A little gratitude goes a long way

The air is biting, much past the pleasant fall crisp. Streets are blissfully quiet, a benefit of an early-Sunday-morning walk. For once, the air seems clean, instead of its usual putrid, and I am trying my best not to take huge, unladylike gulps of it. It’s delicious, in a very soul-replenishing way, nearly impossible to explain, except that you feel more alive. Joyfully alive.

I was supposed to go to church this morning. I woke up early, everything. And missed the bus. Thinking I could catch a different line, I walked over, and missed that one, too. Some days something are just not meant to be. After contemplating walking back to my apartment and crawling back into bed, I decided to take a walk. Walks purely for pleasure are few and far between these days, when “taking a break” from school work might constitute a brisk walk through the neighborhood, and they don’t do me much good.

Today I did not merely walk. I strolled. I stopped often and as much as I pleased. I talked to God; I admired the skyline. I had nowhere to be and that was liberating. I’m always surprised at how…settled I feel after a long walk. It’s hard to pull myself away from my laptop when I know I have a mountain of work to do, but I’m also coming around to realizing that my best work isn’t done when I’ve been sitting for four hours straight (which I did on Friday). Today when I stood on the Harvard Bridge, I was again amazed and so grateful that I have had the privilege of spending a few years in this city.

Something I have found very effective in combatting worry, fear, anxiety, and the host of negative emotions is the practice of gratitude. A little gratitude goes a long way, believe me. Dreary days become, at the very least, manageable when I practice gratitude. Can I challenge you to do that? You might be surprised.

It’s hard to be grateful when things aren’t going the way you’d like (I’ve definitely been there…and I’m kind of there right now), but seriously, even being grateful for tiny things can make such a difference. Sometimes all I can muster is an “I’m grateful I finished this one task.” Other days, the list could be endless. Gratitude fills me with joy and awe at how well I am cared for. (And bonus: it makes me a more productive person.)

So…what are you grateful for? Maybe you can’t think of anything “big” or “significant,” but I promise, the “small” things count, too. Like, I’m feeling really grateful and content to be sitting on my bed, munching these beet chips I just recently discovered at Trader Joe’s and writing this post. But really—share it below, write it down on some paper, tell someone else and spread the gratitude. It is the seasoning of joy.

You Are Qualified.

Hey there, friends. How’ve you been, lately? I’ll lay it out on the table: I’ve been stressed (a hallmark of a college kid—ha!), feeling small, and feeling very worried. Do you ever feel like things aren’t moving fast enough? Or that they’re speeding by? Right now I’m stuck in both, for various reasons, and that, combined with everything else, is making me question how I’m going to do everything, and whether anyone cares.

One of my love languages is words of affirmation, so it makes sense that I care a lot (even though I shouldn’t) about how people perceive me. It’s a problem, therefore, when I feel like no one sees me. I recently heard that to be loved but not known is superficial, and to be known but not loved is our greatest fear. Honestly, #truth. I’ve been feeling a bit of both, and I’m floundering. I love continuity, but a lot of things are changing. I’m graduating, moving, and all these things that I have little control over are creeping up, and I don’t know how I’m going to do this. It’s safe to say I’m feeling darn unqualified to handle…well, life. And very unqualified to take the leap I believe God is asking me to take.

Last weekend I went to my first (and last) fall retreat with the Navigators and my notebooks says “we confuse visibility with significance. We want temporary affection so badly we forget that God loves us eternally.”

Can I say that again? (Yes, actually, because it’s my blog, ha!)

We confuse visibility with significance. We want temporary affection so badly we forget that God loves us eternally.

Human affection is temporary. It doesn’t matter how many people “love” you now or when you’re gone. Temporary means one day there will be no one left to love us nor remember us. Yet, here we are, simpering for human affection. I don’t write that demeaningly. I, too, have simpered. Society trains us to glorify those with high visibility. Celebrities, “influencers,” anyone who is widely known is also deemed “widely important.”

