The dog days of summer are upon us, and I’ve definitely reached that point of the season when I’m so looking forward to the next that I can honestly admit that I’m just about ready to fast forward to August and a new semester. I am in fact a nerd and do actually enjoy school and busy schedules. This summer has been one of mental, spiritual, and physical recharging (i.e. sleeping incredibly more than I do Aug-May), trying to save up some funds, falling back in love with making music, diving into new and unexpected friendships that have marked my life forever (needing an entire post of their own), and of course tackling dental school applications and soon interviews (more exciting news on that to come!). Today I was trying to finish up my last Shauna Niequist read (if you’ve missed my past posts over the last year you should know that she is my soul sister and basically me in twenty years – I dream of having dinner at her table one day), Cold Tangerines – with a side of cold brew coffee -and the chapter titled “Writing in Pencil” resonated so deeply with me. She basically highlights the [not always sunshine-and-roses] adventure that is discovering the difference between our seemingly immovable plans and God’s always-surprising yet perfect paths we end up on. This summer is definitely one of those interim times of future-oriented thinking as I try to wrap my brain around how different my life (and bank account) could look the next four to ten years based on where I end up getting accepted and attending school after college. This road is ever-changing and every day I feel like God has something new to reveal to me about where He’s leading. I had a friend a few weeks ago put it in a new light, though, that really changed my previous view of “I just want to go where God wants me to go.” He said that God only wants to give us the deepest desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4-5 happens to be one of my favorite verses in the Bible) and that He is not only walking in front of us “leading us”, but right beside us and also behind us, nudging us to take the path we really want to (if it is a desire He has placed on our heart). He gives us new dreams for our lives and wants nothing for us but to thrive along the way of seeing those dreams become a reality. We are truly IN Christ and Christ is IN us, so can we ever really lose? Nope. I realized that no matter where I ultimately decide to go, I can’t really make the “wrong” decision. The point is not if I end up in Texas, Colorado, or the East Coast, it’s that anywhere I am, God will be there with me, molding and shaping me into who He has created me to be in THIS season and each season to follow. So I can sit here and think my life will look like ______ in five years (think something like starting an OMFS residency, most certainly not married yet, living in a “cozy” city apartment with a dog), but more than likely I could be beyond surprised by the goodness of God to make it look entirely different from my stubborn plans. I’m so thankful that “life with God is a daring dream, full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we’ve said we’ll never do,” and that “with the surprises comes great hope.” Here’s to putting down the permanent marker and picking up a pencil, open to erasures and edits from an Author writing the best version of our lives we never saw coming.
I just finished reading my second book by my new-found favorite author – Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. I wish I could do another collection of all my favorite quotes from this book like I did for Bread and Wine, but this chapter in particular really stood out to the overachiever in me that makes me think that for some reason I can do it all, all the time. Enjoy this little excerpt, and go buy her books!
“A few years ago, at the very end of my frantic twenties, I was working more than full-time, all the while pricked with invisible needles of dissatisfaction, waking up in the night longing to write, buzzing through the days on coffee and adrenaline, wearing clothes that should have been taken to the dry cleaner six wearings ago. I was trying to think about becoming a mother. I knew it would change everything, but I couldn’t picture it, because no one ever can. I couldn’t see a way through to any other way of living, but I knew that there must be one. I saw women who were older than me, who did work they believed in and parented well, and, most surprisingly, didn’t seem nearly as frantic and chronically unkempt. I wanted what they had, and I had no idea how to get it.
I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I’m coming over for lessons.
Out to lunch one day with my friend Denise, I asked her about it. Denise is a mother of four, and a grandmother, and she works and writes and travels and cooks, and — most imporant to me at that time — she seems settled in some fundamental way. There’s something she knows about herself that I didn’t yet know about myself, certainly.
We were at the Blue Water Grill, on a beautiful lake, unless you’re from Grand Rapids, apparently, because then you know that it used to be a quarry, and to them it’s sort of like having lunch crater-side. But it’s beautiful to me, having only known it as a lake. We ate pesto pizza and spinach salad with red onion slivers and poppyseed dressing, and long after the food was cleared, we drank iced tea and watched the water.
