Posted in literature

Eyes Wide Open

On my windowsill there sits a queue of nicely-postured books, standing tall and waiting patiently for me to lovingly pick them up and delicately stretch out their spines and give them some quality one-on-one time. They call to me every morning in their most earnest voices, asking me to please love them, which I so want to do. I yearn for unstructured, loose, flexible, cheerful, bright, never-ending time in which to read until I pop open with jubilance, but it’s just not a possibility right now. I want to have hours upon hours to be emotionally invested in every single word written so thoughtfully into each story, but said hours simply do not exist.

I love to read, and it is actively hurting my heart to have to see my books daily but not get to read them. They want me to read them. I want to read them. But we both have to wait. Sometimes I think nostalgically about the sensation of un-focusing my eyes while staring at a page until all of the words become blurry, fuzzy blobs and then I am filled up with a great surge of joy and thankfulness for phonemes and ideas and literature. I miss inhaling and being pleasantly surprised by the smell of books twisting itself into my nostrils. I love the feeling of being so physically in but actually secretly apart from the rest of the world because I am emotionally invested in a story. I love having my mood contingent upon the mood of a story, and I love the feeling of closing a book for the first time in hours and looking around and feeling like I’ve just woken up from the most illustrious and satisfying dream.

My heart itches to have time to read. This semester I am taking a class on teaching students how to read, and the other day I found in my textbook this quote by Paulo Freire (who I’ve never heard of but fully agree with): “Reading is not walking on words, but grasping the soul of them.” I miss the souls of words.

I mean no sarcasm when I say that this really is hard and sad for me. It is hard to love and be so near to something but not get to act on that love. I have been telling myself that one day before I know it, Christmas will be here, and I will have much more free time and I will invest myself into abundant amounts of stories.

But that’s just the thing: one day, before I know it, Christmas will be here. My days have been moving so quickly. I sit in class all morning and then I go home and eat lunch and now it’s almost the end of September.

I’m pretty good at planning for the future. I make charts and master plans and goals with due dates. The whole point of (at least the academic part of) college is to be prepared for my future, but that often gets skewed into hyper-focusing on life plans. Looking ahead is good, but I forget increasingly more and more about what I’m doing in a certain moment. I forget to look around: look to the left, look to the right, look diagonally, look up, look down, look upside-down. I do not want to make a habit of only thinking about what’s next and never noticing what is presently right in front of my face. I do not want to remember college as a period of major stress where I was doing all that I could to ensure that my future would be perfect. I do not want to bide my time until my most ideal life situation presents itself to me (because it won’t).

Biding my time like this reminds me of “the waiting place” in Dr. Suess’s Oh The Places You’ll Go –

The Waiting Place…
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

I don’t want to be a person stuck in “the waiting place.” It sounds like Purgatory on earth, and that is certainly not what college or any stage of life is supposed to feel like.

One morning last summer I was driving around and pulled up to a stoplight next to a man in a little white car. The license plate on his car said “almost,” and I have been intermittently pondering what that was supposed to mean ever since that day. Was it supposed to mean something metaphorical and melancholy? Was it supposed to mean something quite practical, and my brain is too imaginative to think of what that could be? Am I trying to give meaning to something that doesn’t necessarily have any?

I think it means always being “almost” to the next thing, as in life-planning. Once I get to one place, I think about everything I need to do in order to be prepared for and get to the next. I am always “almost” at the place I’m going to be next. But that is not a great way to live life. I don’t want to spend all of my minutes in preparation for the subsequent minutes, which I will then spend in preparation for something else. If I do that, I will never notice the smell of the cookies or the taste of the coffee or the way that, if you tilt your head, the blobs on the ceiling almost make an amoeba.

So the plan is to deliberately live through my moments. There are only so few minutes that I get to be awake for, so I want to pay attention to them and notice them – the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything else. I am aware that bad days happen. Sad days happen. Good days happen. Great days happen. I choose to analyze all of the parts of my days so that I can learn the maximum amount possible – about God, about life on earth, about people – and then apply all of this knowledge to my future moments. I choose to make the time I am conscious worthwhile.


Posted in Jesus, literature

The Thing With Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops – at all
– Emily Dickinson

When I was in elementary school, I was a Girl Scout. Our quite interesting troop of girls had a lot of adventures together. One time, we, along with our dads, took a camping trip. And by “camping trip,” I mean we all spent the night in tents in one girl’s grandpa’s backyard. I love camping and I love my dad, so I enjoyed it a lot. We played games and told scary stories and roasted marshmallows that night, and in the morning we had a treasure hunt. I like treasure a lot. Notice that the verb “like” is in the present tense because I do still very much like treasure.