You don’t have to agree, but I’m going to slap down $15 worth of opinions nobody asked for. To hell with whether or not five, 50, 5,000, or five billion people know who you are. The world might prioritize people whom are widely “loved” and “successful,” but God does not care how many people love you. He loves you enough to account for any human affection many times over.

What does it mean to be known and loved by God? That means you matter and you have a place. It may not be on top of this world, but that matters little because earth is a temporary pit stop. Just because you feel no one sees you (or no one sees you, period) does not make you less worthy nor less loved. You have significance because I believe God is a God who sees and he sees you and me, at our most joyous and our most painful sorrows.

I get it, though, especially because I love words of affirmation. Temporary affection is, I suppose, my jam. It’s easy to get wrapped up in that because I can’t see God, per se. But I can feel him next to me…especially when I’m panicking, of all things. And that is strangely comforting.

So I know (but maybe don’t quite believe) that I matter and that I am qualified. The same goes for you, too. You matter. And no matter how unqualified you feel, you are qualified. Say it again, friend. YOU ARE QUALIFIED. You know what makes you qualified? Willingness. God qualifies us on willingness (which is not always comfortable, and I talked a lot about here), so are you willing? I think I am. I want to be. And it’s ok if you’re not. You are still very much loved. I’m rooting for you.

 

The Hard Places Aren’t Wasted.

This last post has a lil’ to do with Reality SF’s Deliverance series and lil’ bit to do with what I learned spring semester.

First let’s go with the podcast. Hard places. Like Horeb, the desert-mountain place where Moses meets God. Are you in a season of dryness? Perhaps, with your sheep? I’ve been there. Sometimes it feels like I am there. And get this. I never new that Moses was probably around 80 years old when God tells him to go back to Egypt. He was 40~ when he left so…that’s 40 years of desert. Can you image 40 years of (figurative) desert? I would not survive. I’m flattering myself to think that I would.

But, I am super super thankful that our story isn’t wasted in the hard places. It’s not like the author is scribbling over our finite number of blank pages for 40 of them. Nope. God’s building our character so that when he asks us to leap, we can say yes.

This is the final post in my longest (5? parts) series. So I’m going to wrap it up with this.

When I arrived at BU (Boston University, if you’re wondering), I didn’t realize (I suppose, how could anyone) that I was going to enter a season of desert. And, yep, I did cry a lot. But now that I’m looking back (hindsight is 20/20, after all), I think I was being gently chiseled so that starting in January of this year, I could start saying yes to God. It was stressful. I prayed a lot. Barely anything went according to plan. Sometimes, I don’t know how I kept myself from screaming at God and everyone around me. At the end, though, I learned an open hand is essential to approaching God, because we need to be ready to receive what he gives.

Starting in January, God really began asking me to trust him. I didn’t feel ready. I definitely felt unqualified. I was even afraid. But I was willing. And I am so glad I was.

So, my friend, I hope that wherever you are right now, you are encouraged that each page of your story matters; that you see the pressure’s off; that you understand that God is sufficient where we are deficient; and that all we have to do is say yes.

Disrupting Comfortable.

So, remember the post about the danger of comfortable? Welp, on that same vein, my friend also talked about how God disrupts comfortable. Specifically, we talked about Reality SF’s podcast “The Call,” part of the Deliverance series. If you listen to it first, this will at the very least have more context, and at best, make more sense.

Anyways, so we know that we love being comfortable. I’ll shout it, even. I LOVE BEING COMFORTABLE!! I AM A CONTROL FREAK!! But here’s the thing. In “The Call,” we’re talking about how Moses has reached perhaps the epitome of comfortability. He’s hanging out with his sheep; nothing too big is expected of him; life is chill, fine, and dandy.

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

I guess the first thing is, what’s your sheep? Like, what’s your comfortable place? I’ll list a few of mine. But, don’t worry, you don’t have to put yourself on the chopping block if you don’t want to.

  • I love being at home alone ignoring the world. Probably reading a book.
  • I love routines so I know what to expect.
  • I squeeze myself onto paths I don’t want to be on, because they look safer than what I really want and am too scared to reach for.
  • My biggest comfortable place? Getting myself into environments I believe I can control well, so that I am not dependent on God but rather can relegate him a conciliatory role while I take care of everything.

