Friday, May 3, 2013

Granny's Kitchen

"And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men..."
Colossians 3:23
(KJV)

"Love you, Dad," I called,
as I got into our car,
and he got into his.
They were getting ready to leave for church, 
as we were getting ready to leave to come home.

"I love you, too, Cheryl.....dearly", he called.
His voice was husky with emotion,
and I knew his words were spoken through tears.

It was the "dearly" that really got me....
choked me up...
even more than I already was.

Though Dad Smith has told me he loves me countless times through the years,
he has never added "dearly" to it before.
It touched me deep inside and made it even harder to leave.

My mind went back to the day I met them almost 26 years ago.

I was so young then....so full of energy...so infused with hope for the future.
So in love with their son.

"I want you to meet my parents", Kevin said one night.

I knew we were getting to that point in our relationship,
but it didn't make me any less nervous
to meet the parents of the guy I had fallen head over heels in love with.

To call it nervous, is putting it mildly. 

Looking back, I shouldn't have worried.
There was no need.
If I knew then, what I know now, I would have known
that my jitters were in vain. 

They took me in....like a blood-daughter....cared about me...
loved me....from the very first.
We just clicked....like we'd known each other all of our lives.

That night of first meeting was the beginning of knowing what it means to be loved...
and accepted....and cherished....by parents other than my own.

I've always loved them.
Somehow I love them even more...
now that both of my own parents are gone.

Every time we go see them, it gets harder and harder to leave.
They are becoming more feeble....and pitiful...
with every visit we make.
I keep praying for God to keep them healthy and alive as long as possible.

Don't we always plead for more time?

Twice during our last visit, Dad told me how much he wishes we lived nearby.
It's hard to keep saying good-bye.
Always wondering if it is for the last time.

I never knew I could love in-laws as much as I do.
I am so blessed to have them in my life.

I owe them....a lot.
If not for them, I would not have the gentle, kind, caring man
with whom I so happily walk through life and am still head over heels in love with.
It was their continual love, support, nurturing, and upbringing
that molded him into the special man he is.
Character is instilled in him deep...
thanks to his Mom and Dad.

Once while Kevin and I were dating, I had a severe reaction to medication.
I became quite ill and was dreading to be alone overnight.
I lived almost 200 miles from my own parents,
and Mom S. insisted I stay with her instead of spending the night in my own apartment.
Bless her dear heart,
she slept....on the floor....next to my bed....
all.  night.  long.
She never left.

I could't get over that.
I will never forget how humbled I felt.
How loved...and sincerely cared about.

The next morning, I ended up having to be taken to the emergency room.
She was so faithful to me.
So concerned.
So genuine.

I knew then, that this was to be no normal "in-law" relationship scenario
 of which I had heard so many horror stories through the years.  :~)

This would be special.
These people really cared about me....loved me...
for no other reason than because of who I am.

We have had the funniest times through the years.
We have laughed until we cried.

Some of our most precious memories have been made
in Granny's kitchen
(as all of her grands and great-grands lovingly call her)
and around her dining room table....
cooking along-side her
and enjoying the fruits of her tireless, selfless labor.
She seems happiest when she is serving her family in any capacity,
but especially when she is feeding us!

Did I mention that she is a beyond-fabulous cook?

In all these years, I have never tasted anything from 
her kitchen that was anything but yummy.
She says she doesn't like to cook...
but the glow on her face and the light in her eyes
kind of give her away and tell an opposite tale.

A short time after I met them, she began having me over for meals.
Every time I went, she would say,
"Cheryl, I fixed you some beets.
Kevin told me how much you like them."

Beets?
Really?

Had I ever even eaten a beet....before that....
in all of my 20 years of life?

My Mom loved beets,
and she would put them on the table from time to time,
encouraging me to eat them because they were so good for me.
So, there is a remote possibility that I may have tasted one or two....just to please Mom.

But, I can say of a certainty that they sure weren't 
anywhere near the top of my list of favorite foods!

Looking back, I don't think it was anywhere near the top of her list, either.
But, she did it...faithfully....
just because she thought I liked them,
and she wanted to make the meal special....for me.
I wonder how many times she may have made a special trip
to the grocery store when she knew I was coming....
just to make sure she could have beets on the table?

At the time, I just couldn't figure it out.
It seemed to give her so much pleasure to have beets on the table...
every time I came there to eat....
without fail.

It made no sense....at all.

Where did she get the idea I liked beets?
What made Kevin think that?

After enduring the beets for I don't remember how many meals
and feeling like I had to eat them when she put them on the table
because it seemed to mean so much to her...
I finally got the nerve to ask Kevin about it one day.

"What makes your Mom think I like beets so much?
I'm curious as to how you came to tell her that?"

"Because you got them when I took you to Morrison's, remember?"

Wow!  I didn't know he was paying such close attention.
How sweet.  :)

I remembered the exact occasion Kevin was talking about.
I clearly remembered him taking me to the buffet-style cafeteria,
but I sure could not remember ordering beets!

It was a mystery...until I finally unraveled it.

"OH!  I think I know what happened!
Did I happen to order turkey and dressing?"

"Yeah, that was it."

"Oh, my word!
I didn't order beets.
It was cranberry sauce!"

We laughed and laughed and told Mom about it.
Thankfully, after that, she stopped feeling compelled
to serve beets at every meal!

Bless her heart!
She is just like that.
She almost burned Kevin's brother, Phillip, completely out
on beef and noodles, because she found out he liked them.
For the longest time, 
she made them every, single time he came to her house for a meal!

