Searching for Satisfaction

Mealtime was the best part of the day when I was growing up. Mama always had delicious food on the table, and we knew to be seated before daddy so we could begin as soon as he sat down. We shared food three times a day every day. Saturday night was a special night, so we ate in the dining room. The fare was almost always steak cooked to perfection on the grill daddy built on our closed in back porch. The smell of charcoal drove the neighbors crazy during the winter, but daddy was determined to enjoy a very rare steak every Saturday night. He was in charge of the grill and the fare on Saturdays.

Sunday lunches were also eaten in the dining room. They were mama’s cooking at its very best. Pan-fried chicken with rice and gravy was my favorite meal, but I also loved her Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mama was the gravy master. The streets of heaven may be paved in gold, but the rivers and streams are definitely filled with her amazing gravy. Mama had a gravy for every meat. Deliciously rich brown gravy accompanied her roast beef, and I can taste it anytime I encounter a Parker House Roll.

All mama’s breads were homemade. She made biscuits, cornbread, and wonderful yeast bread each week, but her special homemade yeast rolls were for special occasions. Her Parker House Rolls would literally melt in my mouth. She put a slice of ice-cold butter inside each before baking  them to perfection. I could eat a dozen in a sitting. Food was mama’s way of expressing herself, and she expressed herself beautifully three times a day.

I awoke every morning to the aroma of her handiwork. Coffee was the first smell to come down the hallway from the kitchen, and bacon and/or sausage followed closely behind. I loved to guess what might be on the table. My favorite breakfast was a bacon and egg sandwich grilled in butter. I also loved sausage links and pancakes smothered in syrup and melted butter. Whatever we had, it was always great. I don’t remember ever eating anything I didn’t enjoy except when daddy was cooking seafood one Saturday night and made me eat an oyster. It went down my throat, but it didn’t stay in my stomach for long. Daddy didn’t force me to eat anything else after that.

Mealtime in my childhood home affected the way I look at food and the way I feel about eating alone. For the past twelve years, I’ve eaten many meals alone. It never has, and probably never will, feel right. I find myself munching and grazing as soon as I finish a meal. I know I’m searching for the satisfaction I got from those childhood meals, but it was not food alone that satisfied my cravings. The fellowship around the table is what made those times so filling. Mama’s food was amazing, but sitting down with my family and spending an hour eating and talking allowed the food to settle and satisfy.

We always had desert when everyone was finished. Mama brought coffee for herself and daddy, but we usually had a glass of cold milk with our delicious sweet treat. I left the table with a sweet sense of satisfaction that I don’t find when I eat alone. I have put on some extra pounds over the past year, and most the calories have come from searching for the satisfaction I felt when I sat at the table with my family. Things have changed drastically since the fifties and sixties, and it’s hard to get two people to find time to sit down for a meal. It’s important to take time at least once a week to sit together and share a meal with loved ones.

The little girls are in the habit of coming to my room for breakfast each morning, and I love having a little taste of that sweet table fellowship I remember from my childhood. The picture is from Leave it to Beaver. We certainly weren’t the Cleaver family, but we did feel a little like them three times a day 🙂

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

A Feeling More Filling Than Food

There are four lectionary readings for Thanksgiving Day. Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 100, Philippians 4:4-9, and John 6:25-35. Together, the scriptures form a beautiful image of gratitude and joy. As we gather around the table with our families today, I pray that we will take thankful to the next level and remember the Bread of Life and Living Water God sent to a starving and thirsty world. It is far more filling than the best food in this world. The people wanted, and still want, food. Sustenance is essential, but Christ offers something much better.

John 6:35-38 The Message – Eugene Peterson

When they found him back across the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free.“Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.” To that they said, “Well, what do we do then to get in on God’s works?” Jesus said, “Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God’s works.” They waffled: “Why don’t you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what’s going on? When we see what’s up, we’ll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus responded, “The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world.” They jumped at that: “Master, give us this bread, now and forever!” Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don’t really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don’t let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.

