“F*ck this” and Farandolae – 2016 in Review

I started 2016 off the way I start every January – full of drive and optimism with a carefully color-coded planner and a pile of books to read. I know I’m not unique in this, almost everyone I know becomes more ambitious, dedicated and idealistic as January 1 draws near.

 

I went to Florida last January for a training retreat with a direct sales company I was working for at the time. I was only working the business on the side with no intentions to try to grow it to a full-time income, but I live in Wisconsin and it was an opportunity to go to Florida in January. Reason enough for me.

There were lots of encouraging and empowering talks, mostly about how to grow your business and be more intentional with structuring your time. My biggest takeaway though was finally feeling determined and confident enough to finish filling out my applications for seminary – which I had been halfway kicking around in a Word document for about three years. Being away for the weekend also meant I had time to devote my undivided attention to completing the essay portion of the applications.

My fingers trembled as I wrote.  Once again, I felt myself get swept up in that all to familiar wave of self-doubt and uncertainty. Who am I to think I can do this anyway? 

Lots of people talk about following your dreams; some will even tell you about how much work it takes to achieve them, but I’ve found it’s rare for people to talk about how pursuing your dreams can unleash all kinds of ghosts from your past and skeletons long since buried in your closet.

In A Wrinkle in Time (which I read for the first time in June of 2016, I know.) Madeleine L’Engle compares our lives to sonnets: “You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

I know myself well enough to know the general form my life has always bent toward, but I struggle sometimes to pick up the pen and write it. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I often operate in such a way that it’s as if the things which are supposed to happen in my life just will – without any effort or alignment on my part at all.

It’s silly to think this, of course, but opening yourself up and actually working to shape your life the way you want it – “writing your sonnet” – requires some level of vulnerability.
If I never actually say what I want out of life; if I never spend the time and energy and work for my dream, then I can’t be broken if (when) I fail.

Again, from A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle writes: “To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.” I have long approached life with a degree of care to not open myself up to too much unknown (or at least, to make sure that God and the universe understands that I am very displeased when my “unknown” quota has been breached).

What if loving yourself and loving this life you’ve been given comes about only through living life with authenticity and vulnerability?

What if self-preservation and image management isn’t the answer, and – in fact – is actually the biggest threat to you living a fulfilled and happy life?

My fear of failure, or of things just turning out differently or less than I imagine them to be will always be present, but that fear doesn’t get to drive my life – or write my sonnet. In 2016 I learned to put fear in the backseat (to borrow from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic), and to embrace the unknowing of opening yourself up.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to practice this openness to unknowing again, when both of my paternal grandparents passed away. I grew up next door to them, and their presence is almost as much a backdrop for my childhood as that of my parents.

Losing my grandparents opened up all kinds of questions about who I am and what kind of legacy I want to leave. If my fear of failure pushed me to answer “what kind of sonnet am I writing?” the loss of my grandparents pushed me to ask “am I writing my sonnet fast enough?” and “is it worth writing at all?”

Grief is often the gateway to the parts of ourselves we had otherwise forgotten. Like a child stumbling into a long-lost secret garden, what we do once we find ourselves thrust through the gateway of grief is crucial.

I chose to dig deep. I started seeing a therapist again. I started writing more, and writing things that it will be a long time before they ever grace the internet – if ever.  I learned that perhaps I hadn’t made as much progress as I’d hoped in my personal growth.

It has been a sobering journey to say the least.

I had been operating under the assumption that I as I worked toward self-knowledge and development, that as I grew spiritually and became more mature that life would somehow get easier and less confusing. The events of 2016 convinced me otherwise.

I found myself thinking over and over again of Farandolae. In L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door these fictitious creatures are beyond microscopic, and yet the fate of the universe rides on their survival. The Farandolae are distracted though, enchanted by the ease and fun of a life skimming above the surface. It is imperative, for the survival of all things, that the Farandolae settle down and “Deepen” but this is the more difficult choice for the tiny creatures. It requires stillness and time, and virtually everything that is not fun or sexy.

I’m coming to realize that growth is less like a flight plan with a determined place of arrival, and more like a Farandolae Deepening – a still, silent, slow journey downward and inward…then outward again.

I’m learning that to grow roots mean that sometimes you have to dig up the hard ground in which you’ve been planted, and that sometimes that process is painful.

I’m learning that leaning in to the wholeness and healing God offers also means becoming acutely aware of where all the missing and wounded pieces are in your life – and that part sucks.

