I’m a writer, a quiet, steadfast observer. I tune in to everything that’s going on around me. When I’m in a crowded restaurant, I can’t help but listen to conversations at the surrounding tables. The writer in me is always listening, always sifting and sorting, translating the sights, sounds and smells into words. I soak everything up and hang onto it until I’m so full that I’m forced to let go. Jane sees this attention to detail as my being distracted and disinterested in the here and now. I wish that she could see the world through my eyes. She wishes that I could see the world through hers.
Jane is an artist, an outgoing, high-spirited adventurer. While my mind is occupied with the lives of pioneers in their covered wagons, Jane dreams of space travel and new frontiers in other worlds. She likes noise and she’s noisy. There are televisions in every room of her house, and the radio is always blaring while she’s doing some sort of project. Often, she seems unaware of what’s happening around her. Jane locks into the moment, captures it and gives it form. Then she releases it and moves on to something new.
We are an unlikely pair. We mix like oil and water, yet God brought our two very different personalities together so we would learn from each other. Some of our lessons have brought wounds and others healing.
One place we meet well is in the kitchen. We are good cooks, and we compliment each other’s style. At Christmas-time we have a long-standing tradition of baking cookies. Not just a few cookies, but dozens of cookies in dozens of varieties. (Jane and I don’t do “simple.”) We sing carols, eat snacks, sympathize with each other’s aching backs and we bake. We rarely stray from our tried-and-true recipes, and when we do we’re usually disappointed. We made divinity fudge with batter so stiff it burned out the electric mixer, we tried truffles only to find that after hours of work we had half as many as we needed, and we bored ourselves to tears with the monotony of making dozens of tart shells. Then, one year, Jane made turtles, turtles so decadent they were only made once. The recipe is locked away forever in the memories of that day.
The turtles came quite by accident. It was the end of our baking night, and leftover ingredients cluttered the kitchen table. “This is good stuff,” Jane said, “We shouldn’t waste it.” She was right. We’d bought the best vanilla, the freshest spices, the richest chocolate, the creamiest butter…. Before I knew it, Jane was at the stove creating. She was intense, and I stayed out of her way. While I cleaned cookie sheets, she poured a little of this and a little of that into a saucepan. The mixture bubbled and simmered while Jane put trios of pecans on sheets of waxed paper. Then she dropped spoonfuls of her creation over the nuts.
We waited. By time the kitchen was cleaned, the turtles were ready to taste. They were the best turtles ever!
“How did you do this?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” Jane told me. “I just put everything together, and it came out right.”
The way Jane made turtles is the way God forms our lives. Romans 8:28 says that He works all things for good for those of us who love Him. It’s hard to see God’s good works when we feel like a burned out mixer, or when we work hard and don’t make enough money, or when the monotony of a daily routine drives us crazy. But God works all things, every thing for our good. He takes unlikely ingredients and mixes them into the saucepan of our lives, and like Jane’s turtles what comes out of the pan is better than anything we could ever expect.
Dear Father: Help us, please, to surrender to you all the ingredients of our lives. Take them, Lord, and use them in your recipe to create something beyond our expectations.