Do you ever stop to think how much effort goes into just one pancake? (Especially an allergen-free pancake?) Think about it--you have to assemble your flours and replacers and all those fancy things, mix them up in the correct proportions with milk and whatnot. Then, when you've reached the step that would be a complete breakfast had you been making a hot or cold cereal of some sort, you must spend an hour waging smoky war against cast iron skillets that have no other desire in the world than to cling to your pancakes with sooty claws.

Okay, okay, I'm exaggerating. But seriously, pancakes are no joke! Especially when covered with peanut butter, homemade elderberry sauce, and raw nut cream. (The elderberries are from a tree I spied on my way to work yesterday. On the way home, I stopped and carried off as many bunches as I could hold.) Mmmm... Next mission: cattails. I plan to gather the roots and do a root-bake with some potatoes. I want to try a cattail pollen pancake, but I have to wait until the right season comes around.

And, a new word was developed today.

Immigrance: That particular breed of ignorance that comes from being new to an area.
In a sentence-- "My immigrance really shows when I try to talk weather with these Idahoans."
Is it wrong that I want to get married? Seems like everyone I know is getting hitched. Can I have that too, please? And yet... if I can't tolerate the company of a kitten for prolonged periods of time, then a human being who is bound to your side for the rest of your mortal life might be a mite tiresome at this point. Oh well. I guess it's just that season of life, that particular year-bracket where the altar is a patch of alarmingly fertile ground.

Last week was a nice week. I enjoyed it. This week is nice, too, although both have distinctively different flavors. Last week was ripe and full of summer possibilities. This week is cold, chilly, and anticipatory. Last week, I spent a whole day digging chicory roots and picking/preserving wild plums. It was immensely satisfying. Picking produce is like going on a treasure hunt, and I was rich while buried in leaves and branches, searching for the tiny, golden plums. They are sweet, but the skin packs a puckery punch! They're really no bigger than a cherry, so I was able to use the cherry pitter on the smaller, reddish plums.

I felt a morbid enjoyment while pitting those plums, because, though it was enjoyable, the pitter left wounds in the fruit strongly reminiscent of a shotgun blast. The exit holes were astoundingly large. However, the plums were still warm from the sun, happily bedded down in the wicker basket, and looking for all the world like a magazine advertisement. The sticky juice spurted everywhere, and brought the soft, happy smell of an outdoor summer day. Then, after dehydrating them, I packed them into mason jars and tucked them away into a cool, dark cupboard. Who knows what exciting occasion will bring them to light again? Maybe a backpacking trip to some local natural majesty, or a road trip with friends, or even my dreamt-of job at summer camp this summer?

Today, I realized that God loves me. No matter what. It sounds so flat and silly in print that I am loathe to talk about it. I want to treasure it up and keep it locked away safely inside my heart, where no one can run their thoughts over it and dirty it up, or wear it out, or expose it for some cheap counterfeit. But if I don't write it down, I might lose it. There is so much still sloshing around inside me that a treasure is likely to be carried off or washed out. Anyway, I read Romans 8:38, 39 in The Living Bible's paraphrase, and it really came home. God loves me, no matter what. It doesn't matter that my mom's boyfriend beat me up. It doesn't matter that my stepdad dragged my soul through the filth of debauchery. It doesn't matter that I've walked away, over and over again. It doesn't matter what vices I took up, what places I visited, what shames I enacted. And, it doesn't matter what I do with my life. It doesn't matter if I go to college or not. It doesn't matter if I stay in Kooskia, Idaho for the rest of my life. It doesn't matter that I quit Bible Work. It doesn't matter if I wear jewelry, or eat meat, or jump from the top of a building. God loves me. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is ever going to change that fact.

I also realized that God's love and my salvation are not the same thing. Just because God loves me does not mean I have the golden ticket into heaven. I still have my free will, and my choice. There's still that relationship that must be tended to. But you know what? If God loves me, no matter what, then... well, that means that I can trust him, doesn't it? Because when you love someone, you do the best by them that you can. The question that's haunted me--Does God have my best interest in mind?--is answered in the revelation of his unflickering love. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! So... this will be an interesting journey, this journey of trust that I now embark on.

O flame of hope, let loose your bright rays within me!
Dim not, gentle light, though time and wind be against thee.
In fearful times, when bleakness reigns,
'tis then I seek thy cheerful face, O flame of hope.
Oh, what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat and onto the crashing waves.
To step out of my comfort zone, into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is, and He's holding out His hand.
But the waves are calling out my name, and they laugh at me, reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed. The waves, they keep on telling me time and time again, "You'll never win. You'll never win."

