Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cooking: A Relationship With My Knife

I just started a six-week culinary course. I am very excited about this new adventure because I don't really know much about cooking and I'm eager to learn. 

But I had no idea that cooking would feel a little like dating and that I’d be in a relationship with my knife.

And I didn’t realize I’d want to break up with cooking before the second date. 

Just like any first date, the evening started out so promising. A thunderstorm was brewing and I congratulated myself on arriving ahead of the storm. But I was at the wrong location and by the time I found the class even though I had an umbrella, I was soaked.

Everyone in the class was already wearing their aprons and nametags and somehow no one was wet or disheveled like I was. 

My high hopes were sinking lower by the minute when I couldn’t even figure out how to untie my apron that was rolled into the size of a croissant with the strings tucked tightly inside. 

Our first task was to chop an onion. As the chef demonstrated the wonder of a new ceramic knife, he cautioned us to be careful if we dropped it since it would shatter. 

He told us a few lucky stations would be equipped with ceramic knives.

Hoping I could handle just a regular old knife, I was dismayed to see that indeed my station contained a ceramic knife. 

The chef complimented everyone’s skills but waved his knife in my direction. 

“First you should probably peel the skin off the onion,” he said. “We don’t really want to eat crunchy onions in our French onion soup.” 

I felt like all eyes were on me as I belatedly tried to strip off the skin. I imagined my cooking-mates making a mental note to avoid eating whatever I contributed.

We then learned to dice, chop and julienne carrots, potatoes, celery and leeks. Respectful of my ceramic knife, I carefully worked. Everyone seemed to be successful with their knives while the chef pointed out my errors. 

I wasn’t holding the knife correctly. I chopped at the wrong angle. I wasn't holding my hands in the proper position. He said I was at risk for losing a few fingers.

Finally he said, “Your problem is that you are not controlling the knife, the knife is controlling you.”

Trying to control my deflated spirits (instead of worrying about my knife), the chef said to me, “Hey, cooking is supposed to be fun!”

The chef was right. I wasn't having much fun. 

I questioned why I ever thought I could take a step outside my comfort zone and learn to cook. 

I doubted that I was made for cooking and figured maybe I should just give up.

I wondered how this could be a beginner's class since it seemed like all of my classmates already knew how to cook. 

But I had to stop. Stop comparing myself to everyone else.

To salvage the night and learn something new, I knew I had to view this course as an opportunity for growth, purpose and adventure.

But isn't that how I feel when I let God control my life instead of managing it on my own? 

I want to keep things safe and secure. 

I want to know the risks involved before I commit. 

I want to know how difficult it’s going to be and if it will turn out okay before I say yes. 

But that's not usually how God works. When he's in control of my life plan, he controls the outcomes. 

An adventure with God is not safe because he wants to make me brave. 

It’s not predictable because he asks me to trust him.

It’s not easy because he asks me to engage my faith.

The more I learn about his mysterious ways, the more he seems to be asking me to go beyond my ordinary. Step out of my normal and reach way on the other side of my usual. 

Instead of being careful, he wants me to face life with courage and move forward without knowing all the answers.

As in any relationship, there are days that make the heart soar high and nights that make the tears stream down.

But God promises to be there with me through it all.

For the rest of my cooking class, I tried to silence the whispers of my insecurities and tell myself that I did belong here. I was determined to learn how to cook. It was just going to take me a little more practice.

I zested some limes for our homemade pico de gallo and sautéed onions for soup. 

My hair was a casualty of the sizzling onions, though since the pungent aroma enveloped it.

I went home and tried to wash the onion fragrance out of my hair. I got in bed, pulled the covers up over my head and cried. But I wasn't going to quit.

And still all I could smell were the onions. 

I’ve spent the week thinking about cooking and knives. It’s complicated. 

But complicated relationships are often worth pursuing. 

So I'm not going to break up with cooking. 

I'm not going to let my knife control me. 

I'm going back for my next class.

And maybe I’ll even be ready for an exclusive relationship with my knife by the second date. 

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for Your Heart and Sarah Ann at Faith Along the Way. Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hanging Onto My Hat

My seven-year-old niece and I spent the day at an antiques market. She headed straight to a booth called the Paris Market, where she tried on a bunch of vintage hats. 

She’s loved wearing hats, even from babyhood, but I’ve never been much of a hat-girl. 

Except for a short phase when I was a teenager and wore a baseball cap everywhere as proof of my devotion to the Pittsburgh Pirates, which didn't do much for my blossoming femininity. During my college years I wore a red hat that made me feel like a princess since I had seen a photo of Princess Diana wearing something similar.

