Friday, March 2, 2012

The Blessing of Pressing

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair ..." 1 Corinthians 4:8

For days, I rifled through my drawers, cupboards, tool turnabout and anywhere else I could possibly fathom, in search of my most prized kitchen tool. Not since Superbowl Sunday had my trusty garlic press been in its rightful place (at the base of the utensil holder in the top drawer), and dinnertime was not the same without her! "For corn's sakes, Geneva," I muttered while hunting under a bunt pan, "Where could you be?"

My precious little Pampered Chef garlic press is a trusted kitchen companion that I count on every night for a tasty dinner (She may or may not also punch her time clock for lunch and yes, even occasionally at breakfast, as well). Are there other ways to add garlic to my meals? Of course. However, one cannot acquire perfectly even, distinctive, yet not over-powering, deliciously fragrant and magnificently fresh particles of my family's favorite aromatic amigo without Geneva.

In a household where decipherable chunks are considered a crime against humanity (at least, as far as the menfolk are concerned), attempting to finely mince garlic without the odd "surprise" large piece assaulting a loved one is ... well ... dicey. ;) Pureeing our little pungent friend does not allow it to cook properly, causing rumbly tummies and "raw garlic breath" that would slay a dragon. Jarred, granulated and powdered varieties, while properly distributed and easily cooked, lack the fresh taste we are accustomed to. When I use them, my husband is more likely to reach for the salt shaker, or even ask for garlic powder for him to add directly to his food. For these reasons, we ate a lot of grilled sandwiches, soup and "brinner" (breakfast for dinner) until Geneva was found at last.

There she was, sitting in Katie's kitchen drawer! I'd forgotten that it was one of the many things I brought to the home of my precious "rental babies" (and their wonderful parents) so I could cook up a slew of snacks-- which is, in my opinion, the highlight of Super Bowl Sunday! (Well, that and the commercials, but I digress ... ) Bursting with a mixture of joy, relief and annoyance toward myself for being CERTAIN that the children had put her in the wrong place, I grabbed her up and plopped her in my purse, lest I forget her at Katie's again.

Since our brief, but distressing separation, I have been more thankful than ever to have Geneva back home with us. Not only does she bring more flavor to our meals, she saves me time, effort and dishes! In stead of needing to grab a cutting board, a knife and the kosher salt to assist in the crushing of the clove, I pop a clove in my press, push it through right over a pan of sizzling olive oil, pop out the skin and bathe my reliable companion in the dishwasher. With my current schedule, I have never been so desperate (and thankful) for one less step!

When you have a multiplicity of food allergies, eating prepackaged foods is often extreeeeemely expensive and tends to have a lot of scary stuff in it. For that reason, even when I'm in a rush, still I do most of my cooking from scratch. While expediently stirring pizza sauce, dotted with little golden flecks of sauteed garlicky goodness, I thought about how I feel like a clove in the press.

I'm definitely feeling weighed down by my current season of life. It has been an absolutely, positively CRAZY year for our household! It has forced me to attempt to prioritize, an area where I don't particularly sparkle. But I'm sure I'm the only one who struggles with this ... right? ;)

When I try to be all things to all people in my own strength, it's a mess. When it comes to balance, I'm no better with my time, talents and emotional health than I am with a chef's knife. When I'm over-committed, a whole lot of people get burnt out, exhausted Amy. Like overly-minced garlic when exposed to high heat, I lend an icky taste to the stir-fry of life in this form. I can't focus, forget stuff, I spend half the time in one meeting trying to prepare for what I have to do next ... it's just a whole lotta crazy! What happens when you get one of those accidentally large hunks of me? Well, ask my kids. When mama doesn't have a creative outlet, time with friends or sufficient time to have an entire conversation alone with daddy, I can be rather overwhelming and unforgettable-- and not in a good way.

When I don't spend time in The Word or talking with God, my loved ones get dried, minced Amy. Because I am a child of God, the lingering of his presence is always there, but without regular fellowship with him, I can only be a pale imitation of the woman God has called me to be. I can love my family-- as long as they don't get on my nerves. I can be patient-- until a new barista comes on staff at Cutters Point and has the nerve to imperfectly craft her majesty's latte. When Jesus isn't running the show, it's pretty much an inner-brat slumber party!

So how do I avoid being burnt-out, over-powering or stale? I only have one option-- the press. For those of you who haven't used a garlic press before, let me give you a helpful tip that will prevent garlic juice in your eye-- apply pressure carefully. If you don't, the clove will ooze out the sides or (as implied above) cause an optical burning sensation that I REALLY wouldn't want anyone else to experience! When God is working in my life, he always knows how to apply just the right amount of pressure. His goal is not to eviscerate me, but to prepare me for all that he has planned. When a clove is gently pressed, its natural oils are released, producing wonderful flavor. As more pressure is applied, it travels through specific channels, enabling the chef to have portion control and uniformity. It's really pretty groovy when you're cooking! However, when you're not the chef, but the clove? Not so groovy. Trials are not awesome, they're painful. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to say, "Yippity-skippity, another moment of pain and anguish, which will produce personal growth!" However, I can draw on him for strength during those pressing times, knowing He will never push me past what I can bear. Even when I think I am at my breaking point, I am being upheld and supported by Christ Himself, through whom I can do all things!

Right now, I'm not sure whether we're still in the press or being sauteed in oil with crushed red pepper flakes and I have absolutely, positively NO CLUE what recipe He's cooking up. But I do know this: He has a perfect plan for my life. Be it at the press or adjusting the temperature of the oil, I know that the ending recipe will be perfect if I let Him remain in charge.

I can't promise you daily blogs this year, but I do promise that I will share all that God is doing in my life when He provides the inspiration (and the time) to do so! Whether you're in a garlic press, a pepper grinder, a salad spinner or a deep fryer this week, I pray that you will avoid catastrophes by taking off the chef's hat and letting The Master do His work in your life. :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

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