Sunday, December 27, 2009

Life, the Way God Makes It

-- Beloved recipes, generations old, passed down from mother to daughter to granddaughter to great granddaughter. Christmas makes me run to my old rusty, greasy recipe box to find the stained and spattered cards that hold the treasured family recipes for holiday favorites like scalloped corn, the brownies there are never enough of, and Christmas morning coffee cake. The flavors of home are inextricably intertwined with the feeling of being at home with the people I love most in the world. A piece of coffee cake, the way my mom makes it, can make the miles between us feel fewer and smaller and bring home-love closer. That means a lot to this grown-up girl who has been too many years without going home for Christmas. It's more than just a piece of cake, it's a beloved tradition that reminds me who I am and where I come from. All this cooking and baking during the last few weeks has more than once brought to mind a story I read somewhere about a little boy who was surprised to find out that most of the individual ingredients his mother put in the cake she was baking tasted just awful by themselves. He made funny faces, tried to wipe off his tongue, and looked at his mother with question marks in his eyes, wondering if she really knew what she was doing! He couldn't figure out how all those terrible-tasting things could go together to make something that tasted so good . . . something he loved so much. As I look back over the year that was 2009, all the things that have happened, good and bad, happy and sad, difficult and funny and bewildering, I think it is a lot like the baking I do during this season of celebration. Each day of 2009 was a mix of ingredients, some of which were as sweet and pleasing as the sugar that figures so prominently in the things I love to bake for my family. Sprinkled in here and there were some amazing blessings that tasted just like chocolate chips--sweet and melty and perfect in my mouth just as they were. Strangely enough, I never got tired of these yummy ingredients and it was easy to see why God would include them! However, I didn't only taste the sweetness of 2009, I also tasted experiences that were more like the dusty flavorless flatness of flour, or the metallic bite of baking soda. Some experiences were salty with tears and some were like the slimy thickness of raw egg and almost refused to be swallowed. At the time of those experiences, when I thought no one was looking, I'm sure I made faces at the unpleasant taste and wished I could untaste it and avoid it completely. I was like the little boy who couldn't understand how unpleasant, awful-tasting things could make anything good in the end. I have even had moments where I have asked God with huge question marks in my heart whether He really knew what He was doing (even in the midst of KNOWING the answer to that question was a resounding "YES.") Fortunately for the little boy, his mother knew how to put those ingredients together to make a delicious treat for the son she loved . . . fortunately for me, my Heavenly Father knows how to put all the ingredients of my life together to make something wonderful for the daughter He loves. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 NIV (emphasis mine) God wasn't any more perturbed by my questions than the little boy's mother was by her child's questions. They were both confident in the goodness of the end result and knew their "little ones" would soon learn for themselves that each ingredient was important, even necessary, and it really would turn out to be a delicious thing when the process was complete. That little story helps me. I know from years of learning to bake from my mother, even more years of baking from a point of view like the mom in the story, that you can trust the results will be good if you start with a good recipe, put the ingredients together in the correct proportions, and you follow the instructions in the right sequence. I know too, from years of experience watching God at work that His recipe is perfect, and His technique is flawless. He is an expert at turning nasty-tasting odds and ends of life's struggles into beautiful, delectable results as He mixes them with the sweetness of His love, the butter of His wisdom and the baking of His timing--He knows what He's doing. Whatever 2009 has held for us, we can trust God that He will bring good out of even the things that tasted awful. No matter how unpalatable some experiences have been, our Father can work wonders in His kitchen and make the end result taste like home. When we really get a hold of this truth, we can live gratefully and hopefully as we look forward to 2010, and the distance between earth and heaven will feel smaller when we taste life the way God makes it.
How have you seen God baking something worth celebrating out of the ingredients of 2009?

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