Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Rocks of Rememberance

Some time in my travelling career I’ve exchanged the accumulation of miscellaneous knick-knacks for collecting rocks from faraway places.

My one-of-a-kind friend Susan smuggled several on my behalf from her annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land few years ago – a rock from the valley of Elah where David whacked Goliath on the forehead  (obviously it was a different rock). Then one from the field in Bethlehem where angels announced to the shepherds ‘good news of great joy for all people' (there is no record of anybody throwing rocks during that event). 

For my 40th birthday, my one and only sister gave me a piece of ancient Turkish kaldrma she excavated from a cobblestone street in Beograd.  

Last summer we picked up some black lava rocks from New Mexico, riverbed rocks from American River, rocks from San Francisco bay, Colorado Rocky Mountain (of course!). I even hauled a boulder from Grand Canyon all the way to Florida.  I don’t know if anybody has noticed anything missing but nobody has shown up on my doorstep... yet.

It truly is amazing that something so commonplace, practically worthless has become so dear to me. In their dense space, they cradle multitude of memories of countless untold adventures we stashed along life's rocky road.

When I need a break or reprieve from my bustling busy head I like to play with them.  Some may call it ‘stress reliever’ others ‘stress inducer’…  I stack them on top of each other - they tumble and fall all the time, but that makes them even more fun and any success more delicious.

Eventually our counter got so cluttered by the scattered rocks that several weeks ago I scooped them all up and very gently, lovingly - the way you treat real treasures - set them down one by one inside a clear glass vase. They were still there on the countertop, still visible, still available and ready for any amateur sculptor willing to transform them into an impromptu piece of art, just not a chaotic, in-your-face illustration of our chaotic lives. 

Life continued to buzz in and out of our kitchen while the rocks sat quietly on the countertop, watching us with their unblinking eyes through their clear glass window...

Thursday, November 09, 2017

The Secret Sauce

It wasn’t until my sister and I got older and started cooking ourselves that we begun to ask our mom for the recipes.

Mom, how do you make stuffed peppers? 

Mom, what do you do to your sweet cabbage stew?

My mom was always all too happy to explain to us in the tiniest details the making of the peppers or cabbage or anything else in the world. She was delighted that we showed interest in her field of expertise, perhaps because it was so infrequent. She became our culinary Alexa or Siri, including never-tired ‘repeat’ button.

Now, here’s something interesting both my sister and I encountered.

Follow the recipe as closely as we could, our final result was NEVER as good as mom’s.

This was quite mystifying for a long time.

Did you saute the onions until they are translucent before putting in the meat? Yes. Did you put the lid on and turn down the temperature to low? Yes. And still it didn't come out right? Nope.

Not until just recent years, I don't know what but something happened and our mom started sharing her secrets with us.

A secret ingredient for cabbage.

A secret ingredient for peppers.

A secret sauce for…

All this time, she was telling the truth - she wasn't lying - but not the whole truth.

She held back, she kept an ace up her sleeve, so to speak…

When she started getting REAL with us, divulging some of her best kept secrets, it all came together. Now when I make peppers or sweet cabbage, they are as good as mom’s. 

During all these years of practice, I didn't realize I was missing an ingredient. I tried to make a stew or a soup, but, unbeknownst to me, something was left out. 

Following in my mom's footsteps, now, when I share a recipe, I make sure I hold something back... 

I keep an ace up my sleeve... 

... waiting for the right time and the right person... 

When I think of it, it truly is the best kept family secret!

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he will make them know his covenant. Psalm 25:14

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Making of An Awesome MESS-AGE

Some time ago I heard a guest preacher say, 

You can’t spell a message without a mess.

Amen to that, I thought. He was wise person indeed. He also talked about junk in the trunk, but that's another topic I won't touch here.  

We all want to bring a message to the world.

Important message.

Even life-saving message.

But, we don't like the messy part. We want to ‘sanitize’ the mess out of message. Make it feel-good, nice, soft and cuddly. Or at least palatable. Less damaging, especially to our reputation. 

We want our message, but not so... messy?

According to English dictionary – as well as real life... 

... if you don't have a mess... you don't have a message.

You think you have a message?

Great! Show me the mess...

But that's not the whole story!

What struck me on that perfect bean soup day, while the bubbling pot was slowly simmering on our kitchen stove for hours, was that sometimes, when you and I are in the middle of it, it’s really hard to distinguish what is that message inside our glorious mess. 

All I see is a grand mess, but I can’t detect, I can't decipher a message.

This is where my slow-simmering pot of soup comes into play.

See, to make good bean soup, it takes time. A LOT of time, in my humble opinion. Not just the time to peel and chop, shred and saute. That's just preparation. That's just the beginning! What follows is four to five hours of slow-simmering on the stove-top, or inside a crock pot. Now, to me that's approximate definition of eternity, especially considering that you are going through all this trouble for a single meal which will be consumed and then forgotten in one sitting!

This little fact makes me wonder how much longer must it take to make some good, hearty, soul-nourishing life-soup out of all our heartbreak and failure, disappointment and disillusionment, weakness, blindness and sin?

Your and my amazing, life-saving, messy messages don't need just mess alone. The mess needs some time to process, to digest, to AGE

That, my friends, is how the yummy messages are created.  Put your mess in a pot, fill it up, then slow-simmer for a much longer while than you think is humanly endurable... until all the different flavors of the mess inside come together into one pot of pure deliciousness. 

And, voila, you got your MESS-AGE!