Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Learned About Myself in 2014

Yes, it's a New Year's Eve post. But don't worry, I plan to keep it brief and non-preachy. This is a simple list of the things I learned about myself as a human being during the illustrious year of our Lord, 2014.

  1. I can be pretty selfish. When examining some of my motives for some things, I was shocked to see just how self-centered they were. It was sobering, and made me throw myself on Jesus and His grace all the more.
  2. A lot of the time, I am just a scared little girl. I turned eighteen this year, in the eyes of the law I am an adult. The adult world is scary people, very scary. It made me realize even more just how vulnerable I am and just how dependent I am on God for His protection.
  3. I am very insecure in some ways. The competition I feel in my heart to look as "successful" in life as those around me who appear to be going somewhere and doing something. I have held myself to some pretty rigid standards, and have ended up thrusting a lot of extra guilt and drive on myself that wasn't necessary.
  4. I am NOT a patient person. Well, I kinda already knew this one. I have spent my entire life striving for the next adventure, the desire to grow up, the desire to get married, the desire to "start my life". I have missed some of the moments in between that I could have spent actually living, and growing into the person I needed to be to be ready for those adventures. It's a work in progress folks, I'll keep you posted.

Those are a few of the more unpleasant things I learned about myself this year. Now here is a list of the some of the really amazing things I learned about this year.

  1. I'm comfortable in my own skin. Though I have many deep insecurities, I have come so far in some areas, such as my appearance and the way I carry myself. I don't have to agonize over every tiny detail of my appearance, who will be present, what I should and shouldn't say. No, I can just look like, and act like who I really am. And I am ok with that.
  2. I really care about people and desire to know their story. Family, friends, strangers, young, old: people are precious. I often sit in the car when we are driving places and stare out of the window at all of the hundreds of other cars passing by. Each one contains a person with their own story, history, scars, and potential. They live somewhere, work somewhere, and maybe have a family. We as people are created in the image of God, and we are beautiful.
  3. God has given me a gift with words. Whether I am speaking, or writing, words are something that flow from me very naturally. Not everything I say is beautiful, and I can get a bit long-winded sometimes, but no matter what I do in life, I will be using words.
  4. I love to dance. This is partnered with being comfortable in my own skin. I used to take myself too seriously to just pause and break out into a dance party. No longer! I am free! Besides, pausing a moment and dancing, whether it's to Bing Crosby, Celtic Women, or Group 1 Crew, dancing is a way that I show my gratitude to God for being alive to enjoy the moment.
Well, that's a tiny peek into what I learned about myself this year. Hope you all have a lovely and safe New Year! Bring it on 2015!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Movie Review-The Hundred-Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014) Poster

The Kadam family leaves India for France where they open a restaurant directly across the road from Madame Mallory's Michelin-starred eatery.
This was the movie my family watched in the evening on Christmas Day. I had seen the trailer for it before and I just had a gut instinct, this one was going to be an unforgettable watch.

I was right ladies and gentlemen, this has to be one of the most beautiful, rich, amazing movies I have ever seen! I cannot recommend it enough!

The plot- while everything seems to point to the idea that this movie is about food, it really isn't, although the food is a nice bonus. This movie is really about relationship, and it is beautiful.

The writing- This has some of the best writing I have ever seen in a movie. The writers were able to weave truth, normal conversational, deeply felt emotions, and humor all together in an unbreakable flow that was magnificent.

The music- What can I say? I am listening to the soundtrack as we speak. It's pretty wow.

The setting- First in India, then in a small and stunning village in the countryside of France. I have to be honest, I am not really a fan of either the Indian or the French cultures, I often feel like the former is oppressive and rigid, and the latter is snobbish. While this movie does an excellent job of showing how strongly these characters are rooted in their culture, it also shows them living their lives in a manner that is relatable to all humanity, no matter what the culture.

The romance- This movie did such a lovely job with the romance, both the older, and the younger. It was gentle, sweet, and not at all forced or made to look "sexy" or "passionate". It was real people opening up their hearts, some learning to love for the first time, and some learning to love again. They took their time, and ended up making a much more real, beautiful romance than most movies I have ever seen.

