Chicken Hearted Stew

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We saw the first hail today, pelting about the yard like they owned the place (which I suppose, in that moment anyway, they surely did). I guess that makes it official — winter has arrived. For years, wiser heads than my own have told me that time speeds up the older you get. I didn’t doubt them… but I also didn’t expect to join their ranks so quickly. I feel like that kid who digs their heels into the ground and sticks their bum out, recruiting gravity to assist them in their mission to not be moved from the place they have chosen to be (which, for me in the last few months, has been summer).

Yet as much as I crave that childlike sense of time that used to make the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas feel like they lasted for months, I also am teeth-grittingly determined to never become the sort of person who moans about every change in weather, who manages to miss the glory right in front of their faces. I am bemused by our cultural habit of griping when it snows/rains/blows/gets hot, when spring comes too early or too late, when we have to put on our woolies or when our flowers come up too early. Gracious, we are hard to please. My teenage rebellion may be hitting a little late in life, but I have finally chosen it: I am rebelling by delighting in the weather.

The hail was hard and fast and bright white. It briefly blanketed our yard in crunchy candy ice, and then melted as quickly as it fell. And even as I write this, snow has begun its gentle descent, covering the ground and trees and my younger Quail with powdery magic. And it is beautiful. I cannot bring myself to whine about the roads, or how this winterness will keep me from traveling to my beloved hairdresser this week, or how my energy bill is spiking even as I type. God’s gifts are perfect, as they are, and all of things have been accounted for by Him, so I don’t need to.

Cold weather drives me to comfort cooking and baking (I know what you’re thinking, if you have been reading more than one post on site: is there a type of weather that doesn’t drive you to cooking and baking? Ahem. No comment), so last night I saturated the air in my home with the smells of one of my favorite stews. It is technically a summer stew, but I never really want stew in the summer, so I ignore that typo in the title. We all make mistakes. It is chicken and chickpeas and black olives, simmered with onion and garlic, turmeric and a cinnamon stick, and I serve it over a steaming heap of quinoa (which adds the holier-than-thou self-righteousness factor that is so important if you are feeding children and trying to maintain your Ricky Raccoon Mothering Badge, which, let’s be blunt, I am). Abundant squeezes of fresh lemons over the top and you have one of my happiest, lightest comfort foods.

But turmeric. We should talk about this. I am not health conscious enough to blither about the innumerable health benefits, though I hear it has some, and that apparently compels people to make it into teas and capsules and I know not what. Whatever. The point for me is that whenever you add turmeric to anything, it turns everything that stunning shade of mustard yellow that I am always drawn to in clothing, and must absolutely never on pain of ugliness wear. Sigh.

(Side note: of all the splendid things I inherited from my mother –striking beauty, sparkling wit, excellent taste in husbands– there are 2 noteworthy things that bypassed me, which I grieve. The first is her pregnancies. They say you tend to have pregnancies similar to your mother’s; Marme had easy pregnancies, hard labors, and I found ways to vomit anything that made it down my gullet, including but not limited to oxygen, for the entire 9 months. Labor was my favorite part. The second is her ability to wear gorgeous yellows and oranges.)

Since every meal in my house involves some rhetorical efforts on my part to try and persuade certain nameless Quail to eat whatever I made, I played up the yellow factor of this comfort stew. Adding turmeric to the stew turned everything but the olives yellow, and so obviously I pitched it to them as a cowardly stew: both chicken and yellow.

I actually was trying to look up why it is that being “yellow” is synonymous with being cowardly, and perhaps one of you has a better answer (do comment, won’t you? I love to learn), but apparently it is sort of an amphibian dis — the yellow bellied hop away from a fight. Does seem we are impugning the motives of frogs everywhere, but there you have it.

I am not really sure it helped anyone eat dinner, but it did nudge forward a set of thoughts in my own mind, and surely that in and of itself was worth the effort. We tend to think of courage as something that happens “out there” — soldiers on the battlefield, cancer patients suffering patiently through chemotherapy, martyrs being burned at the stake. We hope we would demonstrate such outstanding courage if God ever put us in a similar situation… and we dearly hope He never does. But I wonder if we ever contemplate the courage that God is calling us to in our homes, in our daily work. Turns out, it takes no courage at all to die. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to die to ourselves, to die well.

Cowardice is like spiritual turmeric — it taints everything. Perhaps you are afraid of failing, so you don’t ever begin, and your home is marked by low standards, anemic efforts, inconsistency. Perhaps you fear conflict, so you leave your children undisciplined, and your marriage full of little weeds you dread to pull. Your life, as is, today, takes courage. Following Christ is a call to get up and die, to live in constant conflict with the world, the devil, and with your own flesh — and that is not for the faint of heart.

But be encouraged — even if everywhere you look, you see the damning yellow stain of unbelief, of cowardice, the Lord is mighty to save. You are reading this, which means it is not too late to repent of your fear and live mighty.

  1. Ellen
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    “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to die to ourselves.” Again, great truth and reflections in this post.

    (Except for the roll-the-eyes part about cold weather driving you to cooking & baking. Enough already; breathing oxygen does.)

    [And, sigh, you have already EARNED the Ricky Racoon Mothering Badge…it’s either hidden by your Ma Ingalls apron or laying under some soup cauldron drip-drying on your counter or stuck between stack of home school materials.]

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