I dream pretty vividly and pretty often. The other morning I woke up with tears running down my face. I had a beautiful dream about my grandmother, and it was so real I could have touched her, like she was right there in the room with me. My Maw-maw Rountree went home to heaven in December 2002, and I miss her dearly. Though a good bit of time has passed, I find myself thinking about her more and more, especially lately.
I was the first of many granddaughters, and we shared a special bond, although she had the gift of making each of us feel super special and loved. We lived right next door when I was really young, and I remember pushing the chair over to the corded phone that hung in our kitchen and calling Maw-maw to see if she had watermelon. Maw-maw ALWAYS had watermelon!
In fact, the majority of my memories of her evoke memories of food: pancakes made from scratch, hot biscuits and cream gravy, fresh okra and tomatoes, and of course, my favorite, her spaghetti. My grandpa was a gifted gardener and their table overflowed with organic fruits and vegetables. I think we all have baby pictures riding the tractor with Paw-paw and picking with Maw-maw. I remember her little strawberry garden on the right side of the house. We would pick, wash, and sprinkle them with a little sugar. Life was simple and savory at Mam-maw's house.
It makes sense that food is in the forefront of my memories because more than anything, she loved to feed people. With a true servant's heart, she would take our orders one-by-one. If one wanted and sandwich and the other wanted rice and gravy, it was not and issue. Like a short order cook, she would make sure we each got what our little hearts desired, and she found joy in satisfying us. You didn't go to Maw-maw's and not eat! I don't care if it was your first time there or you visited often, she would present you with option after option until you obliged. It was a great offense to leave her house without a full belly.
She had a gentle nature and was full of kindness and patience. She kept my little brother before he started school, and he was a brat. Sorry Jeff, but you know it's true. He told me he remembered getting so mad about something one time that he punched a hole right through their porch screen door (see, bratty). He says she didn't fly off the handle or yell or beat him. She sat him down and in her gentle way got to the source of the problem that caused the outburst. She had such a way with us kids, and we all wanted to please her. She made you want to be good, even if it was hard for some of us (ahem, Jeffrey).
She was not the one to go to if you wanted to vent though, especially if it was about a person that had wronged you. She never spoke negatively about anyone. Even if you had been completely victimized by evil incarnate, she would propose possible reasons why he/she behaved that way. It was completely annoying, but completely admirable. She saw the best in people when no one could or would.
Dad talks about her a lot. He recalls how forgiving she was and how turning the other cheek was almost innate for her. She had a job working in a cafeteria, and there were some ladies that were less than kind to her. He remembers that she handled them with such benevolence and grace. Though mild in nature, he tells me how powerful she was in the Lord. I think of the word "meek" to describe her. If you look that word up in the dictionary, you get something that kind of sounds like "push over", but that is not a very accurate definition, biblically speaking. Translated from the original Greek, a more accurate definition is "strength under control". If you've ever encountered a catty coworker, you know that the easy thing to do is to retaliate, to let the righteous indignation flow, and to proclaim it from the rooftops. That's easy. That wasn't what Mam-maw did. She had the guts to be kind, gentle, and forgiving. She kept control over herself in times when it was difficult to do. Meekness, not weakness.
The Bible says that the meek will inherit the earth. Maw-maw wasn't rich or famous, but then again, she kind of was. She was rich in love and spread it where ever she went. She was known by the many lives she touched with her rich compassion and charity. My cousin reminded me of her funeral the other day. The place was packed, standing room only. The director was amazed and told my uncle that the only time you will see so many people in attendance for a person as old as my grandmother is when they are very, very wealthy. She was. And she leaves my family with a great inheritance. A great legacy!
I now see how these things get passed down when I see glimmers of Mam-maw in my dad and his siblings, and on good days, even a little in myself. I think this is a very cool thing, but also scares me a little. Let me explain.
