Devotions for Thanksgiving: Bitter Ingredients and Pumpkin Pie

Almost all of my favorite Thanksgiving memories aren’t really of the feast itself, even though I still say it’s my favorite holiday.  Mostly I grow nostalgic for Thanksgiving Eve and the Wednesday night family baking sessions we had as a kid.

There’s something deeply relational about baking, whether it’s for someone or with someone.  I find myself even now telling stories as my daughters stir and imparting generational wisdom like: why the butter and sugar get creamed together first and how you have to pack down brown sugar when you measure it out.

Hugely important life lessons like that.

And maybe I learn something, too.

The last time we crowded around the table to make pumpkin pie, my oldest asked, “Mom, what does pumpkin taste like by itself?”

She thought it would be sweet heavenly golden goodness.  After all, this daughter and I share a passion for all things pumpkin—pies, breads, cookies and cupcakes.

But I knew the dark secret about pumpkin and I tried to warn her, “You can try it if you like, but just a small taste.  It’s bitter.”

She licked a tiny bit off her finger and made the appropriate “nasty” face.

How can something so incredibly delicious in everything we bake be so horrible on its own?

I pulled out the vanilla and she bravely tasted the tiniest droplet of that also, despite the grimace over the pumpkin.thanks3

Yup, vanilla doesn’t fair any better on its own.

She even smelled each of the spices before we measured them into the bowl.  It turns out that cloves, nutmeg and ginger are more potent than sweet and more pungent than enticing.

The eggs were runny, sticky and gross.

The salt was…well, salty.

All in all, it was utterly mystifying when we finished stirring and I handed her the spoon to lick, which she popped into her mouth with a muffled, “Yummmmm.”

The truth about baking is the truth about life.  We have a reason to be thankful for every ingredient, even the ones that seem too bitter or salty or potent to turn into anything mouth-watering and delicious.

As Christians, most of us have not only heard Romans 8:28 a million times, we’ve probably quoted it a few thousand times ourselves:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28 NKJV).

You may have even just skimmed through that verse just now because you’ve heard it so often and know it so well.

And yet, we tend to emphasize the “for good” part of this verse, which means we could be expecting instant pumpkin pie when life hands us a can of Libby’s pumpkin.

That job you lost, how can that be for good?

That time of sadness, that mourning, that separation and grief, the broken relationship and the conflict…..tastes so bitter.  It doesn’t seem possible for any of it to be “for good.”

Philosophically, we know the deal.  We’ve heard the sermons.  Maybe one day we’ll see how God turned these times of sadness and stress into blessing.  Maybe it won’t be until heaven, but at least then we’ll be able to see the good that came from the ugly.

It’s a long, hard lesson, realizing that “for good” doesn’t necessarily mean “right now” or “without pain.”

But it’s true, of course.  There are eternal perspectives and long-term visions that we just can’t see from our limited, finite looking glass on circumstances so up-close and personal.

There’s something about this verse that we often overlook, though.  God isn’t just working “for good,” He’s doing it so that “all things work together.” The good comes from the mixing of ingredients, the pooling together of the circumstances into one beautiful wholeness—His plan and will for Your life.

Rick Warren says it this way:

“The events in your life work together in God’s plan.  They are not isolated acts, but interdependent parts of the process to make you like Christ….If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, he will blend them together for good” (The Purpose Driven Life, p. 195).

I’ve had Thanksgivings where gratitude came easy, practically gushing out of me in response to blessing.

And there were years where thankfulness was a discipline of the soul, a determined trusting in God, a sacrifice of praise.

Regardless of whether this year is easy or harder for you, remember that the pumpkin, the eggs, the salt, the vanilla, the spices aren’t delicious on their own.

But trust–and give thanks–that God will bring everything together and it will be sweet and for your blessing and beyond what you could imagine.

Originally published November 21, 2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

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