Sometimes, humility looks like buying the bagged salad 🥗

Given Appetites // February 5, 2021

It took me a long time to jump onto the idea of the bagged salad. I genuinely love salad (specifically, the homemade variety), and I wanted to be a person who always had the makings of a delicious salad on hand to throw one together without thought for an easy lunch or as a side for dinner. Yet, despite different meal planning, food prepping and grocery shopping strategies, I never consistently had the makings for the kind of salad I wanted on hand. Which meant I didn’t eat many salads. Which made me sad. 

Then one day while we were receiving meals postpartum two years ago, someone from church brought me a bagged salad to go with her dinner; the salad tasted so good. And I realized something. Bagged salads are a great “partial solution,” a termed coined (to my knowledge) by Tsh Oxenrider.

Partial solutions are “a way to get a need met, and it might not be the ideal way, but it’s a way that works.”  

For the past few years, bagged salads have been a staple of our grocery list. Are they as delicious as a homemade salad with? No, of course not. Do a lot of them satisfy my hunger and cravings? Yep. 

My former arms-length approach to bagged salads was grounded in a peculiar pride that told me I could do it all if I just organized, planned, worked, tried a little harder. I don’t need someone else to chop my vegetables! I can make a better and cheaper salad from scratch! I’m not someone who needs “convenience foods” as a crutch! Boo!

And yet, the moment I realized that I couldn’t consistently get a salad on the table without the help of my friend Taylor’s Farms, I started to eat more salads. And perhaps more significantly, I also stopped experiencing this weird shame I felt around not making homemade salads; I was able to channel that mental and literal energy into doing other things I enjoy and do better, like freezer cooking and reading. 

Something has shifted since that realization. I used to see bagged salads (and partial solutions in general) as frustrating but necessary answers to the problems I had. Now I see these solutions, imperfect as they may be, as freedom. They push me to let go of the prideful narrative that I can be and do it all with enough effort, self-will, sacrifice, etc. Partial limits are a path of humility, and it’s only from that place of humility where I can be who I’m called to be. 

Hannah Anderson writes:

“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God's place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety… [we trample] the very ground we are meant to cultivate.”

I’ve come to wholeheartedly embrace partial solutions in different areas of life, including the bigger conundrums that burden me. Here are a few examples:

  • Ethical clothing: The true cost of clothes and the sheer consumerism blatant in my closet bothers me. Yet, it’s not wise for me to buy all “slow fashion” for most of our household’s clothing needs because of budgetary constraints. But, I can just buy fewer clothes overall, and try to make a trip to Once Upon a Child or check on ThredUp before buying an item new.

  • Media intake: I don’t have hours to spend everyday reading 17 different news sources to figure out every nuance and every fact of every story. I can find journalists who are committed to truth but on different sides of the political spectrum, subscribe to their newsletters and commit to reading (ok, sometimes skimming) them daily instead of relying on social media, one news source, and random headlines and pretending that’s balanced. (FYI, highly recommend NYT’s The Morning and The Dispatch if this partial solution piques your interest). 

  • Racial justice: As I continue to understand and grapple with my country’s deep history of race-based slavery and the far-reaching, generational implications of societal sin, I’ve been overwhelmed by what my role might be. Justice and healing require public, private and personal action, so I spent some time this year thinking through how I can let the need for racial justice inform different things I’m already doing in those spheres (voting, year-end giving and buying books for our home library are three examples). There’s a lot I’m NOT doing in this area that might be good partial solutions for someone else. But I’m showing up in the ways I can today. 

Partial solutions aren’t about choosing the path of least resistance. They’re about learning to embrace the truth proclaimed by John the Baptist that  “I am not the Messiah” and to work out that profound humility into the nooks and crannies of our daily lives. When I own my limitations, I foster an environment where I can face the day’s burdens, sorrow, frustrations and joys with wisdom, humble confidence and a readiness to do the particular work I’m called to do.

3 Favorite Things

Trading services: For the past few months, my friend Rachel and I have been trading household tasks we don’t enjoy for those that we do enjoy. Once a week, she takes two loads of my laundry, and I make her family a big dinner. It’s been a sweet way to build friendship while alleviating some of the household care pressure. And in the words of Mike Murrish: “We should have guessed that we’d eventually arrive at bartering while living through a pandemic.”

An unplanned, beautiful book flight. In reader-ly world, a book flight is a collection of a few books that are read together to complement one another, illuminating themes, ideas and styles in ways you might notice if you read the books on their own.

In January, I read/continued reading/started reading “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund, “Prayers in the Night” by Tish Harrison Warren, “Wise Counsel” by John Newton, and “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. My hope is to crystallize some thoughts on the themes of these books soon, but until then, the way these books have “played” together has been what the beginning of my 2021 needed. 

Bacon, corn and pea tortellini. This is a little recipe I came up with on the fly while cleaning out odds and ends from the freezer, and my word, it is all I ever want when craving a bowl of pasta. Find the recipe (and all my dinnertime staples) here; the tortellini recipe is on slide #13. 

From the ‘gram.

I asked folks on Instagram this question: “What’s something you’re doing differently now than you were a year ago?” Here a few answers that stood out to me:

@makingtodayfun: “Organizing and prepping for more what ifs.”

@jenilyns: “Buying the good coffee beans to brew at home.”

@katiejumper101: “Almost daily lunch chats with my mom. She reads a chapter book to the boys while they eat,  then she and I catch up afterward. We used to go 1-2 weeks between calls!”

@laurakatherinecox: “Leaning on convenience food without guilt.”

Final thoughts.

“Grace reigns. Be that my motto.

As my case will be an exemplification of its reigning power, if I am found at last among the ‘more than conquerors’, as I trust I shall be.

I long for a retired walk among the woods... hedgerows where I might hear no noise but the baaing of lambs, and the singing of blackbirds. But here I must be. I must hear the rumbling of wheels, and have to force my way through a crowd from morning to night. No matter, if it be way to heaven, the end will make amends for all.”

—John Newton