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The Art of Sharing a Meal

I’m doing my usual late night internet cruising for new recipes, new food ideas. I stumbled upon a herby falafel recipe that I will most likely make, but will probably change up some of the ingredients, keeping the technique intact. My doctor has been heavily suggesting that I adopt a plant based diet. This is an idea I am willing to entertain, but then there is the problem of bacon. I love bacon to much to forever give it up. I mentioned this to my doctor and she then asked me about how much bacon I actually eat. I let her know that it wasn’t a daily or even weekly thing, but I reserve the space to eat bacon when the moment strikes me.

I had a friend who recently had to adopt a plant based diet because her body stopped processing meat in a nice way. I’ll spare you the details, as she has spared me, but needless to say she misses pulled pork a lot. She said to me one day that of course she was loosing weight, because nobody can eat that much broccoli in a day to gain weight. So true. And frankly, who would want to?

I think about food a lot. Not necessarily about eating it, although I do enjoy a good meal or snack, but about how we interact with it, where it comes from, how we treat it, how we are somewhat obsessed with it, how food is a healer, how food is a sustainer, how some of our greatest memories are centered around food, how for some folks their worst memories are about a lack of food, and so much more. The bottom line is I think about food.

I went back to my ground zero and I started to think about my food experiences as a kid. I remember going to the zoo with my grandpa and always wanting one of those pink brick popcorn things. I remember sitting down to dinner at my grandparents house and there would always be sweet pickles of a particular brand and white bread and butter. No meal was complete in my grandpa’s eyes without those. I remember, mostly watching and not helping, my parents turn soil and prepare for a small strawberry patch in our back yard. Then there was a toad in the strawberry patch on night and I basically never went near it again.

I remember watching my grandma dredge chicken for friend chicken. I also remember this particular grandma rolling out her dumpling dough and cutting them into the think noodles before she gently slipped them in the pot of boiling chicken to cook. And I remember this grandma always joking about how she would pick her nose before mixing the potato salad with her hands, adding just that special flavor.

I remember sitting at the same table with all of my cousins and aunts and uncles for holidays and just random family meals. But please don’t let you imagination get to big here, I had a small family. We ate together a lot when I was a kid. But then something changed. Not sure what really changed, but the change was felt at the table because there were fewer meals together. The older I got the more it seemed that those golden memories of family meals faded and there was nothing to replace them. Then one day they stopped.

As an adult, I’m choosing to rebuild those golden memories. Not with my family, so to say, but with folks who I am choosing to be my community. And I am not cramming everyone into my apartment, although about fifteen of us can fit in here with just some mild discomfort. But it is a start.

Anthony Bourdain once said that, “you learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” I believe this and because of this we are changed before we even know it.  From taking time to share a meal with a friend to experiencing the food of another culture to traditions that gather us and we sit for a meal together, we are never the same after these experiences. It may not be a deep, soulful change, but I’m convinced that it is a change nonetheless.

After all, I am the person I am today because of those meals we shared together. And I will continue to become a better person because of the meals that I will have with people in the future. I am excited for that because I know we will eat well and be better people because of it.

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earning the right to be heard

I’m sitting at a table that I’ve sat at numerous times with numerous friends. We have pulled apart and dissected life so many times at this very table, it only seemed fitting to sit here and write a while and just let the pen take me where it wants me to go.

I was introduced to the idea of earning the right to heard when I started to volunteer with a local faith based nonprofit organization. The idea was simple: we put ourselves where teenagers were, make ourselves available to them, and eventually, once they got to know us, and we have earned the right to be heard, we would have the opportunity to tell them about Jesus. Pretty easy and straightforward.

I learned early one, being a leader in this context is absolutely no joke. It full game on. And for someone like me who dives in head first and might ask questions later, or sometimes make my own rules, I was full tilt at this. But beyond just being a leader and bring teens into the folds of my life, I was living this because this resonated with me like almost nothing else. Before I knew it, I was filtering almost everything through the lense of earning the right to be heard.

Not to much long later I went to work for this organization and was living it even more fully. There wasn’t a weekend that didn’t go by that teens were not in my living room for a movie night, art night, or even a Wii dance off. But there was also the kids who just needed a couch to crash on because they got kicked out for the night, or who needed a ride at 2 am because they were at a party drinking too much, or that one kid who just needed a safe place to be. This was living this 24/7 in the context of this ministry. And none of this was foreign to me.

But then life changed. I was no longer working for the organization. I finished out the school year and took a much needed break. I had a new job that brought with it new time commitments. Life just changed. And that season came to an end.

