on Jo March and Women’s Souls

There was something in Little Women that not only captivated me early on but reminded me of myself. I used to listen to an audio recording of the novel while I took baths as a young girl. Those hours spent soaking, until the water was lukewarm and my fingers pruned, were profoundly formative.

The world of the March sisters was enchanting to me as a child. The conservative and homeschooled world that surrounded my childhood valued the book’s 1860s model of  womanhood from the character’s sewing kits to hoop skirts. A casual reading of Little Women would find its way onto any homeschooled family’s shelf along with Anne of Green Gables and every Jane Austen romance. Yet I had no idea how Louisa May Alcott’s novel of “domestic joys and struggles,” as Jo puts it, would be even more important in 2019.

I was elated to hear the brilliant Greta Gerwig was re-doing Little Women, yet I had no idea how well Gerwig’s adaption would give Little Women the justice it deserves. Gerwig focuses on the pro-women aspects of the original texts and inserts Louisa May Alcott’s own voice into the text in a way that was eliminated from the original text. The 2019 adaptation is the one I will be proud to play for daughters one day.  Although Little Women might have received praise for its charm and morals in my childhood world, it receives my highest praise in my world today.

My childhood world was partially self-constructed due to my love for the classical and old fashioned. It was not until my teenage years I realized how harmful the conservative world could be and the irony of heroines like Jo March in said world. Without realizing it, I had bought into an ideology of old-fashioned womanhood that aligned with extreme conservative Christianity. This world, although admiring women like Jo for enjoying reading, was a marriage oriented world. Little Women ended with all three living March girls married and as mothers. Like the Jane Austen-eque storyline, women ended their storylines redeemed by marriage every single time (18th century women’s literature is more predictable than Hallmark movies).

Yet, Jo March is much more than a fairytale ending. “I intend to make my own way in the world,” Jo says in 2019 film, and she means it. Jo March is a heroine determined to make a way for herself. Jo gets a job as a tutor and writes anonymous scandalous stories for the newspaper to survive. She pays the bills for herself, and eventually her family. She makes a world for herself, despite the limitations of society.

One of the reasons I value the 2019 movie is the fact it shows Jo as a writer and lover of the written word so wellLittle Women is a story that values female education and literary based careers. Jo is respected by her family for her pursuit of the writing and literary world. She resents Laurie for being able to go to University, yet educates herself in every way she can. She grabs books off of Laurie’s shelf and sneaks to read Aunt March’s books when she is sleeping. Long before Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own, Jo March had an attic. The original book tells of Jo shutting “herself up in her room” where she would “fall into a vortex, as she expressed it.” The take follows Alcott’s own story more than any adaption or even the book itself. It is honoring to both Louisa May Alcott and the world she lived in.

Louisa May Alcott never wanted Jo to be married woman; Jo was meant to be a writer, as Louisa May Alcott herself was. “Jo should have remained a literary spinster,” Alcott wrote, “but so many enthusiastic young ladies wrote to me clamorously demanding that she should marry Laurie, or somebody, that I didn’t dare refuse.” The movie plays with concept in a clever fashion, suggesting Jo never married but showing the ending after her publisher demanded it. In the same way she sells stories anonymously for money, Jo knows she cannot be a successful writer as a woman unless she sells out a bit. Gerwig’s film gives us the ending the book was meant to have. For this reason, this adaption shines above the others as the one I would want to show my one day daughters. I would want them to know it is okay to live unmarried and okay to make difficult choices as women if they are the right ones.


Jo has come back to me in different moments throughout my life. She was my favorite as a kid who wanted to write stories. I thought of her infamous denial of Laurie when I had moments of failed romance or misunderstanding. I felt like Jo when I have been jealous of educational opportunities boys in my life have gotten (one of my favorite Jo quotes hails from the 1994 movie when she grumbles to Laurie, ‘I’d commit murder to go to college’). And now, Saoirse Ronan’s performance at Jo has just made me feel known.

