The hand that fills the crock pot….holds the power to change the world.
I distinctly remember the crock pot full of cocktail weenies that Mrs. Wyatt made. We had fellowship once a month with the long tables covered in all the church-ladies-offerings. Her olive colored crock pot was always at the end. The kids would always be reminded that there were a lot of people behind us, and four was really quite enough. I am not so sure Mrs. Wyatt thought that four was enough. She would smile at us from atop her brightly colored high heels and bring a second crock pot next month. Sometimes love looks like two more tiny hotdogs in a delicious red-orange sauce just because they make you so happy.
I know what love looks like. I know because I was raised on it. I was raised on the smell of cupcakes in the oven for some sort of celebration. My mom was frosting cupcakes for the church picnic when she went into labor with my sister. One of my first memories is blowing out the candles on my train cake for my third birthday at the church’s annual fall festival. The whole sanctuary turned fellowship hall sang Happy Birthday to me. Loves sometimes looks like frosting and chocolate cake and everyone recognizing your accomplishment (even if it is, simply that you turned three.)
My summer memories are filled with elaborately decorated sanctuaries in the theme of that year’s Vacation Bible School curriculum. Rainforests, deserts, hot air balloon adventures, all created in my childhood house of worship. One year was The Wild West and someone made enough stick horses for the kids to get to ride them from place to place. One year was Outer Space and my mom spray-painted a refrigerator box into a rocket ship that the pre-k class got to play in. Our grass was silver for quite a long time, but I can promise you, it was worth it. In fifth grade I don’t remember what the theme was, but I do know that our teacher had us wear our name tags as ankle bracelets and we didn’t have to wear shoes the entire week. In church! The schoolboy with my name carefully painted on it that I won in kindergarten for naming the VBS mascot Hal. A. Looyah (my mother may have helped with that entry), I still won’t throw it out.
As an adult sometimes I have rolled my eyes at the time and expense put into those weeks where even the snack is carefully crafted to fit the theme. I scoff a little bit at the suburban church I grew up in and think the modest church plant I have chosen for my family does a much better job of allocating resources. But then, I remember how special those VBS weeks were, how excited I was every day to get to worship in the sanctuary turned underwater wonderland, and get my blue-jello snack with the gummy fish swimming through it. I remember that I felt special. I felt cared for. I felt, loved.
The ladies who were in charge of the cupcakes, the fellowship hours, the Vacation Bible School planning. They were the first responders in times of crisis.
When my mom had a surprising interaction with an over the counter medication, not only did a woman from the church come over immediately to take my mom to the doctor, she stayed with her when they admitted my mom to the hospital, stayed until my dad got there, and then came home and made my family dinner for the evening. She dropped it off around five. It was delicious.
When one of my dad’s clients needed to use our house as a safe haven from the streets because something happened to her that us girls should not yet be exposed to, my mom had to make exactly one phone call to find a place for me and my sisters to spend the night so that this woman could stay at our house. I believe this mom had us bring our dolls. She threw a spur of the moment tea party.
When my mom had a series of seizures and was no longer allowed to drive, she tacked a form for the week on the bulletin board on Sunday, and a mini-van with a person we recognized driving was always there when we were done with dance class, or needed to go to piano. This went on for months. I thought it was normal.
When my dad got into his car accident, it was a woman from the church who showed up at the hospital, pushed all the money she had in her purse into my mom’s hands so that my mom wouldn’t have to go to the bank for money for food and parking. It was this same woman who made sure I had a ride home from school and a way to get to the speech tournament the next morning. It was important to me, so it was important to her.
From the same women who taught me the wordless book and ten commandments, I learned the importance of bringing a casserole to a new mom, or family in crisis. I learned how to celebrate the good in each other’s lives. I learned to say yes, even when it was inconvenient because someone else really needed me to.
Sometimes when I hear a pastor explain that we are called to be “God’s love with skin on” I nod in agreement. I know what that looks like. I was raised on that kind of practical love. Sometimes when I sit in meetings or read books that attempt to systematize missional living and loving our neighbor. I think about the web of women that taught me how to really be there for people, and long for them to show up in the darkest corners of our neighborhoods with a delicious meal and a quick fun craft for the kids.
I heard the women at my childhood church were throwing baby showers for women at the crisis pregnancy center and I was thrilled. I know these church ladies. They threw my showers. They bring the best food AND bring the best presents. They even make sure the wrapping is beautiful. They want you to feel loved. I found out the second year they did it, more than double the pregnant women signed up to be showered. Word of the love had gotten around.
If nothing else was taught to me all those years in that suburban church, I was certainly taught this: The hand that fills the crock pot….has the power to change the world.
This post is linked with all kinds of posts that celebrate women today! Go see the rest at Sarah Bessey’s place. Cheers!