Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Season to Lament

Blogging at my friend's place today about my Lenten practice of lament and how it hasn't been anything like I'd imagined it would be. Head over to Hippie Housewife to check it out! 

"For the past few weeks, I have been focusing on “lament” as part of my observance of lent. It was a decision with a long build up - “lament” kept coming up in my life for the past few years through things I was learning in seminary, people I heard speak, and other random moments in my life. Laments in the Bible are protests, doubt, despair, and anger. Often they summon God to action, demand a response to the evil being faced. I started this journey of “journaling lament” thinking I would be lamenting the magnitude of sorrows and pains in the world that others face. Goodness knows the world has enough of them I thought I would spend these weeks lamenting lack of clean water, lack of education, the violence that faces women, children, and men on a daily basis. I thought I would delve into understanding corrupt prison systems and the way entire ethnic groups are oppressed because of their DNA. And I did that for a short time, but slowly, somewhat seamlessly, the laments became about me. About the fears and traumas rooted in my heart that impact the way I interact with the world."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lay Down

Early this week I sorted through a file box, trying to organize various pieces of paperwork that I don't yet trust to digital. In the file box is one slim folder that holds a few memories - "Personal Mementos" is scrawled on the curling tab of the manila folder.  Inside this folder is a print out of an email sent to me in 2000 by a woman who I had worked with on a  summer missions project. That this scrap of paper has survived three cross-country moves is a testament to why it is in a battered "memento" folder.

The email begins with an epigraph.
"But the God that sometimes can't be found will wrap Himself around you. So lay down, sister, lay down." - B. Norman
The internet tells me that these words are from the song "Rita" by Bebo Norman - It's a sad song, about the death of a friend. I don't think I ever knew that before this week.   I just knew that this week, as they did 14 years ago, those words filled my soul in some way that made me take a deep, cleansing, breath.

Those words have resonated through my head countless times in the past 14 years. If not the words themselves,  then the simple truth of them has been there even when I couldn't remember them exactly or where I heard them first.

This is the beauty of poetry to me - that words become life - take on shape and have meaning. It is not just a sentence - it is imbued with something more. The poet (or songwriter) has chosen words carefully, caring about more than syntax. .

In the many years since those words first appeared on a computer screen and prompted me to hit print - one constant thing about God in my life is that even when he can't be found (or, frankly, when I didn't want to find him) - that somehow he was wrapped around me. There was a thread tangled and wrapped somewhere around my wrist, or an ankle, or a tiny corner of my soul, sometimes tugging with force, sometimes barely perceptible, but always there. I can remember describing the feeling as "God won't let go" in the midst of feeling like God could not be found. It is a paradox - but when in this faith is not?

For my Lenten practice - I have been journaling lament and this little phrase fits well into this experience. Lament is about sorrow and pain and loss - - things that if you spend enough time focusing on your only recourse is to lay down, lay down. And the truth of these words written into my soul 14 years ago prove true again - that I find God wrapped around me. I'm pretty new to observing anything liturgical like Lent. I've never done an Ash Wednesday service - never had the cross smudged onto my forehead - but this year I am seeing anew that God who wraps himself around me, giving beauty for ashes I didn't even know I still carried around. Strengthening areas that are too-often governed by fear.  Putting firm foundation under the my feet and lighting a path. It is not what I expected from my Lenten journey of lament. I think I expected more sadness. But I am finding that when I mourn and dare to question God about the pain and brokenness in this world, in my life, that I find the God who wraps himself around me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

There. I Fixed It. {Found Poetry}

I'm working on my final paper this semester. It's on the damage done by diet devotionals and why they are dangerous to individual Christians and the church as the Body of Christ.

This means that for research I am reading a few diet devotionals.

One that I picked up at a thrift store is Gwen Shamblin's Rise Above, the follow-up to her best-selling Weigh Down Diet.  

Rise Above is a horrid book and spiritually abusive. It was emotionally draining to read. So, I decided to redeem it a little bit and complete a "found poetry" activity I've been wanting to do for a while. I opened to a random page, made sure I had any notes I needed from it for my paper, and then got to work trying to use her own words to offer an opposite message. A message that critiques the fat-shaming that is found all throughout the book and celebrates the way that God made us diverse bodies - and part of the beauty of our bodies is that multiple times a day, if we are so blessed, we get to eat, and we get to do it with friends and family. Throwing on food and weight and body judgments ruins that community and ruins that chance we have to find communion with the incarnated triune God.

The final art project isn't perfects, it's the first one I've ever done. But I'm happy with it. And when I'm flipping through the book over the next few weeks as I finish up this paper, it will be a nice reminder of what God really thinks about my body.