I still have the red hat. It sits on my dressmaker’s head atop my 1940s suitcase on display in my living room.

Baseball caps and princess hats are fun to try on, but sometimes I think about the hats I wear in my life's roles and relationships.

My responsibilities of being an aunt, sister, daughter, friend. 

My professional positions of writer, communicator and colleague.

My spare time pursuits of reader, baker and decorator. 

Some of these hats are bigger than I am and wearing them makes me feel kind of small.

God has been reminding me that contrary to what I might think, there isn’t just one wonderful, superb and exceptional way to fulfill all the roles and relationships he’s given me in my life. 

Because I want to do things competently and confidently, I end up worrying about what I'm doing right or wrong and focusing too much on myself. 

Just this week, once again I read the beautiful story in II Chronicles of King Jehoshaphat gathering the people of Israel for a battle and leading them in prayer. 

“Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (II Chr. 20:12)

When I look beyond myself, I’m discovering that I’m an encourager, listener and supporter. And even though these might not be actual words, I'm also a persever-er, pray-er, hope-er. 

I'm trying on a new hat too.

I've always wanted to learn how to cook. I want to cook real meals that could taste delicious, instead of my very limited repertoire of one pasta dish, salads and quiche.

So I've registered for a six-week beginner’s culinary course. It's way outside my comfort zone but I'm excited to try something new.

As I've arrived at the mid-point of my life, I wonder if God has something more for me. He's been stirring things up. Getting my attention. 

As if he wants me to realize that there are new chapters of my life still to write and he invites me to join him as together, we write new passages. 

A while ago, 
I started looking for God in the middle of my ordinary days. And I started seeing him. Everywhere. I saw him in the little details of my life and I watched him move a few mountains.

Over time, I noticed a subtle shift in how I was thinking about God and approaching the days of my life. 

I wanted to be right beside him so I could hear what he was thinking about me. I found myself eager to do things that scared me, stretched me and opened my heart.

My life started quaking. Cracks appeared in the stony walls around my heart. 

Uncertainty and possibility sparkled as I took a few risky footsteps of faith and began to hope.

I continue to be amazed at how perfectly this movement of my heart is tailored to me. 

I am extremely slow to adapt to change. I consider and contemplate for a long time. Spontaneous will never be a word to describe me.

But God knows this about me. 

I don’t think he’s bothered by it because so often he gives me just what I need. 

He gives me considerable amounts of time to think and pray and wait on him. 

So he can show me that even when my life feels stale and stationary, I can believe that God’s plans and purposes are still moving forward.

Following God is inexplicable and mysterious and strangely powerful and captivating.

Sometimes I want to tell him that I’ve waited here long enough and I’m ready to move on to the next place he has for me. But he seems to say, “Just trust me. When I’m ready to turn the page, I will.”

So I unpack my suitcase and hang up my hat for a while longer. 

But I’m prayerfully going to be ready to move on ahead at the drop of a hat.

I'm linked up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and with Sarah Ann at Faith Along the WayWill you join me there?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When Waiting Isn't Worthless

I’m waiting for the new curtain panels I ordered to arrive. The curtains now covering my sliding glass doors are too short. I thought I could make them work somehow since the store didn’t have the length I needed. And because, well, I loved them. 

They are a gorgeous silky pale mocha color. And when I noticed their style name on the package said Paris, I just knew they were the perfect panels to adorn my sliding glass doors. 

Except that they dangle aimlessly a foot and a half above the floor. 

To remedy this, I entertained some crazy DIY decorating ideas of hanging them from hooks tied with ribbons to drop them beneath the rod. 

Or lowering the rod that my brother-in-law drilled in the wall in six {hundred} places. 

Or even adding inches of fabric {that I had yet to buy} to the bottom. 

All because I didn’t want to bother waiting for the longer panels to arrive. 

It doesn’t seem worth it to put up with waiting these days when we can order online and ship overnight. Waiting seems like wasted time. When we can just make things happen ourselves, why tolerate waiting? 

But every time I've waited, I've learned priceless truths in the process. Waiting can unwrap a precious treasure when I relinquish my timeframe and I'm willing to welcome the wait. 

For God’s guidance and grace; his plans and purposes. For a relationship with God that's like nothing else I've experienced.

It’s in the waiting that I allow God to do the work that is so desperately needed in my life. 

But he promises to never leave me to wait alone or without provisions.

