A PARENT'S HEART
French Fry Flambé
By Debra White Smith
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother
Lois and in your mother Eunice and,
I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame
the gift of God, which is in you
through the laying on of my hands.
2 Timothy 1:5
French fries are an American institution. My children are definitely American; they love fries. Since I lean more toward being a health nut, I often bake crinkle fries or tater tots for the kids. But about once a month, I still fry them up a big pan of french fries. Admittedly, I love the crunch of a crisp fry just as much as any kid.
Several years ago, I filled an iron skillet full of cooking oil and piled the french fries in the skillet. I noticed I’d gotten the skillet a little full, but I decided to do the best I could with the situation. In the middle of the frying, I stepped into my home office for but a moment. Still focused upon my cooking, I returned to the stove within a minute or two—only to discover my fries were flaming! My over-filled pan of fries had leaked oil onto the burner. Yellow, red, and blue flames engulfed the pan.
I experienced a flashback to my childhood. During a family movie, my mother placed a pan with oil in it on the stove. She stepped out of the kitchen with plans to return and prepare popcorn once the oil was hot. Unfortunately, she got involved in the movie, forgot the pan, and the whole thing caught on fire. My father had grabbed a potholder, grasped the pan’s handle, and hurtled toward the back door. He tossed the pan into the yard. The flames immediately stopped. I tried to imagine myself mimicking my dad, but I couldn’t get past the image of my spilling the fries and oil all over the floor and possibly catching the kitchen on fire.
Then I remembered the fire extinguisher. We’d been required to have one in the kitchen for our home’s adoption inspection. Once I retrieved that long red canister from the wall hanger, I was faced with another problem: How to operate it! With the flames gaining fervor, I prodded and pulled and gouged at the various appendages on the fire extinguisher.
Finally, as a last resort, I decided to read the fine print near the top of the extinguisher. After pushing this button and pulling that lever, I was able to press the trigger and receive significant results. A white blast erupted from the nozzle. The fire disappeared. I turned off the burner, pulled the hot pan to a cool spot, and examined the french fries. What once promised to be a crisp treat was now a batch of soggy, gray, gooey potato strips.
By this point, my husband had heard the seconds-long upheaval and rushed to the kitchen. “What happened?” he asked.
“I caught a pan of french fries on fire,” I explained, still holding the fire extinguisher.
He eyed the extinguisher, the yucky pan of fries, then me. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I said and continued with something like, “I’m the sharpest shooter in the south.”
He chuckled and said, “We won’t be eating these, will we?”
“No.” I sighed and considered the empty fries bag in the trash can. “And I don’t have any more either. I guess I’ll have to plan some other vegetable for dinner.”
While Daniel hung up the fire extinguisher, I dumped the pan of fries outside and congratulated myself on dealing with the crisis in a timely and sensible manner—even if I did have to read the instructions to work the fire extinguisher.
Statistics show that a significant number of serious house fires start in the kitchen, often due to a situation just like mine and my mom’s. The chef on duty steps out of the kitchen for just a second and either forgets that pan of oil on the burner or just misses the moment when the fire ignites.
The fire in our souls is much different from the fires in our kitchen. Interestingly enough, while stepping away from a cooking meal might result in spontaneous combustion, stepping away from seriously pursuing the Lord will result in a cold heart. Surveys show that many moms don’t take the time to keep the fire burning in their souls. While having a fire in our kitchen is a far cry from “safe” having a holy inferno in our hearts is exactly what moms need. A mother with a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ is more likely to hear His voice when a parenting crisis is on. I’ve found that the closer I walk to Christ, the more likely I am to keep a cool head, even if I’m tired and the kids are grumpy.
Like many moms, I’ve struggled with how to make time in my hectic day for an encounter with the Lord. Sometimes I think we set ourselves up for failure by thinking if we don’t get up at six o’clock in the morning, light a candle, put on a choir robe, and listen to organ music, we just aren’t spiritual enough. The problem with being a mom—especially of young children—is that the nature of the job involves the unexpected. The very day you do manage to get up at six for prayer will be the day a sleepy-eyed toddler arrives at your side and, without a word, throws up all over you and the floor. So there you are, mopping vomit, when you’re scheduled to be praying.
When my kids were younger, out of desperation I finally asked God to give me time every day when I could stoke the fire in my soul. He answered my prayer. Nearly every day my kids would unexpectedly conk out in front of the TV while I was preparing a snack. Like any other industrious mom, I saw the break as an opportunity to straighten the house or do the dishes. But the second I stepped toward the pile of dishes in the sink, I would hear a still small voice beckoning me to sit in the presence of the Lord rather than scrub pots and pans. So I’d leave the dishes until later and snuggle down in the couch with my Bible and a heart ready to absorb God’s Spirit and wisdom. Amazingly, I always found time to do the dishes later.
Many nights, one of my children would awaken for any number of reasons and need me in the wee hours. After my child went back to sleep, I’d think, I haven’t had a serious prayer time in a couple of days. I’ve already been awake an hour. Another hour won’t hurt me. And I’d get my Bible, put on my worship music, and encounter God.
For me, encountering God means I take the time to fall silent and listen for His voice in the recesses of my soul. Sometimes I need help in solving parental issues. Or I wait for the Lord to give me insights for my writing and speaking. On other occasions, I lift up issues with people or difficult decisions. Sure it’s important to bring my requests to Him ... and I do. But waiting for the Lord’s guidance and basking in the warmth of His presence are just as important as talking to Him. This allows prayer time to be a dynamic, two-way communication, rather than a one-person monologue.
It’s so easy to develop a McDonald’s mentality with God. We often approach Him like we would place an order at a fast-food window. “Hey, God, give me an extra large order of blessings and smear on some ketchup, will Ya?” Then we zoom right through our day and never take the time to allow Him to stoke the fire in our souls. Just as good moms are committed to spending quality time with their kids, so we need to commit to spending quality time with the Lord.
Remember to show your children the image of a godly mother. The more spiritually minded you are, the more likely they are to be spiritual teens and adults. Don’t make excuses for neglecting God. The colder your heart grows, the less likely you are to hear the voice of the Lord, and the more mistakes you will make as a parent.
Excerpted from It's a Jungle at Home: Survival Strategies for the Overwhelmed Mom by Debra White Smith; Copyright 2006 by Debra White Smith; Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR; Used with permission.
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