I wish I could say that the shut-down had blasted away all that hindered my creativity and I was alive and producing page after page of the next great American novel or the next great play headed for Broadway or the script for a film that would win a truck-load of awards… but it hasn’t. Our free time has been occupied in other ways, many of them good (we got 12 baby chicks. We got them on Maundy Thursday – the celebration of The Last Supper. We didn’t realize all this until after.) But creatively speaking I’ve felt a bit dry. Honestly, I’m writing this piece while avoiding editing another one. I’m not sure which will get done and published. There’s a sinister tinge that casts its shadow on my creative endeavors of late. Not the “you’re selfish for taking the time to do this” which usually haunts me, but rather a real feeling of opposition. I don’t consider myself a great warrior for the Kingdom so I don’t know that the forces of darkness have been marshaled to my door to keep me from launching an effective attack from my keyboard, but it does feel like anything that is attempted to speak truth, beauty and goodness into the world with any intention, thoughtfulness and artistry is met with… a strange and bleak opposition. Maybe it’s nothing more than a sadness and weariness inside me that feels it is my job to solve all the world’s problems, and then I remember my arms are not strong, my mind is not brilliant and my heart is corrupt. Who am I to think I am in any way a warrior for the light and not, at best, a liability?
I was watching TV with my dad one afternoon. Diner’s, Drive-in’s and Dive’s is often a go-to in our house. And this episode was the re-tooled format where the respective D sends the host a box of ingredients and the jovial Guy Fieri makes their recipe (with a little addition or two of his own) in his own outdoor kitchen. It’s a great ‘make lemonade out of lemons’ thing, especially if the respective D sends you lemons for their menu item lemonade. One restaurant was a place that specializes in unique waffles. The one they sent was a spaghetti waffle (which was a recipe that was submitted by students at a local school). I watched with growing interest as the Guy whipped this up at home with the restaurateur watching on a webcam. I remembered we had some leftover spaghetti in the fridge from the night before. And then, the muse came. The muse floated in, taking the form of Guy Fieri, she floated around my head, leant against my shoulder and whispered the words that have defined my days since… “Will it Waffle?”
I ran to the kitchen, like a clothed Archimedes, my Eureka was thanks to the Food Network and, like a giddy kid in a sandbox, I grabbed my approximation of the ingredients I saw. (Basically I got the leftover spaghetti, some cheese and some eggs). I whipped them together and plugged in the waffle iron and within moments was sizzling what was the first of many waffle experiments. Everything from a hotdog waffle to a s’mores waffle, to a crab & egg waffle, pizza waffle to a quesadilla cooked in a waffle iron. The waffles receive a variety of reactions from the family – everything from “I’m not eating that!” to one family member saying it was the first point of brightness for them in a very dark day that gave them back a moment of hope. My kids now sing a theme song to go along with it – “Will it waffle? Will it waffle? Will it be good, or will it be awful?” And lo, many indeed “waffled” and a few were also “awful”. I will eat them either way because that’s life – the good and the bitter, the successes and failures…and mostly because in a global pandemic you can’t afford to waste food. The waffle creations have pushed past double digits and are seeing no end. I posted an experiment or two but was inspired to keep on sharing them when a friend of my Mom said “Sounds fun. We need a little fun right now.”
At the risk of taking something that bears no meaning and wrapping it in fools-gold, I’d like to suggest that “Will it Waffle” is the divine working of God in the world. Have I now gotten too big for my athletic pant britches (proper quarantine attire)? Perhaps. Let me instead use a greater and more beautiful example.
Kyra Hinton is a brilliant artist who uses inks and watercolors in incredible ways and photographs them while the liquid is still “alive”. Her images are breathtaking and, for my money, she’s one of my favorite living artists. She also happens to be a fantastic person. Kyra’s home recently experienced tremendous flooding in their basement. I don’t know to what extent they lost personal items, but we recently had a slow leak in our basement and had to drag a few sopping cardboard boxes with water-logged keepsakes across the floor which only amounted to a small puddle so I imagine when there basement kept filling from the rain that wouldn’t stop coming down from the floor drain that wouldn’t stop belching up, it was more than a little bit of their treasures at risk. But Kyra, though sad, worn and tired (all this in the midst of a global pandemic mind you), chose to do something entirely different than just mourn. She took back something that the darkness tried to take from her. She gathered some of the floodwater from her basement in a vial, and used it… to make art. She mixed it with her inks and the resulting artwork is a brilliance of color, light, life and beauty. Out of the darkness, God gave her the strength to make light. She took what was in her hand, offered it up, and took back some of the ground that pain had taken.
Kyra taught me so much about how we are to live in the world with that simple moment of worship. She did not focus on what was seen but what was unseen. She knew that what the darkness meant for despair, God meant for life. Water was meant to bring life, not death and destruction. God’s spirit hovered over the surface of the waters, just as Kyra’s hand hovered over the surface of her canvas, and life came from chaos. This is the work.
Will it Waffle started off as silly. And, to be sure, it is indeed silly. (All the more so when compared to the work of an artist such as Kyra.) But it has brought some people a moment of joy in all this, and it’s been a way that God has taught me, yet again, because, for me it will continue to be a subject I need to take over and over and over again, that this is the work of our lives. It’s God asking Moses “What’s that in your hand?” – a stick that was used to set the Israelites free. It’s a little boy named David who got pretty good with a sling when scaring off scavengers when doing his chores, that then felled a giant. It’s a mourning prophet over a valley of dead bones who asks the Maker “Can these bones live?” It’s the empty nets of Peter that Jesus filled up with fish… and men. It’s the red rope of the woman with a scarlet A named Rahab who God used to protect the spies in Jericho. It’s the soft tender willingness of Mary who says to the Angel “May it be done unto me”. We take what is around us, what we are given, what is in our pantry, what is all over our basement floors, what is in our gardens, what is in our communities, what is in our hands, and we put it in the service of the light. This is the way we get through whatever comes next. We look at what we’ve been given, we see what is in our hands. and then we look up to the Heavens and ask our Father “Will it Waffle?”
The way of Heaven continues right where you are. You only need to choose to step out and reach with your hand to grasp that golden thread that will lead you. Do not stop when your world changes. See how the thread would lead you even as your world is overturned or broken. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” Do not let the heartbreak over “what was” so cloud the “what is” so that your eyes cannot see how this “is” can become a glorious “ever shall be” by our faithful following. There is light and high beauty forever beyond the reach of the darkness. Our job is not to fix the darkness. We were not made for that. Our job is to participate in the light. Grasp the golden thread, take what is in your hand, may it be done unto us, and let us step forward again and again knowing that He who started a good work in us is faithful to complete it – regardless of the tool He must use to bring His redemption about. Be it a staff, a red rope, a vial of floodwater or a waffle iron.
This is how the light wins.
What’s that in your hand?
Whether good or awful, may we all indeed…waffle.
The featured image for “Will It Waffle?” is courtesy Adam R. Nettesheim and is used with his kind permission for Cultivating.
Adam is a vagabond of the arts. He is an animator by training, a media specialist by vocation and a writer by hobby. Though he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for”, in his wandering through the arts he has found the firm conviction that God has been writing His story through our stories since the beginning, and He’s not done yet. Adam and his wife Sarah have 3 children and live in Northern Colorado. His artistic interests range from G.K. Chesterton to Looney Tunes.