Enough For One Man’s Life

I never realized how big the difference was between the words “of” and “from” until I went to Italy.  I have never studied much English grammar.  Most of what I know, grammar wise, has come from observation in reading, with a little help from some studies in Greek.   So I never gave the difference between “of” and “from” much thought.

But the Italians do.  It was on every single test.  Where I would say, “I am from Pittsburgh,” the Italians would say, “I am of Pittsburgh.”  Because “from” implies a leaving of a place with no real relationship, whereas “of” implies belonging.  This is the place where I was born.  This is the place where I belong.  This is the place I am of.  This is not to say that where you are born is where you will always belong.

My soul and my body stretch with the places I have been.  I have felt a belonging, a being of, in some places with which I have not had much connection before besides family heritage.  I can yearn for a place, wanting to go “back”, and feeling that I am going to a place of origin, returning.  But it is not only places that demand our sense of belonging, our being of.  It is people too.  My children will be of me as I am of my mother; a wife and husband become as much “of” each other as if they had been biologically related, but this being “of” is a much deeper and sacred union.  I am of the earth, and also, I am of God.

Being of God, his Spirit lives in me.  And so, I am filled.  I am blessed.  And when I brood in my mind over the things I desire, the places I want to go, the person I wish to be, the life I do not have that I want to have, a small voice in the back of my head says: “Isn’t He enough?”

I counter, I argue, I try to find a way around it.  But I am of God and his Spirit is in me; therefore, I cannot keep on avoiding the truth that is also inside of me.  He is enough.  And if I immerse myself in him, if I am constantly plunging into his grace and offering myself to him as a vessel for him to use, that is enough.  It is not that I cannot have desire to pursue, to carry out.  But if I am so rooted in Christ, he will open up the door for me.  And being in him, and him being in me, if I have an open mind, I can see ways that I didn’t think existed, or dreams that I never thought of dreaming.

I tend to separate the spiritual from the physical. My mistake is that I do not see Christ everywhere.  If I try very hard I can, but it doesn’t come without trying.  I don’t look at people and see Christ. I don’t look at the world and immediately think of God.  I don’t live slowly enough to grasp the full meaning of the moment, to look at that person and think: “He is made in the image of God.”  I know though, with the grace that is of and flows from God, that it doesn’t have to be this way.  Again, if I am so immersed in him, then I cannot fail to see him everywhere.  I want to see him everywhere. I want to be reminded of him in every face I see, in the sun and the moon and the unblinded stars at night, and in the fresh wind that smells wet and fragrant like the earth.

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.” (T.S. Eliot) Everything I have is enough.  Or if I do not have it, it is within my grasp, through him who gives me strength.  Because there is a difference between getting enough and having enough.  I have everything I need.  To do useful things, to be of service, to think about the beautiful things, to speak truth—all this is within me.  I have the ability to live the Christian life, and I can be fully satisfied, fully filled and even overflowing.

“My God, a moment of bliss. Why, isn’t that enough for a whole lifetime?” (Fydor Dostoevsky)  Neither do I need to be searching for happiness, or bliss.  One moment can last forever.  He is in me, and that can and will be my constant joy.  I feel it when I think on him, that happiness, or joy, is not a feeling, it’s a state of being, it’s like a place that we enter into by decision almost, like love.  And that place that we enter into is Christ.

 

Rambling Woman

For one thing, I’m a terribly practical person when you get down to it.  I don’t say “totes” or “adorbs” or “fave” or “legit”.  I’m not sure how often I use the word totally.  When this faithful MacBook hits rock bottom and decides it will no longer serve me, it will be my last computer for a long time. I’ll get a type-writer instead, to write my books on.  I like the ideas of the old world—not just something you think about, but something you live.  I want to live that way.

I’m not caught up in politics or what’s going to happen with the war.  In some ways I’m irresponsible.

But I am quiet in my soul, and the quiet radiates out of me and into my life, and I desire to live simply, as much in the physical company of those near to me as possible, and not so much over superficial places on the internet.

I have a mind to do something purposeful. Not just part-time-jobbing my twenties away, but really doing something that means something to me.  I don’t believe that the earth was made to give to us.  I believe that whatever it gives counts as blessings from God, for the righteous and the unrighteous.  I believe that we were put on this earth to tend it.

Yes, I like to mess around with style and fashion.  It’s enjoyable to pick out a crazy outfit and go somewhere.  But lately it’s felt like more of a strain.  It’s so difficult each morning to decide what to wear, and to know it has to be nice and different.  And then you see all these girls, and they’re all wearing the same type of thing—”what’s in” I guess you call it.  Lately I’ve simply been wearing whatever comes into my hands first.  My priorities are to be clean and presentable, and whatever clothes me should flow with that general idea.

But where I am most at home is outdoors, and above all, with animals.  I like the fresh, cutting smell of pine and wet wood in the fall.  I love the serenity of the woods and the fields under quiet snow.  I like the warmth of a horse’s breath on your cold hand in the early morning, when he’s stamping for his food. I like taking care of things, things that are living, things that are dependent on you for their well-being.

I’m just about ten days from my nineteenth birthday.  The years seem to be going fast.  I’m young and a vigorous blood flows in my veins.  I am ready now to perform these things, to start living out and following a God-given dream I believe I was meant to realize.  To start establishing myself, not independently, but purposefully, as fits a young woman.

In these Wendell Berry books, young people decide that they love each other and they get married and settle down to live life.  They don’t go through this whole ordeal of trying to decide whether or not the girl or boy in question is ready for marriage.  They go ahead and do it, live life, learn from their mistakes.  Now it seems like there are so many inhibitions to marriage.  So much doubt about whether or not “he/she’s the right one! what if he/she isn’t?” And it doesn’t have to be that complicated, because honestly it’s never something that can be answered with logic.  But my point is that our lives nowadays complicate so much, even marriage.  College, career, lifestyles, etc.  So much divides us nowadays.