The next thing we talked about was the burning bush. That’s Moses’ call away from his old, comfortable life; it’s thrusting him into the unknowns, pushing him into a role he feels he is ill-prepared to accept. And you know what he does? Tries to talk God out of giving him the gig. How many times have you done that? I do it pretty much every day. I’m not ready. I don’t know enough. I’m not prepared. That other person has so many more resources. I’ll never make it. Why me? 

But tell me, friend, what do you feel you’ve been called to do? Have you thought of it? And I’m not talking about the thing you want to be called to do. I’m talking about the thing that maybe makes your stomach drop because you want it or know you need to be there but you just can’t bring yourself to step into that place.

As the podcast notes, this is Moses. He questions God. So. Much. Says someone else should go instead of him. I think every excuse and insecure thought that could be given and had, Moses gave and had. And honestly, that’s me, too.

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

But you know what the good, good, encouraging news is? God is not looking for the most over-qualified, capable, prepared, smartest person. Here’s the thing that knocked my socks off. God just wants you to be willing. Yep. All you gotta do is volunteer. Because if you think about it, was Israel freed by by Moses’ might, brains, and ingenuity? NOPE. Literally, one of the things that saved them was a plague of frogs. #godsplan

What does this mean for us? We don’t even need to be prepared. Leave the safety goggles at home. As long as you’re willing, God’s going to use you. But here’s the catch. It’s hard to leave behind what we’ve known. Why do you think it’s so hard to start a new project? We’re too comfy on cruise control. The big question is, are we going to trust God is going to be sufficient in our deficiencies? Because like it or not, sometimes he’s just going to blow through like a tornado and disrupt! The only way to be ready? Holding on to him.

I (Don’t) Have a Dream.

To follow up with the last Agápē post, here we are with dreams. And, yes, this post is following the same conversation referenced in the last one, because this conversation was long. The car ride was two hours.

Santa Rosa Lavender Festival 2018

Anyways, on to dreams. Do you have one? I do. Actually, I have many, and if you know me, you probably know one of my big dreams—living in France! Forever. My friend, on the other hand, says she’s not a dreamer. And you know what? I think that is ok, too. To dream or not to dream; you have a choice.

There are merits to dreaming. You always want to see what’s next. But there are downsides, too. It’s hard to let dreams die. Same goes for not being a dreamer. I think one of the upsides is that you are more moldable. Dreamers can have tunnel vision and/or an iron grip on what they want. But being moldable gives God the ability to shape you into who he wants you to be. On the downside, it’s easier to be complacent, or maybe resistant to change from “going with the flow.”

Whether you’ve got a dream or not, I think both camps fall into the trap of not expecting God’s best. The dreamers are so white-knuckled on the steering wheel, they forget they shouldn’t be driving; the non-dreamers may have fallen asleep in the back seat. Either you remove God from the equation, or aren’t alert for the next thing he’s up to! I admit, I’m usually white-knuckled on the steering wheel (I also hate driving in real life), but I’ve fallen asleep in the backseat, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Why should we expect God’s best? Because he wants it for us. Although, keep in mind that best doesn’t mean “OMG I’m going to love everything God does and it’s going to be a picnic!” Sometimes, what’s best is really hard. But the good news? God’s going to pull you out of that valley.

That segues into the next post: God will disrupt comfortable.

In the mean time, my goal with these posts is to foster a kind, healthy discussion about what you think about these topics. As long as you are polite and constructive, I would love for you to drop a comment. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m missing something? Let me know!

Lavender Lemon Pots de Crème

The spice shelves were dismal. The bulk spice section had been terminated. And no other grocery store seemed to stock it.

Time was ticking, and I still had no lavender. And, my rational self was screaming, “who does not keep lavender in stock!?!?!?!?!?!!?” Everyone, apparently.

