Friday, December 25, 2009

merry happy christmas part 2: justice and endless peace

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (NRSV)

These words from the prophet Isaiah have been circling continually through my mind this Christmas season as again and again I am struck by the promises of justice and endless peace. Now, these values did not reign during the life of Jesus or even after he died and rose and ascended, and I think we are all quite aware that we do not have justice nor endless peace today. Rather, these promises are part of that "already and not yet" tension of our world: justice and peace, in some very small measure, are here, but their completion has yet to arrive. God's beautiful redemptive work began with the infant in a dirty manger, but it was not finished there. Rather, it continued and continues still and will continue onward until that distant day when justice and endless peace really do come and stay and reign and change everything, that day when God will make all things well.

And all this begun with a little child, a tiny Messiah... and long, long before he was tangible and here and lying naked as an infant before humanity, there was this ancient foretelling by the prophets... and outside of time and in complete control and knowing every word of the story is God.

How incredible.

So as this holiday season moves towards its close, may we continue to wait on and seek endless peace and justice, and as we do so, may we rejoice in the child born for us. Much love tonight and always, dear ones. Merry Christmas.

merry happy christmas part 1: a christmas montage

Some glimpses of Christmas present (and past)...

As these two presently live in Uganda, Christmas was a little different here at home. We missed them very much but give so many thanks that they are thriving where God has placed them.

We give thanks also for Skype.

But due to their absence (or maybe my tendencies towards this kind of thing in their presence), there was considerably less of this sort of shenanigan today:

However, both in Uganda and back here at home, we ate the same perfect Christmas breakfast, the Cinnamon Sweet Roll that my family has enjoyed for all of my remembered Christmas mornings:

This recipe was first discovered in a local newspaper and has now been prepared for our family for years by my incredible mother:

Love her.

These hazelnut cookies are another family favorite:

They come to us from my dad's side of the family. And speaking of my wonderful father...

Look at that fishing vest! I think it has a thousand pockets! Approximately!

Oh lovely Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

holiday. (hope.)

I apologize for the delay in getting this post up, my friends! The past few weeks have been busy and full to the brim, but I've been happy. Various factors, of course, have contributed to my happiness, but not the least of these is the mere fact that it is Christmastime.

I love this season. I love the sparkling white snowdrifts, the Christmas decorations, the bustle downtown, the homecomings, the gatherings of friends and family, but most of all, I love this season for the hope that it brings, the hope -- and the longing for hope -- made visible in all of those tangible things that I love. At Christmastime, life remains as it always has been, difficult and confusing and hard, but people are happy; they are joyful and hopeful for no reason in particular.

The hope manifests itself everywhere. It is in the flood of red Christmas sweaters donned by the old folks volunteering at my workplace; it is in the holly-and-ivy-patterned Christmas socks peaking out of one woman's black slingback shoes. It is in the enormous Christmas tree downtown by Rosa Parks Circle and the inexplicable joy the good people of Grand Rapids found in lighting its blanket of tiny colored lights. I went downtown for the "lighting ceremony" and observed this firsthand: a large crowd gathered around the tree, small children running around by their parents' feet, the mayor saying something inaudible and muffled, everyone counting down, four three two one, a member of a prominent GR family pulling a lever. The lights were off; the lights were on... it was incredibly anticlimactic. But everyone cheered loudly; everyone was smiling and laughing and talking. Hope. I see hope also in friends gathered around a table filled with different types of Christmas cookies, a plate contributed by each one, and I see and hear and taste and feel deep in my bones the hope in friends gathered to reunite and sing, sharing latest chapters of life and living out community and loving so well. I find hope in Christmas music. I remember the chaos of the holidays during college; each year, I found myself listening to George Winston's December album earlier and earlier in the season as my stress level continued its ascent. Well, I would reason, October is close to December. Post-college, it still makes me hopeful. It reminds me of home. I've added Sufjan's brilliant box set and Rosie Thomas' Christmas album to the list of hope-inducing Christmas favorites, and these remind me of college friends and more recent Christmastimes. There is hope even in aesthetically unpleasing flocks of inflatable yard decorations and mismatched and flashing Christmas lights. Oh, and those big, beautiful colored lights, those do it for me every time. As do nighttime snowfalls and the smell of burning wood in the fireplace and radio stations that for weeks play nothing but Christmas music and evergreen trees and children reveling in the freedom of Christmas vacation...

I could go on and on and on.

My point is this: these things bring not only excitement and a superficial joy but also something deeper, some kind of intangible beauty and longing for something greater and more awe-inspiring. This longing, this waiting, this is Advent, and this is what we see in the prophets, the yearning and the anticipation and the preparation for the One to come. And like the prophets, behind the blinking lights and reindeer sweaters and holiday shop hops, we also are clamoring for something to make us joyful, desperate for something to hope for. We are seeking a reason to be happy and begging the heavens for assurance that all will be well. Christmastime may offer lights and presents and music and holiday apparel, and all of this can be wonderful, but we often mistakenly believe that therein lies the "something" we hope for, when really, we have only to continue looking a moment longer and to reach down just a bit deeper to find the answer that actually responds to the questions of our souls. There is something to be hopeful for, something to anticipate, and it isn't just that gold paper link at the end of the Christmas chain, the one that marks the giving of presents and the culmination of the whole season. Rather, it is the little baby the gospels speak of, the Messiah that came and lived and loved and died and rose and is coming again.

We do not hope in vain.

So this season, let us focus our hope on the God that really will make everything alright. Let us ground our hope in truth. And meanwhile, as we wait, let us live out the redemption that he promises and grasp and remember and share the life-giving hope for something brighter and more beautiful than all Christmas lights and blinking stars combined.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This is what it looks like outside:

Therefore, after surviving the commute to and from work (and the 8.5 hours in between), I returned home and came inside and stayed. And then I made soup. Really good soup. And these cookies from Heidi Swanson's brilliant blog, 101 Cookbooks. You may notice that hers are prettier than mine, but tonight, what mattered more was that the oven heated up my house (and, as a result, me) quite nicely, and these very gingery cookies with bits of chocolate and a coating of sparkly sugar were festive. I like festive, especially at Christmastime. And especially when life is uncertain.