In those books and in those times women weren’t defined as writers or lawyers or artists or musicians.  They were measured and judged by their character qualities—by their sweetness, obedience, honesty, contentment.  They were admired, and while their husbands worked in the fields and with the animals they cooked and cleaned, fed the chickens and milked the cows, took care of the children, prepared the food for winter, canned, pickled.  She may have had artistic qualities—for instance she may have been a writer.  But her goal as a writer was not publicity.  She would write for herself, and for those around her.  She wasn’t always alone in her work, and neither were the men in their work.  There were always people who stopped by to talk, always people who stopped by to help out.  Even work was a type of community, for both women and men.

The point is this.  I want to be that kind of a woman.  I am strong in both mind and spirit and body, and I know I am capable.  I want to be admired for those qualities, and I want to be known as capable of cooking and cleaning, of being responsible, of being hard-working.

“She had come into her beauty.  This was not the beauty of her youth and freshness, of which she had had a plenty.  The beauty that I am speaking of now was that of a woman who has come into knowledge and into strength and who, knowing her hardships, trusts her strength and goes about her work even with a kind of happiness, serene somehow, and secure.  It was that beauty she would always have.  Her eyes had not changed.  They still seemed to exert a power, as if whatever she looked at was brightened.” (Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry)

God created the woman as a capable help-meet to Adam.  He created her a marvelous thing, as marvelous as man, but in a different way.  How can we expect to be the same?  He created her a beautiful thing, strong and intelligent and above all, with purpose.  We are not as strong as men, but we have our strength.  Our arms are strong for our tasks.  We are created with strength for what we are purposed to do.

And I think it’s noble.

I am old-fashioned. I don’t understand things about these days, or else I do but I disagree with them.  And I live so much in the old world that coming into the new world is like a jolt, a shock.

I am happy.  I have a purpose, and I want to work with the land.  I know from experience it is a satisfying kind of work.  A hard work, but satisfying.

After all, I’m not entirely a bookworm.  If I’m practical in my speech, I make up for it in imagination.  I get that from books.  And in my imagination and in my entire being a dream is born, and I don’t discard it just because it is a dream.  I take it up carefully, tenderly in my hands.  I grow it and I grow it until it is big and strong and ready to be fulfilled.  It’s not just any foolhardy dream.  There are some dreams you can tell are futile.  But then there are others… you feel it to the core of your being, and you can’t explain how or why, but you are led.  And God gives you grace, and grace feeds it, and God gives you opportunity and means, and then, in the end, you realize it.

I realize it.

RH

What I See

When people first read my blog, I wonder if they consider me a sentimentalist.  If so, just bear with me through this post.

My family is caught up in a whirlwind.  My father has been accepted for the position of a worship leader and music director at an EPC church in Pittsburgh, and we are trying to pack up and move.  At the same time, things are rapidly changing and progressing in my own life, which keeps me very busy with many projects.

But I wanted to talk a little about moving—oh, here comes the nostalgia and the weeping and tearing of hair and ripping of garments and the pouring of ash over the head, right?  Well the title of this post can be a bit deceiving.  It’s not what I do see, but what I don’t see.  And what I don’t see are my books.  They’re packed away snugly in square boxes. The old ones whose color rubs off are wrapped in paper towels because we don’t get the newspaper. But I can’t see them.  I packed them up, and I feel all empty and withered, and I half-expect when I reach out my hand to find all the bones well defined because they are skinny and wrinkly. That’s what happens when you have to say goodbye to your friends.  You get old and withered up. I won’t see them for more than two months, and I am used to seeing them every day, to having them at my beck and call.

Other relaxations are peculiar to certain times, places and stages of life, but the study of letters [books] is the nourishment of our youth, and the joy of our old age. They throw an additional splendor on prosperity, and are the resource and consolation of adversity; they delight at home, and are no embarrassment abroad; in short, they are company to us at night, our fellow travelers on a journey, and attendants in our rural recesses. – Cicero

If I have a little money, I buy books.  If there’s any left over, I buy food and clothing. – Erasmus

I am sad about packing my books away.  I feel a little frantic, and it’s funny, because the more books I pack, the more I buy to try and replace them.  But I always find myself thinking—where’s that one book?  Just when I think I’m ready to read Ernest Hemingway, I remember that, well, I can’t.   I am dull when I pack away my books.  And what does that show me about myself? That I am too dependent on them, perhaps?  Indeed. Apart from Christ, books are what define my personality, and help give me scope for who I am.  But then—isn’t that what they’re for?  Aren’t books are choicest companions, apart from actual human beings?  Aren’t the stories the things that inspire us, that spur us on, that strengthen our inner being? For me, yes. It’s taken awhile to realize that sometimes it’s good to pack away your books because then you don’t end up taking them for granted.  I have kept out a few treasures.  I’m leaving for Scotland tomorrow, and who goes anywhere without books? You didn’t think I packed them all, did you?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern
The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill

And, of course, my Bible—if I can find it.

I have revolutionized my way of thinking, a little.  I used to have an aversion to change.  I used to sing with Keane “So little time Try to understand that I’m Trying to make a move just to stay in the game I try to stay awake and remember my name But everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.”  But I am a bit done with that kind of thing.  I have decided to live each day by itself—to seize the day.  To find the truth of each day, to get to the root of it.  Digging in the dirt of life can be a pleasure to the gardener, who enjoys the warm earthiness on his hands—to others, a bore and a gross task.  My books are packed away, and the empty shelves point to the small pile left and seem to imply that these are what I have now.  This is what I can read.  This is what I have to enjoy—so, enjoy it.

