Friday, November 2, 2018

Things I Learned {Last} Month | October 2018

Some months get a little crazy, and October was one of those for me - filled to the brim. Which is why October's "Things I Learned This Month" is coming two days into November. Welcome to my life. :D

Anyhoo, I enjoy this monthly summary way too much to let it slide, so I'm embracing the "better late than never" motto this month.

Prickly pear is pink and beautiful and yummy and - surprise! - prickly. I found one of these at a market, and since I'd seen them growing from cacti at the Cinque Terre in Italy, I bought one to try. It was delicious, but I had to pull some stickers out of my fingers from incautious handling (beware the black spots - they have tiny prickles). 

Pumpkin puree is super easy to make at home. Chop your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, roast for about an hour, and slide off the skin and mash the flesh. You don't even need a blender or potato masher. A fork works fine. I don't think I'm ever going back to canned pumpkin puree.

Homemade chai masala is also super easy. I read an Indian cookbook from cover to cover this month, and I've been enjoying experimenting with the recipes in it. My favorite so far is the homemade chai spice blend. I finally bit the bullet and bought some cardamom and mixed up the spices for myself. Throw a spoonful in to steep with a mug of strong tea (hello, PG Tips), and add sweeting and milk as desired. Way better than Starbucks.

Basic chai masala:

5 T powdered ginger
2.5 T cinnamon
2.5 T cloves
1.5 T black pepper
1.5 T cardamom

The three oldest heads of state are Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia (93 years), Queen Elizabeth II (92 years), and President Beji Cald Essebsi of Tunisia (91 years). Random facts learned in conversation with my Tunisian flatmate.

October 28th was Czechoslovakia's 100th birthday. Sort of. But the confusing thing is that Czechoslovakia no longer exists. It's the Czech Republic/Czechia and Slovakia now, and those have only been around in their current forms since 1993. So I wasn't quite sure who to wish "happy birthday!" So I decided on "Huzzah for 100 years not under Hapsburg rule!" We happened to be in Prague on that day, and we enjoyed a brief fireworks show in the rain.

{Czech pubs have great names.}

Basic Czech comfort food: potatoes, sauerkraut, and ham. Preferably all mashed together as street food. This was really, really good.

Medieval artists may not have had ultrasounds, but that didn't keep them from imagining babies in mothers' wombs. I found this marvelous painting of Elizabeth greeting Mary in St. Agnes' Convent in Prague, and I absolutely love it.

In the fall, I tend to listen to albums, not playlists. Spring and summer are for lots of artists, lots of albums, and lots of playlists. In the fall, my listening slows down and lingers. I still listen to a decent amount of playlists, but if I cut them out entirely it wouldn't change my fall listening rhythms much. My go-to fall albums are Sleeping at Last's Atlas: Year One and Atlas: Year Two, the soundtrack for Cider House Rules (a movie I've never seen, but I love the music), and James Taylor's October Road. And if I could only listen to October Road all fall, I'd be perfectly content. This album is the sound of my childhood, of Appalachian fall colors, of cosy afternoons studying and cooking and walking Fritz through fields ready for harvest.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Poetry Corner | A Time to Talk, by Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don't stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven't hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

the ministry of showing up

On Friday evenings I co-lead a church youth group.

Those who know me well will recognize the irony of this fact.

I never attended youth group. (Actually, I think I did for a brief season, but I expunged the experience from my memory.) I always preferred joining my parents for their Bible studies.

Even as a teenager, I had very little idea how to interact with your average teenager. Give me a book or a grown-up. Or a soccer ball so we can play a hard game of soccer and not bother with awkward small talk.

So when I joined the team that leads the youth group, I had no idea what I was getting into. Literally: the group for 20-somethings I attend is called Jugend (youth), and the group I co-lead is called TeenKreis (teen circle). So it did not once occur to me that I was volunteering to lead a youth group until I walked into our first meeting. Yes, I can be painfully oblivious.

I did a quick survey of the room, realizing that there were around fifteen kids between the ages of 13 and 17. Lounging on couches, talking in cliques, the girls with braces and the boys with changing voices.

Oh my gosh. This is youth group.

Not gonna lie, I had a moment of wanting to turn around and walk right out the door.

But I was there as a leader, so I made conversation. At which point I realized Challenge Number 2: this is a German group. So I'm supposed to engage with and teach teenagers - a group I've never been able to relate with - in a foreign language. Super.

I went home that night and poured out my frustration to God.

"Why am I doing this? What have I gotten myself into? I don't know how to relate to these kids! Even if we were interacting in English I would have no idea what to say to them. And we're speaking German, for crying out loud! It's all I can do to keep up with the conversation, and then I'm supposed to say something meaningful and be some sort of role model? This is not what I signed up for. Ok, maybe it's what I signed up for, but I wasn't aware of it, and that's almost worse."

And He quietly answered, "Kate. They don't need you to relate to them. They need you to love them."


Ok then.

There's really no other answer to that.

So on Fridays, I show up, struggle through conversations, and pray that these teens will experience some small taste of the love of God through my presence, even when I have no idea what I'm doing. When I run into them in church on Sundays, we make small talk. With lots of awkward pauses. This Friday night, I'm in charge of the devotional: 45 minutes to talk about plagues. (We're working through the book of Exodus.) I'm looking up all the terms I think will be important, trying to come up with meaningful discussion questions, working to anticipate their questions, and praying for the grace to handle the inevitable language mix-ups with poise and humor.

Mostly I'm praying that they will know the God who showed His power with a mighty hand and outstretched arm over Egypt. Praying that they will know His love and power and presence. That they will be amazed by Him.


I feel like there should be some sort of clear point to this, but I'm not quite there yet. The closest I can come is this: Something that the Lord has shown me recently is that often I'm not supposed to know what's going on. I'm just to faithfully be present and expect Him to work.

I've started calling it "the ministry of showing up."

So that's what I'm doing: showing up with my meager offering and expecting Him to be faithful in serving His children.

I have a feeling I'll probably be writing more about this "ministry of showing up" in the next few months, since it's a part of many areas of my life, not just youth group.

Where is God calling you to show up and be present?