Friday, October 25

Food Insecurity Links

I wrote an article to be a vehicle for certain links that might be helpful to people experiencing food insecurity. Elephant Journal graciously published it. Some of the links I found useful got lost in the editorial process, so I thought I'd share them here: 

The article, as published:
(I think you'll have to copy and paste this URL, for reasons unknown.)

On Depression Era Cooking:

On farmer's markets:

Wendell Berry, full PBS interview: (and just for the record, I had rough drafted calling Wendell Berry a prophet several days before I saw this PBS interview! :-) )

Clean eating on a tight budget:

Here is a link of how to start a food coop that might be helpful.

Wednesday, October 23

Scared of the Dark by Rich Mullins

September 17, 1997
(two days before his death)

i don't remember meeting Him
He had just always been there.
when people ask me, "how did you meet the Lord?"
i don't know how to answer.
meeting Him seems unavoidable
recognizing Him can be tricky
loving Him seems impossible.
people often ask that too--"do you love Jesus?"
and again I'm stuck for an answer
i know the right one--the answer you're supposed to give
I know that it presupposes so many things that it could hardly
be honest
so i say
as much as i love,
i love Jesus.

if love was easier, I would love Him more
but then again
if love was easier, it would hardly be worth the little
it would ask
if i was stronger, i would love Him more
or maybe
i would more know how little i love

we grow slowly,
and love takes time...

He's always been there
even in that dark room where i
slept as a child
scared of that dark
in that room that seemed to want
to suck me deep into the night's
great lungs
i hated the thought that we were all
hanging upside down--off the bottom of the world
and that all that darkness out there that we
might fall into
was just a shadow of our own selves
just a shadow you could fall through forever.

she said that You were out there too
and then she'd tuck me in so tight that i would likely be safe
till morning
but no woman--not even your own mother
can kiss you without mixing some unspoken sorrow
into her affection
and i always thought
she might be kissing me good-byeas well as good night.

my aunt said that Jesus would knock on the door of my heart
and if i would open up the door
He'd come in and sup with me
and when i was old enough to be ashamed of trying to tether
myself to my mom
(with that last desperate good night)
i decided
that instead of lying there being afraid
i would listen for His knock.

i heard all kinds of things
scary things
amplified by the dark
and by my nervous and hopeful listenings
was it the voice of Eli? or the call of God?
was it the limbs of the trees outside?
or the knock i was open to?

i did not worry about what Jesus would find to eat if He came in
i was a child and knew that out of a crowd
a boy would most likely have some fish and some loaves

but i am no longer a child
i am no longer afraid of the dark
i have new things to fear
i am no longer afraid that i will drift away from this world
i am afraid i will never escape it.

and i'm not afraid of good-byes
i've become so used to them it scares me.

i have never heard any knocking sound
that was distinct from every other noise
but i have learned to listen
and i'm thankful for learning

i don't know that in the rumble of the thunder
or the crackle in a good fire
or the hum of my wheels
is the sound of Jesus knocking on
the door of my heart
but i'm thankful to Him for all
those sounds

and for giving me ears
and for teaching me to listen.

i don't know that the lonely ache that i
feel--even when times are the best
and friends are near--
is the way that it feels when He knocks,
when He calls,
but i'm thankful to have a heart.
i don't know that He would like everything in it
or that He would find any fish or loaves anymore
or much besides stone and snakes.

but sometimes
i get really brave, and
if i don't open the door
i at least unlock it

and when i look in
or when i look out
i can see that He's just always been there.

meeting Him seems unavoidable
recognizing Him can be tricky
loving Him seems impossible.

we grow slowly,
and love takes time

Tuesday, October 22


My mother has always been generous in her sharing of me. She always allowed me to form friendships with women who became mentors, who also became mothers of my heart. And oh, how I needed them! I needed them to become. I needed them to be more truly who I am.

I have always admired Mary. In my early days, I thought of her as a teenage mom who was quaking in her boots as she said 'yes' to God. She was an example of how I should say 'yes' to the foolishness of God instead of the wisdom of the world.