I’m learning that Jesus wasn’t kidding about the denial of self, the carrying of a cross, the losing of life to find it.

It’s all so much less “up and to the right” than I expected grown-up life to be, but somehow that’s still okay.

2016 had many moments that left me swearing under my breath (or not so much under my breath) but it also had so many moments that took my breath away, and pulled me deeper spiritually, mentally, intellectually, emotionally and relationally than I’ve ever been before.

So here’s to both:
The “f*ck its” and the Farandolae,
The discouragement and the Deepening,
and the life that is present in all these things.

Thank you, 2016.

That Time I Gave Away Half of My Clothes (and other ideas on how to practice simplicity during Lent)

Photo: beccaberry via Flickr

Photo: beccaberry via Flickr

It was over a year ago now (but it seems like just last week) when I noticed it.  Piles everywhere. Clean clothes, dirty clothes, outfits tried on and off and discarded for a more preferable option before leaving for a morning meeting.

Piles and piles and piles.

And at once, I was over it.

Enough was enough, and I had too much.

It was on that day I legitimately took half of the clothes I owned and put them into garbage bags.
Many of the items I still wore.  Many of the items I still liked.  In fact, I intentionally gave away a few favorites, just to show myself I could – in fact – live without those things.

I stashed the bags in my attic, a little afraid of getting rid of half of my wardrobe flat out.
But after a week or so, I didn’t miss it any more.  In fact, I kind of enjoyed having less laundry to do and more motivation to actually fold it and put it away.

Ben noticed the change and axed half of his wardrobe too.  After a couple months we worked up the guts to fully let go and take our bags of clothing down to the Rescue Mission.

After that, we implemented a “one in one out” rule for clothing.  If we buy a new (which usually means new-to-us) article of clothing, it means either:
A) the one we had was worn beyond being wearable or
B) we are choosing just to update something, so we give the other one away.

We try to only buy what we need, and we buy consignment, vintage or fair trade whenever possible.

Our clothing choices are one of the ways we practice simplicity in our every day lives.

************************

This week during Lent I’m focusing on the discipline of simplicity, and how I can further practice it in my day to day living.  One idea I saw the other day is to give a small amount of money (quarter or dime) to a church or charity each time you see a commercial on television.  Wow!

I love the thought behind this one. Advertisements are always feeding us the lie that we need more, more, more!  That we are, at our very core, meant to consume.  The discipline of giving something for each commercial reminds us that we are something more than a consumer, it reminds us of the bigger Story – the true Story to which we all belong.

What about you?  What are some ways your practice simplicity in your everyday life?
How can you deepen your practice of simplicity during Lent?

Fluffy, Delicious, Protein Pancakes (gluten, dairy and refined sugar free)

I’m sorry.

If you’re a regular around Crazy Little Thing, I’m sure you typically come here to read about sex trafficking, or violence against women, or how many child slaves are involved in the process of getting chocolate to your kitchen and makeup on your face.

Today though, I’m addressing a different topic of great importance: pancakes.

I promise, this whole “recipe blogging” thing goes no further.  I will return in my next post to your normal, expected challenging thoughts on life and humanity, already in progress.

But you all,

I love pancakes with a deep undying affection.

You know what I don’t love?

Feeling like I need to alternately run three miles and take a nap all at once post pancake-breakfast.

This week though, I have forever banished the post-pancake-crash from my home.

Meet Protein Pancakes:
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These little puppies are fluffy, lightly sweet, totally delicious and pretty much pure protein.

Nuts, eggs, chia seeds, good stuff all around.

Gluten, dairy and refined sugar free they’re all pancake goodness without any pancake ill.

I’d like to think that it’s the recipe St. Peter whips up in heaven.

These are pancakes redeemed.

They also make possibly the BEST pre-run food I’ve yet encountered.  I ate two prior to my six mile training run today and flew through the run on pace without any problem.  I wasn’t even tired afterwards. I would have kept going if I hadn’t needed to get Cadence home for a nap.

Forget Wheaties, meet the real breakfast of champions. (or people who just really like pancakes.)

Protein Pancakes
(makes 12-15 pancakes, approximately 4 inches in diameter)

3/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup macadamia nut meal
1.5 cup whole oat flour
6 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp stevia
1/4 cup chia seeds

Mix together nut meals, oat flour, baking powder and stevia.  Add wet ingredients one at a time, mixing thoroughly.  Add chia seeds last and mix well.  (Chia seeds swell up and make a gel when they are wet, so you don’t want to let them sit in the batter uncooked for too long!)

