I remember back in the day . . .
. . . when there really was nothing in the fridge. I was just young enough that I didn’t know then how to make something out of nothing. I knew how to bake a prune cake, homemade thousand island dressing, how to wash a chicken but not fry it, how to make creamed tuna on toast, fry bologna, how to prepare boxed Kraft Italian spaghetti and bake Martha White blueberry muffins on Sunday morning. It seemed like a lot, but it didn’t really prepare me for filling my own fridge and planning a week’s worth of meals, even if, in the beginning, it just was for two.
When my husband and I married, we were both still college students. No phone, no t.v., no hot water for three months because the gas company required a $150 deposit. Rent was $185 a month. Our grocery budget was $25 a week. I remember spending $32 one week. I just couldn’t face my team-mate for life. I felt like I’d let him down. I wanted to go home to Mom – but she was about 1 1/2 hours away – and that would have cost even more, so I went home, faced up to my failure – and discovered that love still loves when you bust the budget by $7.
I didn’t know much about feeding any kind of sheep – literally or figuratively.
That first winter was challenging. We lived in the upstairs apartment of an old house. A group of young men rented the first floor of the house. When they went home for Christmas, they turned off the heat to save money. Our water pipes suffered – and so did we. When we got home from class or working at the newspaper, I’d have to boil pots full of water to pour into the toilet to thaw the pipes. Hearts warmed with love don’t make icy water any warmer – but it sure does make living through icy-water-times worth living through!
Thankfully, my mother and father-in-law raised cattle and shared a freezer full of hamburger, cube steaks and chuck roasts. They shared a lot of meals with us, too. They didn’t just open their freezer for us. Their refrigerator was always full, always waiting for us to come make a sandwich, make a piled-high bowl of ice cream – and fill a bowl with chili, soup beans or vegetable soup. I remember my husband making me hot chocolate once at their house – a tumbler full of hot chocolate. I didn’t know hot chocolate could come in tumblers. My new mom and dad never once looked dismayed when we walked through the door near dinner time – or lunch or breakfast time. My husband’s sweet family taught me a lot about the condition of the heart in feeding sheep – both literally and figuratively.
“We’re going to look back at these days as the best days of our lives,” my husband said. Those were sweet days, indeed. I admit – I did hope that hot water in all our pipes would be part of best days to come. A hot bath on a regular any day makes any day a best day. Believe me – a newlywed does not have enough pots to fill a tub full of hot water no matter how much determination is behind the effort – especially when all you’ve got is a one-quart pan. I hoped, too that best days would come when I could spend over $25 at the grocery store. After a failed attempt at having friends over for dinner (a one-quart pan cannot cook enough spaghetti for four at once), I hoped one day having people for dinner would look like a best day, not a fail day.
I wanted to grow up and feed the sheep from my herd just like Nanny and Papaw did – and maybe even feed those that God gave me who maybe just weren’t part of my herd – and not have them stop by McDonald’s on the way home because they weren’t filled up.
Thirty-five years down the road of from the First of The Best Days, 5 sons later, 2 granddaughters and one grandson later, one-still-in-high-school-later, one-living-at-home-while-going-to-college, I have that full fridge. I have hot water for baths more often than not, though there’s no hot water in my bathroom sink. Sometimes when the gas runs out before we’ve realized it was running low – there’s no hot water – for the tubs, the sinks or the water pipes. Instead of everyone dissembling and falling apart, everyone swallows their disappointment with a pushing-through-the-bitter-cold-for-a-shower perseverance – a stoic, crazy exercise building family unity that we’d rather not experience but do every so often!
Those meal schedules? There’s a bunch of schedules now – not just breakfast, lunch and dinner schedules. There’s all-the-people-in-my-nest schedules. Running-a-business schedule – and, maybe the hardest to learn of all, the no-way-the-schedule-is-going-to-behave-so-go-with-the-flow schedule. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that all these schedules give birth to additional schedules. There are schedules that have moved out, though, and made their own schedules.
Decembers wear me out. January comes like a Monday – I never plan appointments on a Monday. It’s my day to get the week’s schedule organized in my mind. The laundry gets caught up. The kitchen gets put back together, more or less. I make a stew that should last for a few days. It’s a restart – a new beginning. January does for the year what Monday does for the week.
Mondays typically start out as a Feed-My-Sheep kind of day. The stew will last for two days – unless they don’t care for it. Then it lasts three. It’s the beginning of the work week, but my grocery stock dwindles down from Friday by Monday – and it has to last five more days. The schedules start snowballing – and the fridge empties. It empties itself of milk first (I really need a milk cow). Everything else follows.
The clock runs out of time, all the good energy within me drains dry, and the fridge starts reminding me of its waning stock, until one of the boys opens the door, and announces, “There’s nothing to eat,” when, usually, there really is. It just takes more thought and gumption to make something out of slim pickin’s. Eggs and cheese can make an omelet. Grilled cheese is a feast, if someone’s hungry. Pillsbury biscuits brushed with butter, garlic and salt go straight to the hungry heart.
However, sometimes the fridge just sadly opens to announce in dismay, “I’m empty, too – No help for you here.”
Sometimes, though, it’s me that’s empty.
How then, when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.
