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Dear Lucy,

I know what it’s like to see everything and to bear the weight of the truth. I know what it’s like to see something beautiful, to lead someone by the hand to it and to wait to see if they see the beauty too. I know the swaying back and forth, the number of intakes of breath it takes to wait for someone to experience Patriot’s Park or my four-cornfield-360-degree-view-of-the-sky or the walk from chapel to Burritt in the fall. I hug my knees and hide my face, peaking ever so often to see if they see, because seeing leads to knowing and knowing to loving. Or maybe seeing leads to loving and then to knowing. I’ve never quite figured it out, but I think that’s why you and I have always understood one another.

And if I’m being honest, Lucy, the seeing isn’t enough. It’s in the delighting that I find my closest friends and community. The moving past the seeing into loving relationship and experience with the world and everything in it. The intricacies of discovery, the familiarity of visiting the same woods over and over again. You and I have always agreed that Narnia exists and can only be stumbled into, which is why we are always ready to experience ultimate joy and beauty and love in the ordinary.  It’s only because we’ve become somewhat experienced at stumbling into goodness over and over again.

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I’m sad for the people who don’t see or who choose not to see, but there’s still hope for them, because there is so much that I do not see or did not see in the past that I stumbled upon later, people or places that changed absolutely everything. It’s the people who see and choose not to delight or experience that I can’t live with. I find myself saying, “If you’re not moved by this in some way, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to do. You must choose how you will live this life. I chose a long time ago.” And my choosing was absolutely shaped by the smells of the lilac bush and the clothes out to dry outside my childhood windows, by the hayloft and the snow hills perfect for sleds and the picnic table we hiked to in the middle of the timber. I didn’t have a choice but to live this way because it seems as if imagination chose me. The wardrobe presented itself early. I entered Narnia before questions of worthiness were formed.

So this life of being a guide to the beautiful places, of finding beauty and peace with all things? I’m glad you’ve shown me how to be bold and to trust my eyes, because other people don’t trust their own feet with which they’ve walked through many an experience. And sometimes all that’s necessary is taking the ridicule, grabbing someone’s hand, and saying, “I’ve seen Aslan. He’s real. It’s more than a wardrobe.”

Help me to be patient, Lucy, for others to see what I know to be real. To hope that the delighting will come.

Love,
Emily

 

Emily is a good friend and a kindred spirit.  We met only last year, but had both walked through Narnia for so many years that from the moment we met we knew our souls were the same.  And we know we are not alone in this.  If you have a letter for Lucy or another character whose heart beats in tandem with yours, send it via the form below to see it posted!

Dear Lucy,

We haven’t met, but I know you. And I believe that if you saw me on the street, you would know me, too.  Though we may live in different times, different nations, different cultures, your soul and mine are the same.

You discovered the snowy woods of Lantern Waste when you were eight, but I know that you had really discovered Narnia many times before.  I know this because while I have yet to stumble into a magic land, and I was fourteen before I would find a kingdom of my own in this world, I have been a citizen of Narnia for as long as I can remember.  This is why you were able to open the door and see more than the back of the wardrobe, because a part of you was always searching.  This is why every moment in Narnia mingles the thrill of unknown adventures with the familiar comfort of returning home.  And I have experienced this with you hundreds of times.  In the woods, in the pages of a book, in the love of a friend, in the magical moments where the thin veneer of our world is lifted off, I find I am holding your hand as we step through the wardrobe into wonder.  But the other day I encountered you on the other side of the wardrobe door– a young woman, years after being told you would never return to Narnia, writing songs to Aslan.  I ran headlong into the weight of your joy, your grief, your hope, and your longing.  And in that moment, I fully knew you.

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You see, I have known you for years as Queen Lucy.  By your side I have frolicked over green hills, buried my face in the Lion’s mane, sought adventure to the very edge of the world.  I have known the joy of finding my home.  I have lived in the magic of true community.  I have experienced the wild terror of befriending a King.  But the adventure would always end.  I would be torn from my kingdom, my companions, and my quest and find myself standing alone on the dusty platform of an ordinary train station.  Lucy, what words can describe that heartache?  How can we express the depth of our grief or the strength of our longing?  A lonesomeness born not of loneliness but of loss.