Now, I am finally warm. Also, well fed. And although it is freezing and windy and blustery outside, it is also quite lovely, particularly when I am inside, peering through the windows at the snow globe of a world in winter.

May you be safe and warm and well-fed and festive and full of joy these mid-December days. Merry Christmastime.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


A big decision looms, and I do not know what to do.

For a few weeks now, my prayer has been that God would close all the doors but one -- the right one -- because I honestly do not feel equipped to make this decision. Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that this will be one of those times when God does not give me what I want. It seems, in fact, that he might throw ALL of the doors wide, wide open and leave me to choose which one to walk through.

Dang it.

I really wish we could have done this the easy way. You know, with God forming the clouds into arrows that point towards the neighborhood or city where I should move and writing the answers to all of my questions in chalk on the sidewalk outside of my house and having a stranger at the grocery store spontaneously burst into song with words outlining my whole entire future, from today until the day I die.

But no. And, of course, I am sure that all of this is for something, for some greater purpose that I just don’t understand. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

This has been particularly difficult for me, I think, because in addition to being quite awful at decision-making and somewhat (extremely?) irrational when I am stressed and/or tired, I am facing this very significant life decision on the heels of a season of no options... of no tangible possibilities or offers or even workable suggestions for jobs or relocation or future plans. I guess I just expected that when that whole time of uncertainty ended, the something that followed would be clear. And singular. And simple.

But, as two of my dearest and wisest friends told me in two separate conversations, what is MOST difficult here is that at the end of the (metaphorical) day, no one can tell me what to do, and there is no "right" answer. This is quite unfortunate, as I would really like one right answer as well as someone to tell me what it is. I am sure I should find some peace in this, because it means that all will be well regardless of my choice, but it mostly just makes me confused. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that God is guiding me to my decision. But it's not black and white this time.

My head is spinning.

And I’ll be honest, today and yesterday have not been the best of days. I’m very weary. And I just spilled half a pan of lentils on my kitchen floor. I know, right? I almost cried. I might have used a word I won’t repeat here.

Yet in the same world and in the same little life in which lentils spill on the ground and wise decisions seem impossible to make, there also reside much beauty and all manner of good things. As I drove home from work last night with the new(est) Imogen Heap album playing in the background, I saw the moon rising in front of me, enormous and glowing white in a sky fading from blue to purple to darkness, and then I saw in my rearview mirror that the sun was setting just behind me, coloring the opposite horizon red and orange and yellow and pink. It was so intensely beautiful and strange, I nearly cried.

And then tonight, prior to the lentil-spilling incident, I sat down on the couch with my coffee to get some work done and saw that my neighbor across the street has flashing Christmas lights. Several types of flashing Christmas lights, to be specific. I smiled in spite of myself. Though aesthetically quite horrendous and not at all helpful to my ability to focus, I find it somewhat delightful. It’s Christmastime, after all.

So at the end of the (non-metaphorical) day, I will crawl into my warm bed and try to turn off my mind and let myself dream and remember that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, bless her soul,

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Thursday, November 26, 2009

giving thanks.

I hope that today was a beautiful day for you, wherever you were, whomever you spent the day with, whatever variation on the national theme you ate for your Thanksgiving dinner. I had a lovely day of celebration back home. It wasn't hard to enjoy the day -- I'm quite the fan of any event that gives cause for the gathering of family and friends and the preparing and eating of good food.

And I am glad for the reminder to be thankful, as there is so much to be thankful for...

I am thankful for people: this wonderful family of mine, my beautiful community in GR and the friends that scattered but remain so dear.

I am thankful for these last few months of confusion and complication and lack of direction and for all that they taught me. I am thankful that God is larger and greater than I imagine and his plan more complex and difficult and better than mine could ever be.

And oh heavens, I am thankful for a job, for a job that pays the bills, a job that, on most days, I like! May I never forget to be thankful for this.

And I am thankful also for coffee and poetry, for words and correct punctuation and photographs, for resale shops and community gardens, for farmers markets and a warm winter coat, for ovens that function and chimneys that stay put, for art and music and those that create them, for food and friends to eat with, for a great big beautiful world and people who want to make it better and a God who lets us be part of the change.

Oh yes, I am so thankful. May the same be true of you, today and always. Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones.

i thank you God for most this amazing
e.e. cummings

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

My contribution to the feast: Fruit and nut stuffed acorn squash

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

thankfulness can be hard.

At my present job at Crossroad Bible Institute, I have my very own office. This office houses a big wooden desk, a computer, a phone with its own extension, several drawers for my very own use, a comfortable chair, another chair for visitors and even a (fake) plant. I also have an email address. This is all very new for me. In my nonprofit experiences and internship days, there was nothing like this. I am no longer perched at a desk-like table in the midst of other people’s offices. I am no longer using the organization’s oldest computer and oldest desk, made of cheap and flimsy plastic. I am no longer sharing an office with another person. Nor am I sharing an office with two other people, people that have jobs requiring a great deal of phone communication. I no longer have to make do with just one little file drawer. I no longer have to use my g-mail account for work correspondence, nor do I have to tote my laptop to the office each day. I no longer have to borrow my coworkers’ phones to make calls.

I should be thankful.

Especially since tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

And I am! I really am. Very thankful, even.


I really wish I had a window.

Monday, November 23, 2009

late fall in chicago: community, place, getting dirty, drinking deep

I traveled to Chicago this past weekend with Sarah, Lindsay and Taylor to visit our very dear friends Laura and Jer who married and began settling into a new home in Westmont early this fall.


(Note: Sarah wrote about our travels more promptly than I, so for our shared readership, please forgive the inevitable repetition!) It was wonderful to see Laura and Jer -- we miss them so much back here in GR -- and to establish an accurate image of their new city and apartment in my mind. The six of us wandered together, cooked together and laughed together. Because of shared values, loves and experiences, comfort in this community runs deep, and that is a very beautiful thing. Community itself is a very beautiful thing. Yes, it is hard to establish and to maintain, and it really is kind of a crazy endeavor, but oh! how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Then, on Sunday, Sarah, Lindsay, Taylor and I journeyed to the Rogers Park neighborhood to visit a wonderful community coffee shop called The Common Cup.