So here’s what we did: there was a creek in the yard where we were, and we were given shovels, strainers, and buckets and told to go at it…and I did. I dug and dug and didn’t care about how dirty my clothes got (they were so dirty when I was finished. I’m pretty sure my mom refused to let me in the house when I got home later that day) or how graceful or smart I looked. I just cared about finding treasure, and I found so much. There were very brightly colored jewels and I knew when I found them that I was a very rich and lucky girl. I felt like a princess. Then I was told that the jewels weren’t real and that my ownership of them did not automatically turn me into royalty. That was kind of hard and sad for me, but I got through it. I continued to believe for the next few years (yes, years) that those plastic dollar-store jewels were naturally occurring in the creek bed where we had been digging. One day I asked my dad if he remembered that camping trip we took with the Girl Scouts and how that girl’s grandfather’s house had gems in the creek, and my dad thought I was really dumb because apparently the jewels had been planted by the dads before we started digging for them, meaning that they were not naturally occurring in this man’s backyard. However, I still like to think that I found real-life treasure that day. It would have been fun to say I was in the Girl Scout troop that discovered precious gems in a creek off Lake Keowee.*


What I want to share about is mica. While I was digging that day through the sand with so much dedication to the discovery of something Great, I kept digging up mica. Mica isn’t very exciting, especially when you are intent on finding precious gems. But it’s persistent. And, especially in a creek bed, mica is shiny and likes to be noticed. It isn’t treasure, and you are aware of that when you find it, but it’s still something, and mica is there when you realize that you are not going to find real gems…whether you realize this in the moment, or years and years later. The deeper I dug into this creek bed, the fewer jewels I found, but no matter how far down I dug, I could still find mica. It was plentiful, but not in an annoying or exasperating kind of way. Finding something is better than finding nothing, even if the something you find isn’t what you were looking for, which is why finding mica wasn’t so bad although it wasn’t quite as cool as real-live gems.

I’ve recently realized that I consider hope to be like mica. Hope isn’t grand gestures in the form of fireworks or diamonds or daffodils (although I have no oppositions to any of those things, especially daffodils), but it’s ordinary, small moments of encouragement. Hope is subtle and you sometimes have to look for it, but I like it that way.

I work at Camps Hope/Sertoma at the Clemson Outdoor Lab during the summers and I am a big fan of it. I like to consider myself a proponent both of hope as a general concept and of Hope as a Camp. Working at Camp has taught me a lot about how to love people who are not necessarily so happily lovely all of the time, how to be loved by others, how to find hope when I’m lying on the floor with a constipated fifty-six year old woman (by singing “You Are My Sunshine” over and over, because sheis my sunshine), and an inexhaustible list of quite a lot of other things.

Camp has taught me that hope is a choice.

And so, with that, I felt like it would be appropriate if I had one of these bracelets, to remind me to make that choice often, as in every day. All the time.

So I bought one. And I wear it all the time. I love it. It makes me think of Camp, which makes my heart warm and happy.

However, this Monday, I was grumpy. I try to not be grumpy in front of people generally, because that does not encourage anyone or build them up, but Monday I was straight-up crabby. It was to the point that I went to the ice cream store on campus and leaned on their counter and begged them in a whiny voice for ice cream. I just really felt like I needed some sugar to help me survive the remainder of the day, and it really did help.

But before the ice cream, because I was so grumpy, I was walking around just glaring at people who tried to smile at me from across hallways and in classrooms, etc. People were trying to be nice to me and I just wouldn’t have it. I was angry at my body for needing sleep. I was mad that I couldn’t go sit in All In and write all the time instead of sitting in the library and studying all the time. And then I had a thought: When I am grumpy like this, how am I representing hope? Not well, I can say that much. The people I glared at could see the bracelet on my wrist, and I was not being a good proponent of hope to them at all. I was being a hypocrite.

So this is how I would like to represent hope in the future:

1) as something that is living – “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3) – without Jesus we would be so dead, and He, our literal living hope, gives us life. And we know that Jesus is eternal, so this hope is never-ending and that is so comforting to my heart. There is nothing that can happen to me anytime in my life that Jesus will not be there for.