Hedging a bet, I hoped into the Dragonfly (our lil’ red electric car) and zipped over to my favorite French bakery in the Tri-Valley, Sugarie. Faintly remembering they sold lavender-flavored goodies, I was now banking on being able to buy straight-up lavender from them.

A buttery scent greeted me, along with a case of pastries, as a scurried in. A mother was leaving with her toddler, who exuberantly hugged “Mr. Russ” (one of the owners) goodbye.

“Do I know you?” Mr. Russ asked. He squinted his eyes.

“I went to France last year,” I said. “You may not recognize me. I just cut my hair.”

“Oh, it’s you!” he exclaimed, and Natalie, his wife and co-owner, looked up. Their faces lit up with recognition.

“I’ve come to ask you guys a favor,” I said. “Will you sell me some lavender? I can’t find it anywhere else.”

“Honey,” Mr. Russ exclaimed. “Did you hear this? This girl just gets back from France and now she’s asking for favors!” he said, jokingly.

We laugh as Natalie scoops a couple tablespoons into a white paper pastry bag and seals it with a sticker. They won’t let me pay for it, but I leave money anyway.

And that, my friends, is how this post came alive today.


Hi friends.

After bumbling through my first actual week back here in the Bay, I’ve decided to implement my spring-semester epiphany.

In an effort to live out my francophile-ness (even more), this blog is doing a lil’ pivot to be my soap box for all things French. But don’t worry! I’ll still be talking about all the other stuff…but French recipes, novels, cookbooks, events, finds, fashions-anything French- is coming at ya. I hope you stick around.

So in the spirit of summer and my love of all things floral, my dear friend Haley and I made lavender-white chocolate pots de crème (literally “pots of cream”) from Baking Chez Moi by one of my fav authors, Dorie Greenspan!!

Haley and I have an unofficial cooking show (you can find it on Instagram stories- @mllemarissa) where we try out new recipes. Always- or very usually- dessert. And I got to choose (again), so I decided to conquer my fear of custards. Because water baths sounded scary and I am lazy, indeed.

Dorie Greenspan Pots de Creme

Here are les notes (the notes…) if you, like me, are planning to tackle your fear of custards.

  • 8oz ramekins are fine
  • A 9×13 pan is sufficient. Forget the roasting pan.
  • The white chocolate…is not very prominent. I think it plays the role of extra sweetening agent and extra richness.
  • Don’t walk away from the cream mixture. It will explode. Or at least overflow.  (Speaking from experience.)
  • Caramelizing sugar on top adds nice textural contrast, and slightly burned sugar adds a sharp bitterness to cut the creamy, floral custard.
  • Don’t caramelize the sugar with a lighter. You actually need a blow torch. I am speaking again from recent experience. (Let’s just say, 20 minutes to torch half the sugar, a dead lighter, and tired arms.)

Here’s Dorie’s recipe for caramel pots de crème, which is not too different from what’s in the book. Just melt 4 oz of white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the cream and add when you temper the eggs.

Arles & Saintes Maries de la mer

The sky was overcast and promised rain. We teetered across the uneven cobblestone, wove our way through fellow tourists and vendors, and allowed ourselves to be delighted at every turn. The little bistros called to us, the charm of the south sang, and I tried very hard to keep up with the group. I was nearly lost a few times, but window shutters, thrown open to rain and sun alike, begged to be admired. In the afternoon, despite the gloomy drizzle, I marched on, alone, stopping as often as I pleased, wondering what else Arles had up its sleeve. A brightly colored door, a forgotten cobbled street, a moped waiting for its rider; the surprises were varied and always lovely.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We tumbled out of the bus at Saintes Maries de la mer, the salty, cool breeze carrying a faint smell of fish. The Mediterranean sat calmly, and boats bobbed in the harbor, fishing gear spelling onto the docks. It was quiet, with only the rustling of the wind; the town was barely awake but for some Arlésiennes dancing by the shore.  Some of us went off to mass, but I lost them in the crowd because I stopped, captivated by a diminutive inn covered in flowers. I gave up trying to find them, and instead ambled about, stopping often for all the extraordinary little scenes in an ordinary little town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA