I was born during the time that the storms of World War II were darkening the skies of Europe. Young men were eager to try their courage and their skill; old menís hearts failed them as they recalled the tragedies of World War I. From hearth and home, north, south, east and west, husbands and fathers, sons and brothers departed for the battle zones. The women were left behind to work, to wait and to pray.
Of course this is a generalized look at those years: there were many individual stories that were not quite the norm, creating colours and variations to the overall pictures of life in every country whose sons and daughters were involved. We lived far from the battle fronts and for us as small children war had very little meaning.
It was during those years that Grandfather died and Grandmother spent small blocks of time with each of her children in turn. With each visit she brought her personal sense of tranquillity and industry. She came and went with a minimum of fuss, our lives opening to receive her and closing behind her as she left with scarcely a ripple to mark the change. A week of years had passed beyond the end of the war when Grandmother, retiring for the night, fell asleep eternally. Her daughters-in-law squabbled over her meagre possessions. Her daughters mourned in private and treasured their memories.
In my motherís handwritten recipe book I found a few recipes that Grandmother had written in and was intrigued to find a Scripture Cake. There was no list of ingredients. Instead there were scripture references arranged in steps. I copied it and tucked the folded paper into the back of my school domestic science manual, intending at some time to solve the puzzle for myself. But the years passed and Grandmotherís recipe was forgotten.
We were moving house and I pulled out my box of cookbooks and patterns. It was surely time to sort out which to keep and which to discard. In so many cases the book held just one treasured recipe or pattern which could quite easily be photocopied and filed while the book went to a second-hand bookstore but it was a difficult decision to part with any one of them. Among them I found my old school manual. This one I would definitely not part with.
I sat, engrossed in an old fashioned world of housewifery guidelines until a paper slipped from the pages and I discovered again Grandmotherís Scripture Cake instructions, arranged as was her way, in steps.
Step 1: Proverbs 24:13; followed by Judges 5:25, 1 cup; Jeremiah 6:20, 2 cups; Jeremiah 17:11, 3; 1 Samuel 14:25, 1 Tablespoon.
Step 2: Add Micah 7:1, 1 cup; Nahum 3:12, 1 cup; Numbers 17:8, 2 Tablespoons crushed.
Step 3: Amos 9:9; 1 Kings 4:22, 2 cups; Amos 4:5, 1 Teaspoon; 2 Chronicles 9:9, 1 Teaspoon; Leviticus 2:13, ľ Teaspoon.
Step 4: Psalm 35:23 with Judges 4:19, 3 Tablespoons.
Step 5: Leviticus 26:26. Use a low heat for one and a half hours.
Once again I pondered these instructions, this time with the knowledge that Grandmother had been a praying woman with a deep respect for the Scriptures, and perhaps it was in answer to her prayers for her family that I too had joined the Christian church. Pushing the rest of the books back into the box I fetched my Bible and read through the scriptures listed in her steps, making pencil notes as I went.
Next, I compared the list with the items in my store cupboard. I found that I could not replicate Nahum 3:12, deciding instead to use the fruit of Psalm 92:12.
Working through the recipe I spent a fulfilling afternoon physically in the kitchen, but mentally re-sorting my memories of the woman, mother of my mother, who has influenced my life in many ways, not the least of which is to reduce difficult tasks into small, manageable steps. Was this the secret of her tranquillity, the strength of her industry?
When she died Grandmotherís Bible was opened at Psalm 37 and she had marked several verses. I like to think of these as Grandmotherís steps in daily living.
Step 1: Trust in the Lord, and do good.
Step 2: Delight yourself in the Lord.
Step 3: Commit your way to the Lord.
Step 4: Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.
Because, the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.
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