What I Called Mine

My youth was what I called mine.  And more and more, I realize it never was.  As I grow older, I see it was only a part of me; something that defined me; but it never belonged to me, nor I to it.  It was something fleeting, something that gave me a glimpse of everything I would wish to be, and then threw me headlong into something like grief, and I saw it was gone. And suddenly I faced something much darker, and there were more shadows than before, but behind me was that bright light, and sometimes I looked over my shoulder at it, and reached out towards it.  But we never go back, because there is no going back. There is only forwards, and that’s the best we can do, just the next thing.

And O, I wish that I wasn’t quite so old.  Today in the store I saw an old friend of my family.  She worked at the hospital where I was born.  She asked me how old I was, and when I told her, she said: “Oh my, I never thought you would get that old.” “Well I certainly didn’t think I would either,” I said.  And we laughed, but my heart broke.

Even now my memory is fading, and with a kind of desperation I try to cling to something that loses itself, and I feel a dull kind of ache in place of it.

I’m still young, I’m still young.  There is still so much to learn, and ahead are years packed with new memories. But I am so hesitant to let go, so unwilling to part with something I always associated with truth and light and goodness and purity, so unwilling to walk steadily into the unknown.

Eyes wide open, full of images.  Ears filled with many sounds, and a heart so full I think it will break, mind open, thirsting for learning.  Soul reaching out with love, receiving love, binding itself to my Savior.  And from that perspective, I am blessed.  I might go mad, I might forget everything.  But how can I ever forget the essence of my life, the Redeemer of my soul? I can’t ever, and that is the important thing.  I am eternally bound.

Everything We Need

Banana Pancakes.  It’s a sweet song by Jack Johnson, and I like to listen to it while I do the dishes because sometimes it makes me happy.

I never really think much of songs like these.  To me they’re mindless.  I listen to them when I’m not really listening, not thinking about what they’re saying.  Sometimes I like to give my full attention to music, let myself feel it swell inside of me, abandon myself to it, and I listen to something deeper and richer.  But those times are not when I’m doing the dishes.  So I was thankful when, this time, in the midst of scrubbing and rinsing and humming along, I looked up, and became struck by a sudden thought.  I knew all the words to Banana Pancakes, but had never thought of them, and this line hit me.

“We’ve got everything we need right here

And everything we need is enough.”

I don’t care what it means in the context of the song, but I thought about what it means right now.  How often do we have everything we need, and actually consider it enough?

No, whatever we obtain is never enough.  As one millionaire said in response to the question, “How much money is enough?” “Just a little bit more.” Alway more, more, more, because our minds are never dead.  We are brimming with ideas.  We yearn and pine for things we want, and we get them.  And we weary of them, just as we weary of this world, our friends, and our lives.  And why? Because we have made everything worthless in an attempt to please ourselves.

There has always been satisfaction in contentment, but contentment isn’t an abandonment of dreams and aspirations.  But why does ambition always have the accompanying ideas of hardness, of money, of endless wealth?

Why must our dreams be so contained? So pent up as to deal only with this earth and what it can give us?  Why can’t we dream of what we can give other people?

If we dreamed of helping other people, if our ambition was not to obtain money, but to obtain ideas, to learn how to be gracious and compassionate, to learn how to serve people best with the talents we have been blessed with, then there is contentment in that, and there is satisfaction, because that is doing the right thing.  That is using ourselves as we were meant to be used, that is, not for ourselves but for the community we live in.

That is why we have everything we need, and that is why it is enough.  You have your talents within you.  You cannot wait to hone them to use them. Remember that life is a journey, and you learn along the way.  It is the blessed thing about growing older, is that if you try hard enough, you grow wiser.  Don’t think you have to go to school or on a missions trip or see the whole world to minister to it in the proper way.  Use what you have right now, inside of you, and let it flow out of you into the world to those you love.  Strive for perfect, settle for excellence, a friend told me.  That is what will bring you satisfaction, and contentment, even if you have to work harder for it than you’ve ever worked before.

This world is tiresome, but we can have joy in it.  These things, contentment and satisfaction, are what give us the joy to make it through the world.  People are wonderful things, you know.  They draw us away from ourselves, they challenge us, hurt us, love us, teach us, bear with us.  There are so many wonderful things about life that we miss when we draw the curtains of our soul, and put a wall between ourselves and the people around us.  But we must be self-sacrificial to have joy.

You could say that joy is an acquired taste. True joy is, anyway, because it’s not what most people desire once they see all it takes to attain it.  They would rather settle for something less that brings a more passionate happiness… that sadly ends too soon.  They know it ends soon, they do know it, but they continue wandering this tiresome world in search of a new pleasure, trying to fill up their souls, trying to find contentment and knowing all along it will never be real, but skeptical about how to make it real.

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased. (C.S. Lewis)

Work for joy by being content and being satisfied.  Don’t try to minister to the whole world at once, but use your gifts to the best of your ability towards they people you come into contact with. Give yourself, your work, and your ambition to the community, give all of that and your soul to God.  Abandon yourself to anything but yourself.  Don’t look within, but without your own self. Live for God, and in doing so you will live for each other.  If you do this, everything you need will finally be enough.

Love Revolution

Youth is the time for ideals.  Adulthood is the time to achieve those ideals.  It’s what the stages of life are about, it’s what we live for, these ideals.  Each person changes the world, because the world cannot stay the same. We can’t help having ideals, we can only guide them.

One of the greatest ideals is love.  Real love, the love that everyone seeks for and few find because they look for it in the wrong places.  What kind of love is the ideal? Divine love or earthly love?

Unlike divine love, earthly love does not have the power, the knowledge, or the will to achieve what it longs for. (Wendell Berry)

What we long for is the love that can achieve what it longs for: the love that will satisfy, divine love.  Though we don’t often know it, we are consumed by a desire to be completed, and this desire, some find too late, does not come from our physical being but from our soul.

The sober person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of the drunkard, for instance, but those of the soul. He is by no means a stoic, on the contrary, with a full measure of joyful anticipation he looks forward to the return of the Lord but he doesn’t run away from his task. – William Hendrickson

Imagine a love that is founded in respect, that contains gratitude and humility, that takes its chief delight in sacrifice in order to serve.

