Happy Sunday, friends! If you’re only here for the Chickpea Tomato Dip, please hit the jump to recipe button above. Otherwise, stick around to see what kind of “random” thinking I’ve been up to this past week…
Meet Maddie; I’ve known this adorable face since the day she was born. My sister was pregnant with her at the same time that I was pregnant with Jordan, and the girls were inseparable for many years. I can’t lie–all too often their camaraderie caused problems that required regular not-on-my-watch interventions. The two were particularly fond of re-establishing their own private “gang” (membership always holding steady at two) every time they were reunited. Because really, could it even have been considered a good play date if they didn’t spend at least fifty (seventy-five?) percent of the time lording over and harassing their siblings/cousins? The bodies may have been small, but the attitudes were much, much larger than life.
And then the girls did the inevitable and…grew up. For quite a few years their lives moved in very different directions, and we saw less and less of Maddie. New friendships replaced the spot that theirs had once held, boyfriends came and went, and they were busy figuring out who they were, who they wanted to be, and how they wanted to deal with their lives and the world around them. It didn’t bother me; it seemed like pretty typical growing-up behavior, but I always wondered if one day she would wander back into our little world.
And then last year, she did. All of a sudden she was back at our table, sharing our food, chatting about loves (and loves lost), and laughing about the same old nonsense that has always struck us as hilarious. And you know what I realized as one after another of our lunches turned into several hour affairs? She is still one of my most favorite humans. Ever.
Sure, it has a little something to do with the fact that she’s funny and vibrant and thoughtful (and always smells like incense). And maybe it has a little bit more to do with how she’ll sometimes breeze in the door with wide eyes and a tantalizing, Do I have a story for you! It probably has something to do with the fact that she inhales everything I cook her, and then always goes back for more. And it definitely has much to do with how she seeks us out, just to hear what we’ve been up to. But the thing that makes her most endearing to me, to all of us actually, is how she completely embraces our small adventures and our chosen paths, no matter how wacky they may seem.
Me: So…I decided to write this book.
Maddie: Excellent. Can I read it? (and then proceeded to–twelve hundred times)
Me: So…we have a guru now.
Maddie: That’s cool. What do you pray about?
Me: So…I’m learning to read the Tarot.
Maddie: Awesome. Can you read my cards?
Me: So…I’m moving to the jungle, living in a tree house, befriending the chimps, and surviving on figs and mangoes.
Maddie: Great. Can I visit?
And sure, she might forget to pack something important (like her glasses), but she’d come armed with a crystal for every occasion. And in the end, that’s way more important. I think…
Keeps Coming Back
I imagine that most anyone who’s forged their own way and prefers the road less traveled learns something important as they journey along: It’s really, really rare to find people who will simply accept you as you. Those rare relationships that stand without judgments or criticism, without silent walls or disapproving frowns. Those friends that allow you the freedom to say odd things, behave in odd ways, and do whatever it is that makes your heart sing.
Turns out, Maddie is one of those rare people. And truth be told, she knows things about our eccentric family unit that no one else does. Literally no one. And yet…she still keeps coming back.
So a couple of weeks ago when I got the text that Maddie had needed emergency surgery, it was immediately sobering. No. Not our Maddie. And then when she ended up back in the hospital a day later, things got a little more serious. And then a third trip, this time much more critical and requiring yet another procedure, and I had to spend some time wondering if my little dreadlock queen was planning on leaving us so soon.
Sure, she’s only twenty-one years old and seems to be in great health, but really, that means nothing. We like to fool ourselves (especially the young) into thinking that these bodies are invincible and that we have so much time. A whole lifetime of time. But the reality is I don’t know if I’ll be alive next week to publish this post. And I realized that if I had to say goodbye to this sweet girl, while utterly heartbreaking, there would still be this unbelievable feeling of peace.
Peace? Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but if my niece’s journey was ending I would be comforted by this one hugely important thing: Maddie knows just how much I love her. And that one very small (very enormous) thing means that there’s nothing unfinished between us. I could be at peace because while our journey would have been a tragically short one, it would have been a powerful one. I mean, a relationship that includes love, trust, freedom, acceptance, and laughter is a pretty special thing to find. At any age.