Pour 4 inch circles of batter onto a hot griddle, greased with coconut oil.  Cook on each side for approximately 2-3 minutes, or until lightly golden.

If you want to keep it healthy, serve with nut butter or fruit.  If you want to keep it real, serve with real butter and maple syrup.

(Note: I make all my own nut meals and flours using my Vitamix.  I ground my almonds and macadamia nuts a little coarser to give the pancakes a little crunch.  I used steel cut oats to make my oat flour to up the protein value even more.)

Weekend Reading

The Reads:

Humboldt Park Woman, sick of ‘dibs,’ Shovels Entire Block  
“‘Forget about dibs, and I’ll just do it for you. I just think it’s a better way for us to live as a community: as people who look out for each other instead of fighting for spots.'”

Tell Your Daughters They’re Beautiful
“80% of 10-year-old American girls say they have been on a diet. The number one magic wish for young girls age 11-17 is to be thinner.

The last thing girls need is their own mothers reaffirming the cultural and societal myths and unrealistic expectations (even the models don’t really look the way they are digitally presented) about the way girls and women should look. Mom should be a safe place; the one person who loves us just the way we are, regardless of the things we perceive to be our own shortcomings”

Baptism, Righteousness, and the War on Poverty: A 2014 Epiphany (Matthew 3:13-17)
“In this sense, Matthew 3:13-17 calls us to live out righteousness in a much more integrative way than arbitrary handouts or following the tweets of OXFAM. We are to prepare and eat every meal in righteousness. We add righteousness to the mundane questions of budget, cost and delivery for every purchase and investment. Considerations of righteousness transform our uncomfortable confrontations with homeless individuals to divine encounters with fellow humans created in the image of God.”

The Polar Vortex provided ample family snuggle time!

The Polar Vortex provided ample family snuggle time!

6 Words You Should Say Today
When simply watching someone makes your heart feel as if it could explode right out of your chest, you really should let that person know.

It is as simple and lovely as that.”

Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture at a Time
“Public shaming is awful and is nothing less than societally sanctioned parental bullying. Especially harmful to the young people against whom it is used as a weapon, the ramifications will resonate throughout their lives. They aren’t as tough as we pretend we are.”

Strong & Weak Are Not Opposites; Strong & Fake Are Opposites
“If you feel weak and you are honest about that weakness even in the face of criticism – that’s strength to me. If you refuse to hide who you are by lashing out at others, by snarking all the time, by deflecting and judging and knocking others down to mask your own insecurity – if you just come out and say, ‘You know what? I’m weak a lot. I’m a little lost and confused and sensitive and insecure sometimes and that’s all right with me because I’m pretty sure that’s just what it means to be HUMAN.’ That’s my kind of STRONG. None of this fake bravado, please. Be real. You don’t need to be SuperHuman – Just Be human.”

A Secret to Handeling Conflicts With Your Kids (from Toddlers to Teens)
“Rise above your triggers, wounds and patterns from the past and be the parent, rather than getting caught up in your child’s behaviors, taking them personally and engaging in conflicts at his or her level. This is the key to breaking negative cycles.”

the joy that is almond butter and grandma's homemade grape jelly (and super-staticy winter hair).

the joy that is almond butter and grandma’s homemade grape jelly
(and super-staticy winter hair).

I Hope We Never Become a ‘Christian Nation’ Again
“The problem with evaluating Christianity based on numbers is that it simply doesn’t work — it doesn’t reflect the true essence of Christ. When people claim we were once a great Christian nation, they’re using a revisionist history and glossing over the notorious corporate sins of our past. Arguably, America today might be more Christ-like than at any other point in our history.”

What Counts? with Jen Hatmaker
“This is going to require more from us. We are going to have to live prophetic lives in our communities, not relegate the heavy spiritual lifting to the pastors on Sunday mornings. People will not be brought in through Christian rhetoric, which has become white noise in our post-Christian society. We must reach out with the values the de-churched and un-churched have expressed: authenticity, justice, flexibility, kindness and grace, simplicity, and community. These are obviously much more costly than a 25-minute sermon once a week.”

 

From My January Books:
“Evangelical Christians often champion the ‘sanctity of life.’ This phrase typically refers only to abortion. Many Evangelicals argue that a culture that allows legal abortion does not truly value human life. While many Evangelicals have fought against abortion for decades, we have yet to see a movement that expands the idea of ‘sanctity of life’ to fighting for the ‘quality of life.’ If we truly believe that all life is sacred, then the logical conclusion is that once a life is born we continue to fight for that life to have equal opportunities to live up to its potential.”