Maybe I always saw the past as beautiful because it was fleeting.  As the future met me, it passed, and became the past, and was beautiful.  I had an aversion to change, and it seemed like everyone was changing, breaking out and flying away.  I didn’t see myself as changing, but others must have thought so, because I was caught up in the change of those closest to me, and it was their change that changed me.

The only changeful thing I did was to get married, and even that had been predicted.  Clyde was sick, had been crippled from birth.  I had known him since I was born, and when I was a girl I used to go and read to him, or amuse him.  He liked that, though he was six years older, and I liked to make him laugh.  He became a natural part of my life, and I never wanted anything more than to take care of him.

When we were still children, he asked me if I would up and leave the town someday. I told him no, because then he couldn’t come with me.  Later when I promised to marry him, he was hesitant to tie me down.  I told him I would make the same commitment if he was well or sick, but I liked it best when I could take care of him.

We live quietly, others come and go.  My heart aches with all this change, because it doesn’t happen quietly.  They are caught up in an external change.  They don’t know what it is to care for someone so as to sacrifice your life to their service, they don’t know what it is to do so joyfully.  They missed the inner change in their rush, the quiet, the sublime.

The above was a story I wrote when I was thinking deeply about this idea of real love.   I thought about how it is founded in sacrifice, I thought about how my heart beats and how my life is sustained by the breath of life, but how my soul is saved and redeemed by a sacrifice, and so, by love.

If we could have this love!  If we could only love each other in the way love was meant to be demonstrated!  We cheapen it, we make it less than it’s worth, and you see it rampant in the culture and even, sadly, in the Church.  It is more than a feeling; love is your soul, your existence.

Why is it that the hero who gives up his life or himself for love inspires us?  We admire those Sydney Cartons and those Cyrano de Bergeracs, and yet we throw our love away, or we throw away the feeling that might have, with effort and work, deepened into an actual reality.

Love cannot be restored.  How can it be restored if it can never be taken away? It is fixed—real love is.  If you stopped loving someone you never truly loved them.  Love never ends, it is always there, always present, always with us, in us, around us.  It is either our failure to see, or our misuse of love that makes us believe it is a sham.  The word sham reminds me of a quote.

Sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. – Orthodoxy (G.K. Chesterton)

Chesterton also says that because love desires personality it desires division.

It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. It is her instinct to say “little children love one another” rather than to tell one large person to love himself.

Love was meant to be given away, not with-held.  But there is a difference between emotional love and soul-love, just as there is a difference between sibling love and marital love, though the parallel is different.  Soul-love, the real love, cannot be hurt or offended in the way emotional love can be.  It is constant, and cannot be quenched.  It can only be given, like a sacrifice.  It delights in returned love, but does not require it.  Emotional love that is rejected, whether by just any person or by a prospect for marriage, will always tear the heart down. I’m not saying emotional love is bad.  The emotions must be contained within soul-love, but emotional love should not exist as its own entity.

Do you know how the Christian old-maid can be perfectly content?  Because she is already loved with real love, and she is preparing for the day when she can return that love perfectly.  She will go through phases of discontent, but will always find her tranquility and peace in something deeper.  For when the mind and soul are truly committed, the senses can be controlled.

I admire such a woman, and I would be like her if I could.  Even if I get married, I want to be like this before marriage, for I would learn how to love the true Object, Christ, and be fulfilled.  1 Corinthians 13 is a wonderful passage, but isn’t paid attention to as it ought to be.  It describes love as the essence of life, basically.   It describes it as being patient, self-sacrificial, never-ending, able to endure the stormiest weather.   Love can bear all things, yet it is tender, it is strong, yet kind, it is not arrogant or rude, but it is truthful, desires truth, and rejoices with the truth.

Death and love are seldom thought of together in a proper sense.  I have two friends, the first friend told me: “You get annoyed with love and fascinated by death.”  And it’s true.  I get annoyed with the meaningless expression and feeling that people call love.  The second friend told me: “The funny thing is that death and love are intertwined.  Without love, death is hopeless.”  They are so connected with each other, because love pushes for death that it might attain the perfect love, that it might finally reach its object.  Also, because the ultimate death occurred by and through love.  Christ died for us because he loved us, was willing to suffer infinite humiliation and death because he cares for us.

I imagine the dead waking, dazed, into a shadowless light in which they know themselves altogether for the first time. It is a light that is merciless until they can accept its mercy; by it they are at once condemned and redeemed. It is Hell until it is Heaven.  Seeing themselves in that light, if they are willing, they see how far they have failed the only justice of loving one another; it punishes them by their own judgment. And yet, in suffering that light’s awful clarity, in seeing themselves within it, they see its forgiveness and its beauty, and are consoled.  In it they are loved completely, even as they have been, and so are changed into what they could not have been but what, if they could have imagined it, they would have wished to be. – A World Lost (Wendell Berry)

The love described there was the kind of love that achieved what it longed for.  It was a love not created by us but developed in us, and realized by death and rebirth.

If the purpose of marriage was love (not real love) then the divorce rate would be 99.9%.  The .1% is for the couples who actually stayed “in love” for the whole of their married lives.  Thankfully, marriage is not about love.  It is a commitment with divine sanctioning, that aims at deeper ends than for the participants to be near each other for the rest of their lives.  I realize I’ve never been married and have no right to speak in depth about this, but I have to say this.  There is work in marriage I think, hard work, and if it is the right kind it results in satisfaction.  If we could try to pursue real love then we would find that we could really be satisfied.  For to me, marriage is partly a joint-effort, not to find love for each other, but to pursue real love and to reach the Object of that real love.

