“It’s chicken and dumpling night,” Mona informed Chanelle as the girl entered the kitchen. “Know how to make them?”
Chanelle nodded her head. “Boil the chicken, dump biscuits in there.”
Mona smiled at her newfoster daughter. “Well, that’s one way. My way’s a little more complicated, but it turns out better in the long run. Either way is okay, but if you put in a few extra ingredients and take your time you just end up with a different dinner. It’s really good.”
Chanelle shrugged. “Okay. What do you need me to do?”
Each child in the household, whether they were foster, visiting or blood related, took a turn cooking. Tonight would be Chanelle’s first time to cook. She’d been in the house for only a week, and still felt like an outsider.
“I’ll tell you some stuff to get out,” Mona said, pulling an apron around her tee shirt and jeans. “We’ll work on this together.”
Chanelle gathered items as Mona called them out.
“Onion, garlic, celery, a stick of butter, a can of milk, flour….Oh, and a cup of hot tea for each of us.”
As they sat at the table, chopping onion and celery, and crushing a bulb of garlic, Chanelle asked, “Why all this work? It’s just chicken and dumplings.”
Mona smiled. “This soup is kind of like life. You get out of it what you put into it.”
“What’d you mean?”
Mona paused. “Do you remember the sermon at church on Sunday morning?”
Sunday had been Chanelle’s first time in a church since her grandmother died five years before. She nodded, although she’d dozed through part of it. Sitting still that long just didn’t come easy for her. “He talked about…um…about, like…Jesus…and us…”
Mona tried to stifle a grin. Chanelle, catching the upturned corners of her new foster mother’s mouth, giggled.
“He talked about life,” Mona said, finishing the celery. She took a sip of tea. “He talked about how God gives us all life, but wants to give us more. He wants us to have abundant life through his son, Jesus. Sounds easy, just live a life and do well. But it’s kind of like this chicken and dumpling recipe. There’s a lot more to it than most people realize. There’s a lot of work to it. Why, for this recipe you have to make a rue out of flour and butter, get the borth just the right temperature and whisk it in, boil the vegetables to just the right softness, add some milk at the right time…it’s anything but boiling a chicken and stirring in biscuits. But, oh…” Mona smiled, “the smell and taste when you’re done.” She stood and walked over to the stove, carefully adding the vegetables to the simmering stock. “It’s worth every minute of trouble, every penny spent on ingredients, every bit of extra work.”
Chanelle joined her foster mother, leaning against the counter top. “And that’s like life, huh?”
Mona nodded. “That’s what Dan and I would like to show you, Chanelle. A life that’s different. A life that’s so far above the average that you wonder how other people survive without having what you have.”
Chanelle frowned. “Yeah…until I mess up and then I’m kind of like this onion.” She poured it into the pot. “Done.”
Mona looked into the girl’s dark, troubled eyes. “No, ma’am.” She lay the spoon down and took Chanelle by the hands. “No, ma’am. We figure you’re worth the trouble too. We’re going to spend the time, and the pennies and the work and whatever else it takes to help you become everything God has for you. We’re going to do everything we can to show you that abundant life.”
Chanelle felt tears sting her eyes. It had been a long time since anyone talked to her like this. It had been a long time since she felt like anyone really cared about her. Embarrassed by the tears she reached past Mona to pick up the large wooden spoon and stir the contents of the pot. “Kind of like chicken and dumplings?”
Mona smiled. “Exactly like chicken and dumplings.”
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