Sometimes, life hands us a basket of ingredients that don’t seem to match up to any sensible recipe…
Sometimes, our life is like an episode of “Chopped” (Food Network)….
On the series “Chopped,” each chef is given a basket of random ingredients, and they compete to impress the judges with what they can craft from the different foods. And when I say random, I mean they are given a basket of, say, jelly beans, shrimp, potato chips, canned beans, and black licorice, and they have to figure out what to cook with all that. Their expressions when they open the baskets, as the clock starts ticking, are priceless…. They usually range from confused looks, to disgusted looks, to laughter.
And wouldn’t you know it, by the end, the chefs end up actually creating something gourmet from the crazy ingredients…
That’s how I view my life.
I feel like when I was born, I was given a basket of donut sprinkles, anchovies, melted ice cream, live crickets, raw chicken legs, and radish juice. And often times, when I look at “my basket,” my reactions range from “huh?!” to feelings of helpless defeat to belly-laughter. What am I supposed to make with all this?!
Oh, I’ve tried to “cook” with those ingredients. But largely, when on my own, I’ve been unsuccessful, even though half the time I insist that I can make something work…
When I read Mother Angelica’s life story the day after she died this past Easter Sunday, I felt like I was looking at the most incredibly ridiculous “basket of ingredients” one could have. I mean, what was a poor daughter of a mentally frail divorced mother, who couldn’t get good grades in school, a young woman with a brash personality, physical ailments, and from a random town in Ohio going to accomplish? There was no “edge”… No perfectly set up childhood, no comfortable reassurance or helicopter parenting, no immaculate diet, not even a (healthy) father figure…. No degree in communications… and no large following of fans (at first)…
And yet, Mother Angelica accomplished the impossible: a cloistered nun with no money, health, or advantage started a global Catholic television network. THE global Catholic television network: EWTN. She had nothing but guts and a “yes”…. And there we have it: a network that has been an instrument in introducing countless people to the Catholic Church… A feat that even the hierarchy or fancy shmancy high falootin’ degreed intellectuals couldn’t accomplish on their own.
How was this even possible?
Because she didn’t act alone. She gave her “basket of ingredients” to God and said, figuratively, “YOU deal with this.”
And He did.
This should give us all hope. Many of us have a “crazy basket.” But many of us, myself included, keep trying to cook and cook on our own. “I’ve got this, Lord… You stay out of the kitchen. Don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing!” And we end up with donut sprinkled crickets and nasty radish juice-soaked anchovies. (Ew.)
But let’s say we give “our ingredients” (our life) over to Him. I had a thought the other day that I bet He enjoys opening that crazy basket. Almost rubbing His Hands with sly glee and saying, “watch THIS!”
And He crafts and He cooks and He arranges…. And in the end, on that plate, is something neither we, nor anyone else, could have ever imagined… A gourmet dish that is miraculous, delicious, awe-inspiring… where we can’t even figure out how He did that…. But He did.
And He, the Master Chef, smiles.
I believe Mother Angelica had the key. We don’t need to start out with the perfect ingredients. In fact, our ingredients for life can even look ridiculous. They can even be rotten, or stale, or distasteful…. But it matters not. No matter what’s “in that basket,” He has a plan for it. He’s got something crafty up His sleeve. He can’t wait to “get cookin'”….
And if we, like Mother Angelica, can just give Him our baskets, our lives, and say, “Lord, I don’t have a CLUE what you are doing here, but take this anyway….” If we can let Him be the Divine Chef, I guarantee He will make something great.
And He will be smiling.
Rest in peace, memory eternal, Beloved Mother Angelica…
Below: On August 15, 2000, we visited the Shrine and attended a “Mother Angelica Live” show. Before the cameras started rolling, Mother asked to hold our eldest, who was just under 7 months old at the time.
After the show was over, I sat little Maryanna in Mother’s chair… Mother’s tea cup was still there.