It is a zeal tempered with prudence, softened with meekness, soberly aiming at great ends by the gradual operation of well adapted means, supported by a courage which no danger can intimidate, and a quiet constancy which no hardships can exhaust. – A Practical View of Christianity (William Wilberforce)

This is a description of the Christian’s zeal in the Church.  I imagine that love is the exact same.  Yet listen to what he says about the Affections within a Christian.

Of the two most celebrated systems of philosophy, the one expressly confirmed the usurpation of the passions; while the other, despairing of being able to regulate, saw nothing left but to extinguish them. The former acted like a weak government, which gives independence to a rebellious province, which it cannot reduce.  The latter formed its bloated scheme merely upon the plan of that barbarous policy, which composes the troubles of a turbulent land by the extermination of its inhabitants.  This is the calm, not of order, but of inaction; it is not the tranquillity, but the stillness of death. (To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and call it a peace. – Tacitus.) – A Practical View of Christianity  (William Wilberforce)

I’m not proposing stoicism at all.  I think that passion is an important part of love, but I believe most fervently that it is not love.  It can be its own entity, but when separated from Love, it becomes a beast, and makes animals of us all.

Love does not concern itself with advantages.  It is not competitive.  It allows us to confront in kindness, but it has nothing to do with self-pride.  It allows us to live in humility.

We need a love revolution.  And a revolution takes work.  When looking for a husband or wife, the first person to catch your eye is not always the right one.  (“Less vividly is the mind stirred by what finds entrance through the ears than by what is brought before the trusty eyes. . . ” – Horace)  Don’t listen to your heart, which is and has proved to be deceitful above all things, but listen to the principles that are firmly grounded within you.  Why should we forsake all our work?  The woman preparing to be a spinster loses nothing in all her work when she unexpectedly gets a husband.  She has someone to work alongside now, a further encouragement, another object for the love she’s seeking to imitate.

I have been convicted about love.  Adulthood is the time to carry out and pursue ideals, and I am entering on that stage.  This is the one pursuit that will not disappoint.  How can it, when it is founded in Christ?  It is done for him, and for him alone.  He is the only Object.  He has brought me into the world in his providence, he will take me out, he will greet me in death, he is sanctifying and will finally perfect me.  He is the solid foundation, the aim I’m working towards.  He is love, and I pray for his love to flow through me, so that I become wrapped in it, enamored with it, so that it is in me and through me, so that it becomes my very being.

Favorite Things

I have favorite things, a lot of them, and sometimes I love to blurt them all out, so I’m going to right now.

1. Spring. The way it feels on my skin, and the shivers it sends through my body.  The tension between the wind that freezes and the sun that warms.  The heavy clouds that want to drop on the earth, and empty their burdens on my uncovered head.

2. Books. The way a book feels in my hand, the way my mind responds to it, the way my forehead creases into worry before I realize how anxious I must look to any passerby.  The way I get so immersed into it, as if the book was a culture in and of itself.

3. Colors. How the colors of my room remind me of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its snatches of beauty and color splattered here and there, the primroses on the sill of my window, a shelf filled with vintage collections from grandmothers, and old books.

4. Freedom. Personal freedom. How free my life is now that I’ve deactivated my facebook.  I feel more private, personal, and original, less busy, less of a nosey person. Really I’m just so happy, because now people have to ask me what’s going on.  They have to call me or come visit.  I love hearing your voices and getting your letters and seeing your faces much better than I like hearing about it all on the internet.

5. Guitar. Hearing my older brother play the guitar at night.  For six years he’s been out of the house.  Now he and his wife are staying with us a few months before moving to Scotland, and I realize how much I’ve missed hearing his fingers strum out the songs in his head.

6. Youth. The grace God has given me to realize the short time I have now, and the strength he’s given me to use my time wisely.

7. Forgetfulness. How often I don’t write on this blog, and how many times a day I say: “I should really write a blog post on that…”

8. Cemeteries.  Feeling myself living and breathing, and knowing that I will decay and rot, but someday, I will meet some of these souls in eternity, and my heart-beat quickens when I think of my approaching death, because it will bind me to my Saviour.  Another favorite thing is bound up in this: fighting the fight I was called to.  For though I look forward to death, I take joy in this life, in this battle, that is weary at times and painful, but I take joy in it because I do it for the sake of Christ, and he has given me a mind, a taste, a sense for the beautiful.

9. Flowers. Tulips and daffodils, and how, when I’m going to sleep, the spring breeze carries their scent from the vase where they stand to me, everything sweet and lovely about it.

10. Music.  The Water, sung by Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling.  It’s so simple, almost melancholy, but it appeals to my mind.

11.  Silence.  How, when I close my eyes, everything is filled.  The soul-waves that bear me almost to the brink of the unbearable, that fill me with pain, joy, thankfulness, and love.

12. Love. True love, and you’ll probably get a post on it soon.  I am rather fed up with the world and how most people deal with love, because to my eyes it is sacred.  The ties between siblings, children and parents, husband and wife, friends, the love that binds them together is sacred.  Alright… more on that later… maybe tonight…

13. Fifty-Six Stories.  I am truly addicted to it.  I love writing my little story each night, I love how it’s become a natural part of me.  I love seeing my writing progress and regress and then progress again.  I love the critiques my friends give me.

14. Memories.  I have many, and they seem bitter sweet.  A smell of something will remind me of days when I was little and ran freely in the joy of youth.  I am still basking in youth, loving it, embracing it, meeting it full in the face, trying to capture every moment of it.

15. Dreaming.  Purposeful dreaming.  A sudden lull in the beat of every day life, where a dream comes, the excitement it brings, and the joy.  Another purpose, a new goal, something to pursue.

16. Problems.  I have had a lot of problems this year.  I’ve felt pretty messed up sometimes, but looking back, I see how they’ve strengthened me.  Even in the midst of them, I enjoyed in a rather odd way how low I was, how completely laid low, just because I knew that I would be raised up with new courage.

