Garden of Growth

Last week, Chad and I spent a few hours composting hundreds upon hundreds of seedlings. Now, I understand from a business perspective that, as a farmer, you have to overplant in case something happens. I also understand that it takes a scarce commodity, time, to find appropriate homes for them. Composting it is . . . unless you have an intern that feels almost more tenderly for abandoned plants than for abandoned puppies.

Here are just a few of the plants I filled my car with to bring home, and I barely rescued any:

There’s a nearby church that has garden plots for the community, and after planting some around the Vista House, I called up the pastor and procured a space!

I had to lay down newspaper and cardboard to kill the weeds . . .

. . . before I ran out. Then I poached some from a dumpster behind a shopping center 😉

Filled completely, sprinkled with fertilizer (and one happy gardener):

I then had to let it rest a week. According to the people in charge of the garden at the church, the soil they got needed added nitrogen. After talking to Roddy and Chad, however, I was skeptical about this addition and am hopeful that my plants don’t get burned by too much.

My little rescues went back in the car after a week of rest and water at the VH (ignore the dirty socks. Comes from working on a farm . . . at least, that’s what I tell myself)

And over to the church to be planted!

Isn’t it beautiful? I planted peppers (sweet and hot), tomatoes, okra, oregano, and watermelon. I’m so excited for my plants to start producing fruit, and to not be dependent on the dining hall this fall for all of my goodies. Speaking of school food, check this out over at Food Renegade (and watch the TED talk at the end!)

Do you have a garden? 

What is in season in your region? 

Looking Forward

I finish exams in TWO days. TWO DAYS, people! And the I’ll be finished with my freshman year of college. I feel like I got here two weeks ago, but have been here forever.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I was reading through my journal entries from the beginning of the year. They were vibrant and full of expectation, hope, change. They spoke about my friends now when we had first met, dreams for the future, aspirations for the year. And now, I’m about to be one fourth of the way done with my college career. Well . . . unless I decide to delay it, and go to grad school. But that is a decision for several years from now!

With that said, I wanted to let you all know what I’ll be doing this summer and what you can look forward to on the blog! I’m not going to be lazing around, relaxing in the warm sunshine all day long, mind you. I am super super excited about my summer: I know it will be a period of very spectacular growth in my life.

The month of May (starting at the end of this week!!) I will be interning with Greenbrier Farms. Greenbrier is a smaller, poly-culture farm that I actually did a research project on last semester for my Sustainability Science introductory course. Sustainable agriculture is one of my passions, and the chance to (quite literally) get my hands dirty and learn about fills me with exhilaration. It will be hard work, I hope, but definitely rewarding. I’ll probably be working in the produce gardens, helping out with events, putting together CSA bags, and working at the farmer’s market. I might not be able to take too many photos, but I’ll snap them when I can 😉

This entire summer, I’m living at a house run by our Mere Christianity Forum on Campus. It’s called the Vista House, and it is intended to a place for intentional Christian community.

In June, our Servant Scholars Program starts. I’ll be interning with United Ministries, an organization that has several programs dealing with homelessness, poverty, and adult education. I’m expecting to be thoroughly challenged and stretched by my work there.

The Vista House has an absolutely amazing kitchen, and I won’t be on any type of meal plan this entire summer! That means . . . lots of cooking. It’s where some of these beautiful communal meals took place:

This summer is going to be a great experience. I’m excited to share this part of my journey with you!

What are your summer plans? 

Forgiving the Forgetful

. . . in myself. Really, it isn’t just the forgetful: it’s learning to forgive the imperfections within myself. That, my friends, is something that I thought I had grasped only because I was able to give myself grace in one area of life. When something else happens to remind me of my inherent human-ness, I feel like I’m starting all over again.

This is exam week, hence my lack of regularity in posting. I’ve been stressed the past few days about the exam I had this morning–not because I was unprepared, or because it was going to be particularly challenging. It is my easiest class, and therein lies my problem: I’ve been unwilling to accept anything less than an A in that class because it is easy and unchallenging. There were several homework assignments I forgot to do, which makes my current standing in the class less than my ideal. Had I done them, I would have gotten 100%–but I just completely forgot. It had been a hard few weeks with a death in the family, traveling to the funeral, missing class, working through my emotions, and I simply blanked.

It took me days to stop kicking myself over them, with renewed pressure this week to excel on the final so I don’t get–oh the horror–an A minus. I keep trying to remind myself that this isn’t all that important in the grand scheme of life. That it is a learning experience, a reminder that when I mess up, life will continue.

It is this same, take it or leave it, perfection driven mindset that got me into a state of un-health in the first place.  I refused to yield on myself, convinced that I could make myself do anything if I simply set my mind to it. If I applied myself, I would get what I wanted. I’d never experienced anything contrary to this logic in the past–if I wanted a good grade, I could get it. If I needed to get into a certain program, I’d apply and get in. If I wanted to change a system, I’d simply find the right person to talk to and convince them to my way of thinking. If I thought modeling was something I wanted to do, I’d be damned if I didn’t whittle myself into their restricted standards of measure to succeed by someone else’s definition. Problem is, I didn’t always evaluate if my end goal was actually something good, as it clearly wasn’t in the latter.

Sure, I’ve learned occasionally that there is room for failure in my life–when I didn’t get accepted to the Washington DC Senatorial Page Program, or when I didn’t receive a scholarship I wanted at a certain school. But all of these I could justify as ‘not part of God’s plan,’ or some other factor. When it is my own personal involvement that trips myself up . . . that is what I struggle to accept.