The characters- They were beautifully written, and beautifully portrayed.

Madam Mallory (Helen Mirren)- The proud and very French owner of a famous eating establishment in a French village. Her whole world is tied up in this restaurant and its success. Honestly, she is a difficult character to like at first, but over time you find yourself completely in love with her as she lets down her walls, opens her heart, and begins to live once more. And despite the ups and downs, Madam Mallory is a lovely woman who carries a graceful and elegant presence with her wherever she goes.

Papa (Om Puri)- This man, oh this man! He speaks his mind, does what he likes, and doesn't put up with nonsense, all while being absolutely hilarious, a little bit mischievous, and above all, a Papa with a big heart.

Hassan (Manish Dayal)- The second oldest son of the Kadam family, you were rooting for him from the very start. He carries this sweet feeling of innocence and value for beautiful things like food and memories. He knows how to savor. He does have some struggles, but comes out a much fuller person in the end, having slain his dragons and come to realize what is important to him. I loved watching him cook, it was like watching a musician play beautiful music.

Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon)- A lovely young lady who works for Madam Mallory in her restaurant. She was the sweetest little thing, lovely, feminine, honest, and just a pleasure to watch. She was so very French, but not in the "sexy and alluring" way that they often play French girls up to be, she was a breath of fresh air.

This movie grabbed my soul from the moment it started and held my attention all the way until the end credits. I can tell when I deeply enjoy a movie, because my face moves more often, I often find myself smiling through large sections of it.
This movie leaves you feeling full, and no, not in your stomach, you are actually insanely hungry when it is all over, but in your heart. Like you have traveled to a distant land where the light is golden and the truth is obvious, and came away just a little bit wiser. I can't recommend this movie enough and I know my family will be purchasing it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Book Review- The Song of the Wren-Falcon (Mary Ruth Pursselley)

"Come. Let us go and sit somewhere comfortable, and I will tell you the story."

Orienne Seritan is a loyal Adelfian who wants nothing more than peace for her country and a life free from the darkness and violence of war. But when the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy entangles her life and the fates of those she loves with the destiny of an embittered traitor, she finds herself being dragged even deeper into the darkness.

Enemies are pouring over her nation’s borders. People she loves are dying. The cryptic prophecy offers no clues as to who will be left standing at its end...nor does it disclose the magnitude of the role that Orienne is destined to play.
 I finished reading this book several days ago, but it was the sort of book I had to mull over  before I felt that I could give it a proper review.

First of all, I have the pleasure of personally knowing the author and having her for a friend, so that fact made this book so much more personable to me. I could practically hear her voice when I was reading some of the dialogue, the phrasing and tone were exactly like her manner of speaking in real life.

What I Didn't Like
I have to be honest, it took me a while to get into this book. The prophecy was, as it says in the above description, cryptic. I read, and reread, and reread it in the front of the book before starting the story, but that did not help. Once I got into the story I did appreciate that the author put one phrase of the prophecy before each chapter, so at least I knew what part of the prophecy was supposed to be happening. However, I did wonder a time or two if I was dumber than I thought, since I could not connect the dots between the characters and how they were a part of the prophecy. But about two-thirds of the way through the book the pieces began to fall into place, and some very helpful conversations took place between characters that finally enabled me to understand what it all meant.

My only other critique I think would be that I would have appreciated a name pronunciation guide. Unfortunately, due to the way I advanced in reading when I was little, pronunciation seems to be an Achilles heel of mine. It has been my experience that fantasy authors take full liberty in creating some of the weirdest names possible that have odd spellings, which makes it a nightmarish world for someone like me. While the author of Wren-Falcon kept her names much simpler, I still would have liked to know for sure that I was reading them correctly.

What I Did Like
The overall tone of this story is most definitely dark, so don't expect a light read. It begins dark and leaves you feeling pretty hopeless for the majority of the book, but in the end, it wraps up in a much lighter way, and you finish feeling full and satisfied, as though you have paid your dues when it comes to suffering and now you get the sweet reward of a good ending.