The movie’s most powerful moment occurs when an emotional Jo tells her mother she might marry Laurie, after all. Her Mother quickly calls her out for not really loving him and reminding Jo of her identity. Jo does not want to get married, nor live a life under the social constraints of a wife. Despite this, she finds herself lonely and unseen.

Jo breaks it down simply: “Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is just all a woman is fit for. I’m so sick of it!”

In that moment, Jo March addresses what historically seems to be the bane of womanhood. People see woman as objects to be married off. Jo, on the contrary, wants to be seen for more than just her heart, her romance, and the status of being wife. Jo wants to be seen for being a soul.

Although 2019 is different than the 1860s, I have felt the same as Jo. As a Christian woman I have been so tired of women being taught their whole life to wait and prepare for marriage. I have wept feeling unworthy or feeling selfish for wanting an education past college over wanting to be married. As I mentioned, a lot of this ideology I bought into myself. While I have distanced myself from this mindset personally, I am still surprised at how much marriage still defines the theology given to many Christian women.

While giving Jo a proper storyline as a woman who choices a literary career over marriage, Gerwig’s adaptation shows marriage is a worthy calling as well. Meg, the eldest March daughter, chooses marriage despite Jo urging her to find dreams and chase them. Meg tells Jo her dream is to be a wife and mother: “Just because my dreams are different than yours, it doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.” The sisters can embrace and support each other in their respective dreams, both portrayed as important.

Amy, the March’s youngest sister, has her own stand out moment about the role of a married woman. In Paris, Laurie tries to convince Amy to pursue her dreams as an artist and marry for love. Amy, however, tells Laurie she has always planned on marrying for money. Her choice is not one she is ashamed of. While Laurie himself cannot understand her choices, Amy knows that her only chance for the opportunities in life she desires come from marriage. She cannot make money as a woman. If she did, it would automatically belong to her husband. But marriage is the path Amy has decided to take, to elevate her in society and help her family.

We can learn a lot from Amy, and all the women of the present and past who marry to give themselves a voice in this world. Although it certainly is not a woman’s first choice, it is a choice and one that is understandable and empowering. While the modern world seems quite different from 1860s, I still observe women in my own life desire marriage for opportunity. In the Christian world, marriage often means social belonging, ministry opportunity, and respect in certain circles. I wish it was not so, but Amy’s reality as a woman who makes choices above her own desires is one I have to admire. I think if we started to see woman as more than their hearts, and understand the complexities of their choices, it would be a good start.

Gerwig’s Little Women shows that women have minds, talents, ambitions, and souls as well as hearts. It is easy to weep alongside Jo: women are still overlooked as souls able to worship, learn, and make their own way in the world regardless of their marriage status. Married women need to be seen, unmarried women need to be seen. We need to see each other.


The women’s movement + the gospel.

Alternatively titled: a fallen world meets redemptive grace. 

It was in a hotel room in Pittsburg during my 16th year where it all came crashing down in my head; I felt completely hopeless with the words leaving my mouth. It was the beginning of my journey of finding the balance of feminism and biblical teaching on gender, which was seemingly unredeemable.

The six months before that defeating moment had been some of the most confusing of my life, thus far. I had sat on my floor and read feminist literature, and thoughts multiplied. I had always associated the feminist agenda as anti-Church, but in the feminist texts I read, I saw redemption from oppression. Wasn’t that God’s will? Why did the ideas contradict? These thoughts were brewed in isolation, and curious thoughts became angry ones.

Those thoughts were manifest when I thought about the arch I wanted my life to follow. Since I was old enough to read, I knew I wanted to write. In High School, when I told people I was pursuing a career in English, I was often reassured that, as a woman, my career choice didn’t really matter, after all. People I barely knew often made comments, such as “It’s good you’re majoring in something fun, because you’re a girl so you’re going to be a mother in the end” or “Are you pursuing teaching so you can homeschool your children?” When all along, I wanted to learn to be a writer and a teacher, and ultimately  I wanted to work hard and my dreams weren’t ones I followed for “fun.”

