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Tuesday, August 31, 2010


A close friend of Claire shared this brief quote from Nouwen. Apparently it was one they shared with one another.
Vulnerable, Like a Bird

Life is precious. Not because it is unchangeable, like a diamond, but because it is vulnerable, like a little bird. To love life means to love its vulnerability, asking for care, attention, guidance, and support. Life and death are connected by vulnerability. The newborn child and the dying elder both remind us of the preciousness of our lives. Let's not forget the preciousness and vulnerability of life during the times we are powerful, successful, and popular. (From Bread for the Journey)
Perhaps that is the most difficult part of grief. I feel so vulnerable. Shaken. Fragile. Raw. But it sounds like Nouwen is counseling us to accept this -- possibly even embrace it as the most genuine place we can be. This is certainly, as the Celtic saying goes, a "thin place"...

The Celts believed that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.
So I am strangely comforted here. And deeply sad at the same time -- I think my soul is sensing the tension of living in both worlds.

As these days "after Claire" unfold, I drag my feet. I don't want to move on. But I can't stand still either. Mourning is so complicated. Lauren Winner, whom I have quoted in some earlier posts, puts it this way, regarding the first month after death:
It is the edging back to worldly concerns and quotidian rhythms after the intense cocoon of shiva [the first week of mourning]. During this time, mourner may return to waiting tables or taking depositions or folding laundry or prowling the farmers' market. But she avoids large parties and celebrations and musical performances...
This will sound ridiculous, but the little song that run through my head as I just need to get going is the one Dory sang in Little Nemo: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..." We all have to just put one foot in front of the other, right?!

Regardless of how each day goes, I am grateful for a fresh sense of God's presence in the midst of each one. I will admit that that is what the thin places afford us:
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. (Psalm 27:13-14)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


(Claire is pictured with several of her beloved colleagues from Santa Barbara High)

Being back at school this week was especially poignant for me as I still reel with so many of you in losing Claire. Working with students was always a point of connection for Claire and I. We worked together for years in youth ministry -- I even had her work with me one summer as an intern, running our little start-up jr high ministry at the time.

In June 2000 we were going to take on 10 girls together as small group leaders -- she had worked with them through jr high, and I was going to join her as this group had grown. But two weeks before we got to do that, she had her first seizure and the rest, as they say, is history.

I went on to have one of the nuttier weeks of my life at camp that year (note to self: NEVER try to be the counselor for ten incoming high school freshman girls by yourself). We were already traumatized by the shock of Claire's new diagnosis, and let's be honest, that age group is already one walking ball of emotions, so it was Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, to say the least.

Claire tried to join us later that year, but the ordeal of recovery proved to be too much for her, on top of trying to maintain her teaching career. Sadly, she had to pull out of youth ministry -- but went on to give everything she had to teaching.

This week I received a lovely email from a colleague of mine regarding Claire. It's such a small world -- this woman, with whom I now work at Providence Hall, had Claire as her master teacher when she was getting her teaching credential. Here are some of her memories of Claire:
What i would want people to know about Claire is that I think teaching brought out her true essence. Claire never pushed her beliefs on anyone, but loved those kids so much that Christ shined through her. Whenever I talk to people about Claire, I tell them how lucky was to have her as a master teacher. She took kids that other teachers had given up on and found a way to make class fun. She genuinely cared about helping them succeed, and they respected her for it. Claire was a model teacher. As long as I've been teaching, I've thought of her as the type teacher I aspire to be like, and I know there are past students of hers, future teachers, who will do the same.
I want to honor Claire's memory and note the power of her life upon mine by considering these words. As I continue as a teacher and youthworker, I want the same sort of things said about me. In my consulting with churches and pastors, we always spend time discussing the principle of how to "begin with the end in mind." In other words, we should live our lives NOW as we want to be remembered. Claire did that. I want to do that too. That is a life of integrity -- being who I say I am.