We loved it. Clearly.

As we drove through the city towards the coffee shop in North Chicago, past row houses and old architectural beauty, rundown neighborhoods brightened by community gardens and people on sidewalks under buildings market by graffiti, I was overcome by a desire to go and, once there, to stay, to invest in a place, sinking my feet in deep and being part of it, cultivating hope and making things more beautiful. I hungered for adventure and change and envelopment in something bigger and more powerful than I am. I was drawn not to any specific street in Rogers Park or to any particular place at all, really, but rather to the act of jumping into life completely and without abandon or fear or hesitation, immersing myself fully its enormity and overwhelming complexity.

And as I felt all of this, I wondered where it all came from, these firm beliefs about and desires for community and city and place and intentionality that course so deep and so fiercely within me now.

And then I wondered what to do with all of it.

I was somewhat overwhelmed, to be honest. I want so much from life, and I hadn't realized this before. I want so many experiences; I want such depth of feeling and passion. I want complexity and difficulty and unpredictability, because that is what is real. I want to get dirty, to run as fast as I can straight into the mess of humanity and its intersections with space and environment and God and to live right in the middle of all of it, forever, until I die. I want to reach out with hands cupped together tightly, to fill them with water and to drink deep of life, renegade drops splashing my eyes and soaking the front of my shirt.

But though I want so much, I am so small. It is hard some days to fit my dreams within a world that necessitates money and health insurance, a world of broken structures that complicate the path. And yet, I am hopeful, because although I remain unsure of what my very near future holds, I realize that whatever comes will be beautiful. Staying would be beautiful. Leaving would be beautiful also. Wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I can and will drink deep of life and settle right into its tangled center.

This weekend refreshed my spirit and renewed my vision for life. And if that wasn't enough, there was Ethiopian food, a trip to Trader Joe's, innovation and the casting of dreams, relational problem solving, seeking ways to change the world and giving thanks for grace.

In closing, a reminder to do your part to save the world: recyle.
Ahem... pardon, recycle. Thanks, Sarah.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

happiness. yes.

Today, I am happy.

In this season of my life, I am happy.

And it is really good to be happy.

But I am realizing, more and more all the time, that happiness does not result from today being what it is or from this season of my life being what it is or from any one influence in my life. Happiness comes when I choose it, when I look for reasons to be happy and wrap my fingers tightly around them, when I pull them up and lift them high above my head, when I open my hand so that the light falls on them and no one, not me or anyone else, can deny their existence.

This is nothing profound or new, not at all. But it's what I am learning in this coursing, continuous life, the one unmarked by exams and due dates and semester breaks, the one in which I make choices for significant periods of time and consider jobs that have no date of completion... you know, my great-big-real-world adult life. I want it to be a happy life, and I am learning that it can be happy, regardless of the good and the bad and the otherwise of what happens within it.

I could choose to look at the frustrations, at the confusion of the moment or the uncertainty of the future or that fact that life is kind of ridiculous. Because, of course, it is not all rosy here: I spent a recent afternoon hour in tears on the telephone with my mother because I am so confused about my next steps. I really miss my sister and brother-in-law and all of my friends that have moved away. I will need to find a new place to live and go about the awful business of moving once again come January, whether I stay in GR or go elsewhere. I cannot seem to catch all of the genius mice that live here in my flat, the mice that keep on reproducing their genes of brilliance, increasing the population of really intelligent, not-fooled-by-traps-of-any-sort mice and causing me to fear that one day the ceiling will break open and the whole colony of thousands and thousands of genius mice will run squeaking through my home, like that scene in Ratatouille where the rats pour out of the old woman's ceiling and she shoots them with her rifle (though, of course, I wouldn't reenact that part).

Now, I do see those things, the frustrations and the sadness and the confusion. I would be being dishonest with myself if I ignored them. But then I look deeper. Instead of dwelling on these things or basing my happiness on life turning out ever-shiny and bright and easy, I am looking for the reasons for happiness, reasons that are always there, regardless of the state of my life in any one moment.

And yes, things have been relatively calm for the last several weeks and far less tumultuousness resides in my mind and heart today than did two months ago. I do have a quiet flat for the weekend, void of roommates, in which I can turn up George Winston's December album (too soon for Christmas? no. never. more on that later.), sink into my chair by the window, drink my strong black coffee and rest and think. This month did bring -- finally! -- routine in my job and an income that pays the bills and possibilities for the future. And I do have particularly wonderful friends and family and live in a particularly lovely city.

But I could choose to see or ignore all of that. And I could choose to see or ignore the wonder of a campfire on the beach in mid-November... the beauty of the many kinds of squash on display at the farmers' market... the humor in my dad's insistance on converting every moment of my visit home last weekend into celebration of his birthday... the simple joy in making fresh-from-the-bog-cranberry salad and cranberry bread with my mom in her bright, clean kitchen while home... the tremendous peace and truth that seep into my soul whenever I am with my dear friend Nicole, one of the most incredible and wise women I know... the wholesomeness of the food she and I ate together at Gaia this afternoon...

And I choose to see.

Nothing new, nothing complex, nothing I haven't talked about here before. But today, I am filled with joy and peace, and I didn't want to keep it to myself.

Welcome Morning
by Anne Sexton

There is joy
in all:
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
each morning,
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
each morning,
in the spoon and the chair
that cry "hello there, Anne"
each morning,
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
each morning

All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
each morning
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.

So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.

The Joy that isn't shared, I've heard,
dies young.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

tranquility, friendship and banana bread

A few Saturdays ago, desiring a bit of tranquility and peace, Sarah, Nick, Taylor and I made plans to gather that evening at Nick and Taylor's house to sink into the couches in the front room of the house with glasses of red wine in our hands, reading and writing by the glow of candles and the dim light of a lamp, classical music swirling about us and brisk fall winds blowing on the other side of the windows.

