Faithful Food: Carrying Our Graced Moments Forward

by Kim Long

John Shea, writer, teacher and theological reflector, has a wonderful opening line: “first something happens.”

Something is always happening. In 1974 a family moved in next door to us. The street we lived on had been a quiet one until then. But then a family of seven moved into our 2.5 children, woodgrain station wagoned world. They were wonderful, completely unorthodox, and extremely loving toward one another.

A woman with her six children and all their big love turned our quiet neighborhood on its ear.

A thick hedge separated our two houses and I loved to hide in the big camellia bush and watch their comings and goings. Over time we all became friends and their home became the hub. Problems seemed small there, music sounded sweeter and the food tasted better there. Over the years I have wondered why this was – the family had little money and ate simple food. The ingredient must have been the love they had for one another, the love of a mother of many who stretched to make ends meet. This unassuming grasp of her own reality is what I loved the most. She did not seem to operate under the kind of panic that creates anxiety, simply she knew who she was and what she had to work with and labored under no illusions. And somehow everything worked out.

I recall the family’s faith, not only in God, but in one another, and that, perhaps, as much as the aforementioned love, was the glue which helped hold things together. It is a lesson I have tried to carry forward in my own life.

A few weeks ago I went to see this matriarch. She has dealt with some health issues, with some reversal in her “situation” but still, she was in many ways the brave, fearless and faithfully loving mother I met in 1974 who welcomed me each time with the words, “Hello baby, come on in.” It was a blessing to see her face and laugh as we recalled old stories. Leaving her was not easy and I hope to see her again soon.

As we approach Lent, this family is on my mind. Perhaps it is the proximity of seeing this matriarch who taught me so much about the kind of mother I wanted to be, perhaps it is the relief of seeing and laughing together after many years as though only a moment had passed, perhaps it is the realization that I am close to the age she was when she enveloped me in her arms, her heart and her family.

Lent is about many things, one of which is facing ourselves when we have come up short, but also being thankful for when we have done well and praying to carry those graced moments forward; a time to truly reflect in the safety of God’s embrace and to have no anxiety as we strain to make adjustments, much like the arms of the woman who became a second mother to me.

I confess I have not always known who I was or where I belonged. I grew up in a tumultuous atmosphere and it showed. Now at 57, I finally have a sense of who I am and where I belong. The road I traveled to learn this was not without price. I have thought of Juanita often and wondered at times what she would have done, but deep in my heart I already knew: she would have had faith in life and she would have loved deeply. I am reminded of two passages, one from tradition and one from scripture.

St. Catherine once said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” And from Paul, “Now these three remain, faith, hope and love…and the greatest of these is love.”

May your Lent find you safe in the arms of our loving God and unafraid to reflect on the sum of our lives.

Pancakes ala Juanita


Ingredients:

• 3 eggs

• 1 cup milk (or buttermilk)

• 2 cups self-rising flour

• ⅓ cup safflower oil (any oil except olive, really)

Directions:

1) Crack the eggs and whisk until combined.

2) Add ⅓ cup oil and continue whisking.

3) Once combined add 1 cup milk (or buttermilk).

4) Measure flour into a separate bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour liquid into well and incorporate. If you need to add more milk, do so until the consistency is where you want it.

5) Drop by spoonfuls onto griddle or black iron skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Wait until edges are drying and bubbles are formed and turn ONLY ONCE!

6) Enjoy with butter and syrup or homemade fig preserves (one of Juanita’s favorites).

 

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