Russell Smelley, a dear friend who has suffered profound loss, passed these words, among many, on to me last week:
We tend to deal with death in the same manner as we deal with our daily lives. Grieving can take many forms, but it seems to conform to our personality and life experiences; nonetheless we grieve. We need to learn to live life well because we are going to die. We tend to be fearful people but we can learn to live not in fear but in the hope of God's grace. We have a particular amount of time on earth as our days are numbered and known only by God. Peace comes with accepting the reality of our imminent demise.
May we lean heavily on Christ as we live our "pre-lives" now, in preparation for our "real lives" in eternity. Let's push each other to live lives of truth, beauty, grace, and bravery. These words compel me:
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:16-18)
No fear.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello

If Monday's reading from Henri Nouwen was eerie, today's is downright uncanny:
When we lose a dear friend, someone we have loved deeply, we are left with a grief that can paralyse us emotionally for a long time. People we love become part of us. Our thinking, feeling and acting are co-determined by them: Our fathers, our mothers, our husbands, our wives, our lovers, our children, our friends ... they are all living in our hearts. When they die a part of us has to die too. That is what grief is about: It is that slow and painful departure of someone who has become an intimate part of us. When Christmas, the new year, a birthday or anniversary comes, we feel deeply the absence of our beloved companion. We sometimes have to live at least a whole year before our hearts have fully said good-bye and the pain of our grief recedes. But as we let go of them they become part of our "members" and as we "re-member" them, they become our guides on our spiritual journey.

These Bible passages on friendship flesh things out even more for me, and undergird what Nouwen says:
Friends love through all kinds of weather,
and families stick together in all kinds of trouble. (Proverbs 17:17)

Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like family. (Proverbs 18:24)

By yourself you're unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Again, we rejoice and we weep at losing Claire's dear, earnest friendship. Know that this loss will not fade quickly -- and that is a good thing. It shows us that her impact was full and far-reaching. We learned about what it means to be a friend from her. As the wounds settle a bit, we can reach out to others more, and live on with integrity and compassion. God will use this time to shape us, if we receive it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sitting Together

Based on the volume of messages I've received in these last few days about Claire, it's clearer to me than ever that she lived a loving and generous life. We're all sort of lost right now. It's amazing that even though we knew this was coming, it is still so disorienting.

We know we have to find the right things to cling to in the midst of our grief. Today these verses communicate that reality most acutely to me:
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. (Psalm 61:1-4)

Earlier this week I quoted Lauren Winner from a book titled Mudhouse Sabbath. In this book Winner, a Christian who converted from Orthodox Judaism, reflects on the spiritual practices of her Jewish history and observes them anew through a Christian lens. More importantly, she invites us as Christians to learn from these ancient practices in powerful ways.

The chapter on mourning has always struck me the most. The opening words perhaps put some of our collective pain into words:
Church funerals, when they tell the truth, not only remember lovingly the lives of the departed, they also preach the gospel -- they proclaim that Jesus is risen, and insist that those who died in Him shall be risen too. What churches often do less well is grieve. We lack a ritual for the long and tiring process that is sorrow and loss.
Amen to that. The chapter goes on to describe to describe the longer spiritual practice of lament. I will not attempt to post it all. But I surely recommend it.

One of the practices that she mentions that is most fascinating to me is that of sitting shiva, where friends of the family gather and sit with them, not saying much, but not allowing them to be alone either. I wonder how that works for all of us as we are now separated, scattered back to our homes after the memorial.

One thought I have is that we could share precious things from our individual relationships with Claire. For example, in this last week one of Claire's college friends sent me, of her own accord, a treasured recipe that Claire had given to her in the past. I think it would be dear to share it with you as well.

And if you have something -- a photo, a memory, an experience, a keepsake, a recipe! -- that you would want to share, send it to my email (kelly.soifer@gmail.com). We'll see -- if it's a worthwhile exercise, great. If not, that is perfectly fine as well.

But here is a recipe from Claire. We ache with loss, and celebrate the beauty of her friendship and love.

