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.

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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.

Immortal

It was only croquet, last night.  A small game, and a simple thing, but we all laughed at each other, for none of us were really good at it.  My brother made funny shots; one made the ball jump over the wicket instead of through it.  He turned to me, and he smiled.  And my heart ached when I saw him smile, for I saw all his youth —right before me, I saw our youth and a million memories, and how quickly it was going.  I saw how happy we were, how young and inexperienced and naive, but happy because we knew the things we loved. Already, because I am noticing it, I am growing out of simplicity, into a complex future where there is less room for this funny, carefree life, where love will be challenged, and principles tested.  And I prayed then that our youth would last as long as possible, like a dream that you know will end.

And now, I see other things.  “I should have felt ‘the joy of grief'” as Keats would put it.  I see a beauty in the struggle, a deeper enjoyment than could have been experienced.  For our minds will expand and grow larger, able to adapt to the tribulations of living in this world.  There is a beauty, a joy, and an adventure in learning new things.  Leaving youth is saying goodbye to something you always knew and were used to.  And however much you might want it all to stay the same, it must change, and I at least cannot help but take delight in the things the future brings.

There is this conflict, this irony about our lives.  How we at once seek to be young and be grown up.  How we wish to die, yet wish to be immortal. How we wish to order our own lives, yet be free from constraint and responsibility.  There are smiles, laughs, a face that stays with you in your mind forever, an image that you never forget, even if it is disconnected from everything you know, like seeing the smile of someone you’ve never met, and will never see again.  This is the beauty of memory, that even in life, the rush of life, there comes a quiet moment and a thought, and the memory itself, and it seems like time stops as you relive the memory, and you think: “I will always remember this.”

 

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I think about people,

And the way they rush

I think about how they rush for the sake of rushing.

 

I think about foxes,

And how they dash through the woods,

Sneaky, daring, and scarlet red.

 

I think about the summer sun,

About the people it burns,

The people it warms,

And the cold dead who can’t feel it.

 

I think about the helpless dead

Who can do no more than they have done;

Who will never get a second chance.

 

They sing a strange song,

Silent like an autumn wind,

That makes its sound through the trees;

Their song lulls me when I sit

And consider the end.

 

The living become the dead.

The scarlet hair falls from the fox

Leaving his bare bones,

And God spins life on.

 

And there is no silence in the rush of life

We are forced out of grief

Forward into our lives,

 

And we cannot stop anything.

 

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.

Christmas Children

Last night I was doing absolutely nothing.  In fact I think I was wasting time, which is worse than nothing. My eight year old brother Luther came thumping up my stairs.

“Can I sleep with you? Duncan and Gabriel are watching The Birds with mommy and daddy and I don’t want to go to bed by myself.  And I get to sleep with Duncan every night, but I don’t get to sleep with you very often.”

I regret to say that I had a struggle.  I could easily tell him to go downstairs—Duncan would be up soon—and resume my pursuit of nothingness.  But something inside me—maybe it was the grace of God—said: “Why shouldn’t he sleep with you?  This could be a wonderful opportunity to build your relationship with your little brother.”

So I told him yes.  I said I would read for a little while, but while I was in the self-sacrifice spirit I thought I might as well ask if he wanted me to read to him instead.  He said yes.  He picked up a book that we had started a long time ago.  Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, by Brian Jacques.  We had only gotten a few chapters into it.  What I deemed to be a self-sacrificial act on my part proved to be one of enjoyment to both of us.  Luther has a brain-sponge that soaks up information.  Maps were pulled up so we could see where the seas of Tierra Del Fuego and the Cape of Good Hope were situated.  Luther explained to me why Captain Vanderdecken was so wicked.

“Because what he said about nothing being able to stop him going around Cape Horn, not even God.”

“And why is that bad?”

“Because God can do anything.”

It was a simple explanation, but I saw that he understood the captain’s defiance of God’s authority and power.

Before we went to sleep we talked.   We discussed all sorts of things.  Oceans, swimming, sharks, history, what he wants to be when he grows up.  We played a game where we listed all the different fruits.  Then we played a variation where we listed all the different vegetables.   We got so tired that there were five minute intervals before the other listed the next vegetable.  I think we both fell asleep after I said “kale.”  Throughout the night I was conscious of the little boy next to me.  He provided a comfort to my loneliness that I often experience when I miss my sister.  He was also a little heater in the bed, since my room is always very cold.  In the morning Duncan came running up the stairs and told us breakfast was ready.  Luther stumbled out of bed, his eyes half closed.

