When my mother-in-law went on to heaven, she left behind a massive cookbook collection.
Not only was she a force of nature in the kitchen, but she had the volumes to prove it. There were 36 hardcover books of various eras and styles. Then 22 more homemade binders filled with her own handwritten notes and organized according to main dish, sides, casseroles, cookies, and desserts. I stopped counting the more than 20 years' worth of annuals from the Best of Southern Living.
Practical me says I have no room for all these cookbooks in my life. Not only because most of the recipe collections were from bygone cooking eras (I'm looking at you Jell-O Salads). But in truth, I don't really need every casserole or cookie recipe thought up for the last 20 years. In truth, who needs all of that stuff collecting dust, taking up space, and living in their house?
Apparently, me because I couldn't bear to part with any of them.
Marie Kondo in her famous book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" says we should only keep things that "spark joy." In her perky style, she smilingly tells us to let go of things that don't make us come to life in every way. I couldn't really come up with a definitive answer on whether the more than 50 plus cookbooks sparked joy in my life. So I kept them.
In full authenticity, my mother-in-law was a bit hard to love. She was a farm girl who would never let you forget her tough growing up and hardworking life. She wouldn't let a single fudging go by without pointing out the truth, no matter how difficult. Yet I adored her anyway despite her sometimes prickly words and harsh nature. To give away all of her cookbooks felt like a loss of history and a loss of family.
Maybe that's why I couldn't bear to toss her handwritten recipes for Yam Fluff Casserole or Sauerkraut and Apples Delight. In some ways keeping all those cookbooks mirrored the relationship I had with her. In the no good reason for the keeping of those cookbooks, I meet the difficult, no good reason but to love her anyway.
Despite being mean as a hornet's nest at times, she still lavishly loved me as if I were her own. And I loved her back for no good reason other than she was my complex mother-in-law. So maybe that's why it makes perfect sense I would adore her vast collection of cookbooks. I look at them all and I smile, imagining her telling the angels in heaven to shape up, while serving them up an elaborate spread.
In truth, it's the things we do for no good reason that define us. It's where the world tells us to stop, quit, and avoid -- those are the very places where showing up in love feels counter-culture. It's the hardest and most resilient kind of love we have. It's the same kind of love that Jesus gives us - we don't deserve it and yet He loves us, hot mess and all.
So I'm keeping the cookbooks for no good reason. Except love.
What do you do for no good reason, except love?
Those no-good things are the most beautiful of all.