Making Relish while Relishing Relationship
“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” Psalm 77:11
Nearly everyone I know has a way of connecting with the past. For some reason as humans we feel the need to reach across generations and stretch ourselves outside of time even if just for a moment to connect with our past stories of how we came to be. Some people research genealogy and get lost in family history while others keep to certain family traditions and pass them on to their children. For me, the kitchen has involuntarily become my very own time capsule.
“He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…” 1 Chronicles 16:15
The rack of cast iron frying pans hanging in my kitchen was my great grandmother Chamberlain’s. I have slowly collected these from discarding family members over the past ten years and I have had no greater delight than cooking something for my own family in a well-seasoned and easy-to-clean pan. My great grandmother Chamberlain was a strong woman, a single mother of seven children whom sometimes held three jobs to hold her family together along with her eldest son. As I cook and reflect on her life and her hardships I often wonder what she would think about as she stood over these very same pans after working three jobs and coming home to care for a family. I wonder sometimes if she cried out to God the way that I do after a long day and whether she also found joy in the mundane things of life along the way.
“Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.” Psalm 25:6
My cupboards also contain the pots and pans that were my great grandmother Burke’s given to her as a wedding gift circa 1920. These came to me from my Aunt at a time when I was about to purchase new pots and pans and fed up with the chemical warning labels. Never have I seen a set of pans in better condition and knowing these were used on our family farm to feed the mass of family members congregating truly speaks volumes of my great grandmother’s care and appreciation for her possessions. There have been many times when those pans were not easy to clean that I have stood over them scrubbing and wondering how these have lasted for nearly 100 years of use and whether they will retain their pristine condition after the likes of me!
“They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” Psalm 78:35
Around the edges of my counter tops, lining my cupboards, and holding my sugar, tea, coffee, cookies, etc. is a huge set of old Village Brown Pfaltzgraff canisters passed on to me by my own mother. It was the set that she used after being married and as a toddler I clearly remember being reprimanded when reaching for the sugar canister from the edge of the counter. This set throws me back to the foundation of her and my father’s marriage, my pre-amputation days, while somehow bringing to me great comfort and peace as I use these same dishes and plates in my own home.
All of these items transport me back in time but there is one thing that stands apart from all the rest: canning. About five years ago my husband wanted me to learn how to can peaches for him. He bought me the beginning water bath canning kit, mason jars, and a box of peaches while heading out to the garage to build shelves for the final product. I remember calling my grandmother Rodriguez and telling her that no matter how many times I read the recipe I might has well have been an alien reading Japanese for all the sense I could make of it. She laughed and reminded me that growing up during the depression with seven siblings taught her a lot and that she would be right over without the need for a recipe. She began to teach me how to sterilize jars, wipe lids, remove air bubbles, and can food in a way that would leave my shelves lined with the vibrant colors of summer to enjoy one jar at a time year round.
Five years later we continue to can everything we can garden and put our hands on. It surely is no easy task as any homesteader will confirm. With my disability it can be an even more challenging project as I hoist the big pots laden with empty jars and bushels of produce up the basement steps and into my tiny kitchen. I have since learned how to read canning recipes and we still spend our canning days sharing stories of my grandmother’s childhood, her marriage, and her life as we ladle the same foods she ladled with her mom into the hot, clear glass jars.
Spending this time together closes the gap of generations as we perform the same tasks done by countless women in our family history. We connect in a way that shows me how God has worked in my family and a way that makes the hours fly by without either of us noticing.
“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Psalm 103:17-18
Remembering where we come from and embracing our history is something that is not foreign to God’s people. A simple bible search for the word “remember” renders 231 results! God wanted His people to remember the traditions and realize the richness of the grace and love he lavishly provided even while his people were still living under the Law of Moses. Just as in knowing the hard work of canning before electricity was invented makes me appreciate being a modern canner; so remembering how people operated in grace while under the Law of Moses allows me to appreciate the way Jesus set us free from these rules of religion.
“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” Mark 8:18
While canning there are a ton of rules to follow: Keep your jars hot; wipe the rims before placing on the lids; Don’t reuse your lids; Each food needs to be in the canner a certain amount of time; Listen for the “ping” of the seals; do not leave unsealed jars out because of the dangers of botulism. When I am canning alone I tend to worry about these things and anxiously keep “on my toes” making sure everything is being done just right so that my time and food are not wasted. But when my grandmother is with me I relax fully in the nature of our relationship trusting that she knows just what to do and when to do it and will alert me if I stray from the course. I do not worry about how the food will turn out tomorrow because we are talking and laughing and sharing history with one another. We are relishing relationship even as we make the relish!
I feel that our relationship with God is much the same way. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to remember the rules. We try to follow the Ten Commandments and do “good” to ensure our own salvation tomorrow. But with Jesus in our heart all of the rules pass away as we enjoy our relationship with Him. The Bible helps us to marinate in the history of our people and as we enjoy the stories and the presence of the relationship with Jesus all of the rules fade into oblivion. We become consumed by the relationship and remembering the greatness of the one we are in relationship with.
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” 2 Timothy 1:3
The frying pans and the pots from both of my great grandmother’s do little more for me than stir my imagination and appreciation for the things I have been told. But while canning side by side with my grandmother history comes to life because my grandmother is with me and present. Each time together ingrains an experience into my being not just my mind. When we approach the bible the same way and experience the relationship first we can be transformed by grace from the inside out in ways that we would never have imagined otherwise.
“But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” Deuteronomy 8:18
This season of canning is about over and there is one day left (my favorite of all): Apples. Applesauce, Pie filling, and Apple Butter are on my list this year and with my grandmother being 78 years old I am going to allow the day with her to be forever imprinted into my memory. I know she will be gone one day and I will be standing in my kitchen either alone or with my own children. I’m so grateful that Jesus stretches beyond his lifetime so that his Holy Spirit is with me always just as real as if He were standing right next to me. Everything changes around us: electricity, recipes, even people come and go. But the one thing that doesn’t change is how we experience relationship because relationships are outside of time.
“In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4
It brings our Father delight when we remember and think back on the great things he has done around us. Testimonies we share with one another are powerful as they remind us just how magnificent and great our God is. Remembering and connecting in relationship can bring change to our entire day/week/month. Each time we remember what God has done for us we are experiencing a treasured moment in relationship with him.
So whether we are canning tomatoes or pickling relish one thing is true: relationships reconnect us to remember. So…enjoy our modern day luxuries and plug in to remembering where you came from, where God is taking you, and who is important around you.
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.” Isaiah 46:9