Church and Comfort Food

10 07 2016

It’s a brutal time for my hometown, Baton Rouge, and the nation. I have felt shock, anger, fear and hopelessness. I don’t profess to have answers for all the problems of today. It’s been hard for me to find hope, but I felt it Sunday. I felt that glimmer of hope—of future possibility—in places that have been a part of my Sundays my whole life. I found hope in church and at Piccadilly.

Piccadilly

When I was a little girl, I did what many white families did after attending their Sunday service, we went to Piccadilly. Piccadilly is a Baton Rouge born cafeteria that specializes in southern-style, comfort food. As a child I was allowed to pick whatever I wanted; fried chicken, greens, deviled eggs, fried okra, cornbread and a slice of pecan pie. I learned the phrase, “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” from a Piccadilly meal. Families would go in their Sunday-go-to meeting’ clothes and white gloved, black waiters would carry our trays to our table, while a black man played the piano.

As an adult, I have learned how lucky I was to be raised in white privilege.

After the horrific week that my city experienced I had a desperate need for comfort. My sweetie was raised Catholic, but I can bribe him to come with me to my church if I tell him we’re going to Piccadilly afterwards.

This Sunday may sound the same as the segregated southern town I grew up in, but a time traveler from 1966 who landed in 2016 would not recognize it. I drifted away from the Southern Baptist church I was raised in during my college years. As I got older, the answers it offered to life’s difficult questions, no longer made sense to me. I found the Unitarian Church when I was expecting my biracial daughter. Her father is Chinese and Buddhist and many of her cousins are Muslim. It was important to me to find a faith community that was not going to tell her that her father and family were going to Hell because they weren’t “saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, amen.”

What I didn’t know when I joined 26 years ago, was the church’s history of social activism. The Baton Rouge church began in the turbulent 60’s when bus boycotts and downtown riots were happening. It was always a church where blacks and whites could worship and strive toward justice together. This was an idea that was so threatening to some that in the 60’s the church was visited by the KKK and told to stop. But the church didn’t stop and we still come together to strive for a more just world more than 50 years later.

This is the church I attended Sunday to be uplifted. It’s my place to grieve the past week in sacred community. It’s a place to support the protestors and the cops. It’s a place where we try to envision a more just community. It’s a different kind of church than the one in which I was raised.

greens

After my spirit was comforted, I got my southern comfort food fix. I deluded myself into thinking I was eating healthy because I was just eating vegetables—cooked in butter and bacon—and I didn’t get that slice of pecan pie. We were in our Sunday best and I realized with a sip of sweet tea that Baton Rouge has changed since my childhood. As I savored the meal I realized the staff and patrons were a diverse group. Black and White and Hispanic and Asian working and eating side by side. We carry our own trays now and we break bread together too. This simple thing, a diverse gathering of people eating and working together would have been impossible to imagine 50 years ago. I do, however, miss the piano.

I’ve heard over and over this week that things are worse than ever. But I realized at church and at Piccadilly that they are not. What has changed is technology. Because of videos, smart phones and social media, we are now seeing for the first time what has been happening all along. Many still delude themselves and want to blame the victim. It’s hard to change what you believe to be true.

I’m a bit of a Pollyanna, but I’m not naïve. I feel a glimmer of hope. We have moved forward. It’s a slow, painful and often brutal journey. As my minister said, I believe in a God that moves us towards justice. I have to believe that love and peace and justice will win the day.

 

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Embrace the Flaw

5 07 2016

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese concept that embraces transience and imperfection.

The Shakers are known for their simple, classic furniture style. They believed that one should not aspire to the perfection of God. In their simple woodcraft they include a flaw, thereby keeping the work as humble as their faith.

The Navajos weave an imperfection into their blankets. It is their belief that the “flaw” makes the blanket more beautiful.

Yet our society tells us to strive for perfection, that anything less is failure. Striving for perfection, however, can sometimes paralyze us. Things rarely go as we plan them. I say embrace your creative flaws. Understand them and own them. Exercise your creative muscle. It’s how we respond to the twists and turns of life that gives our life it’s quality. It’s our creative muscle that can lift us up during turbulent times. That same muscle can help us, even power us through creative blocks.

It’s important to know and understand your own unique creative process. Understanding your process means you can consciously change it up. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, “Big Magic”, she writes of getting dressed up for your creativity as you would for a lover. Change it up, get out of your bathrobe, let yourself feel your beauty and take your creativity into your arms like a lover.

Embrace the Flaw
Children are naturally creative. They haven’t learned the woulds and shoulds of striving for perfection. They live life with simple creative joy. One of the favorite projects from my daughter’s childhood was her taking advantage of a “broken” project. She was making a plaster of her handprint when the caste broke in half. Instead of seeing it as a broken hand, she turned it into a face. Of the many art projects from her youth, it is one that I kept and is still on display.

Jade hand face

Exercising the Creative Muscle

Before mirror

Mardi grasI saw a cracked mirror on the side of the road in a trash pile on the way to work. As I drove past it I thought that it would look great in my garden. I have a long weathered fence that dominates the small garden and the mirror was very large. It had a gold ornate frame. It looked like it could have been in a House of Ill Repute. Gaudy and shiny things draw me in and amuse me. It’s like catching worthless beads at Mardi Gras, I don’t want one single strand, I want to wear a hundred strands of colorful beads, only during the parade. It’s transient and imperfect. It’s not classic and timeless. I know this about myself and embrace it.

I drove two blocks past the cracked mirror and turned around and went back to get it. It was dirty and weathered and so big it barely fit into my car. My creative wheels started turning. Before long I knew I wanted to embrace the crack, the obvious flaw. I bounced ideas around with a friend. By the time I got the mirror home after my workday, I knew I would etch a vine along the crack. Since it was going outside I needed to put caulk on the edge where backing meets the frame and to put waterproof paint on the back.

After mirror

So with the help of my sweetie, it’s now hanging in our garden. It’s my interpretation of wabi-sabi. Perfectly imperfect. I know it’s transient—it’s living in the hot, humid Louisiana weather. I don’t know if I’ll have it for a season or for years. But for the present, it hangs outside my bedroom window and expands my small sliver of a garden. It gives me joy every time I look at it.

Night mirror

Embrace the New Direction
Embrace your imperfections, your flaws, your creative blocks. Ray Strother said in a Creative Hero blog post, “Creativity is the spark of God.” When your project or your life turns in an unexpected direction, embrace the change. Know there is divine inspiration when the creative spirit takes you in a new direction.

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