Sicilian Sfincione (Sicilian peasant neopolitan pizza)
Submitted by Claire Carey

Note from Brooke: I think it may have come during our last semester at Westmont, and it has been a staple recipe for our family. It's very forgiving as far as the toppings go, because you can do whatever you like. It's also a great recipe to make with kids :)

2 lbs. tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 small onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt
Scant 1/4 cup olive oil

Pizza Dough
Pinch of sugar
1-1/4 cups warm milk
2 pkgs. of active dry yeast
4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 oz. pitted ripe olives chopped
2 tsps. dried oregano
mozzarella and parmesan cheese

To make topping, peel and chop tomatoes. Combine tomatoes garlic onion and salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Cover and set aside. Flavor will improve while mixture stands.

To make pizza dough, stir sugar into warm milk and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand five minutes or until the surface is frothy. Stir gently to moisten any dry particles remaining on top. Sift flour and salt into large bowl. Lightly beat egg into yeast mixture. Pour into flour mixture, combining to make a dough. On a floured surface, knead dough until smooth and springy, 5 to 10 minutes. Cover and let rise in a warm place 25 minutes.

Brush baking sheets with oil. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a floured surface lightly knead risen dough; divide into 4 to 6 pieces. Roll out pieces into individual rounds; place on oiled baking sheets. Top each round with tomato mixture, scatter olives, oregano, cheese and any other desired pizza toppings. Bake 20 minutes or until edges are brown.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I have mentioned here previously that I receive a daily passage in my email from the Henri Nouwen Society. Today's reading is downright eerie:
It is very hard to accept an early death. When friends die who are seventy, eighty, or ninety years old, we may be in deep grief and miss them very much, but we are grateful that they had long lives. But when a teenager, a young adult, or a person at the height of his or her career dies, we feel a protest rising from our hearts: "Why? Why so soon? Why so young? It is unfair."

But far more important than our quantity of years is the quality of our lives. Jesus died young. St. Francis died young. St. Thérèse of Lisieux died young, Martin Luther King, Jr., died young. We do not know how long we will live, but this not knowing calls us to live every day, every week, every year of our lives to its fullest potential.

As I consider going back to "real life" today after the experience of the last week or so, I pause and blink. It feels daunting. But when I read this, this passage immediately came to mind:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Philippians 1:21-27)

As Claire's life witnessed to us, the only way we can persevere through the heavy burdens of this "transitory life" (2 Corinthians 4:18, JB Phillips version) is by doing this:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

We will still be sad, we will walk with a limp... but we will move forward gently and persistently. If we are still here, it is because apparently we still have work to do. Do not deny the weight of grief on your spirit. Come to God in your brokenness and pain. You don't have to gut your way through it. He is enough. He will carry you.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Photos from Claire's Memorial Service, 8/20/10

I asked Greg Lawler to take some photos at the memorial service. Greg took the photo we used on the cover of the program and for her obituaries. I am grateful for his sensitive, lovely work.

Today started quietly and slowly for me. I am glad I went to church today -- it was a safe place to keep walking through these fresh days without dear Claire. Judaism has a longer practice of bereavement than most Christians traditionally do. One of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner, puts it this way:

[The Jewish pattern of bereavement] recognizes the slow way that mourning works, the long time it takes a grave to cool, slower and longer than our zip-zoom Internet-and-fast-food society can easily accommodate. Long after your friends and acquaintances have stopped paying attention, after they have forgotten to ask how you are and pray for you and hold your hand, you are still in a place of ebbing sadness. Mourning plateaus gradually...

I will be patient, and remember to "help others help me" if I am discouraged and burdened. Like Claire did, let's find comfort in the prayers of the Bible. Today I see Psalm 145 as poignant:
14 The Lord helps the fallen
and lifts those bent beneath their loads.
15 The eyes of all look to you in hope;
you give them their food as they need it.
16 When you open your hand,
you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
he is filled with kindness.
18 The Lord is close to all who call on him,
yes, to all who call on him in truth.
19 He grants the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cries for help and rescues them.
20 The Lord protects all those who love him,
but he destroys the wicked.

21 I will praise the Lord,
and may everyone on earth bless his holy name
forever and ever.

Photos from the memorial service, Aug 20, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Claire Memorial Service Slideshow

Words cannot express the depths of sorrow and the heights of joy we rode today in our memorial service for Claire. As we said today at church, we had the unique honor of participating in a service that Claire designed herself in her last weeks of life on this earth. She wanted to give her friends and family one more gift. Isn't that incredible?

