staying creative : instagram weekend

My weekend at home (for my mom’s successful 5k!!!), via Instagram:

Clearly, a good time was had by all.

(Especially Mom! Congratulations on a job well done!!!)

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staying in rochester : f. olivers

When my parents were here last weekend we ate lunch at Magnolia’s and then wandered down Park Ave to F. Oliver’s, purveyor of flavor-infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

After the WONDERFUL store employee showed us around and let us sample a thousand different combinations…my Mom and I decided to get two bottles and then split them at home: Orchard Ripe Red Apple and Farmstand Strawberry.

I can tell you with confidence that these bottles are no longer half-full. They are now almost three-quarters empty.

Because OH MY WORD…this stuff is incredible!

I love many things about these vinegars, and let me tell you about a few of them: First, I love it that what is on the label is what is in the bottle. There is no Red #5 or Strawberry Flavor in the Farmstand Strawberry, there is just pure strawberry goodness infused into a smooth balsamic vinegar. And that’s another thing I love – these aren’t your runny, grocery store vinegars – these guys have body and heft. They’re almost closer to a reduction in consistency without being quite so syrupy. They also don’t have the bite of traditional vinegars, so they taste AMAZING as-is over salads, pastas, ice cream, straight from the bottle, etc.

And don’t even get me started about the flavors we left behind.

F. Oliver’s, you have a customer for LIFE.

staying real : things my parents say

Dad:

When we arrive at a restaurant for dinner at 4:30pm:

“There’s nobody here! I can’t believe it!”

Mom:

During the Masters:

“What do the different colored shirts mean?”

“What do they do if they have to go to the bathroom?”

“It’s really cool that he won it in overtime!”

(Again…football family. It’s all we know.)

Oh, they make me so happy. So, so happy. I loved being home.

staying inspired : easter edition

Things that made today so wonderful:

:: hope ::

“The Lord is alive and well in your heart. His resurrection resulted in Christ taking up residence in your soul and transforming your life. By faith you believed and God gave you grace upon grace. Because He has risen from the grave, He has given all who confess Him as Lord, abundant grace on earth and the promise of heaven with Him. “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” Romans 5:7. He is all you need.”

– Boyd Baily, Wisdom Hunters Devotionals

:: chocolate ::

(Which is loosely related to hope.)

:: running ::

no excuses

holiday

No excuse for my mom and me not to go for a little run around the block.

(Where she ran her FIRST, but definitely not last, outdoor mile!!!)

:: sports ::

1. Watching Bubba Watson win the Masters in “double overtime.” (Thank you, Mom, for that.)

2. Watching Moneyball : “He hit a home run and he didn’t even know it.” (Thank you, Jonah Hill, for that.)

Really, what else could you ask for? Faith, food, family, fitness and fun. All of my favorite things on a beautiful, meaningful day. Hope you guys had a great day, too! Happy Easter, everyone!

beka stays real : two stories that made me laugh out loud

Story 1:

The family I nanny for had the sad task of deciding to put their dog to sleep last week after her valiant battle with cancer. When explaining to their four year old that their dog had died, she replied, “But that’s ok, because in 3 days they’ll roll the stone away and she’ll rise from the dead!”

Apparently we’ve been hitting the Easter stories a little too hard.

Story 2:

During a Skype conversation with my parents over the weekend my dad mentioned that someone he knew was looking for advice about going into full-time ministry. Having spent over 20 years in full-time ministry, my dad had a few thoughts to share, one of them being a precautionary tale about the financial toll on a family. Then my mom chimed in:

“Yeah but it’d be harder for them because they have kids.”

My dad looked at her, paused, looked at me and then asked, “…who do you think we’re talking to right now?”

To which my mom replied, “Oh, well it’s just Beka.”

Which either means I’m extraordinarily low-maintenance as offspring or extraordinarily forgettable as offspring. One way or the other, I think this can definitely be used as blackmail for the future.