In the 90s, when "Breath of Heaven" and "Mary, Did you Know?" came out, it added emotion to my intellectual respect for Mary. I became increasingly aware of the bravery it must have taken to say yes. The strength of her answer to the angel: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord" and "be it unto me according to thy word." Because she for SURE spoke in King James. And not even Joan of Arc can rival the sheer audacity and derring-do of Mary's willingness. Her obedience provided my salvation. I was always thankful to her for that. But for me, Mary was always a seasonal character. She came out around Christmas with the shepherds and wise men; much like a cuckoo clock shows forth woodworks in its time and then closes the doors again.

Not so in the Orthodox Church. The thought of her is not merely seasonal.

 The first day that I darkened the doors of the Orthodox Church just so happened to be on one of Mary's feast days, the Dormition. It is (in August, of all months!) when the Orthodox commemorate her death. Definitely not a Christmastime theme. Not at all. Fr. Paul O'Callaghan teaches that even though the Theotokos is talked of all the time in the Church, she is important only in her relation to Jesus. Then again, it could be said that all the importance that any of us can muster comes from Jesus. 

 When I was taking instruction in the Orthodox Christian church, I was fortunate to be at a women's retreat led by Dr. Jeannie Constantinou on The Theotokos and Orthodox Women.  Separating Life from Legend and Theology from Piety: A Scriptural, Theological and Iconographic Journey. (The word "Theotokos" means God-Bearer, and is how Mary is often referred to in the Orthodox Church.) It was immensely helpful to this Protestant theology student to be able to sit down with an Orthodox woman who is a scholar and hear her perspective. Even better was being able to ask all of my questions in one place, on one weekend. And there were many.

From that weekend, I started to put Mary in perspective in a new way. No longer merely seasonal, I began to see her as an example. Dr. Jeannie showed us how she was an example of so many things: obedience, motherhood... of course. But also womanhood in many myriad forms. A teenager. A wife. A refugee. The mom of a precocious child. Bereaved. A leader of the early church in Ephesus. She is all these things and more. As my understanding of the communion of saints and the great cloud of witnesses grew, I came to understand her as an intercessor.

All of this is well and good. But even after I became Orthodox, my appreciation of the Theotokos was remote, removed from the core of who I am. Though it is possible (possible, I say) that Mary herself brought me to the Church on one of her feast days, for the most part she remained a theoretical abstract.

Until that day.

I had walked in to my favorite bookstore. One of my friends who worked there was stomping around and buzzing like an angry bee. He threw a book at me, and said, "LOOK at this! Just look at this. What do you think when you see this!?"

There was a print of a woman who was slumped down by a tiled wall. The wall was golden, but had seven especially golden tiles above her. A dark shadow, maybe blood, pooled beneath her. Her mouth, open. Her eyes, lifeless.

She was dead.

Or so she looked to me. My friend thought it looked as if she had been raped. It was clear that some involuntary act of violence had been done to her. I had no context for it. I could not think of what this picture represented or who she was.

"The THEOTOKOS!!!" he railed. "THIS is a picture of Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit!" I was shocked. I couldn't see Mary in the way the picture had presented her. Because she was brave. Because she had free will. Because she had agreed. The angel had come... and she had said YES. Yes to that most inconceivable of conceptions: that God would become man. That her knees would become His throne.

"They can't do that to her, they can't picture her that way!!! She's my MOM!!!!" my friend thundered.

And with that, I was taken aback. And with that, my life has not ever been the same. She's Mom. She's my mom; the mother of all of us.

Jesus said,
11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[a] 12 He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[b]

 Hebrews 2:11-12

And this is not just a metaphysical truth, it is a physical truth. When Christ came and took on flesh, it was Mary's flesh that he took on. Her DNA lived in his body; this body that is fully human and fully God. Not long after this conversation with my friend, I went to a place in town that has bones of Joachim and Anna. They were Mary's parents, which makes them Jesus' grandparents. Both my body and my heart knelt and kissed the bones that begat the bones that begat the bones of God.

And with that, I knew who she was. Because she is generous with me, she is generous with us. She is my mom. And oh, how I need her! I need her to become. I need her to be more truly who I am.

Wednesday, October 16

Halloween 1982, or How the Religious Right Started Celebrating Samhain

When I was little, I was a Pretty Little Dutch Girl, and Cinderella, and Casper the Friendly Ghost. Twice. Halloween was a holiday for children, and I adored it! We would frolic around the neighborhood with one parent while the other stayed home to pass out candy. My candy-holding pumpkin said "BOO" in its jack-o-lantern mouth. All year round, I kept it in my closet, and I would love to bury my face in the opening and snork up the delicious fall candy aroma. 