Emily Dickinson in her poem says that “hope…sings the tune without the words/and never stops – at all.” You know what’s cool about that? Jesus. Jesus is cool. Because He “never stops – at all,” either. I like Emily Dickinson so much. I don’t know if she felt the same way I do about Jesus, but I think she accessed that feeling of hope that He provides. She shows this in her use of the hyphen on the last line of her poem. She says hope “sings the tune without the words/and never stops” and she could have stopped there and gotten her point across. Anyone reading her poem would have been able to tell that hope is a long-term situation. But by adding this hyphen on the end of the line: “- at all,” she is showing that she had to add something else on to the end of the line so that it would be communicated to anyone who read her words that she doesn’t just mean that hope lasts a long time, but she means that it is a permanent state of mind. It doesn’t stop – at all. Hope lasts forever, because Jesus is our hope, and Jesus doesn’t die. My God’s not dead; He’s alive! He’s alive!

2) as something to find great joy in – “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12) – That’s a lot of things to do. But if you work backwards through those things Paul says to do, it’s a little less daunting. Being constant in prayer draws me close to God, and it is only through prayer and a very intimate relationship with Him am I able to be patient in tribulation (also being patient in general isn’t quite my strongest suit ever). When I am close with the Lord, I rejoice in hope because it gets me through dark times…actually, it gets me through all times. I serve the Lord through and because of the patience and joy that He gives me, and thus am (trying to be) fervent in spirit and not slothful in zeal. I have a fire for Jesus. It’s a small fire, and He’s the one who lights it and stirs it and keeps it going. The biggest thing, however, is hope, because Jesus is the hope that I find joy in. He is the hope that gives me patience in tribulation and He is the hope I pray to in the morning when my alarm goes off and I get very sad because I would rather be asleep. Jesus is what gets me through all things.

3) as a component of faith – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) – You know what’s interesting? That hope and music are similar. You cannot see either of them. You can see evidence of them existing, like you can see musical instruments being played and you can see sheet music and you can hear music all around your ears and heart, but you cannot see actual music. And hope is the same. You can see the things that bring hope to people, and you can see people rejoicing and being inspired in and by hope, but you cannot visually see actual hope.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, but it doesn’t mean that I always get what I hoped for – it means that I trust in Jesus to bring to fruition the things that glorify His kingdom, and if I can be a helpful (albeit quite broken) vessel in doing that, then I will, as much as I can. It’s easier said than done. But what I’m saying is that hope isn’t easy, and neither is life. Jesus is both of those things and he makes them possible.

If I focus my mind on these things: having and believing in a living hope that does not disappoint, finding joy in the hope that Jesus is, and following that hope through so that I have a stronger faith as a result of it, then I am wearing my bracelet well. But if I am not, then I should just take off the bracelet because it is misleading to all of the people around me (even the people who know already what hope is). As a follower of Jesus, I get to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And I want to glorify God by being an example of hope to those around me: the straight-up, stripped of fanciful things, honest and vulnerable hope.

Peace out, Girl Scouts!


*Disclaimer: the Girl Scout story is more for entertainment purposes than it is actually informative/relevant

Posted in literature

Everything I Know I Learned From Anne

Everything I know I learned from Anne of Green Gables.

I don’t really have one favorite book. I have about thirty four favorite books. But Anne of Green Gables (and the other seven books in the Anne series) is definitely one of them. Also I like the accompanying movie almost as much as I like the book. The movie is different from the book for sure. And the second and third movies completely change the story of Anne, but they’re still great, because they are Anne. Anne with an E. Whenever I watch Anne of Green Gables, I swoon excessively because of Gilbert. Just look at him. Sometimes if I spend too much time alone, I get really sad that he’s not real and that I can’t marry him next week. Or the week after. Or ever because he’s not a real person.


“He was a tall boy, with curly brown hair, roguish hazel eyes and a mouth twisted into a teasing smile”

Here are the best things I’ve learned from dear old Anne –

1) Bosom friends is a real thing.

Neither Anne nor Diana had any idea that the other existed or that they were about to be in each other’s lives, but then suddenly they were and they solemnly swore to be bosom friends forever. And they kept that promise really well. Bosom friends are the people with whom your heart connects so well and that is a thing to be celebrated and embraced heartily. It’s like your hearts are magnetically attracted to each other. And once you meet, nothing can tear you apart. Not New Zealand or boys or lactose intolerance. You don’t have to be the same age. You just have to have the same heart and then your hearts are connected forever and ever amen. BONUS: you can have multiple bosom friends (I definitely do).

2) And, similarly, romance doesn’t have to mean boys.

