PC: KSB

Food for the soul | a recipe and activity

Ready to get those creative juices going and become an introspective chef today?

My nonprofit has allowed all staff to work from home during this pandemic, and it offers weekly R&R sessions for interested employees to connect and process as needed. Today’s session included a reflective activity.

The prompt was “food for the soul,” and each attendee each came up with the recipe title and ingredients that they need for balance and nourishment in daily life.

As a Christ-follower, I appreciated the prompt, which seemed surprisingly Christian Jesus is the bread of life, and our souls find rest in God alone though my organization is not faith-based. The language was unintentionally familiar, and it led to several creative responses.

One employee simply listed musical after musical in her ingredient list. Another shared ways they replenish their energy as an introvert. I now present you with my own recipe, “Skye’s Splendid Soup.”

Not a soup. Just a muffin in a muffin top, made by my sweet coworker! PC: KSB.

Before I share the recipe, let me just say that this soup is good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any time of day. You can adjust the amount of the ingredients based on the flavor desired.

The main ingredient is in this soup is engagement with my dear ones best friends, family, cousins. This what makes the meal hearty. This is the rice of the splendid soup. You can’t get by without it.

Other ingredients include community and music, which can add a fresh flavor to the soup, much like that of green bell peppers, tomato, red onion, and so forth. My mom taught me to throw in whatever you have and make it beautiful, so the amounts or types may really depend on what’s available that day.

Mix in worship as well. Worship is the stock of the soup. Personally, I use vegetable stock, and there are so many options with that! You could buy it in liquid form, use the flavorful jarred kind, or even make your own!

You could pray over the phone or on your bed, sing along with a band or choir on YouTube or create music, read Scripture, listen to the Lord through meditation or prophecy, fellowship with others (remotely; we’re still in a pandemic), creatively minister to or with others, et cetera. My local Anglican church also uses the Book of Common Prayer as a guide for Scripture reading, prayer, and reflection.

Don’t forget to add in nature! The soup tastes best if you double this ingredient. Since there’s no baseline for the original recipe, just add as much as you can. Trees, walking, hiking, sunshine, tiny purple flowers, more trees and foliage, lilacs, lavender, the lake if it’s safe, et cetera. (Just go with what you have on hand, but always include trees.)

Next, add in heaps of hugs to taste, but generously. This really seals the soup’s flavor and adds that key healing ingredient for the soul. Hugs are anti-inflammatory and good for both relaxing and feeling loved.

Finally, add a sprinkling of good food. In Skye’s Splendid Soup of Life, a little good food can go a long way. More good food would probably get you further. With this soup, it’s all about abundance.

Skye’s Splendid Soup is best if set in multicultural bowls, with refugees and Congolese friends, and eaten with deeply thoughtful people.

Pictured here: Maharagwe (beans), sombe (mboga), wali (rice), and ugali (foufou)! SO MUCH Congolese food. Delish. PC: KSB

What is your recipe for soul renewal? Share in the comments below! Bon appetit!

Maundy Thursday reflections: longing and hope

My heart is nearly broken with sorrow/ Remain here with me/ Stay awake and pray

Tonight I shared in a remote Maundy Thursday service through the Anglican Diocese of the Upper Midwest’s Cathedral, which is sharing its social distanced Holy Week services with their many church plants due to COVID-19.

Maundy Thursday is another name for day we remember the Last Supper, when Jesus Christ celebrated Passover with his disciples before he was arrested and murdered. It’s an evening of celebration before their world was shaken.

Jesus gathered with his twelve best friends, washed their feet as a display of service and love, and ate with them, all while knowing that one of them would betray him just hours later. He let that person go to do his business, gathered the rest, and told them to watch and pray. You can read the account in Matthew 26.

Jesus earnestly desired to eat with his disciples at that last meal before his arrest and crucifixion. He longed to be together with his beloved ones, drinking from the same cup and eating of the same bread.

