Be Thou My Vision…

A “mantra” for the new year. Also one of my favorite hymns.

This evening I got in that mood again – the ooey, gooey, too much in-my-head-writing mood that I used to know more frequently when I spent my spare time writing blog posts and short stories. (That I would be humiliated by if anyone found them.) Now I waste time on social media  stalking “friends” who are far away, reposting dance videos and art to make me look cultured, some recipes, but mostly watching cat and dog videos… inspiring for certain.

When I got the crazy idea I should spend my quiet new year’s eve reflecting, being sentimental, writing about my past year and making plans for the new year, I asked the Lord, not in any coherent words, but more a subconscious kind of asking – what should be my focus for the new year? As soon as the thought crossed my mind other thoughts crossed too, and before I knew it I was pouring myself another glass of wine, washing the dishes, petting the cat… when I noticed I was humming and then singing a hymn. “High King of Heaven, my victory won…” I love it when the Lord does this. It seems to be one of the ways he captivates and retrieves my wandering mind…
What does Be Thou My Vision have to do with my new year? He guided me to the book 150 of the World’s Greatest Hymns. I was amazed to discover that this hymn came from an ancient Irish prayer, written in the eighth century 400 years after Saint Patrick evangelized the Druids in Ireland, and translated in 1905 by Mary Elizabeth Byrne, a scholar in Dublin. It was set to tune by Eleanor Hull of Manchester, England. One of our most timeless hymns, it resonates with my constant pleading the Lord for vision – for my life, for my art, for the last two and a half years my thesis concert. (Another thing he’s teaching me is to pray with an attitude of thanksgiving and faith that he has already given or done what I ask, rather than pleading for it.) I feel distracted and unclear a lot of the time, the complexities and anxieties in my own thoughts ousting clarity. I know only he gives me purpose and vision, and I constantly have to remind myself to submit my will and my vision to his. I’m learning, due the wise words of Madeline L’Engle, that I am not the master of my own life nor art, but a servant of the Master Creator’s  masterpiece – I serve his work that he has an immaculate vision for it that will not fail. I can trust that, no matter how long it takes and no matter if I ever see the completed masterwork this side of life, he will accomplish it and it will be good.
The more I submit to his will the more I see the vision for the masterpiece more clearly. The fog and fear and anxiety strips away. There is still a lot of work to be done, and I learn every day some new way I fail and have to start again. But knowing I serve his masterpiece takes a lot of stress off myself and I can focus again on the task.

Before I get too carried away, let’s take a look at some of my past new year’s goals with fresh eyes and clear vision. How can Be Thou My Vision infuse some of these with clarity and steam for goals this year?

To be honest, I often cringe when I look at my past goals. I have thirty of these written on my blog, “30 before 30”, which I have not looked at in a number of years. If my blog were a journal it would have cobwebs on it by this point. I went through a couple years ago and deleted the majority of the foolish ones. They are so telling where my heart and priorities have lain. Many of them are good things too:

