Thursday, October 30, 2014

To Love and Do

My mom and I took a walk the other day. As the cacophony of leaves created a noisy, yet soothing soundtrack we talked much as we usually do about many of the same things we usually do. One of which is journaling. As I already have elaborated on this week, my mom has taught me many things as she herself has learned them over the years. Besides quilting, she has also shared journaling. 

Writing in that manner is probably one of the greatest sources of spiritual development in my life. In the deep recesses of my childhood closet hide more than a decade worth of spiral bound thoughts. And while there is much less complaining about youthful woes, chores, homework and groundings, not much else has changed. I still choose to go there to contemplate first. These pages are filled with recognition of faults, expressions of sin, repentance, stubborn defiance, mourning over friendships and relationships, but also of wonderful discoveries, impassioned ideas, stories of God's faithfulness and fairness, new friends, newfound dreams, and really happy memories. 

As I'm on the brink of closing another journal, I look at the slow growing stack and love these penned moments of myself. They are imperfect and messy and not very eloquent, but they are the truest expressions of my thoughts and it's important to me that they have a place of their own. There is a reflection in those scrawlings where I take ownership of myself and Jesus meets me there regularly to point me back to Him. 

While I hold an affinity for journaling myself,  I don't see journaling as some grand value everyone should agree to...in fact, it's the opposite. I am first and foremost a proponent of people finding things they like to do or find helpful and meeting Jesus there. Painting, home decor, horseback riding, brewing coffee, restoring a car, trail running. Jesus meets us in creativity because He Himself is the Creator. And in that we are free to do what we love and experience Him in it. 

"The moment good taste knows itself, some of its goodness is lost," CS Lewis wisely wrote in Surprised By Joy. Inevitably because of sin everything we do is already only half good, and we but continue to lose more when we look to the thing in itself to give us substance. The sharpness and beauty of all creative things comes from its innocence. To follow the path of ability and knowledge with abandon, not expectation, is the only way to truly experience creativity the way it was intended. The ambition to create a beautiful thing is not a problem, it is when we lose our love of creating that turns it into something less good. We search for beautiful results because we enjoy them. If we stop enjoying the search or the result, then beauty in its essence has no purpose. 

I also hope to convey that the creativity I am talking about is not in the absence of hardwork and patience but the absence of futility and vanity in the name of attention or self-satisfaction. In fact, when we are truly doing what we love and enjoying the One who enabled us to love it, we are free to work hard because we are uninhibited by laziness, insecurity, comparison, or fear of rejection. We stop doing what we love in the name of impressing people and actually end up finding the most freedom to just like doing it. 

I journal because it is a form of beauty of me. It may not be blog or novel or Kinfolk worthy, but our creative endeavors aren't always meant to be shared. Sometimes they're just for us to know with our Creator, and that, my friends, is the whole idea. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quilts

My mom is currently resurrecting my high school graduation quilt from the grave. There was a cataclysmic incident in college with my roommates dog where she forewent manners and destroyed a corner. As we were formulating a plan to bandage the poor thing (the quilt, not the dog), I just was glad. Glad that my mom did this for me. Glad that we could share in the vision of the quilt 2.0. Glad to be with my mom. 

There is not a couch without a quilted cloak, or a bed without a sock-like shroud in my moms house. My mom has always been a sewer and quilter. Some of my earliest memories are of her sitting in her basement chalet surrounded by a moat of cotton and twill. Many nights I remember going to sleep in my pink room with the duet of my mom singing while her Bernina hummed harmony rising from the air ducts below my room in a soft lullaby. These quilts are one of many of her offerings of hospitality to us.


Quilts are not the only way I see this etching of hospitality on my childhood. When I was 8, my mom began to sacrifice some of her alone time at Whistle Stop, a local coffee shop, to me. There I learned what it is to enjoy simply the presence of another without conversation, her with a Beth Moore study, me with American Girl and Junie B. Jones novels. Over the years, we shifted to Starbucks and we progressed to C.S. Lewis, Timothy Keller and art journaling. The silence remained but were also shared with occasional punctuations of conversation for me to share an interesting quote or to inquire about her reading for her Counseling classes. 

