Exploring where life and story meet!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The taming of the Fey

I have often wondered why I am so enamored of fairy tales and enthralled by the everyday magic of the natural world.  My mother did try to bring me up properly, at least to her way of thinking, often criticizing my complete lack of interest in fashion, shopping, and other such 'skills' thought vital for a teenage girl growing up in Western culture.  While my classmates were swooning over boy bands, reading trendy magazines, or gossiping on the phone (yes, that was the most efficient and accepted form of communication in those days, I grew up in the years BG (Before Google)), I was out chasing butterflies, running barefoot, losing myself in field and fen, or reading something 'not of this world,' mostly science fiction and fantasy.  I now realize I was very lonely and probably should have been miserable in those days, for the world had cast me out and I had no one to talk to, gad about with, or to fall back upon for emotional support, either within my family or without, but I was neither lonely nor miserable, I simply betook myself to the wild places or ventured into a world of imagination and mist, and my childish heart found solace, interest, and fairies.  I truly was, 'a companion to owls and dragons,' but not in Job's sense whereas he was miserable and alone after tragic loss; I was alone because the world did not want me, but neither did I want the world, so I found a world all my own.  Deep down I was lonely, sad, and grieved but my silly heart knew it not, at least until I grew older (I have yet to 'grow up') and encountered real love and friendship and discovered what it was I had been missing, and only then did the tears come and the mourning begin.  It seems odd to mourn over something that never was, but the grief was just as real.  Most weep at a graveside at what they have lost; I wept for what had never been, for all the love and acceptance I might have had were stillborn.

So how do you tame a half wild, barefoot fey?  Can you civilize a creature that prefers the song of wind in the leaves to anything heard on the radio?  Is there hope for one who dances with the stars and sings with the frogs, who chases fairies and knows where unicorns dwell?  There is magic in the wild places and there is magic in the fairy tales, but there is a greater magic called Love, to which all the lesser magics point.  This Love is not what most modern thinkers call it: it is not lust, attraction, or infatuation.  Rather it is the magic that called the stars into being, that breathed life into existence, that keeps the world spinning and the sun shining; it is the love that bore the nails and the shame and the love that calls me not to be what I am but what I was meant to be.  It is not an easy or a fickle love, it is as unyielding as the tide and as fierce as the storm.  It is a jealous love, a love that will not be shared with lesser things.  And it is strong as death.  A love that demands my all but in return gives back far more than I gave.  A love that lives beyond time, beyond the world, beyond thought; a love that will endure forever, it has always been and will ever be.  I found it in the wild places, I found it in the stories, and at  last I have felt it in the hearts of men, but those loves are a reflection, an echo, a shadow of that Love which is the source of all light, and life, and music.  That is how you tame the wild creature, how you civilize the outcast, how you welcome home the vagrant.  That is how you catch a Fey.

"Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the Lord.
 Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it."

Song of Songs 8:6-7a (ESV)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The best laid plans of mice and men

"Listen to the Mustn'ts, child,
Listen to the Don'ts
Listen to the Shouldn'ts
The Impossibles, the Won'ts
Listen to the Never Haves
Then listen close to me-
Anything can happen. child,
Anything can be."

~Shel Silverstein, "Listen to the Mustn'ts," Where the Sidewalk Ends.

My whole life has been one big Mustn't or Can't, Shouldn't or Won't.  Looking back, it is rather amusing to see all the things that I knew could or would never be; I can laugh now at all the futile tears and vain anxiety, but at the time it was truly heart-rending.  It is comforting to think that all my plans came to naught, but The Plans for my life have come to glorious fruition, sadly I was neither patient or faithful enough to wait in quiet anticipation for the years to bear fruit.  We are told in Proverbs that, 'a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his path.'  This has been proved time and again in my life, most especially this last year.  I look at the list of things I would never do or be and I wonder how I ended up Here!  Every so often, I remember thinking of the future and where I planned to be and when.  But I am glad my plans have been futile, His plans are better.  Mine might have brought me happiness, that fickle, ephemeral human ideal that is painfully birthed and often dies aborning or soon thereafter; His have brought me Joy, that virtue beyond all mortal pain and striving, that grows brighter and more dear amidst sorrow and suffering.  I suppose that is the choice before us, to choose happiness for its brief season, to, 'eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die,' or to run patiently the harder course, to tread the climbing way, to seek the narrow gate and trade these temporal sorrows for a morning that will never be dimmed.  I did not enjoy the pain, the tears, the waiting, but I would not trade it now for all those drab years filled with futile mirth.  At least in this grim world, all the good stories contain their share of sorrow; it is the really great ones that also have a joyous ending.  So listen to all the things you cannot or will not do, all the things the world says can never be, and then turn to Him who says the Impossible can be and seek out the path He has laid for you.  There will be sorrows, disappointments, and trials but that way lies Joy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The chicken and the egg of modern romance