It really was a fabulous idea.

The only thing that could make the evening more lovely, I felt, would be some kind of baked good. But not just any old baked good. Banana bread. With dark chocolate and bits of crystallized ginger.

I had long ago discovered this recipe both on Molly Wizenberg's blog and in her book, and it seemed it would be a fitting addition to the evening... a bread made dense and sweet with ripe bananas, slivers of chocolate melting in each bite and spicy undertones of ginger throughout. Yes, this would be perfect indeed.

I always have this desire to bake for gatherings with friends. A key element of my food philosophy (more on this another day) is the idea of nourishment. I love preparing food for others because it is an incredibly basic way of showing them I care for them by investing time and energy into something that nourishes their bodies and souls... enabling life to continue. For whatever reason, I find this sense of caring for others through food particularly strong when baking, maybe because we knead bread with our hands or because dessert is an "unnecessary" luxury or because of Christmas cookies and homemade bread with soup on cold days and freshly baked cookies as only mothers make them.

But whatever the reason, I wanted to bake banana bread.

I whipped up the batter for the bread at home, borrowed a pan from those gracious men as I so often do, slid the borrowed pan into the borrowed oven and joined my friends in the living room, pulling a blanket around my toes and writing away in my journal.

An hour later, when our quiet reading/writing endeavors had transitioned into conversation about the environment and saving the world (as per the usual) and the house had filled with the sweet aroma of the baking bread, Taylor and I ventured into the kitchen.

I pulled the bread out of the oven. It looked lovely, the top lightly browned and cracked. I placed it on the stovetop to cool for a few minutes as Taylor and I talked. As we had no cooling rack (and I don't judge; we don't have a cooling rack in my kitchen either!), we decided to tip it out onto those metal grates over the burners on the stovetop instead. Still talking cheerily with Taylor, I tipped the bread.

Although what happened next is still a blur, I do know for certain that it was not pretty nor graceful.

The bottom of the loaf stayed firmly attached to the pan. The middle was goop and oozed around the more solid pieces that had broken off, seeping out of the pan and between the grates of the stovetop.

Remember what I said about nourishment and caring for others through baking? In that moment, my heart dropped. The symbol of my affection for my friends was spreading across the stovetop in a sticky, oozing mess.

I stood frozen, holding the hot pan in its halfway-tipped position and making various noises of helplessness and distress. Taylor was the first to move, and I quickly emerged from my paralysis to join him in awkwardly attempting to salvage the part of the loaf that remained in one piece, to return the goop and solid bits of bread to the pan, to clean the stovetop, to do something. After several unsuccessful attempts at preservation, Taylor grabbed a spoon from the counter.

I stood in front of the oven, mournfully staring at the situation before me. My bread was ruined. And ugly. My friends' stovetop was a mess. I was an awful nourish-er.

And then I noticed that Taylor, done trying to salvage or clean, had begun eating the gooey insides of the bread off of the stovetop with his spoon. He was grinning. I paused for just a moment. Then, laughing, I reached for a spoon and joined him.

We piled the broken and soft pieces of bread back into the pan and returned to the living room with a stack of spoons. Sitting around the low coffee table on our knees, the four of us and David, another of Nick and Taylor's housemates, polished off the entire loaf of bread, the hot, melted chocolate dribbling from our spoons.

Nick told me confidently that it was better this way than it could have possibly been otherwise.

It could have been a disaster. If I had been alone in my house, making something to take with me to a dinner gathering or a party, I would have been depressed and disappointed. But instead, the moment of panic was brief, and as soon as I saw Taylor with spoon in hand, I knew it would be fine. More than fine.

You see, my friends, this is part of the purpose that community serves, to take an event that might otherwise be construed as disaster and make it into beauty.

And my love is messy anyway. This misshapen and unattractive loaf of bread probably offered a more true metaphor than any perfectly textured scone or delicately arched cake ever could.

I knew immediately that I wanted to share this story and this recipe with you here, but I also wanted to attain more conventional success with the recipe before posting it. Various factors may have contributed to the outcome of that first attempt: a very thick pan, the particular combination of flours I used or the amount of time I waited before removing the bread from the pan. In my second attempt, I used a slightly different version of the recipe, a thinner pan and a simpler combination of flours, and I waited a good 10-15 minutes before attempting removal from the pan.

This second attempt produced a (more traditionally) beautiful and equally (?) delicious loaf of bread. Cut into thick slices, seven of us shared it, moaning at its goodness (yet exercising enough restraint this time to even leave a good-sized piece for me to enjoy the following day). But if I'm being completely honest, I may have enjoyed it most in its half-solid, half-gooey form, eaten with spoons and joy in disaster converted...

Either way, this is incredible bread. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table (Note: My first attempt more closely followed Molly's earlier version of the recipe, posted here on her blog, Orangette.)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups flour (I used white whole wheat)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 - 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped up bar of chocolate)
1/3 cup or more chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (about three large) mashed ripe bananas
1/4 cup plain yogurt (despite a warning in the recipe, I used nonfat, and it worked just fine)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 9- by 5-inch loaf pan.

Microwave the butter until just melted and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate and ginger; mix well to combine. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, butter and vanilla and mix well. Pour this wet mixture into the dry one, stirring gently with a spatula until just combined. Make sure all flour is incorporated, but don't worry if the batter is lumpy and thick. Pour the batter into the greased pan.

Bake 50 minutes - 1 hour. The bread should be a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. If loaf is browning too quickly, tent it with tin foil.

Cool the bread in the pan for 5 minutes (or longer, all things considered). Tip it out (preferably onto a wire rack, but make do as necessary). Let it cool, but not for too long, as this bread is wonderful warm!

Bring your friends around, eat and enjoy. And if your bread falls apart or isn't quite done, don't worry. Just get the spoons.

Yield: about 8 servings (that is, if you exercise self-control...)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

oh the possibilities!

Everything. is happening. at once.