My mom has always welcomed me and my siblings. We have always been invited into her world to share time, knowledge, questions, a snarky comment, or her bread. She has portrayed hospitality in the most vivid way possible. Not just inviting us to her home, but into herself. The older I get the more I find these little nuances in my life and I just want to pause and remember them. To pen them and hold them dear to me because they are unique to my family. And let me be honest, while I share a lot of things with my mom, I don't share her love for quilting....which is why I write about it instead. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Only Anniversary I Celebrate

I'm a few days shy of the anniversary of my blog. If I were more patient and organized, I would wait until the 28th, however this is my blog and I'm going to do what I want. 

Four years of blogging. I remember writing my first post in my college dorm room, not really knowing how far this would go. I am really bad about finishing what I start, and something open ended like a blog is just an excuse waiting to happen. But here I am, four years later. I've been perusing old entries this morning and find myself smiling, remembering the various locations some were written, and more importantly I vividly recall how I felt as I penned every one. 

I may not be a brilliant writer, and I'm certainly not a great blogger, but I am so glad I do it. It is a joy for me to have a yearbook of sorts to catalog my process. To remember. To see how far and from where I've come. I started this blog in the crux of a confusing relationship that turned into a difficult breakup. I walked through a season of depression here. Many of my favorite quotes and books are littered throughout. I have written on here from North Carolina, Florida, Hawaii, Dallas, Bolivar and Kansas City. If you dig deeply enough there are some really attractive pictures in here too. But really what I see is Jesus coming into my reality, inconsistently and clumsily in my words but so faithfully in His presence. 

As I read my favorite blog this morning by Jami Nato, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this obscure world of words. I have been able to share bits of life with this woman for six years, and although I have never actually interacted with her (and we both live in KC) I am grateful to have been a benefactor of her transparency. And I hope in some small way I have offered that to others. Even if I haven't though, I am still so glad I have done this for me. 

Jesus has become truer and dearer to me in the past few years than I ever thought possible. He is my consistent comforter, he directs me in an about face from my sin and into joy and gently reminds me of His care for me in the process, He gives me good gifts and hard realities. He is my companion and I hope to see Him as ever gooder and kinder and more trustworthy as the years go on. And this is where I place those thoughts to tumble around. 

I will leave you with the quote from my first post that inspired this whole mess. It still rings so true to my vision. I wish I had a glass of champagne (or better yet, a mimosa since it's 9 am) as I close to celebrate my insignificant-to-most-but-joyful-to-me anniversary. I'll pretend for now and just have two glasses later. 

"Spirituality is not about competency, it's about intimacy...Messy spirituality has the audacity to suggest that messiness is the workshop or authentic spirituality, the greenhouse of faith, he place where the real Jesis meets the real us."
-Mike Yaconelli

                                    


Cheers friends!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

We Are Womans

Given the opportunity, my mom will share two primary stories of my childhood. The time I told my kindergarten teacher that my dad had left us forever (he was only on a business trip, apparently I really craved the attention of my dinosaur of a teacher who smelled of cigarettes and stale coffee) and my Four Year Old Inquistion. With great curiosity one day, I turned to my mother and inquired, "Mom, are we womans?" 

I must applaud her for containing her raucous laughter. With almost all composure, she responded with equivalent dignity, "yes, Emilie, we are womans." What caused my great need to confirm this fact is a mystery. Maybe I felt slightly insecure with my child-version of the Hanson brothers haircut, or possibly I just wanted to hear that I belonged. 

