Around the Table

Around the Table, Faith + Vulnerability, We create
What it Looks Like to Find Home (yet again)
April 15, 2015 at 1:11 pm 8
We almost moved to Portland in 2009 to do an apprenticeship with a church. We fell in love. We wanted to be downtown people. We wanted to walk on lazy Saturday mornings with a cup of hand-crafted coffee and browse in Powell’s. We ached for urbanism, books, meaning, and craft beers. We longed for the coming together of pubs and stories; of the gospel and hipsters; of beauty and brokenness. And then it turned to ashes. We didn't move. And we felt like death. Six years later, this last weekend, I returned to Portland and even in the span of three days and three nights, I am resurrected.
Home is Belonging: Circling the Story (Esther Emery, Velynn Brown, Ashley Hales)

Velynn Brown, Esther Emery and I all write at The Mudroom and met in person this weekend.

  I am more fully alive, more fully myself, more a member of a tribe than I dreamt possible. There is a quiet back and forth between the prophetic fire I feel stretching for release inside of me and the long, slow soul-digging necessary to make a life of writing work. And it all is good work. Because now I believe I have a community of soul friends; where, hunched over drinks around a table, even though we come from different backgrounds and theological viewpoints, we are home. There, around the table, we are most fully ourselves, most fully alive. Because home was never about being right. Home is belonging. Home is where we hash out who we are and what we believe; but surrounding that process, is a womb of protection. Home is where we can be messy, scared, broken, angry. And a true home can hold us as we thrash about as we are birthed into ourselves.

A night of soul friends

  I found a little slice of home there in the drizzly northwestern rain. I found a home by myself, sandwiched between earth and concrete, feeling as much a part of one as the other. I found home in a Kingdom that is wide and deep and long and a breath of air. I found home in words that filled me, where I marveled at beauty and truth wrapped around one another like lovers. I found home in the eyes of my friends, when I could listen to their hurt, to their cries of lament from systemic oppression; or where I could weep at the violence done to them because they were sacrifices to a system. These are systems based on fear or control, where the image of God becomes something to squelch and squash, like my toddler squishes Play-Doh back into its plastic tin. I found home in the words of meandering faith journeys, where we hold holy space open for each other. I found home in my tears. Portland birthed me. Me. Not in my writerly garb, but just me.   Ashley Hales @ Circling the Story   I have some resolutions of sorts, some lessons to take away and tape up to my bathroom mirror, to remind myself what I will do:   I will dig gently. But I will dig. I will tell myself the truth of the middle day. That there is dusk and there is dawn and at these threshold moments we are the verge of beholding glory. I will see. I will pause, slow down and not rush to resolution. My first duty is to see. I will proclaim truth. I will point others to glory. And, I will show them home.   *** Thank you for being a part of my journey. I'm planning to tell you more about my time -- including how the publishing pitches went in my next newsletter coming out in days. Make sure you don't miss the details and I'll have a pretty little gift for you too! Sign up here and subscribe (be sure to check the box that says you want the monthly newsletter!). Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook, too.     Tweetables: [tweetthis]Because home was never about being right. Home is belonging. @aahales[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]There is a quiet back + forth btwn the prophetic fire inside of me + long, slow soul-digging work[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]I will point others to glory. And, I will show them home. @aahales[/tweetthis]  
Around the Table, Celebrate, Faith + Vulnerability
When We Celebrate the Daily Hard
March 7, 2015 at 8:44 pm 15