For ever since I was saved at the age of thirteen, God immediately opened my heart to the idea of going out in the world, in whatever way he would call, and education has and will always be a way I personally have felt – if it is the Lord’s will – I would be equipped to go somewhere to love on students well, and to obey Christ’s call.

It seemed that many people’s assumptions were that I would either marry young and be a wife or be a single woman waiting for marriage, using my “fun” college degree to pass the “waiting” season. I watched women around me, and saw this to be often true – I felt devastated. Women were being taught marriage refined a Godly woman, yet single women waited and waited until they began to doubt, left broken with a cruel idea of grace.

I, likewise, saw Christian women continuing to submit to men in abusive relationships, where a man was using his gender as power and not for the sake of the gospel. My heart broke more and more, desiring the freedom I found in feminist readings to align with Christianity, somehow.

My peace didn’t come in the year I was sixteen. Yet God did not leave me to my anger.

It all came together the summer I turned 18.

One summer morning, I read Genesis 2 and a physically felt a burden physically being taken from me. I can’t explain it in full, except the Lord just opened my eyes to the reality of His story for women.

The sixth day: an almost-perfect creation. A created world, filled with life bursting forth. The green lands and lush ocean told of the God, reigning in the skies. Animals walked and swam, and from the dust man was created. Yet it was not yet complete. Adam named every animal, and not one was found to be a fit companion. God felt Adam’s isolation. As the trinity, He knows that a creation in his image was not meant to be alone. The Lord let Adam sleep, in order that He could bring him a woman. Adam rejoiced to see the woman, who he named Eve (mother of all creation) and when he saw her, he proclaimed, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” A great work was finished, for creation was complete.

This unity would last a moment. A darkness was coming. After the fall of man, a separation would begin: “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (Genesis 4). God’s perfect creation was ruptured in a way that men and women would not enjoy their differences but use them unfairly: men would rule over women, look down upon them.

The story wasn’t finished. In the garden, the gospel was promised. Eve would bear a child, and begin the family heritage that would, in thousands of years, lead to another woman who would find God’s chosen favor: Mary, the mother of Christ. Though the world fell prey to darkness, God’s gospel would still advance and he still clothed both Adam and Eve, not in their handmade clothes of leaves, but in animal skin. The first blood was shed, and the coming of Christ foretold. One day, Christ and His bride would be united, and the great longing for that day began, for things to be made right.

Since that day, I have understood God’s purpose for us. He made women with the same loving hands that made men. He loves them both, and the gospel is for both. Through women, God would bring Christ into this world, and the redemption through Christ was for all.

Yet, since the fall, men’s eyes would be blind to perfectly knowing how indeed women are a perfect creation, and are a perfect and equal companion. There would be much evil brought from men who mistreated God’s plan for his children, and the roles he desired they carry out.

Thankfully, as well, I’ve realized a lot I used to struggle with was rooted and defined by own sin and I regret starting up arguments on the topic where I had no grace. I realize my family and I have always agreed on the heart of Biblical issues, but I would often word them wrongly. I thank God for clarity and certainty in what I believe. Now, while I have personally found peace, it is my desire for more women to know that they are not alone. Christian women are not to keep silent about the issues in society we face in regards to oppression from men believing they are superior.

2017 has been a tremendous year for women, one I dare to say will be one of the most important in history up with women gaining voting rights in the 1920’s and the 1960’s women’s movements. After Trump was elected president, women revolted for their rights and for an end to sexism, especially in our government. This year, the #metoo campaign spread like wildfire, as women found the voices to stand up for themselves after being sexually abused by men.

I have wrongly thought often that Christian women perhaps don’t belong in this movement, and I have been wrong to think so.

Feminism is the idea that women are equal, and the fight that men no longer should oppress and abuse women. This core idea does not promote an idea against God, but simply cries for redemption that his perfect creation be right once more.

Therefore, the women’s movement is not contrary to the gospel, but instead is complementary.


The Church needs the movement. It needs bold women to speak out. Because, so often, women are subject to ideas that are not God’s ideas, but the world’s ideas that have been disguised as God’s. There is still a need for women to be recognized as equals in the context of the Church.

