October 31, 2010

Reformation Day

When all across America children don costumes, when the street I live on takes on a ghostly,  eerie, grave-yard resemblance, and spiders almost the size of me are stuck to walls and roofs (knowing my affinity for spiders, you can imagine how greatly I enjoy this time of year), it is then I know  that Reformation Day is upon us.

Our family has never been one to celebrate Halloween (for reasons I shall not detail here)- and we passed many years with rather  unsuccessful attempts at redeeming the day with various church and harvest celebrations. But then- (ah! then!) we learned of Reformation Day.

October 31st, 1517: Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the door of the Wittenburg church- sparking the Protestant Reformation - a revival which swept through Europe, denouncing heresy and returning to sola scriptura and (most importantly) the gospel: salvation, not by works, but by faith in Christ alone.

Our pastor was the one who introduced us to Reformation Day- and gave particular classes reviewing the Doctrines of Grace and (on Reformation Day) speeches pertaining to the Reformation, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

Since being introduced we have developed our own family tradition (evolving from the Medieval study we happened to be doing one year). Every year we carve designs into  our pumpkins- leaves and words and crosses - and light up candles and decorate the dining room with them. We eat our dinner served on bread plates (i.e. large pitas) without utensils, and the courses consist of earthy foods such as roast chicken, apple-sauce, cheese, rosemary bread, and of course our own derivative of ale (aka sparkling apple cider, on occasion Manishewitz, or grape juice mixed with ginger-ale - ah! the mixed liquids do go down smoothly!). This dinner we eat by aforementioned candle-light with Gregorian Chant drifting in the background.

We finish off the night by watching the movie Luther, and remembering again the life of the man God used so heavily in sparking the revival in his church.

And yet for all this emphasis on the Medieval and Martin Luther- despite even my own love for the passionate, hot-headed man who married his "dearly beloved Kate"- it is not a man we are celebrating. We are not Luther-followers. For one thing- he wasn't right on everything. -He never got around to baptism (this year's Reformation Day topic). We forgive him, of course, (I am teasing my Presbyterian sister), he was awfully busy and must have just never finished reforming.

But then- neither have we finished reforming. We have never arrived- and will not arrive till glory. But just as we are commanded to preserve the ancient landmarks- to remember the works of the Lord- to never forget where we have come from nor where we are going to- in just that manner we  choose to set aside October 31st in memory of all God has done for the church, and is still doing- as he reforms each one of us into the image of Jesus Christ.

October 30, 2010

What I Won't Tell You About Tomorrow

I remember it like it was yesterday. My bedroom floor covered with stuff... sitting amidst it with my Grandmother- music drifting in the background.

...Kehne ko Jashn-e-bahara hai
Ishq yeh dekhke hairaan hai...

I wanted to travel light. We designated a box for item-rejects. In went my grandmother's extra set of clothes and protein bars.

...kaise kahein kya hai sitam
sochte hai ab yeh ham
koi kaisen kahen woh hain yaa nahi hamaare...

Into our respective suitcases went journals, suit-case locks, vitamins, fanny-packs, shoes, pens, passports, travel-hair-conditioner, a ridiculous looking hat, and this gadget which would purify water with ultra-violet light.

The next day I would be on a plane. I had wanted to get on that plane for so long. And the next day I would be getting on it.

Tomorrow I left for a 21 days in India. Tomorrow I became so much of what I am today.

I can't approach this time of year without dwelling on it and remembering... Though I have no dark secrets to conceal from you (you to whom I so willingly open my heart), some things are too precious- too intimate- to be told above a whisper.

Because some waters run too deep.

*Photo by Catherine Sheen

October 28, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [7]

 Registering to vote-

eighteen, female, and covered in paint.

Waiting in line behind a man...

also covered in paint.

...Crazy Americans!...

October 27, 2010

Crazy Day, Amazing God

Sometimes God's providential hand burns a path through the day so clearly one can only overflow with wonder and thankfulness. Today was one of those days.

