Easter in the Fall

A few weeks ago I followed my dad out into my mom’s garden when he went to pick the remaining vegetables. Most of the plants were dark and bent and dead. The okra was half the height it had been, and the beans’ home-built trellis was tilting with mad exhaustion. The tomato vines curled blackly around their stakes and a few last over-ripe tomatoes, glowing orange-red, hung almost oozing off of them. Ever since then I have wanted to write this entry.

The changing of seasons always puts me in an Easter mood.  Each time the earth shifts humors in its cycle of yearly sinking down into somber sleep and rising up again, new and singing, I think of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ line: “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.” This is both one of my God’s favorite party tricks and the grandest foundation of his character: he continually brings life out of death. Brown leaves rot and carpet the earth, so that fresh green life will leap out, nourished by death in its last decay. The withered hand is stretched out, whole again. Four-days-entombed Lazarus comes forth, trailing his grave clothes behind him.

And so for me, it is Easter weekend.  It is always Easter weekend. Christ died and rose to life, and so, in miniature, must we, along with the rest of his creation.  I am not saying something new. I’m saying something very old. Not only do we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we, with Christ, are baptized into death (Romans 6). But then, on the other side, (hear this,) then we come up out of those strange pathways and that dreadful river and look down to find our feet new-shod with the gospel of peace, fit to face the day.

The old self must crumble and rot, so that the new self can rise and grow. Death is the only way through to life.

Eventually, when we rise up out of death, clinging to our Savior’s hand, we will turn and see that the old dark valley and those rushing waters are gone and dissolved for good and all: that Donne spoke true and death has died. Our feet will no longer be new-shod, but new feet entire, whole and well, fit to face eternity.

The Next Thing

You guys, blog entries don’t always solve my problems like they should. That’s why I write them, you know: I get upset and thinking about something and I start composing like mad in my head, then within a day or two I get it all out on the page in a big hunk of cathartic vomit, then everyone tells me how nice it is and I pat myself on the back and feel much better and go on my merry way. Unfortunately, a few weeks later I realize I’m still pretty screwy in the same old ways, and I already wrote about it, so there’s nothing else to do now. Drat.

One particular entry has continued to sit in my gut, though I wrote it months ago. It is the one about living up to my own expectations, making a dreadful little god of the woman I think I ought to be.

This tendency has all been especially apparent lately with my attempts to write fourteen novel pages every two weeks for my independent study. Somewhere along the line I’ve convinced myself that not only must everything I write turn out brilliantly, but it must be wonderful from the first draft, that the plot of an entire book must knit itself together seamlessly in the first attempt. So, with that in mind, I sit down to write every day and vacillate routinely between terror and despair.  I mean, if I can’t do a simple novel right on the first try, what am I worth?

I’ve been stumbling along anyway, sending weak kicks in the direction of the imaginary-Alice-who-can-do-all-things, and gratefully soaking up encouragement from Dr. Potter, and the book I’m reading on fiction writing, and the friends who say I’m over-thinking it.

And yesterday my mom sent me an essay in the mail called “The Judgment of Memory,” by a man named Joseph Bottum, who was, at the time, editor of First Things. It was mainly about memoir writing, about our tendency to write about our parents and childhoods (my parents are brave to encourage this habit of mine), about the way in which we dilute our own memories, about the way in which modern writers shy away from story and myth and substance, and instead give marvelous little detailed descriptions of things between which they are ultimately unable to draw a connection.

This conflict between focusing on details or plot is not just present in writing, in the way I squeeze words onto a page, but in my own life, in the way I spend my time, in the way I occupy my mind, in the way I rest. It is comfortable to look at small things like myself and my words and my to-do post it note for the week. It is uncomfortable to try to fit grand archetypes and ideals into my compact, inelastic life.

Details come easier because they can be added unto the all-powerful vision of ideal-Alice. The story comes hard because it is His. She does not exist in His story: there’s only Him and me. In fact it’s mostly Him. He was in all these places first. He “father’d-forth” all I see and all I know. Joseph Bottum writes that “In the end, every sentence with the word I in it is a lie: self-justifying, self-righteous, self-conscious, self-sick.”

