There’s this moment at the end of every mission trip where the team gathers to talk about the next – what’s next for the people they’ve served, what’s next for the ministry work being done, what’s next for them as they return to the creature comforts of a country that moves far more quickly than the place they’ve been. The question always comes up, “How do we share the story?” And the response is always the same. “Keep it short and simple, and don’t be dismayed if the very ones who ask you to tell them about your trip then wander away or change the subject.”
Then someone will ask, “Why don’t folks want to hear the stories?”
And as of late, my answer is this:
“I think it’s because we don’t know what to do with pain.”
Pain is such a clumsy thing. In our own lives, pain is something we want to be rid of, to be washed clean from, to be extracted or eradicated. We don’t do pain well. And we stumble around the pain of others. The words catch in our throats or spill out like a torrent. We live in a culture that wants to find three-step solutions for pain.
What mission teams find when they step into the lives of others is pain. It’s raw, real, can’t kiss-it-and-make-it-all-better pain. The oppression is weighty and there are no simple solutions. Troubles link together like a necklace chain.
There are times for hands to do good and there are times for hands to simply hold other hands and say, “I’ve got nothing much to give, but I’m here.”
Right now, you’re likely looking at the screen and thinking, “What in the world did I get myself into? I wanted recipes and a couple of great tips on how to gather together well.” Trust me, friend, this is all about gathering. And the recipes that await are really good (and not very painful at all to make).
Pain is a strange companion of ours, whether we like it or not. There’s pain in our very welcome to this world, we fall and scrape our knees as we learn to walk, baby teeth have to be pulled in order for permanent teeth to show up and do their work. Seeds have to shatter for a tree to be born, and caterpillars fight like hell for the right to be a butterfly. Try to help that butterfly – to make its liberty pain-free – and you’ll kill it in the process.
Pain is a most curious companion, isn’t it? It warns us, moves us, shapes us, informs us. It lets us know change is coming, that things are being transformed in some way. And maybe that is what frightens us – that we might not know what to do with what we become.
You know what?
I think that, if we let pain do its birthing, changing, shaping work, we become more. More beautiful, more graceful, more powerful, more faithful. I could say I know because Jesus demonstrated the redemptive power of pain over and over again. But honestly, I really know because He has revealed it in the people I’ve walked with over the years. I talk about them often, the misfit family that sits at the table on Sunday nights. In our 10 years together, we’ve walked through the pain of new parenthood, the pain of job loss and infidelity and divorce. We’ve walked through the pain of waiting, the pain of wanting, the pain of broken bodies and broken brains, the pain of death. We’ve walked through the pain of abuse and neglect.
At the table this week, Brad and I cried about saying “goodbye” to our foster pup, Boo. It seems silly to grieve the loss of a dog you knew you were only nurturing for a season. But right now, the house is way too quiet. Courtney’s body is slowly healing from a workout accident – far more slowly than she’d like. Both the physical healing and the waiting are painful. Friends of ours are battling the ravages of aggressive cancer, and kids we know in Honduras are still recovering after the van they were in flipped and slid into a pole. The week has been stressful and work has been crazy and the world continues to groan under the weight of oppression.
And as I write this, I keep hearing Boo whine his favorite whine – when someone he loved was walking up to the front door. Dang it all, I miss that boy.
Please don’t be afraid of pain. Let it come and sit at the table, hold the hand of a friend and don’t worry about the right words to say. Serve a meal, watch an old movie, savor the quiet. Be there for each other. Remember, we’re in this together.
And yes, I am for you.
CasaRock is open. Bring your pain. It’s welcome here.
This week, #kitchentherapy soothes a little pain by wining a lot. There’s wine in the meal and wine in the dessert and wine with your bread should you desire it (consider it communion). Each of these three pasta sauces are amazing and don’t take a lot of time to make. You can even make them in advance if you’d like. And the red wine-poached pears? They take time – but they’re not fussy. You would think I would have had enough time to take lovely photos of everything. But alas, the Boo tears kept getting in the way. You’ll just have to trust me – every recipe is a good one! Oh, and serve them with bucatini. Trust me. It’s the most fun, big ol’ spaghetti noodle you’ll ever meet.
I want to know what you’d like for CasaRock to make for family dinner. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or send a message my way! And hey, if I were to ever have a BIG family dinner – would you be interested in coming? Let me know!
Delightful Spaghetti Sauce
(makes a large pot – enough for now and later, because it freezes well)
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium carrot, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
Olive oil (for sautéeing the veggies)
1 28 oz. can Cento Crushed Tomatoes
2 12 oz. cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted if you can get them)
1 16 oz. can tomato sauce with Italian seasoning
¼ cup Italian Seasoning, dried
5 cups water
2 cups good red wine
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade (I love that word)
Optional: Add 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casing and cooked until crumbly
In a large pot (Dutch oven), drizzle olive oil and bring to medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, and sauté until tender but not browned. Add all the tomato goodness, Italian seasoning, and 3 cups of water, and cook on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add red wine and brown sugar, and continue to cook on medium-low heat for another 30 minutes, adding additional water if needed. If you plan to include meat, now’s the time to do it. Taste sauce, and add additional Italian seasoning if needed (we love a well-seasoned sauce at CasaRock, so there’s a high likelihood we’ll be adding a few more sprinkles). Before serving, add basil and stir. Serve with the pasta of your choice!
Easy Pesto Sauce
(makes about 2 cups)
2 cups fresh basil (make sure the leaves pack the cup full)
1/4 cup roasted, unsalted walnuts
¼ cup roasted, unsalted pistachios
3 cloves garlic
2 T. dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil (you may need to add more to taste)
1 t. salt
½ t. pepper
Optional: ½ cup shredded Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
Can this get any easier? In a food processor or blender, combine basil, nuts, and garlic. Then drizzle in the olive oil and toss in the cheese until everything marries together nicely. Some folks love pesto on its own – you’ll see that I think it’s a good friend of spaghetti sauce.
Dairy-Free Alfredo Sauce (because I’m trying to be kind to me)
(Makes about 3-1/2 cups)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup dry white wine or veggie broth
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 t. onion powder
2 T. flour (for thickening)
3 cups almond, coconut, or cashew milk (unsweetened)
½ t. freshly ground nutmeg
½ t. white pepper
1 t. salt
Optional (if you love dairy): ¼ shredded Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the minced garlic and onion powder. Sauté on medium heat, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant and soft. Whisk in the flour, and then add the milk. Let sauce simmer, whisking frequently, until it thickens (up to 5 minutes). Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
The Best Red Wine Poached Pears (inspired by Nadia Lim)
4 pears, peeled (leave the cute stem)
Juice of one lemon
Peel of one lemon, cut into thin strips (be sure not to get any of the white pith)
3 cups dry red wine (if you make the spaghetti sauce too, you can use that entire bottle of wine in one sitting)
2 cups water
1 cup brown sugar
- vanilla (always Mexican vanilla if you have it)
3 whole cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients with the exception of the pears in a medium saucepan. Add pears and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat, and let the pears simmer away in that lovely red goodness until they are tender. Move the pears about a bit so they are completely covered in the red wine. If your pears are too large, you may cut them in half. Carefully remove the pears from the liquid and set aside. Bring the heat back up to a boil, and continue cooking the liquid until it has reduced to a syrup. Strain the syrup into a serving dish.
The pears are beautiful served with a scoop of rich vanilla ice cream or mascarpone cheese and a drizzle of the syrup. The syrup is amazing on its own, too, with cake or cheesecake or maybe champagne…