Through the lace curtains at my kitchen window, I watch the first snowflakes—as big as goose feathers—fall from the gray November sky. Scents of cinnamon and pumpkin waft through the room when I open the oven, and when my eyes catch sight of the oil lamp on the cherry farmhouse table, my thoughts follow the curving lane to the old farmhouse where Alice and Ed, my maternal grandparents, raised their children during the Great Depression.
Although my parents moved hundreds of miles away after their marriage, my mother’s thoughts frequently traveled to her childhood home. She loved nothing better than to gather my siblings and me next to her as she told us about her childhood on the farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania—stories I treasured and passed on to my own little ones.
Mother spoke of a life filled with an abundance of indoor and outdoor chores and of nearby relatives who frequently stopped by on Sunday afternoons to visit.
When harsh winds rattled the shuttered windows and blew swirling snow across the barren fields, it was the kitchen that was the center of Mother’s family’s life, mostly because it was the only room in the house that was heated. Family and guests gathered there, the old single-pane windows covered with condensation as much from conversation as from the heat of the wood burning cook stove where a chicken roasted in the oven.
The old farmhouse, which originally belonged to Ed’s parents, had no electricity, indoor plumbing, or central heat. Bathtubs, toilets, and even a kitchen sink were non-existent. Things weren’t any better outside. Three Belgian work horses—Fred, Maude, and Prince—pulled the plow and heavy wagons. Faith and a person’s own strength and determination kept the farm going when the economy and adverse weather interfered. Although parents and children worked hard from early morning to evening, my mother’s stories were never ones of complaining.
The day before Thanksgiving, Grandma Alice, bundled up against the raw wind, killed and dressed well-fed turkeys for customers from town who gave their orders weeks in advance. Once all of the poultry orders were filled, Alice killed the turkey she would cook for her own family. After Grandpa Ed finished the outdoor chores, he opened the old dovetailed chest in the guest bedroom and pulled out his hunting clothes. After dinner, he sharpened his knife on a stone and cleaned his gun. The days immediately after Thanksgiving were hunting days and Ed needed to hunt game to help supplement his family’s food supply.
The Great Depression was in full force and money was scarce for my mother’s family. Mother often said that while she and her siblings were growing up, they never realized how primitively they lived on the farm. A person can’t miss what they don’t know, she explained.
Something inside my heart was soothed when Mother spoke of the contentment that was felt at the end of each day when the family gathered at the dinner table and her father thanked the Lord for His generous provisions. Grandpa Ed and Grandma Alice made it clear to their children that, but for the Lord’s benevolence, their harvests would be small and their needs large.
My grandparents have long since gone to be with the Lord, and their farm has changed hands several times since they sold it. But my mother’s stories taught me that when a family realizes that they’re dependent upon the Lord to provide for all of their needs—as well as their blessings—every day is thanksgiving day.
May your Thanksgiving Day be joyous, may you be surrounded by your loved ones, and may you give thanks and praise to the One who provides for your every need.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. Deuteronomy 8:10 (NIV)
To God be the Glory
Cynthia Howerter © 2011, 2012, 2013Read More
Through the years, my grandparents and their children encountered many difficult and sometimes overwhelming situations, but God never failed to provide for their family’s basic needs. It’s an eternal promise that God makes to all believers.
Perhaps you’re in the midst of a tough time and unable to see anything good in your life. Maybe you’re wondering what you have to be thankful for. If you’re reading this, I can immediately think of one thing God is blessing you with this very moment: you are breathing. Sometimes our thankfulness has to begin with something as basic as recognizing that we are alive. And as long as we’re alive, there is always hope for better times.
Television, newspapers, and social media try hard to convince us that Thanksgiving is a time set aside for parades, football games, and shopping. May you and your family gather together on Thanksgiving Day, remembering the real reason for celebrating this special holiday: Give thanks to the Lord for all of the innumerable blessings He has bestowed upon each of us during this past year.
Come, join my family and me as we remember and celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
With Thanksgiving just days away, I’d love to share several of my family’s favorite recipes with you:
After dining at one of Colonial Williamsburg’s taverns many years ago, my mother arrived home with a new turkey dressing recipe. It’s been a family favorite ever since.