Lucy, how have you lived?  How did you go on in hope and joy and innocence for all those many years?  I know that you have; I can see it all as if it were my own memory.  At first, the others joined you in the reminiscing and the hope.  But years pass.  Susan rejects it all as foolishness and the boys, though always believing and looking back with fond memories, fix their hearts and their lives on the world around them.  They get married, have children, settle down, create a home.  But not you.  Your heart has never left Narnia.  At your worst, the loss overwhelms you and you can barely function in your exile.  But at your best, oh at your best you are your truest self.   The noble beauty of Queen Lucy  rises within you and you can live more fully and delight more deeply in our world because you know it is not your home.  And through the years, one name has remained ever on your mind.  While you mourn for Narnia, you know you need not mourn for Aslan.  For your heart and his continue to commune, and there are times when his presence is so real you smell the sweet perfume of his mane and his words are so near you hear the echo of his roar.  Thus you find you can live in the joy and innocence of your youth.  And the spirit that allowed you to first find Narnia continues to give you hope.  Hope that at any moment you could be summoned back to the Lamppost.  Hope that Cair Paravel could lie just around the bend.  Hope that compels you to knock on the door in the tree against all reason.

But despite this hope and the continual presence of Aslan, how do you handle the separation?  When your heart goes out for the heathery mountains and the thymey downs, do you feel as if you’ll never be at home? What do you do when your ache for Mr. Tumnus or Prince Caspian or Mrs. Beaver is too strong to handle, and you feel so alone?   How can you go on to make other friendships when you know they will only be a shadow of the community you have left?  And what do you do when you look around and know that no one else sees what you see, feels what you feel, knows what you know? Don’t you feel like you are on the outside, like you will never be known as you truly desire?  I guess this is why you were tempted as you were by the spells you found in the Magician’s book when you were sailing to the world’s end.  You found a way to see what your friends really thought of you, and a spellA Spell for Beauty Beyond the Lot of Mortals to make you the most beautiful in the world, more beautiful even then the lovely and sociable Susan.  It wasn’t that you were unaware of your profound beauty- you have known for years that you are a queen, the dear heart of the King.  No, you never doubted this, but what you did doubt was that others, particularly others in our world, would ever see that beauty.  And in that moment you were so sorely tempted to be normal.  But in the end, what you truly desired from the Magician’s book was a story, a story told to you by the Lion.

Oh Lucy, how deeply I understand.

Sincerely,
A Kindred Spirit

 

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At the start of a seldom frequented trail through my woods, there stands a tree.  And in that tree there is a door.  The deep ridges cut by an unknown hand in a time long past have smoothed over with the years, but the shape is unmistakable.  There is a door in that tree.  Part of my liturgy brings me to this place each time I visit the Gullies.  I run my fingers over the bark, rest my hand on the knot that serves as a doorknob.  Then, with eyes closed, I let my hopes and imaginings rush over me with a sigh.   I knock.  I wait.  I knock again.  I open my eyes, but the door hasn’t budged.  I content myself with continuing down my favorite path and hold on to the hope that maybe tomorrow the crack will widen and the door will swing open, welcoming me into a magic land.  It may seem foolish, but it is part of the rhythm of the Gullies, a ritual that opens my eyes to wonder.  And today of all days, I needed to have my eyes opened.

It was with a heavy heart and a clouded mind that I entered the woods today.  While overall life has been abundantly good as of late, I have also had moments where I struggle to hope to be known and loved.  The beauty that God has so tenderly and deeply convinced me that I posses is not lost on me, but I often doubt whether others can ever see the deep treasures of my soul.  As I walked down my favorite path, I surrendered these thoughts to God and asked Him to remind me that He knows me intimately.  When I rounded the corner, I saw a gleam in the dirt at the base of the Door Tree.  Rushing over, I discovered a set of small, bronze hinges.  I stared motionless for several moments trying to comprehend this meaningful surprise in my ritual.  With trembling fingers, I pressed the hinges into the bark, overwhelmed by the way God knows me and meets me in the midst of my liturgy.