So, what to do? How to follow along as He tells the story?

Way back freshman year, I wrote a frustrated little entry called “Weather and The Woman Question“ and Mrs. Liebmann commented and told me not to worry, just to “Do the next thing.” (That advice immediately skyrocketed right up there with “Don’t take yourself too seriously,” and “Say what you mean.”) It is not really as hard as I like to pretend to figure out the next thing. The next thing after this is to practice my cello, to write a page, to finish my laundry. I know how stories go. I’ve got lots of examples of lives well-lived.

For Christ, the next thing was usually something like eating dinner or going to bed or praying or talking to his mom or making a table. Sometimes, though, the next thing was healing a lame man, or casting out a whole horde of demons, or overturning a bunch of tables. One day the next thing was to be forsaken and to die. On Sunday, the next thing was to get up and walk out of a tomb.

Which means that the next thing for you and for me is really, simply this, from Luke 8: “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.”

Names

Summer is a convenient time for losing your mind just a little. Like just now, I decided to count all my t-shirts. I went by twos and covered my bedroom floor with little pairs of “t-shirt buddies!” (exclamation point necessary.) I felt they had to match each other, so that friendships could thrive. There were thirty-nine overall, which meant an odd man out, so I am wearing him to make him feel less lonely. (I think my brain is turning into tumblr, y’all. I can’t even.)

However, I have done some more constructive things today: I helped my little brother clean his room, got a pedicure, and finished applying for a job, but those are less fun to tell the internet about.

So, to return to fleeting eccentricities, the other day I wrote a fan letter of sorts. John Green (of Vlogbrothers fame) just had a daughter and named her Alice. To clear the air, I wrote her the following note. And sent it. With a stamp.

Dear little Alice,

Hello! You were born just the other day. I’ve written lots of letters before, but never to someone so small. I am a little more than twenty-one years older than you, and will probably never meet you. (We live hundreds of miles away.) However, we have something important in common. My name is Alice, too!

A few months ago, (this was before you) I watched a video, which I’m sure you’ve seen, of your parents having a chat with President Obama. You mom and dad asked the president if they should name you Eleanor or Alice. Eleanor was my Grammy’s name. She died about four years ago and I loved her very much. (Almost as much as she loved me.) Eleanor is also the middle name of my big sister, Mary, who is my best friend in the world. And Alice, of course is my name. I share it with a little girl in a blue dress with a big imagination.

Now I’ll tell you something that makes me a little ashamed. When I saw that video, I was very annoyed with your parents. I did not want to share either of those names with you, which was selfish of me. (Particularly because I know my Grammy would have been delighted to share her name with you.) I complained quite a lot.

But now you have been born and you are called Alice! So here I am, learning a valuable lesson about sharing, that I should have known since I was two. (Growing up doesn’t happen all at once—I’m beginning to suspect it takes all our lives. Probably till we’re eighty-five.)

Honey, regardless of how selfish and silly I am, I want you to be sure to wear our name well. It’s a lovely one and I know you can make it lovelier. I don’t usually like labels very much. In fact, though I like a lot of your dad and uncle’s videos, I’ve never even called myself a nerdfighter. I always figured my name, (our name,) was enough. It sounds pretty, it looks pretty, it’s easy to spell and say, and best of all, it means “noble.” So be noble, little Alice. Run with the young and walk slowly beside the old. Give as much as you can. Forgive fully and gracefully. When others talk, listen with your mouth shut. When you are angry, speak as slowly as you can. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Always say what you mean. Say ‘thank you’ when someone gives you a compliment (even if you don’t think it’s true.) Smile at strangers and say ‘hello.’ Also, remember that a handwritten poem is the best birthday present. (I’m sorry I fall short on that front this time.) Don’t forget. (I know you won’t.)

