Bitter-Sweet Holidays: Cranberry-Orange Bread

thanksgiving 2

This time of year can be very bitter-sweet and a real struggle for many people. It natural to recall memories of past holidays, traditions and loved ones who are no longer with us. Such as memories of happy times with children who are now grown and have homes of their own, loved ones whose faces and stories are well remembered and are no longer with us, the loneliness of a military deployment and memories of the complicated dynamics of large family gatherings. Also, there are the financial challenges and current events that can cast a shadow on the season of cheer. Then, too, there are people, such as myself, with health issues who have battled and are battling life threatening conditions. Yes, this time of year can oftentimes become more bitter than sweet.

Priorities in life are important. As a two time cancer survivor, I have learned the only things that really matter are relationships—a heavenly relationship with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ and earthly relationships with  loved ones.

First of all, I would like to assure you that there is a loving and just God and I have learned to appreciate him. Over the past three years, as I have struggled through broken bones and treatment for Multiple Myeloma, I have heard, seen and felt the love of God. I heard him when I was in the nursing home and couldn’t stand on my own, was on morphine to try to help control the pain, dirty and covered with excrement from not being bathed.

His voice of encouragement came in the letter from a friend reminding me that I had promised my Great Aunt Ida that I would never give up. I heard him again in the hope voiced by my doctor as he explained the seriousness of my situation. He was there when I thought about not doing the transplant because it was too expensive.

When I felt useless, was sick of the pain, and didn’t want to be a burden anymore to my husband and children. I heard God in the anger of my husband’s voice as he screamed at me, “To hell with anyone else you are going to do this for me!”

I saw God in my nurses at the University of Minnesota as they gathered around my bed and prayed over me the day of my stem cell transplant. I saw God in my husband’s patience as he sat beside my bed for months on end helping me through the constant pain and heaving. Night after night he would be there with the bucket as I would start to retch.

I also felt the love of God in my friends who attended to me every day so my husband could go to work. God came with Pat, Mary, Janis, Susie, Bette and Cousin Sylvia on their daily visits as they faithfully cared for me these past three years.

I have also learned how much I value earthly relationships.  I am so grateful for my precious children and grandchild and that they are healthy and happy. I am thankful that our parents are still are here and somewhat healthy. I am blessed by friends who have been so supportive to both Doug and I. And, I am grateful that I still have both of my dogs this Thanksgiving–Walter and Truman. They have been true friends and good supporters for many years.

Yes, I have been blessed by God and have many blessings for which to be thankful. I am regaining my health. I am happy. I am loved. I have a safe home and food to eat. I can afford my medicine. I can do my artwork again, and I can still fit in to the same jeans I wore three years ago. I am even grateful for this affliction that has given me uninterrupted time with God to pray and to grow in my faith and has strengthen my relationship with him, my husband, my family and friends. There is much to celebrate.

I was raised to believe that real faith demands action. Especially during this time of year which can seem so very bitter-sweet for so many. With a loving and just God as our guide we should feel compelled to help and love our fellow brothers and sisters on this earth. The joy of the holiday season truly is in the giving. Joy like kindness is meant to be shared.

After spending so much time in hospitals and being shut in this house, I cannot stress strongly enough how much a phone call, a card, a letter, gift of food or a visit means to someone who is hurting or alone. I would encourage everyone to take time during this holiday season to put down the phone, get off social media and the computer and personally visit those  we love or those who just plain need us. Our goal should always be to truly love our neighbors as we would like to be loved. Of course, if  you can’t do something positive for someone else, then at least do not do anyone any harm.

If we all make a sincere effort of supporting one another maybe someday the term “bitter-sweet” will only describe cranberry-sauce not our holiday memories and relationships.

A great tradition in my family is to bake gifts for friends, neighbors and shut-ins.  In our family the motto of “Nuthin says lovin like something in the oven” is a call for action. I hope you enjoy this recipe for Cranberry-Orange Bread.

Cranberry-Orange Bread

Batter:
2 cups flour
I cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg (well beaten)
1 ½ cups of fresh cranberries (coarsely chopped)

Topping:
2 Tablespoons of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour the inside of a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan

In a medium-sized mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Stir in orange juice, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Stir in cranberries. Put batter into the loaf pan, spreading it out evenly. Sprinkle sugar over the top of the batter.

Bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on rack for 15 minutes. Slide a knife around the edges and then tip the loaf pan upside down to remove the loaf. Cool completely.

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