Whisper-Hunters

This flash fiction friday was inspired by a Pinterest find. I have no rights to the picture, and no idea who drew it, so I’ll merely link to it. I humbly suggest you look at it before reading. Click here to see my inspiration piece.

It was a sharp, bright, cold day in October when the whispers disappeared.

Suddenly everyone in the village could only talk loudly and roughly, even the kindest and most courteous people. And according to the messenger crows, things were the same across the countryside.

Marianna, of course, felt she must do something. So she darted into the lane before her mother could yell for her to help fix tea.

She met Ben at their usual place, but it’s not easy to form a secret plan to save the world when obliged to shout at one another, so they wrote it all down, and then ate the scraps of paper.

Two days’ journey away, they came to a shop sign that read: “Farley and Sons; We Sell Whispers Here.” 

Excited, they each turned over carefully hoarded silver coins for the tiny white flowers that the grubby man said would soften their voices.

It worked, and they whispered about frogs, and games, and dreams softly on the Moors that night, cautious lest the jabber-wolf should hear them.

All was well ’til 2, when Marianna’s eyes flew open to a dark patch in the brilliant white of the stars.

She bolted up. It was a jabber-wolf, slowly drawing Ben into its claw range with honeyed words, for the creature could only eat a willing victim. She dropped her flower at once.

“Ben, wake up!” She cried at the top of her lungs.

“Silly girl,” the creature hissed softly. “It only works if you hold the flower! And then, ONLY it works.”

She looked at Ben in horror. His flower was gripped tightly in his hand. He would hear all she said in whispers and if she touched him, she’d be caught too.

Grabbing desperately, she found the amulet she often fingered at her throat and ripped it off.

“This one who holds my heart, if I have his too, bring him back to You.” She breathed out the ancient prayer. And if it came out in a shout, so much better to express her desperation.

A bright light filled the dark moor as the dark shape of the jabber-wolf engulfed her only friend. Gram had said to use the charm only for her heart’s true love and not ’til she was grown. Yet here she was, 10, and sure that this boy was the only heart she’d want to hold.

The brilliant clash of dark against the light faded into a gray sort of night, cloudy but not wet. But the only thing left on the moor before her was a bold, red heart that had been Ben’s. It gripped the small white flower stubbornly and looked up at her, forlorn. She’d been too late.

A single tear pricked her eye as she reached down and took its small, spidery black hand and they walked away into the night.

As the night deepened, the green grass seemed almost blue beneath their feet and the wind began to whisper their story across the moor to the trees and the tall rushes. They rushes rustled around their feet, parting gently as the pair ascended a hill that was taller than the others. At the top they stood wearily and watched the dark sky as the wind scattered the clouds and the silver sliver of moon slipped through.

Lowering, that graceful Lady looked upon them in her glowing evening dress and smiled sadly before she began to play for them her night song.

The tune was haunting with sorrow and hope and flooded around them in a swirl of feeling.

And Marianna knew if she must stand there her whole life in the white shift that let in the rain and snow that would bedraggle her long, dark hair, she would if the hope of the song would come true and she would see Ben healed.

Communerosity

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I stood at the product table, gripping the DVD case, my breath shortening and my heart rate quickening. How was I going to do this?

Only moments before I’d been released from one of the main sessions of Kids Ministry Conference, produced by LifeWay (where I work).

Tuesday night was an amazing night of laughter and serious spiritual lessons from comedian Michael Jr. and writer/speaker Lisa Harper.

And that’s when the moment of grace hit. Michael Jr. told us that if we struggled to accept gifts from others or couldn’t afford it, to please ask for something from his product table for free. Others could give extra money to make up the difference, if they were able, hence the word, “communerosity.” How’d he know I’d just been sitting there debating my budget in my head in light of how much I enjoyed his humor?

What’s more, how’d he know how hard this very thing was for me to do, accept unmerited gifts from others? I mean it’s not like I didn’t have the money. It’s just that I was saving for this other conference, but his work was worth it and it’d be fine I’d just pay for it and then figure out the other thing later. No, I was working here, I didn’t need to do this, and what if my co-workers saw me and thought I was struggling financially, or worse, thought I was working the system unfairly?