Christ bids those who search for food to seek something better. He knew the importance of being fed and the frustration of being hungry, but He also knew that the Bread of Life and the Living Water He offers give new meaning to hunger and thirst. They take thankful to a level beyond anything I can comprehend on my own. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I can take the Bread of Life and Living Water and share it with others. The more I share, the more I have. True thanksgiving makes me want to make a difference in the lives of others and helps me love in a way that changes everything. I love the wonderful food during the holiday, but I love the fellowship even more. Sharing Christ’s precious love with those in my path is the best of all. It is a feeling much more filling than food.

Bread of Life

Living Water (Nae's Nest)

A Beautiful Thing!

As I was eating gelato with friends yesterday, I said very seriously, “Toasted pistachios are a beautiful thing!!” We all laughed out loud, and I’m sure those walking by must have thought we were a little nutty 🙂 I looked at the ladies surrounding me and realized friendship is a beautiful thing. I am blessed with more than my share of dear friends, and I pray I never take any of them for granted. I also have three amazing sisters who are my dearest and oldest friends. God manifests His love in the laughter and tears of friends who share my path.

I had lunch on the river today with my dear friend Robbie. As we shared gelato afterward, I told her I felt nineteen again. I explained that God took my heart back to a time of innocence that renewed my faith and reminded me that I am still who I was at nineteen and always will be. It may seem an odd analogy, but I feel as though God picked me right up off the path and put me back down right before the intersection where I took a terrible turn away from Him.

I’m very thankful for the lessons I’ve learned over the past four decades, and I’m thankful for the lessons this week that reminded me that friends who hear my heart and love me with an honest openness are as good as it gets. My path has been overflowing this week. The connections and reconnections God placed in my path were just what my wounded heart needed. There is nothing better than having friends who share the pain and the joy of the journey. It is a beautiful thing indeed!

With Robbie on the River

Clearing & Clarity

The scales say I’m down two pounds, but my heart and head say I’ve lost even more. I haven’t fasted in a very long time, so I forgot the clarity that clearing food from the table brings. I didn’t fast yesterday, but I did eat considerably less than I normally do. A beautiful side effect was that what I did eat was delicious. I imagine my taste buds had become numb with all the food I was eating because I never allowed myself to be truly hungry. I mentioned that yesterday, and I see it as the heart of the lessons God has for me this week.

Clarity comes from clearing away, and it was just what my heart and body needed. I am surprised by the satisfaction and the clarity that allows my heart and mind to be more focused upon God. My prayers are different, and I find they are even more powerful than when I fast. When fasting, I think of food and the fact that I am very hungry. That makes my prayers more fervent and gives a sense of sacrifice, but I like the feeling of having time and focus much better. That gives greater intimacy which is what God and I both desire.

So often, with God and in conversations with others, there is a rushed feeling that keeps intimacy at bay. Clarity is lost because my heart and mind are divided. I love having time to stop and enjoy both the food and the conversations God places in my path. Both make me feel lighter in spirit. Clearing the path makes traveling so much easier, and I would say that’s what the Garcinia Cambogia did for me yesterday.  I can also feel a difference in the way my clothes are fitting, so I’d say the results are great.  A day can make a big difference, and I look forward to seeing what’s yet to come.

image from Sitkins International
image from Sitkins International

Chocolate Lessons:)

God used chocolate to show me the importance of spirit when connecting to others. As I gathered with the ladies at church last night for the annual Ladies’ Chocolate Night, I felt the sweet spirit of kindred hearts enjoying not only the delicious treats, but also one another’s company. There was a sense of unity and love that left me full and sweetly satisfied as headed home. I didn’t imagine I would get any sleep because I don’t do caffeine, and I had a lion’s share of it along with loads of sugar with all the chocolates I enjoyed. I didn’t care if I slept or not; the loss of sleep was well worth the time of connectedness.