Williamsburg Oyster Dressing
1 cup butter
1½ cups onion, chopped
1½ cups celery, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
16 cups stale white bread cubes, lightly toasted
1 quart oysters
Melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet. Add onion, celery, and parsley; sauté over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Do not brown. Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables, and mix well. Drain the oysters, reserving the liquid. Chop the oysters coarsely, and add to the bread cube mixture, tossing gently to mix well. Add a little of the reserved oyster liquid if the dressing seems dry. Taste for seasoning. Stuff and truss the turkey. Place any leftover dressing in a buttered casserole. Bake in the oven during the last 30 minutes of the turkey’s roasting time.
Yield: makes about 12 cups – enough for a 20-25 pound turkey.
Ever since our children were little, our family has enjoyed drinking a special beverage along with our holiday meals. At Christmas, it’s Wassail. For Thanksgiving, this colonial recipe is a proven winner!
King’s Arms Tavern Berry Shrub Beverage
3 cups cranberry juice
¾ cup apple juice
1 pint raspberry sherbet
8 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
In a large pitcher, combine the cranberry and apple juices; chill thoroughly. Serve in tall glasses and top each drink with a scoop of sherbet. Garnish each glass with a sprig of mint. Serves 8.
Nearly ninety years ago, my Grandma Alice began a family tradition when she prepared several Thanksgiving desserts for her large family on their Pennsylvania farm. Grandma Alice’s tradition continues three generations later! Along with pecan and pumpkin pies, we sometimes serve this swirled pumpkin bread.
Pumpkin Swirl Bread
¼ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
4 large eggs
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9×5-inch loaf pans and set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes); set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, water, pumpkin, and eggs. Beat at low speed, scrapping bowl often, until mixture is smooth (1 to 2 minutes). Continue beating at medium speed, gradually adding all remaining bread ingredients and scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Place about 1 cup of the pumpkin batter into the bottom of each of the two greased and floured loaf pans. Carefully spread half of the filling mixture over the batter in each pan; top each pan with half of the remaining pumpkin batter. Pull knife or spatula through the batter and filling to create a swirl effect. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool bread for 10 minutes before removing from the pans. Cool completely.
Then we Your people, the sheep of Your pasture, will thank You forever and ever, praising Your greatness from generation to generation. Psalm 79:13 (NLT)
To God be the Glory
Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away.
Is your camera ready? Batteries charged? Space on the card?
Great!! Now let’s go through the basics of how to take better photos for your family get togethers.
You may not think this is a biggy. But it is. We’ve all had someone with a camera, getting in our face, snapping away while we chew food. Not cool! As a professional, I want my subjects to feel at ease. If they think I’ll post an unattractive shot, they won’t relax for me.
So, how do you do this? Promise them you’ll delete bad shots. Take a couple of good shots, then let them view them. They’ll relax when they can trust you.
2) Simplify your background!
Crop out unnecessary parts of the picture.
It does involve some effort. But it’s worth it!
a) Find the timer button on your camera.
b) Get your tripod out, or use a stack of books on a chair.
c) Pick a location that can fit all your subjects. Outside in the yard, on a porch, in the family room. Decide beforehand.
d) Give clear directions to the group to meet at a certain time and have your camera ready. Hit the timer button and run to get in the shot!
These are the kind of pictures that show the whole room or whole table. Maybe a driveway full of cars.
Does grandma make homemade cranberry sauce? Take a picture.
Does she bake a certain cake? Take a picture.
Try the picture from a higher perspective. Or on a table.
Is someone dancing on the Wii? Take a shot from in front of them and from behind. See which works better.
The list could go on. These suggestions should get you thinking.
But what about you? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving memory? Can you share it with us?
Or what about an idea that might be neat for a picture? Share your thoughts and let’s make this Thanksgiving a year to remember!
My yard, wearing its leaf-woven quilt, had been raked and mulched. A crisp cold wind blew its way down my mountain hollow, singing its prelude to winter. Frost diamonds glistened atop pumpkins destined for decorations on my farmhouse porch. All the vegetables from our garden had been preserved in glass jars and lined spring house shelves, joining sister jars of plump summer blackberries.
The season of thankfulness had arrived. Time to bow the knee and fling praises toward heaven for harvest gifts and blessings bestowed. The calendar confirmed the natural signs. I had decorated the altar table at church with a cornucopia of fall’s offering, wheat sheaves and a painting of an older man saying grace over his bountiful table. I was going through the motions, but my heart was heavy and not even the slightest thanks could penetrate the sorrow barrier binding my spirit.