Nah, I had my hand half in my purse, ready to pull out the money. But as I held the DVD, I couldn’t pay for it. And I also couldn’t ask for it. Man, if he’d just said we could take it and walk away it would’ve been so easy. But no. We had to ask for it.

My face flushed hard as I looked up at the girl working the table, thankfully not someone I knew, and heard the foreign words come out of my mouth.

“So, I’m one of those people who could afford it but…”

She smiled and nodded, “but you want to take it?” I nodded embarrassed.

“Are you sure that’s ok?” I was dismayed to feel tears crawling up the backs of my eyes.

“Yes absolutely. I understand, believe me. But it’s ok.” She smiled compassionately at me as I turned away and tried to avoid eye contact with anyone. I was sure my voice had been too soft for anyone to hear, but anyone may have seen me take it without any money changing hands. As I staggered through the lobby trying not to cry, God tapped me on the shoulder in a way and turned me back toward the merch table, where Michael Jr. had only just been coming on scene to sign autographs as I left. I had to thank him.

When I told him my story, he just said, “that blesses me.”

And as I walked away again, I turned that one over and over again. Blesses him? He’s blessed because I just stole a DVD from him?  (Yeah I wasn’t stealing but may as well have been from my reaction at the time).

I know it’s something I need understand because as I turned in at my exit I realized I had just smiled foolishly all the way home.

What’s this have to do with food? The topic of this 31 days of blogging challenge?

Well, the whole incident revealed something I didn’t know was hanging out in my heart, or at least not on this scale. This feeling that when there’s a problem, I have to take control of it and fix it myself. No advice or input from others (not till I’m immovably stuck), no help with money or time or energy from others. I want to be able to say I did it myself. I’ve been that way as long as I can remember. I even remember how I used to take the hardest paths when my family went hiking, wanting praise for my harder accomplishment.

Don’t knock the sense of accomplishment from hard work and responsibility, because I’m not. But it’s easy to go from taking responsibility for what goes into your mouth to making that stuff a god and you its servant and prophetess.

I’m no such thing. And no matter how much I try to seize control of my food, I’ll never be in perfect health, because of sin. So I need to step back a lot here and let God’s grace pour into my diet. And my life.

So as I take a break from the October Unprocessed challenged while I go to wonderful Hutchmoot and then camping with my family, I want to worship God in the way I eat, as much in what I enjoy as in what I abstain from. Because He gives good, gracious, unmerited gifts all the time. Every single day.

Not the Best Day

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And then sometimes you miss breakfast before working a conference and have to eat late on what can be scavenged from exhibitors and the free coffee station. And you feel your blood sugar drop and spike and drop and sit there like a lead balloon so you feel like you’re walking through concrete even after you eat a balances lunch.

And that’s when you realize that all that sugar really doesn’t make you feel that great after a week without it, and maybe this unprocessed deal actually makes some sense.

But you give yourself some grace because few days are perfect and God’s given you so much grace, you have to give yourself some too.

More Than Food

“If you put Jesus on eBay, I think the bidding would never ever ever stop.”

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When I used to think about God’s perspective on food I thought of Matthew 6:25.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? (NLT)

But I think I took it all wrong all these years. I’d been, I think, subtly interpreting this as meaning that God doesn’t care about what we eat. But, um, God did one of those, well, things He does this weekend where everything I read was all about this and got right in my face.

I think I’ll call it a God-incidence.

It started Sunday morning in the preteen class I help lead. I wasn’t teaching, but the lesson was on drugs. Pretty simple right? Don’t do ’em. God says not to. The end. Hmmm.

The current unit is on Fitness and caring for the bodies God gave us and the memory verse cam up during the lesson.

“Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

This approach helps me balance what I’m really just beginning to believe about food. Jesus meant it when He said we cannot defile our bodies by what we eat (think Daniel in Nebbie’s court or the Israelites coming out of Egypt with unleavened bread), just like taking an R rated movie into the church sanctuary would not actually make the church sanctuary dirty and unclean and a place you could no longer talk to God.

