My Body Rests in Hope

Hope is the soul's manna, the mystery sweeter than honey that sustains us through our day to day lives.

I love wandering around Ridley. It cleanses the muck from my lungs and from my neural pathways, or so it seems after a good hour of solitary rambling. On this side of a long walk, I enjoy the opportunity to nurse my blisters and enjoy the enervating sensation of well-earned exhaustion. Then too, there's the time to get lost in peaceful thoughts, unhurried by any cacophonous cares of the world that bother and distract.

I did a lot of daydreaming during my rambling. It's a lost art - daydreaming. We know how to fantasize for a few seconds of salivation over something that appeals to our senses, but it's much harder to get lost in a daydream. It takes more creativity, and oh, it's good for the heart.

We need something to get us through the grinding moments of every day. I think few people would not wish to live well, but it is so easy to lose sight of the tiny building blocks that fit together to form a life well-lived. If we do not have a firm grasp of what we hope for, we will not have the strength to hold fast in the muck and mire of life's grit. And if we hope for nothing... "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but a broken spirit who can bear?"


The Value of Vision

"To me, fractals are an interesting visual parallel of the nature of life – how firm boundaries and rules still give rise to variety and surprise. These are surprises that are self-similar and unending, even so, in fractals, they are endlessly unique. Life is similarly composed of many regulations. Admitting this, many people slip into grim fatalism, yet, in my view, regulation isn’t cause for resentment. Far from it! Rules are inherently creative, and, perhaps counter-intuitively, absolute freedom is chaotic and paralyzing. This, I believe, extends into matters of will. We are free to choose, but boundaries which are outside of our control often determine what category of opportunity within which we are free to exercise our will. Yet, limited will is, in my experience, a mercy – and a great one at that. Limits may be the greatest mercy of all and the true guardian of freedom."
{Linnea Gabriella Spransy, as quoted on World of Forms}

I was chatting with someone recently about where I want to be in five years, and I mentioned that I have a roughly charted plan to move to England, which I will happily follow if nothing should happen to keep me here. It's the standard Millenial perspective, the vague expectation that something better might come along. It takes a million forms, from my unwillingness to commit to a plan for radical geographic transplantation to people who prefer to get a divorce instead of fighting through a rough time because all they can see is the painful present and they have lost sight of what brought them together in the first place.

When you know what you're working towards and you are committed to it, it streamlines the process. Hearken back to trigonometry for a moment and recall a ray, which has a beginning point and extends indefinitely in a specific direction. When you have vision, your life is the space between two rays. Both inside and outside of that space, there is a vast field of possibilities and opportunities, some of them decked out in the neon glow of a "Once in a Lifetime Experience" sign. If you aren't committed to your direction, it can be so easy to get sidetracked into something that has no overarching value, something that lies outside of your boundaries. The result is like treading water: you ain't gettin' nowhere fast, son. If you are willing, however, to make the so-called sacrifice of sticking within that space, you will find that you actually move within reach of your goals.

Ironically timed aside: I occasionally become slave to my own extended metaphors, so what follows might be complete balderdash.

The interesting thing about a purpose-driven life (apologies to Rick Warren if that's a copyrighted phrase...) is that the end result turns a popular perspective on its head. I made a boring graphic, because it was better than explaining what's inside my head:

Consider someone like Steve Jobs. I don't know too much about his younger years, but it seems like he was pretty dedicated to his vision, and I think most people would agree that he accomplished a lot of it. The cool thing about his life though is that as he came nearer to reaching his goal, his life, opportunities, influence, all that stuff, it didn't become smaller as if he were honing in on a single point: it all got bigger. He set out to do one thing that he was really good at, and because he didn't get distracted from that goal, he did so much more than change the field of computer technology. His influence is felt in music, books, design, a hundred other areas, many of them fields that his talents were not individually suited to impact substantially if he had pursued them. The cool thing about vision is that by limiting us, it actually releases us to do more and do it better. 

One of the comments that Linnea Gabriella makes about her art is that she never really knows what the end result will look like. She starts out with a lot of lines, so intricately painted that it's almost like tracing a Mandelbrot set. But into that order, she dares to introduce chaos, simply by pouring a boatload of paint onto partially finished pieces and seeing what happens.

