“Maybe this will be a time when you let someone else have the joy of serving. . .” My friend tried to help me look at that never-going-to-work-again oven with grace eyes. When I’d planned to transplant my life hundreds of miles away, I’d pictured baking and cooking as part of it. I would bake for my new small group; I’d knead my frustrations into doughs that would transform anxieties into gifts; I’d freeze casseroles on the weekends and bake them after long days of grad classes. I would keep being me, and I was, as a friend had recently pointed out, the girl who brings baked goods. The situation seemed like theological mathematics: I’d over-valued and misused a gift, and He had taken away. I talked it out with my friend, and braced myself to endure a year of what seemed like discipline and sacrifice.
But this was no severe mercy; it was the most tender nudge into joy. Within a month, I truly had to bake for a class, and I sent out an email to some people I’d met through church. Providentially, one of them included in his offer of oven time the phrase “plenty of space.” Done. I’m a sprawling cook, so I would make my international class potluck fare at their house, the one with space to spare. Eventually I met the housemates who let me use their oven and they assured me that I could come anytime. Oh, did I! At first, I emailed beforehand. Eventually, I’d just show up and stir and dice and brown ungodly amounts of butter. Folks stopped by and parked at the island counter. They told me about their days, their lives.
In between, I’d be at my house, figuring out how to be alone for the first time in my life. Some solitude was good. But too much, and I’d be a weepy mess. I’d find myself back at the kitchen island down the road, and from there I often ended up next door, with other church friends who kept their home just as open. I’d share cupcakes, urge people to eat another hand pie, and laugh my way through clean-up while I listened to the conversations whirling around me. What I needed more than I needed to bake was to have people eat what I made, talk to me while I prepared it, or even just companionably whistle in the other room.
Those seven men gave me more than the use of their ovens; they let me nestle myself into their community, and I found my place- behind a kitchen island. It’s gotten to the point where I know what’s in each kitchen and run, apron-wrapped, across the neighbors’ driveway to move my favorite tools from one not-my-own kitchen to the other. My friend was right; I did get to let others serve. I’d be sent home with their homemade granola or homegrown lavender, and never once have I turned down an offer of help with the dishes. I couldn’t make any scones, cookies, or biscuits (I’m so glad I don’t have to live a year without biscuits!) without their kind hospitality. But this isn’t going to be a year of simply watching other people serve, of being benched from my favorite activity. God wasn’t taking baking away from me; He was giving me a context for the best kind of baking, a place where nourishment happened.
So here’s to brokenness, the joy of needing (and kneading), and grace that’s sweeter than I dare to imagine!