I do not know what is going on with my future. And I speak of the relatively immediate future, the one that starts around January 1. Honestly, several (3) job/place possibilities, none of them certain options, all of them quite appealing but for very different reasons, all of them at once.

I unloaded all of this on a friend tonight who, poor man, just came by the flat to pick up a pot. I loved how he responded, though, after pausing a moment to think: "at least things aren't staying the same."

True. Nothing stagnant here. And things are moving in directions that make sense, even if there are several directions in which they are moving. It's not just chaos or cloudy water anymore. So I resolve to be thankful that things are not staying the same... life is interesting and exciting, full of hope and always unpredictable.

And as I always always say, in this also we find beauty. If only we will stop shielding our vision in hopes that ignorance truly is bliss, stop running so fast propelled by our fear that the world becomes a blur, stop staring at ourselves in the mirror out of selfishness and vanity and just stand still with our eyes open wide, we will be overcome by the beauty.

See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.
(Isaiah 42:9)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

be the ground lying under that sky (reflections on agency and a poem)

Sometime during the development of my feminist sensibilities, I discovered the concept of agency. And oh, what a wonderful word, what a brilliant and beautiful concept. Agency, as a feminist theoretical notion, refers to the fact that we as human beings have the freedom and ability to act and thus to overcome social pressures, stereotypes, inequality and so on to gain (more) equal power and value in society. This proves important in feminist thought because our agency can be overlooked or taken from us, as it often has been for women -- and when this occurs, it must be reclaimed.

Now because we have agency, we have hope. Yes, difficult circumstances and oppression do affect us, but at the same time, we have the capability and the freedom to push back and to make things different. Speaking specifically, then, of women, I do believe that even our oh-so-developed Western society is oppressive and sexist, ideologically and practically and institutionally. But I also believe that all of us have agency. We do not have to sit and passively resign ourselves to the current condition of our society.

What a notion. I love it.

And this concept of agency ties right into the Christian concept of free will. The last thing I want to do here is to jump into a deep theological discussion of free will and predestination (heavens no!), but I do want to make the connection: agency is a biblical concept as well as a feminist one. God gives us free will; we are not puppets on strings.

You might be asking why I bring this up tonight, so let me now tie this feminist/biblical notion into my life at present. As of the weekend, I had started feeling at peace about a certain possibility for my future. For one brief moment, I thought I knew what was right -- what I wanted, even. On Monday afternoon, however, the content of two unexpected emails completely negated that moment of peace. I found that I know nothing, not a thing. I found that I am afraid of things I thought I didn't fear. I found that the future remains encased in shadow.

And this happens every time, doesn't it? Things fit together; things come apart. Every once in awhile, life stops being confusing and complicated, but just for a split second, and then -- poof! -- the stability is gone.

As I was bemoaning the rebirth of my uncertainty, I began thinking about agency and free will, concepts that usually seem so wonderful to me. I love that God has given us freedom and responsibility, and I love the hope that agency provides in bleak circumstances, but how absolutely terrifying. If I'm being honest, often I just want open and closed doors, black like night and white like a dove, lines in the sand, letters carved in tree trunks and words traced out in the clouds. Tonight is one of those times. Tonight, I want security and answers and stability. Tonight, I am so afraid of my agency.

But I am not one to let fear stand in my way, and I hope that the same is true of you. So join me, dear ones, and let us grasp this agency, this free will, this beautiful freedom that we have, even when we are afraid.

This weekend, a dear friend scribbled the following poem on the back of a pair of receipts and passed it along to me, telling me she thought I would appreciate it. I liked it very much when first I read it, but it strikes even more deeply tonight. I hope it means something to you also.

Dich wundert nicht des Sturmes Wucht
by Rainer Maria Rilke

You are not surprised at the force of the storm--
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee. Their flight
sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:
he whom they flee is the one
you move toward. All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.

The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees' blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back
into the source of everything. You thought
you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.

Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain. Now
the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.

Friday, October 23, 2009

small things.

Too much time has lapsed since my last posting. My apologizes. My sister noted this today, and as she now has (at least part) ownership of two blogs that stay quite up to date and as she is, after all, my sister and dearest friend, she is more than entitled to kick me into gear whenever necessary. So thank you, sister of mine; this was the nudge I needed to just sit down and start typing, to choose one of the many thoughts swirling through my mind and pin it down in words on this page.

So many very small but very beautiful things have happened in my life as of late. This has provoked some good thinking and reflecting, and what I have come to is this: life, though we hesitate to say it straightforwardly, is unpredictable and tumultuous and often strange and just downright hard... but in the midst of the struggle and confusion, there are many small moments of beauty bringing hope and joy. And in this big, strange, confusing life, it is these small moments that carry us through.

This latest season of my life has been the most confusing and uncertain that I have yet experienced, but these small moments remind me that life is a wondrous and worthwhile thing... and not just in spite of everything but rather because of everything... because beauty glimmers through the cracks of the brokenness and dirtiness and imperfection of our lives. So I thought that I would share with you some of the beauty I have experienced:
[A SIMPLE ACT] One rainy day, while grocery shopping at Harvest Health, I ran into a professor from my dear alma mater. I never took a class from him, nor does he teach in any of my areas of concentration, but I know him from various interactions on campus and around town. We paused to talk; I admired his beautiful baby, who he affectionately calls Beetle, and he asked what I was up to these days. I explained my part-time job and yet-unsuccessful search for a second job, and after a short but lovely conversation, we both continued on in search of grains in bulk and ingredients for vegan baking. As I checked out, he paused en route to the door, reaching into his shopping bag and taking out a cookie (and not just a cookie, mind you, but a very good vegan cookie). Handing it to me, my wonderful professor friend said, "This is from Beetle. Good luck finding that second job." He disappeared out the door. I held back the sudden urge to burst into tears. The whole world felt kinder.
[UNANTICIPATED CARE] My job at CBI expanded significantly as of this week, which is a tremendous blessing as I can sustain myself financially with these increased hours plus freelance writing/editing/etc. And the smaller -- but no less significant -- moment of beauty was this: when my supervisor, an incredibly kind woman who had been keeping up with my second job search and praying for me throughout, heard that my job had expanded (the additional hours are in another area of the organization), she was absolutely thrilled, nearly to tears. And this from a woman I've known for just a month.
[COMMUNITY] A friend of a friend's family has a farm and presses apple cider every fall, and several friends and I joined them for this lovely event a few weekends ago. The day was filled with the beautiful community of a group of strangers, small children unabashedly expressing the amazement we all felt at the magic of the wondrous old cider press, freezing fall winds and brightly colored leaves, homemade pumpkin bread and donuts and spicy vegetarian chili, copious amounts of cider and, of course, my beautiful friends.