You see, I am a person of liturgy.  My rituals and routines are the foot and meter of my life.  Like the mechanics of a poem, my liturgy does not trap me in a contrived habit, rather, it frees me to experience beauty and newness and whimsy.  The rhythm does not make the verse, and the routines do not make the life.  But they are avenues for truth to flow. As Jaroslav Pelikan so aptly stated, “Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.” The Church has always known this.  It is why we say The Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed over and over- not because we have nothing new to say, but because in our repetition we say so much.  G.K. Chesterton describes this beautifully in Orthodoxy:

“All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork. People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance. . . [On the contrary], it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. ”

Our Father is younger than we.  He sees me discover something new, and cries out to me, “Encore! Encore!” never tiring of watching my joy unfold in the same place a hundred times.  He has the hope of a child, encouraging me to knock again and again when reason would call me foolish.  He calls out to me, telling me that I too must become young.  And He leaves surprises in the dirt- hinges that open the door to something new.

Newness

I saw the Gullies in a new way today.  And not just the coming of Spring – my familiar trees and hills were different in a way beyond the change of seasons.  This more than anything has convinced me that I’m entering into a new time in life.  Though I can’t yet put my finger on it, something exists in my heart that was not there before.  Maybe it’s peace, but a deeper peace than I’ve known.  It could be hope, but a hope that is greater than before.  Something new is beginning in me.

God excels in newness.  I don’t just mean the natural newness present in births and beginnings and fresh starts.  The newness I’m talking about is God speaking light into being when light had never existed before.  It’s God telling Noah to prepare for a flood in a world without rain.  It’s Abraham’s faith that God could raise Isaac from the dead two thousand years before Easter.  These were concepts beyond imagination or comprehension until suddenly, ex nihilo, they were. When the Spirit of the Creator is present, new possibilities abound.  In the Kingdom of God the impossible becomes possible, the imagined becomes reality, and the nonexistent is routinely spoken into existence.

And this is why we trust.  We can have hope because the One in whom we trust has an eternal history of faithfulness and an everlasting future of newness.  And so I can trust that God will speak unity into being where only division seems possible.  I can stand in the hope that God will make a way where none existed.  I can lean into the truth that God will create light in a world that has only known darkness and everlasting life in a world that has known only death.

Benches

We placed the bench at the bend in the trail

Where there is little to see but the trees

And the brown footworn path curving from view,

Disappearing to the left and the right.

Straight ahead is a young hackleberry tree

With two knots facing me, narrow windows

 

In a castle turret where snails stand guard.

There are days when my children come to

The forest, and I can hear in the trees

The magical sound of faerie laughter.

They round the bend, brandishing sticks, march past,

And vanish. I watch with joy and envy.

From: “A Prayer from the Bench at the Bend in the Trail” by Andrew Peterson

For years I’ve had a vision- a wooden bench beneath a sprawling tree at the bend of the trail.

A bench for my twenties, just discovering the one I sit beside.

A bench for my thirties, drinking in the giggles and shouts of kids dashing through the woods around us.

A bench for my autumn years, enjoying the presence of one who’s breathing has become a part of me.

Maybe this is why I have always been so entranced by the music and poetry of Andrew Peterson; he often writes of the path that winds through his woods and the bench he placed on one turn.

Today I walked down a familiar path in the Gullies behind my school, and at the bend in the trail, overlooking my favorite tree in the forest, I stumbled upon a new bench.   I sat on it for a moment and let the vision swell inside of me before continuing my walk.  As I rounded that turn on my way back up the trail, I saw a man and woman sitting side by side.  Their faces showed the lines of a million laughs and smiles shared over the years as she rested her head on his shoulder.  I stopped to say hello, privileged to share in this holy moment.  As I turned away, a broad smile expressed the fullness in my soul as I clung to the promise of the bench at the bend in the trail.

