I will appeal to this

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I love fall in our neighborhood.

In my youth, I read the Bible every day. I was particularly fanatical about it in my early teens, pushing myself deeper into study and memorization. I wanted to know more about the Bible than anyone else, as far as it was within my (overinflated sense of) power. I wrote about scripture every morning, memorized the book of Ephesians and much of 1 Corinthians 15, and ultimately had read through the whole Bible three times by the time I turned 18.

I mention this not to brag but to confess. This obsession with the Bible shape-shifted into a dark, unhealthy thing in my young life. My fanaticism broke something in me. The Book was the method through which, I believed, God would grant me favor and a better standing in the heavenly brackets. (Clearly, I was not absorbing some crucial elements of the good news from those books at the end, the ones with the red parts.) And yet this did not happen. All of this intense Bible reading did not improve my character. I was still as horrible as I’d always been, but now, I was self-righteous about it. Worn out from the posturing and performance, by the time I’d graduated college, I was ready to walk away from the faith of my youth for good.

As it happens, I didn’t walk away, which is another story entirely, but I did stop reading the Bible. My reconfiguration of faith made reading the Bible — an act that was once so vital, so critical to my daily functioning — difficult, even distasteful. For the past eight years, I haven’t been able to read the Bible on a regular basis, as much as I’ve tried. I bought new translations, handsomely bound pocket editions, concordances, gigantic ones with commentary. I told myself I’d start memorizing scripture again; I’d read through books during Lent; we’d study the Bible together before dinner. None of it appealed to me (and none of it worked or lasted). It’s not that I wasn’t reading; I was still reading 100 or more books a year. But none of them were the Bible.

I’m still unsure how to fully explain this lapse in Bible reading, but what I do know is that this eight-year break has been restorative. This is a weird thing to say, and my inner evangelical recoils with shame. (To admit such a thing — that not reading the Bible has seemed good for me — verges on serious blasphemy in the circles of my youth.) But it has been. I have been able to enjoy scripture with some distance from it, hearing it every Sunday at church, but I have not buried myself in it; I have not approximated that personal, daily closeness that I once had.

Still, these many years later, I have missed that fervent reader I once knew. Over the past year, I have felt I’m in a healthier, safer place (thanks to the grace of our church, chipping away at my grotesque heart for nearly a decade now), and I have wondered how I could start reading the Bible again. What would it take?

Having a baby, apparently, was what it took. For the past month, in the early hours of the morning, I have read the Bible while nursing Moses. I read it on my phone, needing a free hand to baby-wrangle, which is a new (and not entirely awesome) experience for me. (I’m using the ESV app, which is super-glitchy and full of glaring UX flaws, but it has one of the least gross text interfaces I found.) But it has been working. I have been, to my outrageous surprise, sticking with it.

Leading thoughts thus far? It’s good to be back. And it was right to be away.

I have realized that the Book is still so much with me (and always has been). Even though I clearly didn’t learn much and did not become a better person, all of those years spent reading the Bible shaped my brain and memory. I can still recall scripture easily and with joy. My purity of heart remains Level: Garbage Dump/100% Unrepentant Sinner, but I can remember a weird quantity of the early prophets and the Pauline epistles.

And yet there is still much that surprises me. This is the dual-sided nature of returning to the Bible: I remember so much, and I remember so little.

Specifically, while nursing Moses at 4 in the morning, I was floored by this exchange from Psalm 77, which struck me as just the thing.

I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

I’d forgotten about how delightful that experience is, when reading scripture, when you stumble on just the thing — the small word, the errant phrase that is precisely what you needed. This is the pleasure of such a vast, beautiful Book: It lives alongside you.

I read this and actually said aloud, astonished, “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” Moses paused and looked up at me and grinned.

In all of these long years away, I had forgotten many things. The remembering has brought a rush of pleasure and contemplation. Returning, now, has felt like the right thing, considering the days of old, the years long ago.

. . .

It’s super-lame when parents say, “This is such a fun age,” but good grief, this IS such a fun age! Moses is five months old now and narrowly holding onto his title as World’s Best Baby. (Woke up at 3:30 in the morning chirping like a pterodactyl, not sleepy at all! Sleep is silly!)

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In the thick of winter

Lately…

Kitchen pups

Having two dogs makes me really disinclined to have children. They exhaust me, especially the little one. I know kids are, like, 100x more difficult than dogs, I know, just don’t talk to me about having babies any time soon. The pervading feeling in my brain, regarding child-bearing and -rearing: Women have it rough, and mothers probably have it roughest of all. Maybe I’ll join their ranks one day. Not now.

