A New Foundation to Build On

Most years it was just an obligatory exercise. All the personal self-development gurus said it was something you needed to do. So, I did it, sort of just moving through the motions, and by the end of January, most was long forgotten.

Suddenly, in the mid-50s, it’s an important, drawn-out, thoughtful three weeks that has become the most important time I spend each year – often away and alone. Using time wisely now is more important than it’s ever been. The clock is ticking and each passing year feels more urgent than the last.

And this year, it went deeper. To figure out how I wanted to invest my time and energy in 2021, I tore everything down and started over, being honest, and really assessing what’s important.

The strange thing is, the realization that came with my 2020 self-assessment and new-year plan revealed I’d become the very thing that several years ago I pledged never to be again.

I’d become a hypocrite.

It was well-intentioned, but I’d become a hypocrite, nonetheless. In the desire for “validation” in an ever-changing publishing world, I’d become a marketing guy focused on making it in the traditional publishing world and crafting myself as a product the big publishing houses would desire. I conformed to a set of rules I didn’t even believe in, to achieve something that I’m no longer sure is worth the effort. Certainly not so if it means that I’m no longer true to myself.

Because at this stage in life what’s really important is authenticity, keeping it real, and servanthood that comes from a well-meaning heart.

No longer will I work to become a product that sells stories and books. I’ll pursue what’s real, and genuine, and peaceful, and joyful. So I tore it all down to define these four things:

•MISSION•PASSION•GIFTING•LOVE

This is tricky, and in the fog of pursuit, I’d lost my sense of these things – that is what they really are. But this is what will guide my life in 2021, and by definition, here’s how it works for me.

My Mission: While I respect everyone’s right to believe as they choose, I am a believer in the Christian faith that aligns with the gospel accounts of Jesus. It is my core belief, at the heart of all I feel, think, and trust. This is not something to be pushed on others, but I enjoy sharing the lessons learned in my faith walk with Christ. In some way, it permeates my writing, and my approach to life, and my hope for the future. Mostly because I believe Jesus Christ is the source of ultimate truth. So, my mission is the Great Commission. For me, this means sharing stories, and loving people regardless of the label the world has assigned them. Just love people. Most of the rest will take care of itself.

My Passion: To anwer this question, we must ask ourselves this simple question: What most stirs your heart? And in answering this question for myself, I almost made the mistake of not drilling deeply enough. This sounds silly, but at first thought, I saw my passion as cooking. But cooking doesn’t qualify as a passion, really. I think down deep what any person who loves preparing good food loves most is the hospitality of making people happy. Serving them. Bringing satisfaction to a guest’s most instinctive desire. I love cooking great food, but what I’m most passionate about is the hospitality that can be given to people around a table sharing stories, experiences, and letting the boundaries come down. I will spend more time serving people on the mission outpost retreat center we call Tranquility Base.

My Gifting: My biggest mistake has been confusing gifting with passion. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean it’s your passion. God’s gifting to me is communication, and particularly the written word. I am not a mathematician, or an engineer, or even a good handy man. But I can write, and tell stories. It’s just important to keep the gifting in its place and not let it become the overpowering element of your life just because it’s what you’re best at. I am guilty here. You can use your gifting to fulfill your passion and your mission, but your gifting is a tool to be wisely used. I’ll use this gifting in a handful of specific ways next year, and will share more on that later.

My Love: Ambition, work, the desire to be accepted, or validated in any area can consume a person to the detriment of his/her best interests. Sometimes, we are just running from what’s important because there are things too hurtful to face. I have an amazing wife who for some crazy reason enjoys being by my side. We believe in the principal of helpmates, and she is my go-to friend and helper. My relationship with my mom has literally transfigured to one where I consider her my best friend. Funny how age will make that happen. And after the long-lasting wounds of divorce, I am lavishing in the joy of renewed relationships with my three adult children, each of whom is a model of good citizenry, decency, and potential to change the world for the good. This is a God thing. I will spend the rest of my life celebrating all these people, serving them, and basking in the joy of their goodness. More than anything else moving forward, I will honor these people.

And so, these are my guiding principals for 2021.

How they specifically translate into action and not just empty convictions is the focus for my next blog post in the series.

-30-

Day 1: Crock Pot Dressing and Buttermilk Pie

(WRITER’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring recipes from a beloved “back-home” group I call the Crock Pot Brigade. Hope you enjoy.)

I LOVE Thanksgiving. Everything about it. Always have.

I love that we have a dedicated season of  gratitude. I love cooking for a big group, family and friends gathering together. Leftovers for days. The smells, and oh, the anticipation!

This first featured recipe changed my life. As a kid we only had chicken and dressing (my all-time favorite food) once a year. When this idea came around it made the dish possible just about any time. I cook Crock Pot dressing three to four times a year. It’s perfect every time. Here it is:

Crock Pot Dressing by Patricia Adams

INGREDIENTS:

1 large pan of cornbread, 6 slices of day-old bread, 2 cans chicken broth, 2 cans cream of chicken soup, 4-5 beaten eggs, sautéed onion and 2 cups celery, salt, pepper, 2 tsp. poultry seasoning. Mix all the ingredients with shredded chicken. Cook on high for 4-5 hours.

***

BUTTERMILK PIE by Shirley Cloud

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 3 tsp. flour, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1 pie crust.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add beaten eggs, then buttermilk. Mix well and pour into the pie shell.  Bake at 350 about an hour.

Buen Provecho!

 

Mid-South Food Truck Festival

Named 2016 Food Truck Festival Queen.

Named 2016 Food Truck Festival Queen.

So True.

So True.

Twisted Sandwich ... ummmmm...

Twisted Sandwich … ummmmm…

DSC_0992

Fish out of a food truck. Not really my thing.

Fish out of a food truck. Not really my thing, but I’m sure it’s Heavenly.

Grammar Nazis need not attend the Food Truck Festival.

Grammar Nazis need not attend the Food Truck Festival.

Food truck salad.

Food truck salad.

DSC_0976

Representing Little Rock.

Representing Little Rock.

Nice guy. I was going to take a photo out front, but he insisted I come back where the action was happening.

Nice guy. I was going to take a photo out front, but he insisted I come back where the action was happening.

These ladies from Joy Ride Latin eats serve up an award-winning Cubano. The cheese was perfectly melted.

These ladies from Joy Ride Latin Eats serve up an award-winning Cubano. The cheese was perfectly melted.

DSC_0952

I regret not trying the grilled mac and cheese sandwich. I really do.

I regret not trying the grilled mac and cheese sandwich. I really do.

DSC_0948

Also risky business.

Again – we’re talking risky business. Credit for not putting an apostrophe on necks.

One of the classiest of the bunch.

One of the classiest of the bunch. Bon appetit.

DSC_0943