Set your oven to 375 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cream together 3/4 cup of shortening, 1 cup of light brown sugar, 1/4 cup of molasses and 1 egg. In a separate bowl, sift together 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking soda, a half-teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon and a half-teaspoon of cloves.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, combine and then chill for 30 minutes. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough, shape into a ball, roll in sugar and then place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass that has been dipped in sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and then cool.
I love the holiday season, but it overwhelms me. I get depressed putting the lights up. I get depressed taking the lights down. I get overwhelmed with decorating. My wife gets mad because I am convinced the lights cannot come down until after Jan. 5. There are, after all, 12 days of Christmas, and the lights should stay up for all 12 days.
Making ends meet at this time of year worries me. How do I make everyone happy? What will make them happy? And, honestly, I have it easy. You just might, as well. Still, I am overwhelmed, prone to fits of depression and stress — and love it all the same. But you who are reading this, or someone you know, might suffer from serious depression this holiday season.
I know people whose marriages are crumbling right now. I have friends who have lost loved ones this year, and this will be the first Christmas without the deceased. Others I know are struggling in jobs and wondering if they will still have one at the end of the year. I do my best to compartmentalize my own stresses in this holiday season, and there are some who are incapable of doing so.
Someone near you right now is getting overwhelmed. They will put on a veneer each day so you never know. They may want to hide in bed and never get out. It may be you. Christians at this time of year love to tell the story of Jesus. They love to share the gospel. Sometimes, all they need to do is smile and be kind. We do not necessarily need yelling about wars on Christmas. We do need the Christmas spirit.
That spirit is not the raw commercialism on display at this time of year. Instead, it is the tray of ginger snaps you made and gave to the neighbor you barely know. It is the smile you gave to the overworked cashier at the grocery store who is putting in as many hours as possible to buy presents. It is letting the person in the checkout line go ahead of you because they have way less than you to check out.
We live in a fallen, broken world, and a smile and kind word cannot fix it, but they can add comfort against it. We have this season not because of some Roman holiday co-opted by some other people. We have it because 2,000 years ago the God of all creation who made all things and brought bread from heaven, water from rocks and raised us all up from the dust of the earth decided he wanted to be with us.
He began his journey with us in the food trough of a manger. He carried on through past death and back to life. His was not a noble beginning, but a messy one. Life is messy. Your life and the lives of others are messy. You can make it slightly less messy just by showing some grace this season, sharing a cookie or offering a smile. If you want more recipes, I have started emailing them out once a week. You can subscribe just by texting the word "recipe" to 345345. Otherwise, enjoy the ginger snaps and try not to overwhelm yourself.
To find out more about Erick Erickson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.