Welcome to the fourth guest post in a new-and-improved version of the the Practice Resurrection series!
I’ve invited several friends and acquaintances to share a snapshot of their lives during the weeks of Eastertide (between now and Pentecost Sunday, June 9th). As in other series of guest posts, I pray about who to invite and for this series I was contemplating the ways these women and men consistently invite us through their social media presence to regularly consider restoration, beauty, and goodness even, and maybe especially, in the face of difficulty. I’ve asked each guest to share snapshots of their present daily life inspired by Wendell Berry’s poem, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”.
I first met today’s guest through The Homely Hours, the beautiful blog she collaborates with a couple other “churchwomen” providing an excellent resource for those wanting to orient home life around the daily, weekly, and seasonal liturgies of the Anglican tradition. No matter your denomination, if you love the Church and you hope to influence the next generation to do the same, take time perusing The Homely Hours website or follow on Facebook or Instagram. In this season of Eastertide, I’m so grateful to Amanda for sharing a snapshot of her life living out the reality of resurrection.
First, take a moment to listen to Amanda reading us the poem, and please don’t miss the adorable poetry buffs who show up at the end!
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute.
At this point in the poem, the Mad Farmer turns from ways to practice profit, fear, and death, to ways to practice life and resurrection. “Every day do something that won’t compute,” he says, which contains everything that follows. My main theme in “practicing resurrection” fits within his statement, too: Amanda, learn to be small and happy.
As you keep reading, you’ll find I’m a person who takes myself too seriously. I grow huge in my mind, but not small enough to delight in the real world. By “small,” first, I mean to be simpler inside, to be content with limits; and then I see the principle expand. My children are my teachers.
Going big is the way of quick profit and promotion; smallness within limits is the way of new life, the way of “two inches of humus” and even the seeds of sequoias. For me, this means a constrained and creative life, tied to a small family and a small church and a small plot of earth in a small town.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
When I take these statements together, I think of making a place where love dwells. In another poem, Berry calls it “my art of being here.” This photo is of my first real garden and it has been my primary Eastertide practice. For years, I’ve overthought, become overwhelmed, and barely done anything. This year I told myself, “It’s fine to not get it perfect the first time; just start small, Amanda!” And it’s made me so happy.
There’s love in places where people garden and I’ve known that even when I’ve been too fearful to start. Gardening sends down roots into the order of the world, which is love. And Love spends itself lavishly on perennials and fruit trees, in hope.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
My children and I often go to the forest, the “peace of the woods.” I’ve been inspired by Charlotte Mason, the great British educator at the turn of the 20th century, to attempt four to six hours a day outside with my children (“attempt” is key). I do this because it’s good for me, good for all of us. Outside, I’m not harassed by my to-do list or frustrated with the futility of housework (not to detract from its meaning and value). “I rest in the grace of the world, and am free,” as Berry says in The Peace of Wild Things. Underneath the towering sycamores, next to the creeks endlessly flowing on to the Atlantic, I’m content to be little along with my little girls. And they are also learning from their teachers: the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, the trees planted by streams of water whose leaf never withers.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
G.K. Chesterton said, “Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness...For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”
I could belabor my lack of lightness, but that only makes me sink deeper into “selfish seriousness.” Here, I know that my children are given to me as a gift, always offering a way into laughter and happy smallness (as well as the chance to frame the daily frustrations into the ludicrous). My husband is also my good match, who “belittles” me in all the best ways: with wit, kindness, and love.
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade.
Can I “lie easy” and relax with my husband, my children? Do I have enough space in my soul that I can release the pressure to keep accomplishing things? Can I, as Pope Francis questions, “waste time with my children?” Am I small enough to enjoy this moment? Do I have to think it to death? (And now I will stop overthinking).
In the end, I take Berry’s phrase to “practice resurrection” as shorthand for St. Paul’s words in Romans 6, we are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We walk in “newness of life.” Every week, we enter through the doors of our church. It’s small and old – lived-in, well-loved. It’s not the place to enter if you think newness of life means something big and shiny. But here, to take C.S. Lewis’s words, “the inside is bigger than the outside.” There are mysteries here -- of smallness and joy (how a stable could hold a King and the whole world be changed through a few weak men). Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary. I follow the fox to church. The incongruity is stark. It certainly won’t compute. But here, most of all, by love and liturgy, I practice resurrection.
Amanda McGill lives in Southwest Ohio with her husband Jon and two young daughters. In 2015, she and her friends started The Homely Hours, a liturgical living resource in the Anglican tradition. She is music director at Christ the King Anglican Church in Dayton. She perpetually rereads C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen; but currently, she is interested in everything written by Rumer Godden and Martin Thornton. If she has any free time, she’ll spend it reading and writing (after running).
(You can see all the Practice Resurrection 2019 guest posts here.)