“Lovely” 

While reading the theological works of Martin Luther, I was enthralled not only by his wisdom but by his beautiful writing. As a hymn writer, he obviously possessed poetic skill, but his prose likewise exhibited wonderful phrasing and ideas such as that of God’s love making someone lovable, rather than being merited by someone who was already attractive. Similarly, as Christians, we are called to treat all with love, regardless of how “lovable” they might seem. I was inspired to write this little scribbling after pondering this idea that to be lovable, one must first be loved. I hope you enjoy it and I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Lovely

Love is drawn by brush and pen

Born of beauty, free from sin.

And all the wise of ages old

Know that to love, eyes must behold 

And see the shining of the fair-

Charming face and gleaming hair.

To be beloved, one must be,

In the first place, Lovely.

So to despair, Hell of the mind,

Are driven we who cannot find

A flake of gold or ounce of good

In this dark world, whoever could?

In sorrow then, lost mankind must

Find in ourselves nothing but dust.

Our blinded eyes, though made for sight

Only despise their helper, light.

Downcast they stay and fall for lies.

Told to us by the so-called “wise.”

Yearning ever for bright beauty,

We stumble, groping inwardly. 

And searching with shadowy eyes,

Are satisfied by dull disguise. 

Still, light through darkness penetrates,

As by truth’s sword love recreates

The Image of our fallen face,

Made to share in glorious grace. 

He gives our souls a glowing dawn 

That we ourselves could ne’er put on. 

Unearned love then is all that wrought 

The beauty that we ever sought.

From seeking worth but being worst,

We rest in the love that moved us first. 

And now as His saved beloved, we 

Can finally grow lovely. 

T.G.I.M.- Some thoughts on Rest

Okay real talk. I hate Fridays.

A lot.

And, to be even more honest, I am not a huge fan of Saturdays either.

But I do LOVE Mondays! Fresh start, strict schedule, etc. I often possess more of a “Thank Goodness It’s Monday” (hence the title of this post) mentality than the more normal “TGIF.”

You see, I love to be constantly working; being busy holds me together. Too much down time and I become frustrated. Relaxing is not restful for me because I literally feel guilt when I am not being productive. It is a problem and I know this is not healthy.

A year or so ago I published an article titled “Rest and Laziness: They are Different!” (https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/rest-and-laziness-they-are-different/) Well I am guilty of, as they might have said a decade ago, “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”

I am quick to encourage others to take breaks, but I do not easily take them myself. I work so hard and constantly throughout the week that by the time the weekend comes around, I am physically unable to keep up with my pace. I still try and work, but because I am so exhausted I end up not accomplishing what I wanted to and becoming angry at myself.

This is unhealthy and I know it. This messed up workaholic mentality  has been my biggest struggle for a long time and I am finally having to confront it.

My ever-wise dad, who has long fought with the same tendency as me, offered these words:

“Sis, you are me. We are the same in this. And you are learning the hard way that you need to take down time. You have to introvert. You need to say no to doing more and just schedule rest time into your day. Find Bible verses on rest and dwell on them; God rested on the seventh day as an example for people like us. Now let me pray for you.”

As always, Dad was right. My hands feel weird not practicing piano right now and my mind is fretting as I write this blog post instead of a homework assignment. But I need to follow the steps my dad suggested.

  1. Introvert: I realized last night as I zipped out of my dorm for an event that I have not really had any time to myself this year. I love my friends, but I finally am at the point where I know that some time to myself is going to help me recharge. So I cancelled some plans and curled up with a book.
  2. Say No: I overcommitted myself this weekend, as usual. But another way of “saying no” is to say no to myself and my consuming perfectionism. This morning, I woke up later than I planned and was determined to go practice extra hard to make up for it…but then I said no. Instead, I called my mom and did some quiet time and feel much better for it.
  3. Schedule Rest Time: One of my friends schedules an hour into her day for chill time. I need to do this. I forget that doing honors institute reading is not down time, even though I enjoy it. As weird as it sounds, I think I might need to make Netflix more of a priority!
  4. Dwell on Truth: I love verses that encourage hearty work. I write them down in my notes and highlight them in my Bible. However, God mandates rest as well and I need to meditate on these passages in my heart. My faith encourages physical rest and, by pondering these truths, I will also find spiritual rest! I have found Psalm 116 to be especially comforting.
  5. Pray: Having my dad pray for me over the phone was wonderful; I was filled with such a peace. I often forget to pray, but this is a spiritual self-harm. Prayer leads me to lean on God rather than myself, granting rest to my soul and direction to my outer life; in short, I need to stop overlooking it.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” – Psalm 116:7