Rather, holding said R rated movie in the weekday silence or Sunday-singing of your church sanctuary (with a few notable exceptions) would be a stark reminder of what’s wrong with the movie. Because that’s a place that’s used  for glorifying God. It confronts you with sin that doesn’t match the space.

And I think it’s true with food too. I can’t make myself unredeemable to God by eating junk food or by not being responsible to research my food choices before I put them in my body. This will not change how God loves me nor will it make me unusable to Him.  What should happen though, if my body is truly being treated as a sanctuary for God, is to clearly remind me why junk food has no place there, and why certain eating habits just don’t work here.

Two immediate reasons for this last come to mind.

1. If I want to be used for God, I’ll be able to do it better if I’m healthy.

2. If you buy something for a high price, you treat it nicely rather than pouring the cheapest, least effective products into it. And as the verse said, we’ve been bought at the highest price. As one of the preteens said yesterday, “If you put Jesus on eBay, I think the bidding would never ever ever stop.” (Pause for smiles and giggles, keeping in mind that this kid meant this in the very most reverent way possible.)

One final reason why eating with carefully is a good plan, regardless of where you decide to draw the line. God asks us to be responsible stewards of all our resources, including our bodies and the animals and plants with which we sustain them. He has asked this of us since the dawn of time. OK a little after, He didn’t make us til day 6 :). Why would we treat this choice of what we eat any differently than what our budgets say, how we raise our children, how we plan our vacations, or where we want our careers to go?

This Week’s Plan

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So I’m discovering quickly that if I don’t have a well ahead of time plan, my body, and usual habits, and cravings, and desire to conform to others around me take over. That’s true of eating unprocessed, and it’s true of finding time in my schedule to blog every day. That’s why even though I didn’t have a thing on my schedule yesterday, I completely forgot to write a blog post. I remembered just before bed and thought I could read a minute and then do it, but of course I fell asleep instead. So I’ve made a meal and snack plan for the week. And because I don’t have evening time really at all this week, I plan to do blogs on my breaks during work this week, whether during morning break, lunch break, or afternoon break.

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So here’s my food plan. For more protein at lunch at snacks so I don’t get so hungry between snack/lunch/snack, I boiled eggs. And since I’ll need to eat on the go Monday and Tuesday nights, I made two salads in a jar, so they’ll travel.

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I made pumpkin/chocolate/peanut butter no bake cookies. Mmmm. I did that before church’s Awesome Autumn celebration this afternoon so that I could have some chocolate before going into the den of temptation called “handling the prize bucket full of candy.”

I was super excited to get my first full box from NatureBox yesterday. I tried a sample box last month and enjoyed it a lot. But it was just samples. This is a full box of five bags of snacks! Almost all of them would qualify except that only one is free of cane sugar. I think I understood that sugar is totally off the menu for this month, but I’m going to do a little more research before I shut these down completely since NatureBox is known for using quality, good-for-you ingredients. But I won’t open them until I know for sure.  I can always eat them in November!

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Since I won’t be home to be fixing lunches really any night this week, I went ahead and made these little frittatas this evening. That went surprisingly quickly and should get me through three days. I’m hoping I’ll get more salad greens from my CSA tomorrow that will take me through Thursday and Friday, lunch and dinner are taken care of. More on that later! (p.s. I’m really excited!)
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Here’s a picture of the yummy Masa Crisps I can eat from NatureBox. I also took them to Awesome Autumn so I wouldn’t be in danger of candy sampling when I got tired or hungry. That turned out to be a solid choice.

I wish I’d done this stuff yesterday. That would’ve been a good thing, because then I wouldn’t have been doing it at 9-10 p.m. tonight and I wouldn’t be writing this at 11:54 p.m.

That was my responsibility and I didn’t get it done. I want this war between my desire to do things and my follow through to stop. I want to take control of my time. So I’m going to bed now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Possibly before you even get a chance to read this because hopefully I’ll write on my morning break. I’m a little discouraged now, I didn’t mean to end on such a downer. This food planning may have kept me up late, but it’s going to put me in a better stead for this week and that’s a positive change to my life. I actually invested time in planning ahead and it’s going to pay off. I’m hanging on to that.