But the voice of Truth tells me a different story--the voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid."
And the voice of Truth says, "This is for My glory."
Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.

Oh, what I would do to have the kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant, with just a sling and a stone. Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors, shaking in their armor, wishing they'd have had the strength to stand.
But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me, reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed. The giant keeps on telling me time and time again, "Boy, you'll never win. You'll never win."

But the voice of Truth tells me a different story--the voice of Truth says, "Do not be afraid."
And the voice of Truth says, "This is for my glory."
Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of Truth.
Artichokes are funny things. You can't really get full on them, yet they're so delicious (especially dipped in seasoned, melted butter) that it's totally worth it. More like a delicacy than a meal, really. And the closer you get to the middle, the more tender and delicate and mouth-wateringly intoxicating they become until... you reach the artichoke heart. That wonderful morsel just melts away on your tongue, leaving you to wonder why the whole artichoke can't be made of the same stuff?

Well, anyway, life is made up of more than just artichokes. Like, for instance, kittens. Like, for instance, Juneaux.
 I'm learning alot from this cat about God, and unconditional love. Oddly enough, I found him on a deeply distressing night--the night I quit smoking again. I was heading home to confess to the folks that I'd started, and to ask for help (a step forward in admitting that I can't fix myself), but I was so absorbed in thinking about it that I overshot my turn and kept going... until I saw a kitten in the road. I tried to catch him for 20 minutes that night, but wasn't successful, so I took K with me the next night and we grabbed him (after another 20 minutes).

He was SO contradictory! He yearns for love and affection--you can see it in his response to sweet talking--but he won't let you get close enough to pet him. (Well, he didn't. A couple of days shut in my room has broken him, and he's the sweetest little thing.)

He was so hungry for love, but so skittish that he wouldn't let me help him. Why can't you see, O kitten, that I desire nothing but your good? (And here come the parallels between me and God...) I'm just trying to love you. Won't you let me?

So then I got to practice unconditional love when this cat woke me up at 5 a.m.... 2 mornings in a row. After being up with him till 11:30 the night before. Have. Mercy. And yet, I still love this kitten. Why? Certainly not because he's perfect, but because he's mine. I saved him from the unknown terrors of the wild. I love him. I want him to be happy. Is any of this ringing a bell within your heart, woman??

I really wish that I could get this through my head and make it my reality. I want love, too. But man, it's such a scary thing to let someone get close. What if I get hurt?
I'm pretty much sick and tired of hearing how fearful and tenuous my future is as a young person in America... how tax increases, economy plunges, and job cuts mean that there's no way in a full blue moon that I'm going to be able to pursue a higher education, or have a family, or even really survive.

I know my bread and water shall be sure... but how about my tax bracket?

I hate economics. And politics. Take me HOOOOOME!

In addition, I'm also fighting against myself. To be, or not to be, that is the question, quite seriously. I am swirling in a maelstrom. I already know that I'm no good, so if I act that way, can I really truly fear that You would abandon me? If I'm already no good, then what's the point of a charade? Regression, take me away... Maybe I will stumble across the secret of relational intimacy as I cease to be a mere reflection of what is deemed proper. Do I hope to find safety in personal expression? Perhaps. Maybe just a little fulfillment... some hope.

God, that's supposed to be where you come in. *Enter God, stage left*
...I would always know exactly what to do. Need a rope ladder built? Fear not! I, with my astute geometrical skills, will calculate and ascertain the height to yonder branch so that I can construct a sturdy ladder out of local shrubbery. Uncertain about this local species of flora or fauna? No worries! My infinite knowledge will save the day again! (Even though I've never seen it before in my life.)

Ahh, I wish that I knew as much as those people. At least I know that I don't know. :)

I was glad to start going to group again. I missed the company of people who are struggling and fighting, just like me. Sometimes it seems that Christians never have any problems, especially on Sabbaths. Oh, of course, the external problems are there-- death in the family, health problems, etc. But internal? Struggles with your own sanity? Hardly. So it's good to see people who love Jesus, who are real about their problems. That's what I appreciate about the family I live with now. They're real, but they love God. It's pretty awesome. I still am trying to figure out where I fit in, which can be very tiring.

After starting this blog, it was like the sap started flowing again... like I'm coming to life, discovering who I am. What do I like? What are my opinions? There is no one here to see but me and God. I don't have to be fake, to act like this great spiritual person, to act like I know anything. Because really, I'm dissolving. Disintegrating. The person that I've trained myself to be for so long is drying up and peeling off, so much old paint that inhibits my breathing. And yet, in the process of just trying to be me, I find myself regressing...

