It had been a fantastic but yet entirely exhausting weekend. The birthday party had been small -- we decided to just invite immediate family and one or two close friends and neighbors this year -- but had still been a party involving food-making, house cleaning, and balloon inflating. After all, you only turn four once, right?
Knowing that I would be exhausted from a day of preparation, I had planned on frozen pizza for dinner on Friday night. Then, knowing that lunch would need to be quick and easy the day of the party, we threw some chicken nuggets in the oven Saturday afternoon. And Sunday morning seemed to be a special sort of day so my husband lovingly made us all scrambled eggs. Which meant that by the time late Sunday afternoon rolled around, all of my “go-to-lazy-meals” had already been consumed in the last 48 hours. And I had little to no energy or motivation to make the meal -- salmon cakes with brown rice -- which was listed on our weekly whiteboard for that particular day’s dinner.
Queue the phone call. Having not had the opportunity to talk at any real length about anything important in what felt like months, I dialed up my younger brother in Nashville -- yet another good reason not to address the “what am I making for dinner” issue.
We chatted and wow, was it good to talk to him. You see, my brother had made the big move to Music City shortly before last Thanksgiving -- a leap of faith in order to pursue his career in the music biz --- and I missed him something fierce. He had found himself a room to rent from a fellow musician and had made quite the exciting life for himself, playing at various venues, traveling to music conferences, and even doing some work in Texas for a company he used to work for up here in Milwaukee.
After discussing the most recent happenings of our lives -- he had some promising meetings coming up with some great contacts and was going to be helping a friend extend his dog-walking business into the Nashville area and I was loving my new job and trying to keep up with the kids -- I begrudgingly mentioned that I should probably get off the phone and get serious about figuring out what we’d be having for dinner.
The entire concept of “meal planning” has always eluded me. I remember nights when it was just my dog and me in my one bedroom apartment when I’d eat scrambled eggs for the second time in a row or simply throw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together when I finally got around to eating dinner at 8 ‘o clock at night. However, now with four children and a husband who looks forward to meals, these options no longer fly.
After telling my brother how much I didn’t feel like making dinner, he said something that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. He said, “Ya know, Mel, not to sound all ‘woe is me’ or anything but at least you have someone to eat with. I struggle with what to make for dinners, too but then even after I figure it out, I’m usually eating alone.”
Huh. Well, I guess I knew who was playing the “woe is me card.” It wasn’t him. It was me.
We wrapped up our conversation, laughing at how different our lives were at the moment and vowing to talk again, sooner than a month from now. When I hung up the phone, I looked around the kitchen and dug deep to find the motivation to cook a healthy, hearty meal for the family I had been blessed with. Yes, I was tired. And yes, if it had just been me in the house, I probably would have defaulted to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of pre-made salad from a bag. But the truth is, that’s not my life right now. Right now, God has seen to bless me with five hungry mouths to feed: my husband, my two daughters, and my two eating-machine sons (they literally could eat all day long, it seems!). Slowly but surely, I pulled out the recipe for the meal I had originally intended to make.
One other thought crossed my mind as I began to broil the salmon and that was of my brother and his situation. In some ways, I envy him and in many ways, I admire him. He made this move, not knowing the outcome, not really knowing the exact next steps to take, and not knowing many people in the Nashville area at all. And he’s doing it. But it comes with a price. He’d be the first to admit that the path he has chosen is challenging and at times, feels a bit solitary. I remember feeling that way some nights while eating alone in my apartment and I even lived within 15 minutes from most of my family and friends! But there is beauty in that, too. God-willing, my brother will have a family of his own someday and perhaps he will feel the way I do now: tired and craving a break from the constant responsibility to other people. But that day is not today for him. Today he can decide (or not decide) five minutes prior to dinner what he feels like eating. He can jump in the car and drive to the Smoky Mountains if he’s in need of an adventure. He can stay up late writing lyrics to a new song and sleep in late the next day if he needs to. God has blessed him with the gift of freedom, adventure, and opportunity at this point and time.
And you know what? It is all part of the plan. The plan for me, the plan for my brother, the plan for all of our lives as they intertwine. Without these differences and various blessings, we would not have been able to encourage each other in the late afternoon on a random Sunday.
In Hebrews chapter 11, we are reminded of many “biblical greats” who lived their life by faith, completely unsure of the outcome and plan for their lives. In verse 8 it says that Abraham “obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Do any of us really? Sure, we know where we are going eternally (I hope that each of you do!) and what a blessing that is! But here on earth? We can plan and plan but only God in His infinite wisdom knows the exact path our lives will take. It is this assurance of the eternal salvation and the coming promised Messiah that kept all of these great men and women mentioned in this chapter going. The chapter closes with these two verses:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. ~Hebrews 11:39-40
Not one of these people lived to see the coming of Christ. And that never was the plan. God knew exactly when to send His Son to earth and He knew exactly where to place each and every person in this life.
And He continues to do so today.
Whether you are struggling to motivate yourself to plan a meal for a growing family or feeling a bit reflective because you don’t have one to eat with, by faith may we all continue to persevere through our varying circumstances, responsibilities and places in life, knowing that God has placed us exactly where He wants us to be at this given moment. May we thank Him for the blessings He has bestowed upon us and strive to do His Will in all things, leaving the rest to Him!