Thursday, December 31, 2009

Extraordinary Women

Did you know there isn't a whole lot to do at 5 am? Especially if you're trying to be considerate and not wake your husband with the TV! I ended up looking around online for events similar to the Southern Women's Show to see if any such thing was scheduled to be in Birmingham in the near future. (How I got there involves a journey through my thought process that I doubt you want to take!) Well, no such luck. But something on the BJCC events calendar did catch my eye - The Extraordianry Women's Conference. Ok, it's a conference and not a show, but it might be interesting.

After doing a little digging, I discovered it was a Christian women's conference. My little red Vanderbilt flags start going up, because clearly this can't be that great. It appeals to the masses. It uses several speakers and concerts and *gasp* ALTAR CALLS! Oh this can't be good at all! I finally stop skimming and actually start reading. And I come across the statement of faith for this group. And there isn't really anything that jumps out at me that I just cannot agree with or endorse. And so I start to consider the idea of going. It seems like the kind of thing the women of my church could really get on board with and it might be really helpful in my ministry to them.

And then, the thought that I have been trying so desperately to force back pops into my head - I think I would enjoy this!

Oh no! What have I done? I can't enjoy this! I might be able to tolerate it or learn from it, but enjoy it? I'm educated! I'm a theologian! I'm supposed to know better! How dare I say I might enjoy something like this!

About 5 years ago, I probably would have been all over this. I wouldn't have thought twice. I would have marked it on my calendar, saved my money, and made it happen. But the more my life has been taken over by theology, the less it seems to have been influenced by faith. On the one hand, I feel like I am a better person for knowing what I do. But deep down, the biggest reason I value my academic education about contextual and historical understandings of theology is to refute bullies. I don't like mean people. I don't care why you're being mean, I don't see any reason for it and I don't like it. I especially don't like it if you are attempting to use someone's weakness to beat up on them.

But this group, this conference, does not seem to be preying on weakness. Instead, it appears to be more focused around empowerment. Sure, it's more about inspiration than education. But is that really such a bad thing? If it weren't for the inspiration, the encouragement, and the affirmation in my life I never would have had any desire for the education. I think about the things I object to at events like this - they're intense and emotional and have a lot of psychological influence that comes from these enormous groups. None of those are the ideal situation for making life-changing decisions.

Except, that's exactly when these types of decisions are made. I think about my years at Camp Sumatanga. I think about all the tears I shed and all the prayers I prayed. And I think about all the decisions that I made. Many of them were life-changing. And I think about the decisions I am going to have to make about my life, my faith, and my ministry as the years go on. And they will be life-changing too. And I have no doubt that the process of making those decisions will be difficult, emotional, and involve the input of a number of people. So what makes them so different?

Serving in a small, local church that is much more laid back in its worship has brought me down from my Ivory Tower. Interacting with these amazing people on a daily basis has taught me a lot along the way. And I think it's finally time for me to dismount my academic high horse and get back to what it is I'm supposed to be doing.

Making Disciples and Loving my Neighbor.

Yup, I can do that! I might even have a little fun in the process. Who knows? Maybe there is even an extraordinary woman inside of me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chef Kevin Gillespie

I had this brilliant and eloquent entry all written in my head during the week before we moved and I didn't have the time or the internet access to get it typed up. So, after much contemplation, here is what I have been able to remember and put together.

I think everyone is a little prone to hero worship. Especially when it involves celebrities. There is a little part of us that wants to have that close encounter with fame, fortune, and brilliance. And I have been lucky enough to get to meet some pretty awesome people in my relatively short life. I have met authors, musicians, actors, and others. But there is something I have learned through all of this. Most of the time we are drawn to character or images, not the actual individual. And in some cases it's a bit of a letdown. Not always, but sometimes. And I think that's why my list of famous people I want to meet has dwindled down to almost nothing.

But there is something about Chef Kevin Gillespie that makes me feel like a googly-eyed 12 year old. And not just because I literally salivate when I even think about what he can do to a piece of meat. But because I respect him in ways I never thought it possible to respect an individual that I have never even met! I respect him for what he does, but I also respect him for who he is. Because in many ways, those two things are one and the same.

His work is not just a passion, it's a calling and a ministry! He does what he does because he believes in it, but also because he knows he is called to it. He does it not just because it makes him money or because he personally enjoys it, but because of the benefit to others and his own responsibility. His dedication to seasonality and sustainability are the definition of what it means to be a good steward of one's resources. His passion is contagious! His notoriety puts him in an interesting place. I have no doubt that national TV exposure and thousands of fans are good for one's ego. But what I have seen him do with that notoriety is probably the reason I admire him the most.