“I think I’ll get up now.”

Almost three and a half years ago my brother left home to go to Texas as an intern for a Christian company.  As a young girl of fourteen I didn’t realize that it marked the termination of his life at home.  Over the next two years he was in and out.  He struggled, and we struggled with him.  I remember writing in my journal the sorrow I felt at having him so far away.

“It feels like a limb has been cut off of my body.  After it’s cut off the limb may do whatever it likes, but the body must suffer and learn to do without it.”

Such was my rather pessimistic view on the matter, but the truth was I missed him terribly, and thought myself to be undergoing a sort of trial that was not typical for girls of my age.  I felt that it was a time to mature, to not roll with the punches but to rise up and fight them like a grown up.  Like most young girls my views on maturity were rather flawed.  When Christmas time came I thought that I must be sober-minded about it.  I was truly bothered with the idea that people got more excited about “Christmas cheer” than the birth of Christ.  Truly, I unconsciously thought we must all be moralists and pay attention only to Christmas as it had to do with Christ.  To start not caring about the presents.

Last year was my brother’s wedding.  It was a week after Christmas, so everything was traumatic during that time and Christmas was rushed.

This October my sister got married, but we have been quiet ever since then.  Our family affairs have calmed down.  There are no great changes, and low and behold, Christmas is coming.

Looking back on that year when Peter went away, on all the nights I cried myself to sleep and all the times when I thought I must mature and leave behind the childishness of my character,  I see how wrong I was.  True, it was a struggle.  It naturally took away that childish naivety.  But still children know better.

What child doesn’t like to receive gifts? What child doesn’t absolutely love Christmas?

I told one of my friends yesterday that I was as excited about Christmas as a baby.  When Tirzah was hiding a present from me I was jumping up and down outside her door saying: “I LOVE CHRISTMAS!”  I was suddenly aware of an eager anticipation build up inside of me.  I can’t wait till mommy and daddy wake us up and we come down to the brilliant room.  It is because of Christ that we are able to enjoy Christmas, and I do not think Christ was a moralist.

I see how he has changed my heart.  Even my parents enjoy the exchanging of gifts, the Christmas cheer, the lights, the music, the snow, the fellowship.  It is a time to be happy, to be glad, to be grateful.  In truth, I am beginning to realize how much sense I lost when I began to apply myself to growing up.  Last night I kept reminding myself, as I talked to Luther: “Don’t talk to him as an adult talks to a child.  Condescendingly.  Talk to him as though he’s teaching to you.  Listen to him.”  And he did teach me things.  He taught me a simplistic form of happiness by his manner of talking.  He taught me about salamanders and lizards and sharks and amphibians.  He told me a story about my mother that I had never heard before.

I want to be a Christmas child again.  Not THE Christmas Child, but a Christmas child.  The kind that enjoys life.  The child who, when Christmas is over, says with regret: “Three hundred and sixty four days until Christmas.”

It’s only seventeen days until Christmas, and I can hardly wait.

By the way.  This picture is a picture of a Christmas child.  There isn’t any snow.  But he is a Christmas child because he is happy in his youth, and he is persevering, and he is looking forward to Christmas with great impatience.  He is truly a gift to me, as are all my dear brothers.

Anne of the Island: Reality versus Idealism

I finished Anne of the Island, jumped off the couch, stomped my way into the kitchen and exclaimed in a weird voice: “I’LL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!”  And I do believe I won’t.  I always say that after I’m particularly affected by something in a book.

I love the themes that played out in this book.  Anne’s desire to go to school and finish her education, homesickness and last but not least, the battle between idealism and a true sense of reality.

Anne’s reality was very beautiful because… why? Oh, because it was Gilbert.  But she didn’t think so at first, because her ideals got in the way.  It happens to everyone, I’m pretty sure.  We create ideals for a work position, a marriage partner, a lifestyle etc.  However, when our ideals aren’t fulfilled, we’re left dissatisfied and empty, because there’s no joy left to embrace the beauty in the reality that we have.  Anne’s ideal man: tall, handsome, poetical, melancholy…. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Gilbert is tall, hardly melancholy, humorous, and appreciative of literature and poetry but not drowning in the romance of it.  He’s almost the complete opposite of Anne’s ideal.  He’s just a chum.