Life gets messy. Sometimes we make our plans to move to England, but there's a major setback. We think we'll be married with children by age thirty, but somebody wasn't in the right place at the right time, and it just doesn't work out that way. Sometimes the huge splatters of paint flow over our neatly, creatively organized lines and lists, and it's okay, because the final result won't look anything like we expected anyway. Maybe the paint splatter was the difference between a good life and an awesome one. But the point remains that the final result only has meaning because it has borders.



Some moments are so precious that we can't help but hold them close, cupped in our hands like a firefly whose light gives no physical warmth and yet it changes the atmosphere almost tangibly.

I don't talk much about the prayer room or a lot of my experiences with Fire and Fragrance. It's kind of hard now, to be honest. Who would understand unless they've been there? From the fuzzy hours of nightwatch in the basement of Portugal Place to the sleepy peace of a soaking set to the freezing cold auditorium during "Thundering Thursdays." It would be like taking down a transcript of every word that a lover said to you in the confidence of intimacy, and then publishing that transcript for all the world to see.

"I've got joy written on my DNA
You make me happy..."

It was one of a million choruses. And of course, we all ended up dancing and laughing, because who wouldn't? But it is a declaration that has power not when we are content, safe, circumstantially happy, but when we are suffering.

How do you look past pain and sing those words to Him still? How do you face apathy and confusion and still declare that something more is written into who you are? How...


Not Quite Halfway There and Back Again

My tendency with this blog is not to post life updates. Life is best understood in retrospect, or at least, we can pretend it makes more sense that way, so I don't usually see the point in talking about the present. Nonetheless, I recognize the importance of vision or am reminded of it when I forget, which is more often than I would like to admit. Right, so just to break out of the box: life update. And along comes summer.

It has been a strange year of re-acquainting myself with the "real world." DTS is not the real world unless you're called to be a career YWAMmer, in which case, God bless you because it is not for the faint of heart. IMPACT 360 wasn't the real world either. Both good in the lessons I learned and the experiences that I had, but neither of them experientially useful in preparing me for this. Whatever this is.

 I survived my year of community college, although hindsight tells me that I could have done better. Regrets being useless, I look to the future, which involves transferring to the University of Pennsylvania for the fall semester, there to work towards a BA in Philosophy. Having just finished Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, I am a bit daunted by the prospect of it all being incredibly lame, but I am holding onto a glimmer of hope that he was being mostly cynical when he wrote so scathingly of the fictional DuPont College. It's mostly what you make of it, right?

This week is my third at 7 Stones, a little independent coffee shop in Media. It was a little bit like jumping into the deep end knowing only how to tread water. I know most of the stuff, but I have been challenged to remain humble and not allow my pride to assert itself. It's a heck of a lot harder to learn when you're pigheaded, and if I get too know-it-all, I don't know how I'll ever adjust myself to fit an entirely new groove.

In some ways, it all feels a bit empty. The one thing that Fire & Fragrance and IMPACT did provide was a strong sense of unified purpose and vision. We all knew why we were there and we all shared a certain support for one another through the learning process. It is so hard to keep going when you don't have that shared momentum and accountability. Maybe that's why some people get into a serial dating pattern where they don't know how to be alone. For however long it lasts, someone supports you and believes in you, and it feels so good.

At the risk of veering away from life update and into philosophizing, the one-and-only Hadassah once shared with me about a time in her life when she felt like God was removing all of her crutches. I don't know what I have left at this point, but I'm probably holding onto whatever it is fiercely, because it is hard to stand on your own feet. Hard to stand before the naked glory of God and not disintegrate into mush or resent Him or despair. Hard to keep going when you can't remember what you have to live for. That's certainly not what it's like every day. And yet, I kind of appreciate having the rug yanked out from under my feet sometimes, because it reminds me not to be shallow. True, the hard knocks can make us forget, but sometimes instead they make us remember who we are.

One of the things that I have had the joy to remember is that I am a sister. It has been almost a year now that I have lived with Katrina, and it has been so much fun. I was a bit shell-shocked when I moved in last August, and I was also a little freaked out that we might discover that we hated being roommates to the ruination of our relationship. Thankfully, with a few adjustments, we have gotten along capitally. Perhaps more importantly, I've seen more of Maria. Katrina and I at least have had phone conversations over my two years away, but given Maria's busy schedule and crazy course load, we sort of drifted for a while. In that sense, the past ten months have been a gift.

So that's mostly it. There have been friends made and perhaps a few lost through the parting of currents. It would be unfair of me to expect more like Tia and Leah, although I have missed their presence a great deal. And we move on.