions. Most importantly, Christmas cookie baking can be a wonderful family or friend bonding activity. Whether you make pistachio drop cookies with someone or by your lonesome, I hope that you find enjoyment and satisfaction with this recipe as I have ever since that baking day in kindergarten.