This week was registration for the Spring Semester. Monday was open to students with 40 completed credits, Tuesday with less, today for those with 12, tomorrow for currently enrolled students.

Now, I have completed 4 CLEP exams- three 3-Credit ones, and one 6-credit exam. However I had only ordered the transcript to be sent to my college two weeks ago. On Monday they had received it- but not opened it. When I called yesterday, a surly lady informed me that "it takes two weeks to process." Blast. That meant I'd be registering tomorrow- Thursday- along with the rest of the students.

However as today progressed, more and more that seemed like an awful idea. For one, I don't have classes on Thursday- coming in would mean time and money. Secondly, I had planned on writing papers on Thursday- and I need that time to write them.  Thirdly, I needed to take upper-level writing courses- of which there were only about five- offered only at one time- and for only 15 students. Fourthly, I was told there would be massive (3-4 hour) lines on Thursday.

Then came the first God-send. My 10:00 class was canceled. I had three free hours in the day. I decided to get things moving.

First I went to the library and mapped out my game-plan for the semester. Then I headed over to the Registrar. Behind the counter was the very nice middle-aged lady with golden hair who always smiles. I asked her about processing my transcript. She was most obliging- and got up to go get it. There were difficulties, it seemed, finding it- I saw her go into several rooms and open several drawers. But at last she returned- transcript in hand and she walked with me down the hall - past the line of seated students waiting to register- over to where the man who processes the Cleps was at his desk- providentially unbusy.

I waited at the door while she talked to him. She came back with the forms all signed-  however, as I had expected, with only 3 credits assigned to my 6 credit Analyzing Lit course. I quickly made my appeal to her- and I was admitted to talk to him personally.

He was a graying, middle-aged man, with longish hair and a mustache. He looked like a X-sixties rock-star- but in a button-down  shirt across from a computer. [I know, the picture at left is of a Baby-boomer. Work with me. ...aaaand if you're really struggling: this might help.]

I sat down, smiling- and made my case. The official CLEP website allots 6 credits to the course. Other NY schools (i.e. SUNY Purchase) give it 6 credits. AND: I aced the test.

He hemmed and hawed. Usually, he tells me, he allots that particular test to English 101/102- and I already have those two classes (I also CLEPed College Composition).  But, I asked, what if he gave the extra credits to me as electives? I pulled out the papers from the websites- and restated my case- urging, smiling, hoping.

His eyes were twinkling at me. "You drive a hard bargain." More hemming. More hawing.

In the end, He gave them to me.

 "Thank you, sir!"

"Oh, I'm a sir?"

"Yes! Unless you wouldn't like to be."

He said something to reassure me. He was smiling- pleased.

I ran off to my next class- ecstatic and praising Him.

When my lunch-break rolled 'round I was in the Registrar's office again wondering if my credits had been processed.. Even if they had- there was a question of whether the computer would update it to let me register. 

They hadn't. I teased my lady about my being such a nuisance- but she was only gracious. She went over to the nice man and got the form- came back- and got another man (both oh, so handy!) to enter it immediately into the computer. "Sit down and relax," my lady told me. I tried. But I couldn't. I paced. As I paced- my CLEP man came walking by.

"I'm sorry to tell you," he said, "But we had to take back those three credits."

I was crestfallen, but I smiled anyway. "Ooooh. Ok. :-/" 


The forms were all in- the lady handed me my transcript with a smile- we laughed about, considering what a crazy day it would be tomorrow, it being better for everyone that I registered today- and off I went to register for classes.

I waited to be called and passed time talking to a fellow economics nut (who was also crazy about history and exotic animal-training). Then a nice elderly gentleman helped me with all my class qualifications- taking into account my past CLEPS and the ones I still intend to take- my upper-level English courses, and my hour and day restrictions. We spit out a schedule in a half-hour. It was an odd feeling to so rapidly and spontaneously plan the upcoming four months of my life.

Registered. Deposit. Skid into class on-time.