It was one of those days where the breaking point passed me by, where the grumpies ruled and nothing much sat prettily in my soul. Anger boiled up too quickly -- perhaps I've been neglecting those good soul care practices that bring me life (writing, reading, exercising). Today, the words wouldn't come, but the doubts did. I scratched and clawed to write something, but all that came out was mediocrity. circling the story -- celebration + failure It began to feel like the good writing was just a dream. That my stringing together of images and thoughts and ideas was more like a preschooler haphazardly stabbing ugly beads on pipe cleaners than it was the simple beauty of pearls. So I wrote it, got it out and left the ugly creation there. I drove to the grocery store for dinner items. And I sat in the silence, the blessed silence of the car for a few minutes, feeling the movement of the sun and the palpable quiet. I ran in and picked out crusty bread and fancy olives and decided tonight was going to be a celebration. Tonight we celebrate grace. It wasn't a noteworthy day and we'd all been a bit put-out and stir crazy, even with the glory of early spring sunshine. But, I had to ask myself, do we only celebrate perfection and achievement? We opened the good wine and poured it out. We laughed and told each other what we loved about one another. We ate cheese and olives and salami and bread. We shushed the screamers and told the toddler to sit on his bottom about 107 times. My husband called me "brave" and made me well up with all the knowing that creeps by unnoticed. Because at the end of the day, or the end of life, I don't want to be grasping at everything that didn't happen. I don't want to be just waiting to cup perfection in my hands -- whether of perfect sentences, or perfect behavior or having done all the things right. No. Tonight we celebrate mistakes and redemption. Tonight the wine is poured out in the midst of laughter and frustration. For there is a good God who sees, who knows, and who lavishes grace. Grace for another day and hope for new words and peace tomorrow. And that is enough. It is more than enough.  
Around the Table
The Legacy of Gathering
November 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm 3
Today, I've invited my friend Laura Jane Roland to the table today, here at Circling the Story. You can follow here on Twitter at @thelaurajane. Let's listen in as she talks about life around the table.


I woke up this morning aching for my Grandmother.
The dream was little more than a cluster of impressions. Her patience, her love, and (oddly) a bunny figurine that used to sit in a corner of her house that I haven't thought of in years.
In the two years or so since her passing, this feeling has popped up a number of times. Especially in times of high stress or feeling lost, I find myself looking for that feeling I had around her. Like I was safer than safe. Loved, just because.
One of her best-loved recipes is on my Thanksgiving menu this year, and every year. Looking at the ingredients on my counter is a little like looking forward to hanging out with her. 
Her cinnamon rolls were my first kitchen lesson. Cracking eggs, kneading dough, sprinkling the cinnamon and sugar. I loved how gently she held the dough, and when she separated the batch into roll-out-able portions, she called the sections "little dough babies" and she'd pat them like little baby bottoms.
She was a genius with soup; her basement pantry was always filled with pickles and marinara sauce and green beans; and when my mom inherited Grandma's recipe boxes, there were more cookie recipes than anything else.
And, while my grandmother was so much more than the food she made for us, it's the magic of the senses - tasting, smelling, kneading - that brings up all the feelings and comfort I felt when sharing a meal or making a treat with her.
What I want - what I hope - is that those who eat at my table can take away that same comfort. I hope friends know that there is nothing to earn or prove, and that children know they are loved and safe. I hope that even when there are tears because we can't watch My Little Ponies while we eat, what my daughter remembers is time focused on one another, listening, talking, daydreaming together.
I hope that when she wakes up aching for that calm in the storm, she finds it at her own table.
This is what we are here for: to love because we are loved. To come to the table hungry, and to walk away with more than just a full stomach.
Grandma Jane's Cinnamon Rolls
1/3 cup melted butter 1/3 cup sugar 1 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1/2 cup warm water
4 cups flour
1 egg
For dinner rolls:
Scald the milk then cool to luke warm. Add sugar, butter, and salt.
Dissolve 1 package yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add to cooled milk mixture. Add 2 cups flour and stir smooth. Add 1 egg and 2 more cups flour. Stir, then knead for a few minutes on a floured surface. Cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, cover with a towel and let rest for ten minutes. Form dough into rolls.  Let rise for about an hour. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes. When you take out of the oven, top with a little melted butter.
For cinnamon rolls
You will also need:
2 cups brown sugar
one stick of butter
1 cup of corn syrup
Scald the milk then cool to luke warm. Add sugar, butter, and salt.