Sometimes that’s how I look at things.  I refuse to see the aspects I might benefit from in a friendship, in a job or in an education.  So here comes the catch.  Though there may be something I need, I don’t see it because of what I want, and what I think I need.  There is a God in the heavens, who knows me so well, knows me so much better than I know myself, that He also knows exactly what I need, in a job, in a friend, in school, in marriage, in every aspect and situation of life.  This is what Anne found out.  Royal Gardner was everything she ever wanted.

So, Anne rejects poor Gilbert, who hides his disappointment and strives to “get over her” (not happening) as best he can.  “Roy” shows up, and Anne falls head over heels for him.  But why, when Roy proposes, does Anne say no, when she had every intention of saying yes?  She realized at that critical moment that Roy wasn’t what she needed.  The horrible emptiness she felt after Gilbert “ceased to be a friend” nagged at her mind, but she was still confused.  The only thing she felt right about was refusing Roy, and she felt at peace about it.  She realized what she needed and wanted all along when that thing was about to be snatched out of her life forever.  I’d say this was impeccable timing, wouldn’t you?

But don’t go and throw idealism out the window.  Just because Anne realized she didn’t need her ideal doesn’t mean she should go and marry Charlie Sloane, for instance.  Don’t shoot low, just because you can’t obtain the perfection of your ideals.  Strive for the best, but don’t just settle on something.  Even in striving for the best, ideals might get in the way.  Ideals are things that are good and dangerous at the same time.  Don’t ignore them, but don’t build your life on them. It’s confusing, isn’t it? Someday I’ll devote a whole blog post on the subject.

Anne’s friend, Philippa Gordon, goes through much the same thing.  She had her ideals… a rich man, a good name, handsome.  She ended up marrying a man who loved every bit of her, who could see underneath her mask of frivolity into her inner soul and love it.  He was poor, a minister and she described him as ugly.  But she could see into his soul, and that made him beautiful to her.  All of the sudden, her ideals came crashing down as well.

A melancholy part enters about the middle of the book.  Anne’s childhood friend, Ruby Gillis, dies of consumption.  Terrified, she faces death with the idea that the next world will be totally different.  She feels scared, unprepared, and “different,” as though she wouldn’t fit in.  She spent the whole of her life doing absolutely nothing of importance, nothing that could be commended of her at her death.  After Ruby confides to Anne her fears regarding her fast approaching death, I came upon this interesting and all too true passage:

“Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight. The evening had changed something for her. Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had been stirred. It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. When she came to the end of one life it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different—something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth.”

Do I say too much in these posts? I can never decide when to stop.

Just one more thing.

When Anne leaves for college, she crosses the same body of water in the same boat that carried her to Prince Edward Island when she was eleven or twelve.  She had first crossed it, expecting a change in her life for the better.  The old life, with its run-down families and asylums would be gone forever, and this would begin the next epoch of her life.  For seven or eight years, she had not stirred from the Island.  She had been contented with her life; her character had been honed; friends had been made.  Things had stayed the same.  But after she leaves for her first year of college, things start to change.  Not in routine, or lifestyle, but in experience, and wisdom, and feeling.  Avonlea felt different to her when she visited, almost as though she were a stranger.  And it’s true that places we live that we learn to love are just resting stops.  We move on, eventually, and though they still remain dear, we change, and we move on.  It’s a bit sad, but it’s a bit of life as well.

I hope I’m not boring you…

Anne of Avonlea: Girlhood versus Womanhood

Dear Readers :)

These Anne posts are by far my very favorite.  I love thinking through what I’m going to say, and watch the thoughts and ideas take shape in my mind.  My soul thrills when I read these books, no exaggeration.

I quote: “I love Anne of Avonlea because of just the beauty and wonder of a girl going form girlhood to womanhood…” Hayley said this in reply to my question of what her favorite Anne book was.  This flow is caught very much through the book, and the simple, girlish dreams quietly submerge into womanly ideas.

