Meeting the Pioneer Woman

I came across The Pioneer Woman while I was in college. A few of my sorority sisters were obsessed with her, and I quickly learned why. “An accidental country girl,” the famous blogger was charming, humorously self-deprecating, humble, and honest in her writing, recipes, and photography. When she got her own Food Network show in 2011, I quickly became a regular watcher. She once spoke to my soul while making a pie crust on the show; it came out less than perfect and she said, “It’s not ugly. It’s just rustic. That’s what I always say if something’s not perfect. Now it’s rustic!” Oh Ree, this rustic girl sure needed to hear that!

I bought her book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime a few years ago. I admit rather shamefully I’ve never really used it. It sits in a place of privilege on my piano because it’s just so pretty.

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Last week, her new children’s book, Little Ree, came out. Of course I wanted a copy for my daughter. I was at Parnassus Books with Scarlett a few weeks ago for Saturday story time, and I learned The Pioneer Woman herself, Ree Drummond, would be coming for a book signing! I was so thrilled because as anyone who watches Ree on Food Network or reads any of her stuff will know, she seems like the best friend you don’t have yet. She is my imaginary best friend. I just knew she would meet me and quickly invite me and Scarlett to the ranch to come and play with the cows, chow down on some cowboy grub, and then bring a potluck dish to church Sunday morning.

Anyway, fantasies aside, the evening of the book signing came, and my little heart just pitter-pattered all day. When Scarlett and I arrived a full hour early, the place wasn’t yet overly crowded. But as women and children began trickling in, all hoping for a photo with the star, it soon became somewhat suffocating. But your favorite introvert toughed it out. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to have dreams meet reality for a split second just because of an anxiety-inducing crowd. Be proud of me.

When I finally got to the front of the line, and the beautiful divine creature stood before me, I suddenly became so nervous. She’s so much taller than I thought she’d be! And we’re wearing almost the same shirt! And Scarlett is pitching a fit! And oh my gosh, where’s my camera, is it ready? I was fan-girling so hard. And here are the results.

 

Have you ever seen such a cheesy grin? I want so share our 15 seconds of conversation so it will be forever printed in my memory.

Me: Hi Ree! (desperately trying to contain squeals.)
PW: Hello, let’s get a picture real quick.
Parnassus staffer: Um, Ree, over here.
PW: Oh, sorry, I was busy looking at the baby!
Me: She has that effect. This is Scarlett.
PW: Oh, beautiful, like Gone with the Wind?
Me: Smiling and nodding like a moron.
PW: So is that why you named her that? From the movie?
Me: Oh. No, I don’t really know. I was so drugged up when she came out, my husband just said, “She looks like a Scarlett,” and I said, “Okay.”
PW: Oh my! Well that could have gone in a totally different direction!
Me: (as I’m getting shuffled off the platform out of the way for the next folks) Uh-huh, haha, garble blah blah words.

I was shaking for a good 10 minutes after this encounter. It was glorious.

And that’s the story of how Ree and I met. The story of how we go on to become best friends is yet to come.

New month, new writing stuff!

Folks, we are officially one twelfth of the way through the year 2013.

25 update #1: I took a picture of an awesome place yesterday, so I didn’t miss my January deadline. Hooray!

It’s only a camera phone photo, so it’s nothing fancy. But I think it’s a great place to start documenting the many awe-inspiring places of my life.

ImageThis is the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It’s a mouthful of a title. But a big place that does such big things deserves a big name.

I am currently serving as a chaplain intern at the Children’s hospital, and let me tell you, it has not always been sparkly and vibrant. In fact, it can be downright ugly and heart stopping. But Good God Almighty, it is a beautiful place.

It’s beautiful in the conventional sense in that someone (or more likely a very large committee of someones) put a great deal of time and effort into designing the building itself. The halls are swathed in “rivers of healing and ribbons of peace,” or some similar saying. It basically means that there are a lot of swirly, flowy, ribbony type elements that make you feel more like you are in a children’s art museum than a hospital. Plus actual patient art can be found on nearly every wall of every floor. There are bright colors, photos, artwork, child-friendly statues, blown glass light fixtures, butterflies, and animals everywhere you look. It is a truly stimulating and sensual experience to walk those halls every day, no matter how tough things may get physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

But it’s also beautiful in the quality of people that occupy the space. The medical staff, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, receptionists, volunteers, and everyone else who gives their time and energy into making sick kids feel better each deserve a Nobel prize. Seriously. I sometimes look around at these people and think, “This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.”

But I think what has been the most amazing, most inspiring, most affirming thing in my personal experience working in this hospital is my work with the patients and families. I have been present for everything from broken bones to chemo, trauma, and life-support removal. These are real people in real pain, and it has taken me a while to realize that they really know God. I think I had expectations when I first started that I would be serving as more of a teacher, reading scripture and calming fears and anxiety with prayer. I am a master of divinity student, after all. I have deconstructed and reconstructed my theology every which way. I thought I was ready to provide pastoral care. (If you are wondering, you are never ready until you actually do it.)  I vainly thought I could help bring God to these families. I was so so wrong.

What a surprise, and yet how perfectly consistent with everything I believe, to find that God is always already there, and has been there long before I walk into a room. I don’t “bring” God anywhere. I walk in, I listen, and what unfolds before me is a powerful and miraculous story of pain and suffering, which is always infused with great amounts of faith and hope. It is a testament to the human spirit and God’s strong desire for relationship with us that faith can still be found in these places of deepest hurt. I am constantly amazed at the resurrection and new life I see all around me, every single day.

The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is a living and breathing miracle here on earth. Even when patients die (and they do die because we live in a world which is continually being redeemed, and we wait for the Kingdom of Heaven while we actively seek to build it), the glory of God and the redemptive work of Christ is still present. This is not to say we don’t hurt and cry and scream our hearts out to God. It’s just to say God can take it. And thank God for that.

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25 update #2: I think I can say that I successfully made a new friend in January. If we want to get technical, she’s been an acquaintance since last semester, and I didn’t really ask her to be my friend until today, Feb. 1st, at the end of our discussion class. It went like this:

Me: Hey, um, S?
S: Yeah?
Me: We should get coffee sometime. Or grab lunch or something.
S: Yeah, we should!
Me: Ok, Fridays usually work for me, but I have to finish a paper.
S: Well let’s do next Friday. Fridays are usually the best for me too!
Me: Ok!

I realize now that this would have been a good place to stop the conversation, smile politely, and say something like, “Have a good weekend!” Instead…

Me: Hey, do you mind if I put you in my blog? (Immediately horrified I even asked her this. What kind of weirdo am I? Ok, I can fix this.) I mean, I just need a new friend. Can you be my friend this month? (Not helping myself out at all. I am sooooo lame.)
S: (smiling), Haha, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll be famous! Let me know when you post it!
Me: (in my head: I KNEW I liked you for a reason! You don’t care that I’m weird!)

Thank you Lord, for S.

Anyway, even though it’s February, I’m going to count S as my January friend. Because I can.

The end.