“…that autumn and the failing off the leaf is the season of the year when maybe here or there a heart among Men may be open, and an eye perceive how is the world’s estate fallen from the laughterand the loveliness of old. Think on Kortirion and be sad-yet is there not hope?” – Book of Lost Tales – Volume 1 by JRR Tolkien
It seems odd to connect the book All the Light We Cannot See with the violent war movie Hamburger Hill. One is filled with elegant and gripping prose. The other reeks of dirt, blood, gore, language, and nudity. And yet, a beauty resonated within them both.
All the Light We Cannot See is the story of a blind young girl, and a smart, small boy caught up in WW2. Werner is a German and Marie is French. Their lives touch for the briefest of poignant moments. Instead of getting down in the muck of war, Doerr captures haunting horrors in words of longing, and broken grace. You know all that is happening is gross, mean, and destructive, yet you are removed from all that by a prose that takes you higher. And somehow this lofty view makes it all the more terrible. It paints death with beauty which only makes the death more jolting, more revolting. Your heart weeps at the loss of innocence, family, goodness. You see souls torn more deeply by the careful choice of each perfect word.
Hamburger Hill is as opposite as you can get. There are no majestic shots, no moving music, and no quotable dialogue. All there is is a handful of very young men cussing, fighting, and lusting. They are covered in dirt, sweating, and unattractive in every way. But, as the movie culminates, beauty blazes through. It is seen in the worst guy who hasn’t said one pure thing about a woman, hugging the other guy who’s girl just dumped him. It’s seen when a Lieutenant weeps as his men are mowed down by friendly fire, when a sergeant explains why he came back to Vietnam, when race is sponged away between white boys and black boys cause they’re all dying, when a private wipes his sergeant’s face, and when a man holds so gently his dying buddy. Great tenderness blooms between these men as they attempt to fight their way up a hill for ten days.
Beauty is found even here.
Two stories of war, as different as can be, and yet both show a light burning bright in the darkness.
Reading/watching these back to back was emotionally taxing, and yet it reminded me of why I’m drawn back to war stories over and over. I love seeing the light in the darkest moment. I love the beauty that blooms in battle. I love brotherhoods. There is something magical about men who have fought together that we’re losing in our feministic culture. I plan to go down kicking and screaming. I will be a woman who honors warriors without demanding to be one.
I love these stories because they capture the reality of my existence. I am not what I seem on some level. It’s true, I am a middle class, white, suburban housewife. But, I’m also a saved sinner, a healed monster, and a warrior in the battle against sin. War movies are my unseen reality and my church family is my band of brothers. I may not want women to be forced into the bond of battle formed between men, but I can also be part of that great friendship in the spiritual army of the Lord. When I see them fighting down in the dirt, when I see two children suffering all that war brings, I look with my Christian-colored-glasses and see the spiritual battle I engage in every day.
Life is more than it seems, both uglier and more beautiful.
Sometimes as a writer, I lose my way. I forget what story I’m telling when I’m in the middle of plot lines, time lines, and commas, but movies and stories like this help re-align me. They help me keep fighting. They help me to pray for my family. They remind me to hug and hold cause I don’t know the battle my fellow soldier may have engaged in this week.
There is beauty even here.
“…aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you…” 1 Thess. 4:11
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – JRR Tolkien
For many years the Lord has taken my eyes off glitter and shine and shown me, step by step, the beauty of ordinary life: good food, good friends, conversation, wine, beer, scotch, cake, earth under your fingers, books, flowers, stories, dogs, cheese, chocolate, pipes, coffee, home—the simple life. Normal, everyday, quiet, ordinary things. There is a very real magic here. There is the ordinary magic often missed by the world but cherished by the world too, when it stops to take a breath.
Over the last month and a half, my health has taken a dramatic upswing. It seems that almost all my problems stem from an issue with my body’s ability to make Vitamin B which inhibits my ability to process protein and pretty much everything else.
Now that I feel slightly more human, I am expanding my world again beyond the couch and TV. And lo and behold, a dear friend dropped a fun idea in my lap: BREAD.
Real, simple, fermented, yummy bread.
I love bread. I love all forms of bread, and especially artesian breads, not what is on the shelf in a plastic bag, but beautiful bread. Something with a nice chewy crust and a soft center. On Netflix there is a show called Cooked. I highly recommend it. Not only does it talk about wonderful food, it teaches you to appreciate the process of fermentation.
My bread project is all about creating natural yeast from the grain and from the air, also known as sourdough starter in the grand old USA. This yeast works with the gluten in the grain to release all the nutritional benefits of wheat and rye. Then you mix the starter with unbleached white flour, rye, water, and salt. This is your bread. No sugar. No processed junk. Just good, old fashioned grain and water.
My first batch of starter I named Fred. Fred and I got off to a rocky start due to my extra Dad’s week in the hospital. I wasn’t able to feed Fred twice a day and he developed a very strong alcohol smell which indicated he was starving. Sorry Fred.
Once the hospital stay was over, I returned to feeding Fred twice a day and he fattened up quickly, developing a nutty yeast smell and losing the alcohol scent. After about a week and a half of developing Fred, I was able to bake my first two loaves of bread. Boy, I was nervous. I worried I’d over work the bread, or it wouldn’t look right, or something. I searched YouTube for videos about kneading and baking sourdough bread.