It is my understanding that we hope to be able to post links to an audio and video recording of the time for those who weren't able to be there. But for now, we do have a link for the slideshow (see below).

I cherished the many conversations I had today with those who knew and loved Claire. Time and again I heard of how special she made each of us feel. I do hope we can keep sharing those -- it will help us as we work through our grief in the weeks and months ahead.

I shared a message at the service, and here were my concluding words. Let's build on these memories, and rejoice at a life well-lived:

Claire had integrity; she was who she said she was. And who she was was a woman deeply in love with her Lord. We saw Him clearly alive in her life. So we do mourn the loss of Claire Michelle Carey today. And we wish she was still here with us... but even more, I think we wish we were with her, free and whole.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photos of Claire

An old friend, partner in youth ministry and teaching colleague of Claire's sent me these thoughts last night:
I have been feeling so thankful for my visit with her in July and quick hugs in the months before that. My friend with an equal fascination of the created world...I'll miss our many conversations together of all things science. Even on my last visit with Claire in July she took me on a "tour" of her backyard hand in hand, appreciating the fruiting plants. Our conversation had consisted of head nods and a few yes's, as all words seemed so difficult to form, but then Claire started to working to say something and was able to produce the word "florets" from the depths of her science mind, adding to our conversation about broccoli in the garden. Evidence of her deep love of science pouring through despite the effort I'm sure it took to access the word. Florets!

This captures the teacher and scientist in Claire perfectly.

I continue to receive photos of Claire that friends want to share. Thanks to each of you who are sharing thoughts and memories. It's just a little bit easier by being in this together. What a gorgeous woman she was; a life full of laughter, people, faith and adventure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We remember Claire

Here is the link to sweet Claire's obituary in the Santa Barbara Independent, coming out this Thursday:


These are the verses that came across my radar today and lifted my head - from Isaiah 40:
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

We move forward a day at a time - with a limp, to be sure - but clinging to hope and the life to come.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Claire's memorial service

I will keep this simple:

Claire Carey Memorial Service
Friday, August 20, 1pm
(reception to follow - directions will be available)
Living Faith Center
4597 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara 93110

In lieu of flowers, you can send gifts to the Claire Carey Support Fund. Please contact Ramon Gupta ramongupta@yahoo.com for details.

Thank you.

Friends Remember Claire

I have been deeply moved by the depth and breadth of responses from those who knew Claire. I will list just a handful here. I will not note the names of those who sent these remembrances, since I did not ask them ahead of time. Thank you to each of you.
We will miss Claire's radiance! Thank you Kelly for sharing these beautiful thoughts. You caught her spirit in your words. Please know that we are praying for you and all her friends, and especially for Cam. May you all walk in the deep knowledge of God's grace in the next little while.

We ache for our brother and rejoice for our sister.

[We] mourn the brokenness of this world and hold to the hope in Christ that Claire and Cam lived through these years by God's grace and in the company of loving friends.

She was truly the most amazing person I have ever known. I think back on the first time I met her; Claire's warm smile and generous nature welcomed me to SBHS and to her life as a friend. She is my inspiration everyday that I am in the classroom, and her kind personality inspires my character towards people.

The tears will flow with happy remembrance of Claire's sweet ways.

I learned a lot from Claire and I want to share that as much as I can.

(Perhaps my favorite.... though ALL have been lovely) Claire was homesick and got to leave camp early. The rest of us are stuck here for the rest of the summer.

Thank you to each of you for your prayers, thoughts, love and faithfulness to her. What a blessing to have such a community of friends and family.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More Claire

Many thanks to those of you who have been leaving comments and sending emails after reading my thoughts and memories about Claire. Not surprisingly, my days move between smiles and sorrow, tears and laughter as I talk with other friends of hers, or sit in church and sing a song whose lyrics touch me in that deeper, raw place where I am still so sad.