Anne and Gilbert don’t really get together until the second book (although it is obvious that they need to from their first meeting onward). I sometimes get it into my head that love means boys but it doesn’t. It means love. Anne looks at flowers and sees affection in the way that they are made and the way that they interact with the sun. She does not need a dumb boy to experience romance. Before she and Gilbert were together, “Boys were, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades.”

3) Imagination is a wonderful fabulous thing.

Use it. Dream it. Love it. Anne and I do. Anne names all the scenes in her life, like the Barry’s pond: “Lake of Shining Waters,” etc. Her life is so enriched by imagination and it is how she coped with her life before she came to Green Gables, because her pre-Green Gables life was not so hot. She gets herself into so many unfortunate situations as a result of her imagination, and her life is so funny and never boring and therefore exuberant all the time as a result.

4) Growing up doesn’t mean you’re not fun anymore.

When Anne goes off to college, Marilla is so sad because the little girl she adopted not on purpose and accidentally fell in love with is leaving and no longer needs her, but Anne says, “I’m not a bit changed – not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real me – back here – is just the same. It won’t make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will always love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life.” And that is exactly how I feel about growing up as well. Growing up means that sometimes life is just no fun and it’s awful and you don’t sleep so your eyes unfortunately and not purposely look like a stoner’s and people want you to do stuff for them all the time and it is no longer required for your development that you play so you never get to play and then you are miserable. But play anyway! In addition to fulfilling your grown-up responsibilities. At Camp we like to say, “be childlike, but not childish” and that’s how I want my grown-up self to be. Responsible and joyful. Mostly joyful. However, keep in mind that “one can’t get over the habit of being a little girl all at once.”
small big

Little girl Anne and (almost) grown-up Anne

5) There doesn’t have to be similar blood between you for you to be a family.

Matthew and Marilla were brother and sister, and then Anne came and the three of them made a little family. There wasn’t exactly a mom or a dad and it wasn’t any kind of normal family, but they were absolutely a family. And I love that.

7) Apologizing is necessary (especially if you break a chalkboard over someone’s head).

When Anne blew up at Rachel Lynde for calling her hair ugly, Marilla didn’t allow Anne to do anything fun until she apologized. She also had to apologize to Gil after she broke a chalkboard over his head. And I respect that she did that. I love Anne’s passion and how real she is, and I’m so glad that she apologizes after she does foolish things. Apologizing is (very) important. Even though everyone in the world would love Anne if she hadn’t apologized (because who doesn’t love Anne?), it’s necessary to do so because it shows that she cares and she admits when she’s wrong (which is really hard for her).

8) On a related note, it’s never “just hair.”

Hair matters, especially if you’re Anne. It’s not a bad thing to care about your hair. Just don’t obssess or injure anyone’s skull over it.

9) Be present.

I love the way Anne is so present (but not always so present that she puts the right ingredients in her puddings unfortunately). She’s very present socially. She cares so deeply for people and for things (and for her hair), which is sometimes unfortunate because it tends to leads her to do foolish things like breaking chalkboards over people’s heads or walking along rooftops and spraining her ankle, which is probably not ideal, but that’s just who Anne is. I love her for it. When you are present and there for your life, you love it and enjoy it so much more.

10) Be yourself because you’re beautiful and wonderful and I love you.

Guys, Anne is my hero. And I like to think that I am her. She is sometimes discouraged by herself, but not so much that she tries to subdue herself. She knows that this is just how she is. She embraces her boldness and her tendency to get in the most interesting of situations. She’s a huge mess, but she knows it. And me too! Or so I like to think. Anne is just so much herself and she taught me to embrace my own self.

11) Love in real life is different (and better!) than love in movies.

This is actually from Anne of Avonlea, the second book in the series, but I’m still using it because it’s great: “Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps…perhaps…love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath. ”

12) Be adventurous.

Adventures are SO FUN, guys, like accidentally floating down a river pretending to be the Lady of the Lake and then almost drowning only to be saved by Gilbert. That is an adventure. “Having adventures just comes natural to some people.” And even if adventures don’t come naturally to you, have them anyways. Adventures are the best. One of my (many) life mottos is: “Adventure is out there!”

I could keep writing about Anne, but I might be the only one who loves her (and Gilbert) this much. So this is where I will conclude.

Anne doesn’t love Jesus like I do (but I’m willing to forgive her because she’s fictional), so she doesn’t tell us to love Him, but I want to tell you to. Because Jesus is the reason characters like Anne can exist. And He is the reason that we can exist. And He is our joy.