Gingerbread Love

By Carlton Hughes

Have you ever been the apple of someone’s eye? The object of affection from someone who loves you unconditionally?

That was me with my grandmothers. They loved me more than anyone else has in this world, and I say with a straight face that I was the favorite. Apology to my cousins—who probably feel the same way. Both grandmothers had a way of making me feel like I was the most important person in the world.

Growing up, I loved to visit my grandmothers, and there were always special treats and surprises.

Mammaw Dema, my paternal grandmother, was petite in stature but strong as could be. She didn’t mince words, and you never had to guess what she was thinking. At her house I could always find a fresh pitcher of green lemon-lime Kool-Aid in the fridge, and, if I was lucky, there would be a homemade chocolate pie. Not a combination you find every day, but it worked for us.

Mammaw Arietta was my maternal grandmother, and she was a bit more soft-spoken. She loved having her family members around her, and they often gathered at her small home to talk, to drink coffee, and to play cards. Speaking of cards, I spent many an evening getting thumped by her at 500 Rummy. When I finally beat her after hundreds of tries, she wasn’t disappointed—she said she had taught me well.

One of my favorite treats at Mammaw Arietta’s house was her homemade gingerbread. It wasn’t shaped as cute gingerbread men—it came out of the oven in big slabs, with a design made from pulling a fork through the dough. I enjoyed large pieces smothered with peanut butter; again, it worked for us.

My mother recently provided me with the recipe, which is typical of a grandmother’s method of cooking. Some of the measurements are not exact, and there are no baking instructions. The cooks from that era didn’t have Google or hundreds of cooking blogs to draw from—just their own instincts, put to good use with limited ingredients.

The recipe was passed down to my grandmother from her mother. It’s the best gingerbread I have ever had, and, to this day, when I smell ginger, I think of those days at her house.

GRANDMA GREER’S GINGERBREAD

2/3 cup sweet milk (what we called regular milk, as opposed to buttermilk)
1 cup molasses
½ cup regular granulated sugar
2 eggs
½ cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ginger (or more to taste)

Mix all ingredients together. Add enough all-purpose flour to make the dough stiff. Grease a large baking sheet and spread the dough on it. Run a fork through the dough several times to make a design. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Click-to-Tweet: An old-fashioned holiday recipe from .@carltonwhughes #inspiredprompt #gingerbreadlove #grandmotherslove

Atmosphere is Everything

by Carlton Hughes

football, sports, kids, gamesWhen I was a young lad in the dark ages of the 1970s, I enjoyed NFL Football. Back then you only got a handful of television channels, so there wasn’t much choice. The Puppy Bowl and the Kitten Bowl didn’t exist, so what else was there to do? I watched the NFL with my dad. My favorite teams were the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins.

Those were glory days for the Cowboys, with Coach Tom Landry (who, in his impeccable suit and nifty hat, looked like he should have been running a bank instead of a football team) and Quarterback Roger Staubach, not to mention the cheerleaders. I even had a Cowboys duffel bag I carried with me on overnight trips to my cousin’s house.

I had no choice but to like the Redskins, as, living in Eastern Kentucky, our local television channels came from nearby Virginia and Tennessee. Being in that market, we were treated to Redskins games every Sunday evening throughout the season. I couldn’t name the coach or any players if my life depended on it, but I do remember the uniforms and the logo because I’m observant that way.

football, sports, gameMy attention to the NFL faded over the years, and, especially since my own college experience, I now prefer the college game. I love the gameday atmosphere—the band, the cheerleaders, the student cheering sections, the alumni fans. Even though my alma mater has traditionally been a basketball school and doesn’t quite burn it up on the gridiron, I enjoy returning to campus on fall Saturdays to take in a game, to visit with old friends, and to relive the sights and sounds of my college days.

Beyond my visits to my old campus, I would rather watch a college game on television than a pro one any day. Many college players will never see pro action and give their all for their schools. The traditions, the rivalries, and the pageantry make it an easy choice for me.

[Click to tweet:] Carlton Hughes prefers the traditions, the rivalries, and the pageantry of college games.

WRITING PROMPT: Imagine you’re attending a college football game, maybe at your alma mater. Describe the sights and sounds you witness as you enter the stadium.

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Ease on Down the Romans Road

By Carlton Hughes

On a warm Sunday morning nineteen years ago, I knelt to pray to receive Christ as my Savior. When the service ended I left the church as if floating on a cloud. What a feeling! I knew my life was changed forever, and I figured the rest of that life would be filled with sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.

Boy, was I wrong.

Mind you, choosing to serve Christ was the best decision I have ever made and is the only way to live, but even Jesus said we would have trouble in this world. My transition into the Christian life was not easy—it took a while for me to figure it out. I’m actually still figuring it out, and one thing that has helped me is reading the book of Romans.
As I stumbled through those first few months of my new life, I didn’t know where to begin in reading the Bible. Someone suggested I read Romans, and I dug in. I found it’s a powerful book on how to live the Christian life.