I just finished reading a rather modern retake on the classic Cinderella story, I am not a reader of modern romance so perhaps I should not generalize about the genre based on this book and a few of Jane Austen's purported heiresses, but after reading the rave reviews by other readers of this particular book I have to wonder what has come of the traditional understanding of love, romance, devotion, and faithfulness.  The hero was about as exciting as the one dimensional 'Prince Charming' in the animated classic, at least the Prince was man enough not to ask Cinderella to become his mistress.  The dude was portrayed as everything a woman could ask for in a man, except for faithfulness, devotion, sacrifice, and commitment, which in my opinion is everything in a man!  The girl was supposed to have 'character,' which was based on some fickle ideal that she would not bring a fatherless child into the world, yet consistently put up with the idiotic professions of 'love' from her ersatz hero and repeatedly put herself in very compromising situations.  She was a modern co-habitating twentysomething lost in regency England, who was willing to put up with anything simply to have a guy in her life who could not even respect her enough to marry her.  If this is the modern idea of romance, I want none of it!  When did eros become a substitute for agape love?  Lust has become the pinnacle of human emotion, leaving no place for self-sacrifice and faithfulness!  We have descended to the level of the animals and, according to the other reviewers of this work, find it a very rewarding experience!  Perhaps this is why I cannot find a living author I like: our sense of virtue and character, those traits that make us human and make a story worth the telling, became 'untrendy' in the 1930's and such works have been few and far between since.  Have our stories become insipid because our culture has or have insipid stories degraded our culture?  I think it goes both ways.  The story started out so well, but failed in the end.  I will return to my old favorites where the best (and worst) of what it means to be human is on display, where women still have the nerve to say no to a man who isn't worth their time and the true heroes have the sense to become worthy of their lady's affection.  Check out the recommended books list in the sidebar to find a 'real' romance!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Of hideous green pants, trusting God, and misconceptions of bliss

Mother's Day 2014: after changing his stinky diaper, my two year old dashes off to pick out his clothes for the day, returning with an okay shirt (only a small spaghetti stain) and a pair of clashing, hideous green pants, which would be fine if we didn't have to go to church.  So off we march to the nursery to negotiate on wardrobe.  This stubborn little soul insists on his choice, even when I suggest a cute pair of khakis, but finally we compromise on a pair of blue jeans.  And of course, there must be an object lesson in this familiar morning ritual, else I would not be boring you with it.

I have seen a few articles and posts recently in both the secular and Christian world that bemoan Mother's Day because it makes all those women who are not mothers, whether by choice or not, feel bad.  I was one of those women for many years and I feel their pain and frustration, but as much as this holiday tends to rub salt in the wounds of many, is it proper to forgo celebrating something as vital as motherhood because of it?  Especially in this day and age of disposable children, family collapse, and moral breakdown when mothers are more important than ever, particularly in the church where motherhood was established by and is blessed by God?  And what does this have to do with green pants?  I'm not sure, keep reading and we may both find out.

Mother's Day 2005: I am a graduate student sitting patiently in church while they pass out the flowers, resigned (content, in my meager understanding) that I will never be a mother or wife, I haven't been on a date since the turn of the century and there is only one single man in our young adult group of 26 women.  I felt, to paraphrase Miss Katherine Brook from the Anne of Green Gables Sequel, "prepare to join the ranks of cold, uninteresting spinsters who have chosen a career over marriage," except that I had not chosen my fate.

Mother's Day 2006: Strangely enough I am engaged, about to graduate with my doctorate, have a job and apartment lined up, and life is going perfectly!  Bring on the flowers!

Mother's Day 2011: Mother's Day is most acutely painful to those who are desperately wishing to be mothers but can't, especially those on an adoption waiting list wondering if their day will ever come.  Not only does this day hurt above all others, every other woman in the church is pregnant (and showing) or has a blissful infant asleep in those adorable baby carrier things.  When will my day of contentment, pride, and bliss come?  Pass the salt.