My faith also changed. I’m still solid in what I believe about God, Jesus and the Trinity – but I think about things a little differently now. My theology has changed, matured in a lot of ways. No longer is my faith resting on the laurels of those I once placed on a pedestal as my so-called evangelical gurus. No longer do I feel the need to agree with everything a pastor says because they have the title of pastor. But my love for Jesus is solid, maybe even more solid than it’s been in a really long time.

My relationship with the church has changed a lot too, and I do not know if it will ever be anything close to what it once was. And there maybe people who will read that and be sad. I just read it and it makes me sad. But the reality is this, I am a very different person now than I was when I first started in ministry. I no longer deal in the absolutes that are declared by people, but I linger in the hope that the work of Jesus dying on the cross has done and will do in my life and so many others. I rest in the idea that my humanity is not any more important than the homeless man who bought me a gelato push-pop while I was working one day.

Today I am a different person. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact I really like the person I am today. I can honestly say that I am at a place where I do love myself. This isn’t Narcissus tapping me on the shoulder, but it truly is recognizing what God has created in me. The beauty and realness that God created in me, just for me. And to be used for Kingdom purposes. To live out loud the scriptures that God himself has put breath to in order to see his absolute plan come into our realm.

I’ve had to recognize that God wants to earn the right to be heard with me, and he’s already done that. The work he sent Jesus to do on the cross was enough. But in God’s very own wisdom, he knows that most of the time it’s just not enough for us. And so we ask for more. And he gives us more. Because in his endless pursuit of us, he makes sure we have to ability to know that not only has he earned the right to be heard with us, but that he has earned the right to be our saviour. He has earned the right to reign as our creator. He has earned the right let us rest in him as we fight what can seem like an endless battle for the Kingdom. But it’s not an endless battle. Hope is in the air. Hope is real. Hope is constant. I write these words for anyone who is reading this as much as for myself. Hope is there because he loves us.

And love always wins.

a new hope…

This thing has been alive for almost thirteen years. And by thing, I mean this blog. And it’s seen a lot. Good and bad, sadness and gladness, birth and death… it’s been all over the place.  I think it’s about time for something new. It will have the same name and place, but I think it’s about time for it to change. This needs to change because I’m changing. Well, I’m forcing myself to change and that in and of itself is a big deal. But why not write about it for the entire world, if the entire felt so compelled to, read about it.

Let’s be honest, I will dump most of what’s in my head here, without a second guess. Not because I want to everyone to know my business, but I need to write about it to process it. I need to let out. I need to exercise my mind and my writing just as much as I need to exercise my body. So this is where that will happen.

What does this entail? What are all these changes I speak of?

Well, it’s simple. I changing my diet, or at least the way I eat. Today I’ve started intermittent fasting, which is more of an eating pattern than a diet. I also hate the word diet, so that could be why this is a little more attractive. I’ve been leaning into eating from the mediterranean diet more and more, with some success. I will continue this, but only eating between the hours of noon and 8pm. And drinking a lot of water… a lot of water!

I’m starting an exercise routine. There will be some running and some yoga and eventually some swimming involved. It’s all still coming together, but the bottom line is I will be getting off my couch and moving.

An idea behind this is that I’m training for a triathlon. What? Who am I? Which is precisely the question I had the other day when I hesitantly committed to doing this.

I guess I’m going to find out who I really am.

(And yes, for anyone wondering… that is a Star Wars reference…)

I forgot I like jazz.

I forgot that I liked jazz. There are no words and that might just be the appealing part. I can hear the piano and the drums and saxophone, and any other reeded instruments. I’m not just talking about any jazz, and definitely not the Kenny G brand of jazz. But the Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard kind of jazz. Even in it’s upbeat moments, I’m allowed to wallow in my feelings in the moment or day.
Don Miller said that he didn’t like jazz because there was never any resolve in it. And he went on to say that about God, just like jazz, he doesn’t’ have any resolve. Or so Miller thought. In some odd, weird way I’m ok without resolve. And in a lot of others, having resolve is like oxygen, if I don’t have it, I can’t move on. Which, if we are being honest with each other, is where the rest of us fall.
It’s been forever since I’ve read Blue Like Jazz, and has been even longer since I’ve turned on the Spotify Jazz playlist. But today seemed fitting. I didn’t want words, because there really are no words. Ironically, I actually picked up my computer and starting writing this in the midst of no words. I’ve remained secluded in my apartment, without lights and trying to keep the interaction with people to a minimum. It’s an introvert day. I’ve ignored my chores, need to do them, and now they take me about twice as long as they did several weeks ago. There are a lot of loose ends floating around that most likely will not find any resolve today. And frankly, I’m ok with that. Tomorrow can bring resolve. Tomorrow will bring resolve. I’ve got dishes to do now.

