I just got back from a Thanksgiving celebration with the ACU Study Abroad group. They were so kind to invite me to participate. I volunteered to bring something, and they said, "How about pecan pie?" I said, "Yum! You bet!"
Now, there are many traditional foods that no Thanksgiving feast should be without. The obvious ones are turkey, stuffing, homemade rolls and anything with pumpkin or sweet potatoes. A good Southern Thanksgiving will nearly always include someone's great-aunt's recipe for green bean casserole and, of course, that Southern delicacy, pecan pie.
There were any number of potential issues: changing from Farenheit to Celsius, an iffy college 'cooker' (oven, for my American friends), using golden syrup instead of Karo, my general lack of experience baking pecan pies, recipe doubling, using a new-to-me recipe instead of Grandma's. Plus, I couldn't ask Mom, "Is this right? Do you think it's done or does it need more time?" I have no idea which of factors (or combination thereof) conspired against me, but I can tell you this: the two pies I made are a disgrace to Southerners everywhere. One didn't set (a common enough problem), and it got burned a little on the top because I didn't have any tin foil. I left the other one in a bit too long... and it was oddly gritty. Also, it was shaped a bit like a crater in the end.
At this point I imagined reporting to Grandma Bryant on my latest cooking fiasco. While we were both in Abilene, I used to share my cooking experiences, good and bad, with her. I would exaggerate my failures in a ridiculous, Lucille Ball-like manner. She always chuckled at me and said something endearingly colloquial in her West Texas accent, like, "Oh, land!" I think she may also have responded that way the day I ran over the water spigot with that beast-of-a riding lawn mower. (It's been 2 and a half years since her death, and I still think of things to tell her.)
Anyway, I decided to go on and take the pies, despite their probable inedibility. I bundled up in my coat, stacked the pies, and set off for the ACU houses, about a 15 minute walk from my college. After a couple of minutes, my arms got tired from holding the pies out in front of me, so I pulled the edge of the pan against my belly for added support. This proved disastrous. About halfway there, I glanced down to find, to my consternation, that the pie that didn't set well had been leaking copiously down my front the whole time. There was a stream of golden syrup cascading down the front of my jacket that branched at my jeans and ran down each leg to the top of my tennis shoes! (Ew, I hate being sticky. I want to take a shower just thinking about it.) Walking with my oozing pies extended in front of me, I glanced sheepishly at the people I passed.
All this, you'd think, would add up to a very un-Thanksgiving-ish attitude. And I was certainly a little grumbly when I finally arrived at my destination. But here is the wonder of a feast shared in community - almost immediately, I forgot about my embarrassment, I sponged off my sticky jeans until they were merely tacky, I sang and laughed and prayed and communed, and I ate my fill. Nobody worried about my fumbled pie attempt (there was a whole table of dessert to choose from anyway), and I stopped worrying too. They welcomed me to the feast, even though I had little of value to give.
A good community accepts us in the midst of our messy humanity, and not just in innocuous mistakes like bad pies and sticky clothes. I'm thankful to have been a part of several communities who have been bearers of the love and grace of Christ in my life.