One bread, one body, one Lord of all/ One cup of blessing which we bless/ And we, though many, throughout the earth/ We are one Body in this one Lord

I too long for that. I want to worship in community, to sing with abandon and in the company of 50 other singers, to hug without fear, to HUG. I wish to be in the physical fellowship of my sisters and brothers of faith and with them partake in his Body and Blood as Christ, the Messiah, instructed us.

(My congregation is blessed to be able to partake in the Body “in one kind,” so just the bread, which has been blessed for us. The latter half of every service is devoted to communion, and there is also a liturgy for those who cannot eat the flesh in this time. We were even given palm branches and candles, delivered to our doorsteps for this Holy Week. I am grateful for all the measures the leadership has taken to allow us to worship in as much of an embodied way as possible during this pandemic.)

Despite the unfulfilled longings and the coming darkness, in his message tonight, Father Trevor reminded us of the unshakeable hope that we have as Christ’s disciples. At that last peaceful dinner, Jesus experienced the yearning we are experiencing now in quarantine, for he knew what was to come. Yet he also had hope, which he passed on to his disciples.

The Last Supper was Jesus’ last time drinking wine before his Kingdom is united. And we still await that day when we shall feast at the wedding of the Bride, which is the Church, and Lamb, which is Jesus Messiah, as the book of Revelation describes.

Even as the world crumbles around us — and for some it has always been crumbled or already been shaken — or even as we experience isolation that was not what God intended for humankind, Father Trevor reminded us to hold on to the unshakeable hope we have in Christ.

I can’t get ahead of myself.

It isn’t Good Friday yet, so as we reenact the story through the liturgical calendar, Jesus still has to die. Then we have to wait a dark day thinking that all is lost and everything we put our faith in was a lie. Then on the third day, we’ll be surprised by Jesus, who is full of grace and truth, actually fulfilling ancient prophecy and words promised to his disciples. (And, spoiler alert, he spreads that news through women.)

But tonight we watch and pray.

You found WHAT in the library?!

Life is full of surprises, some less pleasant than others. This pandemic is one of them. But other times, it’s full of bizarre discoveries and moments that make you shake your head and chuckle.

Mind if I share some to evoke a smile?

Here are some strange things I’ve come across:

  1. A bread knife in the church library. Despite having read all the Hardy Boys books, my best friend and I never figured that one out.
  2. Toenail clippers on top of the fridge. We had three sets, always all over the apartment, but the least sensical place was the top of the fridge…kwanini, kweli?
  3. Decapitated fish heads strewn across the kitchen floor. They were ndaga, the little silver ones from Lake Tanganyika, and they avoided the trashcan like I’m trying to avoid corona. #StayHomeSaveLives
  4.  My housemate playing guitar in the center of our jade green bathroom. His response when I found him on wooden chair by the toilet, surrounded by the mirrored walls? “Acoustics.”
  5.  A banana on the return shelf in the campus library. My coworker discovered this on one of his first shifts and asked the boss if that was a normal find.

    Bread in bag Blog temp

    PC: KSB

  6.  Two pieces of partially eaten bread put back in the bag. Two separate pieces, both eaten half way. With bite marks.
  7.  A man driving with a wash cloth on his head. No, it wasn’t a hat or a turban or a du-rag. It was a square wash cloth flopped on top of his head as he cruised down the street.

Have any stories of your own? Comment below!

Stay safe and stay home. Peace.

