I’ve returned from Italy! In 7 days I traveled with several others to 4 different places: Rome, Siena, CINQUE TERRE, and Venice. If the caps aren’t enough to hint at my favorite, I don’t know what is. Here’s a shout out to Wheaton College’s Arena Theater Set Crew tradition–time for Highs and Lows. A high of the trip: the hike in Cinque Terre from the 5th rock city to the 4th. Low: Alex and I both falling ill on the last day. High: Buying an Italian outfit in Rome. Boots included! Low: Having to travel on 4 different trains in one day. High: Cappacinos, red wine, and pasta/pizza everyday. Low: My stomach growling in hatred toward my highly acidic diet.
I’m already fiendishly trying to calculate when I can go back.
Now, I think it’s high time I mention a sliver of what’s been on the brain. I’ve set up camp for a while in the vast topic of character work. I’ve been reading After You Believe by N.T. Wright, on how Christians should live after making the crucial decision to follow Christ. Also, I’m devouring Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung’s Glittering Vices (my one literary companion in Italy) a thorough examination of how the Seven Deadly Sins play out in our contemporary world and how we can remedy them. It may appear basic, but I think it’s key to be thoughtful about our character and then take action to perfect it. In regards to my character, I’ve been a passive onlooker for far too long. Wright stresses that if we can learn to be faithful in the little things, then we can learn to be faithful in the big things. That our day-to-day habits are finely intertwined with the deep roots of our soul. There are thousands of pathways that have formed in our brains because of certain habits. So it takes great effort to change those habits and create new pathways in the brain, but it is possible. Possible and hard work. One day, before the semester break, I had been assigned to do laundry. And it’s recommended that after you finish all the washing, drying, and folding, to iron if there are things to be ironed. Well, on this particular day, there were things to be ironed and I had 25 minutes left before lunch. I thought to myself, “Surely it won’t be worth it to start ironing now. There isn’t much time left, and I’d only get a few things done. You know what? I’ll just grab a little Dietrich Bonfoeffer and read down here in the laundry room. It’s not a big deal.” But, fortunately, this character stuff came to mind. It IS a big deal. I barely did it, but I put the Dietrich away, went upstairs and ironed 2 tablecloths. It seems almost silly now, but it was hard to do it. And not to do it begrudgingly, but to be present and thankful for my time at L’Abri as I did it. There are definitely struggles I have with sloth and pride. To be able to name it is a key step. But to fight against it is even harder, I’ve found. I want to actively do that hard work. I want to fight for virtuous character in all areas of my life, big and small.
An N.T. Wright quote: “…the effort to replace the bad thoughts with good ones, and to concentrate on what [we] have to do. That is…”character”. It doesn’t come by accident. It comes through the self-discipline required to do anything in life really well– to learn a musical instrument, to mend a tractor, to give a lecture, to run an orphanage. Or, indeed, to live as a wise human being. Again and again, when you’re working hard at a difficult or complex task, the mind will try to jump away, to focus instead on something easier or more enticing. And again and again, if you’re going to get the job done, you have to force your mind back onto the job and away from the distraction. And the mental muscles you require if you’re going to do that have to be trained, just as much as your physical muscles do when you’re working up for sustained and strenuous exercise.”
My time at L’Abri is over halfway done now, and with that fact comes looking ahead toward the future. What’s next? I could use prayer as God and I try to sort that out. A job will definitely be necessary as funds are currently running pretty low. But what and where that will be are the big questions.
I’ll end with a lil’ list I’ve been developing.
-cowbells jangling 24/7.
-sleepy faces, eyes downcast at 8am breakfast.
-looking on the day’s list and seeing, “Laundry: Lisbeth.” Laundry is by far my favorite job (sans the ironing).
-candles at mealtimes.
-only having one dresser of my possessions. it’s manageable.
-playing charades in the lounge after dinner.
-crowdedness in the kitchen with 5 people washing dishes
-muesli. delish. I love it so much that I want to call myself muesli.
-leaving studytime with an ache for more.
-going to a meal or a meeting, looking for a seat, and finding that Alex saved me a seat right next to him.
-sandwich days at Chalet Bourdenette. Mmm…meat plate, cheese plate, mayo/mustard in tubes, and bread just out of the oven. Oh, and a plate of chocolate and a bowl of apples that came from the trees in the garden.
-a repeat–receiving letters of preciousness.
-wooing one of the various outdoor cats that roam L’Abri property. It’s especially satisfying when I can get them to purr.