The Ghost of Christmas Dinner Past lurked in the empty corners of my pantry. A case of ramen, a jar of peanut butter, a few saltines in their waxed paper sleeve, the spices that have followed us every move, a can of cream of mushroom soup, stray soy sauce packets from a long-ago Chinese take-out meal and a few other items struggled to give the impression of plenty.
True confessions, the kitchen is not my favorite place but now a week before Christmas bare shelf mockery had me heartily wishing for something to cook in it. Winter is often unkind to the construction industry even in sunny California. My self-employed husband had been without steady paying work for a month; daily visits to job sites had produced nothing hopeful.
Our family of six ate frugally even in the best of times but a special meal at Christmas was expected. As I pondered our meal choices I checked the mail. “The Lord’s Kitchen is offering free bags of groceries to anyone in need,” a flyer advertised. I noted the address.
Grabbing my jacket I yelled, “Kids! Get your coats, we’re going out.”
We found The Lord’s Kitchen not far away in a scruffy cottage crouched between a car repair shop and an industrial building. I’d never noticed the crudely painted sign before. Inside no one came to greet us and I felt as though we were intruding in someone’s home. I sat on one of the worn couches in the small front room and waited. The old building smell churned my stomach and I felt a little dizzy. My boys got antsy and used the pattern in the threadbare carpet as the Indy 500 for their toy cars, engines roaring. My three-year old whined for the bathroom and big sis got bossy.
The hallway door opened into the chaos of my usually well-behaved children. The grouchiest looking face I’d ever seen thrust itself into the room, followed by an amply filled out age-yellowed white shirt and a pair of flood-leveled suit pants from a previous era. The man glared down at us. I stood, and he glared up into my face. I sat. Silence hung like creepy cobwebs.
Finally I cleared my throat, “I got your flyer. You offer free groceries?”
“Yes,” he barked. “But first some questions.”
“Okay…” My eyebrows arched.
“Do you have or have you ever had a Christmas tree in your home?”
Now my eyebrows scrunched. “W-what do you mean…?”
Mr. Grouch-Face overrode my stuttering, “Christmas trees are an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Frivolous! Idolatrous! A true servant of the Lord will not have one!”
“Uh, well—usually we do. We can’t afford one this year. I-I don’t understand what…”
“Do you want God to bless you?” He growled. “When you have the Spirit you will speak in tongues and be blessed! You need to get on your knees and beg God for this.”
I didn’t care to hear anymore. I stood and this time I stayed up. “Sir, my Bible tells me speaking in tongues is a free gift of the Holy Spirit. Why would I need to beg? We will be on our way now, thank you very much!”
I picked up my youngest and sped for the door, my other ducklings in a row behind me.
His angry voice followed, “You can pick up the groceries around back. But you won’t find God’s blessing until you repent.”
I stared at him for a moment, opened my mouth to argue, shook my head slightly and kept going. We did not go around back, we did not collect the groceries, but I thanked God for providing. I didn’t know how He would do it but I trusted the generosity of my heavenly Father more than that of a self-appointed human minister of wrath.
A few days later as I used the last of the flour to make pancakes for supper, my cousin Theodore from out of state, well known for his culinary expertise, phoned. “Cousin Carrie!” he shouted. “I’m stuck here in L.A. on business but I have Christmas Day off. I’m coming to have dinner with you. Don’t want to put you out so I’m bringing the turkey and all the trimmings. Can’t wait to cook with you!”
I gave thanks to the Lord for His kitchen in my home.
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