Before I conclude and have hot chocolate and introvert time with my amazing roommate, I am going to jot down two final thoughts:

  1. My favorite animal is a sloth. I could learn a few things from their chillness.

Image result for sloth
2. One of my favorite Bible stories is of Mary and Martha, but I have always sympathized more with Martha, who is always bustling about preparing her household. Jesus says to this hardworking woman:

“Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed…or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:41-42

Mary knew when to rest, taking a break to listen to truth with her whole heart. I am naturally a Martha, but I am committing now to following the steps above so that I may learn to be a Mary…

…and also a little bit of a sloth. I mean, come on, look how adorable they are!!!

Image result for sloth

In the Image

I just finished reading St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and my heart is full as I ponder the awesomeness of its subject: the Word of God made flesh. I especially am captivated by the beauty of the Son of God as the Image of God and the restorer of humans created “in the image of God.” 

Athanasius uses an analogy of a painter restoring his image on corrupted wood. The passage resonated with my soul and I recommend you all read it in Section 14 of On the Incarnation. 
For now, though, perhaps you might catch a glimpse of this wonderful idea in this little poem I scribbled during class: 

I am an image of myself

Yet formerly One greater.

Soiled, smudged, and shadowy,

An icon turned to traitor. 

Ruined of mine own accord,

In need of Perfect Painter,

Who shall restore with loving skill

The art of the Creator. 

Just a little reflection through rhyme. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have. 🙂 

10 Going on 30

I turned twenty on November 14th, 2016. It was weird. Every day I was thinking, “one more week until I am no longer a teenager” or “three more days until I am a real adult.”

But then, when the day came, I felt the same.

This should not have been surprising, but I could not shake the feeling that I should have experienced a grand metamorphosis, shedding the hormonal teen years and entering my twenties as yet another confused college student. 

But then I realized: I had never been the typical teenager, so why should I expect to feel like a normal twenty-something?

Teenage girls are expected to be a dramatic, selfish rebels who spend too much time failing at Pinterest-inspired manicures. This is an extreme, to be sure, but still…

While my peers were dating around, I had a single boyfriend who loved Jesus and respected me. My only fights with my parents ended with me telling them that I loved them. I added straps to my senior prom dress while other girls seemed to be competing to see whose dress could cost the most money while using the least amount of fabric.

I broke curfews to study and was only told to turn my music down when I was practicing piano too intensely. While I was nominated for Homecoming court, I was happier serving as Orchestra President (or, as my mom called me, “Queen of the Nerds”). My best friends were theater geeks, music kids, and bookworms, but the cool crowd was so…ordinary.

When the time came to choose a college, I decided on a Christian school with a stellar conservatory and literature program instead of the big name universities that my teachers were pushing.

Of course, I do not mean to say that I did not face normal struggles as a teenager; I definitely did. As a perfectionist, I was always comparing myself to the girls I saw as prettier, my peers who had higher class rankings, and the choir-mates who could sing better. I fought an eating disorder for three years beginning when I was fifteen. I went through random mood swings and said things I wish I hadn’t.

The difference though, is that these trials did not define me. Faith, family, and friends helped me through the teenage tumult and kept me from becoming the self-centered rebel that I otherwise would have been; they supported me through my dangerous perfectionism and loved me for my quirkiness.

In short, while I always “marched to the beat of my own tuba” (as a Dove chocolate wrapper once said), my loving family, growing faith, and amazing friends made sure that I stayed that way.

As my twentieth birthday drew near, I did not have much time for reflection as I was busy leading a chapel at my college and performing in choir concerts. Later, though, I got the chance read through old journals, flip through Facebook albums, and talk to friends and myself (my roommate assured me that talking to oneself is a sign of creativity). As I did so, I realized; I was never really a teenager, so why would I be any different as a twenty-year-old?

I won’t lie; I love Taylor Swift’s song “22.” Maybe it’s just because I am two years younger, but I do not anticipate actually relating to the song’s lyrics. I don’t want to “fall in love with strangers” or “make fun of my exes.” (I will admit that “breakfast at midnight” sounds pretty great because, come on, who doesn’t love breakfast food?) But I guarantee I cannot make myself “forget about deadlines” and I need sleep way too much to stay out all night partying.

I know I probably sound like a grouch, but I just don’t like the idea of feeling “happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time.” I know what I want to do as a career. I have amazing best friends who share my weirdness and a boyfriend who likes my determination. My faith keeps me strong when I am confused and my family is always there for me. Sure, I have moments of “I can’t do this” and “adulting is the literal worst,” but I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone and nothing compels me to fit the typical 20-year-old mold.

Though I am twenty and thus expected to be tired, broke, and confused (according to the Huffington Post), I refuse to act my age. I will go on working professionally as a pianist as I have since elementary school. I will keep writing poetry and short stories because even though I have to pay taxes and vote, I do not have to stop loving fantasy. I will watch Disney movies and sing along because being a grown-up does not mean I can’t have a sense of childlike wonder. I will chat with my mom about everything because she will always be my best friend, even though new people have come into my life.

When I turned sixteen, I wrote in my journal that I felt simultaneously older and younger than my peers. Now, at twenty, it is the same; I do not feel at all like the stereotypes say.I mean, come on, I play the pipe organ for traditional worship services, but also want to bury myself in a pile of stuffed animals. I am twenty, but feel more ten and thirty than their median.

Rubies are not Scarlett

For those of you unfamiliar with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, I am not talking about the literal color scarlet but, rather, the main character Scarlett O’Hara, as well as the entire category of women she represents. Don’t understand what I mean as to a “Scarlett O’Hara kind of woman”? I’ve taken the time to hunt for some clues from GWtW on how to define and recognize this archetypal (yet very real and dangerous) woman. And, I’ll give you another hint, she acts an awful lot like Olivia from the Bachelor… (See! Watching that show is anthropology! #justification)

  1. She is aggressive:
imgres

“Have you been making a spectacle of yourself running about after a man who is not in love with you?”- Gerald O’Hara

She knows what she wants and she goes after it. In any other pursuit, I honestly would have to admire this trait, being an ambitious and tenacious woman myself. However, in this instance, it is not only unbiblical, but selfish. Proverbs 31:10 says “Who can find a virtuous wife.” Find. Notice that it is addressing a man as if it is his responsibility to be the seeker and initiator and not the woman’s to be the pursuer.

2. She is manipulative:

donna-mills-donna-mills-scarlett-ohara-didnt-think-she-was

As women, manipulation is a sin we are particularly inclined to commit. It is sometimes frighteningly easy to put on a “damsel in distress” act or even play upon men’s chivalrous instinct to protect. Don’t. Please. Consider the Proverbs 31 woman in whom “the heart of her husband safely trusts” and give to men the honesty we expect in return. It is, after all, the foundation of a genuine relationship.

3. She might disguise who she is:

Gone with the wind

This goes along with manipulation, but is more focused on the woman herself than her actions. You see, sometimes (horror!), a Scarlett will dumb herself down. WHY?! Don’t ever (EVER!) pretend to be stupid just to catch a man. In the words of John Green, “the venn diagram of boys who don’t like smart girls and boys you don’t wanna date is a circle!” Also, think of the Proverbs 31 Woman who “opens her mouth in wisdom.” She does not hide her intelligence and, perhaps more importantly, she does not hide her wisdom.

