Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
// Kathleen Merriman //
I have a lot of hopes for myself as an old woman.
I aspire to be a Grandma whose cinnamon-and-white hair always piled high into a bun on the top of her head. I dream that my baked goods and sweet tea will lure my chubby little grandchildren to my home on a regular basis. I hope to have a garden bursting with enough vegetables to stock both the neighbors’ pantries and mine. I want my first real wrinkles to become etched into my face from decades of smiling at the goodness of life.
When I can only hobble, I hope to still dance in the kitchen as I cook. When I can only peer, I hope to adjust my five-inch thick spectacles and chuckle at the familiar lines of Lizzie Bennet’s antics.
In addition to what I hope to accomplish, I can also look into the uncertain future with a firm resolve of what I will not be doing. For example, I refuse to make my kitchen look like a farm and my bathroom reminiscent of an ocean (no one needs to invest in that much shell-shaped hand soap, Janice). Until I am on my deathbed, I will rail against the stench of roasted brussel sprouts or the appearance of neon clothing. I am staunchly opposed to making my living room a museum for creepy figurines even if–and I’m sorry to all feline fanatics–those figures are china cats. I’m sure more resolutions will root themselves firmly in my mind as I age.
In my short twenty-four years, I’ve heard philosophies of life that I can agree with and others that I find insupportable. Some mantras I can quietly disagree with and let pass. Others, however, awaken the stubborn old woman inside. In my experience, the motto “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is right up there with brussel sprouts and china cats on the somewhat vague and relatively short list of “Unacceptable Things.”
Maybe it’s because I’m an educator that this rubs me the wrong way. True education is a journey, not a check-list. It’s walking with an individual through experiences and encounters, exposing a person to the beauty, truth, and goodness of the world around them. To submit to the idea that you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is to say that, at some point, we become incapable of learning or should just stop seeking new knowledge.
Perhaps, given all this extra stay-at-home time during a global pandemic, I’ve become more contemplative. It was always bound to happen one way or another, pandemic or not. My mind somewhat thrives in a hermitage. If you’re familiar with the four temperaments, I’m a melancholic-choleric. If those two words hold no meaning and sound slightly gross (a fair objection), perhaps a simple conversation I recently had with a friend might help: I asked this friend a “real” question (you know, beyond small talk), after which she looked at me in surprise. Shrugging, I said, “I’m a deep whale.”
I immediately frowned, dissatisfied, I became unsure if comparing myself to the largest mammal in the known world was going to help my friend further comprehend the substance of my character. (Note to self: improve your metaphors.) But the point stands: I like to go deep. I like to think. I enjoy activities that challenge my intellect.
This is why I’m advocating for ten minutes.
Ten minutes a day.
I know you feel tugged in all directions. I see the pressure, especially that which is placed on women. Society screams: Be incredibly fit! Become the perfect mother! Make nutritional meals! Polish your appearance! Run a marathon! Win a Nobel prize(no, just my inner thoughts?)!
I’m not trying to tug your time away, because Heaven knows I battle to take back my time constantly. Listen ladies, I hear the scream of society too. Its message sneaks in through even my carefully curated Instagram feed.
I’m not here to tell you how to carve up your day into perfect color-coded slices of time or demand that you MUST follow my advice to be a better woman. I simply want to offer you my perspective. My proposition: Ten minutes a day of intellectual engagement.
Maybe you felt a prick in your mind when you were a child. Perhaps it was that first time you tilted back your chin to drink in the stars on a clear September night and realized the vastness of the universe. Perhaps a spark lit when you gazed at microscopic organisms through the foggy lens of a high school microscope. Perhaps your soul sang the first time you heard the lilt of poetry come dancing forth from your lips. At some point, inevitably, you were filled with the gift of wonder. Your mind was set ablaze and you questioned and desperately sought and grasped to know…truth.
Then, for many of us, the duties of life come sweeping in with an aggression that demands our attention so wholly that we forget those wonder-driven questions. Childhood queries of Why are things the way they are? yield to pressing here-and-now adult worries of How can I possibly pay for rent this month?
While answering the second kind of question is vital in accepting responsibility, we should not forget the former. If we forget the natural wonder we had as children, we sink into a monotonous routine. We become slaves to the daily commute, to questions of finance, to work, and the hum-drum of busyness. After work, we come home utterly spent and choose to fill our precious time scrolling through our phones until we collapse onto our beds, exhausted.
However, we weren’t made to sink into a state so low. We weren’t created for a base, barely-getting-by, dull existence. The reason you felt a spark when you gazed and wondered and sought when you were younger is that you were being tugged toward Truth. Your mind expanded like a lung filled with air at the prospect of intellectual engagement because you were created with a mind capable of greatness. I’m not talking about IQ or aptitude, here. You are capable of greatness of intellect because you have the gift of a rational mind. You are capable of wondering and seeking. The reality is that the pursuit of truth is one of the most beautiful chases you can ever undertake in this lifetime.
So, begin seeking again. Every day. Engage in some activity that stimulates your intellect, that makes you think, that prompts you to wonder, that elevates your mind from the right-here-right-now drudgery of the mundane. I’m advocating for ten minutes of your time to be spent in lifting your mind to things above. This doesn’t necessarily mean what you do has to be religious, even. There are many things that can raise our thoughts.
Read a book. A real, paper book (or Kindle, if that’s your jam). Let the words fly across your vision and increase your vocabulary and introduce you to ideas you didn’t know before. Fiction, non-fiction, history, poetry, how-to books, Scripture–anything that elevates your mind. Listen to a podcast as you do your dishes or on your commute to work. There are many options.
You are worthy of consuming that which stimulates your mind. I’m not saying that there’s not occasionally a time to watch a good drama on Netflix or scroll through Facebook. These things have a place. However, I am saying that, by right of the fact that you have a rational mind, you deserve to keep it sharp. You are never too old to start learning something new. Embrace the idea of life-long learning. Allow this learning to bring the wisdom that comes with realizing that we do not have all the answers, but that this should never keep us from the pursuit of Truth.
Sisters, the gift of your intellect would be a terrible thing to waste.