RECIPE FOR A NEW YEAR
I started a new but regular experiment in my kitchen each week. I call it "Recipe Invention Night." Having cared for a family of nine for many years, you get used to making large quantities of food for every meal. What I am now adjusting to is cooking for less. We're down to six, and in the next five years that number will dwindle significantly, unless of course, my married children with their children (I admit I'm happily dreaming here) come home regularly, then I'll be cooking for a small army again!
As I learn to adjust to a smaller household, I find we regularly have leftovers, not a lot of leftovers mind you, just enough to make you feel guilty if you throw them away—Does this kind of statement sound familiar? "Now son, eat all that food. There are millions of people starving on the other side of the world who would love to eat what you’re about to throw away.”
So, in part listening to my childhood instruction and also because it is a good step toward frugality (since we’re on a more greatly reduced living income), I decided to start Recipe Invention Night, for which I’ve earned the title, “The Handy Chef” On these nights when I’ve got some kind of leftover protein and carbs and perhaps some kind of veggies I add some fun extras to create a new meal. Imagine the possibilities!
Warning, however: Don’t try this with just anything! I shared one recipe recently on my Facebook page and someone commented, “I would be interested to know what you would do with: extra crunchy PB, cream of tartar, sardines packed in oil, and couscous,” to which I almost replied, “Absolutely nothing. That’s a hopeless combination!”
As I was thinking about this scenario, I couldn’t help but think that life is kind of like this odd assortment of leftovers. It would be nice to take a little of this and a little of that and come up with a wonderful and delicious recipe, but more often than not, we’re stuck with extra crunchy PB, sardines and cream of tartar sitting in the cupboard of our existence.
FOOD STUFFS AND LIFE
My last week looked a lot like this short list. I started out the week sick and had to cancel my first homeschool choir class this semester; my son’s dog, Indy started peeing on the carpets (do dogs regress in their potty training?); several computers had issues and only one would connect properly to the printer so we are backlogged in print jobs.
On top of that, my daughter Megan is going through immense difficulties, starting with her car getting totaled when she slid down our driveway on a sheet of thin ice and crunched the front end and hood of her car (I had to go out and buy a new used car for my two drivers at home, and gave her their old car because she doesn’t have enough funds to get another car herself). In addition to that, she is under some spiritual attack for reaching out to a fellow coworker with the love of Christ and got suspended from her job for harassment and is now looking for another job.
My heart for Megan is all the heavier because she has consistently purposed in her heart to seek after the Lord and trust Him, wanting to bring glory to His name through all the hardships she has faced these last several months. I know God is good. I am unshakably convinced of this, yet my cupboard is looking a lot like an assortment of odds and ends that just don’t make a tasty meal when all thrown together.
What do you do when your life looks like this? How do we make sense of the mess in a way that not only draws us closer to the Lord but results in bringing Him glory?
I must admit I’m tempted to sit down most days and just have a good cry until there’s a little puddle around me; either that, or climb into bed and not get out for about five days (just think of the weight I’d lose!)
In all serious, however, so many times I’ve had to ask, “Lord, how should I respond to all this trouble and heartache all around me? You know how I want to fix things, but I can’t fix anything…not my daughter’s heartache, or her reputation with her former employer; I can’t fix the dog; I can’t even fix the computer!”
CRUMBS AND THE CHARACTER OF GOD
I am reminded of a story in Matthew about a woman whose daughter was demon possessed. This mother, out of love for her child came to Jesus asking for His help. At first Jesus doesn’t reply and appears to want to send her away. After all, she isn’t one of the children of Israel. Yet, this woman persists in her coming to Jesus (despite His seeming rebuttals), and finally in response, Jesus hears and commends her faith and gives this mom her heart’s desire, the deliverance of her daughter.
But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!"
And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once. ~Matthew 15:25-28
Two things stood out to me in this passage which has informed my thinking about both God’s enigmatic ways and His magnanimous love for us His people.
The first is that God loves for us to persist in coming to Him. I so often feel like that Syrophoenician woman crying out to Jesus for help. From my difficult, painful childhood, to my near death with ulcerative colitis in 1987, to the highly predicted loss of our twins in a high-risk pregnancy in 1995, to Chris’s 15-year debilitating battle with MS and recent death, I have years and years of experience knowing how desperate I have needed the Lord.
At times, Jesus has replied to me with nothing more than silence. At other times, I’ve doubted His love, feeling like He was saying, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” in seemingly not answering my prayers for help. Yet, I love this Syrophoenician woman’s persistence. She knew that if God only gave her crumbs, it would be enough to sustain her and give her just what she needed.
Jesus alone has “the words of eternal life,” (John 6:63, 68), and I am convinced that if He but give me crumbs (or if all I have in my cupboard is “crunchy PB, cream of tartar and sardines), He will sustain me by these. God is honored when we are faced with overwhelming circumstances and see little evidence of things changing, YET we continue to come to Him asking for help, grace to believe Him and faith to trust His sovereign wisdom.
The second thing that stood out to me in this passage is Jesus’ puzzling response to the woman. I remember reading that passage years ago wondering why Jesus would push her away or try to discourage her from looking to Him for help. “I know You are perfect and righteous Lord, but this doesn’t seem very loving of You,” I thought to myself.
It was some years later I heard a couple sermons explaining this passage for which I’m grateful corrected my thinking. While Jesus gave this woman the clear impression that He didn’t want to deal with her, inwardly He was cheering her on, “Keep coming to me, keep seeking me. I will help you; I reward your faith!”
Jesus’ desire to show Himself strong on her behalf was expressed in a mind-boggling way that tested the strength of this woman’s longing for Him. What if this woman had heard Jesus say, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs,” and just walked away discouraged and disheartened? She would have missed out on the Lord’s encouragement and deliverance!
How the Lord longs to bring help and grace and show mercy in our trials and afflictions! Do not mistake the Lord’s silence for an absence of His love for you if you are in Christ. Do not walk away or give up seeking the Lord when you don’t hear His voice or see His deliverance! He is there and He is saying to you, “Keep coming to Me! Keep seeking me and I will help you!”
A friend of mine shared this great quote by John Piper with me today:
"No one ever said that they learned their deepest lessons of life or had their sweetest encounters with God, on the sunny days. People go deep with God when the drought comes. That is the way God designed it. Christ aims to be magnified in life most clearly by the way we experience Him in our losses." 2 Cor. 1:8-9 (John Piper)
It is in the deepest, darkest, hardest places in our lives that we are given an opportunity to see the tender mercies and compassion of our Father who “knows our frame and is mindful that we are but dust.” ~Psalm 103:14
And Jesus said of Himself in John 6:57, “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
So when your cupboard has nothing but crunchy PB, sardines and cream of tartar in it, remember the example of the Syrophoenician woman who knew in her heart that even “crumbs” from the hand of the Lord Jesus were better than life without Him. Father, help me to feast on Your Son all the days of my life!