The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
Elaine Slater Reese
First there were the two days of making cookies for the annual church cookie walk. Usually I just make a few dozen. This time I vowed to get serious.
Most of the ladies make those dainty, beautifully decorated treats. Not me - I raised three boys. Just make them big with lots of chocolate. I found a great basic recipe using cake mix.
After half a day of chocolate chips and nuts, I knew it was time to get creative. I put different items in different batches - dried tart cherries, dried cranberries, vanilla chips, peppermint chips, coconut.
I only burned two trays of the treats. I am blessed - my husband loves burned toast and burned cookies. The blacker the better!
We took a day off after the kitchen was returned to some form of order. We went to the big city to the European bakery. Wow - unbelievable samples beyond description. Oh, have you noticed the price of baked goods (as well as almost everything else) has gone up?
Not far from our community is a beautiful old brown church. That's what it is called- The Brown Church (located near Bear Valley). It was totally restored several years ago. The beautiful large stained glass windows, the large antique lights, and an old organ caught my eye.
It no longer has weekly services but all are invited each year for a Christmas service. As a brass ensemble from our area played carols the word majesty kept coming to mind. Not since I was a little girl have I seen such a large beautiful real Christmas tree anywhere.
I could not keep the tears of memories from falling as the first song we sang was my mother's favorite -There's a church in the valley in the wildwood - no lovelier spot: Listening to the pastor's message of "Hope" with the gift of the Christ Child as the lights sparkled on the tree was a special moment of Christmas for all of us there. Once again I focused on what a Holy Night it really was back in the manger in Bethlehem.
Later we stopped for a short time to visit a single father of five. It took a few moments for him to reach the room where we were. He said he was just so very tired. He has had numerous heart surgeries, and the doctor recently told him it looks like he needs another one.
He told us that earlier in the December day they made their way around a car blocking traffic. People were honking and obviously upset with the woman in the car. After they had gone down the road a ways, he said, "Kids, I think we need to go back there. I think that woman was really in trouble."
She was - the tears were flowing. The car was totally unresponsive to her efforts to get it going. And the angry taunts of other drivers seemed to be the last straw. This father with such serious heart problems pushed her to a safe spot on the side of the road. The words "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" rang in my ears.
My husband had put the outdoor nativity set up earlier than usual because it seemed as if the ground were going to freeze soon. The angels, the Wise Men, the cow, the sheep, and the donkey were in their usual places. Mary and Joseph were in the center of the stable. There was just one problem! The Baby Jesus and the manger we place him in were missing.
For whatever reason, I remember seeing the baby out in the shed every time I went in there all year. He had not been placed with the others. I think I finally moved him somewhere that I would be sure to know where he was. It just wasn't convenient to have Him right there in sight all the time! How many times have I pushed Him out of sight- out of mind?
I have a friend who has been giving me a rough time about this situation. She keeps just saying, "It's a heck of a note when even Christians can't find Jesus!" What a statement when we look at the world situation today.
And we went to one Christmas event for the public. The announcer at the beginning shared that we might especially enjoy this entertainment because most Christmas presentations are focused on some religious aspect and this would be free from that.
I was reminded that the baby in the lowly manger became a man who died on an old rugged cross to pay for my sins. Not only has God given us His Son but He has given us the gift of choice. We can choose to accept the gift. We can choose to reject it. What is your choice?
(Elaine Reese is a freelance writer who grew up in
Hancock County, Illinois and considers that home even though she has now lived in Spring Green, Wisconsin for over 20 years. She says "The Quill" always keeps her updated. )