"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
April 21, 2010
My mom was an excellent cook. As far as I know, the only cookbook she had was a handwritten notebook where she had written down a few recipes. Most of the time when she got in the kitchen and cooked, she never used a recipe. I believe that the recipes in her notebook were for things that she didn't cook often, like donuts or bread or a special dessert. But every meal she cooked seemed to always turn out wonderful.
Growing up and watching her cook, I never really thought anything about her not using a recipe. That was just the norm, and I didn't think of it as being strange.
One of the things my sisters and I grew up eating for breakfast was cocoa gravy and biscuits. But when Mama got sick and wasn't able to cook as much, my sisters began doing a lot of the cooking. My sister, Janie, asked Mama how to make cocoa gravy, and her initial response was along the lines of, "I don't know. I don't measure anything and just throw it together." She had made it so many times, she no longer needed to measure anything. Finally, she was able to figure out approximately how much of each ingredient she used, so Janie was able to write it down.
Now, my sisters and I pretty much cook that same way. We may use a recipe if we're trying something new or a dish we only make occasionally. But generally after we've made it a few times, we don't really measure or follow a recipe. We may change it up a little from the original recipe; and may not quite make it the same every time.
One time Janie was talking to some ladies about different types of soup. They wanted her potato soup recipe, and she wasn't able to give it to them because she doesn't ever measure anything when she makes it. It's hard to write down a recipe when you cook a dish like this.
I often cook that same way. Normally, I'll follow a recipe for a dessert, because I make different items and don't repeat the same thing over and over. I also don't cook desserts very often anymore for just Jon and me. But otherwise, I rarely follow a recipe.
Recently, I was putting together a family cookbook. My sisters, nieces, and the wives of my nephews all donated recipes for the book. I found out that a lot of us in the family cook alike. A nephew's wife put in a recipe for a chicken salad that she said was delicious; but she just had the ingredients listed. She said she didn't measure, so had no idea how much of anything to put in; just whatever looked right. To put your mind at ease, the cookbook isn't a bunch of recipes without any measurements!
If you're unused to cooking like that, it's hard to comprehend. But if you cook very much at all, you understand that sometimes you just eyeball it and put in whatever looks about right.
There have been times when I can't really think of anything to cook, so will look and see what ingredients I have. I'll end up just putting things together and making up a recipe out of the items I have on hand. I know some of my sisters do the same thing from time to time. Sometimes it's not great; and sometimes it turns out really good. I don't think I've ever made anything that's inedible, but some of my creations are better than others. The bad thing is, when I do come up with something that's really good, I forget to write it down and can't ever remember it later.
One time I made some type of Mexican dish out of odds and ends I had, and it really turned out good. The next day I told Janie what I had made, so she made it for their supper that night. Her daughter-in-law was staying with them at the time and really liked it, and asked what the dish was called. Janie said, "Uh.... I guess Burrito Surprise. Loretta just made up the recipe." But sadly, neither one of us can remember what was in it or how we made it; so we haven't been able to make it again!
Being able to cook without a recipe is something that comes from experience. Someone who has never cooked or has very little experience in the kitchen probably should use instructions on how to cook various dishes. Following directions in order to learn which ingredients go well together, and how much of everything to use, is important. But if you don't want to take the time or patience to practice and learn, then you'll probably never be someone who will be able to successfully cook without a recipe.
There's a lot to be said for experience. Experience is not always fun, nor does it always come easily. In order to gain experience, it often takes a lot of patience, consists of making a lot of mistakes, and can be a tough road to travel at times. But on the other hand, it can also be a whole lot of fun and bring a lot of laughs along the way. Experience is a matter of taking the bad along with the good. But the end result is worth it.
Some words that basically mean the same as experience are: knowledge, understanding, maturity and know-how.
2 Peter 3:18 tells us to, "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
So how do we grow and mature in the knowledge of Jesus? It comes through experience. It comes from following the directions given to us in the Word of God. It comes from putting our faith into practice and using it. It comes from trusting God in each situation and believing that He knows better than us, and has all things under control. It comes from letting go of trying to do everything by ourselves and asking God for help. It's taking one step at a time, and keeping our focus on God. It's having Heaven as our end goal, and not getting distracted from reaching that goal. It's communicating with God through prayer. As we do all these things, we will gain spiritual experience and will begin to mature and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Not everyone is at the same place in their belief of God; and that's okay. Some have greater or stronger faith than others; and that's okay, too. It's not a contest on who has the best record or the greatest faith. God doesn't compare any of us to anyone else. He looks at each of us as individuals.
I had a lady tell me one time that she wasn't sure that she could ever have the same faith that I have. She didn't know whether or not she would be able to believe as strongly as I do. It made me sad, because I felt like she was holding back surrendering her life to Christ because she was comparing herself to me, and didn't know if her faith would measure up to how strong she thought mine was. If she only know how many mistakes I made, and how imperfect I really was in my faith. I tried to share that with her, but I'm not sure she ever got it. I encouraged her to just take that first step and ask Jesus into her heart. Don't worry about anything else or about how little faith she thinks she may or may not have. God doesn't require that we have a lot of faith before we can come to Him. We also don't have to clean up our life and be perfect before we can pray. All we have to do is say, "Jesus come into my life and forgive me of my sins." That's it!
