Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Just when the summer seems the most insufferable, on a late afternoon, the clouds roll in. Dramatic cracks of thunder warn of the coming storm. The cool downdraft blows the thick heat and humidity away, and after the rain, I go for a run. My shoes feel soft and spongy on the damp pavement, the air feels wonderful in my lungs and I fly around the park in record time, maybe. Maybe not; but I feel good, and that’s something.

The clouds make twilight seem earlier. The wind rattles down drops from heavy-laden leaves and it feels like autumn for a moment. The evening lantern orbs are lit, guiding my way home, and a few timid fireflies make their way around low branches.

I notice in the distance, silvery leaves hanging on branches, cascading over the earth. I approach and see a tree down, the tallest tree in the park? Perhaps. I walk around the wreckage and see that there is still a mighty tall stump with lots-of-life left standing. The top of the tree (mostly likely hit by lightning) lies on the ground, and has taken down a giant branch of another tree. It’s hard to see where one stops and the other begins. I walk to what was the highest point of this tallest tree and pluck one leaf, to keep.

I think of the mighty storm, bringing the top of the tree to a child’s level, to the ground. I think of the giant stump which will probably make it, and how these trials are part of nature, but survival is too. I think of the little leaf in my hand, and how I will forget what it is and throw it away. I make my way home. It is dusk. The night is beautiful.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Twelve Days

This morning, I'm awake before dawn. It's dark out, and the fan blows mild May breezes over me. I decide to get up, and enjoy a breakfast of several clementine oranges and coffee on the balcony.

There is much to do today. After much agonizing, striving, and finally peace, I have a new job. It's a different setting with a different population, but it's still what I went to school to do, and enjoy. So many reasons to be thankful.

But I'm not in my new job yet. The next two weeks will be wrapping up the old. Terminating with all my clients is like breaking up, over a period of 2 and a half weeks, with 25 or so people. I've walked with all these people, to varying degrees, for a while now, some for years. I've grown to love them, in the midst of their stories. Walking away means trusting that God over them is greater, and that it is not me who sustains. Walking away means acknowledging that I am just a humble dispenser of any good that happened in that office, not the source. It means trusting people, in the dignity given them by God, to have their own inner resources, and to be ok, by God's grace. It keeps me from becoming self-important as a helper. And it's hard.

I'm so thankful for a weekend that took me completely outside that world of work. Time to go back. Two more weeks.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Breaking A Long Silence

I haven't written in a long time. Partially because I feel like my thoughts tend to repeat themselves and I've already said it, partially because I felt I had no news that was impersonal enough to share online but personal enough to be interesting, and partially because I just didn't get around to it.

This winter has hung on like nobody's business! I'm so ready for Spring.

I wanted to break my silence with a song... this is the opening song of a folk opera by Anais Mitchell. I'm fascinated!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Good Luck or Bad Luck?

We are just weeks away from Summer Solstice… my planner keeps reminding me as I schedule work appointments for that date and beyond. As I drive away from work on a late night, there is still dusky light at 9 pm. From now until early October, the sun will reign in St. Louis skies.

It’s an open-window evening. Storms have chased all the heaviness from the air and the evening breeze is cool and invigorating. It’s a rarity in June, and will be utterly abnormal come August. I love open windows. The air-conditioner never really feels fresh like outdoor breezes. The neighbor’s dog is baying as people stream out from the jazz festival in the nearby park. Someone’s cigarette smoke is drifting in along with a girl’s shrieky laughter from the sidewalk below, and I toy with being annoyed before I set it aside and focus on responding to emails.

I was talking with a friend yesterday, about those unanswered prayers that turn out to be a blessing in disguise. We just don’t know the outcomes of things, so how can we anticipate what will be best for us? And it seems, in retrospect, that learning to rely on God in the “whatever” is more important than the outcomes that seem so pressing. (It almost never seems so in the moment...But if we truly trust He will provide for our NEEDS... and cares deeply about us, his children...)

It reminds me of a folk-tale (Chinese) that I loved growing up.

The Chinese farmer
There is a story of an old farmer who had only one, old horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills. All the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, 'Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?'
A week later the horse returned--this time bringing with her two beautiful, wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer's good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, 'Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?'
Then, when the farmer's son attempted to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, 'Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?'
Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg they let him off. Only because the son was lame did the father and son survive to take care of each other. Truly, blessing turns to disaster, and disaster to blessing...

