Farewell, Beginning

In less than two weeks, I say goodbye to life as I have known it.

A life driven by school. A life of planning, always looking ahead to the next thing. A life of preparing. And now I’m there.

I’m prepared to do something.

Something—what something? Getting a job, paying the rent, buying specialty foods at Trader Joe’s (the stuff I begged my mother for back when I was riding in the grocery cart), keeping TJ Maxx in business.

Sure, I’m ready for that. Ready to clean the kitchen without being reminded. Ready to do my own laundry with my own detergent (I am definitely buying a new scent every week).

And if that’s all it is, I’m not interested.

Fortunately for me, I went to a liberal arts school. So my brain works better than it did four-and-a-half years ago. I plan to start my new life by catching up on some reading, starting with classical literature and The Brothers Karamozov.

Also on my list of post-graduate activities: baking bread, getting back into photography, paying down the school bill, and getting my CWP.

Because life isn’t a cycle of surviving. It’s not a multivitamin; it’s a feast.

My life is my religion. That is, my religion is my life. Every moment is joy, because I can spend every moment worshiping my creator.

My education sanded down the rough edges of my personality and sharpened the edges of my brain. I left behind the awkward high schooler and found a self-educator.

And that is the beginning.

a blog post about self-expression

Sometimes words are hard to say.

Sometimes the problem is that we try too hard.

Sometimes it’s easier to say what you’re expected to say

than it is to say what you want to say,

or what you really mean.

Like “somewhere i have never travelled,”

Phileas’s Fortune is a small book that says just what it means to say, without oversaying.

After reading it, I found myself singing,

not even the rain has such small hands.

Sometimes the best way to say Iloveyou is not to say it at all.

Sometimes the best way to say the hardest things is to say,

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses.

Or to say

cherry! ruby! chimes!

After these most personal Iloveyous have been spoken, and

only something in me understands,

what can I say but,

again!

From Dr. Seuss to Dostoevsky

Katie Couric wrote a children’s book called The Brand New Kid in 2000 that was developed into a musical in 2006. It’s a story about acceptance. Lazlo, the new kid, suffers rejection from his classmates until one little girl, Carrie, takes the time to make friends with him.

Good idea. Terrible book.

I stumbled across it in the library the other day and picked it up because seeing Couric’s name on the cover piqued my interest. Couric decided to use rhyming text, a bad idea since most of the rhymes were forced and the lines lacked any rhythm. Even the charming watercolor illustrations by Marjorie Priceman don’t redeem this book.

Are people’s expectations of children really so low? Thankfully not. Most of the reviews on Amazon were scathing:

“I am trying to remember why Couric went into the kids’ book business. Wasn’t the day job working out Katie?”

“This amateurish effort from Ms. Couric should never have been published. The writing is bland and the rhythm forced. Buy a book from a professional children’s author who has spent serious time honing their craft.”

If we don’t take the writing of children’s literature seriously, how can we expect the reading of it to improve anyone? Reading children books with little content and poor style doesn’t prepare them to read masterworks that teach about God and life and other big ideas. Reading The Brand New Kid doesn’t get children ready for The Brothers Karamozov.

Expect greater, both from children’s authors and from the children themselves.

Try these books about acceptance instead:

The Cow That Went OINK (Bernard Most)

The Sneetches (Dr. Seuss)

Wolf! (Sara Fanelli)

Foundation of Forgiveness

God is eternal in everything.

His love and his wrath. His meekness and his power. His generosity and his jealousy. His forgiveness and his condemnation.

Which demonstrates how little we understand to think that wrath is the opposite of love, or that exercising power is not meek, or that generosity means holding nothing close.

We have one story from Jesus’ growing-up years. As a perfect human, Jesus was assuredly perfectly submissive to his parents. And that meant the meek and lowly Jesus responded with a little bit of sarcasm when they questioned his activities.

Not a traditional idea of meekness.

Jesus is powerful and meek. He didn’t set aside his power in order to be meek. He doesn’t set aside his wrath when he demonstrates love. When he’s jealous he is also being generous. All these dwelling together in the Trinity are not paradoxical. We have to reshape our perception to fit the originator of all things.

All this eternality and immutability have a glorious significance for believers; namely, that God’s moods don’t swing like those of a pregnant lady on a hot August day.

If you are a child of God, you are accepted in the Beloved before the foundation of the world. His forgiveness of you has no beginning and no end.

Cast your cares upon him; he has already overcome the world.

Twenty Digits

Today I met with the founder of Amputees in Action, Bryant Young. He founded the nonprofit after realizing that he wanted to live a life that inspired his wife and six children to live healthy, active lives. AIA wants to encourage amputees to get active–tangibly by providing adaptive equipment or helping secure a coach, and inspirationally by connecting with recent amputees. “Live the life you have, not the life you used to have,” Bryant said.

Which is very resonant of forgiveness. Acknowledge the grace you have today. Move past the faults of yesterday, both your own faults and those of others. Don’t keep living yesterday.

Is is possible to forgive your body? I’m not perfect. But this is the life I have now. I walked away inspired to use my two arms, two legs, and twenty digits despite the imperfections that sometimes seem too great to overcome.

Get active. And also, check out that website. It’s a great organization to consider supporting.

 

In Which I Break Up With Milton Although I Still Love Him

Typically, Shakespeare, Milton, and Chaucer crown any discussion of English literature. I’m going to pretend like I didn’t even say that and discuss now whether Shakespeare or Milton is the greatest. Actually, I’m not even going to pretend that much.