I got into bed and began to thank God and figured I would at least get in a lot of praying:) I started to pray, and the next thing I knew was sunlight coming in the room. I smiled and marveled at how God works. My body may have been full of caffeine, but my spirit was full of love and peace. It was a wonderful night by all accounts, and I thank God for placing me at the gathering. I even won a prize for knowing the most chocolate treats without hesitating. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed as much as I did last night, and that was better than the icing on all the cakes:)

God bid me to step back this week and take a good look at the connectedness in my life. I was so blessed by seeing all the powerful connections I have the privilege to enjoy. Feeling a beautiful connection is the best way to see ones that aren’t what they should be. God showed me clearly that spirit is the most important element in connection. I saw healthy and holy connections in His light and knew that I was where He wanted me to be. I love the way God uses all to teach and help me stay on the path He has in mind for me.

Walking in God’s kingdom is about making and maintaining positive connections. It is also about letting go of that which I know isn’t what He desires. The best way to determine what is and isn’t pleasing to Him is the presence or absence of His Holy Spirit. There is unity with His Spirit, and that’s just what I felt in the midst of the gathering last night. It’s what enabled me to sleep like a baby and feel like a kid. Both are excellent indicators that I’m on the right path:)

Chocoate Lessons

Sweet Friends

From Hunger to Hope

One of the best benefits of living with my son and his sweet family is feeding the girls. They love to eat and delight in food as we all should. The sounds coming from their little table feed my soul and encourage me to keep on cooking. The same should be true when we go to worship. God’s messengers take His Word and prepare a message much in the same way a cook prepares a meal. The raw material is all from God, just as the food is from the grocery store. What is done with it makes the message and the meal a delight or a miserable experience. I know His messengers must feel the joy I feel when the message is received in the same way those sweet little girls eat the meals I prepare for them:)

I am fortunate to have many friends who serve God’s Word faithfully each and every week. What a blessing to be surrrounded by such love. Both messages and meals must start with love as their main ingredient. I know that’s why the girls giggle and make sweet sounds of delight as they eat, and I know it is why I am so blessed by the messages God places in my path. If I prepared the exact same meals and forced them eat every bite, I don’t think I’d hear the same sounds:) The same is true for those messages. In my lifetime, I’ve heard some messages that left me feeling overstuffed or empty, but I am fortunate to be well fed when it comes to messages now. I’m eating in God’s kingdom in a wonderful way! The challenge in preparing and delivering a message or a meal is making sure that those you serve are filled and feeling better when they get up from the table.

God’s table is like all tables, and messages delivered by faithful servants sate my appetite for God’s Word and make me want even more. I could go to the restaurants of world reknown chefs and write down all the ingredients for their famous dishes, but I doubt I could come up with the same wonderful presentation. It isn’t about trying to be like a chef or minister I enjoy. It is about being inspired. When I come away from a powerful message, it makes me want to go to God’s Word and dig in myself. When I eat an amazing meal, I want to go to my own kitchen and experiment. It’s the feeling I pray we all take with us as we come away from a Sunday morning message. A good message, like a good meal, leaves me with the desire for more.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” KJV

Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep, and that is what we all must do. If I only ate on Wednesdays and Sundays, I couldn’t make it through the week. The same is true when it comes to God’s Word. His messengers prepare special meals for me every week, and I thank God for all of them. I listen to podcasts and watch live stream throughout the week, but more importantly, I’m inspired to get my Bible off the shelf and feed on God’s Word myself. I love worshipping with others for the same reason I love eating with others. I love others:) I also like to have alone time with God and feed upon His Word with Him. A dinner for two is also very important to schedule!

