Friday, December 21, 2012

Variations on a Theme: Stained Glass, Empanadas, Christmas Tree

Dear friends,

Colored pencils and a page from the Dover Cathedral Stained Glass Coloring Book were just the ticket to relaxation to me on Wednesday, a frazzled day.  What color here?  What color there?  Let's use a little creative license, shall we?  I hung it over my stove to cheer up the kitchen with some Christmas inspiration and anticipation.

It's funny that I had the same book when I was a kid.  I remember coloring in the translucent paper version torn out from the book and bringing it to school for show and tell.  Curiously, I wasn't allowed to hang it on the classroom window because it was religious. And I wasn't religious at all.  It was just art to me, not an expression of faith. In my mind, it was a cultural masterpiece, in both the original stained glass and my fourth grade interpretation.  

"Virgin and Child; Adoration of the Magi"
from Bible Window at Cologne Cathedral (1280)

Cologne Cathedral in Germany

Plato spoke of Form, Essence and Ideal.  What makes an object true and real?  What makes a peacock a peacock, or a book a book, or a cathedral a cathedral?  How different can a thing be and still be considered true enough to the Form, the Essence, the Ideal?  How can you choose variations and still stay faithful to the theme?

My coloring page isn't stained glass in the magnificent Cologne Cathedral.  The colors aren't even the same.  It's not the real thing.  But I like it well enough and it serves my purposes - to remind me of the original, to allow me to participate in the picture with color and creativity.  It is a variation on the theme.

While I colored, one of my adult daughters bustled in the kitchen with a younger brother and sister making empanadas for dinner.  I had shopped for all of the ingredients on her list, but this was her culinary creation, not mine.  So nice to not cook, and so nice to enjoy a special out-of-the-ordinary dinner with my family!

Dough balls for empanadas

Flattened and ready for wrapping

A hearty mound of beef filling
for each!

Piping hot and ready to devour!

So the recipe calls for an olive and three raisins to be added to the filling in each empanada.  I think she skipped the olives entirely, and made half of the empanadas without raisins at the request of the picky eaters among us.

So are they still authentic empanadas without the raisins and olive?  What makes an empanada an empanada?  At some point, if you omit or change too many items, it just isn't an empanada.  I still think ours qualified well enough, and we certainly enjoyed them eating them!  A variation on the theme, but empanadas all the same.

The real story of my frazzled day?  It's this tree that spazzed me out, that made me flee to the refuge of my desk and color a madonna and child.

Half of our Christmas tree lights wouldn't work, so I decided to take them off and put some other ones on.  In the process, I knocked off a bunch of ornaments.  My 11 year old daughter suggested that we take everything off and start over.  And then my 13 year old son recommended that we straighten the tree in the stand since it leaned a bit to the left.  And another daughter (who shall remain nameless, but we all know who she is) started whining because she wanted to put her ornaments back on RIGHT NOW, while we were in the middle of our more necessary chaos.  So during what was supposed to be the warmth and the beauty of redecorating the Christmas tree with my family,  I turned grouchy and way too many cross words passed my lips.   Certainly not the right holiday spirit.  More like the Grinch.  But let's move on from that, shall we?  Everyone's happy that the tree's up again, all bright and shiny with lights and ornaments. What makes an ornament an ornament?  Do we have to put that tacky one on this year?  Can't we just use the traditional and pretty ones?  And what makes a Christmas tree a Christmas tree?  Ours is artificial, which I prefer since I don't have to vacuum up stray needles or worry about it wilting or buy a new tree each year.  We even decided, when redecorating and realigning the tree, to leave off the bottom set of branches to make more room for piles of presents.  Is that allowed?   Who makes Christmas tree rules, anyway?  So is mine a real Christmas tree?  Sure. Works for me!  Maybe I'll spray some pine scent on it.

What is real, authentic, genuine?  When does it really matter?  When will the imitation or variation just not do the trick?

"The Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."  Hebrews 1:3

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..." Colossians 2:9

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

It's Christmastime.  Amid all the hustle and bustle and commercialism, we (hopefully) pause a while to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the only begotten Son of God who came to save us from our sin and darkness.  He is God, the perfect one, the fullness of the Deity.  There is no substitute for the real thing.  Nothing else will do!

And yet!  While we mere humans can't be the real, one and only Jesus, we are still called to be like him, to imitate his divine example, to be his ambassadors, faithfully representing his cause!  

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."  Ephesians 5:1-2

"We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..."  Philippians 2:1-5

My cross words certainly didn't do that tenderness and compassion gig very well, but fortunately I get more chances.  Each moment I can start fresh.  

"I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

And one day, when I finally see him face to face, I will be completely transformed and I will be just like him forever.

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2

That's the good news for Christmas and the rest of the year!  That's true anticipation.

Virginia Knowles

The theme for the P52 project this week is Anticipation.
P52 with Kent Weakley
 P52 Photo Project 
A weekly photo post
See all of my entries here:
P52 Photo Posts

I will also link to these sites...
Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays

Whole-Hearted Home


  1. beautiful photos and your empanadas made me hungry!

  2. I have never had an empanada before, but I have had calzones which sort of look like these empanadas. I really should try these some day!
    We are being very low key for Christmas this year as we really plan on celebrating with our family in February.
    Have a wonderful Christmas!

  3. What a neat idea, though empanadas. I'd love to have someone make them for me, because I'm sure I'd mess them up. Thanks for linking to Food on Fridays--love learning about other people's traditions!

  4. Beautiful!!! Thank you so much for sharing this post over at WholeHearted Home this week.

  5. My experience with empanadas was EXHAUSTING! I don't know what was up that day but everything went wrong and the resulting meal was less than delightful! I need to make them again in a quiet moment. :) Thanks for inspiring me to get back on the horse!


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