“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.’”
I wrote those words what seems like a lifetime ago (though it’s honestly only been a couple of years). A dear sister-friend reached out to ask for prayer about the weight she’s carrying as she holds the stories of friends in developing countries who have no access to medical care or food and other friends down the street managing schedules and trying to explain unexplainable things to their kids. For the first time, I think we’re all coming home from a mission trip. We’re all longing to be changed while longing for answers while longing for a life that feels just the least bit familiar while longing to fix.it.now.
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.”
I think we’re all wearing the necklace now, as we long to hold hands that feel so far away. We’re all grappling with a pain that’s unfamiliar and a grief that’s unsettling. We are so clumsy with both.
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.
But 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 it because Jesus certainly has 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. He’s revealed it in my life too.
Years ago, I wrote about pain as I wept saying “goodbye” to our foster pup, Boo. It seemed silly to grieve the loss of a dog you knew you were only nurturing for a season. But after his lively presence, the house became so quiet.
The house is quiet again now, missing the lively presence of family visits and Sunday night dinners with long-road friends. Sometimes quiet screams the loudest of all.
Just like two years ago, the week has been stressful and work has been crazy and the world continues to groan under the weight of oppression.
“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.”
I’d do anything to be able to hold your hand right now. But this I know. We’re still in this together, and I am for you. CasaRock is open. Bring your pain. It’s welcome here.
Yes, there is truly #kitchentherapy here for you. And I’ve got wine.
There’s wine in the meals and wine in the dessert and wine with your bread should you desire it (consider it communion). Savor this time, even in its clumsiness. Use your hands and make something good.
Delightful Spaghetti Sauce
Makes one large pot—enough for a great meal now and for later, or better yet, to share with a family who might need some home-cooked love in their life. I’ve swapped spaghetti sauce for paper towels with my best friend in an undisclosed parking lot, and there is no shame.
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!
Quite Amazing Chicken Pot Pie
Ina Garten started this. And then CasaRock made it more. Makes four to six really nice sized individual pot pies, one large casserole pot pie, or three perfectly portioned pot pies for two people who are eating all alone far too often these days. I’m not going to tell you what to do with the lid of your pie. Pastry crust, puff pastry, biscuits all work. Find what you love and pop a little hat on this lovely filling. There are instructions on how to don the little lid at the end of the recipe.
4 whole chicken breasts (skinless, boneless)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 sticks of butter
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes (or one large Knorr bouillon cube)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups green beans, blanched and cut into 1-1/2” pieces
2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes
1/4 cup heavy cream
½ cup dry white wine (use drink-worthy wine)
2 T. Herbs de Provence
1 T. chopped tarragon
Preheat oven to 350. Roast chicken breasts drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly. Remove from oven and let cool a bit, then dice and set aside.
In a Dutch oven, saute onions and celery in melted butter over medium heat until tender. Add 3 cups chicken broth blended with the flour and stir until well mixed. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. If you’d like a more velvety texture, use an immersion blender at this point to smooth the mixture. Add remaining broth, bouillon cubes, spices, and vegetables, and cook until those vegetables are tender. Add wine, cream, and chicken, and continue to cook on medium to medium-low until the mixture is thick, rich, and perfect for a pie. Turn off heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (that way, your lid will also be perfect).
Now, about that lid. I’m a biscuit lover myself, so we split angel biscuits (I shared the recipe here), using the bottoms to line the bottom of the casserole dish, adding the filling, and then placing the tops on the, well, top. If you use a pastry crust, roll it out about 1” wider than the casserole pan you’re using. Put the filling in the pan, and then top it with the crust, pinching the edges a bit over the side of the casserole dish, and then rolling them to crimp if you’d like to make the whole thing a bit fancier. Be sure to put a couple of slits in the top for steam to escape. And if you’re using puff pastry, be kind to the dough (I purchase ready-made sheets) and try not to handle it too much. Cut the pastry to fit the casserole dish and gently lay the lid down. No need to make space for steam on this one. Just let the pastry rise and grow strong and tall.
Bake at 350 until the filling is bubbling happily and your lid is perfectly golden crisp (about 45 minutes or so). Enjoy the good of your hands.
Perfect Prosecco Peaches
(makes 6-8 servings, maybe)
1 bottle Prosecco or other semi-dry sparkling wine
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vanilla (use Mexican vanilla if you can get it)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 pound fresh peaches, peeled and sliced OR 1 16-oz. package fresh frozen peaches
In a saucepan, mix first five ingredients. Add peaches, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid reduces by 2/3, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool. Enjoy with a little whipped cream and a cookie or scone. Or really, just stand at the stove and eat them all out of the pan. You have permission.