And, After


You think Obesity consumes light.

your heart
your desire
cycles to God

appetite gives back to you - Christ.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Lament for Wanderlust

I am focusing on lament during this season of lent. A time to mourn evil and despair, sadness and loss. Lament is not a normal place for me - I've always been an optimist on my good days and a realist on my other days. But it's a concept that's been on my heart the past year or so. One thing about lament that I am learning is that there is always hope  - it's always looking toward hope.  One of the things I have to lament is the places I leave. There is so much to love about my life that has taken me to different parts of the country and the people that I've been able to know. My life has been blessed in so many ways by these experiences, but the moving to the new always mean a leaving. That gets harder every time. After you do it a few times - you know that no decision you make about where your life goes next will be without some amount of heartbreak. You either leave where you are, or you stay and that means there is someplace to where you are not returning. There will always be somewhere that you want to be that you aren't.  Here is that lament, tinted with hope. 

Dear soul and synapses and gut
who clench in familiar anxiety:

You sowed your heart into these
many hills and plains –

leaving seeds rooted
in the tapestry of towns
and lives you have loved
for twenty years,
or one.

Question not whether
the fruit of your life blooms
or withers in harvests
that follow your departure.

Lives are perennial flowers,
an invading species.

Feel how strong is the tug
of the long long roots that ever tie
you to the land and the harvesters’ hands.

They don’t warn
the adventurous of these things –
of the battle that will
come between
roots and wings.

Take courage, dear heart:
your roots are wide
and strong,
soaking up the sun and rain
of many different skies.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Favorite Recipes from a Year* of Cooking Vegetarian

Sometime in February of 2013 I stopped eating meat at home and then lent came and I said, "Well,let's do this for realzies. No meat for lent." and when lent was over I stuck with a "buy no meat from the grocery store" rule and that's pretty much been my life with a few exceptions. If someone cooked meat for me, I ate it. I ordered it at restaurants. I'm working on doing more vegetarian restaurant choices and I think I've settled that my ultimate goal is to only buy animal products that are from animals who are locally raised/slaughtered. Right now, that's the answer that best balances animal stewardship, love for my global neighbors, and care for my own body and budget.  It's not a perfect answer, but it's the answer that I'm aiming for right now.

It really hasn't been that hard. The hardest part is just discovering new favorites. I had to throw out almost of all my "old stand-bys" that were the quick and easy things to make that I always had the ingredients for.

That said, I have found a few new favorites that I've made a few times:

Roasted beets+arugula+goat cheese. I typically either put it into a grilled cheese sandwich or I make a salad (add some kind of vinaigrette - typically red wine)

Black Bean & Quinoa Casserole:  If you touch your eye after chopping the jalapenos, turn the stove top off before you run screaming in agony to the bathroom to flush your eye out. You're going to be a minute.

Vegetables+beans+tomatoes+veg stock+leafy greens+rice Soup:   With the number of snow days we've had this winter I can't count the number of of "pantry soups" I've made for friends and neighbors as we once again hunkered down and spent a snow day grad school style:  reading, reading, reading.  While the "what's in the cupboards and fridge" versions always turned out well -this recipe in particular was amazing:  Slow-Cooker Squash Stew (Follow the recipe to a T. Delish!)

Things with Lentils: Lentil and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie. My favorite vegan who has been veganing for a long time stopped by and shared this meal with me. She approved, so I feel like that means it was yum.

Vegetables/greens+cheese+eggs quiche or frittata: Roast your own beets  and save the greens - they are HEAVENLY in this beet greens quiche. A sweet potato and some peppers/onions cooked in a skillet and then with some scrambled eggs poured over top, topped with some greens and maybe a little cheese makes a great brunch when your grad school self casually rolls out of bed at 10 because you imagine that you have the freedom to do such things. (You don't, if you're wondering.)

Fancy Fruits: And by fancy fruits I mean mango. Love it sliced up with some red onion and tomato with a vinaigrette. For an entree featuring mango - this simple beans and rice variation is yum!

Have a favorite veg dish that you like to make? Do share! I'm still building up my recipe stash. I prefer to stay away from overly-processed veg options.

*I made a turkey on Thanksgiving and there was that one time I was inexplicably CRAVING hotdogs with sandwich relish the way my grandfather made them so I bought some Oscar-Meyer all beef bun length franks at the grocery store, and then I sat in the grocery store parking lot for four hours waiting on AAA who fixed the problem in 15 minutes. So, I think the universe got me back for that.