Dissolve 1 package yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.  Add to cooled milk mixture. Add 2 cups flour and stir smooth. Add 1 egg and 2 more cups flour. Stir, then knead for a few minutes on a floured surface. Cover and let rise about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down, cover with a towel and let rest for ten minutes.
Divide dough in half.
Roll out dough in to a rectangle roughly 10 inches by 20 inches.
Cover rolled out dough lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnemon and sugar generously.
Roll up dough so it creates a 20 inch long log (that's what she said)
and slice in to roughly 12 pieces.
In a saucepan, combine brown sugar, syrup and butter and warm until bubbly.
Pour in to the bottom of a 9x12 casserole dish
Placed rolled sections of dough on top of the warm syrup mixture
Cover and let rise for about an hour. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes
When you take them out of the oven, turn the pan immediately upside down on wax paper so the gooey goodness covers the rolls.
Around the Table
Real Food + Real People = World Changed
November 19, 2014 at 6:00 am 9
I've said it before:  we buy and consume to fill up our own scarcity. That latte will make me feel better. That new pair of shoes will make me feel young again, or attractive, or at least put together. That new book holds out all the promises of transformation that I yearn for. Stuff, stuff, and more and more stuff. And it all piles up and collects dust and breeds more dissatisfaction. And we're overwhelmed and tired from the cycle, and oh so very alone. Real Food, Real People Challenge | Circling the Story I think our North American culture really values invisible women, women that don't take up too much space, physically or in the public sphere. Women who don't have an ounce of extra fat on them, women whose jawlines have become taut again through surgery, women who say the right things and do the right crafts and don't mess up. It's becoming an epidemic -- this stepfordization of women -- where we feel we only make a difference if we can fit into a plastic mold. What if we could break free from this cycle of wanting and envying and feeling like we just don't measure up? Where we snatch sly glances at the mirror to see if our bodies look alright, or where we blame others for our emotional messes. What if we could break free?

Real Food, Real People Challenge | Circling the Story

And here's where life around the table enters in. It comes rushing in with "yeah, me, too", with mess and softness and the mercy of daily gifts of food and sustenance. It's the antidote to consumption and the tyranny of self-evaluation that we have as our daily handmaidens. You guys, I want to start a movement. Or join a movement. I don't mean to get all Les Mis on you and start chanting at the barricade, "Will you join in our crusade, who will be strong and stand with me?"...but I kinda do, too. Point is, I want so much more for us. Here's my vision and it's simple: I see homes filled with tables around which people come and join together to eat real food regularly. At these tables (where perhaps the homework piles have just been cleared off), people gather. They invite their families and friends and neighbors and even, the stranger, to partake with them. They put down their phones. The meal doesn't need to be Instagrammed or the pithy quote Tweeted; instead, they begin to focus on each other. And stories are finally told.  Can you imagine that? Being invited in to a meal that not only fed your body but your soul also? And this isn't just some fancy Martha Stewart-esque night of entertaining where you get out your precious plates and dress up -- no, this is a daily, weekly or monthly thing. With the freedom to wear your yoga pants, even if you've never done yoga a day in your life. With the space to breathe, to try out new recipes and fail and end up ordering pizza. To laugh and ask questions and finally be present -- really present -- with one another. To stop talking about your To Do list and start living now. We'll just do life together, around the table.  Real Food, Real People | Circling the Story The table becomes the vehicle for real community. Shauna Niequist has a great talk on hospitality where she gives her audience a simple formula for inviting people into your home: 15 minutes, baby wipes and bacon (or onions if you're vegetarian). (Check it out here; she's the second one). What is remarkable about Shauna's talk is that it's really pretty easy -- just inviting people in. I get it, inviting people in -- and we're talking more than just inviting people over -- is scary. Because inviting people really into your mess opens us up to truth and vulnerability and then who-knows-what. And we fear that when we invite people in that we'll be judged. So we set up our homes like fortresses instead of havens of safety.  So here's my radically simple idea: 1. Invite someone over to your home. Give yourself a goal (a once-a-week coffee date with another mom; a family in your house once a month, etc.). Make a plan to do it; pencil it in on your calendar. 2. Have them help out. Cook together or clean up together. But start to abolish the hierarchy that comes from a dinner guest feeling like they're there to either impress or feel insecure. 