#1 Backpack Europe before I turn 25 (because Euro rail is cheaper). Hmm I guess I’ll have to postpone this one, until I get a real job and can afford the full post-25 adult price.
#2 Get a “real job” and save money. I think I should have thrown that one out long ago. How about get a job that has a contract for more than 6 months and/or benefits?
#4 Pay off my student loans. hmm well, I started once before grad school. I will have to start again soon, with that real job…
#8 Get married and start having kids. Before 30, mind you! Isn’t it funny how 30 seems to get younger the closer I get to it?
#12 Get a Master’s degree in something useful. I’m pretty sure I made this one because my undergrad wasn’t very useful. Well, too bad my Master’s isn’t considered “useful” either. At least I didn’t go into more debt.
#15 Put a down payment on a house. Well, still have a year a half to scramble into that one…if I can ever get a job and decide where I’m living!
#18 Get my Pilates certification. Woohoo! made one!
#26 See the Grand Canyon. Totally doable. But if I still haven’t done it in the past 28 years when I grew up in one state over and visit my parents at least once a year, this is going to take some initiative.
Alright. This list is about a lot of different action goals. I’ve added quite a few other goals each year, usually to do with training, diet and health, spiritual devotion and prayer, and usually something about using my time better… the last one will definitely reoccur this year. But these are still actions, and when I make action goals I frequently disappoint. When I ponder Be Thou My Vision, it has to do with the attitude of the heart.
Setting the attitude of my heart on things that are lasting, an eternal mindset, strips away the fog, fear, anxiety. This is also something the Lord has been revealing to me about Beauty through my thesis concert. What makes someone truly beautiful? A heart that belongs to the Lord. He is Truth and Perfection, the ultimate revelation of Beauty. The first verse of the hymn reads, “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; naught be all else to me, save that Thou art; Thou my best thought, by day or by night, waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” A heart that is submitted to and longs for the Lord – that heart’s vision will be clear because it is illuminated by his radiant presence. Being in his presence is the best feeling in the world. His presence pierces the darkness and brings tears of joy to heal the sadness and pain. Lord knows there is a lot pain and hardship I endured this year. He never left me. His presence was a comfort to me, but also something I too quickly left or discounted. Practicing the Presence, as 17th century Brother Lawrence did – is a difficult task for anyone living on planet earth with unending distractions and needs.  Yet that is the best way I know how to submit the attitude of my heart to Him. Willfully choose to set my thoughts on him and surrender to his Spirit, his vision, his beauty. Thank God for the grace he offers through his Son Jesus Christ for all the times I fall out of practice. Let this year be a year of practicing the Presence and, not in any task-oriented, legalistic sort of way, a joyous constant surrendering of my heart to eternal Beauty.
Photo on 5-8-15 at 7.28 AM #2
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Beauty in Unexpected Places

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One of our maintenance staff stopped me in the hall today. I usually pass by them, saying hello and sometimes stopping to chat with one of the older ladies I’m friends with, Evelyn. It’s easy to learn their names because they’re embroidered on their blue janitorial shirts… I kind of have an unfair advantage and didn’t realize they might not all know my name, although we see each other everyday after 4:30pm. That’s why it wasn’t a surprise when he asked, a bit hesitantly: “What’s your name, miss? … If I may ask?” I told him, and glanced at his jacket as I asked his. I admit I didn’t really know this man’s name, although I’d heard it before – I usually recognized him as the man with one lame arm, that I sometimes feel pity for when I see him dutifully sweeping some corner under our five-floor spiral staircase, or pushing that massive waxing machine with his one good arm – and he always does it so cheerfully. “Woodrow. “Wood or Woody,” he confirmed. I felt the corners of my mouth turn up – just a little, not too much. He continued, “I’ve been meaning to tell you how much I appreciate that you’re always smilin’ and that you’re always kind,” he said thoughtfully, then paused, “that’ll take you far in life.” I stood directly opposite him in the hall by the water fountain, he holding a broom in his good hand, me with my leg brace and carrying my black laptop bag. I put my back against the call board in case anyone needed to pass by. “Thanks,” I muttered, then something else about being fortunate to still be doing what I love… I really wasn’t been feeling it today. Honestly, I thought to myself, I don’t know how I’m going to get a job next year. I’m tired of barely being able to pay my bills and if I don’t stop injuring the only instrument I have that my entire vocation depends on, I don’t know what I’ll do… It’s the first time in 28 years I haven’t had some naive, ambitious answer for the ugly reality of ‘how are you going to be able to sustain living and dancing’?
“How much longer do you have?” Woody asked. “This is my last year in the MFA program,” I said, relaxing a bit and setting down my bag. I liked this old man. I could see his big, gold tooth through his smile clearly for the first time, perhaps because I stopped for long enough and actually have him my full gaze, there in the dingy light. He seemed as excited for me as I should have been as he asked about my future. Again I had no definite answer, but told him about how I’ll probably teach in a university like this one day because that’s the most stable job I can expect to get with my degree. I wondered what dreams this old man had at one time. Does he still have dreams? Ambitions? What struggles has he fought to keep going through life with his deformity? “Well, I know you have a bright future ahead,” he told me. “Soon you’ll be up there looking down on the rest,” he said, waving his hand in the direction of our state-of-the-art theatre one floor above us. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” I said with a chuckle. He sighed and motioned it was time for him to go. “Well, keep that smile. I know I-we really appreciate it,” he said, motioning to mean the rest of the maintenance staff. “Your attitude, your kindness – they’ll get you far. I know you have a bright future ahead. I can see it!” His eyes lit up as he said it; he picked up his broom and waved goodbye as he headed off. I was glad too, as I picked up my bag, because I had started to tear up and I knew it was beginning to show. “Thanks Woodrow, I appreciate it!” I said as I picked up my bag and turned the corner to walk as fast as my bum leg would allow As soon as I stepped into the sun outside I burst into tears. My heart was so heavy, and touched – yet I didn’t quite understand what had happened back there. I sobbed as I walked toward the red brick parking garage in the humid Florida sun.
Kindness hasn’t gotten me far in this cut-throat, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps life, I thought to myself, and it certainly has done nothing for my professional career. In fact I often feel overlooked and under-appreciated. Why do I keep trying to do this? I ask myself. The psychological income I receive certainly doesn’t pay my health insurance and surgery and physical therapy costs… I always thank choice and fortune for shining down on me. This man who offered me rare appreciation… Why not do it for him? For the millions of other people who don’t have the choice to pursue their art? I why am I still here dancing if it isn’t to make a shared human experience and to illuminate Beauty to color this harsh world… Perhaps the old man has a point.

