New Year's Pantry Challenge: A Conclusion or a New Beginning?

I survived. Actually, I knew I would survive because I've done this before. It's kind of like attempting a 10k or a half marathon when I know I've completed them before. I continue to run those races because I know it's good for my body. I love the challenge and the discipline of training for a race. I treasure the comradery of running with friends or my husband. I feel inspired with a goal in mind. There was no doubt I would survive the pantry challenge this time around but I wanted to press myself toward thankfulness. I wanted to reject the temptation to get lazy about food, to complain about living off less. My spirit needed to be buoyed up by the bounty of community and creativity.

These few weeks have bonded me together with old friends and new friends. I'm blessed by so many who have shared meals with us. We have pooled our resources and learned from each other. I'm thankful for our Life Group that shares a meal every other week. Right now I'm taking the fococcia bread out of the oven and putting in the Butternut Squash Lasagna to serve to them tonight. I'm celebrating this bit of abundance. I'm grateful for times of sharing in community.

I've thought a lot about this guy Leo from our church who just moved into his first apartment after being homeless for 3 years. He's a veteran who has been on the streets. Our abundance, a meager bag of leftovers, graced his cupboards this week. My dad delivered it to Leo after our Pantry Party early in this challenge. I felt blessed that we could share with someone else in need. I like the idea of donating money or goods to a food pantry our soup kitchen but it doesn't get personal until you get involved with a real person. Really, couldn't we all do a little more? Some of our friends are raising money to feed babies in Ethiopia through Samaritan's Purse. That cause is personal to them since their son is adopted from Ethiopia. I know I need to get brave and actually invite Leo to dinner. What would happen if he joined hands around the table with my kids, my husband, my parents? What about you? Maybe you need to get brave and search out a cause, offer a meal to a friend who needs a break, serve up soup to a neighbor you've never met.

This week I've also been reminded why I love cooking. There's a quiet, creative space in cooking for me. As a busy mama of two and auntie for one or two more children who are frequently at my side, I seldom find solitude at my house. I choose quieting tasks like knitting or cooking to find space to breathe. I know that cooking brings me closer to praying. I was reading Ann Voskamp's "A Holy Experience" blog today and she pressed that part of my soul that needed reminding that "Housework is really being about the work of God — praying, serving, praising. And in these domestic chapels, God, The Very Person of Peace, offers Himself to the congregants." When I'm methodically peeling and chopping a butternut squash or adding spices to a sauce or kneading dough and watching it rise and bubble, I ponder the day. I pour out my failures, my worries, my struggles. A little elbow grease, a little flour on the hands, helps me wade through the dirtiness of a day to the other side where God whispers peace that passes understanding to my soul.

I have to admit I was giddy this weekend, knowing that I had a trip to the farmer's market and grocery store ahead of me. I started making my list in my head and scratching meal plans on paper. I believe there is a kind of worship in feeding my family healthy and delicious foods. Don't hear what I'm not saying. I didn't say I worship food. I worship God by honoring this temple he gave me. I fill up the temple with whole, healing foods.

When we got to the farmer's market in Ontario near my brother's house, my girls and I gravitated toward the berries. These morsels were pricey in the dead of winter but spending money on berries is worth it to me. I'd rather spend my weight in organic berries than fork out cash on medicine. We build berries into our budget especially during these winter cold and flu months. We lovingly call berries the superheroes of the food world. They are ripe with antioxidants for fighting off the bad guys. There's nothing that pleases a foodie mama's soul more than to see my two little girls with berry-stained lips and fingers.

I feel grateful that I have the choice to fill up my pantry. These next few weeks I still have a limited budget but I know I am choosing to line the cupboards and refrigerator shelves with good food. I am thankful for my husband's hours coaching at the gym this month. I am thankful for this season of waiting as our family prepares to move to Haiti and reach out to many there who are hungry.

I want this New Year's Pantry Challenge to truly be a new beginning as we learn more about what it means to live simply, to eat whole foods and to share our abundance. When I'm tempted to whine, I will whisper prayers on behalf of the hungry here in Fresno and in Haiti and around the world.

"For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness." - Psalm 107:9

What did you learn these last two weeks?

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