Regardless, on occasion, I still find myself checking in. Not necessarily of my Woman-ness, but on the integrity of it. You see, I love being a girl. At times, even recently, I have robbed myself of some of that joy by allowing insecurity to override, but in general it is an absolute pleasure. Beth Moore recently reminded me that to be a woman (in reference to p31) is to be worthy of respect, and likewise to offer that to others. 

And that, dear hearts, is a job big enough in itself. Men fight their own bloody battle in the war of manhood, and we have to take some ownership of our fight. In my love of womanhood, I have often lived defeated under an umbrella of insecurity of women I thought better. I speak from experience when I say that no one benefits from creating a mental hierarchy of the women who surround us. It only leaves you on the bottom or top, both are lonely places to make a home. So here's the thing, we really can help each other in this and I wanted to share some of the ways we can. Even if this isn't your current or frequent battle, remember these for the sake of each other, because God knows we all need some allies. 

Also in theme with childhood moments, a montage of the Best (of the worst) Emilie Fashion Moments of 1993. 

-Stop comparing yourself. Stop Pinning quotes of this and just start doing it. We do ourselves and each other a great disservice and lose a lot of ground when we constantly mentally rank ourselves. Our time could be spent better. 

(I was a pumpkin for Halloween five times, mom made the costume and wanted her sweat equity out of it)

-Encourage one another. Be genuine and specific. We could all use more positive reinforcement, especially from people who we may feel threatened by. 

(I hope the black shoes distract you from my toe-headed mullet)

-Speak kindly of one another even when they're not around. We don't have to qualify our stories involving other girls if there is nothing but positive intent in telling it. 

(Why yes, I was the third child and those were all hand me downs....thank you for noticing)

-Know yourself. When you understand your likes and dislikes, preferences, inclinations, tendencies, it allows you to offer others the space to figure that out for themselves. It also enables you to pick out similarities or differences in them and enjoy them better for it. 

(I may not rock bed head-but at least I wore peplum 17 years before it was cool) 

These are things I'm finding helpful in my own day to day. There is room to laugh at ourselves and grace for mistakes with one another when we're not so afraid or feel the need to posture or extend ourselves past what is healthy. And that's what I'm after my friends, let's be the best damn womans we can be. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Juniper Rose Cupcakes

Few things in my life right now excite me quite like good food and good people. Except maybe good people who will talk with me about good food. So when my sister told me about a lovely new spice shop that opened in Brookside, Season and Square, I knew I needed to venture and drag my roommate, Olivia, with me. Not surprisingly, we spent an hour chatting with the owner, a delightful and inspiring woman. 

She introduced us to Dram Apothecary, a company that forages their own herbs/flora to concoct bitters and simple syrups that are earthy and ingenious. Not to mention that their lives are about traveling and picking flowers in order to make cocktails, I'm jealously swooning. My mother had passed along half a bottle of their Juniper Rose simple she had picked up on her own trip to Season. Her exhortation being to bake with it and tell her what to do. 

Discussing with my libation-savvy friend Andrew what would be a good companion for my new acquisition. We settled on cucumber, playing off the cocktail concept, and thus these cupcakes were born. They're different, really light and refreshing as opposed to being extremely sweet, which is how I prefer my pastry. However, I know my brother would be bewildered if I attempted to offer him something so obscure, to put it kindly. 

Juniper Rose Cupcakes with Cucumber Buttercream

Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
12 tbsp unsalted butter (I am ardently against margarine ps....use the real stuff), room temp
1 1/4 cups white cane sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
1/4 cup Dram's Juniper Rose simple
1/4 cup gin 
1 cup tonic water (mine was flat, so I used Grapefruit La Croix, it worked splendid)
1/2 tsp rose extract (I tried 1 1/2, but it was a little too floral) 

Cucumber Buttercream
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
4-6 cups confectioners sugar 
1/3 cucumber puréed 
1/2 lime 