A Feast!

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Tonight I invented a recipe!
Never thought I’d say those words! We’ve had some fall vegetables sitting around the house as they’ve come in from the awesome CSA my roommate and I subscribe to, and so far I’ve just used them for decor, because I wanted to cook them in just the perfect way. Many a vegetable has met a sad and rotten end by such indecision!

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So before this cute little pumpkin rotted on top of it’s pedestal, I devised Roasted Autumn Harvest Soup:

Half of one mini pumpkin
Half of one acorn squash
Half of a butternut squash (I used the whole thing because mine was small)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2-3 cups water
Half a zucchini
1-2 potatoes
Olive oil
Cumin
Ginger
Cinnamon
Cloves
Salt
Rice
1. Cube vegetables.
2. In a bowl combine 2 tbsp oil with 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp cloves. Feel free to adjust amounts to taste. These are heady spices, watch out for that cumin it’ll getcha.
3. Toss veggies with spice mix and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.
4. While those are roasting combine water, broth, and 3-4 tsp of salt and bring to a boil. When veggies are tender but not too soft and squishy, add to soup broth and bring back to a boil. Add half a cup to a cup of rice and cook just until cooked. Don’t let it get out of hand or it’ll absorb all the soup broth.
5. Enjoy a feast with friends! (More on that tomorrow!)

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Tale-Spinner

Bel darted across the rough cobbles, squinting in the pale winter sunshine, far brighter than the cellar tenement where she lived with her uncle.

She felt Mortimer squirm annoyingly against her thin ribs and wondered why she’d saved him. She wasn’t sure what she’d feed herself today, much less him.

Anyone else would have whistled for the cats to come and take him, out in the open as he’d been. Well, anyone except Old Bill, the magician on Third and Rivney. He was the only one she knew of who’d be nice without making you pay for it. And he often paid scurry-foots well for small jobs. Maybe she’d go there today to get the money to feed her growing family. As uncanny as the stories told him to be, she’d avoided stooping that low yet.

Now she had a rat to feed, along with her uncle. And herself. She couldn’t forget herself. Why did she do that?

Where was the bloke she was supposed to meet? Uncle’d said he’d be wearing a red flower in his collar. She slowed her steps and juggled the bag nervously under the threadbare cloak she wore, wondering what it held and trying not to think about it. Uncle wasn’t known for being honest.

“And then the dragon roared ocean-like and stood high on ‘is sinewed hind legs,” a powerful voice reached out of an alley she was nearing and wrapped around her legs, pulling her feet to a slower-still pace.

She peered around the corner. A man with a dark face and hair and exotically oiled and dyed mustache crouched near the ground, his black cape and top hat of finest cloth. The mustache gleamed gold against his coffee colored skin, and as he spoke again, his words seemed to turn the air around him gold as well, spinning a million tiny threads into a tapestry above his head. A swell of market-goers, adults and children alike, sat on the cobbles or leaned on the walls, listening, rapt. Watching the cloth take form.

Bel crept around the corner hoping no one would notice a dirty scurry-foot. Honest market-goers would fear her almost as much as she feared her uncle.

“The princess Bella screamed, her face as beautiful as her name, which means most beautiful, even in the midst of her terror, and nobly, prince Robert ran to her aid, brandishing the sword only he was born to wield.”

The story moved on but Bel froze somewhere inside to examine this curling, blossoming new thought. She knew her full name was Bella. Mum’d given her that much, if only that. Her? Most Beautiful? She snorted softly. Not likely. But she couldn’t stop the hope that began to curl and grow vines up the sides of her soul.

The Tale-Spinner was saying something triumphant. The people were cheering. The coins were flying. One landed at her feet and she peered at it, wondering if it’d be wrong to take it.

“Ah, my young girl, can you tell me where to locate a young scurry-foot named Bel?”

She gasped and turned. The Tale-Spinner’s twinkling eyes held her own.

“I’m the one you want sir,” she said, lowering her eyes to the red flower in his coat. She slowly raised the hand holding the coin. “I think this is yours.”

“No need to say sir dear,” he said. “You may call me Old Bill.”