Azalea after the snow

(Unconventional Haiku)

 

Hearty azalea pressed

against late frost doors

to enter God’s spring

 

IMG_2275 (1)

 

Advertisements

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

I’m fortunate enough to have an old group of girlfriends with which to travel from time to time. As a group, we’ve taken several “girls weekends” together. We’re all scattered across North Carolina so the trips have generally been around the south for close proximity: Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Topsail Island, Beaufort, Williamsburg and more. I’ve known these ladies for years. For me, the relationships date back to college or shortly after; for a few of them they date back even further. We’ve even named our group: SWAGs. It stands for Southern Women Aging Gracefully. I’m not sure who came up with it. It wasn’t me. Truthfully, it took a while for me to really embrace the name, mostly because I didn’t feel old. Now, in my forties, I’ve finally started to grow into it.

 

It’s often a challenge to schedule our weekends. There are seven of us with busy and differing schedules. A couple of the ladies are single. The rest are married with children. A few work full or part-time jobs. Others are stay-at-home moms or have gone back to school. And not every SWAG can make it on every trip, but we’ve had some good ones throughout the years. I was terribly excited the year we went to Savannah. We rented a beach house on Tybee Island, 30 minutes from Savannah, and spent part of our time relaxing on the beach. We also spent some time in downtown Savannah. We strolled the streets, visited the shops, and ate lunch (shrimp and grits for me). We toured cemeteries and even took a haunted carriage ride as it became dark later in the day. I loved Savannah. It was eclectic, dripping with history, but also populated with young artsy hipsters.

IMG_2256

FullSizeRender (50)

We encountered the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist during our exploration of downtown Savannah. St. John’s, a Victorian Gothic cathedral, is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Georgia. It was founded by French Catholic emigres from Haiti in the 1700’s.  The original building suffered a fire in 1898, but was rebuilt in 1900. It was larger than life in every sense of the word. In order to find the cathedral we followed the steeples from a distance, and once we entered the church, it did not disappoint. From the stained-glass windows to the ornate altar to the images of the crucifixion displayed around the church, it was one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever visited.

Below are some more of the photos I took of the Cathedral.

You can see additional pictures at the link above.

IMG_2251

Have a great Saturday, all!

 

Chapel of the Holy Cross

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is perched atop and built into a redrock cliff. Located in  Sedona, Arizona, it is a marvel of architecture. The chapel was commissioned by Marguerite Brunswig Staude who was a local sculptor, and was completed in 1956.

FullSizeRender (40)

I visited the chapel in 2009. It was my first and only trip to Arizona, although I hope to visit again. I am a beach girl by heart, but I must admit that my soul was enamored and awestruck by the beauty of the redrocks. What a wonder!

Below are some of my pictures of the chapel and the surrounding area of Sedona.

These pictures were taken inside the chapel.

And these were taken outside. What a magnificent view!

 

Daily Prompt-Record

So much of my time is spent recording. I’m a setter or goals. I’m a maker of lists. I record my progress through lists to keep myself tethered to the goals because if I don’t, I’ll forget what they  are…because I have so many.

 

I belong to a book club. I’ve set a reading goal for myself for the year. Everytime I finish a book, I update my progress so I can keep track of what I’ve already read. Then I think of three more books to read, and I write those down. In a perfect, organized would, I would focus on one book at a time, but generally I’m focused on a few at once. I read one. I listen to another. Then there are books that I’ll read over a period of time.

 

I have fitness and dietary goals which I may or may not consistently pursue. I have an app for running and a calorie counter in addition to another app that keeps track of my steps. I use them sporadically. Sometimes, I go through phases where I want to keep track of my calories so I plug in the data for my meals. Other times, I just want to keep track of my steps so I look at my pedometer. When I used to run, which has been a while, I kept track of my pace which is where the running app comes in. I have my running app, my pedometer and my calorie counter all synced so if I do happen to keep track of my food, the calories that I burn exercising will automatically be deducted from my daily caloric intake. Hopefully, I’ll never have to go on the lam. If “the man” ever to wants to find me, he will not only be able to track my location but also the pace at which I’ll be running!  

 

At work, I keep a spreadsheet of all of my daily tasks. I have them split up by tabs and color coded to indicate my progress.

 

I have a house with a yard, and many many overwhelming projects for my home. I recently downloaded another app that, get this, keeps all of my lists in one place. My grocery list, my home projects, groups I belong to, Health and Wellness, writing projects, etc.

 

This listing of lists is all very exhausting, in a way, but I know that if I don’t exert some effort to record my thoughts, they will pile up and after a while, I will use up my memory and some of them will disappear from my head. I call this a data dump. If you have an idea or goal then completely forget it, that thought was included in the data dump. It’s like your brain decided that it just wasn’t important enough to hold on to so it gets archived. Maybe it’s gone forever, maybe not. It might be on some elusive server in the recesses of your mind, but who knows if you will ever be able to retrieve it in a way that makes sense or if it will just come out in some crazy dream..which might create a good idea for writing…and so it would go on a list. Would that be recycling?

 

Don’t get me started on sticky notes…   

  

 

Iglesia de Santo Tomás

Iglesia de Santo Tomas is located in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. I visited the church in 2010 while on a short-term mission trip with a team from the church that I was attending at the time. The goal of my team was to help build houses for widows and orphans and to work in feeding centers following an intense period of civil war in Guatemala. Our house was blocks from Santo Tomas.

 

IMG_2203

I found the opportunity to explore the church late one afternoon with a few people from my team. I believe it was a Sunday after the market closed. Chichicastenango is also host to one of the largest, most colorful outdoor markets in Central America. It occurs on Thursdays and Sundays.

