Week #8: Poisonwood Bible-Take 2 (with Turkey Sloppy Joes and 7 Minute Total Body Workout)

As many of you know, if you follow me on Facebook, I’ve just finished my long grapple with The Poisonwood Bible today.  I have a lot to say, much of it is likely to get quite personal, so let me dispense with the formalities.


I had a strange mixture of guilt/fear about this choice.  It was another one I found by googling “Best YouTube Workout Videos” and it appeared in this article.  The guilt came from thinking “Seven minutes?  Am I just being lazy here?” and the fear from the thought “Wait…what is she going to do to me in seven minutes?”  The trainer’s name was Maddy.  Little Blonde Maddy.  And the workout itself consisted of 12 exercises done in 30 second increments with 15 second “rests” in between.

Here’s what she had in store:

1.  Jumping Jacks- pretty standard.  In fact, when she said “If this is too tough and you need to modify, just do a simple step-touch” I scoffed, thinking Who can’t handle 30 seconds of jumping jacks?

2.  Air squats – I once heard someone say “if you’re not doing squats, you’re wasting your workout.”  Fair enough.  Maddy suggested that I “try to get (my) butt all the way down below my knees.”  Flo Rida and T-Pain would be so proud of me.

3.  Pushups – One of these days I’ll be able to do these without dropping to my knees.  This was not that day.

4.  One-legged squat – DEAR JESUS.  Sorry, Flo Rida.  I just couldn’t get that low on these.

5.  Hollow rock – I can’t describe this one, so here’s a photo


It was kinda fun.

6.  Other leg squat – SWEET LORD MAKE IT STOP.

7.  Moving plank – This one reminded me of this video I saw of planking moves set to Uptown Funk.  Enjoy:

PS: Not NEARLY as easy as they make it look.  Thank God I only had to do it for 30 seconds.

8.  Wide leg squat – nice little break.  Almost like a nice stretch.  Thank you, Maddy.

9.  High knee-run – similar to our friend the jumping jack, pretty standard, easy.

10.  Lunges – And why does it always come down to lunges?  At what age do we think I’ll need my knee replaced?

11.  Open push up – Looked something like this .  Hard? Yes.  But also kind of satisfying.

12.  Scissor kick – also a little fun, in the “I enjoy feeling like a wriggly baby” kind of way.

And DONE.  Looks like a lot when I lay it out here, but honestly…it was over before I knew it and I felt it for days after.  And it was only 7 minutes!  Worth it.  Kicked my ass, but worth it.


I tried this Turkey Black Bean Sloppy Joe recipe actually the night after I made last week’s pizza puffs. Jason and I both agree we’ll be doing this one again.  So tasty, so easy, so…nutrient packed.  It took about a half hour to gather/chop ingredients and cook and then was on the table by the time he got home from work.  Perfect weekday dinner.  I typically don’t care for beans, but black beans complimented the ground turkey and spices well.  As you can see, we had it open-faced over some onion buns and I served a broccoli-rice frozen veggie on the side.

Just talking about it I kind of want to go home and make them again right now.

But enough about all this, what you really want to know about is The Poisonwood Bible.


For those of you unfamiliar with the title, here’s the summary from Amazon.com:

         “The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”

In fact, the character of Orleanna Price, the missionary’s wife, only narrates at the beginning of the tome’s seven “Books” of their own (Get it?  It’s a Bible!) and the rest of the chapters are split between their four daughters.  The eldest is a vapid, Sandra Dee-type named Rachel, followed by a set of twins made up of the industrious, eager-to-please Leah and her disabled, cynic of a sister Adah.  The girls are rounded out by the littlest, Ruth May.

Orleanna informs us early on that one of her daughters is buried in the Congo and I spent most of the first half of the read-through playing a sadistic kind of Sophie’s Choice about which one I thought it would be/wanted it to be.  I shan’t tell you which one it is.  I really shan’t say much more about the plot of the book, but that it was the absolute most perfect thing with which I could have followed up Heart of Darkness.  If I was left befuddled by the poetic muck of Conrad’s work, the spiritual journey that Kingsolver takes her girls through made it all so much clearer, the line between barbarian and colonialist. This book hit me at my very being, my core, my ka, if you will.

