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Dissonance is a clash.

Dissonance is the what-should-be bucking against the what-is.

Dissonance is both sobering and stirring up.

Dissonance seems to be a way of life for me. I have two pictures – the life I want, and the life I have – and they are often in discord with one another. The former crashes into the latter, like waves pounding the sand and slowly, steadily changing the shoreline.

I have learned to sit in the dissonance of this existence. I have also learned that sitting in it is not the complacency I once thought it was.  It’s honesty. It’s listening. It’s inspiring.

Sometimes, it sounds like chaos.

Mostly, it sounds like dancing.

I’m linking up with Marvia Davidson’s Real Talk Tuesday.  Join us?

(Originally posted via Story Sessions)

Every week, Marvia Davidson gives us the chance to participate in Real Talk Tuesday, a synchroblog that explores writing our hard truths. So today, she’s answering my questions about it.

1. Give us the back story – where did you get the idea for Real Talk Tuesday?

I didn’t intend to start Real Talk Tuesday.  It was one of those things that just happened (though I think something like it was always rumbling around in my heart).  It was an offshoot of where I wanted to take my own writing, but I wanted to do it in community.  A few months ago I took part of a healing support group called Mending the Soul.  It’s changed my life, my perspective, and how I see authenticity and living out truth.  It was all about dealing with hard truths about one’s self and its impact on how we relate to people and issues in our lives.  It’s more than that, but that’s the impetus toward healing and restoration. You gotta talk about hard things.  You gotta work through all the junk that keeps you bound or that keeps you from not fully living and being your whole, God-made self.  If we’re really going to live out true and authentic lives, then we’ve got to wrestle with the depth and width of our pain.  Feel the feels, use our voice, say what we need, find safe people with whom we can fully be ourselves, know our power and authority, and not shrink back from the process of being real and whole all the time in every place.

2. You have great prompts that seem to resonate with a lot of people.  How do you come up with them?

Hmmm.  That’s a great question!  I do a lot of quiet pondering.  Many times they come between pauses, between breaths, when I’m not doing something or busying about life.  They come in wisps while walking in the evenings.  They come while staring at the moon.  They come while considering music, words, movies, and lyrics that resonate.  I sometimes wonder if these little phrases are pockets of holy hush meant to bring me back to the One – as though to remind me Whose I am and why I’m here.  Perhaps the resonance is a pull to Someone Greater…

3. In your invitation this week, you say, “As always may our words be seasoned with salt and grace.  May our words empower, encourage, and equip.” I love that. Why is this important to remember?

When I first started my blog, I only knew I wanted to write about life, faith, and leaning in when it gets hard.  It was never my intention to be any part of the hullabaloo that is the sometimes craziness of the blogosphere.  That just doesn’t jive with me.  When I think of legacy, I think of what I want to leave behind. I want to leave words that remind people to look up, look out, look within.  I want to leave words that remind men and women they matter.  You can’t do that when you’re mudslinging, disparaging, and berating.  That’s just not me.  Even though my blog is seen by few, what matters is that it be a place of grace.  I want my little corner of the internet to be a place of reprieve.

4. You are a champion of honoring voices.  What does that mean to you?

Mmmmm.  It may be life experience and what I’ve walked through, but there is something internally powerful about being seen and being heard by human flesh.  To hear another soul listen, look you in the eye, and offer not judgment is freeing.  I really first learned about this when I joined a recovery group in 2011.  It was a life changing experience.  I had a lot of hurts, habits, and hang ups that I felt very ashamed about.  The recovery community was a place of total acceptance.  No one was trying to fix me.  They allowed me to just be.  They showed me tools to help me – and they really did help me (that and leaning hard into faith in God).  To honor a voice is to welcome others and be a dignity restorer.  Jesus did that a lot, and I want to practice the same in my life.

5. Your new website is gorgeous.  What advice can you give to people wanting to branch out into hosting their own sites?

Ha! Ha!  For reals, though.  I just launched it.  I had no idea what I was doing, and to an extent still don’t, but I knew it needed to be done because it was just time.  It’s a work in progress like me.  I’m okay with that.  I have an idea of where I want it to go, but I can’t do it alone.  I am so inspired by the many women I see blossoming in the Story Sessions community.  They keep me going!  For those branching out, I’d say ask for help.  Ask lots of questions.  Trust your “style” gut.  I read a several blogs like Jeff Goins and Michael Hyatt, and they were so helpful.  I can’t wait to get to do more with the blog.

