"Are your hands clean, Angela?"
"Yes, Mommy. Didn't you see me wash?" My seven-year-old daughter held up pink palms glazed with moisture.
"I'm concentrating on tart shells." Angela frowned as she watched me struggle, shaping rich pastry dough within each miniature cup. "Can you help? Here's your muffin tin: just do what I'm doing." I thought back to Mrs. Matthews' annual New Year's Eve parties: how they impressed me! No matter how I tried, my tarts never quite matched Mrs. Matthews' exquisite pastries as remembered from childhood. What was her secret? This party was my idea: I couldn't face this New Year's without it. But with so much to do and so little time before guests arrived, I felt overwhelmed.
"Whatcha humming, Mommy?"
I stopped abruptly, unaware I'd been humming. "'Auld Lang Syne', darlin'."
I laughed. "The traditional song for midnight on New Year's Eve." I pinched the crust around each cup's rim. "Watch how I form the top edges."
"How's it go?" Angela asked, fumbling with crust in her tin. I made corrections while singing:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
"'Auld Lang Syne' speaks of old friends and times remembered, yearning for a future meeting to share those memories."
"Like Heaven, Mommy?"
"Yes, Angela." I reached for the old nut grinder my mother passed down. "Wash your hands again, Angela, and grind the pecans." I turned away, blending filling for the tarts with my mixer.
Angela paused her grinding, glancing at me suspiciously. "Why are you crying, Mommy?"
I moved onto the stool beside hers. "I miss Grandpa. While we're singing that old song this New Year's, he's singing a new song with Jesus. He always said New Year's Eve parties were for good-byes, and ours this year will say good-bye to him.
"Grandpa always preferred New Year's Day," I continued. "He had a tradition: First Grandma passed around a basket of cookies -- like Chinese fortune cookies. We each cracked ours open and read the saying inside -- quotations from various missionaries, I think: 'The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious'; 'The prospects are as bright as the promises of God'; 'Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.'
"Then your grandpa pulled out his Bible and read Psalm 118:24: '"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." God's best is before us, beginning this day,' he'd say. 'We Believers have God's promise in Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"'"
"But Grampa died this year, Mommy."
"You sound like Grandma -- her job in Grandpa's ritual was to bring up bad things from the previous year. Then Grandpa would respond, 'Yes, that was unpleasant, but we know it's for the best. "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose"' (Romans 8:28). 'NOW,' he'd command, 'Praise God with me for those things!' -- and we'd name them. 'Live in joyful expectation, "while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ"'" (Titus 2:13).
In speaking my father's words, I could feel God ministering to my spirit through the tradition so lovingly sown in me. Because of Jesus, this was the New Year's Jubilee Grandpa longed for, exchanging joyful expectation for realization of his blessed hope. We could choose to celebrate with him by recognizing our glorious salvation and his. Miraculously the burden of letting go vanished, replaced with God's peace. "We're going to have a Jubilee for Grandpa on New Year's, celebrating the promises of God!" I exclaimed.
"But we don't have any fortune cookies, Mommy," Angela wailed.
"No problem -- get your playdough and roll out cookies -- and bring paper and pen to write down promises!" Suddenly New Year's Jubilee seemed more important than our party, as we looked forward to the bright hope that only Jesus can give. Though wrapped in playdough, through Jesus our prospects are "bright as the promises of God!" -- and each new year is glorious!
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