It took me a while to understand the geography of this world. I flipped back to the map in the front many times before I began to get my compass straight. It made me feel as if this was a much more real world, one that was more complicated and had to be studied in order to be understood.

I loved the description of the capital Adelfian city Farindel. A city built into a mountain covered in buildings with beautiful architecture, colors, and districts where street musicians play and artists show their colorful wares. And a very sacred garden that is filled with light. It was like Minas Tirith meets Dale and Cair Paravel all in one. I wish Farindel was real place so that I could explore it.

I loved the depiction of God as Shield. It was such a comforting illustration.

I loved the way the author created government ranking for the kingdom of Adelfia. The Ransom is made up of six "Sons of the Shield", with the First-Born being the leader. It gave a distinctive quality to the culture created in this book that made it feel fresh.

What I Want More Of
This book is the first of six I believe, since there are six prophecies. This particular story took place in Adelfia, where the main character is from. I enjoyed learning about their nation, and their way of doing things. But a few other nations were introduced, and I would like to know more about the culture and backgrounds of Meador, Athragani, Arcamere, and especially, Moritar. I hope that some of the characters in the other books get to come from these other nations, so that I might get a full view of this world.

Speaking truthfully, I had a hard time connecting with the main character Orienne. I don't know that this was fault in the writing or the character herself, I just didn't feel a connection at all. I actually bonded more with her brother Allegar, who I loved, some of the other Ransom, and the other main character, Sorek. I would love to connect deeply with the star character in the other books.

It was such a pleasure for me to get read a book written by a friend and fellow writing comrade who I greatly admire and enjoy. Mary has worked so hard to reach this place and she should be proud of what she has accomplished. This book is a work of art that needs to be shared.

You can purchase her book and journey to Adelfia here! And please, check out her blog over Enter the Writer's Lair.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fighting For Our Christian Brothers

This is a post to ladies, about guys, so really, it's a post for anyone.

No, this is not another post on modesty, the internet is overrun with those, and I don't feel the need to add to the dog pile.

This post is about how we as Christian ladies can help protect the Christian guys in our lives.

I am blessed to be surrounded by godly men. My father, brothers, and male friends do so much to make me feel safe in a pretty dangerous world. But even beyond that, they are gentlemen. They go out of their way to open doors for me, serve me, and just be pleasant to be around. Someday I will marry a man who will continue to be the strong person in my life, the husband, provider, and father to our children.

It's really hard to be a godly young man with a pure heart in today's world. Everywhere our fellas go they are bombarded with images intent upon stealing their hearts and minds and entrapping them in all kinds of darkness.

Men are wired to be visual, and once an image is seen, it cannot be unseen. They will have that image burned on their brain forever. I can't even begin to imagine how hard that must be for a guy who is working overtime to keep his heart and mind pure.

I have however, spent some time thinking about what I and other ladies can do to aid them in their walk and help "bear their burdens". And I have come up five simple ways that we Christian ladies can aid our men in their struggle for righteousness.

1. Think Before You Post or Repost- This covers all kinds of social media, Twitter, Facebook, etc. There are a million and one posts, quizzes, and funny memes out there, and if we could, we would share them all. But I want to encourage you ladies to look, and think before you repost something. I have often read articles and or quizzes that I really enjoyed, and would have loved to repost, but upon reflection, I realized that either the images in the particular article, or the ads on the side could easily be a stumbling block to my male followers. I don't want to be responsible for putting that in front of them, and I doubt you do either. So LOOK, and THINK before you post or repost.

2. Only Recommend Something If You Have Given All of the Facts- I'll be honest, there are a few TV shows that I watch that the rest of my family does not, simply because of the modesty issue. And while the plot, characters, and graphics of the show may be INCREDIBLE, I still wouldn't recommend them to the guys in my life. And if I did happen to mention this show to a guy who hasn't seen it already, then I would warn him about the potential problems. This may sound like you are doing his job for him, or telling him what he can or can't watch. That is not the truth at all. This is the same as if I told a friend of mine about an alternate route to take to reach a destination, but also warned him about the dangerous S-curve or potholes in the road. He can then take that information and make his own decision, but I can rest with a clear conscience that I have given him everything he needs to know.

