December 26, 2016
For several years, we have not sent Christmas letters via traditional mail. With the advent of Facebook and periodic posting of blogs, I assume that whoever is interested will learn of our current activities through these other mediums. Due to observations made by my daughter-in-law (Suzy) and one of my pastors (Jonathan Martin), FB postings aren’t very edifying (including those I post – but there are exceptions from time to time). I am beginning to assume several of my FB friends don’t read what’s posted (I don’t read FB on a daily basis anymore). Thus, I am reverting to my blog, which has dealt mainly with food preparation and healthy living, as my method of sending a Christmas letter.
Besides celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, which took us from Puerto Vallarta to cruising in the North Seas of Europe with a stopover in Dublin, we also traveled to middle Tennessee and Chicago (with the grandkids), and probably other places I don’t remember. This year of jubilee for Fran and me should have been busy enough, without further activities.
But – I decided this year we would remove the popcorn ceiling in John’s old room, the upstairs hallway, the stairwell, and the TV room (which has also served as our exercise room). All of this meant painting ceilings and walls, new flooring, and rearranging furniture (with some new furniture to boot).
Timing is everything, but our Christmas timing was not well planned. Our final house renovation task arrived 12 days before Christmas, which meant, moving the electronic equipment, furniture, Bowflex and elliptical (and other furniture) to the living room so the new carpet could be installed. While that was happening, we were attempting to have a new copier installed at the office (network and printer drivers involved). Much tension in the air, but thankfully, all of this was completed about two days before we had a terrific visit from cousin Jerry McCracken (Marietta, GA).
Then came Christmas week, which for me involved big cooking projects: the ham and chicken were first cooked at 134 for 3 hours using the Anova sous vide; then placed on the Big Green Egg (the ham) and the Traeger smoker (the chicken). The meat smoked for another 2.5 hours. Both were good, but the ham was over the top in taste and moisture content. By first using the sous vide, I insure the meat to be tender and moist; then I added seasonings to the meat, and smoked them (using pecan wood) on the Egg (indirect fire, at about 250) and the Traeger (225) – this step added smoked flavor and taste.
During the year Fran completed 2 or 3 quilts, all of which were outstanding. A sample of her latest is shown below. She got the quilting pattern from a book she found at a quilting store on Main Street in Stillwater, Oklahoma. We were in Stillwater for my 55th high school reunion in June. The reunion schedule gave us a morning break, so we walked down Main Street and stumbled into the quilting store, where Fran found this book (we also walked around the OSU campus, to our respective fraternity and sorority houses, and through the Student Union, where we had first met 52 years ago).
This fall we were honored to host a house church meeting (one of Sanctuary church’s activities), and these meetings stretched me spiritually and intellectually. This “new awakening in learning” began when one of my pastors (Ed Gungor) suggested I read about the history of the Christian church in the US (which I later expanded on my own to read and learn about the history of the Christian Church, beginning with Pentecost). There were and are (and continue to be) many detours along the way (such as the R. R. Reno book, In the Ruins of the Church and Augustine’s Confessions, both of which are highly recommended). I am still on this journey, which to me is lots more interesting than keeping up with the Kardashians (and other trendy topics).
There’s much more to report, but let me end this letter by recounting how we spent Christmas Eve afternoon. Fran invited Kate, our 11-year-old granddaughter, to help her bake the cherry pies (which we gobbled up later in the day). Mid-afternoon, while the ham and chicken were smoking away, Kate joined me in the sun room, where I pounded away on the piano (not as easy with 9 fingers), hammering the notes to Christmas carols. Kate, who sings – and acts (she will be in the stage production Fiddler on the Roof in three months, as Tevye’s youngest daughter) – took the lead on Silent Night, O Holy Night, Joy to the World, and other carols. To Fran and me, this was heaven on earth. We then adjourned to the TV room, and watched part of The Family Man. All of this made me more aware of the importance of families, during the Christmas season.
The rest of the family (our three children, their spouses and our remaining two grandchildren) joined us thereafter, for the annual Christmas eve meal and sharing of gifts.
None of us are perfect moms and dads or brothers or sisters or children, but for me, having the love of a family is the sine qua non of Christmas. Our families’ gatherings and the accompanying joy, laughter and love shared during this season are but a glimpse of the love God has for us, as He has made us part of His family, through the gift of His son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.