Stand

lead zeppelin

image credit: @notnixon.flickr.creative commons

You said I was grounded like a lead zeppelin, a lead balloon. This was funny, because nearby, the red hot air balloon was taking people for “rides,” letting them bounce gently on the ground but never taking to the sky. Funny, but we weren’t laughing.

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image credit: K_Gradinger.flickr.creative commons

Across the darkening lawn of the campus, the carnival was loud and whimsical, bluegrass music drifting over on the breezes along with scents of buttery popcorn. We had wandered away from the noise, the activity, the people, for a more serious and weighty conversation than the festive atmosphere allowed for. Now I was crying, the deep and heavy tears of Depression that would not lift. We sat; I cried; you simply were, with me, like Job’s friends sitting shiva. There were no words for this.

I felt like the “dead man” that marked the sidewalk nearby, more symbols of the light-hearted college traditions continuing on around me. And I felt stuck, buried deep, weighted down beneath the waves of random, reasonless sorrow.

We couldn’t get up from our dark corner of the grass, not yet, even though night was coming on. I was wiping tears and snot on my shirt for lack of a better remedy, looking like a hot mess and unwilling to face the crowds with such a downcast face.

My tears have been my food
    day and night…

My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng!

My soul is downcast within me…
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

Psalm 42, excerpts from NIV and NLT

Finally the wells of my tears seemed to have run dry, and you suggested we bake cookies and color pictures to comfort the Sad. I picked myself up off the ground, body heavy, still reluctant to risk human interaction. But we stood and walked the short distance back to my apartment, stumbling into the light past the cozy and holy prayer chapel. Finding a box mix, we trooped over to your dorm, the one that felt friendly, and baked cookies in the lounge while various friends of yours stopped over to see what we were doing. You brought coloring materials from your room and as the cookies baked, we doodled in bright colors, tracing song lyrics onto the page, words of hope not yet realized:

The enemy has been defeated
And death couldn’t hold You down
We’re gonna lift our voice in victory
We’re gonna make Your praises loud

Shout unto God with a voice of triumph
Shout unto God with a voice of praise
Shout unto God with a voice of triumph
We lift Your name up
We lift Your name up

“Shout Unto God” by Hillsong United

I think you walked me back home that night, and I slipped into my apartment hoping not to be seen by my roommates’ boyfriends. You gave me the picture you drew, with my name on it, and I hung it with mine above my bed. I fell asleep looking at the colors, remembering the promises, wishing and willing the hope to be true.

It’s been five years since then, but when I think of the support I had during Depression, that night is one of the first to come to mind. You sat with me in the incurably sad silence, a show of solidarity when many would give up. But just as importantly, you stood with me and gently prompted me back towards the land of the living, baby steps of crayons and cookies. You helped me stand on unsteady legs and didn’t leave me to fend for myself just because the worst was over. You stood with me through the long darkness and patchy light, and for that I am so incredibly grateful.

for Jess

linking up with SheLoves Magazine for their July theme of Stand

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On granola bars, cooking, and self-care

This past winter, in an all-Student-Development-staff meeting, we talked about burnout. We talked about warning signs, how to prevent burnout, what to do if you are burnt out, ways to relax and rest. Sitting with my staff, most people said their warning signs were things like not exercising, feeling tired, snapping at their families, and so on. When they asked me about my warning sign, I had an immediate answer: when I am in a bad place, I start eating lots of granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches.

Sounds strange, to express so vehemently that too many granola bars are a sure sign that I am burnt out. But it’s true. The first time I realized this was three summers ago, in Fresno, California. I was under a lot of stress: jobless, homeless (well, kind of), and car-less. I was staying with a family I knew and sleeping on a spare mattress in their daughter’s room, taking the city bus to my temp job at a call center where I listened to phones ring for 8 hours a day. They weren’t a cooking family, which is fine. And at the time, I wasn’t really a cooking person either. But that summer, with all the pressures weighing me down, I ate a diet of mostly granola bars and peanut butter on bread. Seriously. For breakfast I had toast with peanut butter and jelly; for lunch, a peanut butter sandwich; for the short break at work, a granola bar. Maybe an apple somewhere in there. A granola bar at night when I was hungry from not eating real food all day. This went on for quite awhile, until my counselor told me I needed to be eating and sleeping healthily if I was going to work on the issues I was in counseling for. Along with some changes in environment–living with a different family in my own room, getting a used car–I was able to find a greater and healthier variety of food to eat and enjoy. 

This past year, I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment. The first month of the year was crazy busy–August is notoriously the busiest season in student affairs. I was still getting settled in my house, and our staff ate out a lot during training. After that, I found it wasn’t very motivating to cook for just myself, when there was no one else to feed; and I was still busy, trying to adjust and find a rhythm that worked for me. I cooked a little, and made sandwiches and veggie snacks for lunches. However, as spring semester rolled around, I ate more at the student center’s grille, and subsisted on peanut butter sandwiches or odds and ends for dinner. Smoothies for awhile. Pizza takeout. And granola bars.

