Cloudy, with a Chance of Meatballs (Angel in the Kitchen)

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Meatballs! Swedish, Italian, or sweet ‘n’ sour — we love them all! And there are so many wonderful ways we can use them! Spaghetti and meatballs, meatball subs, meatballs sliced and layered in lasagna, tiny meatballs on toothpicks as appetizers….

We have three favorite recipes. We make traditional Italian meatballs using ground beef, veal, breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and Romano cheese, tomato sauce and seasonings. These are great in a variety of Italian pasta dishes, but especially spaghetti and meatballs!

We’ve also made chicken meatballs by substituting shredded chicken and cheddar cheese. We like to serve these with rigatoni, instead of spaghetti. And we frequently make Swedish meatballs for get-togethers. Our Swedish meatballs are seasoned very differently, of course, and are served in a brown sauce made with sour cream and no cheese. These are to die for, especially when served atop a plate of egg noodles!

Although we’ve never tried these other recipes, we find it interesting that meatballs can be made from ground sausage, venison, or other meats, and seasoned in a variety of ways. What makes a meatball is not so much the ingredients as that beautiful round shape. One day we were making meatballs — lots of meatballs — for a gathering, when a friend dropped by unexpectedly. We invited her to join us in the kitchen, and talk to us while we worked.

As she watched, we’d scoop out a portion of the meat mixture, and gently but firmly shape each meatball by hand. She was amazed that we had it down to a science: but no real measuring; we’d just guesstimate the portions and roll them each into an almost perfect ball — quickly and efficiently — placing the nearly uniform meatballs on a large tray. We were like potters working with clay, molding, shaping, creating little culinary ornaments.

In a manner of speaking, each of us is a potential meatball in the making! No, not a “meatball” in the derogatory sense of “a foolish or stupid person!” But God wants to shape and mold each of us for His purposes. Once we become the right “shape” spiritually, God is best able to use us to serve His Kingdom and the people around us. And like the great variety of meatball recipes we stated above, God is able to use whoever and whatever we are today, “season” us with the influence of His divine Holy Spirit, and then gently but firmly shape us into something beautiful.

Trouble is, many of us don’t allow God to do the shaping. We refuse to be flexible, pliable…. Many of us are rigid  in our thinking and our habits; and most of us are determined to “shape” our own destinies! In other words, many of us refuse to place ourselves, who and what we are at present, into the hands of the Master Chef, in order to allow Him to mold us.

God wanted His followers to understand this important truth, so He told His prophet Jeremiah to go to the potter’s workshop. Once there, Jeremiah observed that often the vessel “…the potter was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” (Jeremiah 18:4 NIV) Then God told His prophet, ask My people “…Can’t I do with you as [the] potter does with clay? …You are like the clay in the potter’s hands.” (Jeremiah 18:6 GOD’S WORD)

Are you allowing God to mold you? Are you soft, flexible, pliable, willing to place yourself into the hands of the Master? To be good clay (or ground beef), we must be teachable, willing to learn from God, the Bible, or anyone who shares a truth with us. To be flexible, we need to be receptive to new ideas (as long as they don’t countermand God’s sovereign Word). To be pliable, we need to be willing to surrender to God’s will, and give up our “right to be right.” (We can’t expect to get every thing our way!)

We may all start out as a pile of raw hamburger, with our prospects looking cloudy, but there’s always a chance of meatballsif we allow God to shape our lives.

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Garbo’s Da Name, Garbage Is My Game! (Angel in the Kitchen)

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We have an indispensable “kitchen angel” (a true paisano) named Signor Garbo. We say “indispensable” because, honestly, we couldn’t get along without him … or the valuable service he provides. Garbo doesn’t say much, but he can handle whatever we throw at him. And we throw a lot at him: slimy egg shells, bruised and quickly browning fruit peelings, and paper towels soggy from mopping up various liquids we’ve spilled — to list just a few of the icky things we dump on Garbo. But our old friend takes it all in stride. He knows we need a way of getting rid of “stuff” — which is how he came into our lives in the first place.

Garbo is our kitchen trash can. He knew we had a “problem” in the form of unpleasant things that needed to be removed from our lives in the kitchen. “I’m in da disposal bizness,” he told us one day. “Yeah, I know. It’s a doity job, but somebody’s gotta do it!”

True, every kitchen needs a trash can, a place to put all the unpleasant things generated during the process of cooking and eating, like the stinky fish head we recently lopped off so we could finish preparing dinner. “Don’t worry ’bout it,” Garbo reassured us. “I’ll take care of dis.”

Garbo is a loner. Not that he has to be, he’s an accepted and valued part of our kitchen. But he realizes that he daily has a lot of contact with some pretty vile things. He once told us, “Da stuff I’m holdin’ inside me don’t exactly bring out da best conversation.” So he absents himself from the company of our family of kitchen angels. Signor Garbo chooses instead to hang out under the kitchen sink, behind closed cabinet doors. But when things don’t go as planned, like the other day when we fumbled what should have been a routine job — making a jelly sandwich and, yes, the bread always does land jelly-side down — we call on Garbo to help us clean up the scene of the crime. “My job is ta help get rid of da garbage,” Garbo proudly states. “An’ I’m da best at whut I do.”

Periodically, Garbo’s contents get driven to the outskirts of town to be “dropped off”! Garbo says it’s for the best: “Dat way, we get rid of all da evidence — no one’s ever gonna know ya ate all dem cookies by yaself!”  Yes, it’s true, Garbo is also the custodian to a few secrets which, should they ever come to light, might prove somewhat embarrassing. “Relax, will ya?” he reassures us. “I know da best way ta handle a nasty bit a bizness! After all, I’m a professional!”

Aha, Signor Garbo is a professional! And we amateurs can learn a valuable lesson from him. We certainly did. We once rented a movie for our Friday Date Night. It was a seemingly innocuous bit of escapist fare, but 15 minutes into the story there was a totally disgusting act of violence which, although off camera, was extremely nauseating to think about. Along with that, an overuse of vulgarity and a truly dark depiction of life had us feeling positively ill. In fact, we felt (to quote Garbo) “absotively doity!”

Needless to say, we immediately stopped watching the movie. Still, we almost felt like we needed a bath. Now, mind you, we’re not a couple of fuddy duddies, but there’s a limit to what we’re willing to toss into our heads! For one thing, it’s counterproductive: just as “we are what we eat,” we’re also what we put into our minds; or, we are what we think about! (Proverbs 23:7)

Regardless, Garbo read us the riot act. “Whut were ya thinkin’? I collect da garbage in dis house! You ain’t designed ta hold such trash!” And he’s right. The Word of God teaches that once we invite Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives, our Lord takes full occupancy; every follower of Christ then becomes a “temple of the Holy Spirit”! (1 Corinthians 6:19) And, need we state it? God does not want to live in a trash can. “But dat’s da point, you’re NOT a trash can!” Garbo fumes. “Dat’s my job! So stop fillin’ your heads wit garbage!”

Okay, okay! We get it! We should only put wholesome things into our minds. We need to stick to the Apostle Paul’s formula: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8 NLT)

Garbo says, “Hey, you. Yeah, you! You know who I’m talkin’ to. You’re NOT a trash can! So stop tryin’ ta muscle in on my territory! Don’t be readin’ or watchin’ or listenin’ ta junk dat don’t pass da stinkin’ garbage test! Kapeesh?”

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