Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Reviews

I have been reading, just not blogging about my books... :)

I have a fantastic book club. We meet once a month and have been getting together for seven years--so far. It is a group of lovely and diverse women. We read with the intent to broaden our horizons and explore our spiritual lives through a variety of topics and genres.

February's read was Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. It was a fascinating look at why we may have developed some of the diseases we have throughout the ages. Delving into evolutionary process and adaptation, the author explores how some of the diseases that plague us may have come about as responses to other illness or environmental factors. And while I am not a true evolutionist, I do believe that there is an evolutionary process--I just happen to think God is the author of it and I don't know how all He decided to unfold it. Anyway, as I read this book, I was fascinated by how everything on this planet, from humans to micro-viruses, have a drive for LIFE. While this was not Moalem's point or perspective at all, I walked away from the book with a great appreciation for God as the author of all life and amazed at the ways that beings adapt in order to pursue life. Very fascinating read, one I recommend no matter your take on evolution as a whole.

April's read is The Honey Trail by Grace Pundyk. It is a travel journal of the author's trek to explore the world's honey. I like sociology more than I like honey and I enjoyed the book for its look into various cultures. Pundyk travels to Yemen, Indonesia, Tasmania (her home), China, Turkey, Russia, the US, England, New Zealand...following local beekeepers and engaging with government officials in charge of trade regulations and purity standards. She details the politics of honey, bees, and issues of colony collapse and disappearing bees. Not knowing much about honey except that I think it is sticky and not all that appealing, I enjoyed the book a lot. It even made me think that perhaps the reason I don't like honey is that maybe I have never had good honey (or even worse, that what I may have eaten thinking it was honey might have been basically corn syrup). I'm looking forward to exploring some local NC honey to see what I really think. And while I really did enjoy it, I do have to say that learning about the bees in peril added a little to my list of things that I worry about but have no control over (for example: dolphin meat being sold in Japan, BPA in can linings, antibiotics and other drugs in our ground water, genetically modified crops, the biodiversity of the rainforest , the coral reefs shrinking, etc.). I recommend this read if you like social commentary, travel writing, or honey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

a poem for Matthew

what I have left

Your summer breeze life--
warm and lovely,
and over too soon--
left relics behind,
treasures,
marking not only what we lost,
but also what we had:

a slim white stick boasts two pink lines,

a startling announcement you were here


pictures from a 6-week ultrasound--

you are tiny and perfect to the eye


the memory of your beating heart,

two short weeks before you died--

tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump,

140 beats per minute


the blue and white blanket,

knit by some kind soul,

cradled your body,

a silver tag proclaims “made for an angel”


photos of your birthday,

your legs crossed and hands clasped,

perfect sukasana pose,

your little face at peace


your ashes,

proving you are gone


and the white crepe myrtle,

a memorial planted beyond my kitchen window


It will bloom in July,
the month of your birth,
and declare that you are,
in fact,
still with us.

--a memorial for Matthew Leif, our beloved gift from God

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good Questions

My 3-year-old SJ is a living paradox. She is both wonderfully gentle and extraordinarily rough. One moment she is delightfully happy, the next she's a brewing storm. One of her nicknames is Pickle, because she is both so sweet and so sour. She is a comedian and a serious thinker.

The other day, we were driving along and she asked me, "Mama, why God never gets tired of healing?" I began to tell her about God's infinite capacity to love and how He just never gets tired of healing because that's who He is. But I started to see her little brow furrow and I stopped...

"Then why He didn't choose to heal Matthew, Mama?"

I had no idea what to say. My 3-year-old had just tapped into two very potent truths--that God never tires of healing *and* He didn't choose to heal her baby brother. And reconciling those two things has made my brain itch and heart ache since August, too.

As I watched her try to make sense of this, I just wanted to make it go away for her. I wanted to shield her from the reality of a broken world, a world where God's best isn't always what happens. I want to protect her from the doubt that is intertwined with a life of faith. But I can't shelter her from that doubt any more than I can shelter her from the reality that Matthew is gone. All I could say is, "that's a good question, baby. That's a very good question."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Facebook + Lent

I grew up in a Baptist church where the only acceptable spiritual rituals were baptism, communion with non-alcoholic wine and tiny pieces of cracker, and potlucks in the church basement. In my early 20s, when I began to reconnect with my faith in Jesus, I started attending a Presbyterian church where I experienced liturgy and ritual and found that I really connected with some of it. It was here that I was introduced to the concept of Lent. Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter and is a period where one is given the opportunity to reflect on their faith and the life of Christ in a purposeful way. Observing Lent often involves a fast of some sort in order to take the attention from the thing which one is fasting from and create more intentional space for God. Lenten fasts often involve chocolate, soda, sweets, etc. I've done all of those in the past. But sometimes that left me feeling as though I simply went on a diet for Jesus...which isn't bad, per se, but perhaps is less of a spiritual awakening than it could be.

Last year, I gave up Facebook. At that point in time, it was something that simply sucked up my time. I was busy with three kids five and under and always feeling like I had no time to engage God. And yet, I had time to give to Facebook--time to look at people's walls, fill out viral surveys, make comments about my friends' cute kiddos. And so, when Lent rolled around, I logged off Facebook and found that it gave me more time to pursue God. Yet when Lent was over, I was ready to hop back on to the social network.

Recently, I've been hearing a lot about a book called Alone Together. From what I understand (I'm on the list for it from the library), it talks about how social networking sites have seemed to produce increased social isolation rather than connection between individuals. I'm really interested in this idea because in the last year, my relationship with Facebook has changed. I have more "friends," many of which I barely know. I find that I post less often, about less meaningful things, and feel like my close friends are doing the same. It's as though there is less real information on Facebook. I see that people are playing games, posting videos, announcing yoga class times...and yet, even in the last year, it seems to me there are fewer pictures, fewer "let's get to know each other" surveys, less chats, and less vulnerability.

And yet...even though I feel like I'm getting less and less important information about the people who I really care about, I find myself anxious about checking Facebook several times a day. And if I wake up in the middle of the night, well, just one peek from on my Blackberry won't hurt...

And why is that?, I've been asking myself. Why do I wade through pages of Farmville and YouTube and blog links (blogs to which I am already subscribed in email) searching for nuggets of important information? Because I've developed a fear that something BIG will happen in one of my friend's lives and I will miss it. And I have justification for this fear. This summer, when I had a late miscarriage, I posted on Facebook, expecting that to communicate with all the people who loved me. It didn't...several special friends "missed it." Last week, a dear old friend's son died. I found out on Facebook. Right now, another friend's elderly mother is in hospice care. I'm terrified that I won't know when she makes her final voyage. I don't want to miss out on the important things in the lives of people I love.

This has made me realize that I feel an unhealthy dependence on Facebook. I rely on it way more than is logical. I grasp it as this connection to my friends...yet it keeps ME from feeling like I can truly engage them. I mean, I can't call someone to tell them some news if I already posted it on my status, or else they'll think I'm being dramatic/needy/narcissistic...can I? I can't write that I'm having a bad day or that I am frustrated. Because, I'm a yoga teacher. I'm a Christian. I'm a Christian yoga teacher, for goodness sake. I can't stop by a friend's house or call her or even email, should I? No, just put a note on her wall. Sigh...

I don't want to depend on anything more than Jesus. I don't want to be fearful for my relationships. I don't want to live in isolation when Jesus has surrounded me with people to love and people who love me. I don't want to live in false intimacy. I want to love God with all my heart and love my neighbors as myself.

So while I appreciate Facebook for getting me connected with old friends and the convenience of communicating with groups of people efficiently, when Lent rolled around this year, it seemed like it was what I needed to fast from again. I needed to fast from it to realize that God is the one on whom I depend. I need it to motivate me to really engage with the people I love. I need it to get honest with myself about who I am again (as well as who I am not). I hope this exercise leaves me with some revelations about myself and the people I love as well as puts my Facebook experience in the proper place in my life. But mostly, I hope it helps me to draw nearer to God as I learn to trust Him with everything.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wild Olive Tees is doing another give away! Check out their beautiful shirts...