Oh, all the possibilities!  I have been happily collecting all of the seed catalogs as they’ve been rolling in over the past few weeks.  I think it’s so fun to look through all of them and pour over the possibilities of what might grow in my garden!  I’m planning on adding more fruit plants, including maybe some grapes and elderberry.  I’m hoping to eventually make some elderberry syrup, though I know it’ll take a few years before the plants are established.  I’m planning on doubling my tomato plants for sauce-making purposes.  I also want to give all the gourds another try … they didn’t do very well last year.  I’m considering trying a few early plants, like beans and lettuce.  Of course that requires I grow seeds indoors and get going pretty early, sooooooo we’ll see how that goes.  I’ll start with lists.

The school year is officially back in session and the schedule is slowly returning to normal after all of the holiday festivities.  Although I could have used another week or so, it’s nice to be back on a more regimented routine.  Everyone is working hard on their school lessons and I am trying to adjust to getting a shower in the morning again.  Ha!

We’ve had some really strange weather, including more snow, ice storms, rain, and then 60 degree weather.  Our area is so weird.  But I’ll happily take eating lunch outside and read alouds on the deck.  Until it snows again.

He’s part of my thoughts every single day.  Little reminders constantly flood my thoughts with him.  Constantly.  I see and think of things I know he would’ve loved, like the kids doing something new that he would have simply delighted to see.  Oh, how he loved them so.  I often want so badly to pick up the phone to ask him a question or have one of our nice, long chats about nothing and everything at the same time.  But, I can’t.  The not-being-able-to is such an incredible void.  The sting isn’t as all-consuming as it once was, but his loss is so significant and felt every single day.

Today marks three years since he suddenly went home to be with Jesus.  It’s been three years and one day since I last talked to him and heard his reassuring voice.  It’s also Christmas Eve, which is so bittersweet and difficult to process.

In many ways, this day is just like all the others throughout the year.  My children need to eat breakfast, the dishes need to be done, and the chickens need watering.  It’s also a Christmas Eve like all the others, as we prepare for the birth of our Savior.  We will still share a beautiful feast together as a family and the kids will still open one gift before they rest their heads on their pillows.  We will still honor all of the traditions because I don’t want to take that away from my kids.  We will still give thanks for all that Christmas means and all that Jesus sacrificed for us.  But, we’ll do it without my Daddy.

In the quietness of the morning hours before all of the celebrating truly begins, I sit and reflect.  Because if I don’t actually make time to do that, the whole day will come and go.  So with the help of my amazing husband who took the kids to church so I could stay home, I think about my Daddy.  I ponder the incredible impression he has left on me and how significant his life was for me.  He left a priceless legacy that has intensely molded and shaped how I care for my children and others.

I’ve been reflecting about his legacy a lot over the past few weeks.  I’ve been thinking about what he did that was so special, what he did that created such a significant impact in my life.  I’ve been thinking about what he did that made me feel so loved and cared for and valued.  Because I want to make sure that my children and those closest to me feel the same way.  I want them to feel the way my Daddy made me feel.

The truth is, he didn’t really do anything super special.  He wasn’t a perfect person and he made plenty of mistakes.  But he did do a few things exceptionally well.  He was understanding, compassionate, and he was always there for me.  Whether that meant chatting about the meaning of life or just being a shoulder to cry on or helping me with whatever I needed, he was simply there.  I can’t possibly recount all of the times in just the few months leading up to his passing that he made himself available to me.  And afterward, he thanked me for allowing him to be that person.  He actually thanked me for “the pleasure and honor” of making the three-hour drive to and from the airport after Dumpling came home.  His words.

He made it well known that he loved me for me, no strings attached.  He was incredibly proud of me, and he told me all the time.  And although he loved seeing me accomplish goals, he was proud of me because I was me, not only because of what I did. He called all the time and was genuinely interested in what I was interested in.  He knew me intimately because he spent so much time with me.  And he knew my husband and my children.  He didn’t do anything that was super spectacular.  He didn’t buy a bunch of expensive gifts.  He didn’t do anything fancy.  He was just simply there.  And he was genuinely happy to be a part of everything.  He gave unconditionally and unselfishly of his time.  He loved graciously.  He was all about relationships.  He left quite a legacy.

As I think about what his legacy means this Christmas Eve, I believe we can all be a little bit more like my Daddy.  Christmas isn’t about buying gifts or traditions or cooking a perfect feast.  It isn’t about all the details that I often get carried away with.  Those things are good and fun, but they’re not the heart of Christmas.  Christmas is about being there for others.  It’s about giving unselfishly and unconditionally of our time, the way Jesus would want us to do.  It’s about loving others.  It’s about relationships.  After all, Jesus came to earth and was born a man because He loves us unconditionally.  He simply wants a relationship with us.

Yes, I think my Daddy left behind quite a legacy, indeed.

This season has been so jam-packed with school work, doctor’s appointments, and plain old life, that we just haven’t done a lot of Christmas activities.  So I’ve been trying to bake some of our traditional recipes over the past few days.  My Daddy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies are always on the list, though I admit it took me over two years to bake them again after he went home to Jesus.

You see, I was baking them when I got the call, the call the began the hardest day of my life.  I left the house in such a whirlwind that morning that I actually left them in the oven.  Fortunately I remembered to at least turn the oven off before I ran out of the door.

Today, I am able to bake them while reminiscing about all the times my Daddy baked them for me.  It’s still bittersweet, but I can do it.  They are the cookies I remember the most from my childhood, and just so deliciously tasty.  And they feel like Christmas.

Daddy’s Fluffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large mixer until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels (do not beat). Drop by medium-size scooper (about 1-inch dough balls) onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7 1/2 – 9 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for two minutes, remove to wire racks and cool completely.

(The only change I make on this recipe is that I use Pampered Chef stones and they take longer to bake. I don’t set a timer, I just watch until the top parts just barely start to get brown and then pull them out, usually about 15 minutes depending on the oven.)

Enjoy!  Merry Christmas, my friends!

Well, we’ve officially seen our third snow of the season.  It’s still not winter yet.  This most recent one was supposed to be a “light 1-inch dusting.”  Humph.  It covered everything.  Though I do think snow truly is quite beautiful and glorious and peaceful, I’m sort of ready for it to be finished now.

Except for a Christmas snow … that would be quite lovely.  And if the forecast sticks to the current plan, we will probably have just that.  Wouldn’t that be a special Christmas to remember!

There is warmer weather in the forecast over the next few days, so I’m assuming that this pretty white covering will soon be melted.  For now though, here’s an iPhone picture to capture all of its glorious peacefulness.