Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Won't Be Home For Christmas

This year, for the first time ever, I won't be home for Christmas. No waking up on Christmas morning to the same nostalgic nods from Dad, or the gourmet breakfast spread from mom. My sister and I won't be tag-teaming "playing Santa" to retrieve thoughtful gifts from under the tree. No, where I'm going, I don't even know if pajamas will linger from morning until mid-afternoon per my family's age-old tradition. I won't wake up in a familiar place, or plod around in my slippers in rest-my-bones comfort. I am giving up a good bit to gain something new and altogether foreign. I will share in the traditions of another family, a drastically different and far away place. Heck, where I'm going, there may even be a bonafide White Christmas—something I have never known apart from Christmas specials on cable. I'm thrilled beyond measure to be walking into this and a for a million other things, a season of unknowns.  But let it be known: with every new and welcome change comes a thousand small goodbyes. A look backward and a pensive pause produces gratitude for the perfect rhythm of God's timing. He is working it all into good.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A dose of inspiration

Image from the latest issue of Kinfolk

Cheese nourishes, brings communities together, and allows people to farm the way they want, but it is also an art form. Although making cheese is hard labor, it is a craft that brings pleasure to both its creators and its admirers. Sometimes the rinds alone take one's breath away away. Brainy, wrinkly, ashy, smooth, waxed, covered in cocoa nibs or espresso or tiny diverts, they show a loving touch like a cut of fabric on a quilt does. -- Kirsten Jackson, Homage to Cheese, Kinfolk

I've started a new job in the cheese department of a local market. It's world's different than what I was doing, but in some senses, it's just a slight horizontal shift. Each day, I'm surrounded by lovers of fine food, by in-home entertainers, by people with niche and passionate knowledge, doing with might what their hands find to do. For these things, I'm so very grateful. I've already departed the store with belly aches more than a few times from tasting of the rich and pungent offerings of worldwide cheesemongers. I've much to learn on this exciting new journey, and am inspired by the art, the craft of farmers worldwide, and the love and meaning they pour into their processes.

This morning, I'm stewing in inspiration from the sights, smells, and sounds of this season.

What I'm reading: The Yearling, by Marjorie Rawlings; The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry; Kinfolk, Volume 5

What I'm listening to: Shovels & Rope, The Matchcoats, Light for the Lost Boy (Andrew Peterson), Land of the Living (Matthew Perryman Jones)

Visual eye candies: Tartan plaid, Field Notes, Chukka boots, Best Made Co.

What's on my Christmas list: This french press, this bag, and in my wildest dreams, this kitchen aid.

Cheese of Choice: Pave de Nord—a French raw cow's milk cheese, bright orange, rich, and smooth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why I Like Job Interviews

I've recently come to realize how very much I like the process of a job interview. I like getting a chance to tell someone my story in brief, to make sense out of the on-paper senselessness of the string of events. Taking a step back from the one-pager and telling the timeline of my life in a half hour or so—it's good for me to hear.

It'd be untruth to say that there have been times during which I haven't fully trusted that the gaps in my "career" have been full of purpose. I'd be lying to say that I've always loved the somewhat-random turn of events that my life has taken.

But, after telling someone recently how I hopped, skipped, jumped, (limped, and ran) through some of the experiences on my resume, I feel just overwhelmed with gratitude. The tapestry is starting to take shape. I've collected some tales along the way, and a long list of good friends.

If parts of the journey were less-than-fun, with some distance, I can (and will) see the merit of enduring them. Who knows how many more road-forks will lead me down untravelled roads.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Our Farmer, Who Art in Heaven

Horticultural references are buried deep in Scripture. Paul talks about about seeds being planted, watered, and grown by the Lord and men. Jesus lays down the parable of environments conducive for growing in grace those who believe.

Turning back a few pages, I’ve longed loved the hope in Habakkuk’s poetry: Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation (3:17-18).  What rich reminder of God’s goodness through the seasons.

