November 29, 2004
Every year after Thanksgiving my mother used to throw the carcass of the turkey into a big pot with leftover vegetables and noodles and make turkey soup. We looked forward to it almost as much as we did to the Thanksgiving feast.
So after Thanksgiving this year in Malawi, I got out a big pot and made turkey soup. (I was hoping that the second cooking would tenderize the meat a bit more –our bird was a bit tough to chew the first time around.) But as I put in left over green beans and carrots I wondered why we aren’t more economical with the bits and pieces of our lives that God provides.
Each of us has so many gifts and experiences. Sometimes we compartmentalize them, and say, “I do that at work, not at church,”or “that experience was too painful for me to talk about.”I am beginning to realize that we should use every bit of our lives to glorify God. Sometimes I want to hold back something from the soup pot. “Maybe I can use this gravy for hot turkey sandwiches.”When I am honest with myself, I realize that no one in my family likes hot turkey sandwiches.
In February my youngest sister, Martha Brown Hollis died suddenly of a blood clot to the brain. She was 41 and a wife and mother of two girls, Kyla, 14 and Shannon, 8. Needless to say our entire family was absolutely devastated. Martha and her husband, Wally, spent 18 years on the mission field with Trans World Radio. We know that Martha is now at peace with her Savior. Still, we are heartsick about losing her.
I still don’t know why Martha died, I trust it was part of God’s plan, even though I don’t understand it. I recently got word that a good friend of mine lost her younger sister suddenly too. I thought, “I know exactly how she feels and what she is going through.”However, even though she has been in my thoughts and prayers for weeks, I did not write to her, because I would start crying and thinking of Martha each time I started to email her. Last week, I finally got up the nerve and wrote her a long letter expressing my sympathy. I told her about what I went through, and gave her a few suggestions on how to cope with the overwhelming grief. She wrote back immediately and was astounded that I had thought about her from Malawi. She said that my letter really gave her comfort and strength. I was mad at myself for not writing to her sooner. Sometimes we hold back things that we should be using. So I dumped the gravy in the soup.
As I added the spinach from our garden and the Malawian rice as well, I wondered what else I might be able to use for God’s glory. Sometimes God uses unexpected experiences or gifts that we don’t appreciate. As I stirred my soup, I prayed that God would show me other ingredients that I could throw into my “life pot.”
The holidays are a good time to think of others and endeavor to do something for them. Here in Africa we will be trying to figure out what other experiences have made us stronger or more able to serve. We will be trying to use them here in Malawi this year. It is our prayer that you find a way to serve God better where you are.