What a day. God gave me grace with the Clep man and got me full credit for my tests. He gave me a nice woman who was willing to run around for me. He made sure everyone was available and where I needed them. He saved me from loosing a day of much-needed study. And (quite unexpectedly) I am now scheduled for a bunch of amazing classes which will put me right on schedule for getting my AA by summer.

All thanks be to Him.

October 23, 2010

My Met & Me


There is a sort of ownership that comes with love. And I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

When I was eight I was nearer hating the museum than liking it.  Every time we went- the Egyptian exhibit had something to do with our studies. We were  always studying Egypt. I was sick of Egypt. (You must forgive me. I was eight. And I suspect our fascination with Egypt had something to do with it being more family-friendly than the Greek gallery- with all its pearly white nudes.)

Perhaps that is why the Met and I are now so close. Love requires a certain knowing of both the good and the bad to be merited. As Oscar Wilde writes, "Women only [call each other sisters] when they have called each other a lot of other things first."

As we grew older we branched out throughout the museum- the boys to see this- the girls to see that- pairing up and meeting up. We would rest in the European wing in the room full of statues- and beautiful stain-glass murals and water-fountains. (My favorites  are the dieing Indian and the Cleopatra with the buff arm.)

My grandparents would often take my siblings and me to see special exhibits. In particular I remember the Greek-inspired fashion exhibit. The costumes were outrageous- with their low-cut backs and enormous white feathers- my sister and I were positive we could never wear them. But gawking was fun.

I have seen roof-top exhibits- massive modern concoctions. I have sat in on a lecture on Frau Angelico and gone through galleries deciphering symbols and making note of my favorite pieces.  I have spent hours in the armory (a favorite of our family's, along with the Medieval wing) - pacifying the more active imaginations of my brothers. Once I ate at the balcony restaurant. I don't remember what I ate- but I ate there.

Today I was at the Met again- along with over a hundred other students from my college. I naturally volunteered as a sort of guide- as the others were unfamiliar with the museum. They wanted to know how many times I had been there. I didn't know. Once or twice a year? That didn't sound like much to me- but they thought so. Over the course of ten years- it does add up.

Let me describe to you sound and space. Walking into the Met is like walking into both Yankee Stadium and Grand Central Station.  (It never gets old...) On the one hand there is the hubbub of the masses- from Russia, China, India, France- and on the other there is the vaulting grandeur of the front lobby- and the front staircase.

I love that staircase. The steps are wide and go up forever. It is a staircase that begs for young women in long white dresses to go flying down it into their love's waiting arms. (Too bad about all the people on it.) I am also of the opinion it needs a central banister- for wild young boys and girls to go sliding down on.

I led my group to the Asian section where we were to study. The last time I had been in the Asian gallery it had struck me as dark and foreign- with its dimly lit rooms- long shadows- eerie silences- and stone-faced gods.  But we are on better terms now. With weeks of study behind me- the rooms housed artifacts which I knew and understood- even recognized- and I geeked over Bo-bells and Bis and Li Tri-pods and Gandhaharan Bodhisattvas.

Later I led two classmates to the Cafeteria for lunch. In glee I pointed out a Renoir painting in passing. They could not relate. (But this is my fault. Perhaps if I had told them I had had it on on my wall for years growing up- and that I had referenced that same work in a children's story I had written- they would have understood.) I showed them the great room in the Medieval section- and told them about the grand Christmas tree they put up every year and how for years I have imagined singing and dancing in that grand, spacious, echoing hall. (They told me I should be an Art major.)

Then I was by myself. I walked solo through the halls... halls which I have walked so many times. It was so strange to feel familiar- (I fought urges to wrap my arms around the pillars)- and yet to still get turned around by the unexpected in the Met's rambling endless rooms (like a friend whom you know so well yet are ever learning more of).

I exchanged words with the guards (whoever said museum guards aren't friendly?).

I sat on the bare cold floor in front of  a ten-foot Chinese scroll and marveled at its delicate intricacy. I sketched and took notes, amidst people meandered around me- speaking in other tongues- marveling in other tongues- smiling down at the student with her notebook.

