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[Homeword] Fresh Jelly Cake is a Good Reason for Company

Mawmaw always kept the Sabbath. Going to church and having an attitude of worship on Sundays was passed from generation to generation in her family. It was a priority. The chores for that day were put on hold or were given minimal attention.

Sunday’s lunch simmered on the stove each Saturday. Mawmaw planned ahead purchasing needed groceries at the A&P store off Main Street. The roast cooked slowly in a black skillet for hours while she snapped fresh green beans and made her creamy potato salad. She placed canned beets and sliced onion in foil-covered dishes and set them in the refrigerator. All that was left to do Sunday after church was warming a few things and making fresh biscuits.

Mawmaw baked Sunday’s dessert earlier in the week. She believed her cakes tasted even better if they “rested” for a time. My grandfather’s favorite sweet was her jelly cake. My grandmother coated her thin layered, vanilla flavored cake with a pint of that year’s mayhaw jelly. Mayhaws are native to the south, especially Louisiana and east Texas. They grow in the moist soil in river and creek bottoms and near bayous. The fruit ripens in the spring and is quickly made into sweet, rosy-pink jelly to be savored all year.

At my grandparents’ house, we did not eat dessert right after Sunday lunch. First the dishes were rinsed and stacked. The leftovers were covered and left on the stove or placed back into the refrigerator.

The ritual taking of a Sunday afternoon nap came next. When I was a boy visiting my grandparents in the summer, everyone found a “resting place” after the noon meal– alongside my grandfather in his big four-poster bed, in the guest room, or with a favorite pillow on the sofa in the living room. Mawmaw issued a final “hush” and the house grew silent except for the window air conditioner’s hum.

Almost to the minute, an hour later, Mawmaw rose, freshened up and tucked any loose hairs of her tightly circled bun atop her head. She whispered for Pawpaw to rise and reminded him that company would begin arriving soon.

Sunday afternoons at my grandparents’ house, after naps, company came to visit – new neighbors, old friends from nearby communities, and family members stopped by for freshly brewed coffee, sweet tea and dessert.

Small dessert dishes rimmed with dainty painted flowers sat out on the counter. The slightly tarnished everyday silver stood at attention beside a stack of napkins nearby. Purple melamine coffee cups rested at the stove near the small container of fresh milk and the sugar bowl. All was ready.

Warm greetings followed the first knock as Mawmaw welcomed folks into the living room. Chatter and discussions about almost everything halted only when she sliced the jelly cake.

Almost as important as keeping a reverence for the Lord on Sundays was the importance placed on hospitality. In fact, for Mawmaw they were one and the same.

To be hospitable is to be kind and welcoming to guests or strangers. It’s a mindset that anticipates company. It is not fussy, but comfortable and pleasant.

In the book of Hebrews, Paul admonishes the reader: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

Just as God is gracious to us all, we are to be gracious to others. Being hospitable is not tightly holding to what we have, but with a loose grip offering what we have to others.

Minta Faye and Jim Brown were gracious to Kathy and me as new members of Tioga First Baptist Church. The aging, retired minister and his wife invited us to lunch at the local cafeteria after Sunday morning services, and then Jim insisted I put my wallet away when it came time to pay the check. Other Sundays, they invited us to their home. On a limited income, the couple rented a small house. The furnishings were modest but the home felt warm and was cheerfully decorated. Our hosts served those simple and delicious meals with great kindness and love. We looked forward to these times.

Showing hospitality becomes an avenue to be used by God. It is being an instrument of His purpose – a blessing to others. Jesus said that when you are welcoming and kind, even to the least of these, you are welcoming and kind to me.

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