El albergue

El albergue

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I never considered myself a runner. In fact, you might almost say I hated running, or at least running just for running’s sake. Get me out on the court with a good tennis racket and a friend, and I could run around for hours, but running by itself? No thanks! Swimming? YES. Badminton? YES. Cycling? YES. Running? Umm… I think there’s some chores or cooking or anything else in the world I need to do…

I was used to a pretty active lifestyle though, so when I was in Spain and didn’t have access to all the sporting facilities I did at home and in college, I began to feel the need to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING requiring physical exertion. I started running with my roommate a couple times a week through the park near our apartment, generally getting in a respectable 20-30 minutes of what I called running but were more likely a slow jog. I even went to a group running activity one weekend and nearly died (at least, that’s how it felt). I kept truckin’ along, throwing in core workouts in our miniscule living room when I just couldn’t motivate myself to get on the tennis shoes and get my butt out the door.

I continued like that for a while, and then, strangely enough, it was a day of cycling that really pushed me into running. I spent five hours pedaling a trail that runs all around Madrid with two friends who were more active than me on a normal basis, and they whooped my hiney. It was the most I’d been pushed physically in ages, and the next time I went running, I all of a sudden realized, hey! I can most definitely go a little farther than I normally do! I can do this!

So I started going a little longer, getting from 30 minute runs to almost an hour as I extended my circuit through the park. Then one of my best friends invited me to do a half marathon with her the following spring. It was great having someone to train with. We checked in with each other during the week and did long runs on the weekends, exploring new parts of the city and all its parks, and chatting between pants for breath. And it was good. We finished the race. I was so proud of us.

This past Sunday, I was at the starting line again. Different race, different city, completely different continent, but I was ready to run a half marathon again. I had been taking advantage of this waiting season I have been in to train well, so I really wanted to see how much better I could do. I missed having my running buddy from last time there with me, but as I watched the sun rise from behind St. Mary’s Cathedral next to Hyde Park, I was excited to see where the route was going to take me and thankful for what a beautiful day it promised to be.

And then we were off, thousands of feet pounding the pavement together, sweaty bodies jockeying for position, everyone going at their own pace. It was great. It was one of those moments that I now love about running – when you’re running a new trail, or even just a path you haven’t run too many times before, it’s like some grand adventure. You get to see places you don’t normally go. You get to people watch and marvel at just how eccentric and varied humanity can be. You get to smile at a German Shepherd dribbling a soccer ball. You get to connect your body with the environment you’re passing through, maneuvering your feet to find the best direction and modulating your pace to match the hills.

Believe it or not, I was actually smiling most of the race. I was enjoying myself, thoroughly. I, who used to avoid running as something unsavory, was currently incredibly happy to be where I was at and doing what I was doing. And I was so excited to get to see Zach and Kali at the end and share the moment with them.

Hmm… I guess that’s it then. This must be who I am. I’ve become a runner.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Coconut Lime Bread

Today was a rug-shakin’, floor-sweepin’, dust-dabblin’ kind of day. And as I wiped, rubbed, and vacuumed my way around the apartment, listening to my audio book, I fell into one of those moods that so often seem to come in the wake of a cleaning spree… BAKING TIME!!!

I don’t know what exactly it is, there’s just something about cleaning that makes me want to get my perfectly clean kitchen all messy again and create yummy order out of impetuously unnecessary chaos. Plus, we had about seven lovely little plums on the counter that were just on the verge of becoming unseemly as well as a few crisp Granny Smiths that somehow have been constantly avoided at lunch and snack times this week in favor of the more blushing Pink Ladies in the fruit bowl.

And then I saw the cute little limes Zach and Kali got at the produce market this weekend, and my mind immediately went tropical, with plenty of toasted coconut to top it all off. Mmm…

So I looked up a few recipes online for inspiration, puttered around with the ingredients, scooping this and slicing that, and came out with something that perfumed the entire apartment with a warm tropical breeze to greet anyone who might walk through the door.

It was wonderful fresh out of the oven with a steaming mug of tea on the side, and I’ll bet you it disappears more quickly than… you name it!

For the curious, here’s the general outline of how it happened, although no exact measurements were ever made.

I started with seven plums and two apples, finely diced.
Added in the zest and juice of one lime.
Some granulated sugar (half cup?) and a goodly dollop of honey.
About a cup and a half of toasted unsweetened coconut.
Stirred in 1 egg, more or less 1/3 cup Greek yogurt and ¼ cup olive oil.
Maybe 2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 teaspoons of baking powder plus ½ teaspoon or so of salt.
Then ¼ cup oat bran as well as about ¾ cup oats.
A final cup or so of flour, and it was right away into the oven in two loaf pans.
It baked at 350 for around about an hour, and then got piled up with this lovely topping:
About a cup and a half toasted unsweetened coconut, a cup of powdered sugar, the zest and juice of one lime, and 2 Tablespoons cream.

I popped the two mounded pans back in the oven for another ten minutes, and then served it up nearly straight from the oven in nice, thick slices because no one wants a dinky piece it was so crumbly smaller pieces would automatically have ended up as ignominious piles of crumbs.

Oh yes… and there’s still some left for breakfast! Score!

Monday, May 5, 2014

On waiting

Here I find myself, waiting again. It’s interesting, isn’t it? When going into a period of transition, change, etc, I always tend to focus on all the grand possibilities stretching out before me, like a mountain of fruit I can just reach out and pick from. As though I was the farmer and could actually make the decisions. Hah!

It’s true enough that at times the onus of decision-making really does rest entirely with me, but by that time the large medley of delicious fruits has been whittled away to more of a saucer with a couple plums singly rolling around on it. And then there are the times like right now, when I have been furrowing rows, planting seeds, and watching little shoots begin to grow. The only thing is, it’s not my farm, and I’m not the one who gets to decide which plants I get to pick from, much less when it’s time to harvest.

The nice thing about all this waiting time though, is that it has given me the chance to think, reflect, and realize. First thing I realized was that “Be still and know that I am God” was kind of playing out across my days without me even seeing it. How better to be still than to not have a job? To know that God is there than to trust him with every step of an ongoing and seemingly fruitless job search?

The second thing I realized was that this time of waiting has not in fact been fruitless. I’ve seen that every moment of our lives plays a part in forming who we are and what the rest of our existence is going to look like, even times like this when we are forced into waiting. I’ve seen that this time of stillness has been teaching me a lot – humility, generosity, hospitality, and trust, among other things – both through experience and the example of people like my brother and his wife.  And I’ve seen how ideas and dreams inside me have grown and developed in ways I never imagined. Who knows which of them will eventually come to fruition and to what degree, but hey, at least they’ve had time and space to flourish.

So whether or not a smorgasbord of bright and shining opportunities comes my way soon, I know I’ve already pocketed a few cherries, fruit I doubt I would have had time to find if I had not been here waiting.