The Dead Dads Club.

I joined the dead dad’s club some time ago. Actually, twenty years ago… today. It wasn’t a membership I had sought after or even wanted to join. Mainly because joining meant I was experiencing an unchangeable force of nature that was going to shift and shake my life in ways that I had no idea how or why.

I remember imaging what this day would be like in a year, in five years, in ten years… I never really went beyond that. It was hard enough to make meager attempts at any years beyond that very day without him, but twenty years? That was completely beyond my emotionally capacity. And to some degree, it still is. But here I sit, twenty years later.

I recently watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy where George’s dad dies (season 3, episode 3). He’s standing outside of the hospital and Christina approaches him and says, “There’s a club. The Dead Dads Club. You can’t be in it until you are in it. You can try to understand, can sympathize, but until you feel that loss. My dad died when I was nine. George, I’m really sorry you had to join the club.”

George solemnly looks at her and says, “I don’t know how to exist in a world my dad doesn’t.”

“Yeah, that never really changes,” replies Christina.

And that’s pretty much it. I had no idea how to exist in a world where my dad doesn’t. And that hasn’t changed. I have, however, figured out how to be a member of the dead dad’s club.

There’s sadness that comes with the club. And sympathy. And sorrow. And tears… lots of tears. I guess I thought that club membership would somehow help to grow a thicker skin or even be able to tough it out. But really, it’s allowed me to be more more empathetic towards others and myself. I discovered that my world is lacking so much without him. As one of my biggest champions of my education, he wasn’t here to see me graduate from college. He won’t walk me down the aisle when I get married. My kids will never know him. My dad was my greatest champion in doing life well and loving it while I was doing it.

In twenty years I’ve learned to ask what’s next instead of why. Yes, I still question and ask why. And I did that a ton twenty years ago. God took my greatest champion on this earth. God could have chosen to heal my dad for the crazy stupid cancer that overtook his body and life. God could have elected for that moment a miracle to happen and be witnessed by many. But he didn’t.

I fully believe in a God who does not abandon. I fully believe in a God who is not only my creator, but also my greatest champion. I fully believe in a God who compels us to live a life full of faith and trust in him. And in these twenty year later days, that seems a bit easier said than done. But it’s all real and I believe it for every single person.

So, what’s next? Living life. There will always be a void, but there is so much other really good stuff, that the void just seems smaller. There is no one person who could take the place of my dad in my life, but God has seen fit to give me new champions. Friends and family who only want to the best for me. The void sits beside a community of people who fill a lot of similar roles, but just don’t have the witty disposition nor love of hot rods that my dad had.

The truth of the matter is that earthly champions will come and go. And for some of those who go, it will be hard. But the greatest champion for all of us is a loving, grace filled God bigger than any void, and so much better than a membership to the dead dads club.

Lament.

I got stuck again. For the last three years I have been using the same daily devotional for the advent season. The first five are about lament. About Zachariah and Elizabeth. About their barrenness and advanced age. About them walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. About them being righteous before God. About an angel appearing before them and assuring them that they will indeed have a son and he is to be named John. This is the child, the promise, that will go on as Jesus’ cousin, and be known as John the Baptist.

Scholars believe that Zechariah, as a priest was chosen to enter into the temple sanctuary, and had prayed many, many time for two things. First petition most likely included interceding for the nation of Israel and the second petition for a child.

For the past three advent seasons, I can’t seem to get beyond these particular days. It’s the lament that grabs me and holds onto me as though I was clinging for my life. It’s grip is hard and gentle all at the same time. So gentle, it has taken me three years to finally grasp what I feel the Lord saying to me. He is patient and has let me know that my lament in this is what he wants from me. He wants me to make known to him.

My lament usually comes when I am at my end. When I truly believe that I can no longer handle it. When I’m so sorrowfully and dowdy that I can’t seem to operate in life or anything really. When the consuming reality of my life is overflowing, I realized that I don’t like it. I don’t want it. I want something different. So, my intended lament becomes more of a pout. More of a whiney exacerbation of crap that has been let out without anything stopping it. Not really a true lament, just complaining.

What does God want from me?

He wants honesty. He wants truth. He wants what’s real in our hearts and in our minds. He wants to know where I stand with him. And truth be told, by doing all this, exposing ourselves like this, being vulnerable like this, we are showing him all he has created in us and created us to be. If we can’t be this raw and vulnerable with God, then how can we, how can I, expect to be truly real and vulnerable with other people.