And this is what Denise told me: she said it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about. Her words from that day have been rattling around inside me for years now, twisting around, whispering, taking shape. Since that time we’ve worked together, traveled together, cried together, but when I think of her, I will always think of that day, and the wind on the fake lake, and the clarity and weight of those words.
I’m a list-keeper. I always, always have a to-do list, and it ranges from the mundane: go to the dry cleaner, go to the post office, buy batteries; to the far-reaching: stop eating Henry’s leftover Dino Bites, get over yourself, forgive nasty reviewer, wear more jewelry.
At one point, I kept adding to the list, more and more items, more and more sweeping in their scope, until I added this line: DO EVERYTHING BETTER. It was, at the time, a pretty appropriate way to capture how I felt about my life and myself fairly often. It also explains why I tended to get so tired I’d cry without knowing why, why my life sometimes felt like I was running on a hamster wheel, and why I searched the faces of calmer, more grounded women for a secret they all knew that I didn’t. This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER.
Each of the three words has a particular flavor of poison all its own. Do: we know better than do, of course. We know that words like “be,” and “become,” and “try,” are a little less crushing and cruel, spiritually and psychologically, a little friendlier to the soul. But when we’re alone sometimes and the list is getting the best of us, we abandon all those sweet ideas, and we go straight to do, because do is power, push, aggression, plain old sweat equity. It’s not pretty, but we know that do gets the job done.
Everything is just a killer. Everything is the heart of the conversation for me, my drug of choice. Sure, I can host that party. Of course, I can bring that meal. Yes, I’d love to write that article. Yes, to everything.
This winter, I got the kind of tired that you can’t recover from, almost like something gets altered on a cellular level, and you begin to fantasize about what it would be like to just not be tired anymore. You don’t fantasize about money or men or the Italian Riviera. All you daydream about is not feeling exhausted, about neck muscles that don’t throb, about a mind that isn’t fogged every single day. I was talking to my husband about it in the car one night. I was complaining about being tired, but also bringing up the fact that lots of women travel and work and have kids. Everybody has a house to clean. Why can’t I pull it together?
He said, gently, ostensibly helpfully, something along the lines of “you know, honey, just because some other people can do all that, it doesn’t mean that you can or have to. Maybe it’s too much for you.”
One tiny, almost imperceptible beat of silence. And then I yelled, viscerally, from the depths of my soul, as though possessed, “I’M NOT WEAK!”
As soon as the words came out, we looked at each other in alarm. It seemed, perhaps, we’d hit upon the heart of something. One of my core fears is that someone would think I can’t handle as much as the next person. It’s fundamental to my understanding of myself for me to be the strong one, the capable one, the busy one, the one who can bail you out, not make a fuss, bring a meal, add a few more things to the list. For me, everything becomes a lifestyle. Everything is an addiction.
And then better. Better is a seductress. It’s so delicious to run after better, better, better.Better is what keeps some women decorating and redecorating the same house for years on end, because by the time you get the last detail of the finished basement home theater just right, your countertops are just ever so slightly outdated, and so you start again. Better is what makes us go to a spinning class — or maybe two, or maybe three today, just for good measure. Better is what makes us get “just a little work done,” after the last baby, you know, or just to look a little bit fresher and more well-rested. Better is a force.
The three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives. And I’m the one who wrote those words on my very own to-do list. I’m in a lot of trouble with my own self for that, because the “do everything better” way of living brought me to a terrible place: tired, angry, brittle, afraid, hollow. And Denise’s words keep ringing in my ears, a song I had heard in the distance, like steel drums across the water, a song I want desperately to hear again.
She was right. Deciding what I wanted wasn’t that hard. But deciding what I’m willing to give up for those things is like yoga for your superego, stretching and pushing and ultimately healing that nasty little person inside of you who exists only for what people think.
Things I Do:
Above all else, I try to keep my faith in Christ at the very center of my life, the heart and source of everything. I trust God’s voice as my guide and Christ as my comforter. I pray, I practice confession and forgiveness, and I seek to see the world through the eyes of its Creator, believing everything can be redeemed. I’m a part of my church community, volunteering on its behalf, and working to make a better city and a better world because of our church community.