– From Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Education for Low Income Kids
(Nicole Baker Fulgham)

On my “You can totally run a half marathon by June” playlist:
Waka Waka (This Time for Africa) – Shakira
Getting Nowhere – Magnetic Man featuring John Legend
Summer Girls – LFO
Let it Rock – Kevin Rudolf and Lil Wayne
God’s Not Dead (Like a Lion) – Newsboys
Shine On – Blitzen Trapper

In my coffee mug:
2 pump caramel flan latte from Starbucks
(fancy pants this weekend)

Choosing

My word for 2014 is Joy.

On December 31st though, as Ben and I were out and about eating poutine and visiting friends, a steady, silvery snow fell downy over the city.

I hate snow.

It freaks me out.

I hate driving in it, I hate walking in it, I hate the fact that it’s been cloaking the grass and trees for over a month now.

So 2014 starts covered in a thick and powdery layer of snow.

Roads covered, slushy tracks, threatening drivers “beware.”

“Go ahead and take the RAV,” I told Ben, “I’m not going anywhere today.”

We have two cars.

A ’99 Ford Taurus that has no traction in the snow and a “check engine light” that stays on perpetually at this point in it’s life, and a 2011 Toyota RAV-4 that could carry you to a remote moose-hunting camp in Alaska without batting a wiper blade.

I did it.

I voluntarily stranded myself in the house for a WHOLE DAY.
(which is a very big deal for me.)

I did it out of love.

I did it out of fear.

I hate the snow.

My year of Joy started with me shuffling around the house in my pajamas, drinking coffee till I was jittery and grumpy and being exorbitantly annoyed at Ben, at Cadence, at life generally.

“Try to have a good day, okay?”

I likely replied to his kind sentiments with a glare that would make the Incredible Hulk shrink back down into Bruce Banner.

Joy, joy, joy.

 

I prompted myself.  Fake it till you make it.

I choose joy.

I cleaned the kitchen – like scrub-down-the-walls deep clean.

Joy, joy, joy.

I bundled myself and Cadence and took us out into the snow.

Crawling in bed with the enemy.

Joy, joy, joy.

“HANDS…COLD!!!!!”  she shrieked.

That’s what happens when you take your mittens off and stick your hands in the snow.

I think words about my child I would never say aloud.

Joy, joy, joy.

I rocked and clutched icy hands while she screamed.

Covered in snow and salt, boots dripping on the carpet.

Joy.

And it hit me, that today will never happen again.

And I may hate snow and hate being stranded and hate scrubbing down kitchen walls.

I may be frustrated at life and my child and WHY THE HECK CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE YOUR MITTENS ON!?

But today will never happen again.

Today is a gift.

Image

Credit: Jason Meredith via Flickr

Sometimes it may seem like those pink bunny pajama’s in A Christmas Story

It may not fit, it may be the wrong color, it may just be plain wrong

But it’s a gift.

I bet those bunny pajamas were daggone warm.

I can choose to see the undesirable, the putrid, the annoying

or

I can choose joy.

Like any gift, the important thing is less what it is and more if you choose to take it and what you then choose to do with it.

I can see already it isn’t always going to be easy or straightforward.

This year is going to require some creativity

looking over and around and through.

Cosmic hide and seek.

Joy. 

Weekend Reading

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my “coffee” drinking buddy.
really, i just put her milk in a mug. she can dig it.


The Reads:

Sexism is Daily Reality for Girls, says Girlguiding
“Most of the 13-year-olds questioned said they had experienced sexual harassment, rising to 80% of 19 to 21-year-olds…

The report also talks of bias in the way women are portrayed in the media, with girls and women facing “unprecedented levels of personal and public scrutiny” over body shape”.

Of the 11 to 21-year-olds questioned, 75% agreed boys expected girls to look like images they saw in the media, while 71% said they would like to lose weight.”

Why I Finally Wear TOMS Shoes
“Simply stated, handouts tend to create dependency in the long term and can actually undermine a local economy…But now, TOMS Shoes is changing their approach. And I’m dancing in my new shoes.TOMS Shoes will open a shoe-manufacturing business in Haiti this January. 100 Haitians will be on the payroll. It’s a small step. Yet it’s a huge change in the company’s approach.”

A New Anointing for a New Year
“Hope in us needs breath. If we’ve buried our dreams over time in the valley of the dry bones, we need to be willing to see them there. But first, we need to be willing to even just lift up our heads. And remember. The hope that was once so alive in us.”

