Last week I signed up to take a meal to a friend who just had a baby. It didn't take any consideration. When that Sign Up email popped in my inbox, I wrote my name in a slot before even thinking to read through the drop off logistics and dietary restrictions.
When the actual meal delivery time came around, I quickly picked a recipe, made it the night before, and as soon as the timer went off, I subsequently felt like I was going to have a serious meltdown. The dish didn't taste good at all, so I thought. The color, consistency, and flavors were all off. I stepped out of the kitchen before I started slamming around pots and pans, and Jake heroically insisted we get out of the apartment and take a walk. (He gets me.)
My response was over-dramatic, which is always a sign that something deeper is at work.
I texted my sister, "I hate cooking." Which is funny because if you asked me in public, I'd say enthusiastically, that I love cooking. That I love gathering people around a meal. That I embrace imperfections around the stove and that the main point is just eating together with your people.
Nat texted me back simply, wisely, "Yeah I gave up trying to be Shauna."
That's Shauna Niequist, if you don't know. Who is the collective favorite author of all of my friends. We've all been reading her books for the last 7 years or so, and her writings have had a profound impact on my perspective of the world. She writes about hospitality, community, and especially cooking. Her book Bread and Wine has a recipe for each chapter. Her Instagram showcases cooking club themed nights, and how powerful it is to gather people around a table.
I've wanted to be her for years. I remember in college thinking that I couldn't wait to have an apartment of my own to cook for people and have dinner parties and weekend breakfasts. My reality has not been that at all. And instead of embracing imperfections around cooking in order to focus on the people (which is TOTALLY her mantra, because she also wrote Present Over Perfect), I'm getting stressed out trying to cook for others and overwhelmed at the entire effort. Because I falsely think if I'm a bad cook, then I must be bad at hospitality and community too.
I ended up dropping off the dish, mostly out of necessity, I didn't have time to make anything else. I literally sent up miracle prayers that God would transform it into something more appetizing (channeling water into wine here).
At the time, that was as deep as I went (so, not very). But as I've been thinking over this experience, I realize instead of asking for my reputation to be saved, maybe I should be focusing on some deeper issues at work - like my identity not being wrapped up in my favorite author or my ability to make a new-mom-casserole, and instead finding my identity to be unshakeable in moments of imperfections.
So today I'm praying grace for myself. Asking God to help me let go of these secret internal standards I have set, which are not based in truth. Trying to be someone else is not ever going to work out well for me (or for anyone). So why don't we try letting go of these expectations and instead focus on accepting things like grace, for ourselves and for others?
Side note - I'm not giving up cooking. Since I work in a catering company, I asked our Executive Chef how he deals with the stress of cooking for other people when things don't go perfectly, and he said "You're always stressed. It is always stressful. You just learn to live with it."
So now that I'm remembering my identity is not in my performance, I'm going to keep trying to do things I believe in - cooking (imperfectly) for other people and dealing with the stress as I go.
Ps top photo is from Unsplash, my favorite place to get free stock photos. This particular photo is by Brooke Lark of Cheeky Kitchen. She has a free ebook of 365 recipe prompts which looks pretty fun. You know me, I'm all about sharing those internet links.