Having my own children has brought me closer to God for a few reasons. It has really helped me understand His love for me, his child, in a very tactile way. It has been a beautiful, unraveling revelation that amazes me everyday. And I pray a lot more, even if those prayers go something like, "Dear Jesus, help me not to eat my young today...". I'm kidding....kind of. Parenting is by far the most challenging, frustrating, incredible, horribly amazing, life-changing experience ever. I'm learning a few things though. I have learned that my kids will rarely do what I say, but almost always do what I do. This is where the scary comes in. There is nothing more eye-opening and frightening than seeing your 3 year-old parade about the worst aspects of your personality.
See, I can tell Jett to have patience while he is having a complete meltdown until I'm blue in the face. He's 3 though. Although he is very smart, he will not understand the meaning of the word "patience" until I show him what a patient person looks like. How confusing it must be to his little mind for me to be telling him to keep his patience over and over again, while simultaneously losing mine! While I want to leave a legacy like my grandma, if I am not careful, I will end of passing down my liabilities instead.
I recently watched a film that depicted the horrors of slavery during the Civil War. Racism literally makes me ill. I left the theater with my stomach in knots and a complete ball of emotions. I don't understand how people can dehumanize others to the point that they feel justified in acts of complete monstrosity! Where did it come from? I started looking into it. I read an article from a sociologist that basically said that racism did not breed slavery, but in fact it was the other way around. It wasn't because they hated a group of people that they enslaved them. Wealthy plantation owners needed slaves for to serve their own economic interests, so a lie was bred about an "inferior race" to make the idea of slavery more palatable. Poor, uneducated, southern, white men were conned into buying into this faulty logic and hate spread like disease.
I'd like to think we have evolved as humans, but when I look at all that is going on in the world today, I don't know. One of the most disheartening things I've seen teaching school is when a kid spews hatred for a race without even understanding what they are doing or why they are doing it. These are the cases where the liability of hatred was transferred instead of the legacy of love. And so today, we have races warring against each other still because of the wounds of a selfish lie that was instilled so long ago. So, the cycle continues. Hate breeds more hate.
So, how do we stop it? Love? Yes, that's a good start. But here is the thing. You can't give people what you don't have. That sounds simple, but I don't think we get this. Spreading love isn't just sharing a MLK quote on facebook or telling our kids halfheartedly to just love everyone. While dialogue is important, I believe my kids need to see me perform loving acts. I can't do that without really loving. I can't do that if my heart is flooded with apathy. Love is a choice, a command, not a feeling. If I don't feel love inside me for my fellow man, then I need to choose to start. I need to act in loving ways until it comes. If I have love, my actions will show it. I don't remember quotes or conversations with Maw-maw like I remember how she conducted herself and made the people around her feel. It was all in her actions.
The problem isn't white or black or blue. The problem potentially lies within each one of us, what we have inside and what we pass down. Will that be a liability or a legacy? I so wish Maw-maw could have met Jett and Cruze. I know that there would have been so much love shared there. My hope though is that they see aspects of her in me and 100 years from now that her legacy still holds strong!
This year I've had this goal: get healthy. It sounds simplistic, but sometimes the easiest things are the hardest to do! I'm applying this goal to all aspects of my life. I’ve spent money on a good therapist trying to get my mental health in tip top shape, and oh my, how that has helped! Counselling is something I have always believed in theoretically, but I just never thought I needed it. I do! You probably do too. We all could benefit from it. I think it is good to surround yourself with wise people. Proverbs says it keeps us from falling. Maybe if I would have gone before my fall, it could have been prevented. But most people really only start seeking assistance when they are lying on the ground unable to pick themselves up.
