Introspection

There are those certain things in life that surprise you, amaze you, and you become lost in their beauty and significance, which brings you full circle to glorifying God.  Sometimes these are little things.

I seek quiet, when I can.   Lately I’ve been working 5-6 days a week, and am rarely home.  I have been trying to train myself to seek out the quiet moments, find them when I can.  Maybe on the short fifteen minute break I get, sitting in a quiet room, just enjoying the silence.

Two seconds count.  In less than a second a small insect disappeared in front of the red toad named Pimples (I didn’t name her).

“Do it again!” I said.  And it reminded me of when Chesterton talked about the repetition of things.  How the sun doesn’t rise every morning because it’s on a cycle, but because God is actively commanding the sun to, “do it again.”  We have become discontent with repetition, with the simple things like the rising of the sun, or the look of a daisy.  We desire something new because we have grown weary and tired of the things that used to amaze us.  “We have sinned and grown old and our Father is younger than we.”  It is from a great energy that a child is able to enjoy a trick performed in front of him a thousand times over.  We have lost something as we have grown.  When we weary of the little things, we pursue new things, and we are constantly on a running journey to discover something new, to be pleased in a different way.

But God isn’t like that, he’s not like us.  A truly murmured “Thank you,” for his gifts every day never fails to please him.  He never is tired of hearing our prayers, our prayers that are so repetitive in their essence, never tired of hearing our praises sung to him.  “Do it again,” he says.

I have tried to find little things that amaze me.  I have tried to shut out the loud, the busy, and to welcome the introspection and the quiet.  I’m not trying to isolate myself, I’m trying to discover the secret to living simply.

The toad’s pink tongue flashes out, and my mind isn’t fast enough to catch the movement, but the bug isn’t there in front of her any more.  Pimples doesn’t move.  She’s just there with her never turning gaze, her body sunk back comfortably on her haunches.   I love to hold her in the palm of my hand, and to look deep into her lazy eye, and to run my finger along the warts of her skin.  I know it sounds odd—maybe it sounds disgusting.  She amazes me.

I have seen a mountain, tall, its arm sloping down into the valley, clothed in a suffocating cloak of trees.  In Pennsylvania there are so many trees!  I want to see this mountain heave itself, breath… I almost expect the trees to suddenly fall off, and see a giant rise before my eyes, a giant that has slept for a long time.  The earth quivers and groans, and the mountains let some of their weight go.

I have also seen the mountains stretching down into the valleys, and the shadows of the clouds moving on their backs, dark, and deep.

I have been wakened by the single note of a bird calling clearly in the small hours of the morning.

I have felt a cold breeze in the morning, coming through the window, and moving over everything.  It says, “Rest,” and “Be still.”

And I know… I know that I am blessed.  How could I be anything but blessed?  I have been gifted with a capacity to know, feel, and appreciate these things that I have mentioned.  And I desire to return to the little things, and to marvel at the small things in life, to be small myself, small enough to stand in wonder of this beautiful thing called life.

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)

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. :)

Daffodils

April has such a round tone to it.  Sweet and crisp, it describes Spring simply in its name.  I love to think of the earth as being old, shriveled up, cold, and dying in the month of February.  And the only reason I love that morbid thought, is because come March or April, a miracle occurs in the natural world.  I go to bed one night, and I hear the wind moaning outside, making the loose glass panes of my window rattle a little hauntingly.  I crawl into my bed, and shiver as I listen to the wind.  Outside, I can see the stark branches of the trees black against a dark blue night-sky.  My last thought is how I wish Spring would come.

The next morning, I can see buds on the trees that weren’t there before.  How is it that they could have gotten there overnight?  How did they do it?  Over the next few weeks, the buds swell, and eventually burst in a vibrant array of green.  This is not the only change.  Stubborn shoots are pushing through the cold hard ground, growing, ever climbing to meet the sun.  The delicate snowdrop, followed by the crocus.  How is it that so much beauty has burst forth from a cold and dead world?

Of course there are the cycles of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.  But even these cycles are miracles.  God somehow wraps this world up in a garment of warmth and beauty.   He does much the same with us.  There was a time when, in mind and thought, body and spirit, I was the same as the dead, cold world.   And yet, it was not final.  It was not forever.  My case was not without hope.  Even as the earth experiences Spring after Winter, so I experienced life after death (in a spiritual sense.)

Ephesians 2 speaks so beautiful of this transition.   “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (verses 1-5)

That passage is so rich… The language is so dismaying in the first few verses – when it talks about us living in the passions of our flesh.  But then God… he made us alive in Christ!  In Romans 6 there is the beautiful phrase – “Dead to sin, alive to God in Christ Jesus.” How beautiful! Somehow, God has made this glorious transition in us through Christ Jesus.  I was dead.  But I am alive. That word rings.  You can almost sense that it is alive itself… Alive to God. And this is what Spring makes me think of every year.  Even as the earth is dead and comes alive, so I was dead, and was made alive through Christ Jesus.  What a beautiful thought!

And why is this post labeled “Daffodils”? Well… Daffodils form a huge part of Spring. And we just read this poem by William Wordsworth the other day, that made me so joyous.  Here it is.

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A
poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.