Wednesday, July 20, 2016

White Sauce and Other Things to Serve with Love

Bible, journal, and The New York Times Cook Book.

I haven't watched Sesame Street since I was a child, but wasn't there a game called something like "One of these things is not like the other?" Surely it would be the cook book. Yet, this morning it belongs. It really does. I know many women are on their knees asking questions like, "How do I pray for my husband? How do I pray for my children?" I'm on my knees asking, "What do I do with the chicken thawing on my kitchen counter?"

Thing is, I'm about as seasoned as a roast in a crock pot when it comes to praying for my husband and children. It's not hard. I used to think it was, and I would have gotten on the wagon and read all the Christian how-to books that my friends were reading except there was something that didn't make sense to me about that. Something didn't sit right in my spirit. Now I know what it was.

The Bible is to prayer what the New York Times Cookbook is to food.

Scripture is full of how to pray and what to pray for my husband and children. It's as basic as Bechamel, the white sauce which The New York Times Cook Book says is the basis for countless dishes.

I didn't know about Bechamel Sauce back then, but I did know that the Bible must have the key ingredients for something as basic as how to pray for my household. The inside covers of my Bible look like well-used recipe cards titled Children and Husband.

Praying for my husband is easy.

Praying for my children is easy. 

God makes it easy.

It's no different than praying for friends and other things.

God tells me, word for word, how to pray and what to pray for them. If I prayed nothing other than what is written in His word for my husband and for my children, that would be enough.

The trickier part-the part which needs to be learned and taught-is more than flour, butter, and milk.

It's the part which might read something like, "Heat the butter, add the vegetables and cook five minutes. Add the water, wine and seasonings and simmer five minutes. Wrap the salmon in cheesecloth and place in the boiling liquid. Remove the salmon carefully, unwrap and serve with Bechamel Sauce."  It's called Poached Salmon Steak-for real. Page 246 in The New York Times Cook Book. 

To me, right now, God calls it, "Teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste,  homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed."

"What do I serve this with?" I can't help ask the Lord.

"Fruit." He takes me seriously; with a holy smirk.

When I stand in line at the grocery checkout, I read the covers of the magazines in the racks, and no wonder the average woman feels too busy and stressed to put dinner on the table. Nearly every headline tells us that we are! I get stressed just reading about how I should be stressed.

We must be stressed if nearly every magazine tells us how to handle stress.

We must be too busy to enjoy taking our time in the kitchen if nearly every recipe on the rack tells us how to make dinner in 20 minutes. I'm not ready to whip out the cheesecloth, but still.

Stress releases adrenaline, and isn't the release of adrenaline the body's response when it feels the need to run? To flee fast and fight hard?

It is, and God has a few things to say about this.

He says, "Come to Me, and I will give you rest."

He says, "'In quietness and confidence is your strength.' But," He continues, "you would not, and you said, 'No, for we will flee on horses...'" (Isaiah 30:15).

He also says, "Perfect love casts out all fear."

That's it.

Perfect love.

Here it is. The simplest counsel-basic. God's love.

And I'm thinking, "Here it is. The simplest counsel which is too hard-impossible-to follow except when following-worshiping-the One who gives it."

His word supplies my next thought, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

He visits like this.

I come to Him with a suitcase for a heart and He helps me unpack.

He rummages through the things I used to put on, and tosses them over His shoulder into oblivion, saying, "These don't fit you anymore!" Then He unfolds what I folded into my heart long ago, "Take off the old man, and put on the new."

His word, it still fits.

He brings into my thoughts what's packed in my heart. And this is how He changes-renews-my mind.

Fear doesn't fit me. Stress pinches here, tucks there and fits ill.

I've grown, increased, and these days fear is too small. So is stress. I still try to put them on. It's an old habit. But I find I'm more comfortable in His righteousness.

His love fits.

I'm reminded this morning that the question we should be asking isn't how do I pray for my husband and my children, but how do I love my husband and my children.

I've never before brought a cookbook into prayer time. I've planned meals and written grocery lists while praying, but that's different. That's just making notes for later so that I can stay focused on now.

But this-this cookbook? It's 713 pages, and half of them have fallen out. The spine is fragile. The binding glue is flaking. It belonged to my mother, was published in 1961 and not a single recipe has the words "quick," or "simple" or  "fix it and forget it" in the title.

I can't remember the last time I followed a dinner recipe, but after 27 years cooking for my husband and children I've run out of ideas.

Creative juices are bone dry in my kitchen, lately.

Chicken thaws on the counter.

I rummaged through a stack of old cookbooks, found this gem, and now it lays open in the Poultry section, next to Titus 2 because last night's meal was the leftover of pathetic and I'm middle aged.

What does this have to do with anything? One word. I looked it up the other day and was comforted to read that though my senses are in overdrive and my nose wrinkles, lately, at certain cooking smells which I used to call fragrances, I'm not losing my mind.

In the early years, I made my own pasta, stopped just short of grinding my own wheat, and didn't have but a few odd cans of food in my pantry because I cooked fresh.

In the middle years, I bought Kraft Macaroni and Cheese-well, not for dinner-but I've cooked my share of the "slap it together and serve it up in 20 minutes " kind of meals.

Now? I'm on page 194 in the poultry chapter.

Thing is, I'm married to a meat eater. We're like Jack Sprat and his wife. I need divine inspiration because without it, poor Jack Sprat's plate is near to empty and I'm asking God how to love my husband in this season when he lovingly asks me nearly every evening if he can pick up dinner on the way home so that I don't have to cook and, I suspect, so that he can eat well.

"Lord?" I bend over the chicken recipe.

"I cooked fish on a beach."

"And the Father commissioned an angel to cook raisin cakes for Isaiah," I offer.

Then I remember another little cookbook in the pile I rummaged through earlier. "I cooked Abigail's Fig Cake back in the day when I sweetened only with honey."

"Ha! You did!" He exclaims, and then reminds me of when I concocted Healthy Brownies. I scribbled that recipe on page 246 of Deep In The Heart, recipes from "families...friends...and fellow Texans." I marked the page with a pink paperclip and I recall substituting 1 cup of honey for the 2 cups of sugar, and adding dried berries instead of chocolate chips and baking it just above raw, just below done. Gooey.

Then, "Ah, Lord." I pause tender.

"Hmm?" He waits.

"You served bread and wine-supper-the night You were betrayed."

Love serves.

I know what I'm going to do with the chicken.

written by: Carolyn-Elizabeth Roehrig