So about 9 months ago, I drug myself, skinned knees and bruised elbows, into Chuck’s office. I sat on the left side of that brown leather couch, the preferred side as evident by the uneven wearing of the cushions, and laid my issues out, one by one. The first few sessions, I talked mostly. I kept anticipating that magic moment when he would swoop in, say something profound, and make it all better. It didn’t happen like that. To be fair, it never happens like that. I think this is a common misconception of counseling, among other things. There’s not a quick fix. There’s not an easy or painless path to change. Chuck lays out questions or ideas, but I have to do the work. And I have worked by butt off, and it is starting to pay off. I’m not saying I’m there yet, but looking back over the past months, my mind feels healthier and stronger. Mental health goal, check!
So, lately I have shifted some of my attention to physical health. I have been really intrigued by reading about what the body really needs, namely nutrition. I've been reading about how deficient we are in vitamins and minerals and the vast amount of issues that can come from a single deficiency. You see, the body is an amazing machine designed to heal itself from the inside out, but it needs nutrients to function efficiently. Most of us don’t get them. Even if we eat a steady diet of vegetables and fruits and all the good stuff, they don't offer the full amounts of what we need because the soil that they are derived from is deficient itself. I watched a documentary where this lady was talking about how good soil should contain about 52 minerals, but in reality, the majority of our produce comes from soil that contains about 3 of those vital minerals.
So, we are essentially starving on a cellular level. The paradox of our culture is that we are overfed, but completely malnourished. This really bothers me. It bothers me that disease has ravaged so many people that I love. It bothers me that in our day, it is so hard to for people to give their bodies what they need to function the way they were intended to. It makes me mad that companies sell us things that are literally killing us to make money, and people are largely uneducated about what they put into their bodies. I hate that food, something that is supposed to nurture us, is killing us instead. It is depressing to me that we are so depleted and sick, and that very few are willing to acknowledge why.
So, I started researching supplements: the best vitamins, probiotics, powders, minerals, oils, etc. Then I saw something really interesting, bone broth. Ew, gross. No way, I thought. It sounded extremely disgusting, yet equally interesting. I had to know more. First of all, I must confess that I have always had an aversion to food on bones. I always thought it was kind of disturbing to rip the fleshy meat from an animal carcass with my teeth. It seemed so savage and Paleolithic (before that became a cool thing). I also think I have a problem with it because I’m highly empathetic, and I don't want to have to identify and consider the dead animal that I am consuming. Bones are hard to deny. Give me a boneless skinless chicken breast that in no way resembles the clucking bird, and that's easier for me to “digest”. It's for the same reason that I can't eat crawfish. I know this goes against my southern, Cajun roots, but I cannot eat something that still has its little eyeballs looking at me as I tear its body to pieces. I’m out. Though it’s not my first choice, I’ve come a long way with meat on bones, but crawfish, never gonna happen.
So, back to bone broth, soup from bones. They take a mixture of various bone parts and simmer them on low for at least 24 hours. What this does is draw all of the nutrients from the bones like proteins, minerals, collagen, and amino acids...all of these things that are really good for us. I read that "good" bones for broth are things like chicken feet, necks, wings, cow knuckles, and ox tails. And if you have the right proportions of these jointy bones that your broth will produce a gelatin, and that is really what you want...bone gel. Mmmmmm.
I’m sure your mouth is watering and you’re tempted to google a recipe right now, but focus. As “delicious” as it sounds, there really are a lot of surprising health benefits. It's really good for your gut. I've heard that all health begins in the gut because that is where all nutrients are absorbed and all toxins are filtered. The broth is supposed to help that absorption and seal it from leaking the bad stuff out. It also increases immunity, makes your joints stronger, makes hair and nails longer, and your skin smoother.
Although it still doesn't sound appetizing to me, I think that the concept is really cool: something so nourishing that cultivates life can come from discarded, lifeless remains, the rejects that seemingly have no useful purpose.