Some of my boys will try to persuade me that not everything is about God (and that’s for another post), but I tell them . . . it is. . . . it’s all about God. You don’t get 34.5 years of best days without God in all of it. Even out of the brokenness, God can make best days. It’s all about training the mind and heart to remember what God has to say about it, and when I don’t know what He has to say about it, to go looking for what He has to say.
So when there’s no room in the budget, within myself, or within time constraints, how can I feed these sheep God’s given me – both literally and figuratively.
Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep three times. The second time, Jesus asks Peter:
“‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?’
He [Peter] saith unto him, ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.’
He [Jesus] saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.'” ~ John 21:16
“Feed my sheep” – not just when it’s easy . . . not just when the bank account and the fridge is full . . . not just when you’re feeling it.
I had a lot of learning ahead of me 34.5 years ago – the cooking, the budgeting, the planning, the sheep feeding – both literally and figuratively. I didn’t know anything about children or loving them. What I knew about marriage probably wouldn’t even fill a thimble. What I knew about who I was to God was even less than that. . . . but that didn’t stop me from trying to learn.
“Feed my sheep,” He said.
God takes small to middling hearts, steeps them in his Holy spirit, filling them with his kind of love until something extraordinary happens – one day those small to middling hearts have developed the capacity to love more than they ever imagined, as many as they dared to love.
‘Elisha said to the widow who had nothing, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.’ Then he said, ‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.’ So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another vessel.’ And he said to her, ‘There is not another.’ Then the oil stopped flowing.‘” ~ 2 Kings 4: 2-6
I bet if there had been one more vessel, there would have been enough oil to fill it up.
He does that with the time, the energy – and the fridge when there’s His sheep to feed.
He takes the five loaves and two fishes (Mark 6: 37-44) of ourselves – and turns each of us into more than enough – more than enough to feed God’s sheep, to live the daily always making room for one more or 5,000 more, even if it’s serving just grilled cheese and sweet tea.
Do you want to? Are you ready to make room for at least one more?
Regardless of the economy? Regardless of who’s in or out of the nest? Regardless of what’s in your fridge?
Feed My Sheep, Jesus told Peter – and you and me.
[I’m five years down the road from this post. My fridge is getting ready to emptier for a variety of reasons: one son left the nest in May when he married; the youngest leaves in January for a co-op for a year over an hour away. Other reasons are streamlining our menu for our health needs instead of filling up hungry boys, and the cost of food will minimize our choices. Life is changing for us, but Jesus’ call to feed His sheep hasn’t changed. Maybe the people who sit at our table changes, but the commission doesn’t change – to Feed His sheep.}
Feed My Sheep Part I: When Kitchen Living Becomes God-Radical
Feed My Sheep Part II: Living a Lifestyle of Making Room at the Table for One More
Feed My Sheep Part III: Which Sheep are Mine to Feed
Feed My Sheep Part IV: How do I Feed All these Sheep? (When there’s Nothing in the Fridge)
Feed My Sheep Part V: When Blessing is Invited to The Table
Remember Me Monday: #84 & Link-up
“I’ll make a list of God’s gracious dealings,
all the things God has done that need praising,
All the generous bounties of God,
his great goodness to the family of Israel—
. love extravagant.”
~ Isaiah 63:7, The Message
In the Old Testament, God repeatedly, quietly and loudly, tells his children, “You have forgotten me!” (Jeremiah 3:32, Ezekiel 22:12, to name a few). It’s a heart cry from a father to a child who has forgotten all the love, all the saving, helping, little and big blessings – and it leaves me stunned when I realize our Father, the creator of the universe, who knows things I cannot begin to fathom, who authors storylines that leave me amazed, delights in all of us so much, He cries out, “Remember Me.”
While every day is a Remember God Day, I am inviting you to join me on Monday mornings to come by and remember what God has done for you, for your family. Maybe God sent a cardinal darting out in front of you, as if to tell you, “I’m here,” or broke a child’s fever after you laid it all down at His feet in a 2 a.m. bedside vigil. Maybe He stood with you in the wait of a prayer sent out, or brought someone you loved to Christ. Maybe He healed your broken heart, gave your courage, or you gave Him your dreams as a love offering only to have Him give them back in an unimaginable way. Maybe God helped you survive to bedtime after a crazy Monday, or forgive yourself for missing it with your kiddos –– Whatever it is, let’s Remember Him. . . in a “Remember Me Monday” love letter.
“My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
Of your salvation all the day long,
Though I know not its measure.
I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord”
~ Psalm 71:15-16.
Let us delight in Him by telling the stories of what He’s done! If you wrote a blog post remembering what He’s done for you, join the linky. If you didn’t but still want to praise Him for what He’s done – write it in the comment section. Then visit a comment before or after yours! One of the beautiful things about the blogging community is the relationships it builds!
Rules? Write long or short, a list or a story, include photos or not. Just Remember Him and what He has done, and let the gratitude of your heart guide you. Let’s make Monday so Rejoice, that the goodness of God spills into the rest of the week!
Places I’m Linking at This Week:
Inspire Me Monday, Instaencouragements,
Legacy Link-Up, Recharge Wednesday
Faith on Fire, Tell His Story, Grace&Truth
Let’s Have Coffee Wednesday Celebrate Your Story
Scripture&Snapshot, Sunday Scripture Blessings
Sweet Tea & Friends Monthly Link-up