Lately, with all my extra “free time” (haha JK what is that?), I’ve been able to rediscover my love for cooking. Baking, too. There’s something magical in the process for me. You usually begin with a whole bunch of ingredients that by themselves can be kind of uninspiring. Plain kale? Who wants that? Raw sweet potatoes? Barf. Boiled chicken? There’s a reason there’s a whole cliche built around the boringness of boiled chicken. But together, with seasonings and spices, and the right amount of heat, they come together to complete a masterpiece. AND, even better, it doesn’t even have to be complicated to be yummy. Food is cool that way.
In rediscovering my love of cooking, I realized that cooking actually presents a pretty great metaphor for life. When you cook, you put together a myriad of seemingly random things and create something brand new in the process. Nothing looks or tastes as it once did before it was stirred or whisked or sautéed or baked. You, the cook, unlock each ingredient’s full potential. Without the others, though, food would be completely flavorless.
In life, we represent just one ingredient. Some of us are spicy, some sweet, some come with a touch of bitterness or a hint of savory. Some of us nourish and some please. Some are just plain comforting. And all of us change our flavor as we pass through different seasons. Alone, we are just okay, maybe even unremarkable. Luckily, we are never truly alone. We were created to exist in community with others. We all have people who influence us, who love us, who add “ingredients” to our lives, to make them more colorful. Also, each of us has unique gifts and experiences, the heating and cooling, the molding of who we are and what we believe to be true about life. These people and experiences complete our life recipe, which is fluid, ever-changing.
If you’ve followed me for a little while, you know I LOVED the book, Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. I found it to be uplifting and so, understandably, I was a little bit sad when I started to run into some articles criticizing the author. They made it sound like his message was basically, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you can get yourself out of any situation (in his case, extreme poverty) with enough hard work. But, I don’t think that was his message at all. His story focused on the people who stepped in, who supported him, who had high expectations for him, who built him up and encouraged him. Vance acknowledges that his life would be very different without his “helpers”.
I have a lot of people in my life that I can credit for my triumphs. I was blessed with an amazingly supportive and cohesive family, teachers that not only challenged me academically but taught me to ask the hard questions, friends that care about me and push me to do and be better, and a husband and children who inspire me to be patient and kind and generous. I simply wouldn’t be who I am without these people. They have helped me reach toward my true potential and encouraged me along the way.
This week has been a particularly heartbreaking one, both in my small corner of the world with the unexpected loss of a beautiful young soul, and on the global stage as well, with a storm that took away everything from many people. However, in the midst of these truly tragic events, there has also been beauty. People have put aside hard feelings towards one another and come together. They’ve given of their time and prayers and gifts and love and kindness. And no one will be as they were before.
Mr. Rogers’ mother was obviously a wise soul, and so now, I’m starting to think about how I can intentionally be a helper. Some places to start:
- I can encourage others in their spaces. I can watch them use their gifts and cheer them on as they add joy to this life. I can live in communion with them rather than competition. I can celebrate their successes and build them up when they struggle.
- I can serve others with my resources, financially, in love, with prayers, using my own gifts, whatever I am able.
- I can encourage self-confidence in my own sweet babies while teaching them to always choose kindness.
- I can be present for those I love, whether physically or from afar. But I can be available. I can send thoughtful texts and offer a shoulder to cry on. I can listen to problems and offer my advice. I can be a sounding board and a nonjudgmental ear and a soft place to land.
- And finally, when in doubt, I can cook a good meal. I can nourish my people. Because, food can help soothe a bit of heartache. And a meal shared with loved ones can lead to some pretty amazing healing.
All of us need helpers at one time or another. And all of us can be helpers. Figure out what unique “flavor” you bring to life and find a way to add to someone’s life recipe. Offer up your special ingredient and you’ll be part of a true masterpiece.
Special Giveaway Offer!!!
In an effort to be intentional about supporting and cheering on my people, I am so excited to introduce you to my dear friend, Erica Pelzel. This amazing woman and I grew up together in our home church. We sang our way through Sunday School (“Father Abraham…had many sons…” anyone?), and waded our way through the awkward adolescent years together, through church camp trips, through so many tears and joys, all of it. And when I was pregnant for the first time, we reconnected and I’ll never forget what she told me as I was freaking out about feeding and schedules and sleeping and all of that. She told me, quoting her midwife, “You will innately know what to do, that’s how it’s designed!” And she was SO RIGHT.
Now we are walking through motherhood and our own personal writing journeys together, even with 600 miles between us, and I’m so grateful. She’s one of my favorite “helpers”. She has such a gift; she’s incredibly creative and talented, and she has offered to give away two pieces of her beautiful handmade jewelry to two of my readers! She has an Etsy Store called thelovelyhollow and she can be found on Facebook and Instagram by following these links. And for Labor Day, everything in her store is 20% off! I know you will love all of her stuff as much as I do!
All you have to do is sign up to follow my blog via email by clicking the “follow” button all the way at the bottom of the page (you have to scroll all the way down- past the comments and older posts) and entering your email address. I promise I won’t send you any spam, just my weekly blog posts. This is really the best way to make sure you see it, since Facebook and Instagram can be kind of unreliable. Those of you who follow already will also be eligible for the giveaway! (And guys, you too- if you win, you can gift these beauties to your amazing wives or girlfriends or mamas!) I will be randomly choosing the winners the week of September 18, so stay tuned!!
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.