Mouth-watering aromas fill the air as Mandy navigates her kitchen with freedom and lightness. The culinary creativity exhibited is accompanied by an intentional comfort usually reserved for the deep understanding and connectedness of close friends. She flows between masterful skill and authentic joy as easy as an inward breathe turns outward.
Trained in the culinary arts, preparing meals is just the tip of the creative iceberg for Mandy Hinkle. “I like to say that I am a beauty curator as the umbrella over my skills. I use my creative eye to enhance and draw out what is authentic and excellent in a space.”
Mandy’s heart is to shine a light on the impact of coming together at the table. By bringing people together for a meal, she hopes to create an atmosphere that encourages genuine and intimate relationship between those around the table and with God. She prays that people would in a moment be able to find the joy she has found in being who she truly is with God.
“I find that while creating and enjoying the fruits of my labor, God is delighting in the process with me. When I design from my palate of spices or light the candles just before guests arrive, I am living authentically, not trying to be someone else and celebrating God’s creative soul with those around me.”
The table became a refuge for Mandy while living as a missionary in Scotland with YWAM (Youth with a Mission). Growing up as an only child Mandy found refreshment in living and working alongside the fellow young people also on mission. She grew especially fond of the meals they ate, story they shared, and games they played together on a nightly basis.
It was not until Mandy returned home from Scotland that she realized the huge hole stepping out of such a tight knit community had left in her heart. She moved back in with her parents who lived in the dry Coachella Valley, a Southern California desert a couple hours east of Los Angeles.
“I went through a season of loneliness, depression, and chronic health issues. After the fullness of life I experience through my time living in community in Scotland, I found myself dropped into a literal and figurative desert. I was sick, sad, and weary. I questioned my purpose.”
After a few directionless months, Mandy took a chance and enrolled in cooking school. “This school was not like your traditional culinary school with tests and industrial style training, but like learning from an uncle who love working with his hands and is a master in the kitchen.”
As time passed and Mandy’s culinary skills grew, she felt herself come alive again. “I realized that I am a maker, a creator. I came out of the funk I was in and began to dream about the things that could be now that I had a craft that I owned. Through this new found art God brought healing to my heart and my body. I lost 30 pounds and felt a delight and satisfaction as I spent hours experimenting in the kitchen”
Mandy went on to work in a few restaurants and in catering, but something was missing. She soon realized that her cooking skills were only a means to an end. “My heart was for bringing people together through food, fun, and creativity. I learned how to be selective about the jobs I took on and the things I poured my energy into.”
Out of her love for gathering people in authentic relationship around the table she launched the Gather Effect, an organization dedicated to teaching and inspiring others to share in the art of gathering. In this she hopes to increase the impact of gathering in our society beyond her own abilities.
Mandy, a graduate of the Cultivated Artist Experience, is now a board member of The Grove. I have personally experienced Mandy’s incredible talent on multiple Grove Artist Getaways. I have even had the joy of preparing a meal along her side as she taught me to work with God to create an atmosphere of safety, love, and joy.
“The Holy Spirit and I are a team. We listen to each other and bounce ideas back and forth. I’ve realized that God doesn’t want to just use us for our talents. He wants to co-create and collaborate with us, shining His glory through us for our own good and the good of others.”
We'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.
What about Mandy’s story resonated with you in some way? How has/can creativity with God bring about healing in your own life?
Drew Tilton is an experienced writer, creator, leader, editor, pastor, spiritual director, and project manager, who is passionate about Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Church.