(I love these stories. And these people. And my life.)

beka stays faithful : holding onto what matters

love it

pinned here via here

I hesitated to start writing this because Lord have mercy, we’ve been here before.

But…that’s what this blog is all about, right?

So, grab your waders! We’re heading back into the muddy waters of learning how to stay!

Today was a beautiful day for me. I got to go to a job I love (working at the juice bar). I ate lunch outside at Wegmans. Then I piled groceries into my cart at Wegmans. I made a pie. I delivered a pie. I got to see a family I love. A nice man came and fixed my TV. I ran on the canal at dusk. I had my favorite kind of dinner – picking and choosing between a mountain of fresh produce. I sat on my couch in sweats reading with the windows open.

What’s not to love?

Well, nothing. It was a great day! And I never wished it were any different; I was quite content with how the day unraveled.

But while I was running, I caught myself in a familiar pattern. Thinking about my next career/geographic/relational moves. Thinking about how things might change. Thinking over an endless stream of possibilities that would result in said changes.

I was surrounded by over-the-top beauty, running outside in the middle of March in Rochester, in the midst of a day that made me joyful and grateful and content…and yet my mind was a million miles away, burning rubber trying to whip around a thousand and one curves.

As I ran past an open field I spotted a big crowd of deer in the pasture. It was a moment that Bob Ross would have lovingly depicted on a canvas with streaks of pink sunlight and new spring greenery and “happy clouds.”

And I just felt like God was saying, loud and clear, “YOU ARE MISSING THIS!” You are here, but you aren’t. You are smack dab in the middle of what I’m trying to give you, and you’re missing it.”

Unsurprisingly…he was right.

When I titled this blog “beka stays” I knew it had a deeper meaning than just staying in one location geographically, even though that was the catalyst for it’s creation. The heart of my inability to stay lies in my inability to stay present.

And apparently just because you write a blog about it doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Darn it.

So, here’s the thing. This lack of staying power is twofold: on one side, I feel responsible for making the most of my future. So I try to plot it out as best I can because I want to honor what I’ve been given. But the other far more dangerous side is that I fear embracing today in light of the possibility of losing tomorrow.

I don’t want to be too enthusiastic about today because what if tomorrow isn’t quite as good?

I don’t want to love the family I nanny for too much because what if I have to leave them?

I don’t want to invest too much in Rochester because what if I have to move?

I don’t want to dive into thriving with complete reckless abandon because what if nothing changes?

I don’t want to give 100%, of myself to anything because what if it doesn’t work out?

It’s the sad truth.

But then I felt God leading me toward another truth: I don’t get to keep anything forever. Not the place I live or the people I love or the body I inhabit. Anything I tangibly have right now. There will come a time when I don’t possess it.

Except for Him.

He’s the only thing I get to keep.

And for some reason that thought made everything click. It was like someone turned on the lights in my sparsely inhabited brain. “OHHHHHHHH, this. THIS! This is what you mean. This is joy, freedom, peace in the moment – knowing that all I have is You, all I can keep is You, and all I need is You.”

If I can trust that holding onto God means that I’m holding onto the only thing that matters, then everything else falls into it’s proper perspective. Protecting “my” life becomes completely irrelevant. I don’t have to worry about loving too much, giving too much of myself, investing too much into each day. I don’t have to worry about what may or may not lie ahead, how my life might change or who/where/what I could lose, because I know that ultimately, my future is secure.

It seems so simple.

Now if only I could remember it.

beka stays athletic : it runs in the family

This just in:

The woman who brought you lessons in geography, politics, and coffee keeping is now taking on a new endeavor:

Running a 5k.

Seriously.

Let’s talk about this.

For as long as I can remember my mom and I have gone on walks together. It’s a tradition that was passed down by my mom’s mom, who I also remember going on lots of long walks with (when she was in her 80’s!). The assumption is that after dinner on a nice night the question “want to go for a walk?” will be raised and answered affirmatively.

(Now that I live 3 hours away and no longer go home for the summer, going on walks with my mom (and then going out for soft serve with my dad) is by far the thing I miss most about home.)