3. Create a Safe Environment- This is likely going to apply more to the guys in your family, but it could apply to guy friends too. If you know there is a guy around, make a quick visual sweep of the room. If I am looking at articles online that could potentially have some less than decent photos on the side, I always make sure I have my back to the wall where none of my brothers can see over my shoulder. If you have fashion magazines around, just go ahead and tuck those somewhere out of sight when guys are around. And if you own a priceless Greek statue collection, well, my suggestion would be to go fabric shopping and experiment with drapery. ;)

4. Engage in a Danger Zone- Sometimes a godly guy can't help avoiding potential danger zones. Beaches full of bikinis, magazine racks at stores, billboards, etc. What you can do in this situation is give him a safe place to light visually, and engage him mentally. Point out things that are in the opposite direction, keep his eye contact, or engage him in a stimulating conversation that gives his brain something else to focus on other than the distractions surrounding him.

5. Stand in the Gap- This really is a culmination of all of the above. Standing in the gap ladies means stepping between the world and our guys and saying "NO" on their behalf. Throwing away junk mail, offering to take the remote when watching TV, or even just doing a quick screening on Netflix so that they don't get a nasty surprise. I have done all of these before, and I know my brothers appreciate it.

It isn't easy to do this ladies, I have been doing it my entire life. My mom taught me how at a very young age. I am an official spotter of potential problems in our family, I am the only sibling who knows our Netflix password, and I am the only one other than Dad who knows our cable code. I have spent countless hours previewing movies so that we wouldn't be caught off guard. I know, it's exhausting, but it's worth it.

Each man will have to make millions of choices in his life of whether or not to say no, or yes to what he will put in front of his eyes. You can't change the choices he makes, that is between him and the Lord. But for those guys who have chosen to say "YES" to purity and "NO" to darkness, we can make their job a whole lot easier.

This is a way we can bear our brothers' burdens, so step up ladies, let's engage in the battle.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Movie Review- Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 (2014) Poster

The special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax, and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.

I had the pleasure of watching this sweet movie with my family earlier this week. It was the last night it was in theaters in our area, so we pretty much had the room to ourselves. My dad informed us that he had bought a theater for our own personal use. ;)

We LOVE animated movies at our house, particularly anything that Pixar has touched. Seriously, I don't know if you noticed this, but Disney didn't really start producing phenomenal films until they bought Pixar and suddenly they were awesome. Wreck-it Ralph, Frozen, you get the idea. And as for Pixar, well, they were already awesome. My dad still cries every time we watch Cars, and I know exactly where to find Nemo, he's at P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Lane, Sydney. Boom! Enough said.

Big Hero 6 had the same Pixar flavor, which means that John Lasseter had something to do with it. Everything that man touches turns to gold. This movie was incredibly sweet, had a clearly discernable message, and was just fun.

Visually, this movie is stunning! The way these animators blended and brought together the best parts of San Francisco and Tokyo was just beautiful. I wish there were a place call San Fransokyo, because I would go there in a heartbeat.

The messages in this story were easily found and beautifully portrayed. This movie dealt with how to work through losing a loved one, also, how to not choose vengeance but rather to take the high road.

The soundtrack to this movie was awesome, it was somewhat Eastern with a Japanese sound, mixed with full out superhero music. Oh yeah, did I mention that the premise of this movie is based off of an actual Marvel comic book? Yes siree! It's got a definite Marvel flavor, oh, and speaking of Marvel, be sure that if you do watch this movie you stay through to see the end credit scene. You will NOT be disappointed.

My absolute favorite aspect of this movie was definitely the characters. They were all unique, adorable, relatable, and there was not one single "annoying" one in the bunch.

Hiro Hamada- (Ryan Potter) Adorable! He somewhat reminded me of Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon, which happens to be my favorite animated movie. Hiro was a 14 year old with a VERY high IQ, so he was a lovely blend of youthful attitude and vulnerability, but he had the smarts of a very intelligent adult. He feels a lot of things in this movie, and you feel deeply for him, seriously, he's got puppy eyes that melt my heart.

