Momma’s Thanksgiving Dressing

“Mix up a large skillet of cornbread.” “It takes LOTS of black pepper.” “Wash the celery really good and use the whole stalk.” “Once you get everything mixed together, taste it, if it’s not right, adjust it.” I stood at the sink today chopping ingredients for Momma’s cornbread dressing. I could hear her words as though she were standing right over my shoulder instructing me like a military colonel. It’s just downright funny how things stick in your mind. I continued chopping and pondering the years I stood, first on a stool, or sitting on the kitchen counter watching her every move until I outgrew those places. There was an unspoken message that this dish was of utmost importance to her.

You see, she passed away three years ago this week, two days before her favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. To Momma, Thanksgiving was all about the cornbread dressing. That’s right. I said, “dressing” – stuffing is what sofa cushions are made of and you better not get the two confused. In her kitchen, the turkey could have burned to carbon and the yams could be bitter, but the dressing was always done to perfection. I was an apprentice of cornbread dressing for fifty years, and my Momma learned from her Momma. Truth be told, I probably could have attempted the culinary dish much sooner however, while she taught me everything there is to know about this southern Thanksgiving staple, Momma would never consider allowing me to make it if she was going to eat. She prided herself as an expert and her pride only swelled with the more compliments she received over the years around the family table. As her grandchildren married and brought their spouses to her home year after year, she delighted in watching everyone fill their plates with seconds and then ask for a to-go plate before heading out the door. Nothing pleased her more.


After her cancer diagnosis, she managed to share with the family one more Thanksgiving and one more performance of preparing a huge pan of dressing which tasted as good as it ever had in past years. In October of the following year, her disease progressed causing severe illness. I was at her house one day sitting with her. She had not been eating well. It was fairly early in the day when out of the blue she asked me to make cornbread dressing. At first, I thought I didn’t hear her correctly. After all, I held the record for apprenticeships. I said, “You want me to make dressing?” This seemed very odd since Thanksgiving was still two months away. With a slight smile she nodded. I moved her to a chair close to the same kitchen where, as a child I had observed her cooking. She sat peacefully and watched my every move. I was careful to do it exactly in the same order and methodically as I had witnessed her, using the same knives, spoons, and bowls that she had used my entire life.


While I knew how to prepare this dish, I couldn’t help but feel a bit anxious. My dear Momma was allowing me the honor of preparing this sacred dish for an audience of one, the Queen of Cornbread Dressing. Once it was browned to perfection in the oven, I pulled it out and placed a serving on a small plate and handed it to her. She smiled as if this plate of dressing had brought back all of her fondest memories. In her weakened state, she managed to take a couple of bites. Handing the plate back to me, she looked up in satisfaction and said, “It’s as good as mine.” At that moment, time seemed to stand still. The lump in my throat was uncontainable as I realized that I had just prepared my first and last pan of dressing for my Momma.  I passed muster and a big pan of cornbread dressing.

I’d Rather Have Jesus

Like some of you, I grew up in a small country church singing hymns. Apart from the Word of God, there is just nothing that speaks to me greater than the truth that comes from the lyrics of a gospel hymn. However, I must admit, that while I have found comfort and encouragement over the years as words of a hymn came to mind, I do not believe that I have fully processed the intended message of some of my old favorites to the extent that I did this week with a particular hymn that I learned as a child and have sung many times since.

Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast two and a half months ago. My husband, Bill and I had recently moved back into our completely remodeled home that had taken ten months to finish. We had only enjoyed it for six months when the water from Harvey began to pour under the baseboards from every exterior wall of the house. There was nothing we could do except watch the dirty water rise while listening to weather reports, as we obviously were not the only ones affected by this horrific storm. Flooded out of our house the first night, we slept in our car enjoying background noise through the cracked windows of storm water rushing across the carport. Water lapped against the wheels of the car sounding like a boat moored to the dock as waves roll by, slapping its side.


During times of disaster, most people as a whole seem to be thankful for their very lives – just to be spared of death, which I certainly was, as well as thankful for the lives of friends and family who were experiencing their own uncertain storm situations. There were many people stuck on rooftops for hours, even days, as they waited for rescue crews to reach them. Sadly, some were not spared death. The water ripped and ravaged with great force throughout southeast Texas. The rising water knew few boundaries and delivered heartache with a vengeance.

Bill and I had to completely vacate our newly remodeled home due to the flood. Once the rain finally stopped, the rebuilding process began. We stood by in utter disbelief as our contractor removed the barely used wood flooring, sheet rock, baseboards, trim, as well as drilled holes in all of the new cabinetry. Painful to watch is an understatement. Nevertheless, I felt I could still praise God that the situation was not any worse, that we were spared our lives and would have a home to return to once repairs were made.


As construction tends to go, we have had delay upon more delays trying to move toward our quest of returning to the house and resuming some type of normalcy. Because of the devastation to thousands of homes, construction trades have expanding backlogs of work. And with every delay notice, I find my faith being tested. As long as life goes according to my plan, I can praise God but, throw in a time of trial, disruption, or discomfort like we are currently experiencing, I find myself fluctuating between despair and gratitude, between complaining and praise. I ask myself, “Why us?”, “What are we supposed to learn from this?”, “Are you really for us Lord?” I then try to balance that in my mind and my heart with thoughts of thankfulness. “I’m thankful that we can eventually move back into our house”, “I’m thankful for our health”, “I’m thankful that our vehicles did not take on water”, “I’m thankful for the many family and friends who provided food and shelter for us”, so forth and so on… I wrestle daily with these conflicting thoughts.


Yesterday morning, standing in front of the mirror drying my hair, a hymn mysteriously filled my mind. I began to sing. I had sung it hundreds of times during my lifetime. The words of the hymn freely flowed from my lips, but I sensed my heart wasn’t fully in agreement:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold

I’d rather be his than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land
Yes I’d rather be led by his nail pierced hands

Than to be the king of a best domain and be held in sins dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today
I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause

I’d rather be faithful to his dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than world wide things

I’d rather be true to his holy name
Than to be the king of…….

As I continued to sing, I asked myself if I honestly and deeply believed the words that I spoke. The question of truth stopped me in my tracks. Would I rather have Jesus than houses or land? Would I really rather be led by his nail pierced hands? Would I rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today? Would I rather?

According to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of the hymn, “I’d Rather Have Jesus” is the most difficult message to live into. The battle in the heart caused by the offerings of the world, whether it is riches, relationships, reputation, possessions, comfort, or fame, is difficult. It is not until we fully surrender our complete self and our circumstances, giving up the desire to gain more and have a life of carefree comfort, that we will find real fellowship with our Savior Jesus Christ.

Song video click here: I’d Rather Have Jesus

As we approach week eleven of our displacement, I will continue the process of surrendering my all to God and more boldly sing, “I’d rather have Jesus than world wide things. I’d rather be true to His holy name.”