city.

The air is heavy this morning, promising another humid day. Yesterday was the first day of summer–just a word for what can be felt so easily on my skin.

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I wander outside, from the sleep that has my husband and children curled beneath sheets. These days have me rising early and alone, listening to birdsong in my backyard. I can’t quite place the sounds, or the verdant foliage overtaking the rotting playground no longer safe for clambering. It doesn’t seem possible here–in this broken city.

But then, there it is.

. . .

I constantly readjust expectation. I love to be found a fool–taken aback by green bursting through cracks in the concrete, captive to the song of birds ignorant to the drugs sold on the corner.

I am distracted and confused by the meanness in human hearts. The exchange of bodies for drugs or money or power. The wielding of guns for the same. Retaliation and violence.

And I think it’s why I am drawn to the city. Here I dance between anger and surprise. I can’t be self-righteous, because my heart is mean in its own ways. Here I am reprimanded by love and the inexorable shouts of grace breaking through.

Here I take up my coffee and words. And I wait.

in praise.

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My hands still smell of thyme and sage. The chicken is roasting in the oven. Maybe the last chicken I will prepare for awhile. It is warm in the kitchen, which smells of herbs and olive oil.

Mom had intended to make this meal yesterday. Ingredients waiting in her refrigerator, while she went with my Dad to the cardiologist in the morning. Plans made.

. . .

Plans changed when a morning doctor’s visit turned into a day at the hospital, and then an evening spent waiting for word from the surgeon opening an artery barely supplying blood to Dad’s heart.

. . .

It doesn’t take much to make me grateful. But some gifts require worship.

I keep imagining a moment that might have been. A phone call. A jolt. The rhythm interrupted.

Instead, last night I sat on the porch after saying goodnight to my Dad at the hospital. I had a glass of wine with my husband. We told and re-told the story – the mere 1% space left open in an artery. The tired-looking surgeon emerging to report success. A holy gift.

The absurdity of our astonishment.

thinking plant.

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My mom brought me into the kitchen when I was 8 and began guiding my hands in the process of kneading bread. She passed on skills and recipes, but she gave me more than that. She also taught me to think – to improvise, substitute, taste, season, to consider the foods I nourish my body with. My mom planted the early seeds of who I have become as a mother, a wife, a chef to my family.

. . .

In our home food has always been a conversation. I am a curious consumer, and so by association are those who eat with me most often – my family.

A few months ago, D and I began a new conversation. We began talking about eating more whole foods, healthier foods, less meat, less dairy, etc. My husband loves meat and cheese, so the fact that he was even willing to explore new ideas with me is basically awesome. But in the end, he said he has begun to think about the kinds of things he eats in new ways (since being with me!), and he is just curious enough to go bold with me.

We brought the smalls in on the conversation. Small girl is an adventurous eater – always up for trying new things. Small boy may not be as adventurous as his sister, but he is also pretty laid back and did not take much convincing.

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As the conversation continued though, it became clear that we wanted to experiment with veganism, not just “healthier.” Whole foods, plant-based eating. No animal products in our diet.

. . .

So the adventure begins. . . Well, almost. The plan is to commit to veganism for a month and re-evaluate. I think we are all pretty convinced we will go back to eating animal products in some capacity. But the goal is to remain open-minded, to evaluate how this new way of eating makes us feel (for better or worse), and to at least decrease our reliance on animal protein after the month is over.

First step: Use up the non-plant foods we currently have in the house. This meant a major overhaul of our pantry, fridge, and freezer yesterday. I was actually surprised to see how little we have in the house.

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One shelf in the fridge. No, our kimchi is not vegan – it has fish sauce in it. I guess I will have to rethink that recipe, because I do not plan to give up kimchi.

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One drawer in the freezer. Some fish. A jar of chili. Pancakes. Yogurt culture (I will miss yogurt). A pound of ground beef from a local farm.

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Our gorgeous pantry. It is hard not to want to eat plant-based foods when they are this beautiful. Seriously.

. . .

Today we shared a few thoughts about this upcoming change. Some things I want to remember:

The hardest thing to give up.
D: Cheese.
Small girl: Cheese.
Small boy: Bacon.
Me: Eggs.

The most anticipated thing.
D: Beer is vegan (sigh of relief). Trying new recipes.
Small girl: More vegetables.
Small boy: Lots of avocado.
Me: Paying attention to how my body feels.

scenes.

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We closed our eyes to the season’s first snow – slumbered beneath a strange, white glow.

The night was marked by her frustrated coughs. In the middle I climbed into her small bed, stroked her hair and face until she found rest.

. . .

Today we made kimchi and friendship bracelets. Gochugaru left my hands red.

Down the hall the smalls are building Lego replicas of scenes from Man vs. Wild. I would never think to do that.

He is reading National Geographic, while I push buttons on my camera. I have been trying to figure it out for 8 years.

. . .

Saturday. Nothing remarkable, unless you consider everything so. I think I do when I am at my best.

prelude.

I rise early, tiptoe from the bed. His shoulders rise, momentarily aware of my absence before falling back into the sheets. The living room is quiet, except for the sounds I make as I prepare the morning’s coffee. White lights shimmer on the tree.

This house is still. It is Christmas morning, but the smalls will not come tumbling into the room. For a moment I see their faces – all glimmery eyes and sweet, unabashed joy. I miss them, but for now my mind’s eye is enough.

There have been so many similar mornings, but they have never been this one. This year my husband lies sleeping in our bed. Soon he will rise, too. We will share coffee while it is still dark and miss the smalls together. We will share our awe that Christ came to us as a baby, that shepherds were among the first chosen to visit this King.

There will be laughter, and this house will feel blessed.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:6)

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