Earlier that week, I retrieved my tablecloth from the dining room credenza and underneath the heirloom covering were place cards inscribed with family members’ names. I remembered the excitement of finding the beautiful cards in an antique shop and rejoicing over how they would complement my grandmother’s tablecloth. I lovingly picked them up and pressed them to my heart.
The name of my son’s fiancé was on top, the beautiful young woman who died of a brain aneurism shortly after accepting Brad’s proposal of marriage; Gretchen was twenty-eight. Next in the stack was the name of my own precious daughter who passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer; Brooke was thirty-four. My mother’s name was on the next card, the mother who died six months after my daughter’s death. Tears fell, leaving smudges on the beloved names. How could I have a spirit of thankfulness after such tragedies? I crumbled in a heap of overwhelming sadness.
Through my sobs slowly came a realization: I was so fortunate having had these amazing women in my life, two of them only for a short season. How could I not celebrate with thankfulness their grace and beauty?
It was Gretchen who started the tradition of giving me a flower arrangement for our Thanksgiving table every year. Brooke carried on Gretchen’s custom until her own death. I had not been able to face flowers since Gretchen and Brooke’s passing, and had started serving Thanksgiving dinner on TV trays to avoid the memories made around the holiday table. I decided to renew the floral tradition to honor those memories and in thankfulness for Brooke and Gretchen’s lives.
This year, I will again set our holiday table, and embrace Morgan, the lovely young woman God has graciously brought into Brad’s life. As for the name cards, I will give them a place of honor on the sideboard.
We will once again hold hands, offer thanks for our blessings, for those around the table, and those who have left our sight but not our hearts.
Sweet readers, my prayer for your family as they gather together to ask the Lord’s blessings is for love to permeate the room, and that the heaping bowls of food remind you of God’s provision, that grace abounds, and that the memories of loved ones gone on to glory hover close.
Come, ye thankful people, come
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!
With a thankful heart,
Dee Dee Parker
Thank you, my precious friend Dee Dee, for sharing your beautiful memories and thankful heart with SOAR WITH EAGLES. I’m praying that our Heavenly Father creates an abundance of joyful new memories for you and your family this Thanksgiving.
Author Dee Dee Parker writes of her beloved Appalachia, captivating readers with her tender southern voice. She has written Josie Jo’s Got To Know, a delightful children’s book that can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.josiejo.com. Dee Dee is currently finishing an adult Christmas novella, Peppermint Snow.
Please visit my friend Dee Dee’s website: http://comegohomewithme.blogspot.com
TO GOD BE THE GLORYRead More
We’re quickly approaching the holiday season. This is a wonderful time of year. And a wonderful time for families to get together. Especially for Thanksgiving.
So, have you put much thought into capturing those special moments with pictures? I’d love to encourage you to make sure your camera has batteries, some space for photos and is nearby when your family descends on you.
I’d also love to give you some pointers on how to make the most of your holiday shots.
This week I’ll address why it’s so important to try and record those special moments. Next week I’ll talk about how to take better shots.
Let’s get started and talk about the “family photo.” If there’s anyway you can take the opportunity to get everyone together for a shot, do it! Even if your family gets together regularly, or complains that they don’t want to bother. Encourage them to anyway.
Why? Almost every year for the past 25 years that my hubby and I have been married, we’ve been with extended family during Thanksgiving. Let me tell you, those yearly family shots show the new additions to the family and the kids growing up. Over time, they’ve become more valuable. Life happens faster than we think and photos can help us remember the good times. And, as much as I hate to bring it up, they serve as memories after a loved one is gone.
Has my family done this willingly every year? Absolutely not. Someone else put me in charge of the huge family photo. My family used to balk over this desire to document our gatherings. In the earlier years of getting together, they’d say that we’d taken a shot last year, or a few months ago so we didn’t need another one.
It’s not easy getting 20 some people to agree to do this and then actually getting all 20 people (including babies) to smile simultaneously. Not to mention the logistics…. Then it grew to well over 30 people.
Let’s just say I persevered. And now? They are so grateful and thankful to have the memories preserved. And they pose so willingly! (Well, there’s always one in the bunch who blinks…)
This year, Thanksgiving will be a little bittersweet. Our family picture will probably be the last one for someone we love dearly. I’m thankful I can document the love with my camera.
But what other shots can you take that would be meaningful?