Truthfully, the dogs are good 85% of the time. They have their on days and they have their off days. I have to intervene in squabbles and mini-fights from time to time, which ratchets my anxiety up to seriously unfun levels. They never fight when Guion is around. Could be that he’s scarier (which we know he is to Pyrrha), could be that he’s a calming presence.

Last night, I spent an hour making a frittata from this fancy Hudson Valley cookbook from Aunt Jane. I don’t cook much anymore, because Guion is way better at it, but when he gets home late from work, I will attempt to make a meal. Sometimes I am successful. So, anyway, I’m spending an hour making this frittata. I get the old skillet in the oven, pull it out, taste a bit, and promptly spit it out. The whole thing tastes like it’s been seasoned with metals and chemicals. I blame the skillet. I throw it all in the trash. The dogs start fighting. I start to cry. I send Guion to get takeout from the faux-Japanese place in the strip mall while I watch the first 15 minutes of “The Bachelor” and feel — if not better about my cooking abilities — a little better about the state of my moral compass. Nothing like some self-righteous TV viewing to improve one’s mental state.

Guion likes to tease me for my inability to read labels on products that I buy. For a detail-obsessed copy editor, I am curiously unable to focus on labels or make good decisions while shopping. Shopping induces this weird paranoia in me that I’ve never been able to adequately label; somehow I feel panicky, like I need to make a quick decision. I’m never relaxed when shopping. I made one of my greatest lapses in label-reading yesterday. I was at Target and I needed a new bra. On the fly. Just wanted it to be nude and inexpensive. So I bought one that advertised it was wireless (I daily thank the Lord for such inconsequential breasts). Came home. Pulled it out of the bag. Realized I’d brought a nursing bra.

I used to read my Bible every day. I was a pious kid and a super-pious (read: unbearably vain) teenager, and I think I read my Bible every day for five or six years. I’ve read the whole thing several times now, and it’s engraved in my memory. But over the past few years, I felt burned out by the Bible. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t make myself read it on a regular basis.

One of my goals this year is to read the whole thing again. To my delight, I’m enjoying myself. Specifically, I’m enjoying remembering all of the things I’d forgotten. There are, for instance, so many cryptic things that Jesus says, sayings that I’ve never heard a pastor try to explicate. Like this:

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

— Matthew 18:18 (ESV)

How curious! I’m in Exodus and Matthew now, and they’ve been simultaneously revelatory and familiar, old news and new inspiration.

A standout line from Lucie Brock-Broido’s recent collection of poems, Stay, Illusion:

The less the light the more the discontent in the dark.

Happy weekend

It’s finally here, kiddos! I’ll be home with my cute, now freshly bearded husband soon, and then he is going to generously accompany me to the DMV so I can get a new license with my new name and state on it. I’m dreading going, but it will be good to get it done. And swap out that awful picture for a hopefully* less awful one.

To keep AFP Calligraphy more fresh and interesting, I’ve instituted a new category that I’m calling My Letters. In it, I will attempt to ironically chronicle my handwritten correspondence with a handful of beautiful women. Just a way to show potential clients some of the ways I’ve been writing lately, I guess. And to brag on my friends, each of whom has her own completely lovely and independent style. So, if you write me a letter, you have been forewarned. Don’t worry, though: I won’t post your full address anywhere or the contents of your letter, or anything like that. Just a corner of your stationery or a sample of your handwriting. Capiche?

Thanks for the book suggestions, friends! I am still debating my choice, but will let you know what I pick. I started Death Comes for the Archbishop today. I am told by my own notes on the front page that I last read the book in January 2005. I remember thinking it was very dull then, so I was hoping that I would prove my 17-year-old self wrong by falling in love with it. But so far… it is very dull.

“For in him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” This might be my favorite verse in that entire letter. It is so beautiful and mysterious. I could think about it all day long. (Colossians 1:19)

I’ve had a lot of down time at work today. If you can’t tell. I revamped my reading pages up there. Because I could.

* I always think of my editing professor, Bill Cloud, when I use this word. He frequently reminded us that it’s often used improperly (e.g., it does not mean “I hope,” but rather, to do something in a spirit of anticipation; slight difference, but there is one). But then one of the editors at the Denver Post told me that everyone uses it the wrong way now, and so all we can do is accept it. So I have.