[FRIENDSHIP] My once-housemate and very dear friend E was in town last weekend for a wedding, accompanied by the wonderful Larry, and we met on Saturday morning for a lengthy brunch at Marie Catrib's (note: favorite. restaurant. ever.). E is a beautiful human being; she makes me feel more alive. Larry is one of the kindest, most genuine men I know. Amazing food, hot coffee, good conversation. Beautiful. And then one of my closest friends from back home appeared here that same weekend; Kevin is traveling with and running video for a concert tour. Spending time with him encouraged my soul and threw me back to our high school days, where I found some lovely memories I had forgotten about. And then I observed him in action, and I was so proud. I love seeing my friends doing exciting things in the great big world.
[ART] One night during ArtPrize (which was wonderful all around -- good work Grand Rapids), I left the public library and turned the corner to see the mosaic on the side of the Children's Museum shimmering in the darkness, sparks of light darting from the tiny mirrored tiles and twinkling in the quiet street. Magical.
[FAMILY] My parents came to visit for no reason in particular, and they are fabulous people. My mother is immeasurably kind. My dad is hilarious. They love so well. And they came bearing sweaters I had forgotten I owned and thick winter socks to keep my toes warm as the temperature drops.
[FOOD] My recent baking endeavors have been successful, though not always conventionally successful... which ultimately made them all the more wonderful... more details to come.
You see, my friends, these small moments make all the difference in this complicated life. A cookie for encouragement, the bustle of community, art that speaks of hope, the mere presence of a friend, good food eaten with loved ones, warm clothes for the coming cold, fall leaves and apple cider... This is how I carry on.

So I am sitting here in my room in our little flat while blustering winds blow outside and raindrops gently patter on the windows, cuddled up in two warm sweaters, smelling the lingering scent of coffee mingled with traces of the delicata squash I roasted for dinner and listening to Rosie Thomas singing peace into my ear.

And I know all will be well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

i write.

I have been writing all day/week. Just not here. Sorry. And what have I been writing, you ask?
1 -- Newsletter for Au Sable (I freelance!)

2 -- The 40-year history of Baxter Community Center, summarized succinctly and poetically in approximately 3 pages, along with accompanying stories and quotations (I volunteer!)
And allllll the copy is due on Friday.


Oh, and one more:
3 -- Random articles for Crossroad Bible Institute when I am not processing lessons and lessons and lessons (I work! For someone that has me on payroll!)
When 1 and 2 are complete, I will write for you and me again, my friends. Until then, think on this, some wisdom from our friend Frederick Buechner:
Here is the world.

things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.

Friday, October 9, 2009

functioning oven, poppyseed cookies and living gracefully

All of my posts thus far have been relatively serious, so on a lighter note, let me tell you two very good things that happened approximately a week ago:

1. Handyman Dave came and fixed the oven.
2. We turned on the heat in the flat.

I was so happy.

Let's talk about the oven. Our oven has been out of commission since the very start of the summer. It has been awful. The saga began with the pilot light being out. This seems like it should be easy to deal with, but it was not. First, a neighbor of mine lit it briefly, but the following morning ALL of the pilot lights (oven and stovetop) were out. Even Taylor, lying on the kitchen floor in his work clothes and reaching matches back into the depths of our oven, could not light it. And Taylor is good at these sorts of things. So finally Landlord Man sent Handyman Dave, who lit the pilot light but apparently did not check to make sure the oven worked. Because it did not. And then by this time, I was discouraged and frustrated, and I thought I was moving out at the end of the summer, so I just let it ago.

But when I realized I was staying, I was bound and determined to have that oven functioning. As Landlord Man was not all that responsive when the chimney fell off the house earlier this summer, I didn't expect a lot, but he was actually very responsive this time. But then again, I was quite firm. (As another result of this firmness, he has also now dedicated himself to the task of helping us catch our squadron of mice. But that's a story for another day.)

So last Friday, Handyman Dave (who is really not only knowledgeable but also very kind) came over and banged around under the oven for awhile and then informed me that it was fixed. As he explained to me and I now repeat to you, in my layperson terminology and probably quite inaccurately, there was gunk on the small pipe that the gas flows through to get to the big pipe where something else gets lit, at which point the newly lit thing, whatever it is, makes a whooshing sound and heats up the oven.

He knocked the gunk off the pipe.

There was whooshing.

There was heat.

I was thrilled.

Now, two good things did result from our oven being broken for this long, sad time. First, I now have a much better understand of gas appliances in general and our stove in particular. And second, I learned to be very resourceful in my cooking. I cooked many a thing on the stovetop this summer. I was particularly proud of my successful use of a skillet on the stovetop (rather than a pan in the oven) to roast tomatoes and to roast spiced chickpeas. I may not have been as innovative as my sister, but then again, she's pretty brilliant.


But I couldn't bake. No scones, no muffins, no bread. And you cannot roast a butternut squash in a skillet on the stovetop. At least I don't think you can.

However, now the oven works! So as soon as I felt I could trust it, I baked. Constrained by a lack of baking ingredients, I perused my cookbooks until I found this recipe for poppyseed cookies in a little green book called The Peaceful Cook, written by Harriet Kolfalk in 1991. My sister got this book secondhand and then passed it on to me a year or so ago. (As a note, I must mention that my sister and I agree that the book takes the concepts of holistic living and interconnectedness further than we are comfortable with, but the recipes within are unique, healthful, seasonal and focused on whole foods. Good stuff.)