God reminds me of his presence through friends who speak his words, messages that arrive in my email box, and acts of kindness that have his fingerprints all over them.

When a friend sat across the table from me at lunch, listening to me talk about my waiting season, her affirming words sunk deep into my heart. “I think you’re exactly where God wants you to be,” she said. “I love watching the work he is doing in your life.”

When an email arrived from an author I admire, replying to a comment I’d left on her blog and she told me she was praying for me, it felt like a love-note from God sent to me with the return address of heaven stamped in the corner.

When a coworker unexpectedly bought my lunch and I looked at her surprised, she said, “You deserve to be treated sometimes.” And I felt as if God were speaking those words to my soul on a day when I most needed to hear them.  

Over the past few months I’ve heard my friends tell me they're not sure about trusting God with their dreams.

A friend says she thinks she's too old to have a family. 

Another friend tells me she's at life’s midpoint, losing her job and she still isn't sure what her talents are and what she wants to do. 

Yet another friend says it's been years since she went to school yet she wants to take a class and write her story.

As I listened to their words, I told my friends about God-sized dreams -- these dreams God whispers to our hearts. 

I told them I'm following some God-sized dreams of my own and it’s never too late for God to work out his purposes. 

I told them God’s plans might look different than they originally thought when they dreamed of their families or careers, but I've found that at a much later date than we think is possible, it's still worth the wait. 

I know this because I'm different than I was when I first started my journey. 

I'm now willing to trust and yield and hope. 

I'll pray and ponder and seek. 

And most of all, I want to commit and give and love. 

It's during my waiting seasons that I've realized that waiting isn’t worthless when it prepares my heart for the purposes God has for my life. 

Waiting isn’t wasted when it produces perseverance and then hope. 

Waiting isn’t unwanted when I’m praying to be made ready.

Whether or not I can ever say that I’ve arrived at my God-sized dreams, I know that I want to never stop experiencing God. 

I think it’s in the waiting that I discover that what I’m waiting for isn’t really my dream. But it's while I'm waiting I realize that I want the nearness of God more than I want any of my dreams. 

For now, I'm still very patiently waiting for my new curtains. The store said they should be here in two weeks. Since my couch is hiding the short ones hanging up now, they’re mostly out of my sight. 

In the meantime, I brought some pillows in from my other rooms to cozy up my couch. 

I thought it would be nice to have a soft, snug spot to sink into while I wait. 

I'm linking up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart and Sarah Ann at Faith Along the Way. Will you join me?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Trust When You Can't See What's Ahead

The air was so thick from the firecrackers and smoke bombs my nephew was lighting to celebrate the Fourth of July that I had to go inside. My hair had the distinct whiff of charred hot dogs. 

And I’m a little particular about my hair. 

I thought maybe my hair could keep its fresh fruity scent if I just stayed inside when the big smoke bombs went off. I told my niece to keep me updated on the smoke situation. She’d open the door and shout the all-clear when the smoke had blown away.

But she kept calling me to come back out since she didn’t want me to miss the festivities. I knew it was impossible for my clothes and hair not to smell like a fireworks factory so I might as well just stay outside and {try to} enjoy it.

With all the smoke and noise and sparkly lights, there was no doubt it was the Fourth of July.

I sometimes wish that’s how I could hear from God. Lots of smoke and a great big bang would be nice. So I’d have no doubt that it’s him. 

I wish he’d let me in on all of his plans for me. I want specifics, details and instructions. I long for grandly painted arrows on the lane of my life, pointing the way. Just so there's no mistake.

But that’s not how God works. He unrolls just enough of the roadmap for what I need to know to round the next corner of my life. 

But I’m a girl who likes to make sure my bags are packed with everything I know I’ll need to make my trip comfortable. Along with a few other things {extra shoes, for sure} that I think might come in handy. 

Going against my inborn planner-personality, I think God is showing me that I can't anticipate what's down every pathway. I can't prepare for the detours. And I can't possibly predict what's up ahead.

But one step at a time {in my high heels, of course}, God is gently beckoning me to come on board for the trip of a lifetime. 

That’s how he invites me to trust that he knows what he’s doing. 

For a live-on-the-edge kind of faith life. An awe-inspired front row seat to experience God's wonders. A hopeful expectancy of seeing his work all around me. But even when I catch sight of his plans, the questions remain.

I wonder if I could have taken a shorter, faster route instead of this way that’s filled with roundabouts and uncertainty. 

