Thursday, March 29, 2012

Doing without

No, God. I didn't give up the microwave for Lent. Did you hear me? I gave up Facebook and sweets. NOT. MICROWAVE.

That's what was going through my head about five weeks ago when, after punching in the time and pressing start, the contraption above the stove began to make a sound like unto an electrocuted cat and to spit sparks out of the top vent. Being the level-headed person I am, I screamed and started dancing and looked around for something to throw at it. Failing that, I said a short prayer against frying myself and hit the off button, then jumped to the other side of the kitchen.

Mark poked around and declared it dead. The circuitry up top was completely toast. We've been waiting for a few appliances around the house to finally bite the dust. Our house was remodeled by the previous owners almost 10 years ago, and our time is almost up on a few of these. There's a dishwasher that requires an exorcism before running and when it does it makes a sound like it's washing gravel, the dryer that doesn't stop running when you open the door so if you forget to turn it off it shoots clothes out at you like a t-shirt gun...but the microwave was not on that list. It wasn't even hinting that it wanted to be. Maybe it was feeling neglected, in the shadow of all those appliances with more personality. But whatever the reason, it was pretty inconvenient since a new one cost at least $199 plus tax and every red cent this month is accounted for and assigned elsewhere.

The choice was pretty much made for us. We'd have to do without, at least for a while.

But what on earth was I going to do without a microwave? That thing gets a lot of mileage in our house. I mean, I have two small children. Children who demand chicken nuggets and Trader Joe's mac and cheese. And if they don't get it...well, things could get ugly for everyone.

This wasn't what I planned to give up, I thought. I mean, I'm giving up FACEBOOK and SWEETS. Seriously, God? Do you know how much I love those two things? Do you just want me to move to Amish Country? The whole thing was making me want to start playing Farmville while shoving pie in my face just to be contrary.

I spent at least a day or two stewing about it. I know, I realize it's not the heaviest cross to bear, but still. I was really peeved at being required to go without something that made my life so much easier. But in going about my days, I noticed a few things.

First, pretty much anything you normally microwave CAN BE COOKED IN THE OVEN. I know. I was shocked, too. It does require a little more planning ahead and adds 15 minutes to meal prep, but in the end it's not that big of a deal.

Secondly, things that are cooked in the oven TASTE BETTER. Another shocker. Even the same stuff tasted better. The nuggets were delightfully crispy on the outside and evenly cooked on the inside. The TJ's mac and cheese? Wonderfully buttery and gooey and just a little crispy in parts. I may never microwave it again, even when I can.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, needing to think about what to feed my family instead of just shoving the same old same old in the microwave helped me make some better decisions. After all, if it takes the same amount of time to bake a corn dog from the freezer that it does to bake a seasoned chicken breast, the scales aren't tipped quite so much in the corn dog's favor. I found myself willing to actually make something from scratch more often, even just for lunch.

The conclusion? As I type, we've been microwave-free for about five weeks and at this point I don't even really notice. I definitely don't feel the driving need to replace it as soon as possible. Maybe we'll just repurpose it as a child art display and leave it there, hanging impotently above the stove.

I find it interesting, the timing of all of this. We've definitely been financially crunched lately - lots of little unexpected expenses, lots of coupon clipping and squeezing every penny. It's figured prominently in my prayer life, but when it did make an appearance, it was always basically asking God to provide more money.

He didn't do that. We're still making due with the same amount as always. What He did give me, though, was a heart more disposed to doing without. I saw in this that not only was doing without grudgingly possible, not only was it even just tolerable, but that sometimes it's surprisingly better. There are several other expenses in our life that I've been reluctant to go without, and gradually I'm finding that I am more open to letting them go. Things that once seemed to be necessities have started to be viewed as luxuries. Taking that final step of cutting them out is looking easier and easier.

So I'm thankful for our busted, sparky microwave. I'm thankful that somehow I don't miss it. I'm thankful that I was shown in this little way that when I go without, somehow, there are blessings I never expected that reside in that small sacrifice.

And I find myself asking, what else can I let go of to find those blessings?

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