And likewise from the word communicated to Jeremiah in the book’s first chapter about the Lord watching over the almond trees, over the fulfillment of His words.

I like to think that sometimes, our God wears overalls. His hands are dirty from being knuckle deep in our messes. He’s on His knees, fingers immersed in the soil of our lives, and he’s always regenerating newness out of dead earth.

There’s something about the fall season that just stirs me like nothing else. I love the picture of foliage shouting in splendor before it descends to its timely death: nature’s final exhale. New life always requires a preceding death.

This marinating thought was recently matched in another verse from Jeremiah, this time in the fourth chapter. The prophet here is faced with communicating an unsavory message to the people of Judah. Intentional sin has lead to impending doom—attack from the North and exile to a foreign land. Jeremiah pleads with the people to own up to their sinful ways, to remember the Lord, and turn back to Him, saving themselves and their home.

With this message he cries out in verse three:

Break up your unplowed ground, and do not sow among thorns.

He implores them to dust off the rake and hoe, to put some muscle into preparing their lives for rebirth. Green can’t grow on fallow ground. Work must be done. Ends must be met.

I’m just grateful for this truth revealed: in God’s word to us (implanted in us), in what’s happening out our very windows. Good news, fellow laborers. God, the farmer has His boots on the ground, roughing  up our complacency, preparing our fields.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Oh, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Just a few months ago, I was coming out of a fog of sin and sadness when a thought-over, prayed-for move to Nashville didn't pan out. Admittedly, it had been an attempt to flee from a job that was leaving me longing and relational futility that I felt I couldn't find hope in.

So, I tried real hard to quit it all, and leave this place for greener pastures. When the timing proved not quite right, I told myself I'd practice contentment...until October. For three months, I put a ban on scheming my way out of discomfort. I tried just to accept my lot, exercise patience, and play the glad game as often as possible.

In July, a three month rest from constant plan A, B, C-making was just what the doctor ordered. I was able to really enjoy a summer for the first time in years. Fresh peaches, night swimming, and late-night cook-outs. Creek-wading, deep air-breathing, Kinfolk-esque attention to beauty in small details. Birmingham became full of possibility again, as I looked at it through new eyes. Here, I thought. Yes, I can do here for a while longer.

And then, an unexpected grace came out from left field, and made the staying even sweeter. Late night walks and excited-nervous talks, hand-holding, and meal-sharing. This gift—a sheer grace—was a soft landing spot for my wearied heart to rest. Grateful.

The Lord is rebuilding what was broken. He is fortifying what was impeached. He has been at work in me from first breath to gracefully unfold not just my story, but His, one page at a time.

And he's been readying me for something, ensuring my well-being all the while. And yesterday, all praise to Him, I was able to quit my job. In two weeks, I'll walk forward in faith into a future that doesn't promise me success, security, or comfort. But, in trusting the Lord—sovereign over all my days—my heart is light. I look down at my next illuminated step, hang my hat on this chapter, and walk on.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Refinement pokes, prods, and pulls. Facing truth can disturb. But, oh, how necessary I realize it is for me to be dumped into a bucket, shaken until all of my impurities butt up against the instruments of their destruction—to endure through Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani moments. Past insecurities are coming to a head with present realities. I am prepared because I have been—am being—purified. Dross removed, imperfections smoothed over. I needed the fire to produce this shine. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

It’s raining outside. As the drops hit my windshield on my way to work this morning, I couldn’t help but see them through the lens of a literary device. This is rebirth. This is the awakening. This is hope springing up out of old dry ground.  God digs splendor out of messes. He is growing life out of death. It’s in His nature to make beautiful things. He, is, after all, a Creator. Let’s remember.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Far Country

I stand before a horizon, a great perhaps, with limited sight of a far country. And just over my shoulders is a history that has laid the framework for my existence. The things I've seen, the places I've been, the truths I've built my faith upon—these fibers have composed my being, have culminated in my today.