All my love,

another Alice

By the time I finished writing it, I was very much wishing I that it was addressed to little girl who did not already have half the internet fawning over her, in other words, a little girl who might actually read it someday. But then, patient advice like I tried to give above could still be good for another Alice I know—who apparently still has selfish little identity crises spurred by strangers’ unborn babies.

It’s funny really, that we wonder so much about who we are, that I feel the need to broadcast my giddy delight over forcing my clothing into intraspecies friendships, that I feel the need to tell myself to the world. Maybe I’m snobbily adverse to labels as a means of defining myself, but I still go in for stories, and clothes, and words, (and, um, a blog…)

My friend Hopkins wrote a poem called “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” Here’s a bit:

“Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves – goes itself, myself it speaks and spells,

Crying What I do is me: for that I came.”

I love this poem, as I do most Hopkins, and yet these lines make me unsure. I am surrounded by young people like myself, who scrounge for whatever platform they can get hold up their me-ness where everyone else will see it. The internet is crammed with people nonchalantly begging for everyone else to affirm them. “Like it, will you? Like me, will you?”

Hopkins’ poem has a second stanza. (Good poets always do their best to answer the questions they pose, even when they pretend they have been open-ended.)

“I say more, the just man justices;

Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –

Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”

So here we all sit, playing in mud, knowing in our gut that the self is important and interesting.  We run around and shove ourselves in everyone else’s faces asking, “Oh, is this as good as yours? Or maybe (Oh, please!) even a little better?” As usual, we have got it all wrong. We think that the self is meant to be worshipped, when really it simply is meant to worship. (Dastardly passive voice, y’all…) God intended the self to shout, to jump, to cry Abba Father, to join with all the various and sundry brother and sister selves in singing “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall show forth your praise!” (That’s from Psalm fifty-one. I don’t really need Hopkins as much as I pretend.)

White Nights

Hello, friend! My blog looks new today. Yesterday, I started going through my posts and giving them semi-helpful tags and then I had to find a new theme and then I had to mess with my menu and then just essentially go down the rabbit hole of the blogosphere, but I am back now, and writing to you.

It is Holy Week and I am home. Many of my readings from the Psalms this week have felt repetitive. In the midst of Jesus’ descent to hell, they have focused on suffering, distress, betrayal, and anguish. They have felt foreign to me. As I have read over old entries I’m realizing that it has been a long time since I have felt that way.

In high school I used to call the bad times “white nights.” I stole the term from the third book in L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series. I’m convinced that Montgomery must have been going through severe depression herself as she was writing it, because her Emily has a lot of white nights, and very few soft, dark, sleepy ones. White nights are the aching ones without rest, nights when everything and nothing is wrong, when it does not seem that “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”

I do not know what they look like for other people, but for me there’s a solitary light, maybe a pen and paper, always tears a plenty, and a mirror, all the better to facilitate what my parents call “navel-gazing.” I say that lightly, but there is something terrifying about the wilderness of one’s own mind. My friend Hopkins wrote, “O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall / Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap / May who ne’er hung there.” At its most bleak, depression is a consuming beast, a lowering ceiling.

In my experience depression and anxiety are one part chemical (that’s the fact,) one part fear (that’s the temptation,) and one part narcissism (that’s the sin.) I say that not to discount the pain. Our God-given bodies are built out of chemicals, temptation can recolor our world, and sin rips and gnaws. I’ll give you Hopkins again for that. (He does know a great deal about it.)

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree

Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;

Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.

Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see

The lost are like this, and their scourge to be

As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

But it has been a long time since my last true white night. Early last fall, perhaps? I seem to have come a long way since this time last year. I still get a sort of generalized anxiety, though.

A few weeks ago, I was anxious so I took a shower to calm down, which is my usual medicine if it is too dark or cold for a walk. I tried to remember the words to “Jesus Loves Me,” and I couldn’t do it. Through shaving my legs, shampooing, and conditioning, I could not remember the third line. I had to get out of the shower and look up “Jesus Loves Me” on the internet (oh, the shame.)

