Mismatched Plates

Our Pastor asked the congregation to join in on an all congregation wide study, sign up for any number of times, find the one that works best, but sign up. The slots for Wednesday with the promise of a meal together preceding the study went quickly, more groups were added. Chef and I volunteered to create the meal, our small groups leader admitted she didn’t have that piece worked out yet but was trusting God did. Our church takes some faith leaps like that. We were given great latitude, they know we can feed 100 people easily. We asked if we could skip the paper plates, get back to using dishes that could be washed and reused, saving money and the environment.  Yes! The church didn’t have enough, shop Goodwill, we are no longer a congregation that must having everything match.

As the first evening approached, we had some hiccups. The planning time between Chef and I didn’t happen. I thought he was taking the lead, I thought he needed this project right now. When we are both in a kitchen, he is always the boss. I am forever his sous chef.  The crazy busy schedule of the 3 weeks preceding left little time, time we didn’t use to have dinner planning conversations. I thought, he thought, neither of us said, until Tuesday when my panic spoke for me. I was the chef this week, last minute, not ideal for a control minded, list making planner. I got grumpy then went shopping for dinner.

Wednesday afternoon we carried in boxes of dishes and bags of produce, we hauled in cans of tomato sauce, containers of cottage cheese. The kitchen counter now buried under what in only hours needed to become a meal, we set to work, silently. I was still slightly frustrated at my Chef, his salad chopping took all afternoon. You may never see a more beautiful salad, he does nothing in the kitchen without precision and attention to detail. He feeds people visually also. I raced around arranging tables, directing our helper who stopped in through each step of the ziti, finding napkins, silverware, running all the plates through the dishwasher. Chef kept chopping. I didn’t talk to him except to ask how much longer, how many bowls he needed, would he be able to help with the drinks. Intent on his task, I’m not sure he even realized I was not talking to him, my anger rebuffed. He was in his element, creating beauty to put out for the people.

Dinner was being served in the sanctuary, every other meeting room was filled with a group. Each time I entered to add something to the table, my anger lifted, at least until I went back into the kitchen, only steps away. I chose to pick it back up. What an exhausting exercise, carrying all the food out and moving large tables was not what wore me out. I didn’t stay in the sanctuary long enough, I chose to see my Chef and get mad. I chose not to see that actually everything was working exactly as it was supposed to, everything except my attitude.

The food was ready, people began to enter. A table filled with mismatched plates, big bowls of freshly chopped salad,  more bowls of crisp cucumbers, tiny carrots, and then foil pan after foil pan of baked ziti, a table laid out as an offering to those who would gather for a Wednesday evening bible study. I couldn’t get beyond the plates. They took up much more room on the table, paper would have stacked more neatly, more compactly. These plates, discarded from numerous homes, no longer needed or wanted. We added these plates to our meal, to our church as an investment in our future, a commitment to feeding more and more, again and again. These plates of diversity said we are a group with some chips, some roughness, yet we all belong in this sanctuary. Some were fancy, some scratched up, maybe more loved by constant use. These plates were us.

Everyone ate, loved the salad. They noted the care in which it was created, they felt cared for. A communion in the sanctuary mid week over diced produce and pasta prepared us to study our path as disciples. God does amazing things with tomato sauce and grumpy cooks. Chef and I are talking again, planning for next week. This is a challenging time for us, too much time to communicate, forgetting to say things that matter. As time wears on, we may get grumpier with each other, we may find our plates showing cracks. God in His infinite wisdom has put us in the kitchen together, led us into the sanctuary for the next 6 weeks. Next week I plan to walk a little more slowly between the two, spending more time remembering that we are just there to make some food, God will feed the people. My Chef will make it beautiful. I will put out the napkins and tend to God’s plates. We might find peace in the kitchen, we know grace awaits us in the sanctuary.

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