The Christmas Catastrophe (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Hi, I’m Kerri the InSinkErator.

Yum, yum, yum!

Having trouble pronouncing my name? Say, “Er-a-ter.” Now say “In-Sink-Erator.” Now say it fast!”

I beg your pardon!!! I am NOT a garbage disposal! I do help my pals Tom and Wilma with kitchen cleanup, by getting rid of coffee grounds and other food scraps — but I’d never confess to eating garbage! Would you?!? No matter. I’m here to share with you the story of the Christmas Catastrophe.

How well I remember it. It happened many years ago, in another kitchen. Wilma was deep frying  a batch of delicious egg rolls for our annual Christmas open-house. (At least, I think they were delicious. No one ever gave me a piece to sample. All of the guests enthusiastically wolfed them down, leaving behind nothing for me but an occasional lemon slice from a well-drained glass of ice tea! Oops, enough about me.)

After deep frying her crispy egg rolls, Wilma made a real boo-boo! Without thinking, she poured the super-heated oil from her deep fryer down my gullet. I tried to warn her — I was yawning at the time, because hanging out in the sink can get pretty boring — but I never got a chance. As many of you know by now, just about everything in the kitchen has a message to relate, which is why Tom and Wilma affectionately refer to each of us as an Angel in the Kitchen! But what happened next left me speechless! One minute I’m daydreaming, the next I have a mouthful of boiling oil! And, well, you’re not supposed to talk with your mouth full.

What made things worse was that the oil wouldn’t go down! I already had some discarded celery and onion pieces caught in my throat. I needed to cough and politely clear my throat, and then inform Wilma that it’s not good to pour “grease” down the drain — especially grease approaching the temperature of molten lava!

Too late! To my horror, Wilma flipped my switch, and like an erupting volcano, I spewed out red-hot oil — right in her face! I heard her cry out, as she quickly (and blindly) turned on the faucet and repeatedly splashed her seared face with cold water. She was careful to gently pat her face, and not to rub her scalded skin or burning eyes. To her credit, she stayed calm, despite thoughts that she’d blinded herself.

I wish I could say the same about Tom. At first he panicked. But then he handled it, and quickly drove his wife to the emergency room.

The ER doctor flushed her eyes, and applied a thick white ointment all over her face, which made her look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. He said she had 2nd and 3rd degree burns around her eyes, and that she was lucky there was no eye damage. To which Wilma gently responded, “Not lucky, but blessed! God protected my eyes!”)

We couldn’t locate a photo of Wilma’s face covered with white glop, but it looked something like this.

The doctor smiled and gave her an antibiotic — which was wise, because later she ran a low-grade fever — and then Tom drove her back home. Along the way, he glanced over at her blistered and swollen face, and said “We’ll have to cancel our gathering.” But they didn’t. That evening, Wilma greeted their guests with a face covered in white glop and missing half of one eyebrow! She wanted their guests to celebrate with her; she’d been wounded in the line of kitchen duty, but according to the doctor, she wouldn’t be permanently scarred. Best of all, she could see (!) — all the ugly Christmas sweaters their guests were wearing.

Today you’d never know Wilma was wounded in the kitchen: she has no scars, and no fear of frying! Oh, sure, she’s still missing a tiny piece of one eyebrow, but I think it gives her character!

Interestingly, most accidents in the home occur in the kitchen. As Tom and Wilma frequently state, the kitchen is the heart of the home; and it’s filled with sharp objects and lots of stuff that can burn. People have gotten cut, pierced, spattered and singed! But do their kitchen accidents and mistakes drive them away from cooking? Nope! Their less fortunate experiences only tend to make them more careful and a little wiser!

Life is like cooking. And like the kitchen, the human heart can be filled with things that cut, pierce, and blister. Disappointments and failures can wound like a chef’s knife. A betrayal, a divorce, or a broken relationship; an accident, an illness, or a financial setback; a bad decision, a mistake, or an indiscretion — can all be emotionally wounding.

Face it, at one time or another, everyone gets burnt by something in life. Sometimes, however, it’s our own lack of wisdom or carelessness that leads to suffering. But God doesn’t want our mishaps and emotional wounds to keep us from enjoying life. If you’re bleeding over a severed relationship, don’t allow your wounds to keep you from trusting people and forming new friendships. If you’ve been blistered by a bum deal, or you’re stinging from a stupid mistake, don’t allow the pain to keep you from moving forward. God can heal all the wounds of the human heart, while forgiving our own shortcomings, mistakes, and failures — if we let Him!

When it first happened, Wilma’s careless goof literally brought tears to her eyes! But she trusted God to heal her. As a result, she can now look back on “The Christmas Catastrophe” and smile. God is faithful, and time can heal all wounds — and “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalm 30:5 MSG) — when the time is used wisely.

Have you been burnt in life? Although it hurts now, you’ll eventually heal, just like Wilma’s seared face. Give God time to heal your heart, but put the time to good use. Don’t withdraw from life and relationships. Remain involved with people and activities.