Jesus loves me—this I know,

For the Bible tells me so;

Little ones to Him belong—

They are weak, but He is strong.

I forgot belonging, I forgot that Christ’s perfect love means he is the Keeper of my soul, be it anguished or joyful. In fear, in gladness, in blindness, in sight, in the wilderness, and in Glory we are not our own.

We belong to One who was there first. Christ tasted bitter gall on the cross, and he had a white, sleepless night followed by an anguished, black noonday. He sweated blood. He suffered betrayal, mockery, and the only true loneliness man has ever known. His nail-pierced feet know well the paths of suffering.

He will light us out of the darkness of our sin-mired hearts, casting great stones aside that we may climb further up and further in to His new life.

Favorite Words

For years my favorite word has been quixotic. She’s a marvelous little heiress of a word. She didn’t have to make her own way in the world, work to build her own connotation. She’s named after Cervantes’ legendary windmill slayer, and the Oxford English Dictionary draws connections with the word vagabond. She sounds good too, like mint ice cream, and a loud, old-fashioned oath, and shuffly feet.

My other favorite words are stolen from others. In the play Wit the main character describes the first time she came across the word soporific in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. (All the best words have stories, of course.) The little girl is fascinated to discover that “The bunnies in the picture are sleeping. They’re sleeping like you said, because of sop-or-fic. The illustration bore out the meaning of the word…just as he had explained it. At the time it seemed like magic.” And she moves from there onto John Donne.

There’s also the list from The Cozy Book. “Mumble, Scribble, Sandal, Muzzle, Alabama, Cuspidor and Orphan Annie, Pachysandra, Sarsparilla, Tusk and smug and fog, Galoshes, Ambidextrous, Henrietta, Amble, Dawdle, Wobble, Mosey, Listen, Cousin, (Close to cozy),Superstition, Baked Alaska, Dandelions, Hummingbirds, Busybody, Dillydally, Ali Baba—Cozy words.”

And just now flipping through the OED I found the word shriven. That’s one I haven’t known for long, but I love it. It sounds like it lives at the heart of everything truly good, and it does.

But I’ll tell you a secret. It easy to think of lovable words, but it is far easier to think of unlovable ones. Pull out your psychology textbook or your latest tax return or even your saved texts and you will find them: words which have had their livelihood confiscated. Words which are no longer permitted to mean anything to anybody, to be colored in some brave, bright or bilious way, but only to be a code, destined to be deciphered by the brain and summarily discarded. Most can be resurrected if one is willing to stop and eat them slowly, but some are quite dead and one must replace them with their first cousins. What follows is a post mortem.

UNNECESSARY (un-needful, not full of need, not desirous of action); FULL (abundant, fitting, “…it is fitting and right, its out constant duty at all times and in all places…”); TRANSCRIPT (across the written word, a ship skimming over ink to deliver the message, the meaning, the truth); LIKE (bearing a likeness to, as He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, we are to bear likeness to Him); COMMON (as in the Book of Common Prayer, and Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, the commonalities which bind us); ORIGINALLY (beginning, birth, that from which we inevitably derive our meaning); DEMONSTRATION (manifest action, letting words live, living oneself); SECURE (do not think of safety, but why you desire safety, of what and for what?) GRADUALLY (gradient, sloping, speeding down a grassy hill not so gradually after all); CONFIRM (with assurance, understanding, a setting of records); PREVIOUS (before, progenitor, parent to the now); COMPLETE (“He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head He gave up His spirit.”)

It is the connotation which makes all the difference, you see. We need denotations to communicate, connotations to do everything else, to express.  A word without connotation has, as yet, no color. It has not lived. Bathroom for example, means simple body functions to most of us, but really it’s the sanctuary of the bathtub, the place of solitude and hour-long wonderings. (I planned this entry in the bath.) Also, my grandparents use the word costly instead of expensive, and I find it vaguely enchanting. What does expensive mean anyway? Out of thoughtfulness? I like taking words apart and putting them back together and seeing how much bigger they become. It’s filling, satisfying, right.