At times, I've tipped the scales, and allowed myself to swim in nostalgia, afraid to create a present as beautiful as the past. During other seasons, I've been so anxious about fast-forwarding to a future I haven't yet earned. Bypass pain, find beauty. 

Over the last year, I posted the following words before my eyes:

If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11: 15:16)

I can truly say on this day—September 27th, 2012—that I believe in a God who takes us through both joy-filled seasons and rough terrain. He gives and takes away, so that in each loss, we might long for Him and His coming. He'll do whatever it takes to reach His children with that never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love. I pray to have the wisdom to climb up on this hillside often enough to remember the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of exile, and the God of who, even now, readies a city for those He loves.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coming back to Patty

It's been awhile since Patty and I have been okay. I hate that things have transpired this way. Our friendship has a history, you see. This soul sister was my solid ground five years ago, as I made my way in the uncharted waters of Birmingham. Her music, the backdrop to many of my days here, both bad and good.

When she came through in concert last fall, I delighted at the chance to hear her songs in person once again. And so, together with my boyfriend at the time, I joined others for a magical evening of song and storytelling. And then hours later, tragedy hit when that relationship of nearly two years came to a somewhat-sudden end. 

I've never been so damn sad. For months, Patty was tied to this memory, to this cemetery. As much as I love Ms. Griffin's music, it was too painful to revisit. 

This week, however, when "Forgiveness" came across my speakers, I let it play. 
And I sang at full volume the words I'd not been able to sing. 

Don't need to tell me a thing baby, we already confessed/ And I raise my voice to the air/ It's hard to give/ It's hard to get/ But I think it's the best bet/ Hard to give/ Never gonna forget/ But everybody needs a little forgiveness. 

I've wanted to get better for way longer than I have been capable of doing it. Sadness was inescapable,  raw and real, deep and soul-marring. And in living it and through it, I feel like I've joined the human race.

But, I'm ready to forgive. I'm ready to walk on. And I'm ready to reunite with my Dear Old Friend. It's been too long.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dental Hygiene, Patience, and My Twenty-Seventh Year

I’ve been at this 27 years-old thing just shy of a month, and so far, the ripe age has bestowed some sage lessons. It all started when I decided to use my birthday money to purchase an electric toothbrush. For years, I’ve been told that I have stellar dental hygiene (even though I’m one of those irregular flossers your mama warned you about). I loved getting star reports from the hygienist, rather prided myself on them, actually.

Until! About a year ago, I got a less than shiny report. And some cavities. And some coffee-looking stains on my out-of-sight molars. It was high time to step up my regime. And, no better excuse to commit to better oneself than on a birthday. So, Sonicare it was. Happy birthday to me.

Have I lost you on my “Is this toothbrush approved by the Amercian Dental Associaton” Kevin McAlister sound-a-like diatribe? Stick with me. I promise I have some insight to share here.

So, the toothbrush came, and its instructions suggested brushing for a solid two minutes. In fact, an automatic internal timer even conveniently terminates the pulsating motion when it has run its course. Two minutes? Easy peasy, I thought.

But, heavens. Two minutes can be agonizingly long when you’re holding a gum-tickly, teeth-knocking, wiggle stick in your mouth. And, quite frankly, the first time I used it, I wanted to quit after about 20 seconds.

I need to practice patience.

In teeth-brushing, yes, but also in the everyday. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve recently been disappointed by some more foiled life plans. I’m now left with the here, the now. And while it’s my inclination to want to prepare for and create a new plan, it has become very clear to me that stillness is what I need. And though I’d love to expedite time and get myself out into the tomorrow I imagine, time can’t be reasoned with.  As I often remember, “it responds like a snail to our impatience.”

So, I conclude, brushing my teeth just two super-slow-moving minutes, twice a day—this is teaching me the value of enduring, of waiting, of knowing that long-suffering has great purpose. And, yes, I truly believe, it will be worth it.