Cover crops, two books set in London, and more words than I planned on "Jane Eyre."
Eight things that caught my attention as 2022 started.
This month in my newsletter, I’m talking about what held my attention in 2021, what’s holding my attention as we move from one year to another, and what I want to hold my attention in 2022. Today, I am talking about what’s been on my mind as we watch the calendar change years.
ALSO, if you think a friend might appreciate this newsletter, please pass it along. I’m really loving the community growing in this little space and would love to welcome in other folks who enjoy these topics.
Let’s kick this newsletter off by laughing, then maybe crying, about salad.
A cover crop analogy.
“Our best efforts in life are as cover crops, that when tilled in, leave the world healthier for their having existed.”
—Robert Lockridge, of Moriah Pie.
This poem from Rachel Joy Welcher.
I grow low, not high
And I’ll be singing
“Jesus loves me”
When I die.
Thoughts on the final chapters of “Jane Eyre.”
Over the new year, I found my self with a load of cooking I wanted to do, so I listened to The Close Reads podcast discussion of “Jane Eyre” with Karen Swallow Prior. As a fan of “Jane Eyre” and Dr. Prior, this was a treat I’d been saving, and I was not disappointed.
I was particularly (and surprisingly!) captivated by their discussion of St. John Rivers. (this next bit gives some small spoilers of a 150 year old book, so take heed).
Below’s a summary/paraphrase/my notes of what Heidi White (one of the Close Reads hosts) said reflecting on St. John’s calling as a missionary and his presence at the end of the book. Here’s a link to the part of the podcast where Heidi shares these reflections.
“At some point in our human journey, we have to decide if we’re ordinary people (ht: Josh Gibbs for this concept). Some people have a harder time with that than others. The ordinary life we’ve been given is a good life; it is our pilgrimage to salvation.
And yet, there are some people who are extraordinarily gifted and extraordinarily talented and have extraordinarily ability (or I’d add find themselves in extraordinary circumstances). Bronte is telling us that St. John is one of those people, and he pays a high price. For in becoming an extraordinary person, he abdicates his capacity for the good ordinary things of life. And he tries to bring Jane into this high extraordinary vision for life, and she’s like: “No, I’m an ordinary person. I want to get married to a man who loves me, and have his babies, and live in a house. That will be my pilgrimage to the kingdom of God.”
There’s a contrast between Jane and St. John. It’s clear that St. John dies good but not happy living an extraordinary calling, yet denied ordinary pleasures.”
I’m not an extraordinary person, but I know the pressure to become an extraordinary person in some way. I think partially this is because of my disposition, partially because of the water I swam in growing up in a homeschooling + 2000s evangelical community. It’s partially because of the prosperity gospel hidden in the hustle culture that was running rampant when I started freelancing in 2014.
And over the years, I’ve observed that striving for an extraordinary life (even if that definition of extraordinary is relatively modest) demands a sacrifice of the ordinary I do not feel called to give. Certain things are gained with the extraordinary life (some good things, some bad things) and certain things are lost.
As I listened to the Close Reads podcast and looked back on 2021, I realized it was a year I disentangled myself from the complicated compulsion to become exceptional in my own way. And as I look to 2022, I’ve firmly owned that I (like Jane Eyre) am ordinary and that—Lord willing—this path will be my lifelong pilgrimage to the kingdom of God.
(Three notes… I think this ordinary vs. extraordinary distinction has a lot to do with our personal view of self and how we relate to our communities instead of the specifics of what we’re personally called to. I don’t think we can look at someone’s life on the surface and tell whether or not they’ve “decided they’re ordinary.” I’ve found myself objectifying my ordinary life in an effort to be extraordinary and significant, which isn’t the point. Likewise, I can think of some people I would count as extraordinary when looking at their vocation, and yet their view of themselves is profoundly ordinary, and their humility is palpable.
And sure, there’s a vein of thought that would argue the ordinary is really extraordinary. I get that, but take a step back because that statement is missing the point. The impulse to baptize the ordinary as extraordinary reveals a lot about our hearts and desires. The question is are we comfortable and content with living lives that aren’t unique and thrilling, and that don’t earn the admiration and attention of others? Here’s another way I’ve thought about… am I comfortable not having much to share in a Christmas newsletter? ha!
Two great books on this topic: Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson and The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin)
Some good books.
So far this year, I’ve found myself reading A Gentleman in Moscow, All the Lonely People, Long Days of Small Things and Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End. And in light of the discussion above, they have really been the perfect set of books to begin the new year.
These songs were discovered at the end of 2021 (from two of my very favorite musicians) and immediately added to my morning hymns playlist. We’ve been listening to them almost non-stop.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12
“Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”