Category Archives: Self

An oozing, gushing mess of Spirit

The first thing I did this morning was plunge into cold water and stretch and move my body fully with the rhythm of it; dogs gliding along at my side and a crane perched on the roof of a dock in the cove. I felt God everywhere. I swam early: 6:20 on a Sunday morning. I swam before hubby or kiddo were awake; before anyone could ask anything of me. I swam with enough time to shower and go to the early service, even! After I had my swim I lay a towel on the dock and practiced yoga, moving my body on it’s various axles and then pushing my energies in one direction…another…grounding. Directing focus and praise physically, mentally and emotionally as the birds sang their good morning’s and the lake breathed thick veils with the air above it. I thought of all the blessings that’ve touched me lately and I thought of the promise of those yet to come.

And then I went to church. On Pentecostal Sunday. Can’t say I knew much about this one going into it. In fact, just last week Sonskyn mentioned my ma-in-law was at church on a weeknight and asked me what season we were in. My response after looking it up was “huh, Pentecost…nope, can’t think of anything special that time of year!” Huh, is right! I’ve since had a realization that I have somehow missed entirely the liturgical calendar event most closely matched with my personality!

But let me back up. I sat in the pews at my parent’s church (and nearest I’ve to one for my family at the moment) this morning and listened to a young mother called to the Episcopalian pulpit early who now loves that congregation with a joyous and genuine heart. She preached to us of the Holy Spirit and shared an interpretation of the Trinity she’d enjoyed and embraced. I want to share it with you now because it is just so lovely.

See most folks aren’t up for talking about the Trinity. God is good – we get him. He’s Big Papa, up there hugging or coaching or teaching. Sometimes he disciplines us; thwarts our plans. Jesus is the peer. He’s liked by gals because of his sensitive heart but still loved by many a guy because of his manly-likeability. You know you can see his hippy ass coppin’ a squat on the grass, whittle-wood in hand, ready to talk shop on life and carve something cool. The Holy Spirit or Ghost or whatever you want to call it, though…that one’s a little harder to personify…

So the idea Mary shared with us this morning was the Holy Spirit as the embodiment of the love between Father and Son. This “oozing, gushing” extra loveliness that spills out from them and into our world, our hearts, our lives…this is the Spirit. This is what I pressed my energy toward this morning as I stood with my feet planted firmly on a dock in an empty cove…What a beautiful conceptualization of the Holy Spirit, huh?

I leave this home in a couple of days to fly to our other one. South Africa, our “other” home, currently involves living in others’ houses and adjusting our child and selves to a culture that, though familiar, is different from the one we share now. We will disrupt the lives of friends and family there and impose ourselves on them for rides, beds, company and laughter. My family will spend two and a half weeks living a life so different from the one we live here…ahh, vacation:). I feel this opportunity, this privilege, so acutely today. I’ve spent the last two days preparing mentally and emotionally for the journey we’re about to embark on with a now very chatty child and I find myself strengthened for the path by an idea that resounds so firmly in my own head and heart: I can tune in to that Spirit anywhere I need to do so.

Should travel plans derail, I’ll thank God for the laughter the story will bring later…or the conversation enjoyed while we ride the bus (Pitlochry to London ’02 reference, Sonskyn and Thea…;)) Should family not always see eye to eye on those booze-laden evenings, I’ll thank God we want to share ideas and views with one another we feel passionately enough about to yell. Should absent friends leave us feeling sad and neglected, I’ll thank God for those who go to any length to remind us we’re home.

Get ready, South Africa…I’ve got a suitcase full of oozing, gushing Spirit with your name on it! I’m planning on documenting the heck out of this trip, too. I want to capture footage on SA food culture to piece together into a series for www.vikingtogo.com at the least or PBS at the best;) I’ve even downloaded an application for my phone that will allow me to stream video live to qik.com/potluckmama. I’m going to throw some footage up there while I’m away so feel free to visit and see what we’re getting up to. I may or may not post while away, dear readers. Rest assured, though, that I will be pushing my energies in one direction – then another – grounding all the while. I’ll direct my focus and praise physically, mentally and emotionally on the Spirit wherever I can find it – giving thanks.

I hope you catch the pentecostal spirit, too, friends…it’s a happy place to be:)

You may want to check out 1000 Awesome Things while I’m gone…that should get you started down the right path! 🙂

’til next time!