I’ve observed two major issues pertaining to this. The first is women submitting to men before God.

How often I see women throwing away their lives for men, throwing away going into the world with the gospel for a relationship.

I should clarify: God is faithful to provide spouses. I eagerly anticipate the day he might provide a husband as a companion fit for me. But I cannot put my hope in that. If I did have a husband, still my hope is called elsewhere. Another human, in theory or in my life, will never define who I am in Christ. If the Lord chooses to call me into a life of singleness, I will still be a wholly a woman and a Christian. If the Lord calls me to marriage, I will blessed with a wonderful gift but still be just as whole as the hour I first knew Christ.

Yet, I have witnessed women often prize the idea of a marriage over God’s will for their lives. They seek love where it is not yet the Lord’s, leading to much brokenness. They idolize relationships, that are good things from the Lord, and put security in those above God. They feel unloved by God when earthly love is not given.

Yet the Lord never sees unmarried as those stuck in a season of waiting. As Paul wrote, “It is good for them to remain single, as I am” (1 Corn. 7). So why do we often reduce an unmarried women serving the Lord to “using her singleness well”? As Christians, let’s honor each other and realize that Paul’s words ring true for women: a single woman simply can serve better. The kingdom advances through single missionaries and single local Church members. These people are not in a season of waiting. They are complete in the Lord, and capable of His work.

Later on, Paul writes “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches” (1 Corn. 7). Single or unmarried, the call is the same: live for the kingdom first. Instead Christians often find identity in their marriage state and it breaks my heart. God has called each of us to a purpose, and let’s find joy in that. Let’s train men and women to be equipped to go out in the world, first and foremost, before we teach them to be good husbands and wives, for that core is the very thing they will carry into eternity.

The second core issue I’ve noticed is the false identity in the authority of men above God’s authority has led to a misunderstand of God’s plan for women and led to abuse, which should not be tolerated in Churches.

Many Christian women remain silent because they are told to always obey men. Men have used their place as a father or husband to emotionally abuse women, and these women remain silent and continue to be “obedient” because they are falsely taught a theology where women are to be kept quiet, and submit to men before God.

Often people use 1 Timothy to contradict the idea of bold Christian women: “Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” Personally, I cannot see this passage asking women to be conservative, I can only see a gospel message shining through these verses: women are not to adorn themselves, their hope being in appearance or beauty or the affections of a man. Godly women are not to find their hope in constant shopping, or whatever else hope can be found in. Instead, women are to adorn themselves with good works: serving Christ, sharing the gospel, going forth. A woman is to do this quietly – humble, obedient, not for the sake of the world but only Christ. A woman to quietly submit to the Lord’s will, and the Lord often calls us to be bold and not tolerate the injustice of sin.

Being bold is not at all contrary to the gospel, it is merely proclaiming it. As disciples, we are commanded to not be silent. We go and we proclaim, perhaps quietly yet never in silence.

God is not afraid to use women to further his kingdom the same as men; his redeemed children are equally equipped to write the story of humanity with beautiful gender roles working together to provide the unity of Eden.

Often, the women God has used in his kingdom have been women wrongly outcast or in the hands of the darkness of evil men. He comforted Leah when she was not preferred by her husband. He heard Hannah in silence cries for mercy. He met Hagar in the wilderness: “So [Hagar] called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

God used Ruth, a widow, in all her grief, and gave her boldness to go where women couldn’t go to the threshing floor that she might be redeemed: “May the Lord make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel” (Ruth 4: 11).

God used Esther, he commanded her to not keep silent, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

God used Mary, who sat at Jesus’s feet, soaking up his words while Martha was “distracted” with serving her home. Often a home, marriage, and things of this world turn our perspective away from being on our knees, listening to God, and to submitting to this world and what is required to be “good wife or mother” in the eyes of the world. Jesus shakes his head at Martha, and pleads to her: “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10).

