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Beauty for Ashes or Sometimes, that Pony Can Be Hard to Find.

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I had a little epiphany the other morning.

Epiphanies don’t look the way they used to.
Image from here.

It came in the midst of a telephone conversation I was having with my dear friend Anne. There was a connection in my life between something gloriously wonderful that had happened to me, and something so far from wonderful it wasn’t even in the same county as wonderful, and that conversation brought it to light.

I think it’s a story worth telling, and there might be a little something in it for you in the hearing, so, here we go:

This story began back in early August. My husband took me out to dinner to celebrate our  23rd wedding anniversary. We were looking for a restaurant where we could celebrate that event. Because we eat out infrequently due to our finances, we wanted someplace really special. (Did you follow all that? Translation: we have champagne taste, and a malt liquor budget, so, if we’re going to blow some bucks, it better be worth it.)

We’ve been looking for a wonderful restaurant for our very special date nights, in vain, for two years.

See, we used to HAVE the restaurant of our dreams: the place we’d go whenever we could afford a little date night celebration. But it closed. And we have been in mourning for two years, due to the loss of our favorite local restaurant, Zola. Zola, our garden of dining delights. Zola, the only place in town that we had found where we could consistently find a glorious dining experience. Zola was the restaurant owned and operated by my favorite local chef, Deb Paquette. And ever since it closed, we’ve been wandering through a desert of dining experiences in Nashville.

We read reviews. We do! We tried several restaurants that were receiving positive buzz from the local newspapers and food blogs. But nothing else even came close.

We grieved.

We mourned.

On the night of our anniversary this year, we went to a restaurant that Gwyneth Paltrow had recommended, but were dismally disappointed. In terms of the noise level, the ambiance was like dining al fresco on an airport runway. My ears began to ring when the woman across the room laughed a normal laugh. The food was odd, at best. And the morning after, I had a terrible case of diarrhea.

So bad, in fact, that when my daughter and I stopped at Whole Foods the next day to pick up a few things, I had to seek out the restroom. This took me to a part of the store I had never had occasion to frequent before.

It didn’t really look like this.
Image from

On the way there, I saw a rack filled with what looked like it might be a store catalog, so I picked one up. It wasn’t. It was a flyer for a cooking school.

Huh. That was interesting.

I had never heard that Whole Foods HAD a cooking school. For once, I didn’t throw a grocery store flyer away. For once, I thought I’d take this one home with me and take a closer look at their offerings.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that “Salud!” Cooking School at Whole Foods would be offering a cooking class taught by none other than my favorite local chef, Deb Paquette! What joy was mine! And for a cost of only $36.00. This was a DEAL! Dinner AND a show.

Well, I went on Tuesday night, and I had the time of my life. I’ll blog about the particulars soon. I can’t wait to share some of what I learned.

But I mentioned that I had had an epiphany, and here it is:

If I hadn’t eaten that cr@ppy dinner at that disappointing restaurant and gotten diarrhea, I might never have walked past that rack that had the catalog on it. And I would have missed out on an evening that fed not only my body, but my SPIRIT.

See, I love to cook. Cooking brings me so much joy. It connects me in spiritual ways to my mother. I feel like God blessed me by allowing me to share with her a creative gene that caused both of us to pour love into whatever we cook. It’s love that is the secret in my sauce. And she’s the one who taught me that. Not with words. But with actions.

And so going to that class, and getting to watch and listen to and learn from and dialog with one of my most favorite chefs was like a master class for me. But it was even more: it was an opportunity to give back to Deb (I hope!) a bit of my appreciation for and joy in her craftsmanship. I was able to pay back, just a bit, a teeny something, for all the joy she has brought to me! And that was worth so very much.

(I’m such a sap: those last two paragraphs got me all teary eyed, just writing them. But that’s how deeply I feel about this stuff.)

So, when I was telling Anne that morning about how much FUN I’d had the night before, and how I’d stumbled upon that catalog on my way to the bathroom because my tummy was upset, and she remembered the tie-in to the “bad meal for my anniversary dinner” incident, I was floored.

If I hadn’t had that rotten anniversary dinner, I would have missed out on my BIG NIGHT at the cooking school.

It caused me to gasp when I realized the connection. And then I laughed, and then I marveled.

Because that was the very thing I’ve been thinking about all week long, in light of the fact that my son is wanting to go to college. You see, the very sobering truth is that he will very likely NOT be able to afford to go where he dreams of attending. And I’m so sad about that, because I think it’s likely that his heart is going to be broken, (or at least it’s going to get badly dinged up) as he watches that dream die.

And watching our dreams die, in general, is a really cr@ppy thing.

Can I get a witness? Anybody else ever watched their own dream die?

And as I was praying about that, the other morning, while my son and his Dad were en route to that college for a visit, the thought that came to me was that I myself had several heartbreaks on my way to college, and following college, before I came to Nashville. I watched several dream-balloons get popped. I was crushed. Heartbroken. Even devastated by one of them. (Haven’t we all experienced that, in one form or another?)

But, God.

 In the midst of my heartbreak, there was God. He never left, and He never stopped loving me.

And as it turned out, all those things were used by God to bring about good, that came later. Ultimately, they brought me to Nashville, and allowed me to meet the wonderful man who would become my husband and my best friend.

In the midst of the cr@p, and I assure you I saw no redeeming factors in some of those situations while they were occurring, there was God.

So, in the midst of the rumble-tummy of my post anniversary, there was God, bringing joy, quite literally, out of cr@p. It just took a while before I realized what was in the works.

Are you in the midst of heartbreak? Have you watched a dream die? Have some of your circumstances taken a nose dive?

Very often, out of the greatest pain, comes the greatest joy. But, it can take us a while before we realize what’s in the works.

So, I’m asking God for the ability to give thanks, even in the hard stuff. And for the faith to believe that He truly does care about me, and my son, and where my son needs to spend these next few years of his life. Even if it’s not the place he dreams of going.

I wish the same encouragement for you, in whatever your circumstances might be.