I woke up today and realized I still have something on my Christmas to-do list. In my effort to remain less stressed, I forgot to make FRUITCAKE! I know, right! But this fruitcake is not your ordinary fruitcake. READ THIS and you’ll understand. It’s speech I gave, an article I wrote…whatever. And if you don’t believe God cares about us, then I wrote this story just for you.
Make a list of your favorite things about Christmas and I guarantee you it will not include fruitcake. Christmas fruitcake has never made the list unless you are a Randisi. My mother-in-law Rose Randisi made the best Christmas fruitcake bar none. People who have tasted her fruitcake unanimously agree, hers is nothing like the customary fruitcake misfortune everyone dreads. And that is because Rose’s fruitcake is flat out delicious. We normally fight over the last piece, it is that good.
When we lived in Pennsylvania, our family visited my in-laws, Pete and Rose Randisi, for Christmas at their home in Conestoga. Every year we had Rose’s Christmas fruitcake. It was her gift to us, her family. One batch made a dozen mini loaves or three regular sized loaves, so it is quite possible Rose took one day to shop for the ingredients and another two for making, baking and wrapping. I know the amount of time and effort it takes to make these scrumptious treats is substantial. Rose didn’t treat it as if it were a chore. Instead, she joyfully poured herself into the project each and every year. A lot of love went into Rose’s fruitcakes and we loved her for it.
For years we hounded her for the recipe, even before but especially after we moved several states away. “Mom, you don’t have to make us fruitcake every year. It’s a lot of work,” my husband Joe would tell her. “If you could just give us the recipe, we’ll take over.” He knew she was growing older and with age everything take a bit longer. We feared she had lost the recipe, or like her husband Pete, had entered the phase of life wherein everything done in the kitchen is accomplished on autopilot, no recipes necessary. She promised she would get around to giving us the recipe, but she never did. Each year we had to trust she would send us fruitcakes.
HERE’S WHERE THE MIND BLOWING TWIST OCCURS
Then on December 15th of 2003, we received a phone call from Joe’s sister. Rose had passed away peacefully in her sleep. The paramedics said they’ve never seen such a tranquil look on a dead person’s face. Rose’s last thoughts were happy ones. She left this earth in harmony with her faith. She was now absent from her aging body and present with the Lord. For Rose Randisi, December 15th 2003 was homecoming day, a cause for great rejoicing and celebration. She left this world to be with Jesus, her glorious Lord and Savior. My mother-in-law spoke of Jesus so often and so openly it was as if they were best of friends. It was hard not to be happy for her.
We were shocked when we learned of her unexpected departure, but we were even more stunned later that day we got our mail. Among some Christmas cards and bills, we found a handwritten letter from Rose that also included her Christmas fruitcake recipe. You could tell this was a labor of love. Her letter appeared painstakingly written and the recipe was written over the span of three oversized index cards. The cards were filled front and back with thorough instructions. Rose had not merely copied the recipe from a cookbook. She sat down at her dining room table and composed the list of ingredients and carefully outlined each step so that her instructions would be as complete as possible. We quickly realized our fruitcake coach must have gone through several attempts to get this recipe in perfect shape.
So you understand, my husband received the news of his mother’s death on the same day he received her prized fruitcake recipe in the mail. How does God do that? A friend of mine experienced a coincidence of the same magnitude and put it this way.
“If you think that is all a series of tidy coincidences, you are folks that believe a tornado passing through a paint store in Italy might touch-up the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.” MARC SABLOW
But wait – there’s MORE!
But the story continues. Christmas, 2008 — I attended a party that also served as a reunion of some of dear girlfriends. Twenty of us been on a fall retreat together and it was time to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our hostess asked us to share a Christmas prayer request followed by a special Christmas memory. It was also one of those ornament exchanges where the participants pick a number and then choose a wrapped gift in that order. I was number twelve so I had plenty of time to think about which Christmas story I would share with my sisters in Christ.
I actually had something else in mind when all of a sudden I felt compelled to switch to Rose’s Fruitcake story. Unquestionably, Christmas 2003 was very unusual and surely everyone at this party would be awed by God’s providence. While the highlight might have been receiving Rose’s recipe the way we did, the rest of that Christmas was also very tender.
My family and I went to Pennsylvania to minister grace to Joe’s grieving father and his siblings. For example, while we were there, my children and I made fruitcake for everyone and we, of course, included a copy of the recipe. Joe’s family, touched by our gesture and Rose’s pre-emptive gift, felt loved from beyond. I wanted to share with my girlfriends how that Christmas the Randisis became a family with purpose and how everything we did brought glory and honor to God. Rose Randisi had set that trend in motion with her daily devotion to the Lord and her early departure.
Girlfriend number ten was speaking when my cell phone began ringing. I have a very distinct ring. It’s the Steve Wonder song, “I just called to say I love you…” I politely excused myself to turn my phone off and saw that it was a text message from our oldest daughter Robin. “I MADE FRUITCAKE!” Apparently, she was thrilled that she had successful made Grandma Rose’s fruitcake for the first time and she wanted me to know, so she text messaged me — two minutes before I was to tell my Christmas fruitcake story. Once again, how does God do that?
The master planner does not slumber. Again and again and again He amazes me with his steadfast interest in my life, in the least interesting details of my life. And apparently there are ring tones for that.
“I just called to say I love you…”