It has been a week of “oh hey fear, fancy meeting you here” moments. I was lovingly told that some folks who have recently met me question my leadership style. I received a rejection on a piece I had written and submitted to a publication (I’m collecting rejections like Girl Scout badges). It’s rattling to be questioned about leadership when you’re writing a book ON grace-filled leadership and are working on an article for a publication on how pastors can be better leaders. It’s unnerving to be told, “Thanks for submitting your article – we’re not using it,” when its contents are a labor of love and writing is your vocation.
I wasn’t counting on being tapped on the shoulder by fear and insecurity this week, on feeling the earth below my feet shake just a bit. I wasn’t expecting to feel defeated by small critiques in the midst of a really great and encouraging season.
Both moments gave me pause. Both moments threatened to unravel me. Both caused me to dig down and pray for my heart to separate truth from the condemning storyline being written loudly in my head, so that I could gain and use wisdom. And both conversations revealed insecurities in me that needed to be confessed and yielded so that I could approach the next days with excellence. I wish I could say I’ve been knocking it out of the park, but it’s more like a base-by-base run to home plate (I am not a baseball person, so please be kind). That’s OK. I’m thankful. So very thankful.
Want to know what I have longed for the most this week as I’ve prayed and confessed and yielded?
I was reminded this week of why the kitchen remains my safe place.
As a kid, the kitchen was the only truly safe place in our house. It was the place where parents didn’t argue as much, where dads didn’t store the liquor and moms didn’t cry and doors didn’t slam. It was the place where stories were told about grandmothers who could cook for a small army back in the day when families were big and took in wayfaring strangers. It was the place where folks felt welcomed and seen and heard and healed. Amazing fragrances came from the kitchen, and there was always something to sample on the stove. The breakfast nook table was the place for homework in the afternoons and deep conversations served with sweet potato fried pies late at night. The formal dining table welcomed preachers and prostitutes. All were welcome, none were excluded. There was a cup for everyone.
What I learned in the kitchen of my youth remains true – having a safe place to gather is good for the soul. There’s comfort, there’s discovery, there’s story to be told. A loaf of bread with salt and olive oil, a chunk of cheese and a bit of fruit – that’s all that’s needed on a plate that’s offered with love. Sometimes, that’s exactly what #kitchentherapy looks like. Last night, it looked like peanut butter, sugar, an egg, and a dash of vanilla mixed together and baked simply to fill the house with something akin to a hug. Always, it remains a place where all are welcome, none are excluded. There is a cup for everyone, and we all gather and pour.
You see, #kitchentherapy isn’t about perfecting a recipe. It’s about perfecting our hearts. The first thing I thought after both of the moments this week was, “What I wouldn’t give right now to gather and pour, to wrestle through why the fear is there and to go to battle with the fears of the others who are around me, and celebrate a God who continues to reveal His purpose in and through us, even when our life chips and cracks.”
Last Sunday, before the week and the moments, the usuals who meet at our home for family dinner didn’t mind at all that I experimented with a hodge-podge menu that had nuts in everything and did a clumsy nod to Morocco. Pistachio-crusted chicken was served with herbed green beans and baby spinach topped with strawberries, cashews, dried blueberries, and goat cheese. And everyone pitched in to transform cauliflower into a couscous dish that was truly delicious. But what I remember the most about the evening wasn’t the food.
It was the people. And it was cups.
I had picked up four cups at a little store. Cup of Happy. Cup of Love. Cup of Courage. Cup of Peace. The first cup – Cup of Happy – went to live with my friend Melissa, because she is learning what happy looks and feels and tastes like as she gets to know who she is and where she belongs. The other cups have found their home on the farmhouse table in my kitchen, along with flying pigs and cookbooks. On Sunday, the cups were invited to the table.
Courtney chose the Cup of Courage – because she wants to fully embrace her gifts and talents.
Niki chose the Cup of Peace – because she wants to learn to find rest in the chaotic days of being a single mom.
They filled the Cup of Love and gave it to me. “This one works perfectly,” Courtney smiled.
This week, I prayed and confessed and yielded. I discovered some things about myself that will be worked on as I develop resilience and fortitude and deepening faith. I’m still writing the article, and I’m still working on the book. I’m still submitting stories. Fear has helped focus me and reminded me of the importance of keeping my eyes fixed on God. This week, I drank from the cups – peace to calm my anxious heart, courage to stand firm as fear stood far too close, love to keep me grounded. And this week, I longed for the power of #kitchentherapy – the safe place where we gather and pour.
I’m praying right now for you to find #kitchentherapy. Maybe it’s here, wrapped in a story with a recipe that you then share with people you love. Maybe it’s in a cup that you fill and clink with someone who lets you be fully you. Maybe it’s in a visit to CasaRock, so you can gather with me. I’d like that.
Yes, here’s the recipe for the cauliflower couscous. The Pistachio-crusted chicken has been shared before here. After the recipe, you’ll find a note from Niki – she posted it on her Instagram account the same day fear was the loudest. It filled my cup. We do that so often, don’t we? We fill each other’s cups. We hold them out and say, “This one works perfectly.” I pray we are pouring out love. So much love.
I want to know what fills your cup? And what does #kitchentherapy mean to you? Share, would you?
(serves six to eight easily)
1 head cauliflower, rinsed and divided into large florets
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
2 T. cup olive oil
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. paprika
1 t. cumin
2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped fine
Place cauliflower into a food processor, and pulse several times until it crumbles and resembles couscous. Do not over-process or it will turn into mush.
In a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil, almonds, and half of the green onion. Sauté until tender. Add spices and cauliflower, and gently stir to incorporate the spices into the cauliflower. Add stock and coconut milk, and simmer on medium until the liquid dissipates and the cauliflower is tender. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. If you like, you can save the “stir-in” ingredients to allow folks to customize their couscous at the table. Enjoy immediately.
“We have walked many seasons together as a group of six, and now a group of five. This is a season of new normal…joy, pain, love, hope, courage, peace, strength, and moving forward. There is so much beauty and growth in the midst of it. So I choose to embrace it and have gratitude for the season I am in. I had a choice to make when picking out this cup – and I choose to drink from the cup of peace this week.” ~Niki