H and I were discussing the subject of grace. I wonder where I learned all my conceptions of God? I have always envied "liberals", who really love God, and are not always watching their back to see if they've offended God somehow. I hate living like that. And yet, how can it be true that God is not shocked by my actions? If I were to go out and smoke a pack of cigarettes, would God really still be on my side? I've been told that God even loves my efforts, and every fiber of my being wants to believe that, cries out for a God to serve that would really be so gentle with me...

It's difficult to write out here in the open, with my family swirling around me. I cannot open the crevasses of my soul to the light. Bah.

My friend posted this on fb. Of course, I cried watching it. It really triggered grief within me, for the loss of this father-daughter relationship in my life. (How can you miss something you never had? I guess that's the point...) Except for the last few years with R (which have been a tenuous growth process), I've never had a daddy... rather, the ones who were supposed to fill that role crushed and scalded the deepest parts of my soul, or ignored me completely.

God is supposed to be our heavenly Father. I don't know what that means, but, if it's anything like what I see in this video... then I really, really want that.
Yessir, it surely does... Back in the apartment days, getting the kids off to school. Or, later, getting C off to work, then settling in for a long day of... whatever I can find. I am determined that this day will not be an empty, soul-sucking void like the days of yore. Today will be PRODUCTIVE!!

In addition, I'm meeting the family in L-ton later today to go to Goodwill. That's always a plus. Time to take a peek at the budget and see how much I can comfortably part with.

Yet somehow... I almost wish for those uneasy days of my past... Life is so good now on the outside, but the turmoil was a true reflection of the echoing caverns within, and I hate being a fake.

But perhaps this is part of the healing process? Learning to differentiate between realities past and present. I waffle between wanting to totally collapse and just vegetate for an undefined length of time and throwing myself into something so that I can get back to the comfortable old ways of defining my worth and value by what I accomplish. This new way of doing things is scary. How do I know I'm an ok person unless I'm contributing something of worth to my church, my society, my God, my family? Bah. The day will come when I will have unraveled these mysteries of life and lovability.. but not today.

I really need to pray about working for B. I want to, but is it the right thing to do? Time will tell.
I hate brussel sprouts. That is, I did. Until my new mom, C, fixed them in a new, amazingly delicious way with breaded eggplant and rice. Mmmm.... (I think it was the eggplant that really did it for me.)

Anyway, as I was dubiously preparing the brussel sprouts (fresh from our garden!) for human consumption, I noticed that some of them looked a little moldy, so I set them to the side. When J, my new sister, came over, she informed me that it wasn't mold, just aphids. Yuck. Apparently, during a certain part of the season, the aphids pretty much leave the sprouts alone. This is not that part of the season. But you soak the sprouts in saltwater to get rid of the aphids, so it all turns out okay in the end.

So, as I am cutting brussel sprouts with the knowledge that I now have aphid-hands, I realize that these sprouts would never cut it in the grocery store. I mean, coming from the city as I do, hardly anyone grows their own food. I hadn't even really realized that apples grow on TREES until last year! (Yes, the kids books say they do, but you can't trust everything Shel Silverstein says.... or so I thought.) And, in the grocery store, the produce must be pretty near perfect to make it in the carts. Thus I began to ponder the necessity of perfection.

Our society has an obsession with perfection, and I think it stems from the fact that we don't create things ourselves anymore. We are no longer people of the earth, and our standards have suffered. My (new) family is used to eating produce that has a few ant bites in it, or is perhaps a little wilted, or, Lord forbid, aphid-infested... and that's okay. It comes from their garden, and they know that's just what happens when you grow things... only most of us don't see it.

And so we have our mass production plants, our huge farms that crank out strawberries the size of your ear, but without any taste; racks upon racks of clothing that all look exactly the same, and any defect means a discount, and... it goes on and on. Have we lost sight of the freedom that results in just being a ripe, delicious strawberry, ant nibbles and all? Factor in the relative opulence in which we live, removed from hard, manual labor, realize that we have the time to devote to the pursuit of perfection, and you have... standard America. Devotees of bigger, better, and best, hoping for some sort of "perfection osmosis"?

And so, another day comes, and I put on a mask, afraid that others will see the aphids lurking beneath my leaves, and abandon me like a slightly bruised apple. The demand for perfection has taken its toll, and I wilt. And yet... those were some mighty tasty sprouts. Maybe there's hope for me, yet.