A Sense of Place

I’ve felt at home many places in my life. My childhood room, summer camp, dorm rooms, staff quarters, apartments and homes.  I’ve always enjoyed new starts in fresh places and the challenges were met in great part because I was able to identify a safe place, a home base, where I could recharge, reflect and renew. These bases allowed me to venture out into new territories while still carrying a sense of place in my heart. Even in my most awkward stages of life, I have been able to identify a place to cry, pray or sit with my thoughts. The roof of my parents’ house, the cab of my first car, a state park in Nashville, the Loch trails of Scotland, a porch in South Africa. Each spirited me forth anew with balanced confidence, no matter the blows I took before or after.

I thought about this, what I’ll call a “sense of place”, when I went down to my family’s farm for my birthday the other weekend. I love that place. I always have. Such a delightful mix of dirt and sunshine and old and new. I came there as a child to run and explore and play and I go there as an adult to…well, run and explore and play. No matter that I have no legal rights to the land. I have claimed it with my heart and in the event it is transferred or sold I have still felt that sense of place with my feet in that dirt and it can be recalled through a memory, a photo or a story.

I think perhaps the ease with which I recall this sense of place is the product of practice. My mother and father made me equally welcome in both their homes, in both their lives. They also thrust me out alone into the world early in my childhood, my first stint away from home being two weeks at a girl’s camp in North Carolina when I was six years old. I learned to make Cabin 1 on Hillbrook Hill a home and from there the sky was the limit.

How important it becomes when you’ve been thrust out into the world to be able to identify and claim a “home” of your own; to carry and exert a sense of place no matter the territory. This translates easily to confidence and ease, both graces that attract others to your little circle of life. I know in my own life it’s been when I have had the least sense of place that I have had the fewest comforting companions; that I’ve felt most alone. It’s then I’ve had to be carried through by my faith that I will feel those feelings once again, that I’ve had to reflect on those places, or even that I’ve had to run to those places to remember the certainty they bolster; to recharge my sense of place.

How awful it must be if you’ve not felt these feelings. I can hardly begin to understand the struggle to find balance when you’ve never felt a sense of place. I’m sure there are those people out there. Unsettled, still searching people who never seem to relax completely. Looking for a place where they can let down their guard and recharge; prepare to go out into the unknown with perceptible balance and grace. Entire foundations have been built to provide this sense of place to people who have none. People have dedicated their lives to helping others achieve it. It is a powerful need, indeed.

Find a place for yourself. Go there and recharge. Prepare for the next day of your life and prepare to live it with balance and grace. Trust me when I say it will be easier each time you consciously do so. And, when the opportunity presents itself, please do what you can to welcome others and give them that same sense of place to carry with them. It’s a gift like no other.

This post is dedicated to the people of Rainbow Village; may your blessings be bountiful and your sense of place strong.

Mouthgasm 2010: Sandestin

For those of you who read last week’s post, you know I needed to chill out. I did:) On Thursday afternoon I headed out to Florida with some of my best friends for some R&R on the Emerald Coast. We arrived just past 9 pm and by 10pm we were seated at Tommy Bahama’s for our first mouthgasm. The instigators?

LOKI-LOKI TUNA POKE
Fresh Ahi tuna, soy and sesame oil layered with freshly made guacamole and served with Tommy’s flatbread and tortilla strips

SOUTH SEAS SCALLOP SLIDERS
Pan seared, fresh basil, roma tomatoes, chipotle aioli, crispy “Tobacco” onions with Asian slaw

BAHAMA BASIL SMASH
Tommy Bahama White Sand Rum, muddled blackberries, basil and fresh ginger, “from scratch” sour mix and Sprite

Friday morning we headed over to the beach (first and last time…very odd for me on a beach trip) for a couple of hours and then hit Wine World (aka Chan’s) for some lunch and to peruse the gourmet cheeses (we ultimately bought blueberry cheese, jalapeno havarti & two large mozzarella blocks). After lunch we went to pick up some groceries and found we were all on the same, healthy mission. We didn’t end up with a bit of junk! Yogurt, dried fruit, nuts, juices & fresh vegetables were the picks of the day and I am so thankful for it. I swear putting these good things into our bodies made all the difference in the world…especially as the level of alcohol consumption was just the slightest bit higher than usual;)

Friday night turned out to be another late night, with us only sitting down to our crab leg boil around 10pm. Mouthgasmic…

Saturday morning we went to Another Broken Egg around 11am for breakfast. As my early to rise self had already feasted on yogurt, nuts and dried fruit I decided to order “light”:

BAKED BRIE DELIGHT
A delightfully mild white cheese softened and smothered with sautéed apples, raisins & pecans in a sweet Grand Marnier butter sauce. Served with lightly toasted French bread for spreading!