We have laughed and laughed about that one, too.

 She is kind to the core,
putting every one else's needs....and wishes....way ahead of her own.
I think she would walk through fire and over hot coals to get something for one of us.
Any one of us.
Birth children, step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and in-laws.
She makes no difference....in any of us.
She is just that way.

Every time you go to her house, you can count on two things....
a big, sweet, genuine hug as you come in her back door
and
wonderful, tempting aromas wafting from her stove...
compliments of many hours of the toil and love she put into making something
she knows you like to eat.

Back in 1992, she was diagnosed with cancer and became very ill and weak.

We reached her home that cold, wintry West Virginia night...
to a totally different scene than we were used to.


Mom wasn't at her usual spot in the kitchen...
pouring her heart and soul into something special.
There was no welcoming hug at the back door.
I'll never forget how much it hurt to not find her there,
but to find her lying on the living room couch,
pale and gaunt, instead.

It was hard to accept.
It wasn't natural...
and it was a stark reminder of the reality of how sick she really was.

God miraculously brought her through.
It was rough-going there for a while,
but He touched her and made her completely cancer-free.

We will never be able to thank Him enough for His incredible gift
of granting us more time with her.

Recently, she was in the hospital for several days.
It was beyond scary.
Prayers were going up for her from all directions.
God heard.  And answered.
She is doing so much better again.
She is moving a bit slower, but still cooking...
and reaching her hands to help and feed anyone who shows up hungry.

Going to Mom and Dad's house is like coming home.
It always has been.
Next to our own home,
I feel more at home there than any place
else in the world.

She lets us help out more than she used to.
Some of my favorite moments in their home happen
 when my sister-in-law, Lori,
Kevin's aunts, and other relatives come to visit...
and we are all together...in Granny's kitchen.
Side-by-side,
we cook,
do dishes,
talk,
laugh,
catch up on the latest and what's happening in each other's lives,
and pour out our hearts.

Granny's kitchen...as well as the rest of her home....is filled with unconditional love.
It doesn't matter where we've been,
what's going on,
or how long between visits.
It is filled with a rare atmosphere of "normalcy".
I don't know about you, but it seems to me that "normal" is
becoming harder and harder to find in this changing world.

The other morning, my sister called.
She was missing Mom....and crying so hard, I could barely decipher her words.
We wept together...
shared each other's grief....
felt each other's pain.
We prayed together...over the phone.

She said, "Cheryl, I miss "normalcy", you know?
I miss that.
Do you know what I mean?"

Do I ever.
I told her I knew exactly what she meant.
Mom provided that sense of stability in all of our lives.
Mom was like an unmovable pillar...strong, weather-tested, and consistent...
always there when we needed her,
never-wavering,
even though her life was filled with more ups and downs and storms
than few people I know.

Mom was resilient.

We all miss her strength.

I am beyond blessed to still have both of Kevin's parents,
and even more to have such a special bond with them.
The "normal" they bring to my life is a vanishing element in today's world.
It is something I crave...and yearn for.
It is a priceless gift.
It takes me to a special place....
where grand-kids still make cookie batches with Granny,
hugs are handed out consistently,
no one is an outcast, no matter who they are, or where they came from,
and love flows freely, turning the hardest chores into fun.

I hope you have a place like that to go.

If you don't, I hope you will feel a deep-down urge to create one...
in your own kitchen.


I hope you will start today.

It all starts with having a servant's heart.
A heart full of love.
A heart like Granny's.
That's what makes her kitchen...and the rest of her home...
such a welcoming place to be.

I have learned so much from her through the years.
I've watched her face light up time after time
as she saw joy in the face of others.
Some of the ones she regularly feeds have picky appetites.
She always takes that into consideration when making a meal,
often cooking "a little extra something" to make sure each person
leaves her table with a full, satisfied stomach.

By her example, she has taught me that
it is all about putting the wants and needs of others ahead of our own....
in finding that the sweetest joys come from seeing someone smile
  and knowing we are the one who caused it.

As women, we possess the innate capability
of creating that loving, home-like atmosphere
for those in our lives and families.

We absolutely set the tone for the household.

"If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

When Mama has a surrendered-to-Jesus heart,
a selfless spirit,
a willing-to-be-used-by-God mindset,
and an eager-to-please-the-ones-who-enter attitude,
home is a welcoming, endearing place filled with normalcy...
the way home should be.

Who in your life is craving that?
Who can say which of the ones who show up at your table...and mine...
arrive there seeking that deep-down feeling of being loved and accepted
and wanted?

They may never put it into words....
they may not even know how to....
but they yearn for it....just the same.

People, in our mixed-up, oftentimes cold-hearted, out-of-skelter world
absolutely crave a sense of normal.
A sense of belonging.
A sense of "home"....
like the sweet, peaceful feeling I get when I walk into Granny's kitchen.

"The kitchen is the heart of the home", says the old saying.

That "heart" can absolutely be filled with love and peace and serenity,
instead of resentment and turmoil and chaos.

It is up to you...and me, my friend.

We hold within our grasp the control.
Why not make it a joyful, cozy, inviting place,
where our husbands, children, and other family members love to be?

Instead of complaining that we have to cook dinner,
why not turn our faces Heavenward and thank God that we have food to cook
and, more importantly, someone to feed?
Why not turn every meal into a way of showing each person who sits
at our table how much we love them and care about them?

Why not go open a jar of beets?  :~)



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