I do everything I can to make my marriage a deeply connected partnership. I work hard at being a good partner to Aaron, to walk with him and hear him and learn with him.
I give the best of my day to raise my son, and I dream about being a mother to more children someday. For the record, though, I did not and do not do very many of those super-achiever-mom things, like making baby food from scratch. I think the baby food people are doing a very nice job making baby food, and I bought it at Target.
I work hard to become a better writer with each page. I want to tell the truth as best I can, to tell the story of God and who he is and what he does, both through the way I write and the way I live. I write and read, in airports and hotel rooms and coffee shops and in the little blue room in our house. I read novels and essays and magazines and cookbooks and the Bible, and I couldn’t live well without those things.
I live in daily, honest, intimate community with a small group of people. I give my time and energy and prayer to my immediate family and close friends. To a slightly wider circle of people,
I give them my love and friendship through intermittent emails and very occasional visits.
Our home is a place of celebration and comfort for people we love, so I cook and entertain a lot, because it makes me feel alive and happy, the perfect counterpoint to the other part of my life — the lonely, typing part. It seems, I know, like one of the things that should be the first to go, along with novels, maybe, but I can’t live well without gathering people around our table. It gives me energy and creativity and spark, so it stays.
And then there are, of course, a few other things I do, just for being a person in America who does not have a personal assistant and is not, say, the president. This list includes, but is not limited to: trips to the DMV, laundry folding, diaper buying, and occasional flossing. Even if I did have a personal assistant, I would stipulate that I still do my own flossing, because I’m just that grounded.
So those are the things I do, things I believe in or feel called to, or just things that fall within my area of responsibility on the planetary chore list. But the more important list is the other one: the list of things I don’t do. I come back to it regularly, adding to it. The first list was easy. And then came the hard part. What am I willing to not do in order to do these things I believe in? Silence. Blank paper. More silence. Finally, a few things came to mind.
Things I Don’t Do:
I don’t garden. Our landscaping in Grand Rapids was so bad that Becky, our neighbor, came over of her own accord and dug out all our beds, partially because she’s a wonderful person and partially, I’m sure, because five years of driving past the wreckage of our front yard very nearly drove her to the brink of insanity. I’ve been feeling like sort of a loser because I don’t garden. I have friends who garden, and they talk a lot about the spiritual implications of new life springing from the earth, the deep communion with God that they experience as they lovingly tend to their herbs and flowers. But I’m going to have to miss out on all that, because, at least for now, no gardening.
I don’t do major home improvement projects or scour flea markets and antique shops for the perfect home accessories. No expectation for perfect housekeeping, either — I try for clean countertops and no horrible smells, but beyond that, it’s pretty rough. At our house, “home improvement” involves clearing off the coffee table every few days and loading and unloading the dishwasher.
I don’t always change my clothes just because I’m leaving the house. I wear yoga pants 99 percent of the time, and I pretend that other people don’t notice that I’m wearing my pajamas in public.
I don’t make our bed in the morning, standing firm on the adolescent belief that there’s no sense in doing something you’re just going to undo at the end of the day.
I don’t bake. I don’t like to bake, because there’s too much math and science involved. I purchase cakes from the bakery or serve chocolates and fruit. I know baking is such a mom thing to do, and that possibly my son would be happier if the aroma of freshly baked bread or cookies woke him from his naptime slumber. But at least for now, no baking, during naptime or any other time.
Scrapbooking and photo album making are both on the list, although I do take a lot of pictures of my kid with my phone.
I only blow-dry my hair on special occasions, and my fingernails haven’t been painted since the nineties. There’s only so much time.
I don’t spend time with people who routinely make me feel like less than I am, or who spend
most of their time talking about what’s wrong with everyone else and what’s wrong with the world, or who really like to talk about other people’s money.
