Rosalind brought the fruit, the sugar, the jars. Dora regarded them with some dismay. She had agreed to make a batch of marmalade for a charity drive. She reflected dourly that Rosalind was always ready to take an ell when an inch was offered. “I won’t be able to use all that!” she protested. “Use what you can,” said Rosalind, “I’ll find someone else to do the rest.”
It was end-of-season fruit, and much of it was windfall. The pectin content would be low. If she ran there was time to get the commercial pectin before the shops closed. And then she could wash the fruit ready to start early in the morning.
Wide awake at two a.m. Dora rose and pulled a warm tracksuit over her pajamas. Impossible to sleep with those oranges on her mind. Moving quietly, she closed the doors and assembled her tools. Counting the jars, adding some of her own, she estimated that if she did the preparatory work while the family slept, she would be able to boil up three batches of marmalade during the day.
Weighing and slicing, squeezing, discarding the seeds, quartering the cups of skin, Dora let her mind slip into retrospect. Retrospect, that time machine that mixes and matches, and muddles our memories. Earthly cousin to the Holy Spirit who ‘brings all things to our remembrance, whatsoever Jesus has spoken to us,’ retrospect is not as selective, nor as comforting. Remembering jam making sessions of years gone by, working with her mother, retrospect let fall the page at a picture of Isabel. Little Isabel, so gentle, with a heart defect that cut short her life too soon. Looking back sixty-five years to that sad day, Dora heard the soft voice sing again: “God needed a new star up yonder, and He couldn’t find a brighter light to shine…” Through orange scented air she whispered, “Lord, Paul wrote that we all have a race to run, but some babies don’t even get started. And what about those who get so discouraged they abandon the race? Why isn’t there someone to lift them up?”
She shook herself, giving her attention to the bowls of orange skins, the jugs of juice. Still too early to use the mincer – it was too noisy – but there was good time to make a cup of coffee and read the Word of God. The day really didn’t start well until it was under-girded by the Scriptures. In part, her reading took her through John chapters fourteen to sixteen.
Returning to the kitchen she thought of Jesus’ precious promise, “I go to prepare a place for you,” and she mused, “But He also has to prepare me for the place. In a way, I am like these oranges. Picked – chosen,” she thought, “washed – in Jesus blood. But then comes the slicing, the juicing, the mincing – and the boiling.”
She stirred the boiling fruit, breathed in the citrus steam. Time to add the warmed sugar, put the glass jars in the oven to warm them, too. Just as the Lord adds to our lives the sweetness of His love, boiling it down into us until it becomes part of us, preserving us, enhancing our flavor, making us desirable.
As she lifted the jars from the oven, filling them with the fragrant conserve, standing them in a golden row on the counter, she thought of her book of recipes. Her favorite recipe was very simple, but there are many ways to make marmalade, and the flavors reflect not only the varieties of the fruit, but also the method used by the cook. Also, one orange alone does not make a jar of marmalade. And she saw her saucepan as a church…
She opened the book of Isaiah and read, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things…”
Yes, Paul wrote to the church at Corinth about the race each one must run, the need for dedication, the striving for mastery, the prize to be obtained.
But Isaiah reminded her that the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, “gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. (In His strength) they shall mount up as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
She remembered her earthly father’s admonition to his nine-year-old daughter, “Grow up! Life is not a game. It is a serious business.”
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