One of the girls on my team stopped me as I started to walk out the door. She frowned and asked if I really wanted to go to  Santo Tomas. She said that someone else on our team had already visited the church and told her that it was “dark” and had kind of an eerie feel to it. I said that I would be mindful of that, but I really wanted to see the church. I remembered researching Chichi before I ever visited Guatemala and I had seen pictures of Santo Tomas. There was no way I was not going to seize the opportunity to explore the site.

IMG_2209

People and flowers from the market lingered on the steps of Santo Tomas as we approached. My research had taught me that it was a Catholic church that doubled as a Mayan temple of sorts, as Mayan priests also used the church for their rituals, burning candles and incense and sometimes sacrificing chickens at the church. There was a time when human sacrifices were conducted there, too, but thank goodness, that is no more. There were 18 steps that led to the doors of the church, each one representing a year on the Mayan calendar. The church was enormous, impressive and rather surreal.

IMG_2201

 

We entered the church and it was, in fact, dark that afternoon. Literally. The lighting was very dim. Candles were scattered throughout the building. Almost immediately, I noticed an older man sitting on the floor surrounded by candles. He was chanting in a language that I did not understand, probably K’iche’. I moved past him toward the sanctuary. A few people sat and prayed in church pews, just like you would see in any Catholic church. It was an interesting juxtaposition to see the two religions being practiced within feet of one another.

As I wandered about the sanctuary, I saw a mixture of sights. In some areas, there were large stains of soot from candles on the wall. It was as if the candles had been burning in the temple for the entire 400 years since it had been built, and nobody had ever offered to wipe down the walls. Of course, that’s an exaggeration and even if it wasn’t, in a country where people are starving, wiping the soot off the walls is the least of anyone’s concerns.

In the front of the church, there were ornate paintings and statues paying tribute to Christ and his followers. Some of them were strikingly beautiful, others not as much. One display, in particular, a gruesome bloody bust of a head, caught my eye. I assumed it was John the Baptist at the time, but it could have been a bust of Christ. We meandered out into a courtyard, which was filled with light and greenery, then proceeded to the front door where we were approached by men begging for money. I’m not sure if they were affiliated with the church or if they wandered in off of the street.

As we walked back to our house, I could see why someone from my church would have found Santo Tomas disconcerting. Our church near the beach was clean with huge windows and lots of light. People went to church in their flipflops, got a coffee from a cafe located inside the church then sat to chit chat with friends as they waited for the service. Services always began with Christian rock songs and sermons were delivered by a cute, good-natured, good-humored preacher. It was a church that delivered positivity. Many of the people who visited Santo Tomas were hungry, desperate and praying to any God that they knew of to ease their suffering. The suffering from the streets bled into the church. This was difficult to reconcile if you felt that churches were supposed to be safe havens to which people retreated to avoid suffering. It was a sharp contrast between two worlds.

I think it’s important to say that even though I saw a lot of suffering in Guatemala, I also saw a lot of resilience and beauty. I went there twice, once in 2010 then again in 2011, and I experienced moments there that were among the most profound and beautiful in my life. I still feel pangs of longing for Guatemala sometimes.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of one of my trips to Guatemala.

IMG_2204

IMG_2206

Corn-it’s very central to the Mayan religion.

 

 

IMG_2207

Beautiful babies peeking at us through the trees.

A tourist day to see the volcano and Lake Atitlan.

Eating (drinking) up the stash

So today, which is almost yesterday (it’s 11:56 pm), I cleaned out my cooler to prepare for my delivery from The Produce Box. I mentioned previously that I subscribe to a service called The Produce Box which delivers fresh local produce to my door every Thursday. This morning, while wiping down my cooler, I decided to take inventory of what I already had. When I did, I realized that I still had quite a bit of produce left over from the delivery last week. I needed to eat it so that it would not go bad and before I received another full box. This led me to look into some creative ways to use the old produce before digging into the new batch. Fortunately, until Easter, I am eating a strong vegetarian diet supplemented by fish and eggs so if I have to eat a lot of veggies to clean out my refrigerator, this is the season to do it.

 

One of the best ways to consume large quantities of fruits and veggies is to make smoothies. I love smoothies and have found that you can dump a large variety of items into a blender and still create a yummy smoothie. Today, I created a smoothie, which I actually named, using some items in my refrigerator that desperately needed to be eaten.  I figured I would share it with you. Here it is:

 

Wendy’s Mint Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Blend:

Chocolate almond milk (about a cup…or so 🙂

5 strawberries (that’s how many were still good)

A banana

About 5 little mint leaves

A few leaves of collards

Ice cubes

 

It was delicious. I looked up the ingredients on My Fitness Pal and found that my little concoction is about 250 calories, has no cholesterol and is packed with vitamin C.

 

I still have quite a bit of mint left over. I definitely do not want that to go bad so I started looking for creative ways to use my mint. I found that I can dry it in the oven and use it for teas and also for, get this, insect repellent. Apparently, ants and flies do not like mint. So tomorrow, I will pull out the freshest mint leaves and make some mint water with them. Then I think I’m going to dry the leaves that look to be in peril, use some of them for tea and sprinkle the rest around as a repellent. Why not? Below are some links that offer creative ways to use mint in case anyone is interested. And below that is a picture of my delicious smoothie.

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/21-ways-to-use-mint/

http://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/10-amazing-things-you-can-do-with-mint/

FullSizeRender (39)

 

Well, it’s Friday now so Happy Friday y’all! I hope to post on my 2nd of seven churches this weekend.