A Holiday Kitchen Transformation: Seeing and Being Seen

by Tama Fortner

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



Generally speaking, cooking is not my most favorite thing. It’s not that I hate it; it’s just that there are so many other things I’d rather be doing. And then there are my oh-so-picky eaters. But that’s a topic for another day.

Thanksgiving is different, though. For Thanksgiving, I cook all the things. Through loss and life’s changes, we’re a small group now. (I’m sure that has nothing to do with my cooking.) Because we’re small, everyone gets their favorites. Everyone is considered, included, and celebrated through the dishes they love.

Of course, that means I’m cooking both turkey and ham, three different kinds of potatoes, and at least two different desserts, plus appetizers and sides. It’s enough food to feed an army, and it takes roughly three days to prepare it all. Three days of brining, basting, chopping, and baking. And I love every single minute of it.

What makes cooking for Thanksgiving so different from all the other days of the year? I believe it’s because for those three days my kitchen is more than pots and pans and mixing bowls. For those three days, it is transformed into a place of worship, remembrance, and praise as I am surrounded by so many of the scents, the memories, and the people who bring my heart joy.

I pull the cornbread out of the oven and remember my grandmother telling me to preheat the cast iron skillet and add a little oil to get that nice, crunchy crust.

My fingers trace the worn and spattered recipe for the turkey, and I hear again my mom’s mom giggling as she described exactly where to put that whole stick of butter. (She was a bit on the sassy side.)

I stir up Granmon’s casserole and Granny Putt’s fried corn. I add sunflowers to the centerpiece that rests on a tray my daddy made from wood out of my great-grandfather’s barn.

And sprawled around the kitchen table are those I love most, working their way through the massive, special-edition crossword puzzle we tackle every year. (What is a twelve-letter word for gratitude, fifth letter “K”? Oh, wait—of course!)

For three days every moment becomes a praise as I look around at all the many blessings that fill my life. The thing is, though, these blessings are with me most every day. But in the rush and scurry of ordinary days I simply fail to notice them. I think it’s the almost-meditative process of preparing the holiday foods that also prepares my heart to see the abundance in my life.

I confess that I am endlessly fascinated by this concept of seeing, of noticing—even though I often struggle to actually do it. Perhaps that’s why I am so drawn to the story of Hagar (Genesis 16). Lost and alone in the desert, running from a life that had suddenly gotten so very, very hard, Hagar no doubt felt unseen and unloved. Yet, God found her, came to her, and blessed her with His promises. She, in turn, named Him El Roi—“the God who sees me” (v. 13 niv).

In this world, life can get so very, very hard, so very quickly. We can feel lost and alone. Invisible. Noticing the lack instead of pausing to see the abundance of blessings. Because the truth is we are never alone (Matthew 28:20) and never invisible (Psalm 139:7–10) to the One who loves us so much that He sent His own Son to save us—so that we need never be lost (John 3:16).

We are seen, we are loved, and we are blessed by El Roi more than we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). So once again, as I head into this holiday season where the chaos threatens to crowd out the celebration, I’m resolving to open my eyes, notice the blessings, and try to see myself as He sees me, as He sees us. Yes, even here, in the kitchen. Chopping up onions and potatoes, crumbling up cornbread, and measuring out spices . . . He’s the ever-present Plus One who’s watching it all, and I don’t want to miss seeing a moment of how He pours Himself into my life.




Tama Fortner is an ECPA award-winning and bestselling writer with more than 40 titles to her credit, including Simply Christmas: A Busy Mom's Guide to Reclaiming the Peace of the Holidays: A Devotional. But her greatest accomplishments happen in a happy little home on the outskirts of Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her family and an incredibly lazy dog who doubles as a footwarmer. For more information, visit www.tamafortner.com.