This past weekend I attended the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. It was one of the more enjoyable things I’ve done in awhile. The year so far has been exhausting and it was good to get away with my kids for a few days and have some good food, good wine, and meet some wonderful people. This weekend taught me a few things that I think might cross over into family life, if not married life.
My son was a “celebrity” chef headlining the event and I was ever the proud mother. It has been his dream since he was nine years old to be a chef/entertainer. I’m not surprised; he has been cooking for and entertaining our family for years. Nathan was one of seven “leading culinary personalities” and joined by over 60 of the greatest chefs in the South; some we have followed for years, being the foodie family that we are. I had the opportunity to meet Chris Lilly, Grand Champion of Memphis in May this year; John Besh, award winning chef and owner of restaurants in New Orleans, who has appeared on Top Chef Masters, and The Next Iron Chef; and the great Norman Van Aken, father of New World Cuisine and Fusion cooking, winner of innumerable awards including the prestigious James Beard List of Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. If you are not a “foodie” maybe this does not affect you like it did me, but these are rock stars in the culinary world! They have gained notoriety by hard work and intense training. Their celebrity is not merely about performance, glitz and glamour. It’s not just about making and eating great food; it’s about a way of life- a certain joie de la vie. It is certain that there are some celebrities who esteem themselves more highly than they ought, but these three chefs, all very different from each other, seemed to be enjoying life and the gifts God has given them, and not taking themselves too seriously. They didn’t appear to believe the hype about themselves and were more interested in teaching and sharing their knowledge and wisdom, and having fun than posing for paparazzi. Whether we are well known or not, Scripture calls us to:
Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are all part of his one body. And each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out when you have faith that God is speaking through you. If your gift is that of serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, do a good job of teaching. If your gift is to encourage others, do it! If you have money, share it generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly (Romans 12:3-8, NLT).
Take the steps to find out where your gifts lie, then go about using them gladly and to best of your ability. What is your passion? I’d love to hear from you.
This particular event was all about the South where hospitality reigns, but I believe that we are all called to hospitality. To learn about hospitality on a deeper level, I highly recommend Henri Nouwen’s Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life. Nouwen’s description of hospitality is in much different terms than one would normally expect. He describes hospitality as “the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy” (p. 71). Many are fearful of empty space, feeling the need to occupy every corner in order to avoid pain, disappointment, or the uncertainty of change. In order to provide that place of welcome, these relationships must be ones of servanthood, not ownership. Nouwen suggests that there be a balance between grace and truth, and that a hospitable host will be one that has emptied his heart and mind and opened up space to be able to receive and welcome his guest. The all-around feeling at the Food and Wine Festival was one of true hospitality, something I don’t always feel in my everyday life. And something I sometimes neglect to offer, I’m ashamed to say. I am challenged to create a free space where strangers can enter and feel welcome.
The third thing that impressed me, and has stuck in my mind, was the reaction from people to our family. We mostly hung out together, except for Nathan who was working feverishly on his events. His uncle and aunt were there too in support of him and to have a good time. We all are very proud of him, but not because of any fame he has received- he is not famous to us. It is because of the man he has become, part of which is his devotion to his wife and family. This seemed to shock, impress, and endear people to all of us. I also loved that Chef Norman Van Aken was side-by-side with his son, Chef Justin, on a panel discussing the past, present, and future of Southern Cuisine. They obviously respected each other mutually and played off each other very naturally; making me wonder if this is something they do at the dinner table often. Janet, Norman’s wife and also a chef, was right by his side and I asked her if she accompanies him often. She told me that he didn’t like to travel and wouldn’t go if she didn’t go with him. I asked her how long they had been doing that, to which she replied, “almost 40 years.” I love that. They have been sharing in this joie de la vie for that many years, using the gifts God has given them, not esteeming themselves more highly than they ought and opening up a free space so that some strangers would instantly feel like friends. Inspiring.
Thank you for indulging me in one of my greatest passions. The only thing missing last weekend was my hubby, who would have absolutely loved it. He was in New Orleans at the International Rotary Convention with 20,000 other Rotarians, hanging out with Bill Gates, discussing the eradication of polio around the world. Am I dropping names or what?! I am very proud of him, as he is the incoming president of the Downtown Rotary Club in Tampa. It is quite the honor. I hope he doesn’t get a big head :-)