It’s brutal, making the list of Things I Don’t Do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. But I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”
One of my resolutions this year was to say no to more things while saying yes more to other things. (to read up on the rest of aspirations for 2014 see here.) So far, I think I’m actually holding up to this one pretty well. As far as the rest, ask me about those later…
What I mean by that statement is realizing what really is important and what can simply go undone on a given day.
Today I read a post from one of my favorite bloggers/authors, Shauna Niequist, titled “More Love, Less Hustle.” (By the way, I highly recommend following her blog, reading every one of her books, and joining the club of hopeful invitees to her dinner parties). It sparked such a passion in me to want to live this out in my own life, and it paralleled my No/Yes resolution. She says, “But saying NO lets me say YES to the most important things.” Another phrase that seemed to jump from the screen and speak to my heart was her own realization that “Tough is not something I want to be. Hard is not something I aspire to.”
I thought of how that applied to my own life in the current stage I find myself. Do I add activity, title, and responsibility after another to my plate because I really do enjoy it, or is it just a way of living up to my extremely high expectations I have of myself to be everything, everywhere, all the time? I’ve always said things like I thrive when under pressure, following busy schedules, or facing and overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. If I’m truly being honest with myself, do I really, though? Part of me exclaims a resounding yes – I literally go stir-crazy after about two or three days of having nothing to do, nowhere to be, no projects to accomplish. I’m striving for a fast-paced, exciting, and always challenging career as an oral surgeon or dentist because I could never just sit at a desk all day. The other part of me wonders exactly how healthily managing the demanding schedule of a dental student, and potentially a medical resident, will look like. Without a doubt, I am setting myself up for aspiring to “hard” things that obviously will demand me to be “tough.” Would I rather be worn ragged at the end of a never-ending day, knowing I squeezed out every ounce of energy and life I had in me, or does an actual free hour or two to fill doing whatever I wanted do me good every now and then (for example, blogging at midnight)?
I believe it is all about keeping a crucial balance of striving for excellence to fulfill our passions and purposes on the earth, while still keeping our focus on things that truly satisfy our soul and go beyond the taxing demands of this temporary, material life. Things like relationships, joy, and time actually cherished, not just used efficiently. I’m not saying I’m going to completely abandon my qualities of typical type A, extremely driven, and goal oriented, but I am going to slow down from the hustle to take a breath occasionally, live my life with a clearer perspective, and strive to follow a kingdom-oriented mindset.
What exactly has this “saying no so I can say yes” mantra looked like so far? Here are just a few instances…
Saying no to staying up until 2 a.m. because I don’t need to worry about over-preparing for a anatomy or biochem quiz so I can ace another one; saying yes to anti-perfectionism.
Saying no to staying in yet another Saturday night and yes to hanging out with a friend that I rarely get to see by going to a basketball game and out for late night pizza after.
Saying no to apprehension and yes to boldly chatting with all of my professors outside of class so they can know me as a person with real dreams and deep thoughts, not just a student shallowly striving to get the grade and move past their class.
Saying no to fear of being vulnerable or honest about where exactly I am in my walk with God and yes to discipleship alongside one of my closest friends.
Saying no to thinking I have to come up with a perfect conclusion to this post and yes to sleep.
What could your life look like with “more love, less hustle?”
A continuation of my last post. More favorite quotes from Shauna Niequist’s latest book that I want to buy for every single person I love.
“Recipes are how we learn all the rules, and cooking is knowing how to break them to suit our tastes or preferences. Following a recipe is like playing scales, and cooking is jazz.”
“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.”
“What I’m finding is that a lot of it is about shame, about the ways we feel inferior, and because of those feelings, we hide. And of course, it’s all fun and games to talk about those ideas, and then the next thing you know, you’re in your husband’s gym socks and your kitchen stinks.”
“You’ll miss the richest moments in life – the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love – if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door.”
“Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook.”
“She teaches me, through her words and her actions, that if you take the next right step, if you live a life of radical and honest prayer, if you allow yourself to be led by God’s Spirit, no matter how far from home and familiarity it takes you, you won’t have to worry about what you want to be when you grow up. You’ll be too busy living a life of passion and daring.”
“We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.”