I love this idea. It gives me hope. There are days that I feel like that pile of bones, nonfunctional and worthless because life seems to knock the vitality right out of me. I get tired and weary and dry. And there have been times that I have just crumbled. I've looked at myself and thought what good can come from this mangle of bloody cartilage and bone. It's dead and gross, and I don't even want to touch it. But like these bone brothers, the ones that go to butchers and purchase the undesirable chicken necks and beef knuckles, Jesus purchased me in all of my brokenness. He looked at my mound of scraps and said, “I can use that”. Things that are dead and decaying and smelly and gross have purpose to him.
Jesus is the resurrection, and when you accept him you open all of the aspects of your life to his resurgence and restoration. It seems that every time I open the Bible these days, I see beauty emerging from destruction, grave sites becoming birth places, and endings transpiring into beginnings. Life from death. That theme plays out time and time again through the stories in the testaments, old and new, and throughout the story of my life. So, when I have difficult seasons, and I feel so bone dry, brittle, and like I may fracture at any moment, I think of him, the resurrection, the one who takes these old broken bones of mine and makes a broth that nourishes me back to life every time!
This is not a new thing. Way back, God told Ezekiel to prophesy to a valley full of dry bones and tell them to come alive. These people weren't recently deceased either. They had been dead a LONG time! The meaty parts had completely decayed and disintegrated, and the sun had dried them all out. Dead, dead! But Zeke obeys and declares them to live. And God starts putting them all back together, connecting bones back together. There are 206 bones in an adult body, and when I think of the tiny bones, like the ones in your ears, I think of those puzzles with thousands of pieces. People who enjoy those puzzles have always baffled me. Who has the patience or the time? I picture God up there sitting in a comfy chair, sipping hot tea, and putting the pieces together, whipping up masterpieces. No big deal.
I think about strange things sometimes, and I wonder exactly how long it took from start to finish. Minutes? Hours? Think about the complexity of the systems in the human body. It takes us like 9 months to cook up a little tiny human, and these were grown men. I always liked reading those monthly summaries about which body parts were forming in my belly while I was pregnant. It was so fascinating to me. I like to think that the bones in the valley didn’t all come together super quickly. I think Ezekiel had time to take it all in. After the bones were in place, God then covered them with muscles and tissues and tendons and vessels and skin. Take time to picture what that looked like. Can you imagine what it was like to see skeletons, then skinless muscle people, then fleshy dead ones? It’s crazy disgusting and amazing, like a mix between a zombie horror flick and an exploratory surgery documentary, bloody and gutsy! Then he sends the wind, and I imagine the sound of the collective gasp as they breathe in life…again.
There is so much grace in this story to me. To me, grace used to be just a pretty song and a beautiful idea. Oh grace, that’s nice. It was a lovely name for a girl, delicate and dainty. That was before the carnage. That was before life chewed me up and spit me out, leaving me in mangled pieces like a scene from a slaughter house with limbs flying everywhere, a total blood bath. I see grace differently now. Grace is a robust hero, rugged and tough as nails. Grace isn’t afraid of getting its hands dirty, of digging through bloody entrails like a surgeon to save a life. Nothing scares grace, makes it flinch or turn its head. Grace doesn’t get deterred by seemingly fatal situations. Grace is gory and forceful and vigorous. It pursues death like a mercenary, all grisly and blood-drenched.
Maybe this seems like an odd analogy to you. It seems wrong to you because grace is supposed to be a tender, sweet sound. Don’t get me wrong. It’s that to me too. It’s exquisite and all things lovely, but if you have ever been a corpse in a dark valley, you’ve seen the other side too and are grateful for the guts of grace. I’m thankful for that grace today. I’m thankful for bone broth grace, for remnants of death that perpetuate life.
I don’t know if you can truly appreciate good health if you have never been sick. It’s one of those things that we take for granted. These days, there is nothing more intoxicating to me than health. Wholeness and vitality. There is no substitute for it, no medication to get it. It’s all about putting the nutrients in, the things that nourish and sustain. It’s about making the best choices for our heath’s sake. And when we don’t, it’s about letting grace make up our deficiencies.
Cheers to bone broth,
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.