For those readers that may be unfamiliar, when you’re making gumbo, “first you make a roux.” That’s what my mama always said. “First you make a roux.”
(Also, if you’re not familiar, “roux” is pronounced like “roo.”)
Gumbo is my family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. We go to Christmas Eve service at church and come home and have gumbo. My mom has been making the Christmas Eve gumbo since we began this tradition a decade ago when Todd and I started dating.
This year’s Christmas Eve was a little different. My brother was entertaining Hudson and Hayes. My dad was entertaining James Walker. Todd was assembling Christmas presents and I found myself standing in the kitchen by myself with all the food. I was immediately overwhelmed by the realization of all that my mom managed to accomplish on Christmas Eve in the kitchen. And because she was such a cheerful giver, we never realized just how much she took on. How many dishes she made, how she pulled together a feast without so much as a sigh or grumble.
So I stood there in my kitchen, whisking the roux and waiting for it to turn just the right shade of glossy brown, and I was lonely. My entire family was at my house, but my mama wasn’t there. And the helpless feeling of grief overwhelmed me. I was standing there making that roux because she wasn’t there. I was more than happy to be making it (though I did feel some pressure that it wouldn’t turn out nearly as delicious), but I wanted her to be standing there with me and making me laugh or singing a little Stevie Nicks.
I realized that she’s not there for me to call when I don’t know my way around a specific recipe in the kitchen. Or when I’m searching for a random ingredient in the grocery store. Or when I think one of my kids has an ear infection in the night and I just want to tell my mom.
And I just cried right there over that roux. The gumbo still turned out to be perfectly edible, but it’s a moment from that first Christmas without her that I won’t forget.
The past few weeks have been okay, but all day yesterday I felt this nagging almost hollow feeling. And very much like in the movie Inside Out, I had an a-ha moment and knew that if I didn’t go ahead and cry, I would continue to feel bad. And right then, I dropped to my knees and begged God to comfort me. To point me to Him and fill me with His spirit and the joy of His presence. Because aside from my mother herself walking into the room and hugging me, nothing was going to comfort me in that moment besides Jesus.
I know that life hurts. I know that loss feels hopeless and there are times when I don’t know how to go on. But Jesus. Nothing can comfort me the way He can. I can be in my house surrounded by everyone I love and still feel lonely, and Jesus is the only one that can fill that void. No matter how busy I make myself, or how I can just decide to be happy that day, the true joy can only come from Him. Even in the heaviest sadness.