If you have been following me for a while, you must have figured out by now that I have an affinity for food. As a child, I remember my parents telling me that I would make a good missionary because I was not picky about eating whatever they put in front of me. Well, that was then and this is now. Some things have changed a bit, especially due to my current health issues, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and covid restrictions. Nevertheless, I am still willing to try and explore different culinary delicacies.
When you travel as much as I do (over 28 countries), you can’t help but experience the local delicacies, regardless of your preferences. It’s always a gamble, but one I am willing to make cautiously. While in Thailand, I tried new foods and fruits. And as for the ones that I was familiar with, I felt as if I was rediscovering them again. In Thailand, all fruits and vegetables are game for creativity and the outcome is not surprisingly amazing to the palate! There is no shortage of restaurants and supermarkets in the country. Food is such a big part of the culture that every mall has several food markets, kiosks, and stalls with everything from fast food to street food, fine dining to bakeries and cafes — you name it!
Whenever I went out to eat with my Thai daughter Minky or with her family, I noticed they would order a lot of food. Seldom were there any leftovers! After some meals together, I learned to appreciate their family meals because it was a time to enjoy each others company and eat a variety of selections from the menu. Minky told me that having a full table is a sign of wealth, but also a sign of love between family members. After a few days with my adopted family, I looked forward to meal times. I enjoyed spending time with them and savoring the local food, but I also experienced a sort of nostalgic feeling around the table. I couldn’t help but to miss my own family and how we used to have large gatherings with lots of food and guests before everyone went their own way, as it happens in life.
I had numerous flashbacks of meals with students from Abante (the discipleship and leadership training organization I used to lead) through the years, and those moments became bittersweet for me. Now that I live on my own, I set aside one day a week to cook for my boys so that we can stay connected. I live for such gatherings! It is special to me, because although my world is teeming with new experiences and new people I get to interact with, it has also become less fictional as I deal with real-life issues that often leave my eyes moist and my heart throbbing. As I often say, “Life is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be awful! It’s all about how we deal with our situations and circumstances.”
One takeaway I engraved deeply after I returned home from my trip to Asia is the idea to value the company of friends and family around the table once again, like I used to. I don’t entertain or cook as much anymore because of my health limitations. But with much preparation and rest beforehand, I am revisiting those expressions of love once again. I am attending more gatherings, making dinner invitations, and caring for this new life with a trembling heart that is still full of hope.
Do you shy away from gatherings? Why? What can you do differently to incorporate more time with others into your life? How are you connecting with your loved ones?