I don’t know when it started really. Perhaps it was Mom, but I don’t remember it being setting in stone. No, it was probably me. At some point in time, I looked at my holiday calendar, pointed a finger at Black Friday and the Saturday following Thanksgiving, and said “There, that is when we will decorate for Christmas and bake Lead Cake.” (I realize now it wasn’t Mom, because my sister’s birthday is December 12 and, if I remember correctly, decorating for Christmas was part of her celebration process.)

Now that that is clear, you are probably saying to yourself, “What is Lead Cake?” or “Why do I care?”

Well, I will address the cake in a minute, but it suddenly hit me that I am behind schedule. Thanksgiving was a week ago, but there is no tree in my living room or lights outside my house; and I’m strangely okay with that. My daughter and I walked around the neighborhood the other night, and I discovered I am not alone. Even the crazy house around the corner that goes all out each year is only half decorated. They haven’t even put the countdown clock in the yard yet.

In what should add to my strangely non-existent stress, I keep thinking it is next week. Next week begins the crazed race for January. That is the only way I can describe it. In the last few weeks leading up to the New Year, I will attempt to attend multiple holiday parties, Jane Austen’s birthday celebration in DC, a dance recital, and at least two theatre productions, while picking my son up from the airport and trying to figure out how to get to Pennsylvania and maybe Maryland for a day or two. Oh, and returning my son to the airport on New Year’s Day at 8:30 in the morning.

So, why am I unstressed? For the last few months, I have felt like I was running on a hamster wheel. My husband has a non-profit organization which holds a teen summit the Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. This all started a few years ago when I pointed out that our son was going to college and he (my husband) needed a hobby to replace the time he normally spent with Nick. He prayed on it, and found himself presented with a mentoring plan for teens. No one in our family was surprised by this, and we are all busting with pride over what he has accomplished in such a short time; but if you remember, this was to be a hobby for him. Well, I am his administrative assistant.

The week after the summit was one of rest, for the most part. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family (at their house), and drove our son halfway back to college (he had a ride for the remainder of the trip). And then The Conversation began. The Conversation is one that is repeated in our house many times throughout the year. It begins like this, “You do too much.” The difference is, this time my husband declared that he was taking away some of my responsibilities. I will be honest, I felt hurt and insulted when he said this. I wanted to say, “But you can’t do them the way I do them.” I know he was trying to free up my time, take away my excuses, so I could focus on my writing and (the part I hate) marketing. And, I’ll be completely honest here, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I support him in his dream, but it is just that, his dream.

I was still a little sore the next morning when our pastor threw the knock down punch. During his sermon, he took everything my husband had been saying and put a different spin on it. It still meant the same thing, but it drove the message home in a way poor Rob never would have been able to do. I had become distracted from my dreams and the plans that God had laid before me. I had gotten so buried in the details, that I had forgotten the bigger picture.

So, tomorrow is December and my house is partially clean and undecorated. Okay. This weekend I am pleased to say that I have one show to see and that is all. Saturday my home will be filled with Christmas carols, or the sound of Hallmark Christmas movies, and the smell of Lead Cake. Yes, the Lead Cake.

Lead Cake is a Chisholm family tradition. It probably doesn’t sound appetizing; it is right up there with Grandma Chisholm’s Rock Cookies. Lead Cake is also called Poor Man’s Fruit Cake. It has walnuts (I mix black and English) and raisins and it weighs a ton, but it is a perfect breakfast bread. Our kids can tell you, Santa gives better gifts if you leave Lead Cake instead of cookies. The recipe calls for over four cups of flour (yes, over four), which explains the weight. The reason we make it Thanksgiving weekend is because it has to sit for a couple weeks for the moisture from the raisins to permeate through the whole cake. One batch makes three large loaf pans or four smaller pans.

A few years ago, I started giving them out to friends; so I make several batches. It takes about the same amount of time as decorating and I normally try to do it at the same time. When I struggle to stir the batter, because it is thick and gets thicker as it cools, I just remember that Chisholm women have been doing this for generations. It is a time of communion with my ancestors, reconnecting with my roots, and remembering my dreams. This year, I am looking forward to that time more than I have in the past.

So, why am I unstressed? I am remembering that the reason I decorate and bake and run around like a crazy person is not to meet deadlines or check another item off my list. It is to celebrate all the gifts God has given us and get lost in the wonderment of this beautiful season. So, I hope to get my decorating done this weekend, but if not, so be it. I plan to bake enough Lead Cake for my family and, if I have enough time and feel like doing it, I will make some for gifts. If not, there are other days to do it, and this would not be the first Christmas without Lead Cake. (That’s how the kids know about Santa’s preference.) I have spent the last few months letting my distractions run my life, but their reign has ended. I am taking back my life and finishing this year the way I want it to end. How are you ending the year?

Recipe for Lead Cake in the comments, if anyone is curious.

(So, as you noticed, this was posted a day or two late. Blame technical difficulties. I am happy to report the tree is up with lights, but no decorations yet. The ingredients for the Lead Cake are on the counter, but I need to get some sugar. And my husband made an appointment to get the dog groomed at about the same time he has to leave for work. Nothing ever goes as planned, but that’s okay. If I don’t post before then, I hope everyone has a Happy Holiday-of-your-choice.)

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