17. Learning.  Ideas, thoughts, philosophies, dreams, adventures.  I love these things with my heart, and I love talking about them with other people.  I’ll settle for reading, but I much prefer looking at the sky through the branches of a budding tree and talking about people’s ideas, and learning from wiser people.

18.  Fairytales.  The lost meanings, the misinterpreted beauty.  I love the originality, the sameness and yet variety.  I love folklore too.

19. Friends.  The good friends who inspire you, who help you along the road of life, encouraging, honing, giving all they can and accepting what you give.

20.  Family.  My mother, good and kind, wonderful and inspiring.  My daddy, strong and wise, who can answer any question I ask.  My brothers and sisters, dearly loved, with all their quirks and eccentricities, all their wildness, their different characters and personalities.

At the end of this list I find myself blessed, as always.  Almost burdened by so much goodness, so much joy that has been given to my soul.  Some people find me quiet, some find me loud.  I express myself in different ways, but I am a thinker.  I think when the joy is too much for me,  I laugh loud and sing when it is too much for me.  I am thankful and happy in the life God has placed before me, abandoned to the race in front of me, ready to fight His battle.

Sustenance

The man declares, I am weary, O God;
I am weary, O God, and worn out.
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. (Proverbs 30:1-3)

I felt it.  The overload, the depression, the fogginess.  My brain was going to explode, but I couldn’t stop studying.  I felt like I had plunged myself on a 100mph highway with no exits or pull-overs.  You might call it an obsession.  I felt so disconnected from everything.  All my studies were depressing: from Macbeth, to Bolshevism, to Hitler.

Thankfully something broke up this awful regime.  Today is one of my close friend’s birthday.  So another friend and I drove down to visit her.  Though we must be running on adrenaline, I feel refreshed already.  I can’t study.  I have to loosen up about it and just accept it.  My friend lives on 62 beautiful acres of wilderness in southern Ohio.  The three of us went for a drive today, just to drive.  I enjoyed this kind of driving: the dirt backroads, stopping occasionally to catch a view from the top of a ridge, looking down on the fields and woods, and the huge sky.

We visited an old graveyard, and we had a photo-shoot on top of a line of hay-rolls.  We laughed and kicked our shoes off, enjoying the earthy smell of the hay, and feeling the wind against our backs.

It was around this time that I realized the meaning of the word sustenance.  It’s not being fed until you’re satisfied, but it’s the grace that’s given daily: the little ounce of strength or refreshment that resets your mind and your soul, and puts you into a new perspective.  It’s the grace that gets you by, just enough.  Never too much.  Never too little.

Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to mebefore I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God. (Psalm 30:7-9)

Tired as I am, this break from my studies and every day life has reset my focus.  I can’t really imagine myself returning to school with vigour and excitement, but I will feel refreshed: no longer closed in by death and socialism and governments and countries falling apart.  There’s something refreshing in having a clear mind.  And I certainly have one.

I have been sustained.  Not filled, but given enough grace to persevere.  I have had a chance to get out from behind the pages of a book and enjoy the sun filtering through my skin, the wide sky, the lofty hay-rolls.  I am enjoying the love and fellowship of friends I love dearly.  I have been experiencing more of the important things in life, and for that, I am grateful.

(All photo credits to Rachel Clarke @ Photographie is Felicite)

Turkish Rugs

I want to be a Turkish rug.

Because I am saying it now, it probably seems ridiculous to you.  After all, why would I want to be a rug? Even metaphorically speaking?

I often amuse myself by looking at questions in my science book before I read the material.  It amuses me because it shows me how reading one or two paragraphs can teach me so many things.  The phrase “I want to be  Turkish rug,” acts like the science question.  It makes no sense now, but after you read my post it will, and I hope you will want to be a Turkish rug with me.

I was reading about Edmond Dantes apartments in Rome in The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.  It talked about the rugs, the tapestries, the paintings, the vases, and everything else.

“Of course,” was the first thought that came to my mind.  The description didn’t surprise or astonish me, because everything was relative.  It is not surprising that some of the best composers were German, because of Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Strauss, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann.  French silks, Egyptian cotton, Indian spices.  The best glass is, of course Venetian glass.  Dutch cabinets are quite common, and Arabian horses are said to be the fastest.  All well-plotted and planted gardens must be English.  If you wish to describe a richly woven tapestry or carpet, it will probably be Turkish. None of these things surprise or shock us—they are all in their element, especially when put together.  It is only right that they should go together.

Let us look at the reverse of the Count’s room.  The hovel.

A broken table, three-legged chairs with pieces of rotten wood replacing the missing support.  The floor is of dirt, pieces of soiled rags are stuffed in the cracks of the walls.  Rain drips from the roof, but there are no buckets to place under it.  The children are hardly dressed, the wife has greasy hair and filthy clothes.  The husband sits at the table, head in his hands.  A rat investigates a broken cupboard, but there is no food.  A piece of yellowed canvas stretched over a smashed window pane.  Rivulets stream under the door and gather into a puddle underneath the table.  The walls are stained, the ceiling is of rancid straw.

This is the way I imagined the poor man’s house in The Idiot.  I do not remember his name, but it was not surprising to me.  When his poor, ragged clothes were described, it was only right that he should live in a hovel.

But could you imagine the bright, rich, warm Turkish rug in this hovel?

Or could you imagine the dirt floor in the apartment of the Count?

Those two things are startling, when you think about it.  If I walked into the hovel, I would not gape in astonishment at the natural surroundings.  But if the Turkish rug were there, I would be puzzled, confused.  Likewise, the Count’s room would only surprise me if I saw that he had a dirt floor, or a thatched ceiling.

It’s because the Venetian glass and the Turkish rugs, the rat and the broken window are all relative.  When the glass and the rug are by themselves, they stand out.  When they are put together, they compliment each other.  It is the same with the rat and window, but in a more repulsive sense.  Yet, if the Venetian glass was set by a broken window, the thing becomes confusing, as does the rat on the Turkish carpet.

