THE LOAVES AND FISHES (Matthew 14:13-21) REALLY?

It is easy for some Christians to believe everything scripture says. I would say of myself that the story of the Loaves and Fishes questioned my belief. I considered myself a true believer in all that the Good Book says, but in my mind, this story defied reason.

It was the day after Thanksgiving and we were about to feast on tasty leftovers, remnants of our sumptuous meal the day before. Our four kids were seated and my husband and I were just about to carry the delicious leftovers into the dining room.

There was a loud knock on our farmhouse door and a head poked through, "Yoo-hoo, Hello? Anybody home?" and then four relatives walked in. We believed in an open-door policy with family and were delighted with the unexpected company. The expanding table happily accommodated our surprise guests. My father and his three sisters, now elderly, had been driving around the rural countryside enjoying the beautiful fall day leaf peeping when they decided to stop at our small farm. Though unannounced, they wanted to take part in the camaraderie and warmth that our family meals usually provided. They said they were hungry and we were always pleased to share.

We were about to enjoy the hot leftovers; turkey, veggies, salad, sweet potatoes, and a very limited small bowl of mashed potatoes. My specialty was making gravy. It was very flavorful, richly dark, and everyone poured the tasty elixir liberally on all the edibles. Knowing this family habit, I always made extra, and had several large pitchers to serve. I was about to announce to the kids that there was a very limited amount of mashed potatoes so they needed to be mindful that everyone takes a very small portion but it never got said as I was interrupted by the arrival of our guests. There was only one small bowl, hardly enough for two generous portions, let alone six. A scant helping would have to do. My family held to the saying, "What good is gravy without mashed potatoes?" so I knew that there would

be verbal resistance. I had scoured the cabinets for all the fancy platters and bowls needed to hold the tasty remains of yesterday's bountiful feast and placed the potatoes in my favorite antique find, a small blue floe ware porcelain bowl.

Lots of laughter, teasing, and joy overflowed as more place settings and chairs were gathered and placed around the expanded table shrinking the space of the dining room. Prayers said, my husband and I served the hot steaming food. Still in the kitchen, with my husband at my side, I held the small blue bowl in my hands and simply prayed, "Oh, Lord, let this be enough!" knowing there was no way the small bowl of creamy mashed potatoes could feed ten hungry people.

The food was served family style, with bowls and platters passed from person to person. I forgot about the potatoes as I was engrossed in my meal and in making sure everyone had what they needed, salt, pepper, butter, and other condiments. I did notice that when the small bowl of potatoes came my way it was still full. I was at the end of the serving line having started the food procession going to my right. I thought, "Well, with all this food, no one took the potatoes!" but as I took a quick purview of the table everyone had taken a very generous portion and liberally poured gravy on them.

We laughed, told stories and had a wonderful meal, ending with dessert; various leftover pies, coffee, milk for the kids, and ice cream, which the guests had thoughtfully brought. The table was cleared and with evening swiftly approaching our guests left with full stomachs and a wonderful memory of a shared meal.

I went to the kitchen to clean up and noticed all the food had been consumed, counters cleared and dishes placed in the dishwasher. There were no leftovers. Sitting on the kitchen table was the lone blue bowl, full to the brim, mounded with mashed potatoes, neatly covered in plastic wrap waiting to be placed in the refrigerator. The question in my mind was, "Where did those come from?" but of course I knew.

Loaves and fishes. REALLY!


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