Baymax- (Scott Adsit) A giant, marshmellowy, sweetie pie who becomes Hiro's best friend. It always amazes me how much emotion they can put into animated faces, but Baymax is especially impressive as he only has two eyes connected with a line. But there is so much written in those eyes that you forget they are his only feature.

Tadashi Hamada- (Daniel Henney) Hiro's college-aged brother. Super cute, super cool. He is like a mix of father and brother to Hiro, and their bond is beautiful to see.

Fred- (T.J. Miller)- I don't know how many of you have seen How to Train Your Dragon, but Miller does the voice of Toughnutt, the boy twin. His voice and mannerisms send my rascally younger brother into absolute stiches. He totally brings his personality out in Fred, who is the resident comic book nerd and has the lowest IQ of anyone in this movie. But no one cares, he is so dorkily adorable that you love him to death.

Go Go- (Jamie Chung) Tough girl, leather jacket, purple hair streaks, she doesn't waste time on words. But she's an amusing character all the same and I have to say that her hero costume was definitely my favorite.

Wasabi- (Damon Wayans Jr.) Big muscles, impressive afro, and a big softie who probably voices more concerns and fears than any other character in this movie. He was my mom's favorite, and definitely a sweet addition to the team.

Honey Lemon- (Genesis Rodriguez) Tall, slim, bubbly, and SO blonde in her personality, but not brains. She super cute and girlie and adds the sparkle that fills out this group of heroes.

Aunt Cass- (Maya Rudolph) Sweet, quirky, and uber affectionate, Aunt Cass has raised Tadashi and Hiro since their parents died. She has no idea what she is doing but she loves 'em to death and that is enough. She made a charming background scene to come home to.

Some people I know are really hard on any movie, others don't seem to appreciate animated movies at all. Speaking honestly, I think you all are boxing yourselves in a bit too much and need to lighten up! There are some amazing treasures to be found in the animated world, and sometimes, seeing something in animation can point out something in reality that we would never have noticed if it had been live action. So lighten up, have a fun afternoon and watch this movie. I don't care if you're 2 or 92, a good movie is a good movie. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Being a Family Is...Part 4

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 here.

Being a Family is...Sacrificing.

Our culture is constantly telling us what we deserve, what we have a right to have, and why we shouldn't have to share that with anyone or anybody. Wrong! Life is not, nor has it ever been about just you.

This is especially true in a family. A well functioning family cannot exist without everyone doing their part and being willing to give of themselves. This may mean giving up your bedroom to move in with your sisters (true story), or trading out some Netflix time by yourself to read Gigi books to your little sister and ending up lightheaded because you don't do anything halfway.

Sacrificing means that your dad gets up every morning and goes to work, sometimes to a job he doesn't like. It means that your mom is often the last person to bed because she was doing just one more load of laundry. It means that your older brother brings his laptop into the living room while you all have a movie on that he may not be a fan of, but he knows that you like his company.

It means playing two hours of Battlefield with your little brother even though the height of the computer desk makes your right arm go numb. It means staying up WAY later than you intended so that you can help your brother come up with ideas for his latest LEGO contest.

Sacrificing means that when you ask your little sister to get you a drink of water she does so with a smile and a dimple (SO CUTE). It means that your older brother not only takes you out to a movie and pays for your ticket, but also buys you ice cream afterwards.

Sacrificing means that your sister loans you one of her cutest skirts or a new pair of earrings she got, because you have been eyeing them for weeks. (Currently enjoying the benefits of that skirt as I write.)

Sacrificing means that you choose to love your parents even when they make mistakes that leave you feeling broken and like your dreams are dead on the floor. Sacrificing means dying to your flesh and choosing not to give into the deep feelings of anger that you have towards someone you love.

Sacrificing means that your family continues to love and encourage you even when you feel empty and like you've got nothing left inside to give, when you feel like your light has died and you are just an unlit candle.