6. What other projects are you working on?  What are you excited about?

I wrapped up writing a second memoir about tearing down lies, faith, and restoration.  My next step is editing, book cover design, and getting feedback from beta readers.  This is all new for me, and I’m excited about the project.  I hope to release it in December of 2014.  I am also excited to dive deeper into what it means to be a creative entrepreneur.  I have #alltheideas that won’t quit, and I want to do something with the ones that speak to my why and my what.  It’s never too late to work the dream, so I’m going after.  The rest… well, follow my blog or the Real Talk newsletter to find out more.

Marvia

Marvia enjoys sharing the journey of life and living fully.  She’s a Christ follower learning to just “be.”  While her life may not be perfect, she is on the road to “be”-ing and authenticity in Christ.  Her desire is to share love, light, hope, words, thoughts, dreams, faith, and whatever else seems good and prudent.  She is drawn to encouraging, supporting, mentoring, and helping others.  You will find her walking the rockity-bumpity journey of life in the wide open spaces of Texas, sipping tea, drinking coffee, splattered with sugary flour dust while baking with family, laughing and snorting loudly, or dancing ridiculously just because.

Join her on the blogging at humanimpulse.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @MarviaDavidson.

Beauty is Hard

I find it easy to see beauty in the natural world.  For example, the weather today, while not beautiful by some people’s standards, is gorgeous to me. It’s overcast, a little rainy, and best of all – the predicted high is 70 degrees. HAPPY.

I find it easy to see beauty in others. We had a division-wide breakfast this morning, and as is my custom, I enjoyed people-watching. In the sea of green (Friday is pride day!), I noticed the special touches people added to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

Crowds, however, are not my friend when it comes to feeling beautiful myself. Being in a crowd makes me feel awkward and unattractive. It’s not so much a comparison thing as it is a matter of logistics.

Crowded rooms are not a friend to the hot-natured. I live in the wrong state. I have never in my life walked anywhere without sweating at least a little, no matter how cold it is outside, but as long as the weather hovers near 65 and isn’t too humid, I can usually still arrive at my destination generally presentable (i.e., not completely soaked through). Unfortunately, the temperature doesn’t dip that low in Texas for the majority of the year. I dress in layers, not because less clothing actually does anything to make me more comfortable and less sweaty, but because that way, I can add a sweater or a dark jacket once I get to my location to camouflage the fact that underneath it all, I just look like I’ve run a marathon. Of course, the sweater or jacket then makes me sweat more for the few minutes that I spend acclimating to the cooler climate of the building, making my face red and the people around me nervous that they’re about to have a medical situation on their hands. I haven’t figured out how to make the transition in a less awkward way, because there usually isn’t time (or a place) to spend ten minutes cooling off. I’m just herded into the crowd (some of which I noticed were experiencing the same problems, so it’s not just me. I feel your pain, friends!).

Also, crowded rooms are not staged for the rotund. I seriously contemplated not going back for a second cup of coffee this morning in order to avoid weaving through the tight spaces between the tables. In the end, of course, I went back (because please – what in the world is EVER going to keep me from more coffee?), but the thought of navigating the room layout gave me pause. And my hesitation was not without merit.  I did indeed bump some elbows and have to squish a little too close to people WHOM I DO NOT KNOW (*deep breaths*) in order to simply make it across the room. And I can’t help but remember that I never gave this any thought when I sported a healthier weight. I mean, I’m sure I worried about other beauty-adjacent topics, but the immense amount of space I require just to get through the room was not one of them.

Sometimes, beauty is hard.

I’m going to continue my 31 Days of Personal Beauty, but it’s going to be more of a cumulative endeavor than a consecutive one. Apparently.

Reattachment

I am from Barbies and toy tractors.

From cute shoes and impossible standards,

From hard work and making things grow.

I am from a writing desk with lion pulls on its drawers, 

From roaring before I knew what roaring was for.

