One Smart Cookie

On the first day of Christmas vacation during seventh grade, I found myself with a whole day of nothing to do. I took my mom’s stained Betty Crocker cookbook out of the drawer to see what I could make that would shock and awe all of those who would receive her annual cookie tray that year.

I stumbled upon a gingerbread boy/girl recipe that was intriguing because I had not made those before. I checked to be sure all of the ingredients were in the house, and I rummaged around a drawer until I found a cookie cutter that was in the shape of a traditional gingerbread person.

As I went over the recipe and looked at the cookie cutter, I decided that just one batch was not going to be enough. I wanted to be sure we had plenty to give away. I decided to double the recipe just to be safe.

I gathered up all that was necessary and began an afternoon of what I was sure was going to be the best experience ever. The recipe called for seven cups of flour, but I was doubling it, so I had to measure out fourteen cups. That should have been an indication to me what was to come, but I did not take heed. I happily went along mixing, measuring and stirring.

I did each ball of dough in two bowls so I would not lose track of what I was doing and accidentally omit an ingredient. I decided that one bowl would be for gingerbread boys while the other would be for girls.  After chilling the dough for an hour, I preheated the oven and took out one bowl to begin rolling, cutting and baking. I pressed raisins in for eyes, noses, mouths and buttons. While one batch was in the oven baking, I was sweating it out attending to the next assortment.

My parents were going to a Christmas party that evening, so when they left, I was in the middle of production.

“How many of these are you making?” she asked as they left.

“I don’t know. I doubled the recipe so I’m not certain.”

With that, they departed for dinner, and I was left with a monster I was creating.

By the time I finished baking, the entire kitchen table, dining room table and an extra table I had to set up in the living room were covered with baked cookies ready to be frosted. I had not taken a minute to eat and had worked all evening in an attempt to use up all the dough I had made.

I cleaned up all the baking dishes and plunged into making a huge batch of white frosting that I split up for pink and blue frosting.  I followed the instructions in the cookbook by trying to make neat fringe around the wrists and ankles of each cookie followed by a hat.  My hand grew tired after the first few, but I looked up at the sea of naked cookies around me.  I couldn’t stop now.

As the hours wore on, my eyes were beginning to droop.  I heard the garage door go up signaling the arrival of my parents.

When my mom opened the kitchen door her mouth popped open and she froze in place.  She scanned the dining room and the kitchen with a look of amazement. Not the good kind.

“What is going on?  Are you still baking?”

“No,” I said trying to be optimistic.  “I am frosting.”

“Have you been doing this all night?”

I glanced at the clock.  It was midnight.

“I guess so.”

I went back to the cookie in front of me.  Over the moments spent with them, I silently vowed I would not eat any because I was so tired of looking at them.  After I finished, I was going to part ways with them for good.  My neck and back were developing stiffness and pain from hunching over cookie sheets all night long.

“How did you end up with this many?” she asked.

“I doubled the recipe.  I didn’t think I was going to have enough.”

“What?!”  She went over to the drawer, pulled out the Betty Crocker and found the recipe.

“Did you use fourteen cups of flour?”

“Yes.”

“What?! Fourteen CUPS of flour? Really?”

I put my head down and kept going.

“What are we going to do with all of these?”  I didn’t know.  My job was to bake them and frost them.  After that, my duty was done.

When I heard a gasp followed by the exclamation,

“There is more out here too?!”  I knew she was putting away her coat in the living room closet and had walked past the extra table that held more.

I kept quiet and continued on with my self inflicted slave labor.

I believe I finished just before 2 am and stumbled off to bed not caring what would become of my creations.

The next morning, she had packed all of them into multiple empty ice cream buckets and put them into the freezer until she assembled her trays to give away.  For weeks she brought them to work just to rid our house of them and by the fourth of July, she finally threw them away as everyone had lost interest.

In the years that have lapsed since then, I have only made that type of bakery good once with my daughters.  And, I did not repeat the mistake of doubling the recipe.  In my attempt to control what I thought was going to be lack, I created a mess that would never have transpired had I stuck to the original recipe.

This is exactly how life becomes complicated.  When a person entertains limiting thoughts or has a fear of lack, and she uses her own will power to remedy this false belief, all sorts of trouble can happen. I found out that trying to manufacture an abundance of something by my own doing was not a blessing at all.  It was a nuisance that I could not free myself from soon enough.

In the same way, when we find ourselves short on material resources, we have a tendency to give less and hoard more. However, this flies directly against a well known passage that states: Give and it shall be given to you.