Sacrificing means being real, and opening yourself up, forgetting your pride, and allowing other people to see the broken, sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful thing that is your soul.

Jesus sacrificed his own, pure, snow-white self for a whole bunch of ugly, bleeding, hateful people. Can I do any less for the people who I love, and who love me the most?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Being a Family Is...Part 3

Part 3 of my series on what I believe it means to be a family. You can read Part 1, and Part 2 here.

Being a Family Is...Crying.
From tears of joy, to tears of deep sadness. One of the most precious and treasured things about a family is being able to share life's deepest joys, and life's most tragic sorrows together. I believe this is one of the key reasons that God created the structure of the family, because He wanted families to be able to support each other.

Crying together is something my  family has done many, many, many times before. Everyone from my Dad down to my littlest sister. It could be something more trivial like that end scene in Toy Story 3 (get's me every time), or it could be all of us asking God why our life is so hard.

When I say crying, I do not mean it is always literal tears, obviously, some of us are better criers than others. But everyone has cried at some time, and often we are all crying on the inside, we just show it in different ways.Throughout the years I can remember a multitude of experiences in which one, a few, or all of us were down and needed the comfort, support, and love of the others to get us through that moment. We haven't done it perfectly by any stretch of the imagination, but we have done it.

This is an incredibly beautiful part of families, one of my favorite parts actually, and most definitely something that I do not take for granted. I am so grateful that God put me in a family where we can feel things together.
we can feel things together...
I treasure the moments when we shared tears of sorrow, and I always love the moments where we share joy. I look forward to many more in the future, and I hope that they are shared with my favorite people in the whole world.

Being a Family Is...Learning.
Some families are better at this than others, but regardless, if you are in a family, especially one who cares about important things, then you will be learning, constantly.

I am homeschooled, so my home is also my school. But learning is more than 2+2 is 4, and i before e, except after c (yeah, it still doesn't make sense to me either). Learning is about growing, it's about becoming a bigger, better person, and it's about learning how to relate with and connect to people.

One the ways my family is great about learning is that we talk, a LOT! I believe I have mentioned this fact before, but really, we talk a lot. For as long as I can remember I have been having questions and asking them. And my parents have done a really great job of talking them out with me. Through years of doing this I have learned how to ask a question, wrestle with it in my mind and heart, pray about it, and find an answer.

This covers a multitude of subjects. I love to talk about theology and politics with my dad. We have great conversations that make me literally feel like I am on cloud nine. My brain feels like it is on fire, and I get so excited. Call me a nerd, but it's true.
I also love learning practical things from my dad. For years I have watched him build things, fix houses, drive cars, etc. I have learned so much from my dad. Even just watching how he goes about learning something new has taught me much. Before the days of the Internet being everything, if my dad wanted to learn how to do something, he bought a book. Now, he will research something online until he feels confident he can do it.

From my mom I have learned a lot about the Bible, and about people. She and I have spent hours upon hours talking over things in the past, present, and future. She is the first person I run to in order to hash out something in my own mind. When I ingest something really hardy, I usually seek her out to use as a sounding board while I reiterate what I just learned. She is my confidant in so many things. And I have learned SO much from her.

I have learned much from my siblings as well. Often they teach me things unconsciously, just by being themselves I learn a truth about life. Amazing how that works. And because I am older than all but one of them, I have had the supreme joy and privilege of being able to share my fraction of life experience with them in the hopes that they might grow and learn as well.

This past June I was blessed with the opportunity to attend Worldview Academy. It was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget. I had my concerns before I went that maybe it would be too much for me, that I hadn't read enough of the recommended books or maybe some of the concepts would go right over my head. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was over-prepared for Worldview. Half of the content I knew already from having been exposed to it at home, and the other half I was able to take in and digest because of the exceptional training I have already had at home. I came home and told Mom and Dad just how great of a job they have done.

We as a family analyze everything, delve into everything, and talk about everything. I have learned so much, and I have grown to love learning greatly.

Little girl learning -  We.Analyze.Everything.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Being a Family is... Part 2

Part 2 of my series about what being in a family means to me. You can read the first part here.

