Grace in the Kitchen

This mama needs grace in the kitchen.  I am a pretty average cook in the kitchen.  Thankfully I have a husband who is incredibly non-picky and gracious when it comes to my cooking.  He is the type of guy that is happy with a meal made up of quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brussel sprouts. He is not your average steak and potatoes type of guy.  And for that I am thankful! I can do veggies. I can do salads. I can do stir fry. Those are my things. I work well with vegetables. Chicken on the other hand is a different story.  I have a deep fear that I will serve undercooked chicken. I am always amazed when I watch cooking shows and they just seem to know that the chicken is cooked all the way through. I am the type of person that basically ends up cutting the entire breast of chicken before serving it up on plates because I am absolutely terrified there will be that ever-so-slight tinge of pink in the center.  I so wish I could be like those chefs that slide the chicken right onto the platter. I wish I had that type of chicken confidence. “Being a chicken” is typically considered to be the opposite of confident, but for these purposes, chicken confidence is someone who is so trusting in their own skills, they serve the chicken without even cutting into it. I long for this. Because what happens when undercooking chicken is your fear, you end up overcooking it by a long shot.  I never serve undercooked chicken, but I often serve devastatingly dry chicken.  I am not sure which is worse. Well, probably undercooked chicken because salmonella, but dry chicken is pretty depressing.  As I am sitting here thinking about cooking chicken, my memory is flooded with failure. I am brought back to my college apartment when I attempted panko-crusted chicken tenders and they came out of the oven looking strange and rubbery.  I think about cooking chicken on the stovetop and having beautiful golden crusted chicken with a middle that was entirely pink because I was not applying the right amount of heat or patience. I am reminded of battling with a rotisserie chicken uncertain as to how to navigate around all the bones.  Chicken often makes me feel inadequate in the kitchen. Actually there are a lot of elements in the kitchen that make me feel less than the perfect homemaker. Like, tonight, when I was “roasting” vegetables in a cold oven. Right when dinner was to be served, Lance went to take out the pan of veggies and found cold, sad sweet potato, zucchini and mushrooms drowning in olive oil.  Sometimes I forget to turn the oven on and we end up having to wait an extra hour for dinner. Sometimes I burn the quinoa, the rice pilaf, the fill-in-the blank. Sometimes I dry out the chicken. I am an average cook, just like I am a pretty average person. No matter how hard I try, the results of my cooking never seem to look like the images in Bon Appetit.  Just like my face never seems to look like the ones I see on Cover Girl commercials.  Or how my life never seems to look like those perfectly curated squares those bloggers post.  My cooking, my face, and my life are often not magazine worthy. All three of them are quite messy and dry at times.  But here’s the thing, I don’t stop. I keep making the dinners. I keep living our life. Do I burn things? Yes. Do I fall short? All the time.  But I promise you, tonight I will make dinner again and I will try my very hardest to remember to turn on that oven and watch that quinoa better.

The kitchen is just a microcosm for my whole life.  Some days I am going to feel like a Top Chef as I serve our family the perfect berry crisp after a turkey, brown rice dinner we all loved.  As my spoon scoops up hot berries and chisels into perfectly golden crisps, I am going to have those moments of I am killing this mom/wife game.  There will be those berry crisp type of days, but there also will be a whole lot of burned rice pilaf, cold vegetables type of days.  The beautiful thing is that on those burnt out and dried up days, we can rest in the grace of Jesus. He does not care that the chicken is dried up.  He cares about our hearts. When I mess up dinner, I need to remind myself that God does not see a burnt meal, he sees a heart desiring to serve her family well.  This is what matters to Him.

My bible has two ribbon bookmarks in it.  I love this feature because it allows one to be wherever I am currently reading and it allows the other to always remain in Proverbs 31.  For me, this is my grounding chapter that inspires me, but also points me to the main purpose of my life: fearing and serving the Lord. I know these verses have been reprinted on mugs and canvases and quoted often and even criticized at times for putting pressure on women to be a certain way, but the reason I love this chapter so much is because it reminds me that praise does not come from what I produce.  