You see, some of you may not know, but when I was 19 years old, I traveled to China with missions.  The first time I went, it was for six weeks and then I returned nearly a year later on a spring break trip.  Being in the middle of a very fundamentalist non-denominational group, I was drawn there with a statistic:  That 80-some odd percent of people in “East Asia”, as we so referred to it, had never even heard the name of Jesus.  I thought to myself, Why am I wasting time knocking on the doors of college kids who have grown up in the Bible belt?  This is clearly where the important work is!  It turns out that the same statistic that lead me to China would lead me away from fundamentalism after my second visit.

The team of us, at the end of our mission in August, 1997

During my first summer there, I made a lot of Chinese friends.  Many of the students at the University we stayed at spoke English, mostly because they wanted to transfer to universities in the United States.  (And if that sounds arrogant, you should have seen their faces as they chased our bus when it pulled away for the last time).  Their dorm rooms held 8 people in the same size quarters an American university boards two, who usually complain of how little space there is.  Their dorm floor bathroom was a concrete walk, where one would just squat right next to the nearest fellow co-ed to do one’s business.  Our lodgings, by comparison, were like hotel rooms.  We stayed in the “foreign student housing” which had been pimped out to look like the Marriot, in order to attract more foreigners, since they had not had many since Mao’s “closed-door policy.”  I have never felt more spoiled in all my life.

In the six weeks I spent on my first mission, I had one convert.  Her name was “Yenni” and she watched the Jesus Film with me (in secret, because if anyone from the university found out we were missionaries, we’d be kicked out).  At the end, she said “He will be alive forever.”  I was so pleased.

When I returned nine months later, I looked forward to visiting with Yenni.  But I was horrified to discover she had essentially disappeared from the underground church that the permanent missionaries had tried to engage her.  Her mother did not like the idea of Christianity, found it very suspicious.  Ultimately, my one “conversion” had not even stuck. The night I found this out, we had a big fancy dinner (complete with chicken feet!) with a prominent member at the University that we were trying to impress.  I remember I got such a big headache from the news I had to excuse myself.  That night, I felt something begin to change in me.


If 80-some-odd-percent of Chinese people had never heard the name of Jesus, then, according to everything I was being told, over a billion people had been created by my God only to burn in Hell for eternity.  Something didn’t add up to me.  Did I really believe the God I worshiped would create something only to watch it burn?  I did not.  As one of the twins in the book says:

“I could never work out whether we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence. I can understand a wrathful God who’d just as soon dangle us all from a hook. And I can understand a tender, unprejudiced Jesus. But I could never quite feature the two of them living in the same house. You wind up walking on eggshells, never knowing which… is at home at the moment.”

Slowly, I realized that I no longer believed in Hell, that I no longer believed it was my duty to tell people how to live their lives and, after a particularly stunning car accident on a snowy day, that I no longer took the Bible as literal.

And so, for the past two and a half weeks, it has taken me more time than usual to digest the saga of the Price family in The Poisonwood Bible.  If you’ve seen Hotel Rwanda or followed anything that’s been happening in DR Congo for the past…century, really, you know that it truly is one of the most bleak places on the planet.  I could never reconcile the logic: If we could go to “help” the Iraqi’s, why were we not intervening in the massive genocide happening in Central Africa?  If we were truly a Christian nation, why did we only care about certain members of our fellow man and fling aside the rest?

But as Brother Fowles says in the book, There are Christians and then there are Christians.”  I had lived those so-called “Christian” ideals and grown to feel, no…grown to KNOW that I was no better than the “unwashed” I was ministering to.  Grown to know that those people have their own relationship with their Creator that is sacred to them, like the superstitious people of Kingsolver’s Congo.  It is my personal belief now that none of us will ever be able to know with any degree of certainty the true nature of God.  But I still believe in Him (or Her!).  And I believe God is present in every nook and cranny of the Earth, even in the Heart of Darkness.

Next week:

BOOK: Wicked by Gregory Maguire

RECIPE: Pancake Pockets

WORKOUT: Tara Stiles Yoga


One thought on “Week #8: Poisonwood Bible-Take 2 (with Turkey Sloppy Joes and 7 Minute Total Body Workout)

  1. Patricia O'Haver, LMHC says:

    Wow… Thank you Sarah for your insightful peek within the remarkable person you are. Your thoughts are genuine and authentic reflecting not what is popular, but what is “real.”

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