4. She is self-centered:

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“This war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring.”- Scarlett O’Hara

I’m reminded of the episode of The Bachelor when Ben (the Bachelor) informs the house full of eligible maidens (well…eligible) that two of his friends were killed in a tragic accident. At such an emotional moment, many of the girls tried to comfort him. Then came Olivia, who offered this charming insight: “I have cankles. I hate my legs.” Um…PEOPLE DIED AND YOU WANT TO FISH FOR COMPLIMENTS ON YOUR PERFECTLY NORMAL LEGS?! But I suppose she proves my point, as well as provides a stark contrast to the woman who works for the benefit of her household and concerns herself with family and business matters as described in Proverbs.

5. She does not consider the consequences:

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How many marriages did Scarlett O’Hara have to go through before she realized that her actions resulted in failed relationships? Too many. And how many Bachelor/Bachelorette marriages actually work out? Too few. The Scarletts of the world know what they want in the moment and, once they have it, they don’t really know what to do with it; it’s all about the chase. Furthermore, consideration for others is generally thrown out the window during said chase. (I mean, does anyone else in the Bachelor Mansion even pretend to tolerate the aggressive girl?) However, the Proverbial wise wife prepares for the future and is conscience of her actions’ effects on others, as well as her reputation and that of her husband (31:21-23).

6. She is, at the core, insecure:

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A confident woman is a force to be reckoned with, but when it becomes excessive, it is no longer confidence but a manifestation of insecurity. Throughout Gone with the Wind, Scarlett is daring and bold; some characters even express an appreciation of this. However, when the reader confronts her internal dialogue, it becomes clear that Scarlett is not as confident as she seems. She’s worried about losing her 17-inch waist, about being wealthy, about being the most admired girl. Does this sound anything like the “strength and dignity” which clothe the woman in Proverbs 31:25?

 

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“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” (31:25)

In closing, I just beg you, my fellow woman and perhaps sister in Christ, to bear in mind the example of the woman portrayed in Proverbs 31. I know you’ve probably heard this many times, but for the sake of our brothers’ purity and our own virtue, please do not be, intentionally or accidentally, a Scarlett woman. Rather, be “a woman who fears the Lord” for she shall be commended as “excellent” by her family, husband, and God. She is a woman whose focus is selfless, long-term, and genuine and, as such, her love (while it may not be achieved as immediately) will be the same. 

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“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10)

 

 

In the end, isn’t it better to be “worth far more than rubies” than to be Scarlett?

I will close with the words of a popular Facebook meme, just to lighten the mood a bit:

This is a Proverbs 31 Woman.

A Proverbs 31 Woman is not a Scarlett/Olivia archetype.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is wise and genuine.

Be like the Proverbs 31 Woman.

Honestly Modesty

 (See definition #2)

Throughout literature, female modesty has been a defining characteristic of proper society- consider the women of Jane Austen’s time who dared not expose an ankle lest they ruin their reputation or, in contrast, the unfortunate Scarlett O’Hara and Anna Karenina who had no such reservations and suffered use and abuse by the men that they tempted. The classics make no doubt about it: modesty is essential to true female dignity, as well as keeping male minds focused on purity.

But what is modesty? Some might call it outdated, confining, un-feministic. I will not bother addressing these views at the moment. Instead, I would like to challenge those readers who nodded their heads throughout the first paragraph, those who think that they know what modesty truly is.

Most of the women that I know dress modestly and let me begin by saying thank you for taking this often-inconvenient step to protect our brothers and guy friends away from the sin of lust. However, I am concerned that there is a lack of true modesty beneath our layered camisoles and knee-length dresses; modesty is not all about what we are or are not wearing, how many layers we have on despite the heat, or even how much skin is showing.  Certainly a decency of dress is one way in which we manifest modesty, but it is only one tiny aspect of this virtue.

The Merrium-Webster dictionary defines “modesty” as a “regard for decency of behavior, speech, and dress.” Notice that this definition mentions dress as only a part of this “regard” and the last part at that! Before it even mentions dress, modesty is said to be a guideline for behavior and speech.