Enjoy God’s Word today and everyday and make sure that you spend time listening to God’s messengers with fellow believers by your side. Take what is offered in love with love, and you will be beautifully filled. Come like a food critic to analyze and find fault, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and complain because it isn’t what you wanted, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and focus on the music playing or church décor, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and leave because someone is there with whom you will not eat, and you’ll miss eating in His kingdom now. Come eagerly anticipating what’s coming and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come thankful to see others there and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come and let the music complement the message and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come wondering how the beautiful Word of God will be served today and enjoy eating in His kingdom now!

How we come to the table makes all the difference in His Word. I can’t wait to see all God has in store for me today and everyday. His Word is the finest fare in His world, and I know He delights as His faithful messengers serve it up in ways that glorify Him and feed His sheep. The world is starving for His Word, so I thank all those who spend the week preparing their hearts to serve His Word in a way that turns the world’s hunger in hope. 

Knowing & Doing

God reminded me this week of the power of fasting when it comes to living the praying life. Fasting clears the mind and helps focus the heart on God. It is best when done voluntarily, but I tend to neglect the discipline of simplicity even though I know it is good for me. Knowing and doing should go together without effort, but that isn’t always true with me. Like Bugs Bunny, I know I shouldn’t do something, but I do it anyway. It’s the mantra of the spoiled child, and I am guilty of being a very spoiled child of God. I cannot pick and choose when it comes to obedience.

Feasting is so much more fun than fasting, and I have no problem diving into a feast. The good thing about a virus-imposed fast is that the very thought of food is abhorrent so there isn’t the temptation of eating. I’m as empty as I’ve ever been after this three-day bout with whatever it is that has hold of my digestive tract, but I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fasting and confession are similar in that they empty out and leave space for God. I certainly have more room for Him now than I did last week. The question is what will I put back now that the space is available. Will I rent it to God or give Him the title and the keys? I have the tendency to let God rent space or stay on as a beloved houseguest rather than give Him ownership. I am supposed to be His temple not His landlady or hostess, but I’ve clearly been the lady of this manor and a gracious hostess. If I am to be His servant, I have to give Him the keys and stop trying to manage that which He should be managing.

As children, we are taught to take charge and be independent. God teaches us to let go and trust Him. The world’s message and God’s message are always going to be at odds if I try to balance both in my life. The best balancing is finding Christ in the center of my heart and holding on to Him. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Mine has the tendency to be much too heavy. He knows that I have to come to the place of laying down mine before I can pick up His, and I thank Him for helping me get to that place of not only knowing, but also doing that this week. Lent is about emptying out and about doing what I already know to do. It’s a simple and very beautiful lesson in living the praying life that I truly needed.

When Sleep Won’t Come…

Neither Mylah nor Lillyann could sleep this afternoon. After wrestling with them for half an hour,  I told them if they didn’t take a nap they would have to play together while I read. Funny how not taking a nap motivated them to cooperate:) I didn’t read because I enjoyed watching them play instruments, draw, and play together.

Lillyann’s drawings amaze me. She drew an umbrella, a horse, a dog, and a little person. I was surprised in that I could tell what each was:) As they drew together, Lillyann complimented and encouraged little Mylah. Maybe not getting a nap is a good idea=) They will surely sleep well tonight after a long afternoon of playing.

Things are still in boxes, and our mattresses haven’t gotten here yet, but I told Pepe today that I was enjoying the closeness of camping on the floor. I love living with the kids and thank God for the sweet lessons in community. Family is special, and I love every moment I spend with mine. We are getting settled, and I look forward to being able to look back on this time of transition as a turning point in all our lives.

I’m learning this week to savor and enjoy each bite of life God places in my path. My journey has slowed and deepened as we’ve settled into a sweet routine. I cooked my first meal in the new house at lunch today. It was simple fare, but the sweet company made it very special. I look forward to many meals around the table and many days like today when I savor those sweet connections that make life worth living forever:)

Comforting Smells:)

Turkey soup is simmering on the stove, and apple cider is mulling beside it.  Both are comforting smells. Smell is the most basic sense and evokes a host of emotional responses that literally take us back in time. I love the smell of turkey cooking because it reminds me of Thanksgiving dinners with the family. Turkey is healing all by itself, but thoughts of family bring an added measure of comfort. Turkey soup warms right to my core and helps me sleep. There are chemical reasons for that, but there are also strong emotional ones.