God of justice, come again

This post was originally sent out during Advent in a newsletter I write for a church. It has been adapted for the Twelve Days of Christmas 2019-20.
Psalm 72 is believed to be a Messianic Psalm, one that referred to the prophesied Christ thousands of years before he was born. In NIV it begins, “Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice” (1,2). The prayer for this foretold king, Christ Jesus, is that he will be just.
But it doesn’t end there. The psalmist prays the king will be just towards those who are suffering, afflicted, and oppressed.
Verse four is pretty explicit: “May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor.” The psalmist goes on to pray that all other kings will come to him in worship, giving him gifts and licking his dust because he is THAT mighty and worthy of their service.
Why?? “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live!” (12-15a).
This God is worthy of our praise. This God is our redeemer. This God is the Messiah for Chicago’s Westside as for the Jews. He is the God for all who are oppressed and afflicted, all who need justice. This God says our blood is precious in his sight.
He is the God for our sons and daughters whose teachers try their best but lack resources. He is the God for our cousins and uncles and fathers who don’t make it home from work due to gun violence. He is the God for our aunts and mothers who give us their all so we can have food on the table and clothes on our backs. He is the God for our sisters with breast cancer and our brothers doing time for crimes they didn’t deserve so many years for.
He sees all our blood and views it as precious. That was true in King David’s prophecy, true when Jesus hung on the tree for our sins and sicknesses, and is just as true today as we both remember his first coming through Mary’s bloody womb in these Twelve Days of Christmas and expect his second coming.
“Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen” (18, 19).

Twenty things I learned before 2020

This post is special for two reasons. Firstly, it welcomes in a new year and decade. Cheers to 2020! May God bless us with stability and peace where we need it, the courage and faith to obey Him, and joy through his Spirit. 

Secondly, this is my hundredth blog post on this site!

Now, I could write 100 somethings to celebrate that fact, but lists that long tend to be overwhelming. Instead, I’ll share twenty assorted things that I have learned over the past decade, and particularly over the last five years.

Feel free to add your own in the comments!

  1. Being away from family isn’t the easiest, since I am blessed with an amazing one, but friendships can be just as sweet.

  2. Working the opening shift is the best. Especially when you can see the sunrise through your window.

  3. Being vegetarian isn’t hard when you have reasons for it! (The same goes for anything; if you have convictions, you can act decisively, even if it is difficult in some cases.)

  4. Language acquisition requires active communication in that language. You have to practice.  

  5. Math and piano also need continual practice even once you reach a certain level. You can lose your skills even if you excelled at one point. Not everything is like riding a bike. 

  6. It’s rewarding to obey the prompts of the Holy Spirit.

  7. Find yourself a church community. You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

  8. Colorful lipstick is the bomb. 

  9. There is no shame in getting counseling. In fact, it’s quite helpful.

  10. Refugees are awesome people. They are courageous, innovative and dedicated creators, survivors, and humans.

  11. It’s best to wait for what God has promised instead of going against his timeline or words. That can actually hurt you, but what God has promised is so, so good.

  12. Mayonde was right: Ain’t no city like Nairobi. Well…maybe Denver. ☀️

  13. Zero waste is the way to go. Reduce, reuse, recycle, and buy biodegradable!

  14. Cacti make great pets. 

  15. Race DOES need to be talked about since the underlying issues have not yet been solved. You can read the story of how I came to realize that here.

  16. It’s okay to let people go as you mature and move into different stages of life. Your high school friends might not be your best friends forever, and that’s okay. 

  17. At the same time, pursue relationships you want to keep.

  18. Know the reasons why you believe what you do or live a certain way. 

  19. Be open to difference!!!

  20. Be compassionate and empathetic

Happy new year, everyone! Subscribe for more blog posts, including a special guest post in Memoirs of the Trees

The Purple Tree

Every time it’s fall, and sometimes when it’s not, I think of a certain tree:

a tree that greeted me on my way out to class and in from work, 

a tree I loved because it was my favorite color,

a tree that defied the expectations of aging 

       and worked from dark to light.

It wore the mauve of fall overtaking summer’s green

then blushed bright scarlet before fading into orange.

 

Like the office assistant who brightens your weekday 

with hellos, hard candy, and care,

       though you may not know her well,

so was this tree to me.

It was my favorite for its unconventional beauty,

a constant each fall day 

on my walk by Fischer.

purple tree

The actual tree, Wheaton, IL. I took this photo in mid-October a few years back when it was starting to change colors. Can anyone identify it for me?