I am from a name that means lily but is not Lily,

From surprises just under the surface.

I am from macrame owls and cross-stitched ornaments,

From a people who create.

I am little black dresses and big black boots,

From pretty with pearls

And not taking any mess.

I am seasons and liturgy and praying the hours.

I am also feet washing and laying on hands and re-dedication.

I am all the places I’ve ever been 

But also none of them.

(I took wild liberties with this template to piece this poem together)

With the world being what it is and kids moving in and school starting and two of my classes for the semester getting canceled, I feel the need for comfort food this week. Sunday at Supper Club, I made chicken and dumplings (that post coming later this week, along with a vegan version that I not-so-secretly think is better).  Last night, on what would have been my first night of classes, I stayed home and built my own casserole. I used to use this skill a lot when I was in college because 1) it’s highly cost effective, and 2) it lets you use up ingredients of which you have a freakish abundance.

Enter The Zucchini.

photo (1)

(Guest appearance by the Gosdins’s Swarley. Observe cat-to-zucchini ratio)

The vegetable pictured above is not the actual one I used last night. The one pictured met its fate in the form of zucchini mini-pizzas, each slice serving as the crusts.

That’s right.  I have been the possessor of two such items in the last few weeks. My sister and brother-in-law have been equally blessed. This is what happens when a certain someone is retired and has the idea to “see how big they will grow.”

What is one to do when one is in possession of such a gargantuan courgette? Casserole time.

To build your own casserole, you will need a fair amount of each of these things:

  • a grain
  • a protein
  • veggies
  • something that binds/moistens (somewhat optional – see discussion below)

It’s also a good idea to have something to top it with.  This is not essential, but it makes it look pretty. It also adds a little flavor.

For my casserole, I used brown rice, ground beef, zucchini and onions, and shredded cheese as both binder and topper.

I know that my casserole is not anything close to vegan, despite the tag, but the basic guidelines give you something to work with.  As I normally have no meat in the house, I usually make vegetarian or vegan casseroles. I will use beans as the protein in a vegetarian dish. If I am making it vegan, I will toss the grain in a couple of tablespoons of oil, as that helps it hold together.  Holding it together, however, is not at all necessary. It’s really okay if it all falls apart on your plate. So if there is enough moisture in the veggies (true of most vegetables, particularly if you toss them with some tomatoes), you don’t really need anything to keep it from drying out. Dried fruits and chopped nuts make for a pretty topper for a dairy-free dish.

Because I did not have leftover rice, I had to make it anew, so I started that first. While the rice was cooking, I took my trusty knife…

photo 1

(shameless plug and full disclosure – if you buy it at this link, you’re buying it from me)

…and started chopping.  First, I diced The Zucchini into bite-sized chunks.

photo 2

It took my large stand-mixer bowl to hold all of them. That is a lot of zucchini. There was just enough room left in the bowl to add one chopped onion.

I browned about a pound of ground beef in my largest skillet (I’ll spare you the picture of that) and then added the vegetables in to saute briefly but mostly to combine the casserole elements.

The casserole is easy to assemble.  I just layered the rice, veggie/protein mixture, and cheese twice (i.e., alternating with two layers of each) and baked it.  Then it looked like this:

photo 3

Well, half of it looked like that.  There was so much zucchini that I ended up baking a second one in the skillet. I have so much casserole in my life right now.

Casseroles are not pretty foods, but what they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in taste. This one was wildly successful in that endeavor.

So to recap, for those of you who like specifics and don’t want to end up with a spontaneous extra casserole:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Gather – and keep in mind, leftovers make excellent casseroles:

  • 2 cups of cooked grain
  • 2 cups of cooked protein (e.g., beans or meat or your choice)
  • 2 cups of chopped veggies (if frozen, steam first and drain, or your casserole will be soggy)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (or 2 T oil – I like to use grapeseed oil) – optional
  • 1/2 cup of topper (e.g., nuts, dried fruits, more cheese, those french-fried onion strips, cracker or chip crumbs, etc.)