As I’ve been home again this summer, I find myself cooking more for my parents, trying new recipes, utilizing whatever fresh garden produce we have on hand. And I’m finding the cooking process enlivening. I love using my creativity to make something that’s vital. I am creative in other ways too, but there’s something especially satisfying about the combination of hands-on, all-senses-engaged, necessary-for-life creativity that is cooking. I’ve cooked by myself and cooked with my friend Cait, finding new ways to eat vegetables and experimenting with ingredients. And then we get to eat the delicious product! It’s so fun. I love this. 

 grilled rhubarb and chicken for rhubarbeque chicken pizzaImage

I know the multitude of reasons that I didn’t cook much this past year. But I want it to be different from now on. I love cooking, and I love eating, and I love cooking for people who eat with me and enjoy the food I’ve made. I love giving to friends in this way. It’s inconceivable to me, right now, how I could just *not cook* for a whole season. Did I really eat that many granola bars? Wasn’t I hungry and tired of the same carbs over and over? I know that I was, and I feel compassion for that self, who was too overwhelmed and exhausted to change the pattern. And I also know that beyond the simple difference of better food to eat, which would have helped, the act of cooking itself is energizing and brings me back to myself. The times I was able to muster it this year–Indian butter chicken and pancakes were frequent repeats–it felt so good. I don’t want to lose that again.

 strawberry rhubarb pie, just before bakingImage

This summer, I’ve made so many yummy things. Lots of salads, rhubarb pies, vinaigrette, marinated chicken on the grill, new kinds of homemade pizza every week, enchiladas, risotto. My photo stream is once again filled with pictures of food: ingredients, recipes in process, finished products, plates. My fingernails get dirty digging things out of the garden: radishes, green onions, asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, sugar snap peas, lettuces of all sorts, mint, oregano, sage, basil, lemon balm. Then my hands get shrivel-y washing the produce and the occasional bug.

homemade hawaiian pizza

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I need this. I need my hands moving in the kitchen, picking, washing, chopping, shredding, dicing, kneading, stirring, taking a quick picture with floury fingers. Then opening a bottle of wine, sitting down to the table, a sigh of satisfaction and a smile around at the people I love. Cooking keeps me alive, feeds me, in so many ways.

different kind of quiet

I’ve been a little quiet the last few months. Of course as an introvert, I’m pretty quiet normally; and quiet seasons are good from time to time–especially in the summer when you just need to get away from it all. But there are different kinds of quiet, and as I’m coming out of one kind, I’m realizing that it was a smothering, desperate quiet–not the settled, calm quiet of a healthy me.

Sometimes it takes entering a new season to realize that the past season actually was a season, not just a new-normal, inevitable, forever-time. This summer I’m coming alive again. The quiet of being out in the country, alone with some books, space to be away from all the crazy-making of this past semester is helping me to wake up again. The vibrant life of our yard and garden and my friends and travels is bringing me back to life and helping me see that who I am, truly, is not who I was this past semester. At the time, I felt that I was just a silent, awkward, sad and confused person by nature; that there was no escaping that reality. But really, it was just a shadow of me, the best I could muster in a grey, cold, lonely transition season. Winters suck, especially in new places.  This time, it is taking a summer to thaw me out, a change of place as well as pace to startle me back to myself.

Up until the last week of the semester, I thought I would be spending my summer at a sustainable farm near my college, with a family I adore, doing hard work and getting dirty in the garden. But things changed, suddenly, plans fell though, and I found myself falling back on the option that hadn’t been an option: going back home for the summer. And though I was sad not to be at the farm, going home suddenly seemed like the perfect thing for me, exactly what I needed and where I needed to be. It’s been slow, and relaxing, and spontaneous; and most of all, life-giving. After a semester of the cold dark, when I wasn’t sure I could count on anything or anyone, I’m back home. As Robert Frost says, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Last time I moved home, it was kicking and screaming, and I ended up staying much longer than intended; and it was beautiful and restorative, and the people here–they took me in. This summer, though it’s just a short stay and I know I’ll be going away again come fall, they take me in again. These are my people: family friends who’ve known me since I was born; mentors who’ve walked with me since high school; church people, new and old, who welcomed me in when church was the last place I wanted to be. This is my home, like it or not; though I’ve made homes many places, this is the place where they’ll always, always take me in, without questions and with good coffee.

And in this home, I am free to be myself. I know I can tell the truth and be ridiculous and they will love me anyway, they will love me because of it, because it’s who I am. Free from the constraints I put upon myself this semester, free from the long to-do list of work and school and reading and planning, free from the constricting depression and the conditional relationships, I’m unfolding again into myself, like the flowers that close up at night and stretch themselves out full in the sunlight. In the expansive quiet of the country, the stillness of no schedule, the steady love of my friends, the calm of the outdoors, sunny greens and blues and pinks, this quiet is the space to be myself. Sweet moments with friends; loud laughter over cooking and coffee; unexpected embraces at church; last-minute trips, just because I can, to see places and people that enliven me and remind me who I am, and that who I am is okay. The space and distance and quiet allow for the stress and crazy and lies to drain out of me, sometimes slow and quiet, sometimes with catharsis the strength of which surprises me.