Halloween was a time for dancing, singing, laughing. For children.

When I was in fourth grade, it happened. The Tylenol Scare. I didn't understand it at the time, but the idea seemed to be that there was a really good chance that people were going to be killing us that Halloween by putting Tylenol in our Halloween candy.

That year we were only allowed to take part in "Harvest Festivals" at our churches, due to fear for the safety of children. What else could our parents do? They wanted us to have a good time. They wanted us to stay alive.

It really wasn't as fun as cavorting around the neighborhood, cheeks pink with cold in the gathering dark.

But the shadow had fallen, the fun was over. From my fourth grade year on, Halloween was "the Devil's holiday." Ministers and church people would rail against the glorification of Satan, the triumph of witchcraft.

Being the dutiful, sanctified girl I always was, I took every word in. And the words that came were horrid!!! I have never heard as many dark and fearsome things anywhere else as I did in church. It was only in church that I learned about a Black Mass, about how to sacrifice animals, about spiritualism and ectoplasm. 

And we certainly wanted to avoid all that.

So we did. Our right-wing evangelical Protestant church held Harvest Festivals year after year. But Halloween was not the province of children anymore, not really. And it was less fun.

When I went to Bible College, we wanted to have at least a little fun on Halloween. Our freshman year, my friends and I dyed our hair with Kool-Aid, and I kissed five or six guys. It was fun! It was so much fun that my friend with the naturally platinum hair had PINK hair until after Christmas. And I mean pank-pink!

Then I met Karen. Karen was a friend I met after college in church. She wanted to have fun on Halloween. She wanted to have fun outside, dressed UP on Halloween!!!! (She actually wanted to have fun on all the holidays, but I only faulted her for having fun with the Devil.) She would get our (now Presbyterian) church friends together, make a mess o' sloppy joes, and have a scavenger hunt all around town.

And I refused to go. For years.

Because, um... animal sacrifice. And Black Masses. Also, maybe the spirits of dead people were scary. Witches. The Devil.

And for years, I would see the pictures of everyone freshly back from cavorting around the neighborhood scavenger hunt, cheeks pink with cold in the gathering dark. 

And Karen was kind to me. She would encourage me to come, listen to all my worrying, and encourage me to come some more. She actually wanted to have fun on all the holidays.

So one October, I sat down at a Barnes and Noble and read an entire book on the history of Halloween. On Samhain. I was fascinated.

It turns out that Samhain is first and foremost a Harvest Festival. It is a Harvest Festival of the Celts, a festival more Irish than St. Patrick's Day. It is also a festival that people do things because they are a little scared of the dead and evil spirits. Like the Devil. People would do things to ward them off, much like the gargoyles on some of the greatest cathedrals in Europe.

Just like in 1982.

So that is what set me free, and from that Halloween on, I always dressed up and went to cavort in the gathering dark. My first year at Karen's party, we were both Rosie the Riveter (but she had a better outfit for it. No matter).

Because, my dears, the moral of the story is this: A holiday is what you make of it.

Karen gave Halloween back its joy. She returned it to the innocence of children.

And we will always be scared. Of the dark. Of the evil. Of the Tylenol.

But in its face, we can dance. And sing. And laugh.

Saturday, October 12

Thanks for the Liebster Award!


Mulling Spices received a Liebster Award.  Thank you, Simply Organized!
About the award:  Liebster is German for sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing & welcome.This award is passed from Blogger to Blogger. It’s an award for bloggers with under 200 subscribers & is to encourage each other that they are doing a great job & to keep it up!  Sweet, right?

Along with the award, there are 11 questions that were asked to help your readers get to know you better. Here are my answers below:

1.    Why did you start blogging?

"Mulling Spices" says it all. When I write "out loud" by blogging, I am able to sort through my thoughts more concisely and efficiently. When I just journal to myself... Oh!!! The yammering!

2. What is your favorite book?

The fact of that question being asked in singular form bruises my brain and hurts my soul a little bit. Simply Organized posted about six books; so I will limit myself to that. Here they are by genre:

Memoir: The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner. His idea is that God speaks (sometimes mutteringly) into and out of our days. He weaves this idea through delightful storytelling. This is a book I return to almost every time when I feel I have lost my way... and even during times when I know right where I am. 