The latter combination does not fit, and does not belong.  It never will.

If this world were our hovel, then I would want to be the Turkish rug.  The bright, cheerful element that lifts the utter depression of the place, and shocks and surprises the onlooker at the same time.  But it is a good sort of surprise and curiosity.

“Where did this rug come from?” they would ask.

But I would never want to be the dirt floor in the count’s apartments.  I would want to replace the hovel with a mahogany table, French paintings, Venetian glass, Roman marble floors.  I would want to make it into the count’s apartments, but I would never want to be the stain on the beautiful.

Hitler was a stain on the beautiful.  He destroyed many of the carpets and smashed the Venetian glass, reducing the spectacular elements of the room to more like that of a hovel.

But I am determined to be a Turkish rug, and I want my friends to join me in this.  Be something outstanding, be as startling and shocking to the world as the rug in the hovel.  Remember that the world is watching you.  It will not be surprised if I revert to being the dirt floor—in fact, it might feel a little less uncomfortable if all things remain in their own elements.  “Leave Heaven to itself, and let the world be, though it is a hovel.”  But I cannot do that.  If the world is a hovel with all its proper elements, how can those who enter have any idea of a salvation from such a life?

So I want to be  Turkish rug, or the Venetian glass, or a German symphony, or an Indian spice.  Join me.

Ethereality

Sometimes there are those wonderful poems that take us away from the reality and darkness of this world and bind us to beauty and peace.  I feel like this poem is one of them.  I know it is a little long, but it is worth the read.

Sleeping Beauty, by Maxfield Parrish


Alfred, Lord Tennyson


THE DAY-DREAM

Prologue

O Lady Flora, let me speak:

A pleasant hour has passed away

While, dreaming on your damask cheek,

The dewy sister-eyelids lay.

As by the lattice you reclined,

I went thro’ many wayward moods

To see you dreaming—and, behind,

A summer crisp with shining woods.

And I too dream’d, until at last

Across my fancy, brooding warm,

The reflex of a legend past,

And loosely settled into form.

And would you have the thought I had,

And see the vision that I saw,

Then take the broidery-frame and add

A crimson to the quaint Macaw,

And I will tell it. Turn your face,

Nor look with that too-earnest eye—

The rhymes are dazzled from their place

And order’d words asunder fly.

 

 

The Sleeping Palace

I.

The varying year with blade and sheaf

Clothes and reclothes the happy plains,

Here rests the sap within the leaf,

Here stays the blood along the veins.

Faint shadows, vapours lightly curl’d,

Faint murmurs from the meadows come,

Like hints and echoes of the world

To spirits folded in the womb.

 

II.

Soft lustre bathes the range of urns

On every slanting terrace-lawn.

The fountain to his place returns

Deep in the garden lake withdrawn.

Here droops the banner on the tower,

On the hall-heaths the festal fires,

The peacock in his laurel bower,

The parrot in his gilded wires.

 

III.

Roof-haunting martins warm their eggs:

In these, in those the life is stay’d.

The mantles from the golden pegs

Droop sleepily: no sound is made,

Not even of a gnat that sings.

More like a pictures seemeth all

Than those old portraits of old kings,

That watch the sleepers from the wall.

 

IV.

Here sits the Butler with a flask

Between his knees, half-drain’d; and there

The wrinkled steward at his task,

The maid-of-honour blooming fair;

The page has caught her hand in his:

Her lips are sever’d as to speak:

His own are pouted to a kiss:

THe blush is fix’d upon her cheek.

 

V.

Till all the hundred summers pass,

The beams, that thro’ the Oriel shine,

Make prisms in every carven glass,

And beaker brimm’d with noble wine.

Each baron at the banquet sleeps,

Grave faces gather’d in a ring.

His state the king reposing keeps.

He must have been a jovial king.

 

VI.

All round a hedge upshoots, and shows

At distance like a little wood;

Thorns ivies, woodbine, mistletoes,

And grapes with bunches red as blood;

All creeping plants, a wall of green

Close-matted, bur and brake and briar,

And glimpsing over these, just seen,

High up, the topmost palace spire.

 

VII.

When will the hundred summers die,

And thought and time be born again,

And newer knowledge, drawing nigh,

Bring truth that sways the soul of men?

Here all things in their place remain,

As all were order’d, ages since.

Com, Care and Pleasure, Hope and Pain,

And bring the fated fairy Prince.

 

The Sleeping Beauty

I.

Year after year unto her feet,

She lying on her couch alone,

Across the purple coverlet,

The maiden’s jet-black hair has grown,

On either side her tranced form

Forth streaming from a braid of pearl:

The slumbrous light is rich and warm

And moves not on the rounded curl.

 

II.

The silk star-broider’d coverlid

Unto her limbs itself doth mould

Languidly ever; and, amid

Her full black ringlets downward roll’d,

Glows forth each softly-shadow’d arm

With bracelets of the diamond bright:

Her constant beauty doth inform

Stillness with love, and day with light.

 

III.

She sleeps: her breathings are not heard

In palace chambers far apart.

The fragrant tresses are not stirr’d

That lie upon her charmed heart.

She sleeps: on either hand upswells

The gold-fringed pillow lightly prest:

She sleeps, nor dreams, but ever dwells

A perfect form in perfect rest.

 

The Arrival

I.

All precious things, discover’d late,

To those that seek them issue foth;

For love in sequel works with fate,

And draws the veil from hidden worth.

He travels far from other skies—

His mantle glitters on the rocks—

A fairy Prince, with joyful eyes,

And lighter-footed than the fox.

 

II.

The bodies and the bones of those

That strove in other days to pass,

Are wither’d in the thorny close,

Or scatter’d blanching on the grass.

He gazes on the silent dead:

‘They perish’d in their daring deeds.’