In my few extra minutes I had before I needed to go- I made a dash for my favorite gallery: the 19th Century Paintings & Sculptures.

I don't know what I was looking for- when I looked  amongst the rooms for my favorite paintings. I had no time to study them- and even if I had I have little desire to study them.  Then why? Perhaps this gets to the heart of my love for that museum- with all its cultures and all its history and all its treasured past: I know when what I see is beautiful. The Met has some of the most beautiful paintings in the world.

I wanted to see them again- to know they were there- still beautiful- in my Met.

Time was up. I had to get back to the bus. I dropped into the gift-shop (they still have the pair of earrings I've wanted for so many years- which I do not buy because they're frivolous and expensive). I am pleased to note that I never once set foot in the Egyptian wing. (I like to spite it. I scarcely look its direction.)

We pulled away.... away from the curb and the pigeons... away from the fountains and men selling their sketches and knickknacks... away from the front stairs... away from the pillars and the great doors and away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I didn't look back. I wasn't sad. It's only a matter of time before I'll be back.

*Photos by John Glines. Used by permission. 
*Graziella by Jules-Joseph Lefebvre

October 21, 2010

October 17, 2010


People are expected to change greatly over their first year of college. And, well, I'm at college- and I wonder if I'm changing.

I look no different. I talk no differently. I'd like to think I think no differently. But I feel... older...  How I see and relate to the world is changing.

It is not as if I have learned of any evils I did not know before. And yet my constant and magnified exposure to mankind  has given me a new understanding of humanity in its natural state which I did not have before.

I had known primarily the sons of God- and now I know the sons of men.

I feel like the Green Lady in Perelandra. When Ransom tries to explain to her the concept of loss and discontentment, she remains pure- she is not defiled. But just as her brow furrowed in reply to him so I too could look my college in the face and charge it, with a curious sense of both loss and gain, "You make me older more quickly than I can bear."

Every day I face constant self-evaluations. 

What should I have done when my teacher made a cynical comment about Christ and the Cross- passed over in a second, but made from an obvious lack of understanding?

Is there something to say when my teachers tell the class we get our morals from our parents?

What do you do when you're scheduled for a class and you pass a Planned Parenthood table with  girls- my age- slipping up to it. (Can you hear the lives being snuffed out?) Do you stop? If I have time- do I eat my lunch, hand out Crisis Pregnancy fliers, or witness to people of the God who can save their body and soul?

I pray a lot- snatches- during the day- mostly along the lines of "What do I do?... what should I have done?"

Yes, older. College. Marriage. Children. -All instruments of sanctification, mirrors in which we soul-search. Who am I? Really. To what extent do I mirror my Father? To what extent am I Christ to those around me?

Isn't it strange that growing in God means a reversion to child-like faith: innocent and fearless? But such is the ironic walk of a Christian. For the more I grow in Christ, the more I realize how young I am- and how far I must go before every inch of my heart is His- before my every action and word reflects my Father- before I understand the depth and breath of what it means to be a child of God.

"It is very strange to say one is young at the moment one is speaking. But tomorrow I shall be older." - Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

October 14, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [5]

 hands half raised-

a hug or a handshake?

I smile.

I would have hugged.

If you had.

October 10, 2010

Enjoying Beauty

I used to think I could enjoy beauty best when by myself. When, significantly younger, I read a quote, which is most like the following by C.S. Lewis, I found myself in peevish disagreement.

'I had not noticed, either, that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely?  Wasn't it glorious?  Don't you think that magnificent?"[...]

'I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.  It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.'

Expressed? Oh, please, NO. Most things I enjoy(ed) I enjoyed doing by myself, silent and unexpressed. The example that comes to mind is whenever I would acquire something special- a book, a cookie, a letter, a chunk of chocolate- I would save it till the most quiet, serene, secluded moment, when I had no other pleasures to distract me, and I would take out that piece of chocolate and revel in its seductive chocolate-perfection... alone. THAT could not be so enjoyed with somebody else. I was a living contradiction to Lewis' hypothesis.

