Saturday, August 29, 2009

An Unconventional Praise

For the most part, I would say that I've got my priorities straight. I love my family, my husband, God, my country-- you know, all the important things. I'm not money or power-driven, and I don't feel like I am overly materialistic. However, there is one area of my life (well, at least one area of my life), one silly little frivolous area that adds nothing to the greater good of the world, and yet brings me infinite joy. And that, my friends, is food.

Now, I'm not talking about any kind of food, or food in bulk, or even one specific type of food. I just mean, beautiful, quality, delicious food. I hate fast food & mass-produced food, and feel that donuts are a waste-- but put me in front of a perfect tomato, or a bite of expensive dark chocolate, and I am in heaven. It's quite a thing to behold.

I had a spiritual moment today at the Farmer's Market.

There was a vendor with rows and rows of green, yellow, red, and even blue-black bell peppers, and lined up together, they looked like artwork. I thought to myself that God could have made eating similar to breathing-- simply a way to bring nutrients in & out of our bodies, but without much sensation to the experience. I thought of cattle, deer, or elephants that eat grass their entire lives, without ever knowing the difference. But, no-- for us, He made it an experience, and utter delight, a thing of beauty.

It occurred to me that God created food not only to taste delicious (in an infinite possibility of combinations), but also to look beautiful, as those bell peppers did. And as I stood in the heat of an unusually warm San Francisco morning, feeling the sun on my face and the sweat on my back, I looked aro
und at the throngs of people at the Ferry Building, sampling fruit, picking out flowers, sipping juice, I felt joy-- praise, even.

I know, I'm insane. Well, actually, it doesn't take much to have a spiritual experience at the Ferry Building-- it's practically the Mecca of all good food. But as someone who studied art, I know that good art should be a spiritual experience-- and, when you think about it, food is the best kind of art because you can experience it with each of your senses, literally internalize it, and even re-create it.

I know that there is pain, suffering, war & injustice in the world-- I have seen a lot of it first hand. And I know that I sound a little crazy (No I'm not drunk, and No, I haven't seen Julie & Julia yet), but I
really do believe that the beauty, variety, and goodness of food points to a creative, good, and generous God.

And if you had tried the heirloom tomato with rosemary sea salt that I sampled this morning, you would be full of praise, and sounding a little bit insane, too.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Little Help for Gavin

I don't dress up my dog. I don't carry him around in little designer bags (even if I wanted to, my shoulder die-- he weighs 60lbs). I don't have pictures of him in my wallet. I don't even feed him leftovers from dinner. But I do love the little booger, and it's hard to imagine not having a dog in our daily routine.

Right now, there is a terrified, shivering pit bull in a cage at the pet hospital. He hurt his leg almost 2 weeks ago, and we thought it was nothing... but then he kept re-injuring it, and we finally decided to bite the bullet and pay for a trip to the vet.

To make a long story short, something is wrong with his knee-- it could be a bad sprain, but the vet seemed to be leaning towards a torn ligament (much like a human tearing their ACL). He's going to be sedated & have x-rays taken this afternoon, and then we get the news: whether or not he needs surgery.

The X-rays alone will cost about $400. The surgery could be anywhere from $1500 to $3000. Needless to say, that's a pretty huge financial investment for us. If he ends up needing the surgery & doesn't get it, he will eventually go lame.

As "missionaries", our salary comes from the donations of families, individuals and churches. I don't know how I would feel about spending $3,000 of people's tithes on a dog's surgery. But then, do we just let our little pup suffer & go lame? It's a tough question to face.

So, as silly as this sounds, would you pray for our mutt, Gavin? Would you pray that he doesn't need the surgery, and that we don't have to make a difficult decision like that? I'm convinced that God cares for all his creation, including a socially awkward, dumb-as-a-rock, sweet little rescue pup.

I know this isn't my normal blog style-- sorry about that. Just wanted to ask for a little help ;)

Update: The vet called back to say that she couldn't find a tear in his ligament, and that (for now) she didn't think he needed surgery. Hooray!

Strangely enough, when compared with a $3,000 vet bill, the $500 everything ended up costing didn't hurt quite as much. I guess poor Gavin won't be able to eat for the rest of the year, though. Actually, he is restricted to short, 10 minute walks, with no playing, wrestling, swimming or running for the next 2 weeks. As great of news as not having surgery was, I know this is going to be a long 2 weeks for all of us. Still, we are SO very grateful.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I have talents. I do. Everyone does, really-- some are brilliant at math, some are musical or athletic or artistic.

I have always felt like my giftings were less tangible than most peo
ples'-- things like being a good listener or asking great questions (not the kind of things that get you college scholarships). I have always been a dismal failure at sports-- in fact, I am fairly certain that I have never, in my life, run an entire mile (and probably won't, unless chased by some hyper-determined killer). My math skills are down right humiliating, and even the thought of spending money in another country, calculating an exchange rate in my head (all that multiplying & dividing and subtracting! Kill me now.) puts me into a cold sweat. I persevered years of orchestra classes only to be hidden at the back of the viola section, and although I appreciate art, I've never really been able to create it on my own.

Now, I am content with the fact that I will never be a winning track athlete, or a rock star (or even a karaoke participant), but there is one area of weakness-- something that has plagued me my entire life-- that I have high hopes of changing. If you are related to me in any way, you should sit down before reading on... My goal, my bright & shining star out on the horizon, is Time Management.

Tardiness is a chronic illness in my life. That feeling of anxiety, guilt, shame & frustra
tion while rushing off to some appointment 15 minutes late is an old friend of mine. My poor husband is well versed in the routine of pulling the car out of the garage and patiently waiting in the driveway while I frantically throw together everything I need for the day. He's even been known to make my lunch for me, on a particularly bad morning. And, I confess that I don't know how our church service begins, because in our 4+ years of living in San Francisco, I'm pretty sure we've never made it on time. Whew, it feels good to get that off my chest.