God used the “sinful” woman who broke societal rules, and washed Jesus’s feet with her hair. She wept, and Pharisees judged. But Christ saw only redemptive love defining this woman: “Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair’ (Luke 7). This woman is judged wrongly, but Jesus looked into her eyes and told her she is forgiven. As he did many women: the woman at the well and the adulterous woman for examples.

God used these women torn down by men or the world’s view of how they should behave or where they should go to share the story of his gospel; these women who did not stay silent.

When women stand up, claiming “no more,” or when we fight for compassion for those who are voiceless, it is a picture of redemption; of created creatures no longer being subject to the darkness of the fall.

Ultimately, all things will come to completion at the day of Christ. He who started a good work in Christ Jesus is making all things new: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corn. 13:12). He has finished the great work, he knows us completely and will continue to be our faithful guide and counsel. One day, we will see full and no longer as cracks of light in the darkness. The promise of heaven is equally promised for women, and for men, and we will both be raised in Christ in the very same way, we will both see full.

Christians, let’s eagerly wait for the completion of the work of Christ by evangelism, the pursuit of holiness, and going to the nations together. Let’s fight for the oppression of women to be no more that the gospel may be proclaimed in this world.

For when we see his face, at long last the oppression of gender that begun when Eve’s lips tasted the fruit will be gone and His glory will be all that is left.

Because His promises are true: I am a Christian, and a feminist. A concept that doesn’t contradict itself, but complements.


to the mountains, again.

All of a sudden it’s October, the richest season, but I haven’t gotten used to the words around me, the words that make perfect sense. Outside my window I am greeted with red leaves, overcast skies – the first signs of a ripe season coming to a close, ready to be picked. Change is in the wind, the cold time you’re not used to (yet it thrills you in an overwhelming and beautiful way).

Only two months and a few days ago, I was still in Romania, and I felt like there wasn’t enough time to tell all the things I wanted to. I couldn’t stop seeing faces at home pass through my dreams, and wanting to share with them what all I saw and was learning. Now, what do I say, after all?

One day in Romania sticks out to me, vibrantly as if I had never left it. I was in the mountains, surrounded by the beautiful countryside. It had been a mere twist of circumstances that had led me to that place.

I was sitting alone, for the first time in a sum of time. The sun was setting, golden grass hiding me from the rest of the world. Voices echoed nearby, ones I couldn’t understand yet ones I longed to listen to forever. I pondered what had gotten me there, to that place, and I could barely find words.

“This is it,” I remember thinking, “This is the ‘wherever, whenever’ I’ve prayed so many times.'” There I was, somewhere only a sovereign God could bring me. So far, yet it felt completely right as if I had planned it my whole life.

What was there for me, in that valley, was perfect. It was promised. It was His will. I felt every vibrant confirmation of that looking out to the sky. It was very, very good.


A lot’s changed since then, and I haven’t quite grasped it all. I’ve watched life unfold in front of my eyes. I’ve rejoiced with people I love, and sorrowfully watched people abandon truth. News articles have spread tragedies to disasters, one after the other. I’ve personally fought the daily faith-testing trials of my own from car troubles to living four hours from my family for the first time. I’ve felt completely, and recklessly alone and I’ve felt the most full: looking out to the city lights and the mountain tops in abundance.

All of it: it never quite goes the way you think, or plan, assume, or dream. I’ve been learning that’s okay for a while now. Yet sometimes it’s easy to rest in the nod of a head. Answering questions with “yeah, life’s good” because you feel ashamed to say otherwise when you have nothing to complain about in the grand scheme of things. But inside, you miss too many things and even good things can feel crowded and confusing.

But God always brings you back, and reminds you what’s it all about.

Last weekend, I went back to the mountains, back to a stretch of land I’m particularly fond of and I’ve gone back to many times throughout my life. The moment I looked out the window of the car, and smelled the air, I was brought back to that  hillside at golden hour two months previous.

Those glorious moments I was reminded of, tucked in the mountains of Brasov, where nothing seemed untouchable. Those are the moments when your heart cries: “This is it. This is what you prayed for those years. Don’t you see it?”

