As we gather

With Thanksgiving less than a week away and so much happening in the world and in my own life, it's enough to make a person grateful. I've been thinking of all the dear people in the Philippines and how devastating their last couple weeks have been. To think that they will rebuild and recover, with the knowledge that this could all happen again. I'm exceedingly thankful for organizations like World Vision who have responded so well with disaster relief.

Just last weekend my family celebrated the baptism of Elsie Camille, my firecracker of a niece who has brought such spice and joy to our family. While we prayed blessings and peace over her little life, tornadoes ripped through central Illinois and thousands of homes were destroyed. I've been haunted by a gentleman on the news the night of the storms who said he lost his wife two weeks earlier, and now his home. With deep sadness and tears, he said, "I'm done."

We celebrate the gift of a life. And in the blink of an eye, mourn so much loss.

This is a week of feasting. Our tables will be laden with vegetables and breads, turkeys and pies for the taking. There is nothing I love more than cooking and eating with my family. When we have Thanksgiving at home, my mom and I spread out our recipe books and pencil in dishes, until we have the perfect blend of old and new. I'm in charge of Parker House rolls, a spinach salad with pomegranates and feta, classic apple pie, and a new dish I'm really jazzed about: Sweet potatoes with stilton and walnuts.

With so much happening around the world, sometimes I struggle. Feeling shamed for being so excited about sweet potatoes, guilty for gathering around such a fine feast. I wonder, what is the place of something like Thanksgiving in the midst of a tornado or a typhoon? The show must go on, right? I believe that God made the world and called it good, so that we might enjoy it. So that we might revel in his creation and live without lack. But the truth is, we are broken. All of creation is broken. And so we must learn how to live in the tension of a Thanksgiving feast and devastating disaster, trusting that God threads hope through our lives with a purpose.

We have an abundance, so much to give thanks for. I have been in the midst of so much, big decisions and sleepless nights. It has made me so grateful for my family, for warmth, for a job and a home, for even the short number of hours that the sun appears, for the numerous people I know I could go to if I lost everything in a typhoon or a tornado. I pray that I won't forget it, that I will be reminded that this very life is a blessing, that I will be plagued by a sense of presence, that I will speak and move with kindness, generosity, and thanksgiving. And that I will be compelled to live with great joy, compassion, and mindfulness.

I remember Job's reply to God, after losing everything:

I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

I do not know why the Philippines were struck by a typhoon, why so many 3rd world countries are plagued by disaster. I don't know why just hours south of my city entire towns were leveled by tornadoes. But I  pray on this eve of Thanksgiving week that the Master of the Universe would reach out and hold our spirits high if we cannot. That he would plant a seed of hope, that we would seek a mind of thankfulness, and that those of us who have much, would give much. May we remember, as we gather around the table.


There and back again

This time last week I was just coming back from that gorgeous city on the sea. You know the one I mean. The one that quietly steals your heart with her coastal beauty, her very urban yet somehow woodsy and rustic aura. 

On my return flight, we took off and crested just above the clouds until parallel with Mount Rainier, majestically floating atop the clouds. It actually took my breath away. I let out a little "Oh!" and turned to the grump beside me so we could share in our delight, but I guess he didn't really see it or didn't really care. I wondered, is this just how you feel if you're from Chicago and don't see the mountains ever? I'm not sure I could ever not really care.

I'm indebted to you, Seattle. You did me good. 

I stayed with this sweet friend of mine who works at the amazing new Storyville cafĂ© in Pike Place Market. It was a long overdue vacation, time away from Chicago, and an opportunity to wonder at what it would be like to live in this fine city. So while my amiga worked in this glorious light, dolling out espresso that will make your heart sing on a damp Seattle day, I explored.

I walked the Market and tried the best of Seattle's pastries, taking in the splendorous displays of fresh fruit and veg. It took everything in me not to buy a big, gorgeous bouquet of flowers for $10. Next time, Southwest, I swear I'll carry on these flowers.

Dying to get out on Puget Sound, I took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. Which was worth every single penny, just for the chance to be whipped about by the wind and see the sun dip low in the sky. As we approached Bainbridge, I smiled, because in just 30 minutes on the ferry, I was worlds away from the city.

And wouldn't you know that some of the best pizza is actually not in Chicago? I've been waiting years to visit Delancey, having learned about this Ballard gem from one of my favourite food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg, who opened the restaurant with her husband in 2009. Because I love Molly and I love Orangette, I knew I'd love Delancey. The wine, the mushroom thyme pizza, the winter salad, the atmosphere, the brick oven. If you're ever out Pacific Northwest way, don't miss it.

In the past two weeks I have moved to a temporary new home, been to Seattle and back again, spent far too much time dealing with grown-up decisions, pilgrimaged to Springfield on a brisk and beautiful camping trip to conclude the season, and drafted a Thanksgiving menu in which I was allotted only one new recipe. All to say, I'm thoroughly whipped. There's been a great deal of movement and transition, late nights and early mornings going on here. Let's hope a few rounds in the kitchen will ease my spirit and make things feel a little more like home.