Time has since changed my mind. Meals eaten alone. Walks taken alone. Breathtaking mornings and soul-stealing nights when solitude left me an Eve single in the garden- not good at all.

Days like today-- walking through campus- the sky brilliant- the trees golden- and no one with whom to confirm the beauty I felt.

I suspect that what stumbled me when I first read about enjoyment was that Lewis stops at saying that it must be "expressed" and does not define it, leaving me to assume noisy, audible rhapsodies which would drown out the beauty around.

As I walked that walkway and felt pangs of wistful loneliness creep over me- I found myself wondering what it was I wanted. Somebody to talk to? Somebody to praise with- to share audible exclamations of wonder? Mmm.... Yes, maybe. But I am an introvert. And I find as often as not that beauty is silencing.

But it was expression I wanted. It wasn't enough to be silent. Is it possible that there is something in us passed on from our Creator- that we are not content to simply know something is good, we are compelled to proclaim it?

I wanted communication, affirmation, and mutual delight. -A smile- a touch- a knowing look- a merry eye. One shared look and my joy would have been expressed. My delight would have been complete.

So say on, Lewis, that we long for expression. But if my tongue can find no words, let my face express my joy.

October 7, 2010

Gogyohka-Thursday [4]

dusting, sweeping

cleaning my room-

Hurricane Me

through the


October 5, 2010

Homemaking Tips I've Learned From College

[Ok. Yes. I like this picture. I think they- I mean their clothes- are cute.]

I never thought college would prepare me to care for my future husband. But it is. Because I’m commuting to school my experience is different from most’s. I “leave” school but don’t go back to a roommate, a best-friend, or a bustling hall-way. I am just one of ten-thousand other students. School is more like work than college.

So I’m learning what it’s like to get up at six and come back at six, to be thinking and stimulated and attentive for hours on end… and then to come home… 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1)      Hot food sounds good. Really good.

2)      Hugs and kisses at the door sounds really nice, too.

3)      Being told about things that I need or should (or you would like) me to do does NOT sound good. [I know I read this somewhere, but I learned it first-hand when I walked in the door and my brother insinuated that the dinner-making ball was in my court. (Are. You. Crazy?!?)]

4)      Bad things may have happened in the day (and the 45 minute drive in traffic may not have done much to mitigate this effect on my psyche).

5)      I need love. Lots of it. Because nobody has loved me all day long.

I know most of us already know this. Many of us practiced it on our fathers when we were little. But it’s easy to forget.  So take it from one who’s learning what it’s like to be homesick- every day- and make home the place to be.

This post is for Lisa Ente :-)

October 2, 2010

The Laundromat

Our washer broke this week. That's bad. We have seven people currently living in our house and over half of them are males. (Yes, you know what that means.)

So this afternoon Mom and I took our baskets of laundry to the laundromat in town. 

In my mind those places had long been obsolete. Laundromats were where little bears got left behind and slid on soap suds and slept in empty baskets and met laundromat-artists and won a pocket on their overalls for all their mischief.

Laundromats were where love-struck Spiderman read Longfellow.

Laundromats were not places I went. In fact, I couldn't remember ever going into one.

But this week we needed one. And boy, was I glad they were there.

In we went with our baskets! The lines of machines- massive, steel, rumbling!

We were not at all sure how to use them. If somebody hadn't informed us- we would have used the largest machine which was two to four times too big for our amount of laundry. We counted out quarters in handfuls. Then we didn't know how to put soap in- or in what order. The lady running the place helped us. A rather large middle-aged women barked out directions from her perch on the waiting-bench.

I liked seeing the laundry spin. I liked seeing the suds. I liked leaving and hanging at Starbucks and returning to find it all done.  I liked seeing people of different ages and cultures gathering in one large, noisy room and dragging out all their dirty laundry.

Laundromat, we are officially friends.