I rounded the corner into the small galley kitchen at our church, bustling with women in aprons. The smell of lasagna and chili surrounded me and I felt very small. I was small, in fact, always lagging in size to my peers. But I held in my hands an apple pie, with fluted edges and a lattice top. The weave was not perfect, and the fluting wobbled a bit on one side. The accomplishment it represented made me feel feet taller than I had ever stood before.
The nearest lady paused in her marathon to get food out for 125 people and smiled at me with warm eyes. Food was a part of her, as her rounded middle and burly young men who boasted in her sumptuous cooking testified. In fact, she always brought her cakes and pies with a piece taken out, “Got to test it to make sure it’s worth serving to people!” she told us.
I looked down at my pie, thick apple and spice mixture spilling over one corner of the lattice. Mom had coached me through every step, the mixing of the chilled Crisco into the flour and working up the dough without overworking it. The rolling in Xs and +s to get a nice even depth throughout the crust. The cutting and weaving of the lattice and then my favorite step- the fluting. I watched the dough form perfect waves back and forth under her skilled fingers. She wove stories of cooking with her own mother, who I never got to meet but was named after, into each pie. My fingers mimicked her movements, created an elementary version on my crust.
My mom leaned over my shoulder as I placed the pie into the lady’s seasoned hands, “She made it herself!” My face glowed with pride. It wasn’t perfect, but my mom made sure all those seasoned cooks noticed my effort. They raised their eyebrows and smiled encouragingly as if I were badged with a Masterchef white apron. It was almost as if I was one of them. Shoulder to shoulder with women who expressed love through food.
I am sure that I would never have loved to roll out pie crust, or write a story, if it hadn’t been for my mother’s encouragement. Somehow she saw past the inexperienced fingers and the misspells and sloping handwriting and saw potential. Years later, she and I went on to spend months together writing a book, and many years cooking side by side. Her food trumps mine, hands down. She mixes soul and love into her recipes in such a way that I am still peering over her shoulder, desperate to learn how she does it.
But today as I whipped out few pie crusts for fellowship meal on Sunday, my mind flashed back to her words of praise.
“She made it herself!”
So often I just want to do a job quickly, without involving my children, so it will be done well and quickly. Today I had four little ones peering over my shoulder, stealing scraps of dough and forming “donuts.”
In a couple years, my firstborn will be a teenager. So much of his mindset is being formed now. Do I speak truth and hope to his heart, or agree with the lies of the enemy that say he is a failure? My failures stare me face to face, but I want to follow the example of the woman in Proverbs who speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. To stand with my mother, and those experienced women in the church kitchen that day and saw a noble effort. Words seasoned with salt.
Salt alone is nasty, but a pot of soup with no salt is unpalatable. As my children grow, they need direction and guidance. Sometimes they just need someone to laugh with. But in those moments when salt is needed, God wants to use my tongue to show His unconditional love.
Words give life, or squelch it. Look around you. There are people everywhere, whose stories we can only know the faintest shadow of. Everyday we have the opportunity to use our words to tell people,
“You are loved.
You are valuable.
Your story is worth listening to.
You are worth fighting for.”
Your words can change someone’s story. Maybe you will hand them the courage they need to stand up and make a difference. Maybe the pause in your day, and the looking into their eyes with a smile, will be the taste of heaven they need.
Maybe your child is being downright naughty today. Maybe sharp words aren’t what they need. Pull them close and read a book. Create a diversion where you can laugh together, go enjoy the sunshine or pick a bouquet of wild flowers.
Give life through your words.
No one else has lived your story, and no one can offer exactly the hope you can.
Top photo taken by my ten-year-old man who had to pause math to come grab the picture I couldn’t. I think he did a smashing job.