I’m finding my anthem this summer in the song that names the season: “Summertime, and the living is easy.” In the lazy days of reading and gardening and playing with my dog, in the afternoons of cooking and creating in the kitchen with music playing loud, in the occasional adventures to a friend’s farm or an art museum or Costa Rica, for heaven’s sake, the easy living is restorative to my soul in ways that I know I wouldn’t have found in a different summer agenda. Quietly, almost unnoticed, my soul and body and mind are creeping back together from the corners where I’d banished them, until suddenly I am finding myself with words darting through my head, stories half-way piecing together, creativity bursting out in spurts of cooking, desires to tell my stories making their way to the surface. In the country calm and summer space, coming back to life again, I’m still quiet; but perhaps not for long.

What I’m Into: June 2013 Edition (Link-up with Hopeful Leigh)

Linking up again with Hopeful Leigh

In June, summer got into full swing–which for me, meant lots of time outdoors, spontaneous travels, garden adventures, and a trip to Costa Rica with my family to see my sister. While I’ve still been reading a lot (trying hard catch up at 52 in 52) the screen time has been minimal, which is a welcome change. Here’s what I’ve been into:

Books:

  • Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. This is fantastic. Go buy it and read it. Now. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Shauna’s writing and I’ve probably referred them to her blog or books multiple times. Bread and Wine is essentially a food memoir/spiritual memoir rolled into one, with recipes. By one of my favorite authors. So it’s no surprise I loved it. But this is why you might love it: Shauna writes with such an easy, conversational style that you feel like you know her, and have sat down at her table for meals or coffee to chat about life. She is an excellent story-teller who gets her point across through stories, rather than just telling you the point. Shauna holds a wonderful balance between the bitter and sweet parts of life (check out another of her books, Bittersweet) and is honest about the messiness, the life-y-ness, of life. I feel like I’ve joined her with her family and friends at her table and been encouraged by them. Also, the recipes look amazing and are very easy to follow; plus most are gluten-free. So far I’ve only tried the risotto, which was an experience in itself, but next up are Annette’s Enchiladas and the Blueberry Crisp.
  • Continuing on the food writing, Eat With Joy by Rachel Marie Stone was another on my reading list after I heard about it at Jubilee 2013. I was so excited for it because a look at the table of contents showed that it would cover topics from our relationship with food and obsession with diets to the value of eating together to the ethics of how our food is grown and comes to us–all of which are things I find fascinating. In the back she includes some further reading lists which can point you on towards books on just one of those topics. Eat With Joy is definitely a more straight-foward read than Bread and Wine but I appreciate the more academic tone and culmination of her research. It’s a great read for someone looking to get a basic overview of how people relate to food and why it matters. It also includes recipes, which look simple and tasty, and table prayers which I am excited to start using.
  • Other books I read: Costa Rica Culture Smart, Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead, Prototype by Jonathan Martin, and still chugging along in The Story of Christianity, Vol. 2 by Justo Gonzalez. That one is hefty but so, so good. I thought I would have to force myself to keep reading this church history tome but it’s rather exciting and really helpful to get an idea of what happened in the Church from the Reformation to present-day.

I also developed a minor obsession with rhubarb during June. Typically a spring thing, the “pie plant” as it is also known will grow into June and even July, so I just kept pulling it and chopping it and baking it and cooking it and….I made rhubarb pie, rhubarb viniagrette, even rhubarbeque chicken pizza. Yeah. That last one tasted amazing and I came up with it myself! And I tweaked and perfected the pie recipe till it was to my liking. 

Also on the food front, but in Costa Rica: We had SO MUCH delicious, fresh pineapple. I was beside myself. And a variety of forms of rice and beans: casados (meals of rice, beans, choice of meat, and salad), arroz con pollo (rice and chicken), arroz con camarones (rice and shrimp), gallo pinto (breakfast rice and beans, mixed together and seasoned). Oh, and ceviche, a dish of raw fish marinated in lime juice, which is eaten with chips. Fantastic.

Oh yeah, I went to Costa Rica! My parents and I made the international trek (their first ever!) to spend some time with my sister, who lives on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It was bizarre to combine family vacation with international travel, but a very good trip. We spent a bit of time in the capital, San Jose, and also visited Tenorio National Park to see a waterfall and blue lagoon and Arenal Volcano, which is, as it sounds, a volcano. I especially enjoyed driving through the mountain countryside on our way to and from the national parks. We also saw howler monkeys, which would be more aptly named barking monkeys, and many small crabs and lizards. And a giant ceiba tree–which, I had to admit, seemed bigger than the sequoia trees in my beloved Yosemite.

I was also able to do a last-minute trip with my dear friend to her family’s farmhouse in northwestern Illinois and another trip to Indiana to see college friends, one of whom just returned from a year in Papua New Guinea. So great to see them!!

So to sum up, I basically spent June cooking, eating, reading, gardening, and traveling. Is it any wonder that I’m loving this summer?