Reasons that Shakespeare is greater than Milton, making him the greatest author in the English language:

Characters. Hamlet, of course, is the most complex character ever written. And my favorite, Portia from Merchant of Venice, taught me so much about mercy and justice that I think about her every day. Shakespeare’s characters inspire. I can see them breathing as I read. Adam, of Milton’s Paradise Lost, on the other hand, can’t even make me dislike him, despite his misogyny. Eve, meanwhile, stands by batting her eyelashes.

Worldview. Was Shakespeare a Christian? I don’t know. Was Milton? I really don’t want to answer this question. No. Maybe. I hope so. But no. Milton denied the Trinity in De Doctrina Christiana. Shakespeare delivers strong messages of sin and redemption. Milton. . . well, Milton denies the Trinity. That’s a big strike against him.

Humor. Shakespeare makes me laugh. A lot. Milton does not.

Body of work. If you want numbers, this is the point for you. Milton wrote Paradise Lost, a great work. Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, Othello, MacbethLear, great works. And Tempest, another great work. And Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. More great works.

I’m sorry, Milton, but I just can’t make it work. It’s not you, it’s. . . well, actually, this one’s all you.

Enough Chili To Feed The World

Throughout four summers under the tutelage of some unexpected teachers, I found that everyone is human.

I worked at a special needs camp for campers ages eight and up. That’s right–some of my campers were my grandma’s age. I led them by the hand, carried them to the bathroom in the middle of the night, pureed their food, cleaned up their messes. I learned the characteristics of all kinds of disabilities. Four summers of wild autistic fits and stubborness rivalling a two-year-old’s going down for a nap. And what was my biggest takeaway?

Everyone is human.

The group of college-age counselors spent most of every day making excuses for the campers, both verbal and silently understood. The range of acceptable behavior at camp extended far beyond social norms. We let things slide. And we laughed. You could always hear someone laughing, because something unexpected was always going on.

Mercy. That was mercy.

No one fulfills every social and intellectual expectation. Why should I withhold mercy because you lack a diagnosis? Mercy is not a big bowl of chili that has to be carefully portioned out so that everyone gets at least a little. Because I’m human, I can at least understand that you’re human too. That should be enough reason to have some compassion.

Mercy is eternal because God is eternal. There’s enough to go around.

Clothed In Naked Virtue

Fortunately, the Bible does not set out specific standards of modesty.

Fortunately, because otherwise we’d be dressing like first century pagans, which is what the first century Christians dressed like. I take it back. They probably wore culottes in the summer and long jean skirts in the winter.

In my experience, the long jean skirt look is often paired with poofy bangs and waist-length French braided hair. But I Peter 3:3 talks about not braiding your hair. So what standards are they following?

Are these Christians, who set stricter standards, more modest than other Christians?

Modesty is not about being behind the times. It’s not about dressing simply. It’s not about not drawing attention to yourself. It’s not even about the ratio of bare skin that’s showing.

Christians who define what Christianity should look like by outward standards of modesty are lying about the gospel. Catering to them, either by following their standards or by acting like they’re better for their standards, helps spread the lie.

Christianity is not about what you wear or don’t wear. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s not about following standards. It’s not about keeping your testimony clean by looking the part.

It’s about loving Jesus and then loving others because you love Jesus.

The point of passages like I Peter 3:3 and I Timothy 2:9 is that beauty is not outward. It can’t be defined by a particular style or any one set of standards.

Modesty starts internally. With love.

Bring It, Princess

My coworker asked me the other night if, when I was a little girl, I wanted to be a princess.

I knew he meant the dresses and the beauty and the fairy-tale ending. But I didn’t know how to answer because my favorite princess books are Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede and Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. They feature princesses who branch away from tradition on purpose, who want to read and fence. These princesses don’t wait around; they do their own rescuing.

Thinking about Ella, my answer is definitely yes, please, I would like to be a princess. (Although, to be fair, even after she marries the prince she takes the titles Court Linguist and Cook’s Helper instead of Princess.) She’s funny and smart. And spunky. She runs away from finishing school and she learns foreign languages and she makes friends with elves.

I just found a book called The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool by Margaret Gray. It’s utterly charming. “A very long time ago,” it begins, “when all the countries you’ve ever heard of were in different places on the map, and the world was still full of the dark, wide forests where fairies tend to live, a princess was born who was not beautiful.” And we’re off on a self-consciously different princess story. The ugly princess also happens to be very smart and the wise fool happens to notice. I’m guessing that things work out.

Fortunately, the intelligent princess has taken over the realm of fairy tales and booted out the unbelievably gorgeous but intellectually deficient heroine, in children’s literature anyway. The size of the romance paperback section indicates that the adults still need some rescuing.

Quick, someone send them a princess.

To Be Perfectly Honest II

My last post, which was in response to this, pointed out the less-than-helpful nature of transparency for transparency’s sake. I’d like to make a few more observations on that topic.

First, that privacy is inherent in relationships. Just like it’s healthy for a married couple to keep counsel with each other, secrets between you and God are a helpful thing.

Every believer is a priest. That means direct access to the throne of God. You don’t need to confess to any human unless you’re seeking forgiveness.

Unity derives from love, not from spilling your guts in front of strangers.

Your mind belongs to you as much as your body does, so you should protect its chastity just as fiercely. No one gets free access to your mind without your permission.

Keeping accountable to spiritual mentors is helpful.

The church should be a place where people are loved, where sinners come in and know love as the utterly selfless charity that the Bible describes and that God himself exhibits.

Transparency is a buzzword, not a biblical mandate.