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While working this morning on the filling for the empanada I want to serve at our family’s Christmas Eve buffet, I periodically tasted it.  It is a habit I learned from watching Joyce when she cooked.  Her taste buds were so acute that she knew right away if the pie mix needed more sugar, or if the soup needed more salt or pepper.  When making the empanadas, she could by tasting know immediately if there still wasn’t quite enough of the spice comino in the mix.

While doing some of that “tasting test”, obviously without the talent Joyce had, I realized I had kicked into Spanish.  “Empanada” in English could be translated as “meat pie”.  (By the way, click Argentine empanadas to see what Google provides when you search for images of Argentine empanadas.  If that page doesn’t make your mouth water . . . Um Um – good stuff).  Now back to my point and where I ended up mentally going with images of the empanadas that in my case will come out of the oven tomorrow afternoon.

While Joyce was doing her taste test on the empanada filling, I imagined her giving me a little taste, and humoring me by asking, in Spanish, “¿Qué falta?”  What’s missing?, Anything?  More . . . ?

That little word “falta” was a verb we needed to master when speaking Argentine Spanish.  It works for so many contexts.  We could be driving to Cordoba, and one of our daughters would ask, ¿cuánto falta? (how much longer?. . . We could have a meetings scheduled for the professors, and when it was time to begin, someone might say, ¿quién falta?  (who is missing?)  When something or someone is missing, something or someone “falta”

This morning, when making the empanada filling, I allowed that question to roll around in my mind.  The question brought to my consciousness various thoughts about “what is missing”.   If you have periodically read the Musing and Observations posts, you’ve seen that in my life Joyce is missing. (Falta Joyce).  But, I am not going that direction at this point.  I am thinking more globally.

We all have our lacks, our legitimate but unfulfilled needs.  We have our psychological deficiencies, a circle of loyal friends that is smaller than we wish it were, a schedule that lacks organization or self-discipline, a diet that lacks balance, a marriage that lacks tenderness and/or loving care for the spouse or from the spouse, a spirituality that lacks vitality, or perhaps lacks something much more serious, the presence of the Lord Jesus.  We live in a multiple dimensioned reality that is less than our aspirations, our hopes and our dreams.

This is not the place and I am not the person to propose some simple solutions or a Pollyannaish view of life.  On one hand, some of the missing things can be taken care of with diligence and correct thinking and behavior.  On the other hand, some needs are simply going to go unsatisfied.  Some lacks will be with us our entire life.  Some dreams will never be anything other than a dream.  That is the reality we inhabit.  Can we be spiritually healthy and mentally stable living with the lacks we wish we did not have?  The short answer, but the true answer, is “Yes”.

A man who lived with lacks, and finally lacked a head (he was decapitated by orders of the Roman emperor), summed up in these words his approach to things that were missing in his life: “. . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians 4.11 in the Bible – New International Version)  The operative word is “learned.”  With time and diligence, we can learn to be content with our unavoidable lacks.

We have God on our side, and the alternatives are dead end streets.




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