Home Made Almond Butter!

Homemade almond butter!

My first batch of home made almond butter in my tiny food processor!

I recently moved for grad school and have been on an adventure to find the best places to purchase health food items that previously I depended on Trader Joe’s for.  I found health food stores or ways to buy most everything I eat for reasonable prices in this city except raw almond butter. Even with coupons, I can’t find raw almond butter for less than $12 a jar. So I decided to make my own!

It’s super simple: process almonds until it turns into almond butter. I’ve made my own almond milk and almond meal this way before, but this is my first time making almond butter- and I have to say, it’s given me a new appreciation for the delicious staple. It took me nearly 20 minutes of processing until, as the article says, the almonds suddenly “magically, release more of its oils and become smooth and creamy”

Here is the recipe I used from Cooking With Laura.

Detox for a Raw Year

For my birthday a couple days ago, I decided the best gift I could give myself for my health would be to finally go raw, and try it for a year. The kicker finally came last month when I read a section in a book at the chiropractor’s office about natural remedies for extreme pms. Unfortunately mine is so bad it’s debilitating one day out of every month, so I am desperate to do anything I can minus taking drugs to cure it. Basically it said cut out caffeine, sugar, meat and foods high in fat. Well guess what! A raw food diet covers all of that!

I have already been on this journey since early this spring but I’ll go off it for mostly social reasons or cravings. The same thing happened again the day of my birthday and a couple days after when we went out for dessert to celebrate and my dear friends brought me a cake to house church. How would they know? I didn’t tell them. Next year I will plan ahead and bake my own raw or close-to-raw birthday cake. I’m learning that if I am going to succeed in this, I need to plan ahead, and when appropriate, bring my own “goodies” to our get-togethers.

Instead of beating myself up for my birthday cake and brownie gorge last night, instead of swearing I’ll never eat sugar again, because, let’s be realistic – it probably will happen again  – I’m not going to plan for failure, but I am going to have a detox plan.  So here’s the green smoothie I made this morning and will be making tomorrow morning.

 

Detox Green Smoothie

adapted from Young and Raw

  • 1/2 Head Celery
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1 Cup Cilantro & Parsley or Kale
  • 1 Lemon or lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp Ginger
  • 1/3 Pineapple
  • 1 Kiwi

Blend and enjoy!