3. Mix protein and veggies together.  

4. Layer grain, veggie mixture, and cheese as often as the vessel you’re baking it in can hold it.

5. Sprinkle topper after final layer.

6. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

And there you have it! A money-saving, belly-filling, abundance-producing, comfort food meal. Enjoy!

“Until White America tells fear to fuck off, we’ll keep dying at the hands of ‘justice’ in a country they broke our backs and our souls to build for them.” – A’Driane Nieves, in “White Supremacy and Fear: The Cracks in America’s Foundation No One Will Fix”

Words have sat heavy on me this week. They land hard on my lily white skin and seep into me.

This sounds awful.  It’s not.  This is how change works. It strikes, and then it sinks in.

I suppose the easy thing to do would be to get defensive.  The danger in taking the easy route is that the events that incite heavy words are usually broken systems that aren’t worth defending. The easy route allows the stunted soul to stay the same and hide from anything that doesn’t fit into what it already understands.

I don’t want the easy route. I want the words and the stories of the angry and the oppressed and the dismissed to melt into me and change me.

I am trusting firsthand accounts. I am trusting their lived experience that says this is only the latest installment of a system of oppression. The learned inclination to trust a badge just because it’s supposed to be trustworthy is quickly unraveling. My trust in authority is no longer immediate (and let’s face it – has not been immediate for quite some time). 

I am praying with some of the bloggers I follow as they go to Ferguson to hear the stories of the people who have been there. I am praying that words will land heavy on them. I am also praying that they will be safe.

I am praying that the people – all the people – of Ferguson will be safe. I am sitting uncomfortably with the knowledge that feeling safe would be a first for many of the people of Ferguson, for many of the people in this country. 

But I will sit with that discomfort.  I will not run away from it to take the easy route. I will change.

I am linking up with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is “change.” Join us.

#Ferguson, Part Two

I’m finding it hard to think about anything else but the goings on in Ferguson, Missouri.

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that his observation was that his conservative friends seem to be siding with the police, and his liberal friends seem to be siding with the victim and his family. That seems an accurate assessment of my Facebook and Twitter feeds as well.

I have little patience with the oversimplification of any issue to the point that it divides on party lines. I don’t blame anyone in particular (except maybe the general state of our country only having two major parties so maybe we should change that). I do uphold that justice should not be a liberal or conservative thing.  It should be an everyone thing.

When even the most conservative reports are indicating that the officer in question shot an unarmed man, I’m not sure how one spins that to make it debatable.  I’m not sure how a person says, “He shot him, even though he wasn’t armed, but…” There’s no “but” there.  I want to shake everyone who is trying to do so and yell, “What if that unarmed man were your son? What if it happened in your neighborhood?”

This may be cheesy, but I keep seeing Matthew McConaughey at the end of A Time To Kill as he described the brutalization of the defendant’s daughter, asking the jury to picture what happened to her. He ended his argument with, “Now imagine she’s white.”

Imagine Mike Brown was white.

But that’s just another problem.

Should we have to imagine that shooting an unarmed man – regardless of who he is or what he has done – is within a different demographic to be appalled by the event? Should his skin have to look more like mine, or his voice sound like my voice, or his address be next door to mine, in order for me to demand that his death be investigated and the officer be brought to trial?

The answer is no – hell, no – just in case you were confused by my phrasing it as a question.

I’m not suggesting that we convict without all the facts. I’m not suggesting that we blindly believe everything we hear (although I am personally inclined to believe people who are in Ferguson, taking pictures with their camera phones, posting firsthand accounts without having to run it through the filter of it being their job, which automatically spins it one way or another).  I’m not suggesting that we deprive the officer of due process (even though I understand the temptation to do so, as that’s exactly what he did to Mike Brown, according to even the most conservative reports of the event).

I am suggesting that we pay attention – that we never stop paying attention.

I suggest that we read things like this, even if they make us uncomfortable.

I am suggesting that we support people who have cause to press charges and people who have injustices to fight.

I am suggesting that we support them publicly by saying that we support them.  

I am suggesting that we then put our money where our mouths are and support them financially so that justice can be for everyone, not just the people rich enough to buy it. Don’t know where to donate? Let me help you – The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and the NAACP.

I am suggesting that injustice is an everyone problem and that we should act like it is.

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