Years ago, a seasoned writer and speaker mentored me on how to build the ministry God had given me.
We’d meet for coffee and discussed everything from adapting to different cultures to dealing with the zingers I’d get from posting God’s promises on social media. I took notes, asked questions and basked in her wisdom. One December day she paused from talking, reached across the table, took ahold of my hands and looked me into my eyes. Then waited.
“What?” I asked.
She smiled. “You’re doing wonderfully bracing for the unknown. But don’t forget to ponder what you already know.”
“Right,” I said, eager to please my mentor. “I make it a point to read Scripture and do my devotionals every day. And I read what other women are doing in their ministries to further God’s message. I’m seeking out ways to be a better servant.” I thought I had given the perfect answer.
She took a deep breath and sighed, still holding my hands and looking intently into my face.
“What are we doing now — right now?”
“You’re mentoring me. I’m learning from you how to be better at what I do.” How could this answer be wrong?
She tilted her head and smiled as she let go of my now-sweaty hands. “You’ve been a wonderful mentee. Your hunger for knowledge has been impressive.” She leaned back into her chair. “Here’s your last assignment. It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever taught you. Do you think you’re ready for it?”
My eyes widened as I leaned forward. “Am I ever!” I could hardly conceal my anticipation.
She smiled and spoke five words that changed my life. “Don’t leave your blessings behind.”
It was my turn to lean back into my chair. “I don’t understand.”
She folded her hands on the table.
“Blessings are all around. Every day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Don’t be too busy preparing your ministry not to see them. Knowing God is blessing you every day is one of the biggest building blocks you will ever have.” She bent down and reached into her bag beside her chair and pulled out an empty pint-sized Mason jar. “Here’s a gift to go along with your assignment.
“A jar? I don’t understand.”
“Place this jar in a conspicuous place. Maybe on the counter in the kitchen … on a table in the entryway … or on the mantel in the den. But place it where you see it every day. Beside the jar, place a pad of paper and pen. When something good happens that day, make a note of it and put it in the jar. On New Year’s Eve, pour out all the slips of paper and reflect over each good thing — each blessing — that happened to you.”
We said our goodbyes and I took the jar home, wondering what I’d do with it. If it’d been a pretty jar, I wouldn’t have had a problem with placing it out as she asked. But a canning jar? A clear glass jar full of nothing?
But my friend had always offered wisdom and I was determined to trust her on this as well. On New Year’s Day I placed the jar on the table inside the entry by our front door. And waited for opportunities to fill the jar.
Week after week I looked for goodness and blessings to scribble on a note and slide into the jar. I was determined not to have an empty jar at the end of the year. Soon ideas to put on notes began to come to mind. Projects were completed around the house. That was a blessing. My husband went on a bike ride across the country and made it home safely. Another blessing. My kids came to visit for a weekend. A wonderful blessing.
My jar began to fill with reminders of blessings throughout the year.
On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I have a tradition of pulling out our calendars and laying out our schedules and setting our goals for the upcoming year. But this year, I brought my jar to the table as well.
He cocked one brow. “A jar full of paper?”
“No, much greater,” I said, tipping the jar so slips of paper poured out. “It a jar full of blessings. Let’s plan our year as we usually do, but let’s take some time to remind ourselves how good God has been to us over the year. We mustn’t leave our blessings behind.”
Every January since then, I place an empty Mason jar on my entry table and watch as the pile of papers grow. Family and friends visiting ask about the plain glass jar sitting there. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about God’s blessings all around us — many of them unnoticed. I now make it a point to seek them out, because they truly are there.
This year, however, I’m going to do it differently. Instead of an empty pint-size Mason jar, I’m going for a quart!
Thirty Minute Portobello Mushroom Soup with Penelope Carlevato
1 lb Portobello mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Truffle salt (or to taste)
2 Tab butter
2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup half and half
2 Tab white wine
Pepper to taste
Clean mushrooms with soft vegetable brush, remove the inside gills, then chop into small pieces.
Melt the butter in a medium to large stockpot or Dutch oven. Saute’ the onions and garlic and stir continually until slightly browned. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook covered on medium heat until the mushrooms are soft. Add the stock and cook for additional 15 minutes. Add the half and half and simmer for 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree’ half of the soup. Add the wine, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the soup with a swirl of sour cream and chopped parsley or chives. This rich and creamy soup is delicious and hits the spot for a gourmet soup for lunch or dinner. Serves 4.
PENELOPE CARLEVATO is author of “Tea on the Titanic.” Recipe included in Leading Hearts magazine Leadinghearts.com
Article appeared in Leading Hearts magazine leadinghearts.com