He chooses to take the time to educate. Now on one hand it could be argued that an understanding of the benefits of farm-to-table, sustainable, seasonal, local cuisine is good for his business. But it's about more than that. It's about the responsibility to share with others in order to encourage good stewardship. Because there is a sense of responsibility not just for his own backyard and not just for the people he knows and loves.

I would love to meet him. I have no doubt that, if given the chance to shake his hand and tell him thank you for his work and to share how much I admire him, I would probably get a bad case of the stupids or the giggles or both. And I know that the chances of my ever getting to have a REAL conversation with him are slim to none. But I can dream! In fact, I literally had a dream that I got to sit across the table from him and just talk. It was lovely. Unfortunately I had finally worked up the nerve to ask some really deep questions just before I woke up and never got my answers! Alas, such is life!

I don't know what his religious affiliation is. Because he made a comment on Top Chef that he goes vegetarian for Lent, I assume he is Christian. I am tempted to assume he's Catholic, but at the end of the day it's really not my business (or anyone else's for that matter!) and knowing doesn't change what I think about him. But I would love to get his thoughts on the connection between food and faith in his life and what he sees as the implications for others. The connections between what someone believes, what they eat, and how they live the rest of their life are powerful. And while I have the perspective of a theologian who is interested in food, I would love to compare that to the perspective of a chef with an interest in theology.

One day I'm going to actually be able to eat his food. And if I'm really lucky I'll be able to thank him personally for making the world a better place, one tasty bite at a time!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Update

Life has been a bit crazy lately. We got moved into the house. Everything looks great. The chimney got fixed, Jeff has started some of his touch-up projects, and we got decorated for Christmas. I've still got one box that is only halfway unpacked, but that's better than what I normally am at this point! It helps that we are having people over so I feel like I have to get it presentable!

Our plans for Christmas are church tonight and Jeff's family Christmas Eve party. His mother and Ray are spending the night. Ray has to leave early and go to work. We're going to Cullman to see my folks for lunch, then to Center Point to do his big family thing for dinner. The weekend will be quiet because Saturday Jeff and I are both grounded. We're not going anywhere or doing anything except spending the day being lazy together! Then Monday my extended family is coming to see the house and we're all going to Cullman to do the family get-together.

One thing I have noticed about Alabaster (especially in a very family-friendly neighborhood) is that Christmas is HUGE around here. Santa will even be riding around town and stopping in a lot of neighborhoods. He will be stopping about three houses up from us, so we can probably stand on the front porch and watch. The quoted time is 7pm and we should be home by then, so I may have to check it out!

The house has been taking up a lot of my energy and brain cells, but I think we are finally to a point where we can sit back and enjoy it. There is plenty that still needs to be done, but that is always going to be the case with a house! I think that is the biggest difference between owning and renting - everything is my problem now, and more importantly I CARE!

The dogs are good. They have adjusted well to the change of location and like their new home. Patches loves getting to run up and down the stairs whenever he wants. Cocoa seems a little unsure of things occasionally (I think she gets lost!) but seems to like having new hiding places.

We will have an open house sometime in the spring (once Jeff decides he is done with the outside) but you're welcome to come see the house sooner if you want!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Nomad No More

Friday is moving day. I can't believe it's finally here, but at the end of this week Jeff and I will be living in OUR house. And my life as a nomad will be ending.

I feel like my life has been a six and a half year long game of the hokey pokey. I can't remember how many times I've moved in and out and had to shake it all about! The best count I can come up with is at least ten different times in the past six years. It stinks. It truly does. And I'm over it. It may have been an exciting adventure a while ago, but no more.

I'm ready to be settled. I'm ready to give away all the boxes. I'm ready to recycle all the paper. I'm ready to throw out the foam. I'm ready to put nail holes in the walls and make height marks on door frames and carve our initials into a tree. I'm ready to have a place that truly feels like home!

And as much as I'm looking forward to being in our new home, the process of getting there is making me nuts. I HATE packing. Unpacking I actually enjoy because I can organize as I go. There is nothing more exciting to me than a set of empty shelves or a wall of empty cabinets. But a stack of empty boxes? That is the stuff nightmares are made of. I am haunted by thoughts of flat cardboard and packing paper and foam wrap and that awful tape!

Right now it's a tease. We have new furniture for the dining room and the living room. The dining room was a good find at a secondhand store. We got a nice oval table, the pad, 2 arm chairs, and 4 side chairs. The living room furniture is our Christmas gift from both sets of parents. We got a couch, a chair, a coffee table, and 2 end tables. All this stuff is in the house. The living room furniture still needs to be moved, but at least it's there. The fridge, washer, and dryer are all there. The house is liveable. We just aren't there yet!

Thankfully, we have hired movers this time. They can do all the heavy lifting and the hauling up and down stairs. I can smile, direct traffic, and start unpacking the moment the right boxes hit my kitchen!