These cookies are soft and somewhat crumbly, just slightly sweet and with a faint crunch from the poppyseeds. My friend Abby said that they reminded her of scones; I think I'll try that next I return to this recipe.

Poppyseed Cookies for Celebration and Graceful Living
Adapted from The Peaceful Cook

1/2 cup skim milk
2/3 cup poppyseeds
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon extract

Heat oven (!!!) to 350°.

In a saucepan, heat milk to nearly boiling. Remove from heat and stir in poppyseeds and raisins. Set aside.

Mix dry ingredients together. Cream butter until smooth; add honey, vanilla and lemon. Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients. Fold in poppyseed mixture. (You may need to add a bit more flour as I did at this point if your dough is overly wet.)

Drop small spoonfuls onto buttered cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until cookies are light brown at the edges.

Yield: about 3 dozen small cookies

Here author Harriet would insert some comment about harmony with nature through poppyseeds. I do like harmony. But today I just say this: Let the cookies cool. Eat. Enjoy. Be thankful for your oven. Be thankful in general.

That's the final thing I want to touch on today. Aforementioned friend Abby and I were talking earlier this week about being in this strange phase of life that we've found ourselves in and being confused and discouraged and disoriented. I had been frustrated about something, but with fierce independence, I said to Abby that I can handle this. I can. I can handle a lot of things, and I can take it, whatever it may be.

But wise Abby reminded me that actually, everyone "handles things." As long as we continue living, that is what we are doing. And so people handle tragedy, the death of those they love, cancer, unemployment, homelessness, depression, disappointment, betrayal... but sometimes they handle these things poorly.

So yes, of course I can deal with the situations I am in. The question is not if I can handle things (as they are and will be) but rather how I will handle them. Will I do so gracefully... or no?

I want to handle things gracefully.

But I don't always do a fabulous job of this. I think that at many times in the last few weeks in particular, I've been very far from graceful. And I apologize, flatmates, dear friends, family, all you who have had to deal with me being so clumsy. I'm working on regaining my balance, being stable, living as if I am dancing, figuring out what it means to be graceful when being graceful is so hard. Feel free to keep me accountable... but also please be patient.

Summary: The nice handyman fixed the oven, and we turned on our heat. I felt thankful. I made cookies. The thankfulness continued. I realized that life is not about just handling what comes my way but about doing that well. I decided that I need to live more gracefully.

And there it is. If I forget, I'll just go make some more cookies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

love is a miracle. seriously, people.

Disclaimer: The following does not relate to any one circumstance in my own life or that of anyone else but rather to the cohesive whole of all of my experiences and observations. Point being, don't read into this or try to figure out who I'm talking about, because I'm telling you now: I'm talking about the whole world. And everyone in it.

Tonight, my friends, I present one of my more brilliant (?) observations of late, something very simple but also true and worth at least a moment or two of pondering. Here it is:

For two people to (1) fall in love (2) with each other (3) at the same time (4) to even somewhere near the same degree... this is pretty near to a miracle.

This is like magic.

Really, though, how likely is that to actually happen??? All of these things, all at the same time? Not likely. Not likely at all. And I'm a realist in my (still persistent) romantic sensibilities; I am not talking about perfection, and I know well that any relationship necessitates significant work. But still. We should be shocked that it EVER happens.

Now on the one hand, this observation makes genuine love coursing back and forth between two people stop me in my tracks with its beauty. But the whole thing also just makes my heart ache. I know what it feels like to be in those other, more typical situations, in the more likely event that only one person has fallen, the timing is off or the levels of attachment are entirely unequal. I have been the person offering unrequited affection and the person not requiting the affection of another, and, as most of us know well, neither one is pleasant. And this is happening all the time, all around me, and people ache and hurt just for this crazy, inexplicable thing that is love.

I'm not trying to be cynical; I just want to keep things in perspective. For me personally, at this moment in my life, I cannot even imagine tumbling into a relationship in which the aforementioned points (even mostly) line up, and I don't want to forget feeling this way. If ever this kind of loving happens in my life, I do not want to take it for granted.

So we cannot expect this sensical, non-chaotic relationality as we so readily tend to... but let’s please be thankful and in awe when it happens. Hear that, all you folks in (even relatively) happy, committed relationships? Remember what a crazy, beautiful, unlikely thing it is that you are where you are, with that person you are with. How ever did this happen when all the cards seem stacked against? I know it's not perfect; of course it isn't perfect. Nothing is without its degree of brokenness. But even so... what magic!

Love. Really. Oh, what a world we live in.

Friday, October 2, 2009

good/bad (this is life).


A few nights ago, I went on the most wonderful run, and oh yes, my friends, it is fall indeed. As I ran, the wind whisked through the leaves, leaves colored green to yellow to orange to red like fire, and I could hear the trees creaking in that erie way they do when the cold settles deep inside of them like it settles now already in my bones. I ran past a football field and thought of being sixteen and caught up in that strange and completely different world that is high school (thank God it's over). Canadian geese honked loudly in the distance as I passed Reed's Lake, bringing to mind nights at the wetlands in Midland with my dad when I was young; I never loved it quite as much as he or my sister did but was drawn in whatever small way to something in nature and thrilled to make my dad so happy just for having come. I ran down these streets that I've run down so many times before, past houses and down sidewalks whose shapes have become so familiar, and the smell of fall nearly overwhelmed me...

For whatever strange reason, after a day that seemed rather inconsequential, happiness was overwhelming me as well. And the mystery of changing seasons and the memories bombarding me and the hope of the future threw me into this strange place of beauty and I felt so deeply that the world is new the world is new the world is new.