Mother's Day 2012: I am a mother at last, but where is the bliss?  We finally got the call back in February that someone wanted us to parent their child, the baby was born three weeks ago, and it is my first official mother's day, but I am not one of those blissful new mom's I remember from last year.  I am working more than full time, am suffering from some nameless, chronic disease that makes me tired and achy all the time, have a new baby in the house, am struggling with my emotions regarding my own mother and her lack of feelings towards me, and worry that somehow this whole adoption thing will fall through.  When they ask the mothers to stand, I wearily comply and wonder where is the joy?

Mother's Day 2013: The adoption is final, so no more worries about them taking my son away, but my health is worse and now my job is on the rocks; at least our now 1 year old is sleeping through the night.  A flower, how nice, but how am I going to pay off my student loans and afford the rent when I lose my job?

Mother's Day 2014: A year ago I could never have imagined things working out this way!  I lost my job, but I needed to lose it.  The thing of which I was most afraid turned out to be a great blessing.  This year I actually feel like a mother!  I have my health back, I actually have the energy to be the mom I want to be.  And without a 60 hour a week position I am actually able to spend a little time with my family.  God has provided more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.  Pass the flowers!

It is fun (and humbling) to look back over the years and see what God hath wrought.  While I lost faith, wept, pitied myself, worried, prayed grievously, struggled, and otherwise despaired, God had a plan and a place for me, He intended better for me than I had planned for myself.  When will I ever learn to trust Him?  Much like my plans for my son (and his wardrobe), what he wants and what I intend are often far different and hopefully none of us ever have to 'compromise' with God and settle for something less than His best for us.

What does this have to do with Mother's Day?  For all of you waiting (and hoping) to one day be mothers yourselves, be patient and rejoice with your sisters, remembering that their seeming bliss may not be as perfect as you imagine and that one day your own time may come, even if it does not, we are commanded to 'weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.'  There is often little enough reason to rejoice in this often grim and weary world, let us not grow bitter and sour towards those who are seemingly more fortunate because of our own griefs, for we all have secret disappointments and struggles of which others are unaware.  Canceling Mother's Day because it causes many pain would be like not remembering your anniversary after you are widowed, while yes it brings an ache that cannot be healed this side of eternity, it also reminds us of happy years together and honors something worth remembering.  It is never wrong to celebrate that which is good, wonderful, beautiful, honorable, and wrought with the laughter and tears of a lifetime.  Such is motherhood.  So even in your pain, rejoice that there is such a thing at all!  For where would the world be without devoted and sacrificing mothers? Your day may come, or it may not, but even so, 'Blessed be the Name of the Lord!'  Even Jesus wept with the mourners of Lazarus when He knew He would soon raise him from the dead; we do not know our own story before time, but it is our duty to look beyond our own circumstances and care about the circumstances of others, whether joyous or aggrieved, as they should remember us in turn.  So smile through the tears, hope through the grief, and know that one day, 'all things shall be made new.'  Trite, perhaps, but nonetheless true.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rather that they might

"To write a good fairytale, one need not believe that fairies are, but rather that they might be."

The whole secret to good photography (or art of any kind) is capturing a mood or feeling in a visual context (or auditory if applied to music).  This picture, obviously is a place where fairies dwell.  The same can be said of good literature, but words are used instead of paint or film.  To write good literature, one must live and breath whatever genre one hopes to write within; I would be a very poor author of historical fiction or crime thrillers as I have little interest in such topics.  If the author is not interested in the topic, it is well night impossible to convince the reader to be so.  I happen to like fairytales for some odd reason, and cannot imagine that there are actually people out there who don't believe in fairies or at least agree that they might exist, somewhere or somewhen.  But there are and I feel sorry for them (while they pity my rather childish affectations or wonder about my sanity).  I would think that life would be rather dull (and pointless) if one did not believe in something beyond this everyday, ho hum modern existence we call Western Civilization.  Perhaps that is why fantasy and science fiction books/movies/games are so popular, people were made to believe in something bigger than themselves; this something is the inspiration for all our best art and literature, without it there is no meaning or purpose in anything, most especially the fine arts.  Art cannot have a soul if man does not.  That is why one must believe in fairies.