Our confidence is not in our circumstances, but in the Lord, who can bring blessing from disaster!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Morning has broken, warm and humid over St. Louis. It’s been pleasant and cool all spring so we act surprised when summer weather (hardly early or unexpected) arrives on our doorsteps. I greet the day the way I most love to greet days: leisurely coffee and a run before work. These are the benefits of working evenings.

I’ve grown accustomed to my schedule, my routine drive into another state. With two close friends graduating and seeking work in the same field, I remember 6 ½ years ago when I was in the same place of needing a job. I remember how discouraging the job-search felt at times. I remember a friend’s mother trying to encourage me to work for Enterprise Rent-a-Car- “they treat their employees well and help pay off student loans.” (That was NOT encouraging, that wasn’t why I went to grad school!) But despite all the angst, there was a job for me, doing exactly what I went to grad school for, and I’ve been there ever since. Will I move on at some point? That’s likely, but not now.

The waiting is a struggle at times. At times it's hard to see where things are going, what (if anything) is being accomplished in staying put. I think back to the job-search and know that "this" (work) is better than "that" but that doesn't mean "this" is without struggle or difficulty.

I look to the God-Who-Provides for wisdom and strength. God-Who-Sees-Me is with me. In the meantime, I save my pennies, my dollars that once went towards a car payment (now paid off). I’m saving for a big trip. I'm saving my vacation days too. This fall, I’m going to try to travel to Greece with friends. If I’m careful, maybe I can do it! I remember the last big trip I took, to Congo. What a contrast. I think fondly of my friends in Congo and pray for our church team that is leaving in a week.

This weekend I will see family and celebrate my dad's birthday. It will be good. And then back to work. My clients await. For now, I am here for them. I am here as long as I'm supposed to be.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good Morning World!

The light is changing. Days are getting longer now. Morning awakenings feel groggy and hopeful. I hear the chirping of birds. Sunlight streams through the crack in the curtains. Pulling them back reveals pockets of snow on the hill below, snow tucked in shadows and low places, but the sun is doing her work.

Soon will come the crocus, daffodil, and asparagus; all of those early-spring flavors that make us feel like airing out indoor places. Soon, a jacket will suffice when going for a walk in the park. Soon, the smell of the damp soil will be released from its frozen prison.

And soon, I will be released from my winter routine of going to a gym and laboring on a machine that simulates walking, running, biking, moving. (I prefer the one like “climbing.”) Is it any wonder that gymnasiums originated in frigid Russia? But soon I will be released from my Siberian prison, and the time change will allow me evening hours of light, sunset, and dusk in which to play.

This time of year I always get restless for the warmth of the sun on my bare skin, and release from hibernation. It’s a hopeful kind of restless, because the change is certain.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Song For Late Winter

Well, here it is, February. The groundhog saw his shadow and there's a snowstorm on it's way. That's not so bad from a cozy home, Senegalese Chicken Soup simmering on the stove and snacking on some jalapeno-flavored potato chips.

For some reason, Spring-cleaning is coming a little early to me this year, and I've been feverishly cleaning the house and office. Tonight, I will meet the usual people at the usual pub. It's a good Thursday.

Here's a song and a recipe.

Senegalese Chicken Soup

1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
1/2 cup curry powder
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 large can (6 cups) chicken broth
1 Tbsp sugar
1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 can (28 oz.) petite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper (to taste)
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1.5 lb chicken breasts*
2 bunches green onion or scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

*Optional: marinade chicken breasts ahead of time (at least 1 hour) in a mixture of curry powder, garlic pepper, and water

In a deep pot, cook onions in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute two minutes. Add curry powder, cayenne pepper, and coriander and fry for an additional two minutes, adding small amounts of olive oil if mixture becomes too dry.

Add chicken broth and scrape bottom of pot well with a wooden spoon. Add tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and salt & pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom often. Do not boil.

While soup is simmering, cook chicken breasts in boiling water until done (15-20 minutes). Drain and either cube or shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Combine peanut butter and 1/3 of soup in blender or food processor and blend until pureed. Once smooth, add back to remaining soup and stir well.

Add chicken and scallions to soup and cook 5 minutes. Add peanuts and cilantro either as a garnish or simply stirred into entire pot of soup. Serve.

Note: if you plan to serve this soup to those you know do not enjoy food that is even a little spicy, leave out the cayenne pepper altogether. There is enough heat in the curry powder to give it a bite without ruining the overall effect of the soup.