Smell is associated with the most ancient and primitive part of our brain. The research in our reactions to smell shows that it isn’t the smell that brings a response as much as our expectation of the smell. If we are told the aroma we are going to smell is a pleasant one, we are likely to find it pleasant. The suggestion we receive sets our mind, and our expectation causes mood to improve. I love lavender and have it all around my house. It relaxes and soothes and helps me sleep. I wonder at that since it is a smell I associate with my father, and he brought anything but peace to me as a child.

I can vividly remember going into the bathroom when he was shaving. We only had one bathroom so there were often several in at one time, especially in the morning as we all got ready for school and work. Daddy used lavender aftershave, so it was present each morning. It’s a powerful smell and one that is used in aromatherapy for relaxation, so maybe the smell is stronger than the association:)

Cooking smells bring comfort, and vanilla is at the top of the list when it comes to scents that are found to be pleasing. Mama said she and her sisters would put a drop of vanilla extract behind their ears when they went on a date. It turns out they were wearing a fragrance men still find more alluring than expensive perfumes. Cinnamon and pumpkin pie are also known to get a man’s attention in a powerful way:)

There is a new fragrance out on the market, and it’s the scent of Pizza Hut. I suppose in the future, there just might be a turkey perfume and even one that smells like bread baking. I used to love the commercial where the ladies were out on the town and one was attracting men like crazy. She simply opened her purse, showed the others a slab of bacon, and said that it worked every time:) I believe there may be something to that!

Whatever the science behind smell, I know that I’m enjoying the smells coming from the kitchen right now. I love to cook, and I love to share my cooking with others even more. I guess I inherited my mama’s cooking gene. There was nothing Mary Sue liked more than cooking up and serving great food, and she did it better than anyone I know. When Mylah and Lillyann are playing in their little kitchen, I see a lot of mama in them and can smell the sweet memories of the love that went into every meal she prepared. I take a deep breath and sigh contentedly:)

Grace and Gravy:)

Thanksgiving breakfast was wonderful, as always. The hum of fellowship provides beautiful background music for the food that brings a flood of memories and sweet comfort. Wayne’s gravy is as close to mama’s as it gets, so I feel her sweet presence at the gathering. There’s just something about gravy that reminds me of grace. All the elements in a meal may be wonderfully prepared, but gravy that makes the meal special. God’s grace, like that wonderful gravy, covers all He so generously provides and leaves me feeling loved in a very special way.

Anytime I have grits and gravy together, which isn’t nearly often enough, I think of Evelyn Tooley Hunt’s poem “Mama is a Sunrise.”

“Mama Is a Sunrise”
by Evelyn Tooley Hunt

When she comes slip-footing through the door,
she kindles us
like lump coal lighted,
and we wake up glowing.
She puts a spark even in Papa’s eyes
and turns out all our darkness.

When she comes sweet-talking in the room,
she warms us
like grits and gravy,
and we rise up shining.
Even at nighttime Mama is a sunrise
that promises tomorrow and tomorrow.

I cannot read that poem without thinking of Mary Sue. Mama warmed me like grits and gravy every morning, and I thought of her today as I ate food lovingly prepared by those willing to get up a early and serve others. It’s what love is all about, and love is at the heart of grace and good gravy!

I don’t know or care if the streets of heaven are paved with gold, but I’m thinking the lakes are most likely filled with mama’s gravy. Grace and gravy have a lot in common, so I believe the connection can be made without offending any theologians. I know God would agree because He knows how gravy prepared with love makes a meal very special. He also knows His grace makes love special and warms my heart even more than mama’s grits and gravy:)

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