Short Story: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. This edition has particularly delightful illustrations. This is a story about a couple getting Christmas presents for each other. I would like to be married like this sometime; but more than that, I would just like to be this kind of giver to those I love most. (I'm sure they'd like that, too.)

Both of these books were given to me by one of my former roommates who is a particularly luminous soul. With all the books I read, it is a spectacular accomplishment for one person to have introduced me to two of my favorites. I am so blessed to know her.

Humor: My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber. He lived from 1894 – 1961, and was "an author, a cartoonist, and a celebrated wit," according to Wikipedia. And he was! He worked for the New Yorker for years and could spin a tale about the simplest things hysterically. I never thought I would think of Columbus, Ohio as a place of strange and wonderful happenings, but he made it so.

Children's: The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis. There are so many elements that make this book amazing: bizarre family members, treachery, magic, betrayal, Creation, humor, redemption... but the truth is that when I read it, it just sings to me. 

Photo Essay:  With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. This is the book that touched a chord and first caused me to think of prayer as something much more than a laundry list. It put me on the path back to my own heart before God. 

A book that is just so very good for my soul?  For the Life of the World by Fr. Alexander Schmemann. It was this book more than any other thing that made me hungry for Eucharist, for Christ Himself. (Did you know that the word eucharist literally means "thanksgiving?") He gave Himself for the life of the world, and I am so grateful to dance in that healing. 


You should get these books at a local library. Or you should give some love to your community by getting them at a local independent bookstore, like Eighth Day Books or Watermark. Actually, just go to Eighth Day. They will have most of these books right on the shelf; Watermark will have to order them. But go to Watermark for chai.

3. What makes you laugh out loud?

 My sister. People. Misprints like this: 


 5. Who would play you in a movie?

Do you remember that girl who is in Napoleon Dynamite? I look like that. But I don't act like that. But she is an actress. So she could figure out how to act appropriately Nyleen. That girl. And her acting abilities.

6. How long have you been blogging?

I don't know. Years and years ago, I had a blog called "The Asparagus Evening," (I thought it sounded relaxing), but I killed it. Mulling Spices is my second blog and has been around since 2010.

7. What time of the day do you write?

I just throw down and write whenever. It has only been in the last month that I have tried to make a regular practice of writing. Up until then, I ascribed to the "writing is like pooping" theory of writing; a feeling just overtakes you and it has to happen. (It's only my own theory, nobody else says that. Plus, I am probably wrong.) 

But in the last month, I've been writing more regularly; and you can see my work over at Elephant Journal. I'm thankful for the opportunity to develop my craft.

8. What is the most annoying song in the universe?

"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell. It was the favorite song of a roomie I once had. Although I love her dearly, I'll never understand her. (Not the book giver. The Chick Flick Extravaganza roomie.)

9. What part of your home is your favorite?

The back deck. Plants, a patio table with slightly rocking chairs, sun tea, a Black Lab... what's not to love? It's great for sitting during a thunderstorm; to feel the power and not get soaked. And I especially love writing there.


10. What is your favorite recipe?

I don't discriminate when it comes to foods. I am an equal opportunity eater. But this cake is the fix for a bad day, when you need something chocolate, but you want to stay home in your pajamas. Also, much of my relationship with my mother consists of me calling her and asking for this recipe after I've lost it. Again. 

Wacky Cocoa Cake 

preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1 1/2 c flour
3 T cocoa
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt 
1 c sugar

mix the dry things together thoroughly. you can even do this in your square glass baking pan. then:

6 T oil 
(The cake is good. And it is super moist. But it is not Health Cake. You don't care. You're depressed.)
1 T vinegar
1 t vanilla
1 c water

mix it up.

the original recipe said you should bake it for 25 minutes, but I usually go 30. definitely check the middle before you pull it out. 

you don't want to let it cool for 10 minutes, but you should. and you should eat it with some milk. 


11. What is your favorite season?

Autumn. And spring. Really, just April and October. All the other months can take a hike! Oh... except June. A teacher loves June. For practical reasons.
Today I am passing this Liebster Award onto ...
I honestly don't read a lot of blogs.  And those I do frequent have a big readership.  The Liebster is for us little guys.  

So hop on over to All Manner of Inspiration for some thoughtful words on life. Sarah is much better at the bloggeriness than I am. But I still bet I could take her in a nonsense word rhyme-off.

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