This Year’s Christmas Cookie Adventure

After all these years, I’m still learning the secrets of baking. Not just the recipes, but the techniques as well—things like temperature, pressure, consistency, mixing, cooling, decorating, and so forth. Let’s just say I have a long way to go! Here are the “win, place, and show” awards for this year’s Christmas cookie adventure.

Win—Peanut Butter Blossoms

The best cookie this year turned out to be the peanut butter blossoms. They’re delicious! We used an online recipe this time around and deviated from the instructions only by putting Wilbur Buds on top of them instead of Hershey Kisses. Half got the dark chocolate buds, and half got the milk chocolate. Readers of TNL will know that I’ll be eating the dark chocolate ones first! Everything about this particular cookie—the look, smell, taste, and ease of preparation—was top notch.

Place—Sugar Cut Outs

The sugar cookies turned out to be wonderful this year, too. They’re just a whole lot of work. And, sheesh, the flour can wind up in the strangest places! With all the rolling, cutting, trimming, and re-rolling of excess dough, the process can get tiring after several hours. We used my Nana’s cookie cutters, which always puts a lump in my throat. They may be 60-70 years old by now, and they bring back a lot of beautiful memories. She was a gem of kindness, and I was always in awe of her baking skills. We put red and green sugar sprinkles on the cut outs. They’re fun to look at and fun to eat!

Show—Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh, what a near disaster! The chilled dough seemed “spot on” in terms of consistency (and taste), but I must have botched the recipe somehow. The first tray didn’t bake correctly, leaving us with greasy blobs of unrecognizability all over the oven. (I now know what a pregnant amoeba looks like.) I semi-rescued the rest of the dough with added flour and baking soda, and the subsequent bakes were okay-ish. Still, I was frustrated. Chocolate chip cookies have never been a problem before. Ugh!

My frustration led to other miscues on my part (e.g., kitchen spills, misplaced utensils, etc.), which just made me more disappointed with myself. I was not at the top of my game for part of the night, so I never got around to whipping up the snickerdoodles. 

* – bottom lip out – *

The unseen benefit was the reminder—once again—of how much I need a Savior. Fortunately, we have one in Jesus. The cookies were made in his honor, anyway. Eating them this year will be a kind of communion with him. But most of them will be given away to the neighbors when we go Christmas caroling tonight.

Except the chocolate chip cookies. Those are staying here. They’re not ready for prime time.

But, hey, two out of three ain’t bad!

Random Thoughts for One Week before Christmas

1. Certain kinds of cookie dough are so delicious, it’s a wonder we put them in the oven to bake them at all. I’d be o.k. with going halfsies on each batch. That is, bake 50 percent of the lump, and then just eat the other half as it is. Or put the remaining half in vanilla ice cream to make a DIY DQ Blizzard. Either way, pray against salmonella because of the eggs, right? 

2. Our dough for the chocolate chip and sugar cookies is now mixed and refrigerating. Next up is the mixing of snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies, but I need to go to Lititz, PA to get some Wilbur buds to top off the PB cookies. (Hersey Kisses are good, but Wilbur buds are in a league of their own.) I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to restrain myself and buy only Wilbur buds while I’m in their store.

3. What is it about hitting the “Publish” button on a WordPress post that suddenly enables you to see all your typos? It’s hard enough to be a writer, but being a writer with perfectionistic tendencies is intolerable sometimes. Is there any medication for this disorder? On the other hand, if we don’t wrestle with our work the way Jacob wrestled with God, we may not be writers at all. Stephen King was right when he said, “Some stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up.” But that means our first drafts will always be messy. Just like the kitchen when we’re making Christmas cookies. So what? The payoff is right around the corner, so go ahead and make a jolly mess!

4. Speaking of writing, the metaphor I use for my own process is “sculpture.” I plop down some clay and then keep turning it and chiseling it until I see something resembling what I’m trying to say. It takes a lot of work and patience to smooth out the rough edges. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all, so I just wad up the lump and start over. To my fellow writers honing your craft, this is tough, so you have my admiration. The key is to get started. As James Thurber once said, “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” We can always go back and polish it later. Likewise, Margaret Atwood has said, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” So, blob it down and then start chiseling. 

5. A lawyer friend of mine thought I overstated my case when I claimed that Shiphrah and Puah lied to Pharoah about why they didn’t throw the Hebrew boys into the Nile, and God seemed o.k. with it. I pushed back on the pushback, arguing that the contents of what the women said may have been true as far as it went, but they weren’t completely forthright with the Egyptian king when he asked them why they defied his edict. The real reason they didn’t kill the babies was because “they feared the Lord” (Exod 1:17). In other words, they didn’t tell Pharaoh “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” something I don’t think I could get away with in a courtroom.

6. That conversation by text led to a fascinating exchange about Rahab, too, so I raised the question: Since disinformation is a tool of national security, can a conscientious Christian work for the CIA? Similarly, what about people hiding Jews in their homes during the Holocaust and denying it to the authorities? Are deceptions like that ever morally justified? If not, why all the accolades in Scripture for Rahab? I’m still processing this myself, and we’re going to hash it out together over dinner next year. There are difficult and intertwining questions in both of these ethical conundrums. Each of us is open to persuasion, and we both appreciate the sharpening.

7. Michael Bruce (1746-1767) was a Scottish poet and hymn writer. He had a good word that might apply to anyone who may be experiencing a blue Christmas this year: “In every pang that rends the heart / the Man of Sorrows has a part; / he sympathizes with our grief, / and to the sufferer sends relief.” May it be so for those who are hurting right now.

8. I’m not sure I’m a fan of online learning for elementary school children. When they grow up and become parents themselves, they won’t be able to tell their children they had to walk up hill to school. Both ways. In the snow. During a blizzard. In sub-zero temperatures. Sheesh, no one should ever be deprived of the opportunity to share that boast with their children.

9. Dave Rubin has an interesting idea: “Suspend the salaries of all politicians until the country re-opens. We’ll be open in five minutes.” I’ll just leave that here.

10. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. Every time I get frustrated living with someone who has it, I start thinking about how much harder it must be for the person who actually has the condition. We’re doing the best we can, and God is giving us daily grace. It’s part of my spiritual formation, but it can be challenging. “Breath of heaven hold me together.” 

11. Albert Schweitzer gave the world a lot to think about. While there’s plenty of stuff in his theological corpus I couldn’t endorse, I can wholeheartedly amen this sentiment: “At times our own light goes out / And is rekindled by a spark from another person. / Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude / Of those who have lighted the flame within us.” A few precious faces come to mind in this regard, and I am grateful for each one.

12. Santa has come to our house already, but baby Jesus has not. That’s by design. Only one more week until we celebrate (again) the birth of Immanuel, “God with us.”

Be blessed and have a great weekend!