This proverb flashes thro’ his head,

‘The many fail: the one succeeds.’

 

III.

He comes, scarce knowing what he seeks:

He breaks the hedge: he enters there:

The colour flies into his cheeks:

He trusts to light on something fair;

For all his life the charm did talk

About his path, and hover near

With words of promise in his walk,

And whisper’d voices at his ear.

 

IV.

More close and close his footsteps wind:

The Magic Music in his heart

Beats quick and quicker, till he find

The quiet chamber far apart.

His spirit flutters like a lark,

He stoops—to kiss her—on his knee.

‘Love, if thy tresses be so dark,

How dark those hidden eyes must be!’

 

The Rivival

I.

A touch, a kiss! the charm was snapt.

There rose a noise of striking clocks,

And feet that ran, and doors that clapt,

And barking dogs, and crowing cocks;

A fuller light illumined all,

A breeze thro’ all the garden swept,

A sudden hubbub shook the hall,

And sixty feet the fountain leapt.

 

II.

The hedge broke in, the banner blew,

The butler drank, the steward scrawl’d,

The fire shot up, the martin flew,

The parrot scream’d, the peacock squall’d,

The maid and page renew’d their strife,

The palace ban’d, and buzz’d and clackt,

And all the long-pent stream of life

Dash’d downward in a cataract.

 

III.

And last with these the king awoke,

And in his chair himself uprear’d,

ANd yawn’d, and rubb’d his face, and spok,

‘By holy rood, a royal beard!

How say you? we have slept, my lords.

My beard has grown into my lap.’

The barons swore, with many words,

‘Twas but an after-dinner’s nap.

 

IV.

‘Pardy,’ return’d the king, ‘but still

My joints are somewhat stiff or so.

My lord, and shall we pass the bill

I mention’d half an hour ago?’

The chancellor, sedate and vain,

In courteous words return’d reply:

But dallied with his golden chain,

And, smiling, put the question by.

 

The Departure

I.

And on her lover’s arm she leant,

And round her waist she felt it fold,

And far across the hills they went

In that new world which is the old:

Across the hills, and far away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

And deep into the dying day

The happy princess follow’d him.

 

II.

‘I’d sleep another hundred years,

O love, for such another kiss,’

‘O wake for ever, love,’ she hears,

‘O love, ’twas such as this and this.’

And o’er them many a sliding star,

And many a merry wind was borne,

And, stream’d thro’ many a golden bar,

The twilight melted into morn.

 

III.

‘O eyes long laid in happy sleep!’

‘O happy sleep, that lightly fled!’

‘O happy kiss, that woke thy sleep!’

‘O love, thy kiss would wake the dead!’

And o’er them many a flowing range

Of vapour buoy’d the crescent-bark,

And, rapt, thro’ many a rosy change,

The twilight died into the dark.

 

IV.

‘And hundred summers! can it be?

And whither goest thou, tell me where?’

‘O seek my father’s court with me,

For there are greater wonders there.’

And o’er the hills, and fary away

Beyond their utmost purple rim,

Beyond the night, across the day,

Thro’ all the world she follow’d him.

 

Moral

I.

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And if you find no moral there,

Go look in any glass and say,

What moral is in being fair.

Oh, to what uses shall we put

The wildweed-flower that simply blows?

And is there any moral shut

Within the bosom of the rose?

 

II.

But any man that walks the mead,

In bud or blade, or bloom, may find,

According as his humours lead,

A meaning suited to his mind.

And liberal applications lie

In Art like Nature, dearest friend;

So ’twere to cramp its use, if I

Should hook it to some useful end.

 

L’envoi

I.

you shake your head. A random string

Your finer female sense offends.

Well—were it not a pleasant thing

To fall asleep with all one’s friends;

To pass with all our social ties

To silence from the paths of men;

And every hundred years to rise

And learn the world, and sleep again;

To sleep thro’ terms of mighty wars,

And wake on science grown to more,

On secrets of the brain, the stars,

As wild as aught of fairy lore;

And all that else the years will show,

The Poet-forms of stronger hours,

The vast Republics that may grow,

The Federations and the Powers;

Titanic forces taking birth

In divers seasons, divers climes;

For we are Ancients of the earth,

And in the morning of the times.

 

II.

So sleeping, so aroused from sleep

Thro’ sunny decades new and strange,

Or gay quinquenniads would we reap

The flower and quintessence of change.

 

III.

Ah, yet would I—and would I might!

So much your eyes my fancy take–

Be still the first to leap to light

That I might kiss those eyes awake!

For, am I right, or am I wrong,

To choose your own you did not care;

You’d have my moral from the song,

And I will take my pleasure there:

And, am I right or am I wrong,

My fancy, ranging thro’ and thro’,

To search a meaning for the song,

Perforce will still revert to you;

Nor finds a closer truth than this

All-graceful head, so richly curl’d,

ANd evermore a costly kiss

The prelude to some brighter world.

 

IV.

For since the time when Adam first

Embraced his Eve in happy hour,

And every bird of Eden burst

In carol, every bud to flower,

What eyes, like thine, have waken’d hopes,

What lips, like thine, so sweetly join’d?

Where on the double rosebud droops

The fulness of the pensive mind;

Which all too dearly self-involved,

Yet sleeps a dreamless sleep to me;

A sleep by kisses undissolved,

That lets thee neither hear nor see:

But break it. IN the name of wife,

And in the rights that name may give,

Are clasp’d the moral of they life,

And that for which I care to live.

 

Epilogue

So, Lady Flora, take my lay,

And, if you find a meaning there,

O whisper to your glass, and say,

‘What wonder, if he thinks me fair?’

What wonder I was all unwise,

To shape the song for your delight

Like long tail’d birds of Paradise

That float thro’ Heaven, and cannot light?

Or old-world trains, upheld at court

By Cupid-boys of blooming hue—

But take it—earnest wed with sport,

And either sacred unto you.