Do you have a favorite dish that just can’t be switched up? Like don’t change a thing? Not even the brand of one of the ingredients?

For us, it’s hot chicken salad. I was introduced to hot chicken salad when I was a struggling single mom and my dear friend would frequently have me over for supper. She made a casserole one night that sort of set a new course for my life. Because my life didn’t (and still doesn’t) have a lot of interaction between me and cookware. Or recipes. Or appliances. Or really the kitchen unless I was pouring myself a Diet Coke. But that hot chicken salad… I liked it so much, I asked for the recipe. 

When Doug and I first got married, I cooked. Well, if that’s what you want to call my culinary chaos. It was a season of madness that introduced a few good dishes and many, many grumpy nights to our marriage. We didn’t need couples therapy to learn that a role reversal in the kitchen would be healthy and delicious. Doug liked the recipes and Doug likes to cook. He especially likes to cook hot chicken salad.

Hot chicken salad has two ingredients that rise above the rest: water chestnuts and herb stuffing. Not just any herb stuffing… it has to be a certain brand. Of course it’s one of those brands that goes through a grocery store dry spell… it will remain on our list for months sometimes before we finally see it’s stocked and we grab a few packages. We went to Sam’s today and hit the herb stuffing jackpot. Booyah! Hot chicken salad for supper tonight! 

Sam’s is about an hour away and we had to squeeze in a cheeseburger and some ice cream, so we rolled into town just in time to pick Coleman up from school. I had promised to take him to yet another history movie that he wanted to see so Doug and I decided to divide and conquer. I headed to the 4:00 show with Coleman and Doug headed home to make hot chicken salad.

Was it a good movie? Yes. Did I enjoy it? No. And here’s why… about 30 minutes into the movie, I saw that Doug had sent a text. We were out of water chestnuts and he’d already started cooking the chicken. I suggested just freezing the cooked chicken and using it another time. But it was too late.  His reply had the words…”I made it without the water chestnuts.”

There’s a necessary balance to hot chicken salad. The chicken is tender, the stuffing is seasoned, and the chestnuts add the perfect crunchy texture that… Oh Lord I just can’t put it into words. The text exchange of my husband trying to calm me down over a casserole catastrophe is comical. 

Each ingredient in the casserole tasted just fine. But the casserole didn’t taste the same. We ate it. Large portions and seconds. It didn’t hurt us a bit. But it wasn’t the same. It needed the missing ingredient to taste delightful.

Got any missing ingredients? Boy I do! I’ve been spending a lot of time this week trying to evaluate what’s missing in my spiritual growth. I do things right, I have all the right resources and elements at my fingertips. Still I’m missing ingredients. Some days I pray and I don’t read God’s word. Other days a scripture will stick with me, but I don’t utter a prayer from daylight to dark. I’m missing surrender. I’m missing obedience. I’m forfeiting a blast of blended flavors and giving God what I have available.

Let me tell you what that looks like on me. That is arrogance and self-righteousness and utterly unacceptable. God doesn’t need my casserole to taste perfect! I do! I need to take time to prepare a perfect offering. I need to gather ALL of the ingredients that He has already provided. I need to give HIM my best so I can give others HIS best. 

Man I’m thankful for hot chicken salad. After tonight, I’ve never been more thankful for water chestnuts! I’m thankful that God is so, so merciful and He still finds delight in me when my devotion to Him is missing ingredients. My gift to you is my promise to try very hard to give you a complete testimony of God’s Providence and love, with no missing ingredients. 

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16

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