I’m home and I can feel it… that first morning chill that signals the advent of my favorite season: autumn. I was flipping through my old copy of The Story Girl the other day and found its pages full of pressed autumn leaves from last year. I had forgotten that while I was in PEI I had gathered great handfuls of crimson maple and golden oak leaves and pressed them in my storybook. It was like stumbling upon a treasure. They are now tacked up on my bright blue walls; small stars of color to welcome these mellow, brooding days. I’m in a nesting mood; filling my baskets with crisp apples and berries, replacing the summer art I always tack on my walls for more contemplative pictures by my favorite artists. I find a cooking streak flaring up in me of late, egged on by the yearly task of putting up applesauce and peaches for the winter. Candles are now my regular companions, sweaters and shawls have taken up their old familiar posts and the world seems blessedly smaller somehow as the earth and I both draw in our souls for winter.
I guess in part I’m in a mood to celebrate the goodness of my life within the circles of home. If you glance at my “About” page, you will see that I have removed the “soon to be student at SPU” phrase from the basic descriptions of my life. The decision not to attend school full time is one that took the summer to complete, but it is the fruit of all that I have learned and prayed and seen in the last year. It is a huge change for me because I was pretty convinced that going to some grand college would answer most of my life problems. I was accepted to King’s College London and St. Andrew’s in Scotland, as well as SPU and felt that the life of intellectual pursuit, lived independently of family for awhile would answer the hungers and drives of my heart. Autonomy. Independence. Fun. Intellect. Surely I thought, these things would make me happy. And I thought that a summer in Cambridge ought simply to seal the deal.
It did not. And more than that, I found God gently unraveling my desires, altering the shape of my thought, challenging the cultural attitudes I had so easily ingested. It’s a hard process to explain. I am so fresh from the journey that the images are bright, but the words not yet coherent. I can only say that God taught me to treasure home, community, and family in a way I never had. And he taught me by showing me the emptiness of intellect when it is severed from relationship. He challenged my cultural expectations of being young and autonomous by letting me be quite alone, quite intellectual and frankly, quite discontent. As the days passed the conviction grew in me that real life and godliness is lived out in the context of relationships. That happiness is generally found in fellowship. Morality is crafted within accountable relationships. Godliness is formed by service. Knowledge is a living thing that can only be healthy when it is tempered by love. He showed me that art, story and song and beauty in all its forms express his heart as well as any theological statement.
And so I began to wonder if my yearning to get “away” was driven mostly by cultural expectation. I began to wonder if intellectualism would leave me with a cold heart. I began to wonder if hours of prescribed classes would make me a better writer, or lover, or follower of God. I began to wonder if our culture is one of ingrown autonomy that we have blindly accepted by believing that families ought to just grow apart. I began to wonder if independence was the marvelous virtue I had assumed it to be. I began to wonder what road would lead me to godliness, gentleness, laughing ease and love of beauty. And the road I have felt convicted to choose, is a road that has led me back here, to the old circles of home and the new task of writing.
I am glad, so deeply glad in my decision. Even in this first month I have spent unprecedented hours in writing, in crafting words, reveling in God’s beauty as it is expressed in story and thought. But I have also lived the rhythm of my hours in the company of my family. Their loves demands my heart and service, my work and patience. I am not left to the chill of my own autonomy but am graciously called daily into community. And I can’t see how that is a bad thing. This sort of decision isn’t for everyone. Most of my friends go to college and they are all godly and wonderful. Joel’s the best guy I know and I just dropped him off at SPU with every conviction that God was happy at the fact. I have nothing against study, nothing against a healthy intellect. I fully intend to continue a rigorous self education and have the usual stack of books at my bedside.
I’m just all for family; all for beauty and a life that is steeped in grace. I’m all for rebuilding the relationships we’ve lost, for repairing a wholeness of self that unites mind and heart in a life that blesses everyone around it. I’m for challenging a culture that tells us family is unimportant. I’m for changing what is dark and redeeming what is lost. I’m for beauty. I’m for gentleness. I’m for simplicity, and surprisingly, humility. I’m for wisdom and service. I am for art and music. I’m for family feasts. I’m for life in all its goodness.
So that’s about it. Life changing decisions are never easy to explain. I’ll do better in ten years but if you stuck with my rambling this long, Lord bless you. Your reward is a glimpse of the apples that grew in the orchard at Silver Bush on PEI. Happy autumn!