My Soul is a Story

My soul is a story.

A story composed not of words on a page, but of dreams and images still too ethereal to be confined in ink.  A dream, like the worlds and characters I have crafted over the years, that shifts and changes as I work it out in my head.  A story that takes shape only in intersection with other tales as I speak it into being through prayer and sharing.

The story is a house on the edge of town.

There is a house on the edge of town, a house full of character and history.  Mismatched furniture, a scratched wooden table, two high backed chairs before a stone fireplace.  The home is quiet now, but the handprints on the walls and the crayon drawings on the fridge suggest this is not normally the case.

As the sun goes down on the house at the edge of town and the breeze floating through the open windows begins to chill, a boy, sticky with the sweat of a long hard day of playing, pushes his bike up the drive.  The rows of houses and shops, now quiet and peaceful, will have new adventures for him tomorrow.

Behind the house on the edge of town there is a forest teeming with life.  A young girl is gallivanting between the trunks.  Her long blonde hair floats in knotted tangles as she moves fearlessly in the waning light.  These are her woods.  She knows that stump, that rock, that gully whose steep sides are responsible for the dirt on her hands and knees.  This is where worlds are made and life and love take shape.

The house on the edge of town is family.

The noise is growing louder and hearts swell with the presence of family.  The boy and girl are ushered off to wash their grimy hands while a woman tries to set the table with a toddler trailing behind.  The doorbell rings and the kids, dirt still encrusted in their fingernails, take the last steps three at a time as they see the guests who are gathering around at the door.  The lady from the cupcake shop, icing perennially lurking somewhere on her face, swoops up the toddler and passes the kids something colorful and sweet with a wink and a smile.  Another friend, her own family in tow, slips flowers into a vase on the table exposing the blue ink smudged on her hand that betrays her as a writer.  The laughter and chatter continues to build as the aroma of dinner and raspberry tea grows stronger.  In the kitchen, the three women are eagerly discussing the publishing of the author’s latest book while in the living room small bodies attempt to tackle their fathers.

Cupcakes. Tea. Books. This is our family. And our family is our home.  The home is the story.  And the story is my soul.

Place

I love my campus- the old brick buildings with their quirks and history, the woods across the street open for exploration, the twisted trees full of character.  As I walked around a few days ago, drinking in the cold night air, I discovered a new place.  I’ve often looked at the rusted fire escape and lamented that its foot is situated within a tall fence.  But that night, the gate had been left open.  I ascended the steps and sat with my back against the wall.  Above, brilliant stars were hung in a cloudless sky, below, white lights were strung on trees and bushes, illuminating campus with the wonder of the forthcoming Advent season.  With the breeze just cool enough to keep me alert, I sat on the landing and wondered, imagined, dreamed, prayed.  When I walked by later that evening, I could see my thoughts lingering over the area like a silver cloud.  Places are full of meaning.

So many places- the spot in the ivy that retained the indentation of my countless visits even after a whole summer away, the stretch of the drive to my friend’s house that brings to mind many words spoken under this tunnel of trees, the soothingly lonely rooftop high above the quiet town, the brown chair weighted with months of revelation and contemplation.  I am a part of each, and they are a part of me.

It is a mistake to disconnect ourselves from the space we occupy; we were created to move and dwell in three dimensions.  I fully believe that everywhere I go, I leave a part of myself behind.  And every time I stumble on a new place, I am entering into the story of all who have been there before.  Each spot retains my thoughts and experiences like a fossilized footprint.  Each time I revist a place, I rediscover these fossils until the visits are my prayers and the spaces themselves become my litany.

One night last spring I went for a much needed drive to clear my head.  A few miles out of town, I turned down a bumpy back road and pulled off in a dark field.  I stretched out under the stars until my thoughts and my tears reached a conclusion that propelled me into new growth.  I’ve been back to this place, my Super Secret Stargazing Spot, a few times this fall.  Each time I’m there I hear the earth and the grass whisper my own thoughts back to me as the stars remind me of my conclusions and the coyotes howl their agreement.

Places are full of meaning.