Wednesday morning, bright and early I started my bread. This is an all-day project with lots of long breaks while your bread rises and fermentation reacts with the flour. Following the directions to the letter, I slipped my two loaves in the oven on a very hot day and waited.
Out they came, beautiful and smelling so wonderful. Success?
Well, we consumed the ¾ of the first loaf in one day. I think that speaks pretty highly to how it turned out.
Fred made great bread. But, I did run into an issue. Despite my dear friend Rachel’s help and the use of my calculator and double checking, making the two loaves took all my starter. Fred was gone. I had nothing left. Thankfully, Rachel had more starter to share with me.
George is now happily sitting on my counter waiting to be fed. I hope to make more bread next week. As I get more familiar with the process, I will start diverting from the recipes and making up my own stuff. I’m really excited to be making bread and can’t wait to start sharing it with my friends and family!
Happy eating! Here’s to enjoying the ordinary gifts of this life!
Starting a Starter: http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=58
Pain au Levain:(Baking Sourdough Bread) http://www.breadcetera.com/?p=71
Speaking of New Covenant Worship and the People of Christ:
“Neither David nor Jesus have in view a privatized faith that ignores the assemblies of God’s people, the church. Whatever value private devotion has, and it certainly has great value and is a necessary part of Christian experience, both Palm 22 and Hebrews 2 place the spotlight on corporate worship. Corporate worship, hearing the Word from faithful ministers and signing the praises of God, both in the context of the real presence of Christ, is at the center of Christian experience and necessary to a vital Christian life.” – New Covenant Worship by Donald R. Lindblad found in By Common Confession.
“If more of us valued food and cheer and song about hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
– JRR Tolkien
Recently, I spent six days in the hospital with my father-in-law. The first day started with a call at 530 in the morning saying he was in the emergency room because he fainted. We left the house without showers, me with no makeup, no plants watered, no dishes done, the curtains not even open. We got home around 700pm and were so tired, I only watered my elephant ears and fed my sourdough starter.
The next morning started slower and I was able to do everything that didn’t get done the day before including shower and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. Standing at the sink doing dishes, I was struck by how often I either complain about dirty dishes, or don’t really think about them at all. I never get up and realize that doing dishes in the morning is a good sign that things are normal in my home and in my family in general.
Everyday chores get a bad rap.
You know, one should never be that boring suburban family who never does anything artistic, adventurous, or amazing. Who could possible want to spend their life mowing lawns or rising kids, right? Travel the world, explore other cultures, and find yourself.
Attitude change: how about being thankful for a morning that starts off with simple things? Take the quite as a sign that your family is well, fed, and off to face the day. You never know when you might wake up and spend your whole day, or several days, in a hospital watching the people you love face major health issues.
Get your hands good and soapy, get out in the heat to water plants, make the bed, take a shower, and be thankful for the small things in life, the little things the Lord provides every day.
As another morning started with chores left undone and coffee in a freezing hospital, my heart went out to all the people I know who’ve had to spend so many more hours in one of these little uncomfortable rooms. My heart went out to those who didn’t have a family member feeling well enough to give every nurse and doctor a hard time. My heart when out to those who had to go through the soul-tearing struggle of coming home one family member short.
I’m generally good a empathizing with others, but sometimes that empathy needs to be reinforced with a shared experience. I imagined how tired those friends must have been, how worried they were to even go home to take a shower, how confusing all the doctors and nurses and information was. I sat in that cold room and remembered how many other dear saints that I know have sat here before.
Spending a week in a hospital makes you thankful for quiet days and it makes you pity others as they face the same thing.
Day after day spent hurrying up and waiting, gave me the wonderful joy of watching a real life example of love. I’m old enough now to have old parents and extra parents. Now, they aren’t old old, but we are starting down the path of old age. How terrifying is it as an adult child to watch your parents start down that path? Very Terrifying. The strongest become the weakest, the together come undone. Roles reverse. But, by God’s grace, there is beauty here too! For almost a full week, I got to see real love. Not silly Hallmark love, (my extra Mom loves Hallmark movies) but love that is there in sickness, frailties, grumpiness, confusion, exhaustion, surgery, and post-surgery. I got to see self-sacrificing love that didn’t run away, but chose to be there every day. I saw real vow keeping visible in stolen blankets, bathroom issues, tidying, carting, worrying, fixing, and fussing. And it wasn’t just my extra Dad that my extra Mom took care of. It was all of us. She made sure everyone else was taken care of before herself. Love expressed through action, day in and day out, in the most ordinary way.
My own love for my husband grew as he prayed over his father, worried, took care of his mother, and encouraged me to stay with them each day, while the dishes and laundry piled up. Self-sacrifice and love in action.
Six days in a hospital lead to fresh thanksgiving for the quiet ordinary things, fresh pity for others who have had to be here too, and a fresh idea of what true love really looks like, unfiltered and earthy.
My extra Dad is home, and we’re all happy not to have to spend another day in the hospital, but God gently uses everything to make us more like Him, and for that I’m thankful.