BLACKBERRY GRITS

At this point we understood our meals were off schedule. We embraced it. Some fun in the sun then we picked up some fresh fish for supper and hopped in the golf cart to go over to The Village for  oysters Christine was just dying to introduce us to: raw, served with wasabi and soy sauce…mmm…

We walked by a sushi place on the way to oysters…it seemed appropriate to stop for an appetizer…

I had some of the best salmon nigiri I’ve ever tasted (the fish tasted better than it looked…pleasant surprise!) and lovely, soft white tuna nigiri that melted in my mouth like butter. We also had a tasty order of edamames.

Palates whetted, on we went to the Acme Oyster House at The Village in Sandestin. Beautiful, beautiful oysters. More melting mouthgasms…totally smooth. We had a dozen baked and three dozen raw. Good thing we stopped in at the sushi place, too…Acme no longer had their soy sauce & wasabi oysters on the menu, so we ran back over to Osaka Sushi Rocks to ask our new friends if we could borrow some fixin’s. I must say, hands down, this was the most interesting and divine way I have eaten oysters to date. So-very-good.

We decided to skip the midnight fish taco supper we’d planned and hit the sack at a reasonable hour Saturday night. My internal alarm clock woke me up around 6:30am Central time (thank you, kiddo) so I decided to cook them up for breakfast instead. My friend Ann had the great idea to use naan bread for the tacos…good, good, good!

Us Georgia girls hit the road for home with a pit stop at my Aunt & Uncle’s in Marianna to have a bite for lunch and bring my grandmother back up to Atlanta to spend the week with my mom. I love Ruth & Larry’s place. I got to look at their garden and new greenhouse (foreplay) before sitting down to my last mouthgasm of fresh shrimp salad with avocados, 2 hr old radishes, remoulade sauce and muffins. For dessert we had Sticky Black Bean something with ice cream. It reminded me of rice pudding but was wonderfully different at the same time. I also saw these beautiful bay leaf garlands for the first time and was absolutely fascinated by them…very cool!

I found it interesting the way this little trip of ours shook out. Our meals were not of the interior grocery store isles, but fresh concoctions- most from the sea. The trip was soon centered around these mouthgasms – they were pursued so thoughtfully they became the cornerstone of it. I snatched up my morning alone time for yoga practice and stretching. I finished Eat, Pray, Love (and cried) – so apt. As each day passed, the same two words floated around in my mind: Restorative…Elemental…

And I am restored. The lovely food, when we dined both in and out (thanks, Erin, for knowing all the best places to go!), fed me not only physically but mentally. It makes me wonder – can our greatest imbalances be leveled with some attention to elemental needs? Moderation and health in nutrition and exercise certainly seem a reasonable way to test the theory. It’s not likely to hurt you, anyway…and you might just be surprised with multiple mouthgasms in the process!

Bay Leaf Garlands

I can’t wait for Mouthgasm 2011:)

Tending the Gardens

Spring is sprung on my side of the world. My perennials are popping back up (as are weeds) and I’m sorting through my seeds figuring out what vegetables to plant in my square foot garden. Long days are upon us and I know I will soon neglect the house and the laundry in favor of the yard and gardens. This will go on a couple of months before the heavy heat of Georgia Summer chases me back in to the air conditioning where my boobs don’t sweat. Then the yard will be on it’s own until the temperatures moderate and I’m ready to venture out once again.

The yard won’t wow anyone these next couple of months. Though I will toil, my greatest rewards will be limited: the rediscovery of plants I’ve already cultured as I pull back weeds, the potting of purchased (not nursed) plants in my patio containers. I’ll kick myself for not planting more bulbs last fall and applying pre-emergent weed treatments to the lawn. I know because it went down like this last year and I made few changes to my routine to alter the outcome.

It’s hard to believe it was Easter on Sunday. This year is flying by. It seems just yesterday I was beginning my spiritual preparation for Lent, thinking about my relationships and my self…trying to identify ways I can improve both. Now here I am, a chorus of “he is risen, indeed” echoing in my head and still I find myself wondering what I’ve actually accomplished. Fortunately, my spiritual growth is not regulated by the same seasons as my gardens. I do not have to wait for next Lent to plant my bulbs. I may find the heat of introspection chases me back to my comfort zone from time to time, but those seasons are my own and I have more control over them than those that guide my physical planting.

Knowing this, I have made some conscious decisions about my yard and gardens – both physical and spiritual.

