Tuesday, January 18, 2011

On Trusting God for Pepper


I attended a wedding this weekend in Florida. It was phenomenal. The wedding was lovely, and the weather was perfect. There was a lot going on, and I was having a difficult time, what with travel troubles and sleep deprivation. More than once I prayed to God, and God responded, "Do you trust me?"

I, of course, gave the obvious answer, "Of course I trust you. You're God!"

What does trusting God look like when hope is deferred?

What does trusting God look like when the future seems bleak?

What does trusting God look like when our expectations cannot be met?

Two and a half years ago, I learned of a wonderful type of pepper: Aframomum Melegueta. Also known as Grains of Paradise. I've been aching to incorporate it into my recipes ever since.

Two and a half years ago, however, I was living in Iowa. I knew there was no chance of finding this delightful spice here, and when I looked online, every seller I found only sold in bulk. Even if I thought I could go through ten pounds in a year, I couldn't afford to shell out $200.00 for a bit of pepper. So, I waited.

I waited almost six months, until I had returned to New York City, where things like Grains of Paradise are more likely to be found, and available for purchase in a size more suited to my needs. As it happened, in late November of 2009, while shopping at WholeFoods, I happened down the spice aisle, and there it was, illuminated as if by God's hand itself, calling me forth, beckoning me to come, taste the deliciously floral spiciness of this small seed, begging me to take it home with me. Alas, I looked at the price and concluded at the time that I simply could not justify the cost in my current circumstances. So, I went away sad.

Three months later, when things were a bit easier, I returned to WholeFoods with the intention of taking home my first jar of Grains of Paradise. Though I returned once a week over the next four months, I never again found the Grains of Paradise; and between writing my thesis, attending a memorial service for my dog, planning for graduation, and packing to move after graduation, I never took the time to seek out those specialty spice shops in New York City that were sure to carry it.

So it was that I left New York for Iowa, once again resigned to the simple fact that my hopes of experiencing this amazing culinary item were, yet again, deferred. I determined to put it out of my mind.

That was until a couple of months ago. It just so happens that in the course of correspondence, I learned that a friend of mine had found Grains of Paradise in his local organic food mart. Oh, the envy that ensued. As I read his email, I leapt from my chair, and proceeded to dance around, while stamping my feet and shaking my fists; simultaneously rejoicing in his opportunity to play with this spice and pitching my own little temper tantrum. After all, while I firmly believe it would be well worth it to drive 800 miles, round trip, to pick up a single jar of this spice, I knew I'd never be able to convince the keeper of the keys of this fact.

This past weekend, I had just finished having my hair and make-up done. I had fifteen minutes to find something gluten free for lunch while the rest of the bridal party noshed on pizza. As I headed out of our hotel and up the street, I happened to see a small boutique called Savory. I peeked inside and discovered spices.

I was immediately distracted from my search for gluten free food. I headed inside and began to scour the store for Grains of Paradise. It wasn't with the other peppercorns. Suck.

It wasn't with the rest of the spices. Suck!

It wasn't tucked away with the herbs. Grrr!

"Exotic" the sign read, and I headed to the back of store. Aha! My heart began racing, and my palms sweating as a a grin broke across my face. There, sitting on a shelf amongst other jars I scarcely saw, Grains of Paradise. A glass container, half full, and metal scoop. I didn't even notice the price as I began searching for a baggie, a small jar, something, anything in which to store my purchase.

Nothing.

I looked around at the store personnel, all helping other customers.

My stomach rumbled.

I made a mental note to return in the morning, and once again began pursuing my original goal of a gluten free lunch.

Monday morning I awoke early. I made sure I had packed everything I'd taken to Florida with me. I watched a little TV. I checked in with some friends. I made arrangements with the shuttle service to pick me up at 10:00 in order to get to the airport for my 12:03 flight. When 8:00 rolled around, I headed to the tea shop next to the hotel for a bit of breakfast.

By the time I was finished eating my oatmeal, drinking my tea, and reading every Hollywood gossip magazine I could find, it was 9:00 and I was sure Savory would be open for business.

I left the tea shop, headed up the block and discovered that my surety was wrong. Savory opens at 10:00. At 10:00 I would be sitting in a cab, on my way to the airport, no Grains of Paradise in my carry-on. I wanted to cry.

Two and a half years, and was seconds away from my goal. If only I had another 10 minutes! But no. I had failed. Hope deferred. Again.

Standing on the sidewalk outside of Savory I again heard God ask, "Do you trust me?"

And again I answered, "Of course I trust you. You are God. You have never failed me. You have never left me. You have always cared and provided for me. You have proven yourself faithful in the past. So, I choose to trust you today, God. Even when it comes to pepper."

Eleven hours later, I climbed into my best friend's car at the airport, ready to head home. "I have a gift for you," she said to me. My best friend is the delivery service, however, not the originator of this gift. "He said you'd understand," she said, as she handed me a jar of Grains of Paradise; a gift from the aforementioned friend whose discovery lead to a dancing temper tantrum. Somehow, in that moment, it felt as though this was a gift from the very God who had been assuring me all weekend.

Ah, yes. God certainly can be trusted. Even for a jar a pepper.

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