For real, thirst-quenching language here is a sonnet from my favorite word dismantler, stitcher, piler and occasional word-welder, Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

I say móre: the just man justices;

Keeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—

Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

February

This blog entry started in a funny way. I saw this commercial, and it was weirdly affecting. It made me feel a little less lonely and a little more lonely, and a little more cold and a little more warm…it also made me realize that I’ve begun to massively overthink small bits of media.

In fact, it sent me to Wikipedia to look up the month of February. The root word is Latin: februum. It means purification. Ouch. Other historical names for it include the Finnish helmikuu, meaning “month of the pearl,” and two Old English terms, Kalemonath, after cabbage, and Solmonath, meaning “mud month.”

A couple weeks ago in Am Lit we read a Robert Frost poem called “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” We’ve had a mild winter here, so in some ways, it is already mud time. And though I love to quote Hopkins’ line about “dearest freshness deep down things,” I’m having a hard time seeing the life beneath. There are nights when the mudflats of my heart are interminable, refusing to even end at some horizon.

(I’m floundering safely in imagery. I can’t even express myself without borrowing a whole month to lean upon. Sometimes I just can’t find the words—I was reprimanded in class the other day for describing a love story as “nice.” Oh, how the little writer in me has fallen…)

I hope, I believe, that I simply can’t see the end of it because I’m underneath it right now. This bloated February is my ceiling.

Yeats, who is, perhaps, not the ideal poet to cling to in my distress, says that “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”–truer word was never spoken, but for this: “The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” (Isaiah 35:7)

There are times when that is easy to believe, and then there are times when just the suggestion, applied to my heart, is incredible. Why is abundance so hard? Isaiah 55:1 calls “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Why is it so difficult to come?

Emily lent me a book the other day called One Thousand Gifts, of which some of you have probably heard. In the very first chapter the author remembers the nation of Israel, wandering in the desert. “For forty long years, God’s people daily eat manna—a substance whose name literally means ‘What is it?’ Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. More than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul filling in the inexplicable. They eat the mystery.”

Yesterday, I went to church twice, and took communion twice. I ate the mystery in the morning, and again in the evening. It was wonderful. I filled my soul with “the inexplicable.” And I simply don’t understand. His death for my life. My life. And what is that, pray tell?

On Wednesday, I got a bit of news which forced me to let go of my last shred of self-assurance, my last sacred imaginative territory. Which was good. I was unexpectedly relieved. It’s gone. I’ve been holding onto it for years, and more suddenly than I’d expected, it’s simply no longer allowed me. Oh, but it’s frightening. I’m left alone with only me. February, my blank mudflat heart, and me, awash in freedom.

So here, a prayer for my muddy heart and for yours, is a devotion by Charles Spurgeon that my 12th grade English teacher once read to us: “Come in, O strong and deep love of Jesus, like the sea at the flood in spring tides, cover all my powers, drown all my sins, wash out all my cares, lift up my earth-bound soul, and float it right up to my Lord’s feet, and there let me lie, a poor broken shell, washed up by His love, having no virtue or value; and only venturing to whisper to Him that if He will put His ear to me, He will hear within my heart faint echoes of the vast waves of His own love which have brought me where it is my delight to lie, even at His feet forever.”

Letter to Self

Having a hard time, dreariness, melancholy, feeling down, heartsickness, depression. There. I said it. Depression. You don’t frighten me!

That is why I have not been writing much. The writers I study in my english classes always  produce great masterpieces from the depths of despair (or at least produce something…), but for me it is simply not so. Perhaps it means I am not a real writer, or perhaps it means that my depression itself is “differently abled.” All I know is, it has certainly manifested itself in less productive ways.

I have spent a huge portion of time watching TV on hulu and generally neglecting personal hygiene. Cool. It is easier to forget how inadequate I’m feeling if I make no attempt to be adequate in the first place. It is easier to run and hide than it is to deal. Easier to pretend that the melancholic little thing I have become has never existed, and that these imaginary characters’ small stories in this next show have the power to infuse me with life again. They do not.