3. Let them in. Practice vulnerability; make not only your home but yourself a safe place. Ask questions. Start with something simple: maybe it's about how challenging your work is because it brings up your own desire to compete with others in unhealthy ways; maybe it's how excited you are to have them in your home but that it's also a bit scary; maybe it's how you're looking forward to an event because you've just been tired, or depressed or anxious. The point is to practice vulnerability, because it never happens on its own. 4. Repeat. As we practice being present regularly and as we eat together -- as we use time with others intentionally -- we'll see growth and change. It's not a magic pill, it's often a slow walk towards community and being known. Invite. Help. Vulnerability. That's it. Real Food, Real People | Circling the Story Will you join with me in doing hard things? Simple things, but still hard things. Please share with others and comment below if you'd like to be a part of making other people seen around the table. Because I think that there's something good and right and freeing about eating together; and it's only in breaking bread together that walls fall down. You guys, this world is only gonna change if we do small things consistently with great heart. So come back and share, too, once you've done it. I'll join you. Let's do this! And please spread the word by sharing, pinning or telling your friends about this.   -- This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you. *And if you haven't read them all yet, please read Shauna Niequist, Glennon Doyle Melton and Brene Brown; they have been writers who have shaped much of my thinking on vulnerability and living life around the table. **Other posts of mine that discuss similar ideas are: Invisible Women; Kale, Kombucha and Food Guilt; Vulnerability and the question we're all asking; and, Mama to littles, I got your back.  
Around the Table, At other places
How do you create daily habits of gratitude?
November 18, 2014 at 10:57 am 0
Today, I'm over at Jenn Thorson's blog, The Purposeful Mom, sharing about 3 Easy Ways to Create a Culture of Gratitude in Your Home. Jenn's got a great blog about living purposefully with grace in daily ways; and, it's been a pleasure to be invited to speak to her readers.
Here's just a snippet: Creating thankfulness means that we really see another person, and this is where story comes in, in the listening.
IMG_1722 So go on over there and read the whole thing, and take a look at her pretty blog, too. It's so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by what you feel like you should do, or what Mrs. Crafty Pinterest shows are the ways you can be thankful this season. But like much of life, I'm finding it's the same with gratitude; it's little daily choices that add up that create new habits and new attitudes. I'd love some more ideas! Please join the conversation. What are ways that we can all learn from one another about how to grow thankfulness? What do you do?  
Around the Table
Come to the table of mercy
November 15, 2014 at 7:00 am 4
The table is big and wide with room all around it. It can fit your smallness. When you want to hide or disappear or not take up too much room, because when you take up room, you're suddenly noticed. And being noticed is scary. There's a gracious host who beckons you to join. Not in a loud, booming voice or with an air of know-it-all-ness or where he makes you self-conscious by shaming you. No, no, this host smiles with a warmth that calls to you; he holds out a chair and a blanket and a glass of wine, wraps them all around you and says simply, "Come and sit awhile. Come and be a part. Come and breathe and leave your burdens here. Come." tableofmercy | www.circlingthestory.wordpress.com And the light from the table is a soft golden glow, with the scent of home and the warmth of the fireside. It is earthy and raw and glorious; rough-hewn wood and golden bowls and sparkling light and drinks. There are bowls of piping hot food and grapes in perfect little globes. It's a party in the best possible sense, for it fills you with all the magic and hope of togetherness without a party's usual companions -- guilt and comparison -- which rob you of enjoyment. Instead of fancy dinner guests, the people at the table look as scared and needy as you. But when they look at their host, their bitterness and anger and hurt and the well-traveled ways they protect themselves drop as their shoulders relax. They look into eyes as deep as pools, with always enough room for one more. The food is savored and eyes close, as if in prayer, in grateful recognition of the gloriousness of the senses. For this moment. Where light and acceptance tell you who you are; where calories are not counted; where outfits are not scrutinized, where you never have to wait to appropriately insert yourself into conversation. The table can take your smallness because it wraps you up into a bigger story. A story where weariness is exchanged for someone else's strength; where you can give up trying and striving and hoping to do better next time. A story that is played out in food and the meeting of need with recognition -- "I see you. Come and eat." There are no dishes to shame you with, no budget -- "for you who have no money, come buy and eat" -- no limitations, just an invitation to come. Table of Mercy | Circling the Story And your gracious host, with the firelight in his eyes and a voice of mighty rushing waters, sees and feels our hesitation at our own smallness, our own insignificance. So he comes gently and swoops us up in arm as lovely and rough as trees, and carries us, for we cannot get there on our own. He wraps us in robes and places a ring on our finger and sits us at the head of the table, for we have come home. But it is not the gloriousness of the table or the beautiful weight of our new status that makes us giddy and sigh with relief; no, it is the gracious host who names you, who calls you his own, who is the very definition of love itself that causes us to swell with the goodness of this moment.