I've lived enough of life to know these feelings will happen for awhile, and in some ways never leave. As I told someone today after church, grief becomes a relationship in my life that I have to maintain. It's a prickly exchange at times... if I neglect this "friend" too much, it demands my attention! But occasional time and awareness, sometimes longer than others, allows it to be manageable, and actually a vessel for valuable growth.

To know and love another person so dearly, and then lose them leaves a wound that will never fully heal in this life. And honestly, I don't want that sort of wound to heal completely. I am eternally grateful for how my life has been formed and changed by my friendships with Claire and her husband Cameron. To quote the classic poem In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I write with a heavy heart. The dreaded day has come. At about 5:45am this morning, my sweet friend Claire was finally released from the duties of her long fight with brain cancer.

I have known Claire since... golly, I've lost track, it's been so long. 1998 perhaps. She was a leader with me in youth group, and on the first team of summer interns I had with the church. She started dating Cameron, another leader, during those early years, and we all caused a lot of trouble together. I was with them in the emergency room that horrible day in June 2000 after she'd slipped and fallen at a end-of-school beach party. She had hit her head, got scraped up and was brought to the ER because she was still so disoriented. When the doctors told her it appeared she had a brain tumor, we were speechless. Yet she fought hard and had the upper hand for many years, through radiation, remission and rounds of chemo. It was a glorious celebration when she and Cam married on June 30, 2001. Clouds from the year before seemed to have parted, at least for the time being....

Claire thrived as a teacher, first at Santa Barbara Christian School and then at Santa Barbara High, where she received many accolades. Yet the cancer (oh, how I hate it) pressed on and started really gaining traction this year. It stole her strength, and in the last two months her ability to walk and talk. But in this final week it came quickly, thankfully.

In her last 48 hours she hovered between unconsciousness and sleep, and wasn't in pain. Family and close friends were able to say goodbye. I drove frantically home from a visit with family in the Monterey area, and was with her and Cam yesterday in the hospital.
Though we have certainly known this to be coming, it is still so hard to feel the blunt force of it. I find peace knowing that she was comfortable, and that Cam managed well through it all. Her beloved doctors and nurses on the oncology floor at Cottage Hospital, that she's known for years, gave her their consistently loving and gentle care. This was the best way it could happen, sad as that sounds.
I asked Cam how their last time together was. He smiled as he shared about eating dinner and both laughing hard throughout the DVD rental of the night - "Cop Out" with Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis -- a classic Carey choice. He carried her to bed, where she proceeded to have a poor night's sleep.

Claire's departure was quiet. In her final 24 hours her breathing rattled as her lungs struggled to keep out the fluids. The nursing staff moved her every two hours through the night. Each time, Cam would awaken, hold her hand and watch her settle. Yet on this last move, her breathing became especially labored - she struggled for only a couple of minutes, then passed.

These are the words that come to mind this morning. They come from 2 Corinthians, chapters 4 & 5 -- in the JB Phillips translation:

4:7-11 - This priceless treasure we hold (the good news about life with Jesus), so to speak, in a common earthenware jar (our earthly bodies) - to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives.
4:15-18 - We wish you could see how all this is working out for your benefit, and how the more grace God gives, the more thanksgiving will redound to his glory. This is the reason why we never collapse. The outward man (and woman) does indeed suffer wear and tear, but every day the inward man receives fresh strength. These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent.
5:1-4 - We know, for instance, that if our earthly dwelling were taken down, like a tent, we have a permanent house in Heaven, made, not by man, but by God. In this present frame we sigh with deep longing for the heavenly house, for we do not want to face utter nakedness when death destroys our present dwelling - these bodies of ours. So long as we are clothed in this temporary dwelling we have a painful longing, not because we want just to get rid of these "clothes" but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours. We want our transitory life to be absorbed into the life that is eternal.
Claire has never flagged in her firm hope in the life eternal. I had several sweet times of talk and reading and prayer with her this summer about such things. I asked her two weeks ago how she felt about how things were progressing -- I offered "frustrated"? "scared"? "angry"? "confused"? and she shook her head no at each one. Yet she nodded a strong yes when I asked, "peaceful"?