“But I’m using the word fasting these days as an opposite term to feasting – yin and yang, up and down, permissions and discipline, necessary slides back and forth along the continuum of how we feed ourselves.”
“Maybe certain people can develop a food perspective that they maintain seamlessly twelve months a year. Good for them. Maybe that’s something I’ll be able to do when I’m all grown-up and filled with moderation and wisdom. Probably not, though.”
“But I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully – physically, spiritually, and emotionally – in a life that also includes fasting.”
“What I eat and what I drink are little moments of joy throughout the day – the things I think about, plan around, daydream about.”
“The very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them…I learn the hard way that the thing I’m clinging to can be the thing that sets me free.”
“There has to be a way to live with health and maturity and intention while still honoring the part of me that loves to eat, that sees food as a way to nurture and nourish both my body and my spirit…At some points, gobbling up life with every bite; in other seasons, mastering the appetites and tempering the desires.”
**C.S. Lewis – “God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.”
“I love food that connects us to good memories, that tells us we’re safe, that brings us back to sweeter times on hard days.”
“My intention for this season is present over perfect.”
“The voice of God invites us to full, whole living – to rest, to abundance, to enough. To say no. To say no more. Tp say I’m going to choose to live wholly and completely in the present, even through this ragged, run-down person I am right now is so far from perfect.”
“She said you carry them inside you, collecting them along the way, more and more and more selves inside you with each passing year, life those Russian dolls, stacking one inside the other, nesting within themselves, waiting to be discovered , one and then another.”
“I resist and kick at discipline every chance I get, and then when I break down and do something hard, I find that it builds something in me, that it makes me stronger, not just in that area but in all sorts of areas.”
“I tend to think that when everything is going well, I have the margin to do hard things, to make good choices…But its’ really the opposite, isn’t it? It’s the making of those harder, better choices right while everything’s a mess that makes the mess a little more manageable.”
“But entertaining isn’t a sport or a competition. It’s an act of love, if you let it be.”
“As is always the case for me at farmers markets, I intended to buy herbs and lettuces and left with baked goods and cheese, but such is life, and certainly such is vacation.”
“But as time went on, I realized that the major things were happening all around me, and that more often than not, I had been missing them because my phone had become an extension of my hand, and what it said to people, essentially, is that just being with them isn’t enough.”
“Being everywhere was keeping me from being anywhere, from being in any one very particular place.”
“I was totally there, totally in it, without feeling like my mind was divided into a thousand small splinters, spinning out all over the world, leaving nothing but a glassy stare and twitchy fingers always reaching for my phone.”
“It was unnatural and I liked it, and I think back to that week often, to how non-fragmented my brain and spirit felt, how little I missed on Pinterest and Facebook. I think about how valuable it is to live the life in front of you, regardless of how tempting it is to press your face to the glass of other people’s lives online, even though doing that is so much safer and so entirely addictive.”
“We fragment our minds for a reason, of course – because we like the idea of being sixty-seven other places instead of the one lame, lonely place we find ourselves on some days.”
***Robert Farrar Capon – “Food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives, they preoccupy, delight, and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity.”
“No one’s actually thinking about me as often as I think they are. Probably my friends are not actually counting the days till summer to see if I’ve finally turned into a supermodel.”
“I want to dare to exist and, more than that, to live audaciously, in all my imperfect, lumpy, scarred glory, because the alternative is letting shame win.”
“Because Todd is my only sibling, and I am his, there’s something completely singular about our relationship. There’s no one on earth who has shared our history, no one on earth who can see the world from the corner that we alone inhabit.”
“That’s how it felt, like we were a part of something lovely and otherworldly, not like we went to a place but like we were a part of a thing – a rich and gorgeous thing, a happening, a moment in time that we’d keep with us all our lives, like wearing a locket around your neck.”
“Baking bread feels so deeply right, on so many levels, like going back to the beginning.”
“Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world – this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world – no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness.”
“The idea of a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine.”
“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ.”
“When the table is full, heavy with platters, wine glasses scattered, napkins twisted and crumpled, forks askew, dessert plates scattered with crumbs and icing, candles burning down low – it’s in those moments that I feel a deep sense of God’s presence and happiness.”
“Bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us.”
“We live in a world that values us for how fast we go, for how much we accomplish, for how much life we can pack into one day. But I’m coming to believe it’s in the in-between spaces that our lives change, and that the real beauty lies there.”
“But that if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of one’s stomach, that it, necessarily, tied to the heart.”
“I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it.”
If you read about my winter break reading list, you’ll know I really wanted to read Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I got it for Christmas and haven’t put it down since! I’ll probably finish it tomorrow, but I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments so far. This is less of a book review and more of a collection of things I read that made me go, “Wow, that’s so my life.” I feel like I’ve known Shauna forever. She writes with such a raw, vulnerable, honest, passionate, and down-to-earth voice. She talks about everything from travel memories, cooking mishaps and successes, the ups and downs in the lives of her loved ones, saying yes to running a marathon finally, her journey to self acceptance and finding balance, and learning to live each day focused on the things that matter most. I can see, smell, taste the meals in her kitchen as well as feel the love in her home as I read. We share such a similar view of the world and the place of food in that world. I want to have dinner with her one day, I’m not even kidding. Anyway, this is going to be a multiple series, because I have too many favorite quotes from this book already. Enjoy this sneak peak and go buy it here! Also check out her own website and blog here.
“Whenever my jeans are too tight, I’m reminded that I know better than to love bread the way I do, but love is blind, and certainly beyond reason.”
“More than that, I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater – mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.”
“It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and, on a practical level, our ability to live and breathe each day. Food matters.”
“All through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s a way of reclaiming some of the things we may have lost alined the way.”
“What makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit in this world is creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table.”
“There’s something entirely satisfying in a modern, increasingly virtual world about something so elemental – heat, knife, sizzle.”
“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of the ands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat.”
“I can’t imagine life without a table between us.”
“That’s how this is for me. I’ve been catastrophizing about my weight since I was six. I’ve lost the pounds and gained them, made and abandoned plans and promises, cried tears of frustration, pinched the backs of my upper arms with a hatred that scares me…And through all that, I’ve made friends and fallen in love, gotten married and become a mother. I’ver written and traveled and stayed up late with people I love. I’ve walked on the beach and on glittering city streets. I’ve kissed my baby’s cheeks and danced with my husband and laughed till i cried with my best friends, and through all that it didn’t really matter that I was heavier than I wanted to be.”
“I think about the food and the people and the things we might discover about life and about each other. I think about the sizzle of oil in a pan and the smell of rosemary released with a knife cut. And it could be that that’s how God made me the moment I was born, and it could be that that’s how God made me along the way as I’ve given up years of secrecy and denial and embarrassment. It doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.”
“But it’s a lovely process, with not a minute wasted.”
“I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.”
“Risotto lets you know what’s happening at every turn . Risotto-making is the exact opposite of baking, where it all happens in the oven without you. Risotto shouts out each step, invites you to notice each change. It’s physical and active and clear.”
“I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of roundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more. The longing and the gratitude, both. I’m practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can’t, that he’s weaving a future I can’t imagine from where I sit this morning.”
“As more and more of us watch more and more shows on the Food Network and the like, we actually cook less and less.”
“For many years, I only ate meat that was boneless because it freaked me out and made me feel overly carnivorous and animal-like to wrestle with wiggly, slippery bones. All of a sudden, fast-forward to me burying a ten-inch knife into a venison shoulder and, in the process, ending up with deer blood all over my shoes.”
“But then you find yourself holding a very sharp chef’s knife and you realize all at once that it doesn’t matter what you’ve read or seen or think you know. You learn it, really learn it, with your hands. With your fingers and your knife, your nose and your ears, your tongue and your muscle memory, learning as you go.”
“What I’m finding is that when I’m hungry, lots of times what I really want more than food is an external voice to say, ‘You’ve done enough. It’s OK to be tired. You can take a brea. I’ll take care of you. I see how hard you’re trying.’ There is, though, no ice that can say that except the voice of God. The work I’m doing now is to let those words fall deeply on me, to give myself permission to be tired, to be weak, to need.”