My lament is about my desire for a family. A husband. Children. A home established to serve the Kingdom. A big table that has space for many to come to it. A table to share a meal and experience a glimpse of the community that Jesus experiences when he went and ate with people in their homes.

Instead of whining about it, or crying myself to sleep at night, my lament needs to be grown up. I need to put on my big girl pants on and approach God wholeheartedly. I need to approach the creator of the every intricacies of the vast universe with the mightiness that he has created me with. To be brave and lay it all out to him and for him. To pray the very dangerous prayers that will change my life.

Oh wait, I’ve done this before.

I have had a moment where I did strip all the gunk away and approach the throne with authenticity. I prayed to see people as Jesus sees them. To be aware of them. Not to judge a book by it’s cover, but to somewhat accurately know them on the smallest scale. To be able to discern the situation with some accuracy. And when I did that, it all became real. I took my ministry more serious. I started being able to meet people where they were. My heart started to ache for his people. I couldn’t just pass a homeless person on the street and not acknowledge that they to are heirs to the Kingdom. I couldn’t pass a drug dealer on the street and not see that they too are an heir to the kingdom, the exact same kingdom that I am an heir to. They too are children of God, knitted together in their mother’s womb, just as I am.

In these radical prayers, I found my heart tugging almost everyday. Thinking about things I never imagined that I would ever have a tought about. Taking actions on things that I never thought I would do. These radical prayers shaped my heart, shaped my life. They led me to make decision that was so in the face of what my norm was in life, that many people didn’t know how to take it.

So here I am. At a junction. Waiting to just simply make a decision. I can choose to continue being in neutral or I can just do it. I can decided to put my big girl pants on and expose my most inner being to the creator of the universe and take the risk that he will turn everything upside down. Or I can just stay. Just maintain the course I’m on.

I choose my big girl pants.

#3 – anxiety.

I have the privilege of serving at a youth pastors convention this week. It’s long days, spent standing the majority of the time. I get to be the source of most knowledge for the convention delegates. They come with questions and I deliver answers. It’s not a swammy type of situation where I would be wearing a shiny turban on my head, but when they are looking for a seminar location or have come in the wrong entrance and are looking for check-in, I give them directions to get there.

The convention is in my home town, in fact I live 18 blocks away from the convention center, but I am staying in a hotel across the street. It’s much easier to walk across the street to crawl into bed after standing for 12+ hours, then walk the 18 blocks to crawl into bed. Because the convention is here, I have a great opportunity to brag all over the city that I love!

But with all the bragging that I am doing, and sending business to all my favorite restaurants (most of which are locally owned), there are those folks who walk by my in the convention center lobby with looks anxiousness on their faces. Looks of being lost, and not just because they can’t find the entrance to the main event or the bathroom. (Although the looks for those who can’t seem to find the closest bathroom is a somewhat serious situation!)

There is an anxiety in some looks. Because some folks have come with great expectation of change. Change of attitude or change of heart… they still have arrived with the expectation of change. Some have come with broken hearts. No matter if it’s because of sin on their part or the part of others, there they come here broken. And even others have arrived empty. They have poured every last ounce of who they are and what they had into the kids they minister to.

No matter what we have arrived here with, lack of something or an abundance of other things, we are all looking for the best possible experience. We are all expecting to experience God in big ways. The hardest part in that expectation, is realizing that our own anxiety can be the very things that prevents us for truly experiencing what God has in store over the next couple of days. Setting aside all that we need to in order to fully experience God in real and tangible ways this week requires us to give all our anxiety to him and to fully expect him to do great things in our live.

#2 – going.

It’s only day two and I’m going to keep going. I know, you are probably asking yourself why I need encouragement to keep going on day two. Well, I jumped at this challenge at the same time I am volunteering with the National Youth Workers Convention, which means this will be a challenge that will require me to have some pretty heavy dedication and discipline. Yesterday alone we worked a solid 11 hours. We stuffed books, put chairs together, moved boxes, unpacked boxes, put signage together, folded t-shirts, and so much more.

I woke up super early in order to have have the time to come and do this. Which really translates that as this week goes on it will be more and more difficult to wake up early before I have to be somewhere to get this done, because the reality is that I don’t have the brainpower to do this at night.

Every night when I return back to my room I am struck with a couple of things. First the team of people who work on this event throughout the entire year. To some degree it’s a job I would love, but at the same time, I think I might be over it the moment I set feet to the ground of the city that convention is in. There are so many details, so much planning, so much energy and time, and so much heart poured into and over this event, I am in constant amazement of it.

