It was only a few days before Christmas, and my soup wasn’t turning out at all. The hard-boiled eggs were soft-boiled, I’d bought the wrong kind of noodles, and the whole thing had taken on an almost luminescent yellow-orange color—even the chicken. That definitely wasn’t right.
I was supposed to be cooking dinner for my family as part of “Light the World” as I tried to help us focus our Christmas on Christ. My siblings and I were back from college, my dad was home from work, and our house was full to the brim. I’d made a goal: every night of the break, I would plan and cook a meal for my family all by myself (except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
The plan had gone well so far. I’d made meals happily the past several days, and my younger brother had even started helping. But tonight was a disaster, and I hadn’t even set the table.
It all started when I’d decided to take on a complex recipe for Indonesian chicken noodle soup. It sounded amazing, but it was time-consuming and included some instructions I didn’t understand. To top it off, I had to double the recipe to feed the whole family. But I wasn’t daunted. I turned up the Christmas music and started cooking in the late afternoon.
Three hours later, my hair had become as bushy as a Christmas tree in the heated kitchen. Ginger, turmeric, and an assortment of chicken, noodles, and vegetables simmered in the pot. I laid the soft eggs, orange-y soup, and the rest of the dinner on the table with what was probably a very grumpy look on my face. The rest of my family sat down in a melancholy sort of way, sensing my mood.
We prayed, and everyone picked up their spoons to eat—a bit quickly since they were hungry. Moments after everyone took their first bite, and several people’s soup sloshed over the sides of their bowls, little bright yellow spots began to appear on the tablecloth and all over our clothes. Even the corners of our mouths were changing color. The soup was turning everything it touched brilliant gold!
“Did you double the turmeric?” my mom asked, rubbing the tablecloth with water.
“Yes,” I said miserably.
My sister-in-law gasped. “Turmeric can be used as a dye!” she said. I grabbed the recipe and found some instructions I hadn’t seen: “If making a larger batch, only increase the turmeric a small amount.” A turmeric-to-soup ratio guide followed, showing that I’d added twice as much of the spice as I should have.
“I wanted to light the world,” I thought, “but I don’t think turning everything yellow is exactly what that meant.”
Then my dad chuckled, my brother snorted, and then we were all laughing at the looks—and soup stains—on our faces.
After changing clothes, vigorously rubbing the stains with different kinds of vinegar, and grabbing old towels to shield us from more of the dye, we finished our soup very carefully. Everyone thanked me for making the dinner, and we were still laughing and shaking our heads days later. That dinner changed the rest of our Christmas vacation together. We became more grateful, more loving, and less intent on a Christmas of perfection.
It really didn’t matter that the soup wasn’t a picture of culinary flawlessness. It became my personal analogy on what it took to light my home with Christlike love: like the soup, just the smallest drop of kindness made a change in the biggest, brightest way.