It is a bit frightening to give a hand out when you are terrified of going under financially.  However, it can be exhilarating to actually follow through, put it to the test, and see how it not only brings a blessing to the receiver but also to the giver.

To rest in a state of peace even when it doesn’t seem like you have enough isn’t easy.  To laugh when you should cry, to sleep peacefully when you should be up all night worrying and to give a gift when you don’t think you can afford it, are signs that you believe all is well.  It shows that you are in agreement with God, and that is the sweet life of one smart cookie.

 

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Turkey for Two

The Sunday paper was lying in a heap on the kitchen table. As usual, it was Monday, and I was finally getting around to reading a few of the ads. Most of the inserts spoke of doorbuster sales, but I wasn’t thinking of finding Christmas gifts early.  Instead, I needed two turkeys for Thanksgiving. As I paged through the various catalogs of information, I wondered what had happened to this holiday? It seemed like we no sooner had Halloween and all its uproar with candy scarfing then we hurtled full speed ahead to boughs of holly and mad dashes to find the perfect gift. What had happened to the cranberries, the stuffing, the giving thanks and a day of digesting one of the best meals of the year?

I located the grocery store ad in hopes of finding a buy one get one on frozen turkeys. In years past, this had been offered, but it became apparent that our economy had taken a hit as I could not find a deal on any turkey. I thought maybe the week before Thanksgiving this would surely be an offering.  No such luck.

The reason for buying two birds was not so I could eat them both, but my intention was to give one to a good friend of mine who had just gone through a divorce just like I had. He was going to be cooking a meal for his kids for the first time as a single man. I guess I was trying to take away some of the stress by helping him along in the kitchen by giving him the main dish to which he could easily add in the sides. I was not at the height of having an abundance of money, but I knew I was to help him out this way.

I put the paper aside, and I made the decision that I would go out and buy each of us a turkey the next day. In the meantime, I had to take my youngest daughter to her dance class. While driving, I mulled over the predicament. I knew exactly to the penny what I had in my checking account and back in those days, a savings account didn’t exist. I was never one for using a credit card to buy my food, so I knew I was going to have to just fight off the fear of lack and do it anyway.

After I dropped her off at her class, I sat in my car and said a quick prayer asking for help in apprehending two turkeys for our meals. It wasn’t anything fancy. Just a quick shout out to heaven with a simple thank you. Then, I put it out of my mind and got out a book to read while I waited.

When I got home, I saw the ad laying on the table where I had left it.  I felt a slight twinge of disappointment because I really wanted to give him a turkey, but I didn’t know how I was going to afford two of them plus all the rest of my meal.  I walked out to the mailbox, and as I shuffled through the usual bills, a bright red postcard surfaced.  Written in fancy font it read:

Your name has been submitted to receive a free Thanksgiving basket.  Please come to the address listed below on Wednesday to pick up your items. Thank you.  

I could not believe it!  Just moments ago I was worrying over how I was going to give away a turkey that I didn’t have to pay for and now I was going to be able to give away an entire meal!   Not even for a moment did I consider keeping this gift for myself.  I wanted to give it away to a person who was going through a hard time of adjusting to a new way of living.  I was so overjoyed that I barely heard the phone ringing when I came back into the house.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is this Christine?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Christine, I am calling because someone gave us your name to receive a Thanksgiving basket.  I am calling to see if you would like one. Our church gave away baskets over the weekend, and we are now trying to find homes for the ones that are leftover.  We sure would appreciate it if you would take one.”

“I just got a postcard in the mail that I am to pick up a basket this Wednesday.  Is this from your church?”

“No.  We didn’t send out postcards.  And, our delivery happened over the weekend.  So, what we have are baskets that didn’t find homes in need of them.  Would you like one?”

It was one of those moments when my mouth hung open on its own accord, and I lost my ability to speak for a few seconds.

“Sure.  I would love one,” I said.

“If you could come and pick this up before Wednesday, that would work out great.”

I assured her that I would.

On Wednesday, I stood in my kitchen with two overflowing baskets both containing two large turkeys, stuffing mix, cranberries, canned vegetables, fresh potatoes and all the staples every well stocked pantry could afford such as flour, sugar, butter and even a gallon of milk!

As we approach this time of the year once again, I am reminded of how I had no need to worry about any of the details.  I had asked for help, and the divine had come to my rescue.  Even before I had prayed, heaven had made a way for turkey for two.

