His Glory Appears
Tuesday was St. Martha’s Day.
If you’ve been around this blog long, you’ll know that I have a thing for Martha. Her story captured me during a time of great challenge and I haven’t been able to look away. I keep seeing new things as I sit with her.
In my quest to find out more about her, I discovered that she is St. Martha in the Catholic church and that she has her own feast day. She is the patroness of cooks.
I put the date on my calendar when I still couldn’t leave the house without a coat, and began to plan for a party in a house I couldn’t yet imagine.
A few weeks ago, I glanced at my planner and smiled a little bit. I began to send out texts to some of the people who have slid seamlessly into the fabric of my life. They know who I really am (and they seem to like it).
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit of an anxious cook. Allow me to illustrate this for you.
The other evening, I was eager to make chicken. I had recently purchased bakeware, and frozen chicken breasts, and I am acquainted with Google.
I’m a bit of an alarmist. My mind goes straight to the worst-case scenario. I don’t worry that my chicken will be rubbery. I go right to Salmonella, Campylobacteriosis, Clostridium Perfringens, and Staphylococcal Intoxication.
As I pulled my chicken out of the oven, having following the wikiHow directions to the letter, I inserted a meat thermometer and waited until it climbed to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It fell pretty quickly to 164, so I popped it back in for another few minutes, just to be sure.
(This process has been repeated with fish. I’m still nervous to attempt cooking red meat that isn’t ground into tiny pieces.)
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and perplexed about many things.”
I figure that Martha knew a thing or two about anxiety (in the kitchen and otherwise). I decided to invite her into my kitchen.
As the time grew near, my guests accepted and I began to plan my menu. I picked out enough asparagus to feed a small village, bright white mushrooms to stuff with cream cheese, garlic and cayenne pepper, piles of red potatoes to be mashed and smothered in butter, goat cheese and crackers, butter lettuce, beets, and bottles of wine. And chicken.
The night before the party, I spent the evening in the kitchen, wearing an apron. I made ahead what could be made ahead, anticipation growing within me.
After work the next day, I raced home, stopping only to pick up the dessert my mother had made for the occasion. A beautiful fruit tart, glazed with lime. She is rather fond of Martha, as well.
I put the potatoes into the largest pot I (my roommate) have. I began to wash lettuce and snap the ends off of the asparagus.
I lost track of time in the kitchen, and before I knew it, my guests had arrived. Things were partly done, loose ends trailing out of pots and into baking pans. My friends offered to help.
There is something beautiful and new (for me) about standing in the middle of something very in-progress and inviting someone else inside, watching as they roll up their sleeves.
We began to work together.
There are times when moments move very slowly, almost pausing as they go by, so that I have a chance to look them deeply in the eye. This was just such a moment. Like Martha, I had come to Jesus some time ago and asked Him if He cared. I had felt the burden of working through life alone, near a hot oven and possible Salmonella. It had been an honest question. These people around my table had all come into my life since that prayer.
I noticed that I was cooking with ease, and without anxiety, not so worried when I couldn’t get my thermometer to climb all the way to 165. My friends were shouldering my burdens along with me at this dinner, just as they had been doing for many months in everyday life.
There were two pastors around my table and one of them had brought her four-year-old son. I wondered, at first, how it would be to have a four-year-old at a dinner party. But I couldn't help but smile every time he spoke. As he exclaimed over my silver bookends and commented on my meat thermometer, I think I might just wait until he has grown up to get married.
The wine and the cucumber water flowed as salad turned into main course. There was an effortless quality to this meal, and no one seemed to mind that it was over a hundred degrees and that I was without air conditioning.
Just as the salads were whisked away, I duck into my room to get my big green study Bible, the one with the flaking bonded leather and my name, in gold, on the front. I read the story of Martha, the one in Luke 10, that everyone knows, and then, I flip to the rest of the story, in John 11.
Every time I read these words, I am struck by something new. As I read aloud in my own dining room, sticky and utterly joyful, I hear these words as if for the first time: “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” I look around once more and move on, mentally, to the words of Jesus in John: “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”