Our conversation has come to mind off and on for the past year and a half. We discussed spiritual things occasionally via email; but I never had a chance to talk to her in person and ask if she ever made the decision to pray and ask Jesus into her heart before she passed away. I've often asked myself what I could have said differently, or what more I should have said to her for her to truly understand the love God had for her. She isolated herself for several months toward the end of her life, and I've felt guilty for not praying for her more and encouraging her spiritually. I have no idea whether or not she ever prayed before she went into eternity. And I feel a great burden for not being assured of that.
We cannot go through life comparing ourselves to others, then quitting or not even trying when we feel we don't measure up.
I'm not sure I'll ever be the awesome cook that Mama was. So does that mean I should just give up and say, "I'm not even going to try! I'll never be as good as she was in the kitchen, so why even work at it?" No! If I want to succeed in the kitchen, then I have to keep working at it and practicing. When I burn something or mess up, I just learn from my mistake and keep trying. When I cook something that doesn't turn out very well, then I try harder the next time. Maybe I won't ever measure up to my mama as a cook, but I can't give up working towards that goal.
It's the same way spiritually. We can't say, "Well, I'll never be as strong a christian or believer as they are, so why even try. I'll just try to be a good person and hope for the best."
We each have to run the race of life. All of us will encounter different obstacles and problems along the route. But running with God or without God will make all the difference in the world. If we run without God, we have no goal in sight and nothing to hope for in the end. There is nothing to anticipate and look forward to in the end. We're running with no hope of a future. When we stumble and fall down, all we have is ourself to look to for help.
But if we choose to ask God to be our running partner in life, then it makes all the difference in the world. We have Someone to pick us up when we fall down. We have Someone to carry us when we're weary. We have a goal in sight and know that this life is not the end. We have hope of a future. We know that after this life is over, we have all eternity in Heaven with God. We have something to look forward to.
It's time that we start growing in our spiritual experience. One step at a time, one day at a time, we can put our faith into practice. We can learn one thing at a time about the grace and love of God. Don't look at others and compare yourself to what your mind conceives them to be like. Looks can sometimes be deceiving! The only person who you need to compare yourself to and please is God.
We've all heard the old expression "learn from your mistakes". And I'm sure many of you have heard, "If I learned from all my mistakes, I'd be a genius by now." Unfortunately, I don't learn from all of my mistakes.
I'm getting a little older now, and have to work with several people much younger than myself. It seems odd when I have to keep proving myself to each one. They should take my twenty-five years of experience to mean something. But I do remember when I was that age, too. I'd get impatient with someone who had been stuck in some rut for fifteen years, and forgot everything they'd learned in school. They just don't realize I haven't been in that rut, and I have to prove it to them. One young pup was questioning whether my program worked correctly, and wanted to do some math to see if the results I had were correct. It's math I've done hundreds of times, so I just told him the answer. I didn't think he'd spend the next fifteen minutes trying to figure out how to get his calculator to tell him the same thing. Why didn't he just take my word!?
Sometimes the older folks around us have picked up wisdom from their experiences--both positive and negative, but mostly the negative. There is a place for questioning, but sometimes, it's important to take someone's experience and wisdom at face value.
Sometimes the person you may look at and think, "I'll never be as strong a christian or believer as they are...", is just more experienced by making more mistakes.
Easy Cake Mix Cookies
1 box cake mix -- any flavor of your choice
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup oil
Mix all ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonful on cookie sheet. Bake in 375 oven for 10 minutes. Cool.
When Daddy married June, she was not the best cook in the world. Pinto beans were a main staple in her diet. No kidding, it seemed like every single time you went over there, whether it be for lunch or supper, she would always have a pot of beans cooked. Always! She might have something else cooked too, but you could always count on the beans being present! Our family would plan a big turkey dinner for Thanksgiving or a special meal for a holiday, and here would come June with her pot of beans.
When they first got married, Daddy would get aggravated at June because she might say she was making spaghetti, but if she didn't have any spaghetti sauce she might use a jar of canned tomatoes instead. Then instead of spaghetti noodles, she might use macaroni. Well, that's not spaghetti, that's macaroni and tomatoes. Many times she didn't have the right ingredients for what she wanted to make, but instead of buying them, she would just use something totally random in its place. Daddy wasn't use to that.
Over the next 25 years, she did get better with her cooking. I had to live with them for a few weeks one time when my water pipes burst, and I taught her how to make meatloaf and a few other things. Her and Daddy really liked taco salad, so my sister wrote down the recipe and she started making that correctly. She always did make good breakfasts though!
If experience is the best teacher, then that means you have to first endure a lesson.
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We love you!
Loretta & Jon