Being a Family Is...Creating.
My family is homeschooled; homeschoolers are naturally pretty creative because our lifestyle encourages a creative attitude. But even more that, my family is, how shall we say it, beyond creative.
When I was three I got a  beautiful wooden dollhouse, but I didn't have any furniture to put inside of it. Mama sat me down at the kitchen table one day and we made furniture out of plastic lids, popsicle sticks, and tiny mugs out of beads and macaroni. Later on when I was thirteen I made an entire dollhouse out of cardboard boxes, and five rooms full of furniture and accessories right down to the a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. When we kids were little mom let us build elaborate tents in the living room, and when dad got involved they usually involved the entire room and some string. Those tents would last for days. We've made Christmas ornaments, snowmen out of coffee creamer bottles, and little Christmas cabins out of wooden sticks. We've built playhouses in the backyard. I've sewn costumes, my siblings build insane Lego creations. Our Lincoln Log forts are works of art. My mom can go into the kitchen and create mouthwatering meals just by feeling it out, no recipes involved. My dad and older brother can build amazing websites and things online. The fact of the matter is, we love to create, and I believe families were designed to create, the very structure of a family is built to nurture creativity.
Phineas and Ferb 1 -  Hey Ferb! I know what we're gonna do today!
Yeah, it kinda goes without saying that Phineas and Ferb are some of our heroes. I mean, who wouldn't love these guys? They are some of the coolest characters out there, and their show is hilarious! Have I memorized their hit song, "Bow Chicka Bow Wow"? What do you think?

Being a Family is...Laughing.
Laughter. Pure, beautiful, bubbly laughter is straight from heaven. I have gotten more than my share living in my family. Strong families laugh together all the time, even when things are hard, or some of the members are angry, families need to laugh together. I've gone through my share of hard times, I still am, but throughout all of my life, some of my favorite memories have involved those when I was laughing with my family. Everyone in our family has a slightly different sense of humor, sarcasm for some, slapstick for others, clever comments, or puppies sliding on a kitchen floor (guilty). We all are very witty, from the eight year old on up, I think I mentioned in my previous post that this was a direct result of talking too much. ;)

My mom and dad used to tell us stories before bed a lot. We had two different series of stories. Mom's was Richard, Susan, and Busbee (pronounced Biz-bee). They were three dogs who lived with a very rich woman called, "The Master". Susan was sensible and feminine, Richard had been taken in off of the streets and was more rough around the edges. Busbee was a baby (Mom used the cutest baby voice that still tickles me when I think about it), he got his name because he was always a busy bee. They often went on adventures, and Busbee or Richard would get them into trouble that was always hilarious. There was this one story in particular that involved eating spoiled food out of a restaurant dumpster and a cat passing out that still leaves me in stiches every time I think about it.

My dad's series was called "Muller and Carmichael". They were two ugly, decorative turtles we owned that a few of the younger ones had gotten from the dollar store for mom on her birthday one year. She named them after her favorite missionaries, George Muller, and Amy Carmichael. Dad turned these plain, ugly little turtles into objects of endearment with his stories. Mueller was the adventurous one, he would propose an idea that the sensible and reluctant Carmichael would object to. But inevitably they would end up in trouble. Driving the tractor, accidentally attaching themselves to fireworks and ending up at Grandpa's house, sneaking into the freezer to eat turtle sundae, accidentally emailing the kids' Christmas lists to all of Dad's coworkers. The things those turtles did while we all slept.
giggling dog - LOL!
I love laughing with my family, especially when I have had a hard day or week. I think if more people enjoyed their families enough to laugh with them, the world would be a better place.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Being a Family Is... Part 1

I live in a big family, six kids, two parents. Granted, we're not the Duggers, but to an average American household, we are pretty large. Seriously, you should see the stares we have gotten when strangers see our fifteen passenger van pull up. They halt and watch the train of kids getting out of the back, unable to leave until the last kid is out, then they kind of shake their heads and move on. Knowing that I have an audience when I am getting out of my family vehicle has forced me to learn how to exit in a very ladylike fashion, so, yeah, not all bad.