The richest chapter that I latched onto was Romans 8. The first verse I ever memorized was verse 2—For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from sin and death—but there are so many more that provide insight and direction.

Further in Romans 8, I found that the sufferings of our present life cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us (verse 18). Just think, our current troubles will pale in comparison to what lies ahead. What a promise! On and on there are rich nuggets of wisdom, reminding me God is for me and not against me and nothing can separate me from His love.

I could go on and on, and I toyed with the idea of copying and pasting the whole book into this blog post. But then the administrators would complain the post was too long and not tweetable. Suffice to say, if you need some encouragement and direction, get yourself over to Romans.

Click to tweet: Salvation on the Romans road. #faith #Bible

WRITING PROMPT: Think back to your salvation experience. What struggles did you have? Find a verse in the book of Romans and relate it to your life.

Families, Families, Everywhere

by Carlton Hughes

This month’s blog topic is “Families and Children.” Wow, that’s a narrow, laser-focused subject, isn’t it?

Sorry blog-powers-that-be: sarcasm is my love language.

Seriously, it’s a broad topic but one of my favorites. I am definitely a family man, in varied ways.

For full disclosure purposes, I was raised as an only child. One of my favorite cartoons is titled “Only Child Problems” and features a boy yelling to his father, “Dad! I just hit myself!” It pretty much sums up a good deal of my childhood. However, I was blessed with a large extended family. Cousins, aunts, uncles—I’m rich with them. My cousins became my brothers and sisters, only without all of the sibling squabbling and rivalry. Even so, I always wanted a brother.

Fast forward in life a bit, and God showed His sense of humor. This only child met and fell in love with a lady who is the oldest of seven, and all of those siblings are boys. Built-in brothers!

We had our first son in 1996 and soon decided we didn’t want him to grow up alone. We made that decision the morning of my wife’s doctor’s appointment, when we found out another one was on the way. See above about God’s sense of humor. Our second son arrived two years after the first one. Life has been an adventure with two boys, and my wife and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I could go on and on about my wonderful immediate family, but I have also learned that “family” and even “children” can take many different forms.

I have been a teacher for (gulp) thirty years (Yes, I started when I was a mere child), and I consider my students my “babies,” even though they are high school and college students. Some have even followed me home and become like my own. If the students are like my children, my co-workers are family. We have been there for each other through the good times and the bad times—we laugh together, we cry together, we tease each other.

I am also a children’s pastor, so that gives my wife and I even more kids. Some of my former church children are now in college, but they know “Mrs. Kathy” and “Brother Carlton” will always have their backs.. My church family is also very special to me, truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

There you have it—my take on families and children. What’s your story?

Click to tweet:  I am definitely a family man, in varied ways.

WRITING PROMPT: Think of someone at work or at church (or simply a friend) who is as close to you as family. How did you meet this person? Tell a story that sums up your relationship.

If You Give a Writer a Book . . .

by Carlton Hughes

Who is my favorite modern author? That’s a good, loaded question.

book-1840910_1280I have many friends who are authors, so, for the sake of my own protection, I won’t be naming any of them. They’re ALL wonderful writers who have written AWESOME books that I LOVE.

There, that should cover everyone’s ego.

If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, I would have named the author of the books that I was reading most often back then: Laura Numeroff. When my boys were younger, we loved reading her If You Give a . . . series: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Pig a Pancake. I read those books too many times to count, and they put a smile on my face (as well as on my sons’ faces) each time.

My wife and I are empty nesting now, so I don’t read those books anymore. Sad and surprising, I know. When pressed to name my favorite modern author (other than my friends) of books geared toward adults, there is a clear answer: Joni Eareckson-Tada. No modern author has challenged me or helped build my faith like her.

gloriousintruderYou probably know Joni’s story: rendered a quadriplegic from a failed dive at 17, she went through the “valley of the shadow of death” yet learned how to live a fruitful, meaningful life for Christ. She writes from the heart, not afraid to share her experiences with suffering and her questions. She has taught me about dealing with struggles while celebrating the small joys in the Christian life.

When I first became a Christian almost 20 years ago, I found Joni’s book Glorious Intruder at the library, and it knocked my socks off. I was so young in Christ that I felt like I was stumbling in the dark, but Joni’s stories of finding God’s hand in everyday life encouraged me. I even wrote her a fan letter (a first for me), and her assistant sent me a lovely card with one of Joni’s paintings on the front—yes, she is also an artist!

On those days when I feel sorry for myself, I pick up one of Joni’s books. Reading a piece or two of hers always makes me feel better, seeing life from a different perspective. However, I discovered something while researching this post: Laura Numeroff has released If You Give a Mouse a Brownie. Laura’s writing and brownies—two of my favorite things! I may have to sneak back into the children’s section.

(Click to tweet) Who is my favorite modern author? That’s a good, loaded question. 

WRITING PROMPT: Imagine you are in your local library, and you wander into the children’s section. You spot a favorite book from your childhood (or your children’s younger years), and . . .