Eating Local, in Season…and with Grace

The other day, my mom brought us a bag of frozen blueberries, because she knew our boys like to have them as a snack, and we were out of blueberries. While I appreciated the gesture, I hesitated. Why?! Why, you might ask, would you hesitate, when your kids’ nana brings them a HEALTHY snack (as opposed to sending them home hyped up on sugar, like many loving nanas are wont to do)?

Well, I hesitated, because blueberries are one of those things that I try to hold a little bit sacred as a food that we eat in season, or until our local, u-pick batch runs out from the previous summer. If the boys didn’t want to stay in the field long enough to get enough berries to last through the entire year in the freezer, tough luck. No more blueberries until June.

Have you ever tasted a sun-warmed Oregon blueberry, fresh off the blueberry bush? Sweet and tangy, warm and luscious: just the right amount of squish and substance.

blueberries
Picking blueberries when my now-10-year-old was about a year-and-a-half young. (Look at those cheeks!!!)

Truth be told, my boys generally don’t want to spend any more time in the field because they have eaten so many that they have nearly made themselves sick. We’re working on that…one year at a time.

At any rate, all year long, blueberries remind us of the summer, of seasonality, of waiting and longing and hope. They remind us that sometimes, we go without—something we as Americans are not used to practicing often or for extended periods of time.

Well, we ran out of blueberries recently, and only made it about half way until the next blueberry season.

“Mom, why can’t we just buy more at the store?” asked my 10-year-old.

“Well, because it reminds us to eat things that grow here, when they’re growing, or to think ahead and plan well enough that we have what we need for the whole year,” I replied.

But, my mom took pity on the boys, and got us some Costco blueberries, and I hesitated, but then I said, “Sure.” Because there’s idealism, and then there’s legalism. There are best intentions in teaching lessons through life experiences, but there also needs to be grace for the times we fail to live up to our own (or other people’s) standards.

Anyway, what do we replace the bedtime snack with when we run out of blueberries? Graham crackers! And who knows what is in Graham crackers or where the ingredients are grown or the product is manufactured? Not me!

Lessons I’m learning from this, and you’re welcome to join me:

1) Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in one cherished rule or standard (even one set by oneself) that following it has consequences that are the opposite of what your rule or standard intends.

2) Pick more blueberries.

3) Looking back at the last several years to note and celebrate my family’s progress on eating more seasonally and food from our region:

  • 4 years ago, I made the commitment to eat one thing each day that I had grown or acquired locally, and did so almost every day of the year.
  • 3 years ago, I decided to try for at least one thing a meal that I grew or acquired locally, and did this for a majority of meals that year.
  • During this time, I also learned to can and preserve new things, which continues our ability to eat locally or personally-grown food throughout the year.
  • Last year, a friend started the Newberg Dundee Food Buying Club, and a network of folks in our town are able to access food grown by farmers in our region, much of it organic/grass fed/cage free, at relatively reasonable prices because we purchase it together. As this network grows, we’re able to get more and more of our food locally and affordably!

4) Giving myself and others grace when we fail, and celebrating the successes. Baby steps, y’all! We can’t change everything all at once, but we can change SOMEthing. As Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Quaker Vulnerability

Today, I’m thinking about the incredible amount of vulnerability required in Quaker business process. It’s vulnerable in that we each have to be willing to show up, do our best work of listening, hold out our piece or angle on the truth with the fiercest, most solid conviction we know how, and let it go, trusting one another and the Spirit to sift and sort and aim us toward the best direction we collectively know how to find.

It’s also vulnerable to authoritarian intrusion, and this is what has, sadly, occurred of late in Northwest Yearly Meeting, the group of Friends I have belonged to since birth.

Because our polity and decision-making is based on the process of consensus, we must trust one another to bring everything to the table and truly listen to the Spirit, rather than making backroom deals or pushing one’s own agenda to the exclusion of listening together. The ideal Quaker process works in such a way that, although we each share our own conviction and sense of leading, we listen for the Spirit’s guidance. We let go of our own understanding, our own need to be right, our own fears, and we submit to the will of the Spirit: the one who enlivens the scriptures and who we will recognize by the embodiment of Love.

Instead, of late, our yearly meeting became divided and untrusting. People chose “sides,” did not trust others, and worked through political strategy rather than through a sense of leading to get “our” people on boards and in positions of leadership, rather than “their” people.

In the culmination of this dysfunctional behavior, the “leadership” laid down an ultimatum: the yearly meeting “restructures” (read: kicks out the four meetings who have minuted LGBTQ welcoming and affirming stances), or everyone at the representatives meeting last month had to come to consensus around another option. The rationale was that, since the four meetings were acting in ways contrary to our Faith & Practice, they can and should be removed from the body. (The irony, of course, is that the authoritarian action taken by the Administrative Committee to force this decision is so far outside of Faith & Practice’s policy as to be laughable.)

I don’t want this post to be about that split so much as about vulnerability, however.

I recognize now, more than ever, the extreme vulnerability of the polity we espouse as Friends, and it is incredibly painful that people could come in and use the good faith and trust of others in the yearly meeting to push through their own agenda. It is so difficult, now, to even imagine trusting others, and in some ways I would like to just give up trusting people altogether. It would be much easier to just become cynical, and to attempt to use political means to manipulate my way in the future.

Much more difficult, however, is remaining vulnerable and open, trusting and hoping, and remaining open to the radical and intense freedom and joy of coming together as a group of Friends to discern together, fully and wholly, unreservedly, bringing our whole selves.

I say it is more difficult, but to me, it is also the only Way worth living. I do not want to become cold and shriveled, protecting and controlling. Instead, I choose life, I choose joy, I choose trust and vulnerability: I choose Love.

It may not be the way of most power and prestige. It may be a difficult Way. But it is the Way of Christ for any who choose to follow it.

It is a Way that includes boundaries: while I choose to be radically open and vulnerable in settings of Quaker worship through business, I choose to set a firm boundary regarding an abusive and authoritarian structure that no longer resembles anything close to the Law of Love. While I can love the people who did this, and desire what’s best for them as they continue their journey, I set a strong boundary with a firm, No. This is unhealthy behavior and I will not participate in it; I will not tolerate it. I will remove myself from this unhealthy relationship. I will go to the margins, where others have been sent, and I will find Christ there, amongst those cast out by the “church” based on a dead reading of words on a page, rather than a willingness to courageously engage in a dynamic reading led by the Living Word. I will live out love. There is no other Way I would wish to go.

This is the path of strength through vulnerability, and I think I have never understood the verse, “my power is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor 12:9) before this and other similar experiences bestowed upon me by NWYM. It’s a path of courage, of taking heart, of opening and opening again to the Light, filled with grace and truth. It’s a willingness to trust myself and the Light of Christ I know and connect with inside, connecting with that Light in others, and being guided by it.

May the Spirit guide your path, as you choose the strength of vulnerability today and always.

May the breath of the Spirit enliven you, wake up the Society of Friends, and draw us toward a new intensity and conviction of justice through love in these difficult times.