It all started with me getting excited about a bowl of oatmeal.
Not gonna lie (I never lie to you, reader, you should know that by now), I find this embarrassing on a number of levels, not the least of which being that I have spent the majority of my life actively disliking oatmeal. So much about the texture and flavor and smell is deeply unappealing to me, and yet I should have been braced for this upheaval of my ideas, because God never fails to turn my nevers into always…s… whoa, that is hard to turn into a plural noun. Pardon me as I try to unknot my tongue… seriously though, I am writing a blog. Do I need to offer more proof of the Lord’s sense of humor?
I made a baked oatmeal this week that was so stinking good, I not only saved the leftovers, I have eaten them myself, more than once. And written to a friend about it. And blithered to all of you. That is, I am about to.
It is steel cut oats, mixed with pureed pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla, milk, creme fraiche and eggs, raspberries and sliced almonds, that bakes in the oven after soaking overnight. You serve it warm with a blop of creme fraiche, more toasted sliced almonds and a smattering of huckleberries that you nostalgically purchased at the overpriced grocery store because they make you feel 16 again, swapping homemade apple cider for mountain huckleberries that your best friend brought to the band room every year after her family’s camping trip. Not your memory? That’s ok. You can borrow mine, but just for this recipe. Eat it alongside a cup of piping hot chamomile; I don’t know why, but this oatmeal tastes better with tea than with coffee and coming from me, that is saying something.
There I was, obviously out of my senses, texting my friend about this amazing oatmeal that I was about to eat as a mid-morning snack, and she, being an above average sort of person and a wildly above average friend, rejoiced with me over the find that my taste buds were actively discovering. I had enough shame left to be self-deprecating about my text, and followed up with something about what passes for excitement in my world these days. Her response stopped me in my tracks, and I think you need to read it.
“I don’t know… the older I get the more I treasure those little things. The first sip of coffee in the morning, a really great gut-emptying poop, mail that isn’t a bill or a coupon flier, fall fog rising in the morning to reveal the splendor of the autumn colors. Blessed to experience these things and even more blessed to recognize that these little daily gifts are of God and for my joy.”
If Erma Bombeck is my spirit animal, then without a doubt G.K. Chesterton is the voice inside my head:
“Oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining about the dullness of life… How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference!”
The most surefooted way out of drudgery is gratitude. The only way you could be missing the abundant mercies that you are swimming in every day is if you have a lunatic’s worldview: if you are the center of your universe, then your universe is too small. Open your eyes; give thanks. Look for the fascination, the joy, the thrill, the taste, the sounds of God’s love — the real world is drenched in them.
“Is there really no life fuller and no love more marvelous than yours; and is it really in your small and painful pity that all flesh must put its faith? How much happier you would be, how much more of you there would be, if the hammer of a higher God could smash your small cosmos, scattering the stars like spangles, and leave you in the open, free like other men to look up as well as down!” (Chesterton, “The Maniac”)
Smash on, Lord, smash on.