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Ahhh, the Holiday season and all that comes with it. Looking back through photo albums and social media time lines, it’s easy to see the traditions and even expectations of this time of year. We are disappointed when the trees aren’t lit with glittering lights and a little sad when the outdoor ice skating rink is completely out of place in the 70 degree November sunshine. Turkeys fill the grocer’s freezers and are accompanied by cans of pumpkin and cranberry and candied yams. Why do I never notice candied yams in July? Are they there?

I guess I always expected that every family had holiday traditions. Of course, for me, most holiday traditions have been built around food, but that may not be the same for all of you. There were years of crowded kitchens, outrageous portions of food, giggling (arguing?) children, long Texas drives and open doors to friends and family. Each had its place, and there was always room for more.

Candidly, I will tell you, this is my first holiday season as a single mom, and I am more than a little anxious about it. Traditions seem trite, and expectations seem out of reach. I have been scrolling through ideas of new traditions – or even activities we may never repeat.   Isn’t it good and right to hold to a thread of tradition? Shouldn’t the kids still see some theme continued from years gone by? For me, the thread must be thankfulness and faith and, naturally, food.

I am so thankful that God has provided a job, a home, a peace, a security for my family that I could not have provided. Apart from Him I cannot supply any of those things, and when I start to forget that, I start to be a little less thankful, a little less content. And while we’re being candid, so do you.

It’s not hard to find reasons to lose my contentment, as it should not be hard to find a litany of reasons to be thankful. I know He watches me. The careful watch of a loving Father cannot be minimalized, especially today in this world of unrest.

My faith has been tossed around in an unsettling way over the past years, but the truth is, my life has been held secure. When I take an honest look at my failures and my blunders, I see a consistent theme of the faithfulness of the Lord. I am wrecked by the grace that is poured out on me and I am humbled by the way God’s grace turns my world upside down. He holds me. He holds my kids. He holds my heart. When the theme of my life seems to be “prone to wander, Lord I feel it,” I’m rescued. When, instead it echoes, “Praise the Mount, I’m fixed upon it,” I am held. I may run as fast and as far in the opposite direction as I can possibly go – and I find grace there. The thread of faith is sometimes prominent and sometimes can barely be seen, but without it, the whole thing falls apart. (Like Thanksgiving dinner without turkey, or something heinous like that)

When it comes to food, I sort of feel like Aladdin this time of year. You know the scene where the Genie is showing Aladdin how all the things he can possibly want are his if he asks? There is food swirling around and Aladdin is wide-eyed salivating at the sight of it all. (Or that could have been me, wide-eyed and salivating. How about a little more baklava!!??) I love it all, when the left overs run out I am inconsolable.

Cranberry SaladMy (maybe unexpected) favorite holiday food is Cranberry Salad. It is so pretty and red and shiny and nutty and perfectly simple to make. I do not eat it on my dressing. I do not eat it on my roll, sir. I do not eat it on my chicken, or even on my turkey, no sir. Actually, I don’t let my food touch. At all. Ever. That’s a whole other story. Here is the recipe for the most delicious cranberry goodness that will ever enter your life. This is my grandmother’s recipe, and you should see it in her handwriting. She says, “mold,” at the end. I don’t know that she ever put this in a mold, so you can just put it all in a bowl and serve it that way. Any way you slice it – it is AMAZING. (Click on photo to enlarge)Cranberry Salad Recipe