But in all of that walking there has never been any running. Until the past year or so, when my mom would run short stretches whenever she felt so inclined – during a walk, on her way to and from her car in the parking lot, etc. And when she did feel so inclined, she always reported back with positive feelings about the experience.

So the last time I was home, I floated an idea.

“You know, I think I’m going to come home to do a 5k in June. We could do it together!”

The idea did not float. It sank like a boulder.

“Pshhhh. Yeah, right!” was the response I received.

Then there was some coaxing, some trial running around the block, some training plans, some more coaxing – all covered by the assurance that we could always walk it if running didn’t pan out.

I came back to Rochester and left her in possession of an easy walk/run plan (walk a minute, run a minute, adding one run minute per week) and the power to do with it as she wished – no pressure either way.

A week later, she had ditched my plan.

She was already running for 30 minutes straight.

And had only fallen off the treadmill once!

Now, the 65 year old woman who had never run a mile in her life, who laughed at the idea of ever being able to run a 5k, is taunting me with threats that she’s out to beat my time. Walking isn’t even a consideration anymore. She’s going to run this and run it well.

I couldn’t be prouder. I couldn’t be more grateful that I’m cut from that cloth.

(See you at the finish line, Mom. You’ll probably beat me to it!)

beka stays faithful : staying present

Trust. Worry is a waste. Where does it really get you anyway? Tense. Unfocused. Unproductive. Complaining. Give thanks in ALL circumstances - yes, ALL of them - and you just might forget your worries completely. Don’t you always end up saying to yourself, “why did I ever worry in the first place?!” Yeah. You do. So, give the creator of the universe some credit and give up the reins. Trust. Do not worry about your life. He has this. ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?’ Luke 12:25

pinned here via here

My dad said something to me on the phone the other night that made me moderately to majorly annoyed.

I had called to catch up on a few things that had happened that day. I was in a particularly good mood so our conversation was spirited. And then he lowered the boom.

“You know, sometimes when you call you sound so down in the dumps and I think…why? What more could you want? You work for people who love you, you live in a city you love, you have your health, you have so many opportunities and so much going for you…what else could you ask for?”

I reacted defensively, because, well, that’s how I was feeling at the moment.

“Dad…I do love my life. But I feel like I can’t just settle for what I have right now. I have goals! I have high standards for myself!”

To which he offered another boom.

“That’s fine. But good grief, stop kicking yourself in the meantime. You’ll get there! But you’ve got to cut the present some slack.”

It’s 4 days later and I’m still thinking about what he said. Not because I’m still annoyed. But because he’s so right. Soooooo right.

Darn it.

The truth is, I spend the majority of my life forgetting this verse:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

[Matthew 6:34]

In fact…let’s rewind and just give the whole passage a once-over:

25-26“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

 27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

 30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

 34“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

You know what really puts me in my place? This verse: “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works.” Oh my word…it makes my stomach do back flips in shameful regret. Because I do know God, I do have a personal testimony of his faithfulness that has been born from experience, I do have faith that he is who he says he is and does what he says he will do. But more often than not I don’t act like it. As per the passage, I’m not necessarily worrying about what I will wear (um, sweatpants, clearly)…although I have stood in front of a mirror and wished to grow just another inch or two. Most of the time, though, my discontent with today and worries about tomorrow aren’t attached to anything in particular. Instead, I decline taking the maximum amount of joy in the good things of today because I fear losing them, not making the most of them, or just completely missing out on something better tomorrow.

This trait – sacrificing the joy of today because of the uncertainty of tomorrow – is built into my DNA. It’s a lethal combination of hating change, fearing the passage of time, and having a pension for overachieving. So the propensity to never be fully invested in the current moment is nothing new, even though it has been on overdrive lately. It is, however, something that needs to change.

This week I’ve tried to catch myself in every negative thought and turn it into something grateful. In every anxious, frustrated postulation about the future and refocus on what is happening right now.