So what does this mean?  Does it mean that girls must never speak to boys? That we must always sit demure by our hearths with our eyes downcast and knitting in our laps? Certainly not! Modesty is respect, pure and simple. Just as the dictionary says, it is a regard for decency and thus a regard for others. I choose to dress modestly because I never want to be the object of a sinful thought; I do not want to distract and disrespect those around me. But as I said (well, as the dictionary said…) modesty goes beyond clothes. In the same way that I dress neatly to respect myself and others, I want to act modestly: properly, respectfully, and humbly. It baffles me that girls who cling so faithfully to their modest apparel often are the quickest to fall into flirtations. Granted, I am as guilty of this as anyone, for let’s face it, flirting and the attention it garners can be fun. However, I do not believe that this aggressive pursuit of boys (sorry, I will be blunt) is in line with complete modesty. To truly claim that I or you or any other woman out there (or man, but being a girl, I must address the females first) possess the virtue of modesty, we must strive to exhibit every aspect, not just the one most obvious to the observer.

Ultimately, I am just restating the age-old truth written in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…with what is proper for women who profess godliness- good works.” This verse does not say “Thou shalt cover thy body and therefore be totally righteous.” Rather, it says that women should dress sensibly and decently and also practice self-control in work and word. For a woman or girl to effectively display the modesty she professes, she must demonstrate a modesty of speech and behavior in conjunction with dress; without these forgotten forms of modesty, which stem from a purity of heart and mind, all the sweaters and Capri pants in the word are no more than facades of faithfulness.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Call to Serve a Different Master

“Tom read,—”Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“Them’s good words, enough,” said the woman; “who says ’em?”
“The Lord,” said Tom.
“I jest wish I know’d whar to find Him,” said the woman.” 
― Harriet Beecher StoweUncle Tom’s Cabin

 

The woman in this excerpt from one of the most powerful pieces of American literature, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, did eventually find the beloved Lord of Whom Tom spoke. Her character, downtrodden and despised, could not at first fathom the presence of a merciful Redeemer in the midst of slave quarters and she certainly could not believe in a Heavenly Master under the looming threat of her perverted earthly master. However, through the simple and incorruptible faith of the title character, Uncle Tom, she was purchased through grace and faith; while her physical body might be sold to another master, her immortal soul was secure in the scarred hands of her Savior.

This theme of eternal salvation triumphing over sinful oppression was woven throughout the entirety of this not-entirely-fictional novel to expose the evils of a legal system of slavery and the dehumanizing effect it had on both slave, corrupted under the hard hand of cruelty, and master, corrupted by limitless power. The main characters of Uncle Tom’s Cabin illustrate this as Mrs. Stowe examines each of their lives and subsequently forces the reader to adopt a stance on the obvious issue of slavery, as well as what she paints as the more dire issue of faith and righteousness.

The first set of characters we encounter are pushed to run away from their bondage in order to preserve their marriage and family, indicating that slavery was a man-made institution that ruined the holy institution of the family and therefore, slave owner were guilty before God for tearing apart what He had joined together. These characters found their redemption in Canada and, I was pleased to read, lived happily for the remainder of their days.

The next character, in a way, achieved an even higher level of freedom. Uncle Tom is described from the first as a “man after God’s own heart” in total contrast to those society perceived as above him. Born into slavery, sold from his family, beaten, bruised, and rejected, he seemed only to be pitied, but never did he allow his countenance to fade or his faith to swerve. He had nothing in the end except the thankfulness and love of the lowly and the grudging respect of his oppressors. His character parallels the Lord whom he served and, like this Suffering Savior, he laid down his life to protect those he loved with nothing but forgiveness and praise on his lips. (There are so many parallels to the life and crucifixion of Jesus that I could point out, but this is only a blog post, not a commentary.) He did not reach Canada or receive the liberation promised by kinder masters, but the author leaves no question that Uncle Tom found freedom and victory in a better land.

The lives of the characters in Uncle Tom’s Cabin are, at their most basic interpretation, examples to expose the atrocities of the American system of slavery. But, if we truly read the words of Harriet Beecher Stowe, we will find that there is a message of hope and repentance applicable in any age, even today. Slavery has long been abolished, but how often do we find ourselves hopeless, struggling, fearful, prideful, or abusive in word, deed, or thought? The convicting insights of this book are timeless and serve as a call to righteous action that, like the prayers of dear Uncle Tom, can never truly be silenced, for their impact is manifest across the nation and its generations.