1) I will not neglect the yard just because I value the fruits of my gardens more. If I make the effort with the yard (weeding, edging) I will have to mow less frequently. I will not have to deal with the shame an unkempt yard evokes. This behavior is neighborly. My body is my yard and my soul is my garden. Though I value the fruits of the soul, I will do the hard work necessary to get my body in good shape so that I may be free of the shame an unfit one elicits. Once the hard work is done, I’ll be able to work less frequently. I’ll take pride in my healthy body and my next door neighbor (hubby) is bound to appreciate it;)

2) I will wait for the rain before I weed. There is no sense busting ass digging at roots in solid ground. That behavior only leaves me frustrated and unsatisfied. Similarly, I will not force spiritual growth on myself when my soul is not ready. Much like rain, circumstances for growth are beyond my control. There’s no sense kicking myself for not scaling some grand spiritual staircase this Lent. I’m better off working on something else until that slow, steady rain comes in it’s own time.

3) I will prioritize and make the time. No one becomes a master gardener overnight (nor a master of anything else, for that matter). I will sometimes set aside laundry or other housekeeping responsibilities to work in the yard when weather permits. For my soul? I will tear myself away from a work project to go to the Wednesday noon church service or miss a self-imposed writing deadline to play with my son. Also, as my gardens are shared with my husband’s, I will make time to tend them together – even if that means doing the “tasks” he wants to do rather than those I’d like to do.

4) I will make every effort to learn. I will identify my trusted sources, open my mind to positive influences and make every effort to soak up ideas.Through this I will achieve growth.

5) I will not be afraid to try new ideas, even if they are foreign to me. Nor will I be afraid to cast aside those that do not suit my soil, plants or climate.

6) I will share. Just as many plants can be split and rooted to grace a new space, so can positivity be shared and fostered to grace another soul.

7) I will compost. I will not cast aside scraps of food or life lessons. Instead, I will allow them to ruminate and culture, applying them when the time comes, that I may grow beautiful vegetables and the fruits of the spirit.

So there you have it – my gardening plans. I hope the exercise of writing them down helps me stick with them:) I find sometimes the best gardens are those that require little effort (thank you, zinnias!) but even when the grandest of my planting plans are left unrealized I can at least see the outlines of them to guide me the next year. Here’s to a happy season (whichever yours may be) and a yard and garden to be proud of! What about you? Have you ordered your seeds yet? Which plants will you share with friends?

Spiritual Preparation

In the summer after my sophomore year in college I chaperoned our church’s youth group pilgrimage to the UK. Hot on the heals of heartbreak, that summer was a pivotal one. I got in shape, I got the travel bug and, on that trip, I started to feel like a grown-up. We visited standing stones and cathedrals alike on that journey. The experience strengthened my conviction that my God, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

For all my self-asserted openness, I’m still looking for the church I grew up in. I like knowing when to stand up, sit down or kneel. I like a Sunday School class that’s “meaty”. I want a sermon – not announcements. I want love and comfort and growth. I want a religion that’s tailored to my spirituality. Maybe that’s why I’ve prayed more during yoga practice and less in the pews of late. Or, maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough for a new church. Whatever the reasons, these days I find myself experiencing the bulk of my spiritual growth outside of my comfort zone – and it feels good.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I may not make it to a church service. Lent begins whether I’m there or not, anyway. Lent begins for those who observe it not because it is on the liturgical or civic calendar, but because they choose to observe it. They choose to prepare themselves to strengthen and celebrate their relationship with God.

I don’t want to use this space to talk about my personal Lent commitments; I want to share this idea of preparation. I encourage those of you who have observed Lent in the past to consider your decisions this season. This is not about giving something up. This is about preparing for a relationship. Self-denial is only effective in Lent if the thing you’re denying yourself distances you from God or if the time and energy spent doing it can be redirected to your preparation. Don’t give up chocolate. Instead, make a commitment to spend thirty seconds in prayer every time you want but don’t have a piece of chocolate in the hopes that this regular prayer will become a part of your daily routine. Put some thought into your commitments. Tailor them to your spirituality.

For those of you who haven’t observed Lent before, I encourage you to consider experiencing some spiritual growth outside of your comfort zone. You don’t have to start tomorrow. You can run your Lent from May 17th to June 1st for all anyone else has to do with it. Call him God, call him Allah, call him her – it makes no difference to me. Just prepare yourself. Prepare yourself for a relationship with your God and do so thoughtfully – the rewards will be greater for your efforts.

Here’s a prayer I learned on that pilgrimage that I have turned to time and again. The strength of the words never fail me. I find them even more poignant with my Lent approaching. They help me prepare. I hope they have a similar effect on you.

