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Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014

Sweet Potato Pie

Posted Friday, September 21, 2012, at 3:51 PM

It was a beautiful fall morning. The sky was clear, there was a slight chill in the air and you could almost smell the change of seasons. The group of friends met at the parking lot and walked toward their class together. Everyone knew each other well and lots of teasing went on as they made their way across the busy streets and campus.

People often moved aside for the group. Not because they were threatening--more so because they seem oblivious to the rest of the world. The sounds of their teasing and laughter warmed the chilled air around them.

Too soon, they came to the building and had to go inside. Shedding jackets, they took their seats in the classroom--some near the front, most the middle and a few toward the back. They continued their conversation, drawing other classmates in as well--sharing memories of fairs, hay rides, fall parties and favorite foods--until the professor entered the room.

By that time they were swapping "my momma makes the best . . ." or "grandma's apple butter won all the county fairs and even at state every year . . ." or "persimmon pudding so sweet and tangy . . ." until their bellies were grumbling at the thought of the delicious treats they described. Joining in the conversation, the class and even the prof were soon swapping favorite fall foods . . . and tall tales.

"You know, I'd be willing to give an 'A' to anyone who made me a sweet potato pie. I love those things . . . sweet, bubbly, and just a bit crunchy! Mmmm, it would be worth it for one of those pies. Okay, class let's get to work . . ." their prof said as he began the class discussion for the day.

After class, as they walked back to the student center, the friends devised their plan. One had made such a pie in the past. They would all pitch in for the ingredients. She would make the pie. They'd get to class early enough to put the pie on his desk with just forks and plates. No names would be given, just the pie. If he gave them an "A," great, but the challenge had been accepted. Next class, the game was on!

She made the pie dough from scratch using the recipe her mother and grandmother had taught her. She peeled and grated the sweet potatoes, using the spices to season it just so with maple syrup to finish it off. Filling the crusts, she baked the pies, watching them brown to perfection. She carefully cooled them and transferred them to her car so the group could decide which one to give and which to eat. By the time she got to school they were just perfect--slightly warm, but cool enough to eat.

The group all arrived at the student center within a few minutes of each other. The smell of the warm pies in her basket was almost their undoing. They quickly chose one to give and one to eat--right then while it was warm. Brushing off any evidence, they crossed the campus slightly subdued and hurrying to their destination.

One had brought a table cloth; another plates; another forks--even a cloth napkin. They carefully arranged the desk, with the warm pie smell filling the room they went back into the hallway, waiting until others had entered the classroom before taking their seats.

They heard him talking as he came down the hall and entered the room. He stopped just inside the door and sniffed the air. "Umm, that smells . . ." he moved into the room toward his desk as he saw the pie sitting on his desk; resplendent in all its glory, tantalizingly beautiful . . . and tasty. "Oh, my . . ." he said as he drew in a long breath over the pie. "That's a sweet potato pie," he chuckled as he looked over the room. "Who brought me a pie?"

Of course no one answered . . . but the looks on their faces must have given them away. "Excuse me, I just have to try this," he said as he cut a small piece. Smiling as he savored the bites, he covered the pie and said he would eat it and return the dishes later, "too bad no one claimed that 'A' for the pie."

No one ever admitted being responsible for the pie. They hadn't really tried to cover their tracks; they just didn't speak about it. The semester ended and they all got their grades . . . "B+" or "A-" for the group of friends--not an "A" among them. They didn't really care. He was their teacher, their minister, and their friend--their common bond was what was important.

Many years later, the prof--no longer teaching--and the pie maker were sharing a Thanksgiving meal. She had brought pumpkin pies to their shared meal. Sitting around the table with their spouses, children, and other friends he began telling how he loved a good sweet potato pie. As he told the story, he lifted his eyes to hers and said he never had gotten to thank the maker of the pie as he nodded at her and winked, but he thought she probably knew.

Our relationship with God is often like that. God hears the desires from the depth of our hearts; then coaxes/allows circumstances together so that the fulfillment of the desire comes before us. We see the blessing. We know that good things come from God. However we wait and hesitate to tell God thanks for delighting our heart.

Many years later, she stood by the grave of her friend, teacher, mentor, and brother in Christ. Her heart yearned for one more chance to bake him a sweet potato pie and this time to give it with all the love and gratitude she felt. Instead, she thanked the gracious God that entwined their lives knowing she would see them both . . . someday . . . face to face. Who knows, maybe they were baking her a sweet potato pie?

Thank you God for the love and goodness you share in our lives. When we overlook your blessings and provision in our lives we ask you to forgive us for the oversight. We look though a glass darkly, but God we know that someday all will be revealed and we will understand and know how perfectly you love us. Thank you for putting people in our lives to help us to know you better. May our lives be as pleasing as the aroma of fresh, warm sweet potato pie! So be it. Amen.

Dedicated to the life and teaching of Rev. Dr. Dave Bennett, 1938-2012.



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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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