One reason I believe that Change is possible is that, because of some strange alignment of the stars, I spent an entire summer arriving early. Gasp. I honestly don't know what happened, but during our 4 weeks of training in Colorado this summer, Chris & I woke up every morning, hopped on our bikes (okay, some mornings I made us drive), rode to campus, and arrived a full 10-15 minutes early for class-- saving a table for our friends, preparing tea/coffee, and getting out our notes. There was no incentive-- no roll being called, or public humiliation for tardiness, but for some reason, it happened once and so I know it can happen again.

The key, I believe, to recreating that miracle (permanently) is to set up a morning routine. I know, it sounds simple, but it's so much more complicated that it seems. If I could, I would wake up early every morning, take the dog for a walk, work out, make & eat breakfast, read & pray, shower, make my lunch, and be ready to go by 9am. I think I would have to wake up at 4 to make that happen. The other problem is that Chris & I share the tiniest of space in our apartment, and it always seems like I want to do kick boxing at the exact same time (and place) that he wants to pray & quietly reflect. On top of that, the parks near our house are literally locked before 8am, meaning that my dog-walking time is limited.

Since coming back from my miraculously time-efficient summer, I've tried a few methods of starting my mornings, all to no avail. But I am determined. I have never been big on New Year's Resolutions-- they always seemed so arbitrary. But I have tasted the sweetness of a life well-organized (granted, I had no dog, apartment, responsibilities, or the clutter of everyday life to bog me down, but that's beside the point), and I am convinced of its reality. As we start off a new school year (our lives revolve around the Semester schedule), I have high hopes for a fresh start.

Tonight, Chris & I sat down and made a little refrigerator chart of our weekly activities & goals. We have post-it notes with priorities like Date Nights, Having Dinner with Friends, Praying Together, etc. written on each post-it, and we plug in our priorities according to our weekly schedule. We even came up with incentives, giving ourselves little perks as we achieve our goals.

Our hope is as we organize our evenings, prioritize rest, order and connection over vegging in front of the TV or leaving the dirty dishes until morning, other things (like morning routines) can fall into place a little easier. Of course, we actually have to stick to our little plan to make all of this the smashing success that I am anticipating.

But maybe a smashing success is too much to ask for. I would settle for getting out the door on time, with clothes that fit, a non-neurotic dog, a soul that's centered, and cell phone in hand. Wish me luck-- I'll need it.; because even though timeliness may not be one of my talents, it's something I can at least practice. Hopefully it won't be as painful as practicing the viola.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Place Like...

After 11 weeks, 7 States, 5 beds, and approximately 60hrs of road tripping, I am Home Sweet Home. Chris & I estimated that we spend about 4 months out of every year traveling. Sometimes it feels like weeks before I've caught up to myself in all the travels-- like I don't quite know who I am anymore.

Not that I'm complaining (okay, sometimes I complain). I enjoy the fact that my job takes me to Africa, London, the Rockies, Florida, and of course, back to my family in Southern California (I try not to think about the fact that I have to pay for all those travels). I
t even works out pretty nicely that during the cold, foggy summer months of San Francisco, we can rent out our apartment to a friend and bask in the sun all summer (well, this summer, I was mostly in an air conditioned class room with no windows, but it was sunny & warm on our bike rides to the classroom).

One benefit of traveling so much is that it transforms my tiny, cramped, loud
apartment into a palace-- a haven. Coming home to this Rubik's Cube of a home, where everything fits just so, is the most wonderful, comforting feeling in the world. Sleeping in my own bed is a slice of heaven, putting groceries into our refrigerator is bliss, even cleaning feels good (for the first few days). The feeling of padding around the house in your PJ's, with only the dog & hubby to see you (and the homeless guy looking through the window)-- the feeling of having your own space-- is a luxury beyond compare.

It's always an interesting to notice the things that I miss about home. Last summer, I missed my bed terribly (as I was sleeping in a hammock). This summer, it was food, diversity
& culture that I was hungry for-- and (oddly enough) dogs. I bordered on scary stalker lady every time I saw a dog. Very strange.

Most evenings throughout the year, Chris & I come home tired & hungry, and all we want to do is shovel food into our faces and plop on the couch... but this little 60lb mutt always foils our plans. He needs to go out, and almost every evening I groan & try to think of some way to get out of our daily walk to the park.

Strangely enough, though, it was those walks that I missed the most this summer, while Gavin spent his time guarding the in-law's house, and we were away in Colorado. I realized just how much those walks nourished me-- helped me to unwind after a tiring day, gave space in our marriage to talk &
reflect, created opportunities to be outside, and to gain the comic relief and plain old fun of watching dogs happily wrestling each other.

After about a week of breaking our evening routine (for lack of a dog), I noticed how cranky & unsettled I was. I felt antsy and tired all at the same time-- restless & sluggish. I can't remember what prompted me to go for a walk, but I do remember the revelation it was to just be outside, releasing my mind to wander
wherever it pleased. Sometimes Chris came, and sometimes I was alone. Sometimes we even traded our walk for an evening bike ride, watching the sun set over the mountains, and coming back after dark. I was always covered in mosquito bites, but somehow felt a little more alive, better connected to myself.

We've been home for 3 nights now, and have taken Gavin to the dog park each evening. Ironically, after having happily patrolled the suburban backyard all summer with his playmate, Champ, he's terrified of the variety of the dog park. He always takes a while to readjust to city life, and seems to jump & start at everything. For myself, though, it feels so good to be home-- connected to myself through the familiarity of my own home, my own things, and that dreaded (but therapeutic) daily walk to the park.