Standing Stones: Killen, Scotland

God, thanks for welcoming me again. I look into my heart, and I am not proud of what I see there. I look into my mind, and it is cluttered with worries and concerns and important business. I look at my hands and they are full of the things I think I need for my comfort and security. God, you welcome me before I am ready, while I am still in a mess. But you do not care about the mess. You can see deeper into my heart, to the beauty and potential you have made there. You know what my mind will be like when I have learned how to stop being so serious and worried about life and work. You know what my hands will hold when I have learned how to empty them for you to fill. You love me and you love each one of us with the same enthusiasm and hope. You know what we can be. Help us to empty our hearts and minds and hands of all that is unnecessary and teach us how to care for and welcome one another every day with the same affection and generosity with which you welcome us.

Date Night

Illustration by FPJC

Sonskyn and I lived in Centurion, South Africa from late 2002 to late 2004. We stayed in a two bedroom flat (with our friend, Koning) with a beautiful view of the sunset. Our place had an open door to all our friends and, seeing that most of them were back in their parents’ houses (several of us had just returned from working in Scotland together), there was a constant flow of company. Sonskyn and I are social people, so we enjoyed this.  Still, we have our ups and downs like any couple and I recall a period when I was especially hungry for romance.

I hinted at it. I threw the lack of it around like an accusation when we’d argue. I’d fantasize about all the dramatic gestures he could make for me…if he wanted to. Did he just not love me as much as I loved him? Why, though I felt with all my heart that he did, wasn’t I sated?

I was driving along the N4 from Centurion to Wonderboom one morning and just as I was cresting the hill overlooking Pretoria, a realization came to me. I still associate the idea with the view.  If I wanted romance, I should do something romantic. I shouldn’t waste my energy being frustrated with Sonskyn for not scratching my romantic itch. I should scratch it myself and show him how nice it could be in the process;). I spent the rest of the morning scheming.

First I had to kick Koning out for the night- easy enough. Then I found rose pedals at a florist, scribbled a cute little poem alluding to what was to come and had a friend come with me to drop off the car keys with my note so Sonskyn could get home. As he approached the car that evening to leave, he noticed a few stray pedals on the ground by the driver’s side…then a few more scattered on the  driver’s seat…

He came into the apartment, which was aglow with scattered candles and petals. He laughed nervously when he saw me in silk…

We had a lovely evening. We laughed, we smiled and we had a taste of romance. I was sated.

That decision and that evening changed me in a sense. The success tuned me in to a power I have – the power of free will. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, but our response to those circumstances are very much in our control. Remember, Sonskyn may not have been in the mood for romance that night. He may have come home and told me he loved me and the gesture, but just didn’t have the stuffing for a high-level emotional evening. He may not have reciprocated. His response was beyond my control. But, knowing that the gesture had never been selfless anyway, I hope I would have chosen to find happiness in the idea that he did love me and the gesture. If I forgave him for not being in the same place as me I bet he’d have appreciated it even more.

Last week a post from Annakate at La Aguacate inspired me to shake up my shopping cart with some different veggies. I picked up some fresh fish and on Monday night I cooked. I not only cooked, I glided around the kitchen, cleaning up as I went along and really enjoying the process. At some point it all just looked so beautiful that the need to be romantic took over and, on a random Monday night, Sonskyn and I had a romantic (though late:)) dinner. I saw the Pretoria skyline in my mind’s eye all the while.

1. I cleaned as I cooked so I could relax and enjoy sitting down to the meal.
2. Fresh ingredients and the A.V.C.T.. I couldn’t remember for the life of me what endives were called but they looked like they’d be tasty sauteed…
3. You see the cous cous there? Just sitting there ready for the kettle water?
4. Totally forgot to make it.
5. But that’s ok because it gave a new twist to our leftover lunches:)

  • Fresh Fish
  • Pecans
  • Shredded Parmesan
  • Cilantro – 1 bunch
  • a couple of tablespoons of flour (salt & pepper to taste)

Finely chop pecans (can use A.V.C.T.) and about 1/3 of the cilantro. Mix with Parmesan. Lightly dust fish with flour to dry and then dip into egg wash before coating with pecan mixture. Cook in pan with EVOO at medium heat. Flip when browned. Let rest on paper towel before serving on bed of cilantro.

I halved endives and sauteed them in the pan after the fish. Those, a chunk of mozzerella and a half tomato each were our sides…you could obviously do something different.

I hope my story inspires you to create a little romance for Valentine’s Day…it can mean so much more than those commercializing the holiday would lead you to believe. And, if romantic love isn’t in the cards this year, please remember that you are free to express Agápe, Philia, and/or Storge at your will. I hope your week is filled with love! 🙂

Pretoria skyline