Above all, spend a significant amount of your healing time with the Lord in prayer. Jesus Christ can definitely relate to you, because He “…was despised and rejected — a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3 NLT) And He’s faithful to heal all your hurts: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NIV)

Show God your emotional cuts, burns, and bruises. Ask him to heal your heart. Trust in His power and faithfulness, and then move forward in life. God will not only heal you, He’ll also ensure your heart isn’t permanently scarred! You’ll soon be back in the “kitchen of life” and cooking up great things!

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A Thing About Pineapples (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Anyone who’s visited our home knows we’re crazy about birds! The walls in nearly every room are adorned with framed prints depicting bluejays, woodpeckers, cardinals and herons, to name a few. But there’s another decorating theme running through Woodhaven: pineapples!

We have friends in Hawaii who continue to send us gifts of handcrafted bowls, spoons and plaques featuring this giant golden fruit, but recently one of them jokingly proclaimed, “You guys need to pick another theme!” She said she’d just about exhausted all the tchotchkes that are available in the “Pineapple State”! Aloha?

So why are we crazy over pineapples? We have the design mounted above our kitchen entrance, on the wall next to the French doors, etched on goblets and mugs, imprinted on coasters and dinnerware; pineapples adorn our candlesticks and napkin rings, our serving pieces and — best of all — the centerpiece we place on the table each year at Christmastime. And as if these decorations weren’t enough, one of us greets our guests wearing tiny gold pineapple earrings! (Hint: it’s not Tom!)

One of these guests, a teenager named Nicolas who was visiting with his parents, spent nearly an entire weekend wandering about the rooms at Woodhaven counting all the pineapples he came across, including a few crafted into the antique furniture. Trust us, his imaginative little game of “Find the Pineapples” kept Nicolas busy for hours. That’s not to say, however, that the inside of our home looks like something out of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop! We try to … ahem … maintain a modicum of good taste and sensible order at Woodhaven!

Nevertheless, Nicolas finally asked quite politely, “What’s up with all the pineapples?” To answer this question, we need to return to the Colonial Days of America.  No, we don’t need a time machine, we can get there by car! We live within easy driving distance of the first capital of Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg, where the past of over 250 years ago is daily re-enacted.

As we stroll down the streets of Williamsburg we see … pineapples — lots of pineapples — on and above the doors, decorating signs and wreaths, even imprinted on tourist maps and brochures. In fact, the pineapple is one of the official symbols of this Colonial town, because the fruit has an interesting place in its early history.

Christmas decoration featuring pineapples, adorning a building in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.

Columbus had discovered the pineapple on his second trip to the Caribbean in 1493. He took the spiky-skinned fruit back to Spain where it became both a novelty food and a sign of status and wealth. Europeans weren’t able to grow the fruit. At least, not until the first hot-houses were constructed — and those were only built on the grandest estates. So the tropical delicacy had to be imported from the Caribbean; and the fruit had to survive the long humid trip across the Atlantic. Much of the fruit rotted before reaching its destination, but the pineapples that did make it to European tables were expensive indeed!

In Colonial Williamsburg, England’s headquarters in America during the 1700s, pineapples continued to be viewed as luxury items. Whenever the fruit arrived on British merchant ships, a prosperous hostess would quickly send a buyer in the hope of claiming one of the scarce fruits. When she succeeded, she’d place the exotic fruit at the center of the dining table, where all her guests could admire it. At the conclusion of the meal, the pineapple was carved and served to her guests, who considered the rare and expensive fruit the ultimate expression of her hospitality!

The pineapple soon became the symbol of sincere and abundant hospitality, proclaiming “Welcome!”; “¡Bievenidos!”; “Shalom!” — and we’re all for hospitality! In fact, we believe that if people everywhere were more hospitable, we could solve most of the ills of our world.

But that’s why the pineapple motif appears throughout our home. We want our guests to feel welcomed at Woodhaven! And hey! Wanna know what’s really neat about hospitality and the pineapple? Pineapples contain a unique protein enzyme known as bromelain, an all-natural pain reliever. So again, the pineapple is a fitting reminder to be hospitable; because when you welcome people into your home, your act of hospitality goes a long ways to relieving the pain of isolation, loneliness and rejection.

As we celebrate the holidays, please consider opening your heart and home to those around you. And not just your family members. Extend your social circle beyond your friends and relatives. Reach out to your neighbors, coworkers, and the members of your community who often get left out of the Christmastime festivities: singles and people who have lost loved ones; military spouses whose husbands and wives are serving away from home; college students who can’t make it home for the holidays; shut-ins, who spend most of their days in isolation; and  anyone else you happen to meet on the byways of life who can use a little love and reassurance.

The pineapple and hospitality: both let people know they are welcome! “Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” (1 Peter 4:9 NASB) “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.” (1 Peter 4:9 NLT)

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