I’m trying to learn to love and accept what my counselor calls the shadows of ourselves. What would happen, she asked, if you were a forgetful person? But I’m not. That isn’t a part of who I am. But, you forgot. Does that make you forgetful? She was purposefully letting me be flustered so that I could see the hypocrisy of accepting forgetfulness and imperfections in other people, but never myself.

Grace. Forgiveness. Self love.

How do you forgive yourself? 

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? 

Beloved Aunties, Beautiful Pizza: Self-Love

Last week, as you all know, was my spring break. Woop! On the way back to Greenville from Florida we stopped to spend the night at one of my friend’s parents home in Georgia. After a delicious meal of make your own pizzas (yum!) we all stayed up late talking to the momma putting us up for the night.

Throwing the pizza, Italian style...with a lot of flour!

This thing was a beauty, and I ate it ALL! In stages...it didn't all fit at one go! Part pesto, part tapenade, part sauce for the base...filled with every veggie in the house! YUMM!

In the heart of the home, we covered the gamut of topics–the non-dating atmosphere of our school, problems with education in our country, body image. Which prompted a discussion of what we liked best about our own bodies. It was interesting–as my friends talked of what they liked best, and what they didn’t, I thought about my own body. I’ve spent so much time degrading it and treating it as an enemy, rather than a friend. Body, I’m sorry. I promise to love you better and treat you kinder.

Our favorite attributes ranged–I like my cheekbones, jaw, and lower back best. One friend likes her feet best, another her nose, one likes “the composite” of all her parts. And while my friends listed numerous parts, the house momma encouraged us to continue: “Who here likes her ankles? What about calves?” And I continued contemplating the parts of my body. My feet are odd–large, with tiny round toes. But they are unique, and I can’t imagine another set completing my legs. I was so happy to find that I kept mentally stumbling over little bits of me that I find beautiful, or quirky, or that I can simply affirm that “I like that.”

While there’s a thin delineation between self-confident appreciation and narcissism, I find that many women don’t even toe the line. We focus on what we hate about ourselves rather than what we love, and speak so spitefully and hurtfully to the image we see in the mirror, I’m surprised our bodies don’t up and leave us or rebel. I wouldn’t stay with someone who was viciously hurtful to me. Come to think of it, I think many of our bodies are rebelling from a lack of love, appreciation, and good care. We think and say things about ourselves we wouldn’t dare speak to a friend–how can we treat ourselves so lowly?

Without self-love, “love your neighbor as yourself” isn’t really all that appealing to those around us. After all, who wants to be told they are ugly, useless, lazy, or fat and then abused or deprived as a result? If that’s the way you’re going to love me, Neighbor, you can take your love elsewhere.

What are your favorite attributes? 

*The Aunties: Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, (I recommend it!) says she decided to treat her thighs as elderly aunties, because then she could less easily be unkind or ungracious to them.

On Falling

I hate running on treadmills, roads, and tracks. On treadmills, I get bored much too quickly. Roads stretch too far ahead of me, taunting me with their length, and tracks are monotonous circles. I love running on trails, however—windy, twisty, trails that constantly change direction and incline to keep me on my toes. Yesterday on my beloved, wooded trails a large root sent me sprawling to my hands and knees. I popped up immediately, looked at the dirt now staining my person, and took off running again. If I paused too long, the pain would have set in and I would have been distracted away from my run.

These are, in fact, my knees after my run yesterday.

It’s easy to pop back up from a stumble on a run, harder to get back up when you fall in life.

I know all to well from personal experience. After restricting my food intake and upping my exercise level to shrink myself to industry standards, my body rebelled. Crying out for nourishment, I began to experience episodes of bingeing several months after I became underweight. I was able to control it for a while—my binges were infrequent, only occurring on weekends when no one from my family was around. When I began to distance myself from the industry and when I finally separated myself completely, my bingeing got much worse.

It was scary. In the middle of a binge, I felt completely out of control, like some foreign invader had taken over my body and was desperate to take me captive. Since I was allowing my body to experience foods (and amounts of food) it had not had in a long time, it desperately tried to grab as many nutrients as it could. After being conditioned to less than enough food, my own body didn’t trust me to feed it well.

It took me awhile to get back up whenever I fell down. Even after experiencing healing from my disordered eating patterns, certain triggers could still send me sprawling, much like that tree root did. I was mad and frustrated—I didn’t understand how my body still didn’t trust me, now that I was treating it well and feeding it abundantly.

While in the healing process, I saw a sign at a farmer’s market that said, “If you’re in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging.” So simple, but sometimes so hard.

When you fall, get back up as quickly as you can. Whether your struggle is food, or drugs, or anger, or depression—get back up. And if you don’t have the strength to stand on your own, reach out to someone. Someone that first sits with you where you’ve fallen on the ground, then tenderly but assuredly wraps their arms around you and pulls you back to your feet. It’s hard, I know. It’s hard to be vulnerable and open up to others, to drop the façade that you are perfect, competent, autonomous. I believed I was, for awhile, until I realized I was just sitting, broken and bleeding, in the dirt by myself.

The world will benefit when you stand. Stand, whether you are wobbling, unsteady, or afraid. It gets easier (and you get stronger) each and every time.