This I believe…

Artist Lynda Schlosberg captures some of the energy that I felt contemplating these ideas with her painting Matrix 10

Like so many heartfelt posts that I’ve wanted to write, this one has been written well over half a dozen times in google drive: testing, feeling, sounding out which phrases resonate with me.   I haven’t been sure whether to get really practical – as I usually do – or keep things on the level of musing, theoretical, and abstract.  In the end, emotions and ideas won out.

All during September we blogged and thought about Belief at Connect Shore, and so I got curious about what I really truly believed.  What makes me tick?  I couldn’t stop thinking about this for weeks.

As always, I found out as I wrote and tested these ideas  in ‘real world’ conversation, what I think is most shocking are instead the concepts that I talk about non-stop through my actions and facebook posts.  It’s not much of a surprise to others that I believe in these things.  But, the process of working through my core beliefs, all in one place, at one time, was very moving and exhilarating for me.

Actually making my beliefs into tangible tokens took those emotions one step further.  I literally couldn’t sleep for hours one night because I was so excited that I had made these particular beliefs so clear.  And then the next day (figuratively speaking) I was down in the dumps because even though I believe that these are the important things in life… I was worried that my actions don’t always match my beliefs perfectly.  This is something, even after making the cards and contemplating everything I still don’t have an answer for too.

Even though my created trump cards don’t live up to everything I imagined… they come close.  The idea of trump cards makes perfect sense in my head – Beliefs that supercede and engulf small waves of interpretation – like a Queen gobbling up a lowly Eight.  These are abstract principles that unify your life in all it’s seemingly – but not actually – disparate parts.  Principles that are called by so many other names like Core Values or in French – Raisons D’Etre.  These are my foundations. The undergirding of my actions and wishes to act.  They are strings that resonate throughout the symphony of my life; and I hear their tones repeated as point and counterpoint.

As I said, I didn’t want to just write a post about these things I believe, I wanted to illustrate them.

So I created a set of cards detailing six of my very most important beliefs.  I think they can be divided into beliefs that affect my inward life, and beliefs that affect my outward actions.

KnowYourTrumpCards

To sort them out I made lists of catchphrases that have resonated with me throughout my emerging adulthood.  I edited them for those strains which had lasted the longest and recurred the most times.  That is how I got six categories, and many phrases which I have repeated to myself like parables.

Inward Beliefs: Discipline, Wisdom, and Balance


Outward Beliefs: Stewardship, Community, and Hospitality

I realized that these particular beliefs for me are born out of being a Christian, and all of my beliefs spring out of Freedom within a Framework of Faith a phrase I was first introduced to at Gordon College.  I felt that I had to incorporate that somehow.  In order to represent my faith, I included the first line of the Apostles Creed, the essentials that I hold to be true when it comes to Christianity.  They also give me a freedom to practice my other values.   (I know that others can reach these values without a Christian background, but that is how I reached them.)

As I’ve been re-reading the wonderful book Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson I’ve been mindful to treat these values as  “familiar components in the response to new situations.”

I don’t think they’ll change… but maybe other beliefs will replace them over time.  I can only wait and see.

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Farm Share Abundance

I got my first farm share two weeks ago and despite my pompous surety that I would know every vegetable in the box, I didn’t.  Broccoli Raab (or Rapini)?  What the heck is that?  And should I be eating the flowers?

What about this unidentified leafy green?

(It’s Tatsoi! I didn’t even know what that was!)

But a quick tour of other blogs like Relishments helped me to identify some things – such as green garlic – and come up with a good recipe for it, and my turnip greens.

Like, I’m sure, many a farm share newbie I also chose the wrong size share for my husband, baby, and I.  The large is indeed large –  and though we were able to contend with ¾ of the share the first week we had to throw away some arugula and one of the unidentified green leaf bundles.  However, two weeks into this dilemma I’ve figured out two solutions to the abundance farm share problem.

1.  Make and freeze meals. After I checked out Homemade Pantry from the library five weeks ago I realized I have become a little bit of “that mom.”  You know, the one who’s busy making her own condensed cream of mushroom soup and trying to feed her kid turnips.  (He likes them.)

But one thing I haven’t become is someone who likes to cook everyday.  I go on mad cooking sprees baking banana muffins, homemade pizza crust, and lightning fast stirfry’s, but… in between all I want to eat is cheese and crackers.  Unfortunately, that kind of thing makes me feel guilty when there’s two other people in the house.  It feels a little selfish. (Maybe it shouldn’t? I don’t know. And yes, my husband cooks too.  But sometimes… neither of us wants to cook.)  That’s why I’ve decided when I get a little extra ambition, I’m going to make a freeze more meals (such as spinach and rice casserole.  So far I’ve made one with one of our delicious bags of abundant spinach.

2.  Easy and Practical Hospitality.  If you’ve been following along over time and read a few of my resolution updates you’ve seen that I struggle a little with exactly how to put hospitality into practice.  Sometimes the notion can be vague.  But with extra veggies on hand it isn’t.  It’s easy for this to translate into an extra dish for a church potluck or maybe a meal for a friend.  I’m looking forward to other ways I can use the farm share to practice hospitality as the summer (and fall) wear on.  It’s lovely to have something in our life that’s abundant enough to be able to share with others and feels good to be generous.

A Super Soup Swap

So far this winter is like the November that never ends.  It’s blustery, then rainy; cool one day, reminiscent of fall (or spring) the next.  There is little in the way of waking up with a magical muffling snowfall creating iridescent patches of secret space.   I miss my New England right of complaining about winter snow, so I fall back on merely griping about the inconstant weather.