Those aren’t every day. But God is good every day. And every day he answers those “wherever, whenever” prayers. Some days, he calls us to the mountain tops. Some days, he calls us to the long and lonely drive home. He is ever present there, ever completing his will.

While in the mountains this past weekend, I sat on the bridge where God first broke my heart, and I first wept over my sin. I sat in the room where I first encountered grace and found myself singing some of the same songs I first sang that night and meant them.

Long ago, in that wooden room, I prayed for the first time that God do as he will with this life of mine: not sure what I was saying but knowing it was true. Whatever he requires, whatever he chooses to give or take away, I pray it still. Wherever, whenever: the mountains, or the in-between.

When Jonah believed he was running from God, God was not afraid to follow him through the rough waters of the ocean in order His will may be complete. He will not let his children forsake the places he wants us to go, even if they’re the ones we want to go the very least.

That’s where I’ve been and where I’ll be: somewhere, drinking a cup of coffee while trying to write something, resting in the knowledge that the grace that has led me safe thus far, through the mountains and back again, will lead me safely home. Resting in contentment, resting in grace. Resting while looking at the sky above, wondering what will be revealed to me next in that imperceivable expanse above us all.

a good last day // the eclipse, 2017.

The day before:

Everyone was talking about the roads, all day. Reports running up and down every news source on how it was expected to be the worst day of traffic history. My phone lit up in my pocket, messages of people looking for glasses as if they were necessary for survival.

The eclipse, the phenomenon my Mom had always talked about since it swept her skies in her junior year of high school. It had been a year since I had first heard it was coming myself, before the world went wild, before eclipse glasses were being sold on the streets for $30 a piece, before the interstate was blocked as early as Sunday morning. Where had the time gone?

There had been plans to travel far but those plans had turned into wonderings – was two minutes of totality worth an entire day of driving? Of course it would be, if it hadn’t been our last day.

Moving boxes, among other piles, had been filling up spare spaces for a while now. Change was inevitable, and had been for nearly nine months, ever since the wintertime, ever since New Years. Change that held promise, but was creeping up in a way that was unfamiliar.

The past year had been making familiar out of unfamiliar: getting used to certain brick buildings and crowded walkways, getting used to faces and stories they held, getting used to writing longer essays and carrying heavier books. The past year, ever since last August, when I first heard about the eclipse, and I first wrote about space; life before a year of calculating light years and studying eclipses by lights and objects in labs. Then came the summer, a whole summer abroad, driving down mountain roads, getting used to feeling the mass of darkness and the mass of a greater Glory; a summer of learning, of being changed, and coming home to nothing at all the same (inside and around). And now here we were, my parents driving five hours to their new home, and a second year starting for me.

That’s why a whole day seemed to take up more than a simple sum of 24 hours. A day just for the eclipse, just for driving, seemed a sum of certain eternities.

One year ago, last week:

Freshman year, the first week, and there I was writing about space. A book on my lap, full of thoughts about a universe and what space travel means (or if it means anything anymore). The subject of my essay: magnificent desolation, the two words Buzz Aldrin spoke of when he stepped onto the moon’s cold surface for the first time.

That’s how it all felt that summer, something mighty and something terrifying. A large mass of everything that could be twisted into poetry or be looked at as darkness. What waited, when the leaves turned from fresh and hopeful? What was lurking, there, in the coming shorter days? It felt horrifying, vast, unknown. Desolation.

The first day, my professor looked out to the group of students: Astronomy 151, a white room, kids wearing NASA t-shirts.

“There’s going to be a solar eclipse, a total one, this time next year, make plans to drive somewhere,” he said before syllabuses were passed out, before we talked about the sky.

Space was humbling, he said. The sky is humbling when you look at it, when you think about how it’s all so vast, how we’re always moving, how the stars we trace into constellations are always exploding light years away.

Plans, go ahead and make your plans, he had said. I imagined driving, somewhere. Quilts  stuffed in a car, the windows open, driving somewhere to see the sky turn dark. But a year was long enough to make plans. There would be an autumn soon enough, followed by a winter, followed by a spring, followed by a hot, long summer. All of that would be days upon days, full of hours all to plan something, somewhere. I could imagine it then: the sky growing darker, our voices mumbling. So much time. Magnificence.