The host calls to us to come out from our hiding, where we prefer to blanket ourselves in shame -- because although it's poor covering, it's comfortable and known, while the glory of the table at once beckons but also feels entirely too good to be true, too foreign. But he calls. And his voice is like the otherworldly sounds of stringed instruments that hit our hearts in ways we can't articulate. He retrieves us from the highways and byways, "Come. Come all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Come to the table of mercy, prepared with wine and the bread. Nothing is required. Just come."

-- This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you. photo credit: Jeremy Brooks via photopin cc

Around the Table
Favorite Fall Meals and Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
November 13, 2014 at 10:15 am 2
It's hugely important to think about the why behind hospitality and why we invite people into our homes, into our mess and into our lives. But we also need some very practical how-to's; so today, we're keeping it simple at Circling the Story and talking recipes. What's your favorite Fall meal? I'm always on the lookout to change up my own cooking routine rut, so I'd love to hear some of your favorites. Please share them! IMG_1705.JPG I devoured Shauna Niequist's latest book, Bread and Wine, and it was one impetus for starting this November series on the blog, Around the Table. I'll have a book review on the blog soon, but until then, here's a recipe to tide you over. It's her maple balsamic pork tenderloin. It's easy and delicious and perfect for a chilly Autumn night. You can serve it with hunks of crusty bread and roasted brussel sprouts. If you're still on the fence about brussel sprouts, you need to roast them. None of this steamed disgustingness. Toss your sprouts in a little olive oil, add some minced garlic and salt and pepper. Pop them into the oven at 400F for 35-40 minutes, tossing them occasionally. They're also amazing with caramelized onions or bacon (or cook them in bacon fat). But without ado, Shauna Niequist's maple balsamic pork tenderloin. I just halved the recipe for our family and it was perfect. I also didn't have dijon so used regular yellow mustard and my hubby didn't want to part with good beer for cooking, so I substituted a bit of apple cider vinegar. Basically, it's a very forgiving recipe! Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, from Bread and Wine -2 pork tenderloins -1 cup maple syrup -1 cup balsamic vinegar -1 heaping  Tbsp Dijon mustard -1/2 cup beer or white wine Whisk together maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon. Add 1/2 cup of the maple balsamic mixture to the beer or white wine to create a marinade. Save the rest of the maple balsamic mixture to make the glaze. Several hours before serving, salt and pepper the tenderloins, then pour the marinade over them. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Just before serving, cook on the grill or on the stove. On medium-high heat, cook for 4 minutes on each of the four sides until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees. Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. We did ours on the grill and cooked them over medium-high heat until the internal temperature reached 145 degrees. While the pork is cooking and then resting, pour the remaining maple balsamic mixture in to a small saucepan and boil gently until reduced by half, about 15 minutes, creating a thick glaze. After the tenderloin has rested, slice it diagonal one-inch slices. Pour the glaze over the sliced meat, or put it in a little pitcher and let people pour it on their own slices. -- This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.
