Loved no matter how ornery

This morning, on the second day of my two-week vacation from school, I went into one of our bathrooms to put away some freshly laundered towels. I pulled out the drawer and found it vacant-except for the emptied, plastic mouthwash bottle that someone (I had a prime suspect in mind) had put into the drawer instead of into the trash.

I then peeked into the shower of the same bathroom. Three used-up bottles of shampoo were lying on the shower floor. I shut the shower’s glass door and walked away.

Upon inspecting another bathroom, I found that similar behavior had been occurring there as well. Two empty Pantene shampoo bottles littered the tub floor. Here again, I thought I knew “whodunit.”

“Hey, you guys!” I called to my family. “Guess what I found in the bathroom?”

With their curiosity piqued, I led them into the first bathroom to show them the evidence.

“How did an empty mouth wash bottle get into this drawer and not into the trash?”

“The cat did it,” my husband deadpanned.

“You’re telling me that she opened the drawer, put the bottle in it, and then closed it again?”

“No, I opened the drawer to get a towel and started to dry off. Meanwhile, the cat-who had followed me into the bathroom-sprang up on the counter and knocked the bottle off and into the drawer. I then went for the cat to get her down and must have unknowingly pushed the drawer shut in the process. I just forgot to retrieve the bottle from the drawer.

“But I didn’t do it,” Keith assured me. “The cat did.”

The rest of the excuses weren’t nearly as creative. They were mostly of the, “Sorry, I forgot,” variety.

I don’t know. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem right that at Christmas time one should have to deal with things like dirty bathrooms and disciplining youngsters. I really should be spending my time going a’wassailing, roasting a goose, or trolling Yuletide carols instead of bleaching out a toilet bowl.

Ideally, I should go out walking every evening under a blanket of white stars. And as I breath in the cold, crisp winter air, I should be thinking about the blessing that Christmas brings.

There is an old traditional Appalachian carol that has been dear to my heart since the first time I heard it performed. In its simplicity, “I Wonder as I Wander” captures both the divinity of the Christ and our need for his redemption.

Yet, every time I hear this carol with its haunting melody, I, too, “wonder” over God’s love for us-each of us-no matter how “ornery.” And I wonder-perhaps a more precise word would be “marvel”-about the hows and the whys of Jesus’ birth, his ministry here on earth, his death and ultimate resurrection.

So, even though bathrooms need to be cleaned, meals need to be prepared and floors need to be swept, I must remind myself that I also need to find the time to “wander and wonder.”

For that starry night in Bethlehem was only the beginning.

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas.

I Wonder as I Wander

“I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,

How Jesus, the Savior, did come for to die.

For poor, ornery people like you and like I-

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus, ’twas in a cows’ stall,

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.

But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,

And the promise of ages it did then recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing;

A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing;

Or all of God’s angels in heaven to sing,

He surely could have had it, ’cause He was the King.

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,

How Jesus the Savior, did come for to die.

For poor, ornery people like you and like I-

I wonder, as I wander, out under the sky.”

* * *

For Christmas, I’m usually called upon to bring a salad to Keith’s parent’s home for the Jost family’s annual holiday verenika dinner. Since Keith’s mom makes the bulk of the meal, including enough verenika to satisfy 26 hungry people, I’m only too happy to oblige.

This gelatin salad calls for a mold that can be inverted and released, but I think I’ll bring it in a pretty bowl instead with the gelatin on the bottom and the creamy layer showing on top.

For an added touch, I will toast the pecans giving them a nuttier flavor. If you prefer, black cherry gelatin may be used.

Blueberry Layered Salad

2 (3oz.) packages blueberry gelatin

2 cups boiling water

1 (15 oz.) can blueberries

1 (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained with juice reserved

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in boiling water. Drain the liquid from the blueberry and pineapple cans into a measuring cup and add enough water to make one cup of liquid. Stir the juice mixture, blueberries and crushed pineapple into the gelatin and pour into a two-quart mold. Refrigerate until firm.

Mix together the cream cheese, sugar sour cream and vanilla and spread over the congealed gelatin mixture. Sprinkle cream cheese layer with chopped pecans. Chill for about 30 minutes more, invert onto a serving platter and serve.

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