Setting aside the detail and beauty of this event there is also the spiritual side. For months and months, people have been praying over and for this event in ways I can’t even imagine. Folks who know the folks who put this together and who will walk in the door, know that we all come with some type of hurt and need. A need that can only be met by God. A holistic need that we often don’t even recognize that we even have this need, much doing something to meet that need.

So, what do we do? We keep going. To some degree we have been conditioned to just keep going. We are under the impression that we need to meet our needs… jobs, paychecks, pleasure, joy, peace, etc. But the reality is that, for those of us who call ourselves Christians, we all too often set aside the deep desire for God to be out great provider, and that he will and does take care of all those needs. We can often step out of practice of living into that truth even though we spend our time telling others sharing that truth. In other words, we do a really good job and not practicing what we preach.

In the end we keep going. One foot in front of the other, walking forward. Some folks do stop and crash at the overwhelming nature of life, but for the most part we just keep going. Bitterness can set in and fester into something fierce. But the hope that we all need to remember comes from God and all that he has done for us.

I find myself constantly reminding myself that He has this. In my time of just going, God has it all.

#1 – Commitment

I committed to this at just the wrong time, but what’s a girl to do? Here is what I’ve committed to do. Blog… for 31 days. 500 words a day. It’s so nice that October has the required 31 days and it was only a few days away from when I made this initial commitment.

While I am starting this commitment, I am also committed to volunteering for the National Youth Workers Convention here in Sacramento. Imagine 1500 + youth pastor types ascending on this fair city. They will laugh. They will eat. They will worship. They will pray. They will bring all their baggage, their brokenness, their joy, their struggles… they will bring it all with them. And hopefully while they are here, they will be able to lay it all at the foot of the cross.

While there everyone has the opportunity to make a new commitment. Some will make a new commitment to themselves. Some will make a new commitment to their ministry. Some will renew their commitment to Christ. (Yes, it does happen) Some will renew or make a new commitment to their spouse and possibly their family. Some will make a new commitment to their kids. All in all, being a youth pastor, director, or minister is similar to almost any other profession. You have the opportunity to get so engrossed in what you do, that you can forget about those around you. The folks that need to be your first priorities, the ones whose faith and journey with God need to be of more importance that any kids any a youth group. You know, you family… your spouse, your kids.

That commitment to your family is the second most important commitment that you will ever make as an adult. The first one being the commitment you made to God. But what about the folks who haven’t made that commitment. The folks who are vocational ministry folks who haven’t married yet and don’t have kids. This is my boat.

At times I feel less validated in my call to vocational ministry from people because of my lack of a husband and kids. Because I don’t know the struggle of balancing family life and professional life all wrapped up in the church/Christian context. I don’t what it’s like to miss a milestone in my kids life, because I was leading a mission trip or at camp with 20 of my best high school friends. I don’t know what it’s like to live into the expectation of having my spouse and kids be a part of the church and act accordingly. I don’t know what it’s like to have my marriage and parenting under a microscope disguised as the congregation of the church I work for. I do know that everyone, at least mostly everyone, means well and comes from a place of love. But, I don’t envy that one bit. And I will also say that this does not deter me from wanting all that.

a post a day… for thirty days.

Hi world, it’s been a while. Almost two years to be exact. You see, I’ve been a bit busy… life has somewhat gotten in my path and stumped my creative endeavors. Well, to be more accurate, I’ve actually been funneling my creative energies into life. But that is all about to change.
I’m jumping in with both feet! Just like ripping a band-aid off a hairy man’s arm, I’m just going to do it. Starting August 1, I will be posting one blog post a day. Now, here is the fun little twist… I now have two blogs! Yep, you read that one right! So here is how this will work: I will be posting one post a day one each blog! I know, crazy!
This space will remain more centered around my personal thoughts and events, while the other space will be more concentrated on food and happenings of life livin’ on the grid. I’m making the distinction of the two different spaces for a couple of reasons. First, I have a lot to say… it’s been two years! Second, I have been encouraged by many folks to take my passion for all things food to the interwebs. Sharing my joy of all things food will only be a good thing for the world!
Finally, I want two unique spaces that will represent two pretty distinct spaces in my life. But as distinct as those spaces are, they also do intersect with each other a lot. I can’t talk about food without at some point mentioning the Creator, yet because food has such a significant place in my world, I can’t talk about the Creator without mentioning food. So, there will be intersection and cross referencing and jumps to the other blog, all things that will most likely make my head spin, but it is what it will be.
And I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the new discoveries that will bubble up in this new phase of this great adventure I’m living. I’m excited for the new experiences that I’ll share with all of you. God’s got a great plan… join me for the ride!