I wonder if the not-knowing is what fashions hope, adorned in its lovely promises and beautiful dreams.

I wonder if my life looks a little different than I imagined it would because it’s God’s wonderfully unique invitation to know him. 

But if I hadn’t traveled this sometimes arduous, sometimes adventurous avenue, I wonder if I would have missed all the wonder.

The wonder of seeing God change me from the inside out. 

The wonder of seeing answers to heartfelt prayers, knowing that only God could be involved.

The wonder of seeing God’s fingerprints on the miniscule details and the monumental decisions of my life. 

When I think the clock of my life is moving so slowly through the days, yet ticking off the years so quickly, God is not fazed by my protests. 

It’s not too late. He’s not in a hurry. 

He asks me to trust his timing. 

To wait patiently for his ways that aren’t anything like the way I would do things. They're beyond what I could imagine.

And that’s when I see it. 

A glimmer. Up ahead. 

The clouds break. The lights are shining in the distance. 

I see them sparkling. I hear God whispering.

I see you. I hear you. I’m working out my purposes for your life because I know exactly what you need. My timetable is perfect for you.

This is my life's purpose. To know God better, richer, deeper. I could live every day learning something new about his character and never reach the end of all there is to experience about him. 

This truth holds all the answers to my questions. 

This is the why. The because. The how

And these wonders that he’s doing in my life speak louder than any firecracker.

The smoke finally clears. The neighbor's house across the street comes back into view.

My niece and nephew’s Fourth of July street-side exhibition has fizzled out. 

The snaps, snakes and sparklers are all smoldering now. The last rocket and candle have been fired off. 

All of us gathered on the front porch clap and cheer for the spectacular show that lit up the night sky. The holiday is over.

And I head home to wash my hair.

I'm linked up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. I'm also linked up with Sarah Ann at Faith Along the Way. Join me!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Losing Independence to Find Freedom

The flickering and buzzing sounds were coming from the mud room of my sister’s house. Convinced it was some sort of bug, my nephew was armed with a broom and my niece had the flyswatter, ready to capture, squash or crush. We ducked as it came careening toward us, its wings zapping against the ceiling.

Zooming kamikaze-like across the house from window to window, it searched for a way out. My niece called to her brother, “Oh, it’s a dragonfly! Don’t kill it!” 

Since the bug was not in my house, I had no reason to be my usual frantic self so I calmly watched the proceedings from a safe distance.

My nephew put down the broom and ran for a cup to trap it. With my niece bravely holding up the blind so my nephew could capture it against the window, I watched them work to trap the dragonfly. So they could set it free. 

My niece told her brother to hurry, hurry as they ran to open the door. 

Away it flew.

To freedom.

Freedom is my theme for this year. But back in January when I chose it as my one word for 2014, I didn’t realize how hard it would be to actually find the freedom I was hoping for. 

I wanted freedom from what gets in the way of my friendships and relationships. 

I wanted freedom from perfection and fear and discouragement. 

I wanted freedom from worry and disappointment. 

But freedom isn’t gained without great effort and cost. 

I’m realizing that God sometimes chooses to work in ways that are quite the opposite of how I’d expect him to. But how could I ever set limits for God? 

I've experienced his wonders that are lavishly beyond what I could ever dream of. Meant-for-me miracles that left me wonderstruck.

His ways are out of the ordinary so I can experience the extraordinary.

His ways are mysterious so I can live in faith.

His ways are not safe so I can take hold of courage.

His ways are not predictable so I can trust wholeheartedly.

So I’m giving up my independence to find freedom in depending on God.

It’s giving up the right to set timelines for my life, especially when I think it's too late to pick up some of the pieces of my life that are hanging by a thread. It’s knowing I don’t have to control my circumstances and manipulate my future. 

Although it might be opposite of how I would think, it’s actually quite freeing. 

When I relinquish control of things I can’t control anyway, I’m free to find peace I can’t possibly explain, believing in the sovereignty of God. He is working even when it’s still and silent. 

I keep believing. Because that’s what faith is. 

It's believing before

So when I look back after, I’m amazed that he’s been working out his purposes all along. 

God tells me that his peace that surpasses all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

Even though it seems contradictory, when I allow God to guard my heart, I have the freedom to live the kind of life he wants me to. 

I’m not afraid to go deeper. I trust him with my heart because, after all, this life is not my own.

And that is hope that promises great freedom.

Freedom. For a dragonfly. And for me.

I'm linked up with my friends at Holley Gerth's place at Coffee for your Heart. Join me there!