The Proverbs 31 woman is awesome.  I love her. I love her selflessness.  “She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household” (Proverbs 31:15).  I love her resourcefulness. “She makes and sells linen garments; she delivers belts to the merchants” (Proverbs 31:24).  I love her boldness and decisiveness. “She evaluates a field and buys it; she plants a vineyard with her earnings” (Proverbs 31:16).  She is much more than a good homemaker. She is a business woman. She is smart and adaptable. She loves and serves her family well. While this list of everything she does can feel daunting and make us women feel like we are not doing nearly enough, the reason I love these verses so much is because her praise from the Lord does not come from all that she is doing.  It comes from being in right relationship with Him. “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). To me, this verse so beautifully captures my whole point that the small things in life, aka the chicken and rice pilaf, do not matter, and what really matters is our hearts towards the Lord. There are days where I feel paralyzed to even think about all that the Proverbs 31 woman does.  She rises in the night. I have trouble getting up at 6am. She plants a vineyard with her earnings. I have a dead garden and do not make money. She has everyone in her household doubly clothed. I sometimes forget to pack Hudson an extra jacket and hat. I could go on. But, I fear the Lord. And I love Him with my whole heart. This is what matters. This is what He sees. This is what my children and Lance will see and remember as well.

You might be wondering, how did we go from cooking chicken to Proverbs 31?  Hopefully I have not fully lost you because I think this is important. I think it is important that we are striving for the right things.  I think some (including myself at times) read Proverbs 31 and think well, I could never measure up to that standard.  I think our brains get filled with everything that is listed out that we do not hear verse 30 as strongly as we should.  A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  It does not say a woman who has it all together and sews and gardens and cooks gourmet meals will be praised.  No. A woman who fears the Lord will be praised.  I can do that.  Not always well, but thankfully He gives so much grace in this area as well.  

All of this to say, I need grace in the kitchen, aka my entire life.  

Chocolate Cake & Blueberries

This mama needs chocolate cake and blueberries.  I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, and right before I sat down to begin writing, I cut myself a generous slice of vegan chocolate cake.  While I normally would not indulge in chocolate cake anytime before 6pm, I figured it is still my birthday weekend so chocolate cake at 3pm is allowed.  To give a little insight as to how my brain works, I chose to top it with a handful of blueberries to balance it out.  Now, blueberries are a perfect topping to cake, but I am more interested in exploring why I tossed those blueberries on.  I honestly did not even feel like eating blueberries.  I really just wanted my leftover vegan cake, but internally that felt too indulgent.  This is a small and silly example, but in a similar vein to my post last week on rest, I too often find myself adding something to what alone is perfectly good and acceptable.  Why is it so hard to just eat the cake?

Reflecting on this further, maybe adding the blueberries is a good thing.  There is something incredibly valuable in balance.  It probably would not be the best to eat cake alone every afternoon, but cake with some antioxidant-filled blueberries every once and a while is a good thing.  I need to start living my days more from this cake and blueberry mindset.  By this I mean that I need to incorporate more balance.  My Mondays and Sundays are in stark contrast.  For me, Mondays are cleaning days.  I spend basically the entire day cleaning.  Sundays are resting days.  Especially recently, I have tried to be much more intentional on the ways we spend our Sundays.  While I don’t think there is anything wrong with having days dedicated to specific things, there needs to be balance.  On Mondays, I usually end the day so burnt out because I spent the majority of my time cleaning.  Continuing with my metaphor, Mondays are all about the blueberries, but even Mondays need a sliver of cake.  Sundays are all about the cake.  No laundry.  Crockpot dinners.  No agenda.  However, a day full of cake is not good for us either.  We need protein.  We need vitamins.  We need color.  As I am currently learning, Sundays also need blueberries.  It can’t just be cake.  Balance is needed on a daily basis, but that balance is going to look different with each day.  Certain days, work will outweigh play and rest; others the rest will be the focus.  I think we can get into ruts when we forget the importance of balancing our days out.  We forget to add the blueberries to the cake.

Will the Sabbath be ruined if we sweep the floors?  Will the Monday cleaning day be ruined if I take a nap? I have a habit of functioning in a black and white mindset that does not leave room for in-betweens.  It is either all or nothing.  I am learning this is not a healthy way to live.  While there is absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally having a big slice of cake on its own,  I hope to better strive at creating my days with greater balance that makes room for both the cake parts of life and also the blueberries elements because the truth is- they both are sweet on their own and even sweeter together.