Neither do I really have the power to help myself. I know that. But, meanwhile back at the ranch, I’ve written myself a letter about “waking up and trying.” Because, while writing does not come eagerly right about now, the satisfaction in saying precisely what I mean is a warm, welcome relief.

Self,

I know you are having a hard time remembering about things like swelling opera and sloping fields in sunny Tuscany and the “giggle when a tickle takes.” You’ve been having an even harder time remembering about amazing grace and everlasting arms and Jesus, lover of your soul.

So let’s start with an easy question.

WHAT IS TODAY LIKE? Not only the color, but the texture, the scent, the tang?

How is it different from yesterday?

How is it better?

What do you miss and why?

That too much? No, don’t stare in the mirror and cry–answer me this:

How do you feel about your socks? Are you wearing socks? You ought to, we both know how cold you let your feet get before putting something on them.

Perhaps you ought to take a hot bath and sing a song.

Is it sunny out?

How about wearing a skirt today?

If you put on a skirt I’ll let you look in the mirror. Then at least there’ll be something worth seeing.

Why don’t you read something aloud?

Do you remember the sound of a good sentence snapping into place like brand-new elastic?

I bet you remember the man who wrote this:

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree

Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;

Remember how he also wrote this:

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes

Down all that glory in the heavens to glean out Saviour;

How do you think he wrote both? I know we’re getting to the hard questions here, but stick with me. I’m going as slow as I can.

Do you remember in Persuasion when Anne receives Captain Wentworth’s letter which is “not soon to be recovered from,” and they walk along with “smiles reined in and spirits dancing in private rapture”?

Do you remember in the Great Divorce when the man let the spirit destroy his sin but instead of dying it turned into a magnificent stallion and carried him up the mountain?

Do you remember when Jesus had to tell Mary not to cling to him, because she was so overwhelmed to find her Lord alive, and would not let go?

What I’m really asking is do you remember joy and do you still think it’s worth waiting for?

Do you remember how “having done all, to stand”?

You must be just a little more than “patience on a monument.” Chin up, toots.

Affectionately,

Alice

Colors

My junior year of high school I was in a creative writing class, and in my journal I always told my teacher what color my day had been–a linoleum green, aubergine, festive red, or a warm, linty grey. The bad days, the gag into a corner days, were always tan. I hate tan.

Recently, though I haven’t been paying a great deal of attention, my days have been mostly the same color. Not quite sure what color that is–not tan–(okay, maybe kind of tan…) This is why I haven’t been writing. I actually have a list of possible topics living on my desktop, but it takes at least a tiny bit of Walt Whitman’s “urge, urge, urge” to make myself write, and the urge only lives in color.

But I have been thinking about some nice things today. I picked up a copy of the Quad, because my poem is in it with a whole page to itself (!!!) and then I started thinking about the book review I’m going to write on academic tenure, and that made me very happy, and then I remembered Christmas and cousins, and I watched this video. Then I felt just a little bit like I’d found my feet, and I started writing to you.

And now for some more things which have the potential to make the days change color. Classes are over and finals are coming, and I’m looking forward to them just a tad. I’m good test-taker. I’m comfortable there. At some point Heidi and I are going to go to the library, find a T.S. Eliot anthology, and I’m going to read her “The Cultivation of Christmas Trees,” sitting there in the stacks. I’ll drive to Missouri with my family, and Scrooge and the Grinch will probably come with. Over break I plan on reading The Hunger GamesHuck Finn and John Green’s new novel, if I can get a hold of it, along with some of those tenure books. And Hannah’s getting married–in January. A few sparks of pigment there, don’t you think?

One of my favorite lines of poetry from this semester is in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese  about the “gold and purple of thine heart.” She’s talking about an innate, unfaltering royalty. A nobility that lives behind the plainest faces, and beneath the flattest places–rich and deep and velvet. The color, perhaps, of peace, of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “dearest freshness deep down things.” Fresh, warm, patient, Princely peace.

