We’re only a few days into Lent and already God is doing an unexpected work in my heart. Last week I told you we were (okay, I was) giving up grocery shopping for Lent. I soon realized that only in a few places in the entire world could I even have a problem like I do – my cupboards and freezer full of food we can’t seem to make use of. I think back to a tiny dirty alley I walked through in 2012, where an open door gave me pause as I caught a glimpse into a one-room house, a mother bending over a bowl on the ground, a tiny bit of rice and a few vegetables being prepared for an evening meal. There was no refrigerator, there was no cupboard full of food to choose from. There was only a small container of rice next to the bowl and a few bits of vegetable, the children milling around waiting for the simple meal to be ready.
Already on the second day of “eating what we have”, I was panicking a little. What if we can’t make it? What if I told someone I’d bring dessert (I did that) and I don’t have anything to take (true story)? I told them I’d bring it before I decided to do this crazy thing, and I forgot about it until after I couldn’t buy anything more, so we’ll have to figure it out. And then I thought, you know, we should have so-and-so over, and that quickly I had this stab in my heart – Oh, but I can’t buy any groceries. So I thought, well, we’ll just have to wait until this is over and that quickly again I was pricked. Why? Why do I think I have to wait? Am I so proud that I’m not willing to serve what I have to guests? Is it all about the food? Or is it about being with people we love? And now it seems as though I have this nudge in my heart that I’m supposed to actually invite someone over, just to humble me in serving and giving what I have, without shame.
I’ve been thinking about what Brené Brown identifies as a “culture of scarcity, a ‘never enough’ problem”. Our first thought might be of an economy where food and/or goods are hard to find, where something is scarce. I think it could mean that, but Ms. Brown uses it in the context of being fearful of not-enoughness, and she talks about it as a mindset rather than a reality. It’s a big topic and more than I plan to address here (the chapter on scarcity alone is worth the price of her book Daring Greatly), but she talks about how the opposite of scarcity is not abundance, but enough. She also connects this mindset to post-traumatic stress, something I just recently became aware has been a “thing” in my life, and somehow this has played out in different areas of my life, one of the most obvious places being my kitchen cupboards. I know some of you probably wonder how I could make that great of a leap with that, but trust me, it’s there. This is getting pretty crazy!
I have been notorious for buying mixes and seasonings and special foods, stashing them in the cupboard for a special occasion, only to find them several years later and realize I have to trash them because they are no longer fit to eat. It’s that mindset of “I’ll save it for that perfect time”, and somehow when those times present themselves I feel all self-conscious and ashamed and never use it. It plays into the perfectionism that has ruled my life for longer than I care to admit, and something that I’m still working to let go of. Maybe this whole exercise is another piece of my healing, because even two years ago I would not have been at a place where I would have been emotionally healthy enough to even attempt this “eating what we have”. This forces me to face my fears head-on, my fears of “not enoughness”, my fears of hypothetical catastrophes for which I have to be prepared, my fears of imperfection.
This is going to very uncomfortable places and if you want to check out right about now, I sure don’t hold it against you. This is getting a whole lot more personal than I thought it would. Part of what I see is that I have prided myself in always being ready for anything, because it sure made my life easier to be ready than to have to deal with the consequences of inadequacy. I did this out of self-protection even though I would have called it “readiness”. The sad, ugly, sick truth is I have allowed it turn me into a hoarder of sorts. Wow, did I just admit that? My family would agree, I’m sure. So cooking with what I have is much more than about using up stuff, it’s also about me letting go of my sense of control, my pride, my self-sufficiency and so much more. I’m sure more things will come to light as we move along, but I think that’s quite enough for me to chew on for one day.
I think back again to the mother cooking dinner for her family with what she has, and I’m reminded to be thankful for what I have rather than wish for what I don’t have. I am also reminded that God provides and that He is enough; and when He is enough I can let go of my quest of enough-ness and my wanting to prove something to someone, whether it’s God, other people or even myself.
For those of you who are wondering what exactly we are eating, I’ll share a few things. So far, I’ve focused on using up the few perishables I have in the fridge, so I’ve made tacos, using tortillas, lettuce and cheese I had. The ground beef came out of the freezer, rice from the cupboard and a half a can of black beans about to turn bad in the fridge. I also made White Bean and Kale soup, to use up dried beans in the pantry, chicken broth from the fridge and kale I had on hand. I added sausage patties from the freezer to the meal with the soup. I’ve also eaten leftover creamy tortilla soup and a bowl of green beans for lunch to use them up before they go bad, and leftover tomato and bean mixture with eggs and feta for breakfast. Yes, it looks like we are eating our fair share of beans!
Last evening I used a jar of leftover meatballs from the freezer with spaghetti and sauce from the pantry, and I also made corn and peas from the freezer. For lunch yesterday I enjoyed some delicious cornbread salad given us by a friend, along with a bowl of the bean and kale soup. One more serving of that soup left – any takers? I have enough beans left to make another half a batch of the bean and kale soup, so I will cook them in chicken broth today and stick them in the freezer for an easy meal later on. For breakfast this morning, I cooked steel cut oats and made a smoothie to go with it so I could use up a banana that was too far gone to eat plain. For the smoothie I added a 4 ounce container of vanilla yogurt, a handful of frozen strawberries and enough milk to make it drinkable. I used some of the smoothie on the oatmeal instead of milk and drank the rest. Now to figure something out for supper tonight…