Because I have so much right now.

Thanks for telling me the truth, Dad. I needed to hear it.

beka stays relational: coffee lessons from my mom

Happy Leap Day, everyone!

I think an extra day deserves an extra gift. Which means it’s time for a good Mom story.

My mom is a hard worker. She works as a bus aide and in the middle school cafeteria. She leaves the house every morning around 6am, goes on her first bus run, and then has a short break before heading to the cafeteria. During that break she likes to have some coffee.

If only it were that simple.

The problem is that she prefers her food and beverages to be hot. And by hot, I mean volcanic. So putting coffee in a travel mug and saving it for her break just isn’t an option because it won’t stay hot enough. I’ve tried to help the situation by giving her super-insulated mugs and mugs that plug into the car lighter to self-heat. Neither of those options complied with her temperature preferences.

So she came up with her own solution instead. And when she started telling the story of how she prepares her coffee every morning I knew I had to write it down because it’s the best thing I’ve heard…basically ever. And then I knew I had to share it with you guys, because I love you that much.

Here’s our coffee conversation, as told by my mom, with select input from my dad and me. Good luck.

Mom: (Said in about 3 seconds) Okay, fill a coffee cup with hot water and put it in the microwave…

Me: Wait wait wait how fast do you think I can type this?

Mom: Oh…(laughs uncontrollably) sorry. I’ll have to send you a picture of –

Dad: Yeah there’s an idea!

Me: Of the mug?

Mom and Dad: Yeah!

Mom: Ok so anyway fill a coffee CUP with hot water and put it in the microwave until it boils, or you know, whatever, comes to a boil. Then I put the boiling water in my coffee MUG and I seal it up. I wrap the bottom part in foil –

Me: Bottom part of what?

Mom: My mug!

Me: Why the bottom?

Mom: SHHHH. And then, before I leave – I figure it’s like 10-15 minutes since I put the boiling water in, whatever – when I leave I pour the coffee from the machine into the CUP and put it in the microwave.

Dad: Now you know why she has to get up at 5am…

Mom: And put it in there –

Me: Wait, in where?

Mom: In the MICROWAVE. Just shy of 2 minutes and 45 seconds, just shy of coming to a boil. Then I empty the hot water from the insulated mug and pour the hot coffee into the mug…put the lid on…hahahaha!…And then I put the foil on.

Me: What happened to the foil on the bottom?

Mom: It’s still there!

Me: So where are you putting the new foil?

Mom: On top! And then I put the plastic bag on top of everything.

Dad: You have to see this…

Mom: And then I put a rubber band over everything (starts to break into another fit of laughter). But it works because you can see the steam inside of the bag once I’m done with my bus run!!!

Dad: Gee, I wonder why…

Mom: And then I put it in the car and I have a big beach towel and then a regular towel and then I wrap it around with all the towels –

Me: Ok wait, towels?

Mom: Well I have the beach towel which I wrap around the “mug” and then, like I said, I have the other towel and I wrap that all around the other towel…it’s like a cocoon around my mug!

(Pauses momentarily.)

But if I DON’T do that…well even if I don’t do the foil! Or the microwave! I mean it’s just not the same. This stays HOT for 2 hours! And sometimes, just as extra, I put a bag on top.

Me: On top of…the towels?

Mom: Yeah!

Me: So you leave at what time in the morning?

Mom: No later than 6:15.

Me: And when are you drinking this?

Mom: About 8:45 or 9.

Me: And your coffee stays hot?

Mom: Oh, absolutely, absolutely!

Dad: It wouldn’t dare get cold.

Mom: It’s just as hot as if it’s being served in a restaurant!

Me: How…did this happen? How did you start doing this?

Mom: I don’t know how I started doing it. But I’ll tell you what: it WORKS!

End Scene.

And just in case you thought it was too good to be true, here’s the visual:

One towel:

Two towels:

The bag:

And the mastermind behind this whole process:


Mom…I love you more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for making life so much fun.