The True Cost of Stuff
“The cost of purchasing an item just scratches the surface. When we buy something, we are taking it into our homes, our lives, and we are taking on the life of another object in this world.”

Rich Catholics vs. The Pope
“What all this adds up to is hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable compensation for financial cronies, but not a dime more for low-income workers. It is exactly the kind of skewed outcome Francis means when he speaks about today’s capitalists, ‘the powerful feeding upon the powerless,’ and the need for renewed state regulation to bring their burgeoning tyranny under control.”

Scripture as Witness to the Word of God
“The Bible is the word of God that bears witness to the Word of God — Jesus Christ.

The Logos-Word became flesh — not a book.

Jesus is God. The Bible is not.

The Bible did not create the Heavens and Earth — the Word (Christ) did.

We worship Jesus; we do not worship the Bible.

The Bible is not a member of the Trinity.

The Bible is not God. Jesus is God.”

Pope Francis Leaves Nuns A Voicemail That You Have to Hear
“What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer the phone?”

 

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Homemade play-doh for the win this week!

From my January books:
“‘In twenty years of working in the Bronx, the neighborhood churches have have only reached out to me two times. One time they came to lobby for prayer in public schools. The other time they protested a new science curriculum that included evolution. Twice they contacted me in twenty years – and they wanted to talk about school prayer and evolution. But you know what? For twenty years I’ve had kids that cannot read or do basic math. My students struggle to make it through school. We don’t have enough books, supplies, or resources for them. Our school building is literally crumbling around us. The kids have life-threatening, urgent needs. They’re hungry; they’re homeless. But in all these years, you’ve only criticized. You’ve never helped. Taking evolution out of my textbooks won’t change a thing for my kids. They’ll still be poor, uneducated, and stuck in the cycle of poverty. But not one church person has ever asked me about any of those things’… [he said] he wouldn’t welcome the church in his school because , as far as he could see, they couldn’t care less about what kids in poverty really need to succeed in school.”

– From Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Education for Low Income Kids
(Nicole Baker Fulgham)

“Violence is as much a part of what it means to be poor as being hungry, sick, homeless or jobless. In fact, as we shall see, violence is frequently the problem that poor people are most concerned about.”
– From The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence
(Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros)

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NYE poutine with the husband man.

On my “you can totally run a half marathon by June” playlist:
Royals – Lorde
God is Enough – Lecrae
Applause – Lady Gaga
Try – P!nk
Gold on the Ceiling – The Black Keys
A Long Way Off – Gungor

In my coffee mug:
the remnants of my pound of Starry Night holiday blend from Collectivo

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NYE polaroids!

What about you?  What are you reading, running to or sipping this weekend?

The Equally Audacious but Hopefully More Successful 2014 Reading List

So last year I read a decent amount, just not what I planned to read necessarily.

Here’s to sticking to the plan this year!

Credit: uitdragerij via Flickr

Credit: uitdragerij via Flickr

January

The Locust Effect: Why The End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence
(Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros)

Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids

(Nicole Baker Fulgham)

February

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
(Sarah Bessey)

Growing Strong Daughters: Encouraging Girls to Become All They’re Meant to Be
(Lisa Graham McMinn)

March

Beauty will Save the World: Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity
(Brian Zahnd)

The Crowd the Critic and the Muse: A Book for Creators
(Michael Gungor)

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity
(Soong-Chan Rah)

April

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel
(Barbara Kingsolver)

Red Moon Rising: How 24-7 Prayer is Awakening a Generation
(Pete Greig, Dave Roberts, and Peter Greig)

How Shall We Worship?
(Marva J. Dawn)

May

Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation  
(Miroslav Volf)

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart
(Christena Cleveland)

June

The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See
(Richard Rohr)

Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline
(Lauren F. Winter)

A Royal ‘Waste’ of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World
(Marva J. Dawn)

July

Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity
(J.R. Daniel Kirk)

Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women
(Dan J. Brennan)

August

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

1984
(George Orwell)

September

Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith
(Mae Elise Cannon, Lisa Sharon Harper, Troy Jackson and Soong-Chan Rah)

The Color Purple
(Alice Walker)

October

Down We Go: Living Into the Wild Ways of Jesus
(Kathy Escobar)

Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women’s Theology
(Kwok Pui-lan)

November

Their Eyes Were Watching God
(Zora Neale Hurston)

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision
(Randy Woodley)

December

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
(Jen Hatmaker)

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
(Anne Lamott)