Try and get an individual shot of everyone. Or at least in groups of two or three. Kids grow up quickly. A few months can make a big difference. Document. Document. Document.
The shots do not have to be posed.
Do a bunch of cousins get together, sit at the counter and draw? Take a shot.
Do a some of the girls do their nails together? Take a shot.
What else is memorable? Honestly, it can be anything.
On one side of the family, we have fully set table.
Miss Manners would be proud. So, I take a photo of the place settings.
Who cooks? Take their picture.
Who cleans? Take theirs!
Does everyone watch the parades? Take a photo!
Your family is special and unique. Think ahead this year and think about what memories are made of.
Then, have your camera ready and don’t be afraid to shoot!
Next week, I’ll give you some practical tips to improving your shots. Feel free to share your favorite Thanksgiving memories!
Until next time,
Good stories serve a purpose. While the objective of some stories is met immediately, the lesson of other stories can be years in the making. Such is the case with this story about my grandmother, Alice. Come with me as we visit my grandparents’ farm near Muncy, Pennsylvania.
A nip in the September air caused Alice to reflect that her four children had grown out of their winter coats, leggings and boots at the end of the previous winter. If the truth be known, the children outgrew the coats just as they fell apart from years of use by previous owners. Alice opened a canning jar that she kept hidden in a kitchen cupboard and counted the bills and coins it contained. There wasn’t enough to purchase winter clothing for one child let alone four.
With the Great Depression in full force, Alice and her husband Ed were having a difficult time making ends meet. As she so often did when adversity confronted her, Alice lowered her head in silent prayer. If there was anything good coming from such troublesome times, it was that Alice was learning to depend on the Lord to meet her family’s needs.
That afternoon as she hung laundry on the clothesline in the backyard, Alice turned her head and looked across the cornfield to the woods where several hickory trees grew at its edge. Their golden leaves made them easy to spot. She felt a strong urge to walk over to them and when she saw that the trees and ground were covered with an abundance of hickory nuts, an idea came to her. After filling her apron to overflowing with the nuts, she hurried home.
Each day, Alice and the children returned to the hickory trees and gathered the nuts. At night, they sat at the kitchen table by the light of an oil lamp and picked the nuts out of their shells. After weighing the nuts on a scale, each pound was poured into a small paper bag. It occurred to Alice that had she not followed the strong urging to walk over to the trees, she would never have thought of harvesting the nuts.
That Saturday, Ed loaded his wife, the bags of hickory nuts and a small wagon into the car and they drove into town. Ed drove to a residential area and after he unloaded the wagon, he and Alice filled it with the bags of nuts. Ed left as he had errands to do in town and Alice had a mission.
She pulled the wagon behind her as she went door to door seeking customers. It was now November and not only did she know that women were starting their Thanksgiving and Christmas baking, she also knew that hickory nuts were scarce due to the Depression, as were many things. In no time at all, Alice sold all of the bags for 25 cents each and even had several orders for more nuts.
For days, Alice and the children repeated the chores of gathering the hickory nuts, shelling, weighing and bagging them, and every Saturday, Alice walked through town and sold the nuts. When nature provided no more nuts, Alice counted her earnings. The harvest not only provided enough money to buy new coats, leggings and boots for all four of her children but much-needed winter coats and boots for Ed and her as well.
Because Alice faithfully turned to the Lord in the midst of her troubles, God always provided a way for Alice. He didn’t necessarily answer her prayers exactly the way she hoped or thought He would, but He answered in ways that were better than she could have imagined.
For as long as I can remember, my own mother relied on her faith and childhood memories to get her through the difficulties that visit a person’s life. And she loved to share these precious recollections with my siblings and me. Over 80 years later, when my own family and I found ourselves in the midst of severe misfortune, it was my mother’s stories about her parents’ faith and persevering spirit during hardships that provided examples for my husband and me.
When Christmas came and my husband and I had no money to buy presents for our own children or food for our usual feast, I thought of Grandma Alice and Grandpa Ed and I knew what I needed to do. I gathered our children close to me and explained that we already had the best presents – our love for each other and our faith that God would see us through our troubles. And just as He had done for my grandparents and parents, God faithfully provided for us.
What gifts are you giving your family? Are they tangible presents that are here today and gone tomorrow? Or will you pass on your faith which will last for generations?
“I will be glad and rejoice in Your love, because You saw my suffering; You knew my troubles.” Psalm 31:7.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Cynthia Howerter © 2011Read More