Around the Table
You can’t break bread with Facebook
November 12, 2014 at 7:00 am 2
Why "life around the table"? Couldn't life be done in so much more efficient ways and places? How about life around the board room table, or life at a desk at school, or let's be real here, life plopping down on the couch at the end of the day? The short answer is that life -- real life -- happens around the table. Now this isn't the image of the family in the 50's with the mom waltzing over the dining table with pearls and a perfectly cooked pot roast. Nope, this is 21st century North America with soccer schedules and homework and no one liking the dinner you just made. It's dinner time with sweet moments where the kids never forget that it's dessert night and you have a candle lit and placemats, and it's dinner time where you're eating so fast so you can get to the next thing. It's dinner conversation with lots of laughter and also when you feel like you're just policing the whole time. All of it. Because life happens around the table. As we eat, as we inquire about the days of those dearest to us. As we ask questions and laugh and fight and argue. http://circlingthestory.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/breadandfacebook/ Life doesn't really happen anywhere else to the same extent, not in the same cyclical nature, where day-by-day we layer meaning onto our meals together. And as much as we all want our virtual communities to fulfill our need for togetherness and community, we can't break bread with Facebook. Maria Konnikova wrote recently in an article in The New Yorker, about how our online communities just can't measure up to shared flesh-and-blood experience:
We do have a social-media equivalent—sharing, liking, knowing that all of your friends have looked at the same cat video on YouTube as you did—but it lacks the synchronicity of shared experience. It’s like a comedy that you watch by yourself: you won’t laugh as loudly or as often, even if you’re fully aware that all your friends think it’s hysterical. We’ve seen the same movie, but we can’t bond over it in the same way. -- Maria Konnikova, "The Limits of Friendship" 
We walk around our cities phones in hand, isolated to those around us as we scurry past them and yet we feel "connected" to our online "community" because we're scrolling through our high school friend's recent vacation photos (and the internal conversation grows increasingly isolating; case in point: How can she afford such a nice vacation to Tahiti in the middle of winter? How does she still have abs? Shouldn't I still have abs? Why don't I have abs? I should go to the gym. What is wrong with me?). All the while we forego real connection with real people because it's messy and hard and it's just so much easier to keep "liking" things on Facebook. http://circlingthestory.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/breadandfacebook/ I think we turn to our glossy images of life on social media because it sounds so much more appealing than life around the table. Life around the table feels so ordinary. And we've been groomed to be special and "ordinary" feels a bit like death. But life around the table means you have to show up, even when you're tired or worn out or just blah. And in the best moments, you're there at the table, breaking bread together -- sharing the mundane elements that we all need to survive; not just food, but real, vulnerable community, where your family and friends see you -- really see you. They see you in little moments, when you haven't brushed your teeth and you have those tattered socks on that you love to wear in the mornings. They see you at dinner parties. They see you when it's family movie night or Taco Tuesday. There's something so simple and so glorious about just showing up and sharing life together, slowly, day-by-day, meal-by-meal, year-by-year. Just being there. No matter what. Because life around the table is all of it, and it is all cause for celebration. So, what will "you do with your one wild and precious life"? -- This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.