“Friendship is very beautiful,” smiled Mrs. Allan, “but some day…” Then she paused abruptly. In the delicate, whitebrowed face beside her, with its candid eyes and mobile features, there was still far more of the child than of the woman.  Anne’s heart so far harbored only dreams of friendship and ambition, and Mrs. Allan did not wish to brush the bloom from her sweet unconsciousness. So she left her sentence for future years to continue.

The sense of Anne’s girlhood is very strong throughout these pages.  Though she’s mature, a little wiser, and a little more sensible, she’s still… well, a girl.  But look at the end.

“.…it was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. …. Then the veil dropped again; but the Anne who walked up the dark lane was not quite the same Anne who had driven gaily down it the evening before. The page of girlhood had been turned, as by an unseen finger, and the page of womanhood was before her with all its charm and mystery, its pain and gladness.

I sometimes feel as though I’m turning the page from girlhood to womanhood… and then I turn the page back to re-read something, or do something I missed… it’s that hovering stage.  I’m not really a girl anymore, but I’m not quite a woman.

Another thing that struck me was the change in Diana and Anne’s friendship.  Their relationship didn’t fall out, but there was a slight sifting of ground.  It’s when Diana becomes engaged.  Anne says to herself once or twice that she can’t tell Diana “this or that” because “she’ll be sure to tell Fred.  I know, because she tells him everything.”  Far from grudging Diana for this, Anne seems content to keep some of her thoughts to herself.  However, she says: “Oh, I think these engagements are dreadfully unsettling things when they happen to your intimate friends.”  Amen, sistahh!  This again is another change from “Anne the girl” to “Anne the woman.”  As little girls, we love anything that has to do with an engagement, or a wedding.  At that young age, it’s hard to sense the change that comes in a close friendship.  I can understand Anne perfectly in this, because I have three or four very close friends now who are either married or getting prepared for their weddings.  You still continue to love that person to death, but aspects of your friendship change.  You feel a bit lonelier than before, a bit more by yourself.  It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes it can be a hard thing, and part of this is what helps Anne turn the page to womanhood.

Gilbert makes me laugh. And smile.  And cry.  Well, maybe not the last one.  But I love reading about the parts where he talks to Anne.  He’s always on the verge of saying something sentimental, and then “wisely” holds his tongue. And then sometimes he slips, and Anne punishes him in some way, but he plays off her punishment so she only feels the sting of it.  It’s so lovely, and so funny, and I wonder if a man is really like that at all.  Gilbert said something at the end that is an absolute reflection of his relationship with Anne—past, present and future.  It had to do with the Miss Lavender romance. (I love Miss Lavender.  If ever I am an old maid, I will be just like her.)

Anne says: “Isn’t it beautiful to think how everything has turned out…how they have come together again after all the years of separation and misunderstanding?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful,” said Gilbert, looking steadily down into Anne’s uplifted face, [I love the height difference here…] “but wouldn’t it have been more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding…if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”

I am pretending through this series that I don’t know what happens with regards to Anne and Gilbert, but I suppose I’ll break off of that for just one moment.  Like Miss Lavender and Stephen Irving, Anne and Gilbert had a quarrel.  But unlike Miss Lavender, Anne finally decided to break down her pride and “forgive and forget.”  Unlike Stephen Irving, Gilbert stuck around and when Anne was quite ready to forgive, he was

ready to receive forgiveness.  (This is disregarding that space of about a year or so where Gilbert and Anne ignored each other’s existence mutually.)

Because of meal of humble pie both Anne and Gilbert partook of early on, they opened the road to a life where they would walk “hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other.”

Beautiful, wonderful book, full of wisdom… and mischief…

I love Davy Keith.  He is by far my favorite character (apart from Anne and Gilbert) of the series.  I love his mischief, his questions.  He is the epitome of a little boy, he asks all the questions everybody thinks.  “Anne, where is heaven? I want to know.”  And his devotion to food and mud.  He’s a perfect mischief maker, and he makes himself adorable.  Dora, his twin, is prim and proper and does everything the right way but she’s less lovable.  It’s quite funny. :)

By the way, Hayley has written her Anne post at head in the clouds. You should go check it out, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it was very, very insightful. :)