So here’s to gold and purple days, friend. Happy Christmastime.

April

Yesterday was Junior Crimson day, and so in the morning there were approximately 25 tours following each other all over campus. Therefore, Laura and Liesel and I strolled strategically past loudly saying nice and/or odd things about our school and occasionally skipping. We even helped some people find the book store. In other news, I just finished a paper on Gerard Manley Hopkins–“In a flash, at a trumpet crash, / I am all at once what Christ is, ‘ since he was what I am, and / This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, ‘ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond, / Is immortal diamond.” Marvelous stuff. And I’m beginning one on The History of Rasselas and The Doll House and another on 2nd Corinthians. Then maybe one for Renaissance Lit, but hey, who knows? Dr. Harvey doesn’t.

 It has been a hard week in some ways. I am drained. A couple nights ago I was talking on the phone to this friend who’s wonderful and she said that she was tired of being the bigger person. She wanted to just lose it and scream. I know what she means. I’m tired of being adult. I want to go home, and have somebody other than myself get me out of bed in the morning and make sure I eat my vegetables. I want other people to drive me to houses where I can listen to everyone else talk then go home and go to bed early. I want to pour myself a glass of milk from the fridge without worrying about how fast I’m using it up. I want to cry so hard that I hiccup when I talk, and not need an excuse. Two weeks seems like a long time to wait for those luxuries.

But. This morning I went to the chapel to read 2nd Corinthians, and here is what I found:

1: 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

1:12 For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.

2:15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

3:11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.

4:7-18 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you. And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

5:4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

5:14-15 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;  and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

5:18-21 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I’m tempted to think that I went overboard with posting all that, but I’m pretty sure you can’t have too much of the truth, so it stays. It is spring, weather.com is totally lying when it says it’s 36 degrees outside, and He will continue to give me grace in abundance. Hallelujah.

Grace

I have had a harder week than usual. I had a baffling poetry journal due Friday, along with several other big assignments, it snowed again, and on Thursday, in aerobic conditioning, we did kickboxing. (I know there are many people in my life who would probably pay to see me kickbox, and actually, watching myself in that big mirror really was quite entertaining. But tickets aren’t yet for sale. Probably never will be, actually.) I am tired and I am needy, but this week, I have been given grace. My friend Heidi has been sending out prayer requests for specific girls each day, and Thursday was my day. I was so very blessed to know that so many people who love me were praying for me at once. God heard their prayers, and gave me the grace to live and blog again.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the nature of the grace extended to us in Christ. There was an “insuperable barrier,” and that, of course, was the law. 1 Timothy 1:8-11 says, “But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully,  knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.” That is me: lawless, insubordinate, contrary. That is all of us.

Here is my favorite part: When God, “according to His glorious gospel” wanted to save us, He did not give us the power to obey the law He had made for us. He did not make us capable. He said, “As long as the law exists, you will not be able to perfectly fulfill it. But I will fulfill it for you. WATCH ME.” God didn’t just give us rest, He gave us himself, the Prince of Peace. He didn’t just give us strength, He gave us Himself, the God of all might. He didn’t just give us  the power to love, He gave us Himself, and He is Love.

When we take the Lord’s supper it is symbolic of the truth that He is our bread and our wine, the sustenance of our soul, mind, and  body. In John 6:57 Jesus declares “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” This is what Gerard Manley Hopkins meant when he said we must “glean our saviour.” He is the only source of life. Without Him we fade and crumble. Every particle of our energy must be had from Christ. God loves you and I enough that He gave us, not a gift or even many gifts, but the Source of all good and perfect gifts. 1 John 4:10 says “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

This means something else, though. We are to be “little Christs,” and “imitators of God.” What do we do? What do we give Him? Ourselves. God did not give us power, because He did not want the fruits of our labor. He gave us Himself, because He wanted us, and nothing less.