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The Connection

I was coming home from an all expense paid trip to San Diego, and while I was riding up an escalator after checking my bags, I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude rise up within me. Silently, I thanked God for the getaway that was completely covered including our every meal, our accommodations and our flights. I felt like a princess who had been given the royal treatment for three days. I was not begrudgingly going home, but I had a strong desire to travel again soon, and if the next trip was free…all the better!  I asked mentally for a way to be made for another excursion in the next year.

As we walked to our gate, I paused along the way at various gift shops and vendors not only to search for souvenirs but to leave behind notes with dollar bills rolled up inside. It sounds like an odd practice, but I had read a book called Happy Money by Laina Buenostar while enjoying my vacation. She suggested that in order to have freedom with money to give small amounts away to create joyful feelings. The instructions were quite simple, really. Take a dollar bill, or whatever amount doesn’t make you faint, and write a little note such as, God bless you or Don’t worry about money because God loves you and then drop them in places where an unsuspecting passerby will come upon it.  According to the author, when she began doing this, she noticed that more money and blessings would float her way from different sources and she was never without.   I believe this is much like the verse that says, “Give and it shall be given to you..”

So, I happily placed my notes around the building.  I put dollar bills in bathrooms, magazines, books that were financially motivating, and I finally dropped the last one in a mug that would sure to be grabbed by a tourist as they raced to his or her gate.  I did this discreetly because it wasn’t supposed to draw attention to me, and I was not to hang around to see who got the note.

About thirty minutes before boarding, an announcement was made that our flight was overbooked. An airline employee asked for volunteers to step down and get on the next flight. My travel companion put our names on the list.  When he sat down next to me I said,

“What happens if we don’t get on our flight?”

“If they put us on another flight it will only be about an hour behind this one.  And, they will give us each a $400 flight voucher to be used within the next year to go wherever we want for free.”  I nearly fell out of my chair.  My prayer on the escalator was coming to pass!

The two of us waited while the rest of the passengers boarded.  As the crowd thinned, and we were the only passengers left, the lady behind the desk motioned for us to go ahead and board.

“We don’t need you to stay behind after all. Your seats are available. ”

With a heavy heart, I walked onto the plane with a despondent attitude dragging my carry on behind me like a dead weight.  After getting buckled in I began to text my daughter that went something like this:

“We are on the plane!  We didn’t get our free tickets.  I am coming home now.  I knew this stuff didn’t work!” My disappointment stemmed from the fact that I had been reading such marvelous stories about people who prayed for miracles and got what they had asked for.

I started thinking, I guess I am not good enough for a miracle. 

Out of no where a  flight attendant ran up the aisle toward the two of us yelling,

“Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!  Get off the plane!”

The shocked faces around us were too many to count, and we didn’t wait around to explain.  We frantically unbuckled, grabbed our belongings and scrambled for the door.  To those not knowing what was happening, we looked rather criminal.   Within moments a young dad was sprinting to our empty seats with two small children.

We were given two $400 flight vouchers to be used anywhere in the United States within the year and an allowance to enjoy free meals while we waited to catch the next flight.  We had secured our free flights, but now we needed to make the decision about where to go.

In April of the following year, we had not gone on our trip and both of us seemed rather undecided about what to do.  We had been told by the airline staff that we could not give the vouchers away.  We had to use them and no one else.  Only three months remained until the tickets would expire and it seemed like it wasn’t going to happen. Tired of trying to decide, I put my hand on both vouchers and asked for my request to be completed.

“I need somewhere to stay,” I said out loud.  I kept this to myself to see how it would work itself out. By the end of the week, I received a text from a family member with an offer to give us some of her timeshare days for free.  When she called to check on availability, she was told that nothing was open during the time we preferred.  Minutes later, the same person said,

“Oh, wait.  We just had something put back into the system.  We now have an opening for what you need.”  She went on to book a large condo that slept six with an ocean view, a full kitchen and two full bathrooms.

When we arrived to check-in we were early, but I decided to take my chances anyway.  Usually, check-in isn’t until four, and we had shown up at noon.  The representative behind the desk clicked away on her keyboard to locate our accommodations.  I was fully prepared to go back to the rental car and drive around for hours while waiting.

“It looks like your room is ready. Yours is the only one in the whole complex. Lucky you.”  I knew it wasn’t luck.

As I stood there in awe, my mind flashed back to the airport where I had placed my notes and bills so that others could have a brief moment of happiness.  In return, I was understanding something.  Giving had opened up a pathway for the divine to work on my behalf.  Giving cheerfully had brought back a reward to me that I would never have imagined.  For the first time, I felt and understood the connection.

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(The Gulf of Mexico..our view from our trip)