For much of 12 years, I cooked for 5 people multiple times each day and every week of the year. No questions asked. This began at a very young age. Part of my story equals a "trapped" existence and much of my bitterness to overcome, revolved around the kitchen, where I had spent the majority of my teen years.
While others were enjoying concerts and Friday nights with their friends, my evenings… mornings, afternoons… etc were spent prepping the carrots, beans, rice, and potatoes for the next meal. And often kale, wheat berries, and flax oil as well for only some apparent reasons.
For so long I have tried not to even glance back on my years of natural and somewhat forced training in the kitchen because of the sore spot it has been in my heart for all this time. Sheldon and I attempted to cook in the kitchen together on one of our first dates and I quickly realized that we would have to revisit this at a later date because I was testy on being questioned in my methods and he was just confused of why pancakes made me so irritable. We have ventured down the story-telling path now, of course, and even back into the kitchen. Successfully, I might add. But the kitchen reminded me of my wounded heart and I wasn't ready yet to accept the emotional scars as a gift.
BUT GOD in His infinite wisdom and mercy, brought me recently to a new found joy in a place that once embodied home in a way that felt neither comfortable or loving. He has begun to redeem the kitchen as a latter way of bringing more healing to an already overjoyed heart that has known sorrow and now enormous victory!
What I mean to say is… it's time that this feminist (in the true and most blessed meaning of the word) returns to her kitchen.
I remember so long ago, before the hardest days had come, our table was KNOWN for the kindred spirit moments that make up the most memorable of gatherings of loved ones. I remember feasts of stir fried veggies and chicken breasts and bowls and bowls of yummy spaghetti, passed and passed again around a hearth of inner wealth. A mantel of love and acceptance. It was called "Home Group" and it was held in our dining and living room but to me it should have been called "heaven" because hosting it felt like we were there visiting, even if for just a few hours every Tuesday evening.
The house always smelled good on Tuesday evenings and the sound of my mama cheerfully talking as she pulled the corded phone around the corner to chat while she cooked, used to make me smile and feel warmed inside, even as I played in the adjacent room. Another benefit to Home Group being at our house was that it was always sparkling clean one night a week. That just seemed fun to me. And still does.
People would laugh, share stories of their week apart, and sometimes become more serious than ever as one person declared change in their life that we all knew would alter life as they knew it in one way or another. Everyone was welcome at our table and many people, young and old, would drop in and were hemmed in, as if they were meant to be there in that minute… and for a perfect reason.
Sweet tea. There was always my mama's incredible and overly sweetened, Southern Sweet Tea.
… and everyone enjoyed a glass. Or 12.
I was so young then. I may sound from that recollection as if I were an adult among the fold but no, I was only 7 and it still felt like I belonged.
I want to bring back the table. The community. The heart felt taste of something good no matter what this world confronts us with. And now, because of the dark years faced only a twilight or two after the good ones, I know what I'm doing in the kitchen. And there's the blessing in disguise.
Because let's be real… Anyone who has known me well, or maybe even just a little, can guess that I'd prefer to stand in the kitchen and talk, over my hands actually getting dirtied in the bowl of flour or by pulling chicken from those wretched bones. Some of this, I'm figuring out as I explore my past feelings of distaste for the kitchen, has simply been the emotional tie to the years it so readily connects itself with, the abuse of days gone by.
BUT GOD is doing a new thing, as I've already mentioned, and this time He's combining my love for the work He does with hearts around a table and the ever present help He was to have me garner such knowledge around organic oats and natural cane sugar syrup while fighting back tears of desperate longing to just "get out." He's combining them in a healing wholeness that can only be described as messy… slightly confusing… and altogether lovely.
It's romantic, really. To bring us back, He and I, to places that we've been together and where I've so clearly felt and needed His presence. I believe that it's all in effort to bring others in again to this same space of divine love and creation.
I want to create new. From the old. With skills from within and in spite of.
Nothing is for naught and my time spent over the stove and clearing dishes again and again were all for a reason… because just as my heavenly groom wooed me as a child around cutlery and caringly placed dinnerware… and held me through meal after meal of lack and want as a teenager… now as a young adult, He says once more to my yearning spirit...
"Come away with me, dine with me, and bring others into this same heavenly existence that so beautifully depicts my heart for them in their daily life, around the table, tasting the good things and seizing the moment and their taste buds for all I can offer both of them."
(Photos were all taken in Moldova - Month 3 of my World Race - Photographer: Ali Kendrick)
So I say yes. Yes to the table of my childhood, so dear to my heart. Yes to the table of my youth, so seemingly hopeless. And now yes to the table of THIS SEASON. So bright. So connected to both eras of my past. And yes to the way it will bring my loved ones and I closer together and closer to the presence of a God that never left my side. He is faithful and He has a promise to fulfill in me.
… and besides, I know how to cook so I might as well explore that a little. I'm sure a few people won't mind eating the rewards of a healing heart at "home" in the kitchen.
How has cooking brought healing into your life? Any thoughts into God redeeming your past for future growth? Please comment below and share your heart! I'd love to hear.
PS A big thank you to Shauna Niequist for writing the book "Bread & Wine" and for (in)courage.me and their book club called "Bloom" for the intrinsic need they helped to bless in me when I dug deep into the pages of this summer's read and found a ripe blossom in my life ready and willing to be pruned. Soon I will pick it and throw it in a vase but one step at a time :)