For the cake: 
-Preheat oven to the good ole 350
-Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and stir
-In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar
-Add one egg at a time, letting it come together before adding the next 
-Add in the simple, gin and rose extract 
-Be a good baker and add half the dry, followed by half the tonic, then the other halves, letting it blend in between.. I, however, am impatient and added it all at once. Don't do that.
-Fill 24 cupcake liners about 2/3 full and pop in the oven for 18 minutes
-Turn on US Youth Olympics while they bake 

For the buttercream:
-Puree the cucumber in a food processor or blender
-Combine butter and confectioners sugar to mixer and cream
-Slowly add cucumber purée to the mixture letting it blend
-Add more confectioners sugar as you see fit to get desired texture
-Zest and juice the lime and add to mixer

This buttercream was the bane of my existence. I went through and amalgama of cucumber, minced, juiced, simple syruped, before landing on purée as the best texture and flavor. If there is one thing I am well versed in at the moment, it's the different consistencies a cucumber can take on. For those who interacted with me on Sunday, I apologize, I don't normally smell like Larry the Cucmber's estranged cousin. 

I imagine these would be the most fitting at a tea or garden party, but in true fashion, I plopped down on the floor in my living room with a cup of coffee and downed it. I have no shame when it comes to pastry. 



Monday, August 18, 2014

Toast and Jam

Simplicity has been calling my name lately.

If it is not vital or beautiful, it's out. The pink vest I bought in high school? Donated. The grey and white tennis shoes that have traveled through the river, trashed. Rightfully so. Junk food, begrudgingly being rerouted to others.

I have an extreme sense of removing anything superfluous from my life right now. I need breathing room. Other people with more self control are capable of having things surrounding them and keeping their mental faculties. When I am transitioning and overwhelmed, all extraneous things must go.

In my newfound simplicity I find I remember Jesus more. I am less distracted, more cognizant of being timely about things. And now I have the time to be timely. Today is my first real day off and i have done the below:

Ate toast and jam
Worn overalls.
Wandered River Market with my sister and niece.
Cut a cantaloupe.
Drank three cups of coffee via Quay and Thou Mayest
This is the happiest list. I don't really need much.

In this new season I look forward to this. I am grateful to approach things with sincerity and focus. To embrace my interests well and devout energy to them. I loved my season to work and build another's dream, but this change is beautiful too.  And after a few difficult weeks of big beginnings and ends, it's lovely to have a moment for vision. If all transitions were seamless, there would not be freedom. Freedom comes in knowing that my physical nature does not dictate my hope. It's been rocky, and more often than not others have been having to replant me back there, but it's starting to settle in my bones too.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ease in Risk

"Would you like adventure now or should we have tea first?"
-Peter Pan

My life is like the Alice in Wonderland Unbirthday Party. Rabbits have pocket watches and I quit my job. To save you all from the catalog of events, basically I sensed God asking me to take a risk and I said yes.

There has to be a lot for me in what's to come because I love where I have been. But in stepping into this, He has been so sure. Kindly providing bread crumbs along the way to remind me that I may not know where I'm going, but there is a trail and He is positive of the direction. 

Facing this decision has been difficult. My routine is going to change. My status is going to change. My stability is going to change. There is risk to this and adjustments that must be made. Friends to be missed. Tears are close at hand lately as I consider that ominous moment Tuesday when I say goodbye. I'm terrible with goodbyes even when I don't like the situation I'm in, so leaving something I love for reasons that are still pretty ambiguous is overwhelming. 

But here God is enough. Here there is rest in the ebb. Here there is surety in enigmas. Here there is confidence in the tepid. 

These are the moments I hope I wear well, with grace and courage. Learning to believe in Provision. Satisfied in Divinity. Any given moment, there may be trepidation in my thoughts. But generally, I'm much more like Peter Pan. Content where I am, to soak in this moment as the delight it is, but preparing to head to the adventure when the time comes. 

One of the simply lovely people I have come to know this year caught me as I was leaving Quay the other day to share the below fragment from John O'Donohue's poem From the Beginning with me. It seems to be the appropriate summation

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you