The day of: 

9:05: Today, I woke up to light streaming through the windows and the day felt weighty.

There had been the plans but the traffic talk kept going. We made new plans in the morning, to drive up to the Church, to watch it all unfold on the top of the hill. A ten minute drive, a few hours of a day, not twenty four hours. That would be enough, we told ourselves.

Everyone was still talking about the traffic.

Everyone was talking about the end times, the signs in the sky regarding prophecies, as if solar eclipses were new, as if the world was never tinted by darkness. “This is the first time an eclipse has swept over just America, and the whole if it, so surely it means something,” I read on several occasions. If only America was the only country, I laughed to myself, if only this meant something because of it being in America.

1:04: We arrived, looking out from the safety of the grassy hill, looking to the neighborhoods below. Glasses beheld eyes to see the sun overlapped with a sliver of moon. You cannot see the moon in the light, yet there it, a piece bitten off the sun growing larger seemingly by five minute increments.

It was hot, not yet cool, so we ate watermelon, oranges, and various drinks (only ones with ‘sun’ somewhere in the title, my Dad’s doing) and hid in the shadows, while keeping eyes visible to the sun.

“I never realized how we never look at the sun,” my brother said. You don’t realize, until a day as today.

2:30: “LOOK, no not even at the sun, look behind!” The sun was setting, the sky was pink – the lights of the houses below were twinkling. Everything was lost in a shadow that passed over us all, yet there was nothing above – only the celestial, only the most ordinary. The crickets started up, for nothing indicated such a change, except for night.

And there it was: what everyone had marveled at, why people had rambled about traffic and bought thousands of dollars worth of t-shirts months in advance. All the talk that I once had been the first to share to people, after that first Astronomy lecture, and yet eventually had gotten tired of even thinking about myself.

I looked at everyone. I looked at myself, and my feet were running. We were all lost: lost in the sky, lost in something.

The darkness lasted for but a moment, and that moment seemed longer than the twenty four hours that seemed too long to waste.

You see the world dip into nothing, a ring of light remaining, and the light peaking out is illuminated by the darkness, and then the light is gone. The light is then within: you notice it is among the children’s voices, among the words that escape our mouths we forget soon after. The light suddenly is all around, again, no longer only voices, no longer nonsensical, no longer hidden by shadows and sunset.

There is much present darkness, and many incredible things: such a moment is no different, yet I do think it’s the rarity of it all. If perhaps, only once in 40 years the earth swallowed the sun in the golden rays of sunset, we’d rejoice over that too. We’d be crammed in parks, piled in groups of gathered camping chairs, we’d be looking up. We would marvel. Then we would back up our chairs, get back on the interstate, and resume.

A whole year, where things had been unfamiliar and now here we were again, another August, and it was over. Something new was beginning, for I could hear others talking through the next one – seven years from now. What would be the sum of the days, the hours, that would fill not one year – but seven? Many winters, many New Years. Surely, I would be faced with change again, a different change. Many Augusts to come and to go, and many lengths of darkness. A God, up in the heavens, who gives up darkness so we may see the light inside of us – even if just for 40 seconds.

Was it worth a day? Perhaps not. Yes, it was worth something, that minute: it was our own plan in our own place, down the road, our own sum of hours. I think back to that essay, back to the concept of magnificent desolation, of this life and the bulk of it among the changing seasons, the changing skies, the light among our darkness.

A good, good last day.


things I want to remember, thus far.

It’s a quiet evening, a stack of books by my side, a mug balancing on top of them. It’s on still days, such as this, my thoughts have time to settle. What is there to say? What observations, what moments should form poetry, form memoirs? What do I want to cherish my whole life long?

These are the things I want to remember:

I. A question, and an answer. The question I’ve received the most is, “Were you scared to come alone?”  (or “Wow, you’re so brave to do so!”). At first, I kind of just smiled and made some comments about how it was a little scary but I’ve been fine since.

