The snow barren winter seemed to be fading quietly into an early spring when the storm came. Now, my little city wears white. Her soft, dazzling frock is moved by wind and sun and shovels and plows, exposing her skin, leaving us all jarred and perhaps a bit offended.
Today, something like a billion Christians will wake up to a season of fasting and reflection. Though my ties to this people are ragged and worn, it is each year in this season that I find myself pausing to assess the rope, to tenderly smooth the fraying threads, to wonder how much longer I have before it has become to weak to hold.
Why this season captures my attention and draws me in is rather unclear. I did not grow up in a tradition that observed Lent. And, frankly, it seems to me that most of us spend too much time somberly assessing ourselves and the world around us rather than celebrating life and breath and grace. (I know that many of you will react and say that such reverent reflection leads to celebration and hope. Yes, at times, perhaps. But, friends, our brains establish patterns and I am convinced that many of our minds are caught in an unending cycle of negativity, self-doubt, and worry. On many occasions, I have attempted to right these patterns by re-engaging the cycle.)
Still, there is something about this time I find more necessary and healing than any other season. So, it is with curiosity and care that I approach Lent. Despite my doubts, I join the others in a season of quiet reflection and stillness.
But I do not fast. For 8 months, I have been abstaining from many things for the sake of the little girl who will soon make her entrance. Her due date is April 5th, Easter, only a few days after the season of Lent comes to a close. On Ash Wednesday, a day in which we acknowledge our fleeting existence, I am reminded of my humanity. Nothing has ever made me feel more human than pregnancy. Every day, I am reminded of life's fragility and strength, my own weakness and power. Though my breath may leave me at any moment, it is my breath that gives life to another.
In this season, I will wholeheartedly enter into a season of observation and reflection. I will enter a time of gratitude. I will intentionally acknowledge the gift of life, of breath, of my humanity and existence. I will embrace the richness of my days, leaning into their potential, savoring their brief visit.
And, I will eat pasta and butter and kale.
Thyme and Butter Pasta with Caramelized Dates, Pecans and Crispy Kale
1/2 bunch kale, torn or roughly chopped
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 red onion, sliced
5-6 dates, thinly sliced
2 sprigs fresh thyme + 3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 pound pasta (fresh is best - I used a spinach pasta)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1/3-1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss kale in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, a dash of salt, and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Spread in an even layer over a baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until kale is bright green and crispy. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add 2 sprigs thyme and chopped onions. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add dates and sauté for 7-10 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until the onions and dates have caramelized. Add thyme leaves and chili flakes, sautéing 1-2 minutes longer, until thyme is fragrant and slightly softened. Remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs.
3. While onions and dates are cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta, toss with a drizzle of olive oil.
4. Add butter, thyme, onion, and date mixture to the pasta and toss until the pasta is coated with the butter. Add Parmesan, pecans, and crispy kale and toss lightly to mix. Serve garnished with extra thyme and shaved Parmesan.
As I journey through a season of gratitude and expectation, I'll be setting aside time each day to write in a gratitude journal and to meditate. I also plan to post a daily Instagram photo that in some way captures my thankfulness. You're welcome to follow along. And, of course, I'd love it if you joined me.
Whether you be feasting or fasting, I hope your week is filled with joy. <3.