“I want so badly to release my stronghold on my plan, my way, my calendar. I want to be the kind of Christian who really does believe God holds the future and that even my best guesses are just that. I want to live without anxiety, fear, and deadlines. But it seems that every chance I get, I grab back those pretend reins and allow myself to believe the myth that I’m in control.”
“And I began to understand what drove the acronyms and slogans and the almost violent positivity: you need it, that kind of enthusiasm, to get you up that early, to prod you along those miles.”
“It’s all out there, with nothing but the drumbeat of your feet and the rhythm of your ragged breath and the green of the trees on the path.”
“People are sometimes horrified when they hear that I wandered so many big cities all alone as a young teenager, but I found that people all over the world were charming and helpful, and that there might not be as much to fear as we think.”
“As we traveled, food became a language for understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons.”
“I hold all these places and flavors with me, like a fistful of shiny coins, like a charm bracelet. I want to be everywhere at once…I want it all – all the tastes, all the smells, all the stories and memories and traditions, all the textures and flavors and experiences, all running down my chin, all over my fingers.”
“Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, an why we travel with Henry so often. I think they think it’s easier to keep the kids at home, in their routines, surrounded by their stuff. It is. But we travel because it’s there. Because Capri exists and Kenya exists and Tel Aviv exists, and I want to taste every bite of it.”
I’m officially home as of last night, so holiday break mode is in full force (aka sleeping, eating, playing with baby nephew, and trying to refuse a slight sickness I feel creeping up on me…). One of the things I look forward to most when I’m not in classes and have actual free time is reading for FUN. I know, it’s a crazy thought right? Not reading textbooks or theological books (which I don’t mind actually) because it’s my assignment for class the next day, but reading things just because I find them interesting, enjoyable, or thought-provoking. Even though I’ve only got a short 3 weeks, I’m being pretty ambitious with my winter break book list.
1. Cooked by Michael Pollan
I actually started this one over summer before I realized I was not going to have time for anything outside of summer classes and studying for the DAT every day. Michael is one of my favorite food writers and some of my favorite quotes from his books are on my blog here. This one is about his own personal journey learning how to cook and he organizes it by the four elements of basic cooking: fire, water, air, earth in the form of BBQ, braising, bread baking, and fermenting (including brewing and cheese-making). He basically is showing how fundamental cooking is to humanity and the dangers of what can happen if we keep veering away from this ancient art towards the convenience and low-quality of today’s food.
“He discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.”
“Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching.”
“In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.”
2. Love Does by Bob Goff
This book was recommended by several of my friends, and I look forward to finishing it (again, I started it very briefly this summer). The subtitle is “Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World.”
“As a college student he spent 16 days in the Pacific Ocean with five guys and a crate of canned meat. As a father he took his kids on a world tour to eat ice cream with heads of state. He made friends in Uganda, and they liked him so much he became the Ugandan consul. He pursued his wife for three years before she agreed to date him. His grades weren’t good enough to get into law school, so he sat on a bench outside the Dean’s office for seven days until they finally let him enroll.
Bob Goff has become something of a legend, and his friends consider him the world’s best-kept secret. Those same friends have long insisted he write a book. What follows are paradigm shifts, musings, and stories from one of the world’s most delightfully engaging and winsome people. What fuels his impact? Love. But it’s not the kind of love that stops at thoughts and feelings. Bob’s love takes action. Bob believes Love Does.
When Love Does, life gets interesting. Each day turns into a hilarious, whimsical, meaningful chance that makes faith simple and real. Each chapter is a story that forms a book, a life. And this is one life you don’t want to miss.”
3. Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
This one I heard about from my roommate who shares these two loves of mine of all things bread and wine (in fact, I did a creative project about bread for my biblical class here), and I’m hoping it might be under the tree for me on Christmas morning. Shauna is a blogger and so far what I’ve seen and read from her is always right up my alley of food, friends and family, and faith.
“As a follow up to her two bestselling books, Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines, author and blogger Shauna Niequist returns with the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table. Bread and Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread and Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.”
What’s on your winter book list?