But no, in all truth it wasn’t scary. Leaving was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done, and gladly would do again. I don’t remember a time in my life where traveling wasn’t my happy place from each new skyline, airplane, hotel rooms, or tiny cafe. Packing your life into suitcase, and knowing you’re going to be a new person is profoundly thrilling. Especially this time, the longest I’ve traveled; I’ve loved every airport, every free weak cup of airplane coffee, every new sight, every time I’ve gotten lost and had to find my way, every new taste of a new food I’d never seen before. Newness like that has always been my very fuel for living. Bravery, for me, is never needed in leaving.

So, my answer? I’ll say this. There is little bravery is gladly going, in the adventure, in the grand scheme of it all, but there is much needed in the staying, in the settling of one’s feet, in the creation of the familiar paths you’ve walked before. There is much bravery in a lifetime of not just going wherever He may call, but staying there and standing firm. Yes, it is scary on the days that lack, the days I feel unworthy, the days I doubt providence, the days where I am full of false believed strength, yet those are the days that I am being made brave – so I shall glad continue to keep on leaving, and keep on staying.

II. The words of a particular hymn. How many times I’ve sung or listened to “Come Thou Fount” and now on this trip, it’s been my anchor. Often I’ve walked, or fallen asleep at night with the words echoing within my head. I think it will be intertwined with this trip in my memories for a very long time.

Recently I was introduced to an old verse of the song, lost to recent versions I’m particularly fond of:

// Hallelujah! I have found it,
The full cleansing I had craved,
And to all the world I’ll sound it:
They too may be wholly saved.
I am sealed by Thy sweet Spirit,
Prone no longer now to roam;
And Thy voice, I’ll humbly hear it,
For Thy presence is my home //

III. Scraps of good days: wandering beneath the city lights at dusk starting the long walk home as music starts to play, the smell of smoke and the feeling of my feet walking against the cobblestone street, the thrill of just the right amount of wind blowing through my hair, a bouquet of camomile tucked away in my bag, tickets and folded up letters, familiar faces and new ones I’ve already felt as if I’ve known my whole life long, conversations with people from another place entirely yet who share so much of my heart. These things are the things I choose to treasure, to collect, to carry with me as gold.

IV. The bliss of realizing teaching is surely the job with the most joy is one I don’t want to lose, or grow old in thirty years when I am exhausted of classrooms and English papers.

Being apart of the English school here has truly opened my eyes to how much I love lessons, how much I love meeting new faces and knowing what goes on in learning minds. Students open up, the fumble with English, they ask questions, and they keep too silent.

I’ve laughed to tears at students’ jokes, and teared up at their sweet words. I’ve planned out workshops and changed things at the last second. I’ve learned to go with the flow, to always look for the best idea for the moment. I have so much to learn, but certainly I am learning more than every student I’m supposed to teach!

V. A knowledge of providence I have longed for my whole life long. If the Lord has revealed to me anything on this trip, it’s a deeper knowledge of such provision and foreknowledge. When the Lord first put this summer on my heart last year while in Romania, I could barely imagine the faithfulness I’ve seen.

When I was in middle school, I marveled often at when in Genesis, the Lord promised Abraham an inheritance greater than the stars. Last fall, I was humbled by how God gave  Abraham his promise then called him up a mountain to sacrifice that gift at an altar (yet provided, still). This summer, my eyes have been opened to another page of that story, personally: that promise to Abraham, for an inheritance, for provision for every calling is also mine.

As Paul wrote in Romans 4, “But the words ‘it was counted to him [Abraham]’ were not written for his sake alone, but for outs also. It will be counted to us who believe in him” (23), and earlier, “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed” (16).

Yes, as I sit in the country that has been a part of my whole life, with every need accounted for, and faith that every unspoken need will come to completion: I do believe his promises are guaranteed, for the next six weeks and for the rest of this life (and if I can only remember one thing, let it be that!).

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord has led you” // Deuteronomy 8