My favorite comeback with Claire was "Now don't get red-headed on me!" as she stubbornly pushed back on things we were doing. Regardless of her amazing strength, she was unfailingly gentle, consistent and never pushy in her faith. I rejoice that she is safely in the arms of God, reunited with faithful, loving family and friends who have gone before her -- and jealous!

Claire lived a lovely life and and fought a classy fight. I shared with others this week that I have never been so thankful that this life is not all there is, as described in the verses above. She has her renewed body and blessed relief. That is good news. The greatest tribute any of us can give her is to allow her life to remind us of what really matters.

PS Here two AMAZING images of Claire - her beauty and grace are breathtaking:

We were changed by knowing you, Claire Michelle Carey. We miss you.

Friday, August 6, 2010

¡Viva la Fiesta! (On my terms)

In case you are reading this and do NOT live in Santa Barbara, CA, we are living in the midst of our biggest annual celebration known as "Old Spanish Days," or commonly called "Fiesta."

There are some fun elements -- good cheap Mexican food is easy to find, fun confetti-filled eggs ("cascarones") to smash on friends' heads... sold by sweet little grandmas who make them all year precisely for this time of year. And a some great flamenco dancing.

But honestly, I view most of Fiesta by the pejorative term we locals call it: "Fiasco." Traffic grinds to a standstill in and out of the city and all around downtown. Thousands use it as an excuse to get sloppy drunk and act like fools. And though I grudgingly accept that we are a tourist town, the absolute worst of them seem to show up this time of year.

I will be the first to admit that I went with friends to our annual lunch run at the Northside Mercado yesterday, and ordered a plate with a homemade enchilada, tamale, and rice and beans, finishing off the feast sharing a basket of guacamole and chips. Yeah yeah.

But that's the extent of it. I will stay far away from the madness, and celebrate Fiesta at home with the organic goodness I got this week at Fairview... With cilantro, tomatoes, zucchini and avocado in this week's share, I looked up recipes for vegetarian tacos. Oh people... Vegetarian or not, this recipe should NOT be passed up. Ridiculously. Good.

Zucchini Garbanzo Tacos With Caramelized Onions

Ingredients (my changes/adjustments are in the tiny, italicized print... I found this recipe online):

4 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided (I only used 2 tb olive oil)
1 red onion, sliced (sadly, had to skip this ingredient -- roommate doesn't eat onion)
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
3 or 4 medium zucchini, quartered (I used 2 - not small, not huge)
1 green or red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (I don't know what they mean by "bunch" - I grabbed a handful about 2" across at the stems)
3 green onions, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 to 8 corn or flour tortillas (corn, all the way!!)

I garnished them with a fresh diced tomato, chopped avocado, fresh salsa, some grated cheese and a drizzle of ranch dressing)


1. In a saute or sauce pan, 2 tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add onions, salt, and pepper. Stir until onions are translucent, then turn down heat, and stir occasionally. (You can tell when they are done if the onion is soft and sweet. ) Like I said, I skipped this part...

2. To a bowl, add zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, 1 tablespoon oil, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Stir to coat all of the vegetables with the seasoning. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

3. In another bowl, add garbanzo beans, cilantro, green onions, and lemon juice. (You may season with a little salt and pepper depending on your preference or if the beans were stored in a can with added salt.) Toss well.

4. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and sauté zucchini and bell pepper mix until tender.

I decided to combine the bean mixture with the sauteed zucchini mixture because I wanted the beans to absorb the taco seasoning... this seems like an obvious move. It COMPLETELY worked, by the way. I let the two mixtures saute on low in a covered pan while I cut up the garnish ingredients.

5. To serve: Warm tortillas over stove then add zucchini mixture and garbanzo bean mixture. Top with caramelized onions.

Makes: 8 Tacos, Preparation time: 20 minutes, Cooking time: 10 minutes

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"So What's Up with You?"

I run into people and the first question I hear is often "So what's up with you?"

One by one, the details perhaps don't sound like much, but together, they add up to a rather eventful and interesting summer.