So obviously, I spent way too much time thinking about this (although it did birth a blog post, so…) because not every relationship in my life is quite so balanced. In fact, one of the most important relationships in my world has been completely fractured for a couple of years now. And as the months passed, I had to come to grips with the fact that the problems between us lie well beyond my control to fix right now. It’s hard, and it’s also something that makes me sad almost every day.
Bearing that in mind, how would I feel if this person’s journey was drawing to a close? Would I be able to find that same peace, or would my life be riddled with regret? Unlike the relationship with my niece, this other relationship lacks trust, freedom, and acceptance. It also lacks kindness, understanding, and maturity. (Really, it lacks everything right now.) But interestingly, while I would mourn the loss (mostly of the possibility of healing), I could still be at peace. Why? Because of what I choose to give.
Prayer After Prayer
In the face of anger and cruelty and judgment, I somehow muster my self-control, stay silent…and give love. And really, it’s not (usually) as hard as you might think. The memories of what we’ve been for forty-plus years helps to keep me open while at the same time giving me the hope that somehow, someday, God can fix this. It gives me the endurance to shoot up prayer after prayer. It gives me the patience to ride out this storm. And while silence might not seem to be fixing anything at the moment, I remember that she can’t give pain without being in pain. And who would want to make a pain that great even worse?
It helps to know that I didn’t cause the situation (nor can I fix the situation), but what I can do is behave in a way that isn’t a breeding ground for regret. Regret which always reminds me of a slow and deadly poison. For much of my life (excluding some of those arrogant younger years), I’ve been able to take the broad view when making a decision. What are the consequences? Where will this likely lead me? Is it probable that I’ll regret this five years down the line? Five minutes down the line?
So while I might want to offer hurt for hurt, my further-down-the-road view tells me to keep quiet; it tells me to not make an already bad situation worse. And while I don’t know if either of us will live long enough to ride out this unexpected storm, I still feel like I’ve done the best I could with what I had. In the end, can we really do more than that? And when I give love, I’m left with peace. Peace in the wake of the beautiful relationships (Maddie), and peace in the wake of the not-so-beautiful relationships. Regardless of the outcome.
I’m relieved to share that my incredible, crystal-bearing niece is on the road to recovery; gratefully, her journey isn’t over yet. But the scare she gave us all was a very good lesson. She reminded me not to buy into the illusion that endless days lie ahead. She reminded me not to wait until tomorrow for discussions that need to take place today (or more likely, yesterday). Walking through the hospital halls reminded me to swallow my pride and behave in a way that God would approve of. That I would approve of. Watching her sleep reminded me to live kindly so as not to leave behind an ocean of regret.
If I can make a difference (no matter how small)? Do it.
If I’ve hurt someone? Apologize.
If I’ve been hurt? Forgive.
If I love someone? Tell them. Already have? Tell them again.
Because whether you’re twenty-one or ninety-one, you never know when the journey will end. And who has even a second to waste on regret? Thanks for the lesson, Maddie, but I’ve got your cards to read, so let’s not end this adventure quite yet…
And if you’ve stopped by for some Chickpea Tomato Dip, here we are (finally). You can find the recipe below or also in my cookbook, Compassion Tastes Better. It’s easy, it’s light, it’s tasty–as a snack or as a meal. Also the perfect addition to all of those summer picnics!
- 4 cups cooked chickpeas
- 4 large tomatoes (halved)
- 1 onion (diced)
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 4 teaspoons dried basil
- 1¼ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon sea salt
- dash cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 350°
1. In a large skillet, sauté the onion in 1 tablespoons of oil until soft and golden. Set aside.
2. Place the halved tomatoes (cut side down) and 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil in a casserole dish. Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.
3. Once the tomatoes have cooked and cooled, place all of the ingredients (except for the onions) in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Stir in the onions. Chill.
⅛ of a teaspoon SweetLeaf stevia may be used in place of the maple syrup
Wishing you all a very happy week. Xoxo
Love & Blessings ~ Melinda