Raw Fancy Berry Sorbet

I’ve been off track for the past few weeks a few relapses into processed food (which makes me feel terrible and like not going to the studio. go figure!)…trying to figure out to what extent I want to be raw, because I definitely crave more protein. I have been reading and observing the result of the Maximized Living Nutrition Plan which the chiropractor we started going to incorporates into all of his patients’ plans. It’s the best thing I’ve read in the world of nutrition so far, and most of it is raw! But more about that later… 

I can’t give myself too hard a time; I have been moving and living in other peoples’ houses, which contributes to my food regime getting off track…but it doesn’t have to. I bring with me  the foods I need, but I get seduced by things like Nutella and peanut butter cookies in my friends’ houses and have to buy my own – and then ensues a binge. So unfortunately I still have some work left to do to figure out how to avoid those triggers – maybe remembering how terrible I feel the next day!

This weekend I was inspired to experiment with raw or almost raw desserts that I could bring to a dinner gathering. The sorbet recipe below is an adaptation from one on Maximized Living’s recipe .

  • 3 cups (16 oz. bag) berries – I love Trader Joe’s Fancy Berry Medley
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • stevia to taste

Blend in a high-speed blender and freeze!

 

Food Sensitivity Elimination Diet

A Medical Thangka - Root of Treatment

A Medical Thangka – Root of Treatment (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Need Moral Support!

I want to do a food sensitivity elimination diet plan to figure out what foods bother me. I have attempted to start a couple times, but I eventually give into my cravings. I get so fed up with how miserable and bloated I feel from some of the foods that I eat, I swear to never eat them again, but I either 1) lack the self-discipline to resist or somehow forget how miserable I felt after I ate ___ food (for example, packaged hummus, chocolate-covered pecans,  pimento cheese, or even cooked broccoli), and 2) I’m not always exactly sure what those foods are because I often eat combinations or have delayed food sensitivity reactions.

I have become more aware of what foods irritate me lately and that it is not normal to deal with side effects of these foods, because I have been eating raw on-and-off for the past couple months. I feel fantastic and full of energy when I eat mostly raw! When I veer off is usually when my body gets angry at me.  My body doesn’t like lactose, or excess fat, or things like chocolate made with sugar and milk that I crave… yet I often have delayed reactions to these foods which make them difficult to pinpoint. The food sensitivity elimination plan by George Mateljan will allow me to pinpoint them. The elimination plan is raw except for some fish.

If I can stick with the diet for the next couple months to figure out what I need to eat and what to avoid, I am certain I will feel so much better I won’t want to go back.  I noticed a huge difference when I went raw, but it was hard to stick to with social constraints and cravings. That’s why I’m asking you all for support and reminders – I hate being a picky eater, but this is for my future well-being. I can’t dance when I feel bloated and lethargic from the food I ate, and I am certainly no fun to be around when I’m grumpy. I want tonight to be the last time I feel like I can’t dance because my stomach is yelling at me! It would be really great to have my personal diet figured out by time I start my MFA this fall.  I don’t need the added stress, and I certainly want to be a joy to be around! So… I will bring fruit and salad with me to meetings, paries, and potlucks… And I will be refusing (yes, refusing) brownies and cheese for the meantime. There, I said it. AHHH!

I do believe my body needs some animal protein like fish and eggs and I will try to re-incorporate them. I have already found that most meats and dairy don’t agree with my body except for raw milk or goat milk kefir. I have found that salmon, white fish, and eggs are fine for my body.  Grains, sugars, dairy, fermented foods, chocolate, and various fats are what I need to suss out.  I am yet undecided if I want to go 100% raw to avoid all food sensitivities, or to do the long haul elimination plan to find out exactly which foods I am sensitive to.  I’m going to start on George Mateljan’s elimination plan,  which includes some fish and eggs, and see where it leads. Also I want to keep researching the influence of acid and alkaline foods, to figure out if that’s something I should pay attention to or not… and read Maximized Living nutrition plan from our chiropractor’s office, and hope to gain more insight from that. So far, all the research I find emphasizes that fruit and vegetables are the primal most nutritious and natural energy sources which are also anti-inflammatory.

I’ll probably write a few more blog posts about my progress to stay accountable… I know my body (and most of my friends) will thank me… Thank you for your understanding and support!