Honestly, why should you support Chicago teachers?

It’s Tuesday morning, October 22, 2019. Outside, it is raining and windy with a real feel of 43 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Chicago Teachers Union is STILL out on every highway bridge demonstrating to gain support.

Teachers have been on strike for about a week trying to meet demands that they initiated as proposals months ago. It took an extended strike to get any response, and they’re still negotiating to get things on paper and ensure that the capped class sizes will be enforced. (You can read more from the local news here.)

I remember when my mom was a teacher for a bit, and I was temporarily made to act as her mom because her work was round-the-clock and exhausting. That was in a private school with allegedly better resources (though no qualified nurses or counselors, if I’m being honest).

The point? Teachers deserve to be paid better. They have to live, too.

Moreover, the things CTU is asking for are for the benefit of the students, especially the students who feel the lack of resources most significantly. I’m proud of the CTU for prioritizing that.

National statistics from the ACLU.

National statistics from the ACLU.

Counseling comes to mind as a necessary resource. This summer, I tutored a boy who went to one of the best high schools in Chicago but had to leave due to severe bullying and mental illness that led to suicide attempts. His school counselor was his only safe person before he had to leave, but she was only there because it was a well-resourced school for highly intellectual students.

For those who think striking might harm the students, consider the long term benefits of having better schools. Adequate resources were not provided at the start of 2019 when teachers asked, and their proposals weren’t considered until they went on strike.

Just imagine what happens if there is an emergency but no nurse! Can the students really thrive if teachers are unable to give them the attention they need because classes are too full? And what about the kids who need counseling, the kids like the one I tutored whose lives may be at stake? I certainly don’t want to risk that over the course of years.

The Chicago Transit Authority has offered free transit to students during the strike, and school buildings are open as safe havens during the day. Students are being cared for as their teachers fight to secure better resources for them beyond this week. And that devotion is just another reason why Chicago teachers deserve increased pay.

Photos from the Garfield Park Conservatory

Today I visited the Garfield Park Conservatory on the Westside of Chicago. It’s one of the city’s gems, this free green space. Local workers take lunch breaks there, and others come from around the city to explore the beauty of the cacti, ferns, flowers, and gardens.

The sounds of water streaming physically relaxed and grounded me, while the warm sun and cool breeze outside caused me smile and enjoy the present. A number of critters meandered in and out of the building from the gardens out back. I noticed a rabbit outside, saw a squirrel inside, and marveled at the way the grasshoppers blended in so perfectly with the ground. The fern room, with all its moss and foliage, made me feel at home, though I’d originally come to see the 38′ 1″ agave americana extending through the ceiling panes.

It’s free to enter, though the Conservatory suggests a $10 donation per adult for the upkeep of this beautiful, refreshing place that has been around since 1908.

Several things struck me today: the incredible views, the intricate and endlessly variegated patterns and textures of the foliage, and the way the colors popped. God is truly a magnificent Creator, and I pray you will be blessed by his work through these photos.

Here is a sample of the sweeping views:

Behold God’s creativity with patterns:

…And with texture, even among ferns alone:

Compare all the different shapes and textures just in this one shot:

The texture of this next flower was almost nonexistent. It looked super soft and fuzzy, but I could barely feel it. I thought sensation had left my hand!

(Note: I don’t know if you’re allowed to touch the plants. I did touch some leaves, one unexpectedly papery and another textured like pigskin, but I don’t recommend such behavior. Just read and obey the signs, especially by certain cacti.)

The pops of color were also marvelous. Greens primarily filled the Conservatory, but red and pink veins created contrast within plants, and violet, fuscia, and yellow flowers added pizzazz to the greenery. My favorite plant from the entire Conservatory was the purple “dragon” flowers below. (I renamed them that because they resemble dragon scales to me.)

All photos belong to me. For more information on the Conservatory, including its special programs, visit https://garfieldconservatory.org. Be blessed!