Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Whose hands have gathered up the wind? Proverb 30:4
I finally found the book I had been looking for. I supposed it’s no surprise that I found it at Disney World, the ultimate granter of wishes. Feed Our Small World: A Cookbook for Kids has recipes that children are not only meant to enjoy, but to prepare. For ages, I have looked for this kind of book, with cooking ideas made for children’s participation. The recipes in Feed Our Small World are heavy on measuring and mixing, light on sharp objects. Its language is directed toward the children, though it encourages them to get help from adults where appropriate. The book is published in partnership with FEED Projects, whose mission is to help feed the world.
We have thus far made Sensational Sesame-Soy Noodles and Buttery Shortbread. The noodles were easy. I cooked the pasta and chopped the veggies, then let the kids stir them together. Hand over hand, we measured the sesame oil, the rice vinegar, the honey, and soy sauce. I was pleased that they found it interesting and were willing to stick around for more.
The Buttery Shortbread (a piece of which I just finished chewing) was even more fun because it required machinery. The kids helped pour the ingredients – butter, cocoa, confectioners’ sugar and flour – into the mixer. We watched, mesmerized, as the beater spun round and round, and each element became part of the chocolatey, buttery whole. When the dough was well mixed, the kids helped as we rolled it up in waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.
As eager and enthusiastic as I may be, it isn’t always easy to involve my children in cooking. They have limited attention spans (as does their mother) and they don’t easily take to new things. But I don’t give up, and this time around, they stuck with it. From the measuring to the wrapping to the refrigeration, they hung around. I’m the proud and sentimental parent. I love watching them take to this new adventure. Their laughter will make me melt as they splash soy sauce over noodles. I adore their small hands as they work the dough and earnestly try to roll it up for chilling. Watching them pour the oil is almost sacramental.
As I watch these little hands at work, I think about all that they can’t do, and all that they can. Their limitations will yoke them throughout their lives; this is a reality that can only be accepted. But like everyone’s realities, theirs will also include gifts which remain uniquely their own. These gifts will make them who they are, and will bring depth and meaning to their lives and to those around them. I suppose we are all given at birth a similar mixed bag of blessing. What they do with it will not be in my hands, but theirs.
My own hands have more years behind them than I like to count. They have been given – and have taken – plenty of opportunities for both good and iniquity. These hands have written essays, played the piano, dug in the dirt, twirled a flag in a marching band, even thrown a few punches during my brief American Karate days. Have they done enough? Will their contribution be all that it was meant to be when their deep lines are finally measured?
There is only One who can know that: the God who gives us hands to work. Work is what we do. We show up in the field every day and curl our fingers around the plow. The Spirit will have to pull and direct. I didn’t always know this. I used to sit, hands immobile over the keyboard, trying to wring out the next word in an overwrought sermon. I remember helplessly fingering the soil around an ailing tomato plant, skeptical of my meager attempts to keep it alive. I have spent too much time wondering if my efforts would be good enough. Now I quit wringing these hands and simply put them back to the task. I have offered my best, and continue to do so in each moment. That best may soar to great heights or just as likely fall flat. Either way, it is mine. Really, it is God’s. What will come from the work of my hands lies ultimately in those of the divine. I am happy to hand it over.
However deeply I long to know that my hands, or those of my children, will be of a use I feel good about, I will be satisfied to know that they will be of use at all. They just work. The rest belongs to God.