Here goes:
  • I got to go to Alaska June 23-July 3. Two words: Uh-mazing. Here's one post I wrote about it. Stinkin' glorious. I cannot recommend it enough as a vacation destination. If you've been wondering and wavering, wonder and waver no longer. Book it.
  • I moved on from Eden Reforestation Projects, and expanded my role at Providence Hall High School. After a really fun year juggling a whole lot of different projects, I'd reached a point where my roles at both organizations were expanding, and I needed to make a choice. After much prayer and consideration, I chose Providence Hall. I am continuing as the Campus Pastor, leading the Foundation of the Christian Faith class with the entire student body. This role also lets me work with the student leadership team, and coordinate the parenting seminars series we title Providence Presents. But as of July 1, I doubled my time there and have taken on some administrative projects as the Assistant Headmaster. My energies are focused on revamping the admissions process, strengthening our technological infrastructure, and working with our new Director of Advancement in terms of marketing and communications. Given that these tasks are often what I work on through my pastoral coaching projects, it's a treat to remain "on the ground" myself and keep sharpening my own abilities. We have 22-25 more students coming in September as we enter our 4th year as a school. Though we're still a start-up in most respects, it feels like we're getting some solid traction as well.
  • I bought a new bike (and sold my old one). Pictured above is my new trusty steed, a Specialized Globe Vienna 4, which I think I'm going to name Blue Steel. To use a word from my students, this bike is sick. The photo shows many of its awesome qualities -- lightweight fenders, a front hub that powers the lights front and back, a built-in sturdy rear rack, a nifty bell, and best of all -- unlike the bike pictured -- an 8-gear internal rear hub. No derailleur (or dirty chain!). It's a smooth ride and a heck of a lot of fun. I take it on the bike bus to Providence Hall, then ride home a few days a week. I often stop on the way home on errands and am able to load up. Since I also have my scooter, I'm getting really close to selling my car. Not quite ready to jump off that cliff, but getting much closer.
  • I've got a lot of church consulting projects -- currently I am working with five churches related to youth ministry, and with seven churches in terms of pastoral coaching (strategic planning, leadership development, staff management, casting vision, problem-solving, etc.) I go on-site at least once to each of these churches, but then maintain our working relationship through Skype. I love technology...
  • I'm surprised to have a few speaking gigs coming up: I'm co-leading a ministry summit seminar for all So Cal Free Methodist churches this Saturday on Children's & Youth Ministries -- how to plan for the year and build a structure around it. On Aug 20-21 I'm speaking at church's youth camp near Big Sur. On Aug 27 I'm meeting with the staff and leadership core in Downey to coach them through Strengths-Finder. On Sept 18 I'm leading a seminar on the stages of adolescent development for a church's parents and youth ministry leaders. Fun fun fun!
  • I had an article featured on YMToday this week. I actually wrote it awhile ago, but was grateful to have it circulated again. I have a new article coming out in September with Youthworker Journal, and am currently working on a larger project with YMToday and the Lilly Foundation on how to teach worldviews to young people.
  • I'm still cooking up a storm... I can't believe that I flunked Home Ec in jr. high and now consider cooking one of my favorite hobbies. Tonight a little treat from the Whole Foods weekly email made me smile -- Banana Nice Cream. Heavenly.
I am speechless as I consider the many ways I get to experience God's creative and gentle grace. However, I do not mean to paint a completely rosy picture. Threaded throughout these many gifts is a painful journey with a close friend as she faces the end of a ten-year battle with brain cancer. I really hate cancer...

In my visit with her this week I read parts of Psalm 107 to her. I end with those lines, finding strength in the reality that this life is not all there is. Because of this, we are sustained.
1-3 Oh, thank God—he's so good! His love never runs out.
All of you set free by God, tell the world!
Tell how he freed you from oppression,
Then rounded you up from all over the place,
from the four winds, from the seven seas.

4-9 Some of you wandered for years in the desert,
looking but not finding a good place to live,
Half-starved and parched with thirst,
staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion.
Then, in your desperate condition, you called out to God.
He got you out in the nick of time;
He put your feet on a wonderful road
that took you straight to a good place to live.
So thank God for his marvelous love,
for his miracle mercy to the children he loves.
He poured great draughts of water down parched throats;
the starved and hungry got plenty to eat.