Pushing Past Our Comfort Zones

April was awesome! With all the sorrow in our world, it was so encouraging to read of others actively demonstrating the love of Christ. And today, we launch a new month. I did want to clarify on the prizes, as I think they may be unclear. The gift basket goes to someone sharing their Reach Out Story. One randomly selected reader also wins—a free book. So there is one gift-basket that goes to the Reach Out contributor, and a book give-away that goes to one randomly selected reader. 🙂

Today’s story comes from a sweet woman named Elaine Cooper. She’s written for me on a few occasions and always has heart-stirring stories to share. Today she talks about serving God in our weakness–when He calls us to do something we feel ill-equipped to do. As a woman who burns cookies, forgets key ingredients, and gets distracted in the middle of boiling rice, I so can relate!


                                Reluctant Cook By Elaine Marie Cooper

Let me be honest— I am not the greatest cook in the world. Thoughts of potlucks at church and Bible study nearly send me into an anxiety attack. I always imagine kindly Christians munching into my culinary creation and assuring me how good it is…until they turn around and spit it into their napkin, hoping not to be noticed! Now, I have never seen that happen, but it is always my fear. Cooking has never been easy for me.

Recently my husband announced that he really wanted to serve dinner to visiting missionaries from France while they were here raising support. Gary (the missionary husband) is an old friend of ours and we were so excited to entertain he and his wife Kate and their one-year-old daughter, Lucie. I looked forward to meeting his new family.

But to cook a dinner for these precious folks who are used to European cuisine? This was enough to send me into a tailspin! On top of that distress, I was planning to leave town soon and had a million things on “my plate” to get done for my trip.

I thought of that song from Scripture that I’ve loved for years: “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of them that bring good news.” How lovely indeed—and what an honor to serve missionaries in such a small way as to provide nourishment for their bodies while they seek to nourish souls.

“OK, Lord. Please show me what to make.”

Heading for my computer, I Googled “crock pot meals” which are generally a safe bet for me. By “safe” I mean, safe for the recipients of my food!

Very quickly, the Lord led me to a recipe for, of all things, Beef Barley Soup. Now, I have never made this soup before, but Kate is British and somehow it seemed like a good choice considering her background. It felt like a jolly good recipe. J

Printing off the ingredients, I headed for the store early that morning with a bit of trepidation but trusting the Lord to help me with the menu. I found everything that I needed for the soup and then headed for the breads and cheeses. That seemed European. I chose three types of cheese and two different breads and prayed the Lord would bless my attempts at presenting a delicious meal for them.

Well, it smelled incredibly tasty cooking in the crockpot for several hours and even my husband and I were looking forward to it.

By the time Gary, Kate, and Lucie arrived, we were all anxious to dig in. Gary and Kate enjoyed the soup so much they each had seconds! Even little Lucie liked it. And Kate commented on how European it felt. It was such an answer to prayer for this reluctant chef!

But the real joy was in putting myself aside—my busy schedule, my inadequacies, my fears—and allowing God to show me that He would guide me, if I would just be obedient to him.


Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now two years old. Elaine’s only daughter, Bethany, passed away in 2003 from a brain tumor.
Cooper’s most recent release, The Promise of Deer Run, was the winner in the Romance category at the 2012 Los Angeles Book Festival.
Her debut novel, The Road to Deer Run, was a finalist in the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, received an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival, and was a Clash of the Titles Champion for “Most Romantic Moment.”
She is currently completing The Legacy of Deer Run, due for release in 2012 through Sword of the Spirit Publishing.
Cooper has been a magazine freelance writer for many years and is also a contributor to the devotional called Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson.
The Promise of Deer Run
The Year is 1790.
The American Revolution has long been over, but the wounds of battle still linger in the hearts and minds of many.
A veteran Continental soldier still awaits the return of his missing father, years after the last battle. Haunted by the painful memories of war and scarred from betrayal in love, the young man turns away from faith. The only hope he clings to is that perhaps his father still lives.
Then he discovers his hope is shared by a young woman, who understands loss and the longing for a father. As they encounter this unexpected connection, their hearts become drawn together. But jealousy, slander, and misunderstandings ignite a fire of doubt and mistrust—destroying their relationship.
Can two souls longing for healing and trust, love again? Can faith—and a family—be restored?
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Shoot it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. (You might even win May’s gift basket!) And readers, remember, you have a chance to win Deborah Raney’s Remember to Forget.
And much thanks to May’s Reach Out donors:
I’d love to hear from you. When has God asked you to serve outside your comfort zone? What’d you learn from the experience?


  1. Hi Jennifer! Thanks for posting my story. I can still feel anxiety about that meal when reading about it! LOL But realizing once again how the Lord came through for me continues to encourage me in my weaknesses (which are many). Blessings to you, sweet lady!

  2. What a wonderful story Elaine! Sometimes I worry about what people will think about our stained carpeting or the dated wallpaper in our home, and it keeps me from reaching out with welcoming hospitality. But, when I can get past my petty concerns and open our home to friends and family we are always blessed with lots of love for each other and the Lord. Thank you for this reminder!

    1. You are more than welcome, Audrey. I think if we all realized how many fears Christians have to overcome to actually be effective in any kind of ministry, we would all be relieved. It is such a common tool of the enemy to keep our hands tied. When we are self-focused, we cannot see outwardly to focus on others’ needs. Thanks so much for commenting!

    2. Audrey, I loved your comment because it reminded me there are numerous ways to “die to ourselves” and to “consider others more highly than ourselves.” (I’m probably paraphrasing those verses incorrectly.) And amen about the return blessings! That’s how God works, isn’t it?

  3. That sounds so much like I could have written that post, Elaine! I actually had a similar experience when God stretched me in the are of serving him a few years back. It was a situation He led me to so I had to trust that He would provide for it. And it was culinary in nature as well. Not my forte. Blessings for sharing!

    1. Oh, Carla, I am SO happy I have a friend who is a reluctant chef also!! It always seems that everyone else is SO adept in the kitchen while I feel like the Swedish chef (from the Muppets!), throwing stuff around and not making any sense!! Thank you for making me feel better! LOL ((HUGS))

    2. I’d love to hear about it, Carla! I’m often reminded about the Israelite’s crossing of the Jordan. It’s a familiar story, but one I believe we can draw comfort from whenever God is asking us to trust Him or do something difficult.

      God didn’t part the water then ask the priests to cross. He asked them to take that first step while the water raged, trusting He would pull through. He often does the same with us, doesn’t He?

Leave a Reply