However, it turns out only a little whining is good for the soul, or (well, technically, actually, honestly, really) none.  Instead, according to the Italian proverb printed on the back of my favorite packaged soup, “ “Sette cose fa la zuppa” which translates to “Soup does seven things.  It relieves your hunger, quenches your thirst, fills your stomach, cleans your teeth, makes you sleep, helps you digest and colors your cheeks.””  What could be the only answer to this?

To have a Soup Swap.

Soup swaps turn out to be a popular winter pastime (almost as popular as mustache parties, but alas, I have yet to attend one of those).  There is even a National Soup Swap Day.  So, with the desire for a quenched thirst I invited over 12 or so friends in the anticipation of a delightful even.

On the day of the swap, 7 women attended, bringing 13 different types of soup spanning cuisines from Mexico, to India, to Italy.  11 were vegetarian, with a total of 5 different types of beans, and 2 different types of lentils used.  Happily, we all seemed to agree that spicy soup is the spice of life, and 4 soups were thus titled, and “curry” implying it in others.

There’s a good half dozen ways to swap soup at these types of events, but we listed all of our soups on a board and then went in a circle choosing a container (1 qt) each time. I ended up with five different soups. If the measure of success if delicious soup, new recipes, and a great evening with friends, then a success it was.  I would definitely host a swap again.

One surprise I ended up with was that few people at my party knew one another.  Actually, this happens to me frequently, so it wasn’t a large surprise.  My best hypothesis is that it comes from my persistent habit of making one or two new friends from each activity or job or college that I try, but I fail to integrate my new friends with my old friends, or simply move on to new activities too rapidly.  However, it did make for some very interesting conversations about art therapy, the MBTA, and church plants.

Hospitality: It’s more than getting your own bed.

Hospitality seems to get the same rap as the Golden Rule: “What’s the big deal, you just be nice to people.”   And, if measured in terms of services, can be performed better by an impersonal hotel, which has brokered deals for better TV, better coffee, and a better air conditioning.

Yet, as I’ve been traveling through the Maritime provinces of Canada with my husband we’ve stayed at several campgrounds, and two WWOOF hosts getting a more intimate picture of hospitality.  WWOOFing stands for “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” and the deal is: For 5 to 6 hours of work per day, you stay at an organic farm with a host for an agreed upon duration with free room and board.  The farms aren’t conventional pastoral scenes envisioned by us urbanites, but range from CSA farms, to bakeries, vineyards, or (as our next destination) an artisanal tofu shop.

Here’s where Hospitality comes into play.  Every one of these hosts has agreed to open their home to strangers, in exchange for some work that is of nearly equal value.  The host has already agreed to the premise of hospitality, but what they do beyond clean sheets separates gratitude from grudge.  This is where I truly discovered that there is more to hospitality even than extra rooms in a home, lovingly prepared food, meals eaten as a group, and badminton groups available for joining.

Our first hosts knew how many siblings we each had (and their occupations) by the end of the third day, they suggested locations to visit around their area and tailored those suggestions to the type of people we readily present ourselves to be (bibliophile metropolitan hipsters with coffee cravings).  Upon hearing our religious affiliation they put their own disavowal of organized religion behind them, and accepted that we had made intentional choices regarding beliefs.

Our second hosts couldn’t have told you what city we lived near or the type of movies we liked watching.  They could tell you how three people own the entire American political machine, how evil precludes the existence of God, and cities are places where the Hell’s Angels roam militantly about seeking whom they might devour.  They weren’t prepared to allow us a single statement either in confirmation or denial of any of these things.  They lectured continually.

Between these two hosts, we noticed that the first had a doorway of transparency, and the second an obdurate wall of opinion.  The first respected us as people who had come to crossroad and made different decisions based on reason, the second couldn’t believe that we perceived tofu as a remotely appetizing.  (“If I want to eat bean protein, I’ll just eat beans.  Besides, Bison meat is the best source of protein and fat you can eat.”  – Yes, that is a REAL quote) The first were ready to inconvenience themselves, even mentally for us, the second unable to see beyond their own limited provincial experiences.

Hospitality, which is so much more than even this topsoil level scratching, has become a thing I want to examine more closely.  What more is there beyond the material comfort, the respect and transparency?  What can I find out, and how then can I embody it?

Life Autonomy and the Pursuit of Hospitality

Nothing comes easily, though some things come naturally.

I just made up that aphorism, or at least, I didn’t Google it first.  Along with my New Years Resolutions to drink more, hang up my clothes when I come home from work, and caretake, I have added to my resolves the at times bewildering task of pursuing hospitality.

It comes from a long tradition of realizing that life is lived better with intention, goal setting, and clearly articulated mission statements.  Though these things are forgotten at times, and I have to come back around to them after neglecting these healthy thoughts in favor of junk food single serving gratification, inevitably I do.

Pursuing hospitality can mean spending money, but also valuable time.  It can mean cleaning out the large tupperware container at my house containing diamond hard marshmallows and making a list of things to put into a “Let’s have a fire at my house” box.  It can mean reminding myself to get birthday gifts, write cards, and shop for others.  It is remembering to send a card, ask to participate in someone’s favorite activity, which may certainly not be mine.  It may mean all of these things being forefront at my mind, at times when I want nothing else but to do only what I want.  How difficult!  How hard.

But the payoff is big, and the first fire of the year at my house was a success, and the third journey to Dogtown was a success, and the first trip to Beverly’s Dick and June’s for a wonderful Banana Chocolate froyo was a success as well.  And all of these activities counted toward pursuing hospitality.