Around the Table
Red cup righteousness
November 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm 14
It promises to make a challenging day better -- that combination of caffeine and sugar, all tied up with the festive bow of a red paper cup. It promises a relief from the everyday as if the "season" has arrived and magical feelings will flow from the peppermint mocha I just ordered. It's hidden in plain view on fashion bloggers' Instagram accounts. red cup righteousness starbucks I don't even like Starbucks coffee, but it calls to me. Today I gave in. We want something special. A treat. That's why we pay a ridiculous amount of money for it. We think that the red paper cup holds out relief, or validation, or just respite from the weariness of the daily. As I walk around Target holding my red cup that matches the color of the cart, wearing my skinny jeans tucked into my riding boots, I suddenly can feel that all is right with the world  -- unless of course my children are howling during this pleasant experience. red cup righteousness starbucks Though we've been given all good things, so often we use food and drink to make up for our lack. We buy and consume to fill up our own scarcity.  It's the American way, or the American dream, at least. Sweets or alcohol or caffeine or any number of "comfort foods" promise something that they can never deliver. They promise that everything is going to be okay; that holding on to a red coffee cup makes up for the harried morning where you yelled at your kids to get their coat on and out the door; that it makes up for your lack of inspiration at work; that it will help get your through the monotony of your desk job; that you deserve it because you need it. It's true, we are all needy. But a red paper cup can never fill our holes -- it can never fill up our sadness, or confusion, or lostness that we feel when we think that surely by now we should have this life thing a bit better figured out. But we keep reaching for the same things -- polite socially sanctioned forms of addiction -- because they feed our desire (if only for a moment) to be told we're okay. That we still love you even though you yell or are bored or just plain exhausted. But instead of telling our stories to one another where we confess and yearn for redemption, we buy Starbucks holiday drinks. I do it, too.  Perhaps because it's easier to fork over $4 than to take the time to look deeply within ourselves and see our need for repentance and restoration. Perhaps because caffeine and sugar make us feel good again, if only momentarily, and so we buy so we can forget all the bad feelings and guilt and shame. By all means, go and enjoy your red cup, but do it with someone and decide to share and be vulnerable while you sip your mocha. Because we can never be made right as we cling to things to cover up our shame -- whether it's excuses, or our own reputation, or a coffee cup; we can only be made right when we own up to our brokenness, see it for what it is, and ask for grace in the midst of the mess. That's why we're all here anyway. -- This month I’m writing on life Around the Table. I hope you’ll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces. Please take time to comment below and share this post if it resonated with you.
Around the Table
Learning to Cook
November 8, 2014 at 10:01 am 2
I was never a child who baked or cooked alongside her mother with the matching apron, and the cute dusting of flour everywhere. I thought I had more important things to do, like listen to my Fisher Price plastic records or play with my friends, or read a book. In fact, the first time I actually cooked regularly was when I had to -- when I was studying abroad for a semester and when I lived on my own my last year of college. And I served terribly exciting things like scrambled eggs with ham lunch meat or baked chicken breast with cooked frozen peas. Boring, bland, yes, but also terribly adequate.   And then there were all my pristine wedding cookbooks, full of promise and hope, that held out a life of excitement with cocktails and coq au vin and fancy sauces and things written in different languages. And I tried to splatter that Joy of Cooking book while I learned to bake gingerbread or make pasta; and when the spine began to break, I let it fall apart, because splattered and tattered, it meant something. It meant I was a cook. That I was a woman. That I could hold my own. And I know our mothers, in the wake of the Feminist movement, wanted so much more for their daughters than a life in the kitchen, that we could be "all that we wanted to be" -- but the truth is, the kitchen needn't be the place of slavery or stasis. It's actually the place where daily life happens. And we can choose -- in whatever vocation we have, in whatever capacity we work -- to make the moments where we gather together meaningful or mundane, and even, to make the mundane meaningful. Sometimes (and this is scary for me, the recovering perfectionist) learning to cook means you fail. Just this week -- I made a meal no one really liked and there were tears and it ended with too much noise and bowls of Cheerios. You know, that happens as you put yourself out there -- testing ingredients or trying to stretch the grocery budget, or even when we show up and are vulnerable with others. Sometimes it's a great success and other times you just want to run away and hide and have a do-over. But the lovely thing about cooking and the lovely thing about family, is that there are do-overs. Every day is new. Forgiveness renews and refreshes and feels sweet and overpowering all at once. It's scary to be vulnerable, to be brave and show up, but that's the only way that we'll really learn not just to cook, but how to suck the marrow out of life. -- This month I'm writing on life Around the Table. I hope you'll join me, cook with me, and invite others in to your real and virtual spaces.