Sifting, mixing and the blessings we carry

Graced with an unexpectedly free hour, I decided to bake cookies.

Because, you know... it's apparently what we do in a pandemic.

I bypassed the bakers' blogs online and pulled out my mother's church cookbook. Its pages are soft from wear, some of them a bit stained. Lots of the recipes call for Crisco. One of them helpfully shared where to find a certain ingredient, located on Aisle 5 at Mt Tabor Food Market.

That made me smile remembering a time when store layout was consistent enough to print it in a book and remembering a market that's been gone for decades.

I happened upon a recipe for ginger snaps. I'd never made ginger snaps before, but have indeed eaten them on more than one occasion. So I made them.

The task refreshed my soul. I enjoy puttering about the kitchen, and I certainly enjoy eating fresh, homemade ginger snaps, but more than that nurtured my soul.

As I sifted flour and spices, I turned the handle of my grandmother's sifter (the same sifter in the picture.) By the time I came along and started collecting memories, I don't know that my grandmother did a lot of baking. Mostly I remember her mixing up her slightly lumpy mashed potatoes, and cooking pork cops beyond all recognition because, you know, if it's not the consistency of shoe leather it would make you sick and you'd get worms and die 'cause it happened to somebody's cousin.

Even so, using it puts me back into that kitchen with the table by the window filled with glorious African violets, the apron tied around my grandmother's small waist, and my favorite Davy Crockett glass in the cupboard above the sink.

I sifted the flour into one of my white mixing bowls, heavy and fragile all at the same time. They were my mother's mixing bowls, always sitting with her mixer. They held the dough for countless batches of chocolate chip cookies (my dad's favorite), dozens upon dozens of birthday cakes for her family, and even more cakes for family dinners, old friends and new neighborhood arrivals.  

I was alone in the kitchen making my cookies.

And I wasn't. 

It's always a good thing but especially in these times we do well to hold close those good things we have inherited. As much as I love using those heavy mixing bowls, I know their value isn't in their utility. It's in their role as a marker for my mother's generous spirit that knew how to love and how to welcome through a coconut cake.

What's the inheritance you hold? 

Maybe it's what a parent passed along to you. It might be a lesson about how to make do or how to fix the mower or how to treat everyone with kindness and respect. 

Some families leave legacies that wound, not bless. So look to those people who have blessed you. A teacher who saw in you what you could not yet see in yourself. A minister who encouraged you. Recently the news went out about the death of a colleague, a man who'd served many years as a pastor. For days my Facebook feed was filled with stories about how he'd blessed his friends and colleagues and especially, his younger colleagues. 

Even when we are alone, we are not alone for those who have blessed us stay with us in some profound yet inexplicable way. 

Isaiah shares these words from the Lord to a broken people:

"Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were digged. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for when he was but one I called him and I blessed him and I made him many." (Isaiah 51:1-2, NRSV)

We remember, not just for the warm, fuzzy feeling.

We remember to be reminded that at some point, somewhere, somehow along the way someone blessed us, and that blessing and that connection is still with us. 

We remember to be reminded that God did not stop working in the lives of those who have gone before us, just as God does not stop working in our lives. We remember what God has done, and in that remembering find hope that God is working still.

Even if we feel like a broken people.

In the sifting of flour and the mixing of dough and the voice of a friend and words written long ago and yet written just for us right here and right now, God is present.

Thanks be to God.



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