And then the next day started so well. I went to the farmers' market (which, as many of you already know, is one of my most favorite things in the entire world), and the farmers were all bundled up and my toes were cold and I wandered through with the handful of other people that come out to sparsely populate the Wednesday morning market. I bought apples and tomatoes and zucchini and eggplant and onions for my house and talked to one of my favorite farmers, a darling old man with surprisingly straight, white teeth who I first bonded with early this summer over the beauty of swiss chard. I went to breakfast alone at Gaia, and it was warm and wonderful and peaceful. I talked to the waitress and listened to the rapid flurry of Spanish bouncing between two Puerto Rican men and a little girl sitting up by the window and wrote and drank a copious amount of coffee.

And I was feeling relatively, surprisingly positive about life in general.


Then I went to work, job 2, nonprofit 2, currently part-time/temporary but with promise of becoming part-time/not temporary. At the end of a few mundane-but-not-so-bad hours of sorting and filing, I found out that the possibility of the job becoming more permanent had lessened significantly.

And suddenly I did not feel quite so positive about life in general.

None of this should have been surprising. I knew, first of all, that things weren't completely settled in my life, and they never will be because life just isn't that way. And for weeks now, I have been telling people that I think that this phase of life I am entering into is one in which things will remain in flux, up in the air, shifting constantly. Whatever happens next, I realized mid-summer, is very unlikely to be a full-time job. With health benefits. Check back in a few years, and even then don't count on it. I've become quite okay with this.

And yet. And yet, I am tired, I am tired of being tired, I am tired of being confused, I am tired of the puzzle pieces of my life not fitting together. (Yes, Kyle VZ, don't you worry, Old Stacy will never go away completely.)

And this is the thing: loosening our grip on our lives, choosing peace (thank you Ryan), knowing that life is hard and crazy but choosing to enjoy living anyway... these are things we must do every day. Of course it's still hard. Of course things are still uncertain. I have to throw up my hands and give it all over, every day.

As part of my job at Crossroad Bible Institute (part-time job 1), I read through the Bible studies completed by our students, who are currently in the US prison system (more description of this job later). Yesterday, I read the following in one man's prayer:

"Le entrego todas mis cargas, mis angustias, pesares, anhelos, deseos, planes, mi vida, mi ser y que sea lo que Dios quiera." (More or less, "I give him all of my burdens, my distress, grief, yearnings, desires, plans, my life, my being and that it may be what God wants.")

All of it? Wow. But yes, all of it. I give him all of it today, I'll probably need to do it again in an hour or so and tomorrow I'll do it again. And to really mean this is terrifying, but it's the only right option. So may it -- all of it -- be what he wants.

And I know even now that it will be good, and it will be bad. May I choose to enjoy living, regardless.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

changing seasons.

Hello there, dear readers, and welcome to my (new) blog!

As I sat down to write a terribly belated post for my old blog this afternoon, I felt disheartened by the fact that my posting there has been so very spotty and perturbed by the resulting randomness of my writing. ALSO, due to my minimal and inconsistent posting, last summer’s posts appear on the same page as this summer’s posts (ahem... pardon me, post), and so I once again found myself bemoaning my less-articulate, not-quite-as-mature, only-one-year-younger-but-still-clearly-younger self.

And I was just not in the mood to begin yet another post with an apology for my lack of diligence and sincere-but-tired promises to write more faithfully.

So I decided that I would begin afresh! And what better time than now? I have burst out of that clear and structured pathway that is the pursuit of a four-year undergraduate degree at Calvin College and into this great big beautiful chaotic wonder of a world. I am learning so much and finding out how very little I know. I haven’t a clue what the future holds, and let me just say, I am FINISHED trying to figure that out. (Because I can’t.) So here we are, my officially post-collegiate, (becoming) grown-up blog.

At the beginning of the summer, on the old blog, I listed my reasons for returning to this whole blogging business. For posterity’s sake, I list them again:
  1. I want to communicate better and stay more closely in touch with those that I love.
  2. I said, over and over, that when I graduated from college, I would write for myself, for pleasure, for practice, for the shear joy and beauty and growth that come through writing. Not to fulfill requirements, achieve the “right” GPA, please professors or impress conference panels... just to write.
So that’s why I’m here. To share with you, and to write for me. This will be more than just a running update on my life, which would be something more in the spirit of my adolescent diaries, and we don’t want that, trust me. I WILL give those updates, fear not, extended family and long-lost friends, but I also plan to reflect on life, on this journey of faith, on passions of mine such as justice, food and feminism and on whatever else begs reflection. And we will see how this evolves along the way.

On another day, I will summarize in more detail what I am doing these days, but in brief, to tide you over until then: I am still in Grand Rapids, I still live in the Eastown flat with the twins (along with the addition of a new roommate) and I have a (part-time) job (!!!) for which I couldn’t possibly be more thankful. All of this will last at least through December, an amount of stability that the woman I refer to as the new Stacy finds incredible. (She is much more flexible and significantly less concerned with plans than the old Stacy.) I think that I am close to securing part-time job number two and am possibly looking for part-time job number three. Everything is more complicated and harder than it used to be, but in the complexity there is beauty and depth and reality. In the end, I wouldn't want it any other way.

And it’s officially fall. I’m finding crazy-new hope in this. A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend of mine that works at Baxter Community Center, the local nonprofit where I worked this summer. At that time, I felt as though everything in my life was up in the air; everything was chaos. I was unemployed. I had been, until just a few days before, on the brink of homelessness. The relationship that I had been in (with, for the record, a really wonderful man who remains a very good friend) had just ended. I was detailing this list for what felt like the hundredth time, trying to be cheerful but feeling kind of awful. And my friend responded by marveling at how the changes in our lives so often coincide with the changing of the seasons. She said that when she sees this, she thinks, praise God, he’s bringing change in my life also. And she told me that she was excited for me. Now I’ll be honest, that blew me away. Excited? No, no, this is not exciting. In concept maybe: oh look at the great big beautiful open future! Anything could happen! Anything!! However, I needed to pay the rent and buy food. And I was sad. And nothing made sense. But this dear friend of mine somehow managed to infuse my spirit with hope. Things are ending, things are changing, but something is coming...

Something is coming. And so I open my arms, open my heart, open my mind, and welcome this new season with hope.

Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
--Frederick Buechner