I have lived in my family for eighteen years now, and I think after years of agonizing, asking questions, praying, and probing the depths with my inquisitive mind, I have finally grasped the tip of the iceberg on what a family is. So here it goes, this is one girl's idea of what a family is...

Being a Family Is Talking...a LOT!
Ever seen the Brady Bunch? You know those super chaotic scenes where all of the children are talking at once, and the parents are desperately trying to make sense of it? Yeah, that totally happens all of the time. From the moment you have more than one child and all of them can talk you begin conversation wars where everyone is attempting to talk at the same time. The conversations can range from, knock knock jokes, the best way to take out a burgler (thanks to little brothers), why glitter and playdough are both acceptable, no, necessary substances (go team glitter!), music, politics, Hallmark Channel dramas, what so and so said on Twitter, when can we put up the Christmas décor (yes, I know it's September, who cares), the technical pattern of Yoda's speech, why Captain America is better than Thor, the latest from HonestToddler, and so forth. In the end someone usually looks like this.
incredible hulk - LET ME SPEAK

Exhausting as these conversations are, they have groomed me and my siblings a lot. We are very funny people (other's words, not just mine ;), we can talk to any age group, and are actually pretty decent at improv games.

Being in a Family Is Being LOUD!
This seemed like an appropriate subject to move into considering the previous one. I'm just gonna shoot straight from the hip and say it, my family is loud. Some members more than others, obviously, but we are loud. We laugh loudly, many of us listen to music (yeah, that Austin and Ally soundtrack was me, no shame) my younger brothers get deeply involved in their Battlefield games to the point where I believe I may have gotten singed eyebrows from a nearby explosions.
Desperation1 -  So.Much.Noise...

Yeah, we may need to tone it down sometimes, ok, a lot of the time, but I have come to accept that being in a family, at least, my family, often means being loud. And when I am alone, I find it far too quiet. As loud as it gets around here, at least that noise means that I am surrounded by people I love.

Being in a Family Is Forgiving, ALL THE TIME!
It starts with siblings destroying block towers. It get's deeper over time. He hurt my feelings, she is ignoring me, he doesn't understand me. Parents have to forgive their children for saying hurtful things to them. Children have to forgive their parents for making mistakes, and vice versa. The idea of a family is that you have a group of imperfect beings who are bound in this close circle where they have to constantly interact, be given the choice of doing right and wrong, and treat others as Christ would want them too. News flash, imperfect beings, that ain't happening all of the time. And so you find yourself in the position of having to forgive someone, yet again.
Frustration Student  -  But I Just Did that Yesterday

Seven times seventy times people, and most of the forgiving you have to do in your life will be in your family.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Maze Runner- Movie Review

(Warning, Spoilers)

The Maze Runner (2014) Poster

Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they're all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow "runners" for a shot at escape.

I went and saw this movie with my older brother last night. Warning, if someone you know is pushed outside of their comfort zone with the intensity of Captain America 2, then they should not watch this movie. I think I probably breathed only every other minute the whole time I was watching it.

Honestly, I loved the movie. It has that theme that we find in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel, and Hunger Games (which I have not seen but heard and read a lot about). That theme of a small, but highly committed group who are fighting against insurmountable odds to find freedom, purpose, truth, a better future, etc. Only in this movie all of that is heightened by the fact that none of the characters remember anything about the outside world or themselves beyond their own names.

The boys who were previously in the Maze welcome Thomas when he arrives, panicked and confused. They show him the ropes of how life works in "The Glade", their small square oasis where they live and grow their food inside of the massive walls of the Maze. Everyone has their own assignments, and they all follow 3 simple rules. Do your part, don't hurt anyone, and DON'T go into the Maze unless you are a Maze Runner. The Maze Runners are a group of the strongest, fastest boys in the group who go out every day when the gates to the Maze open at sunup and run the Maze in an attempt to map it and find a way out. And if you are a Maze Runner, you have to be back by sundown, or face a night alone in the Maze and certain death by the monstrous Grievers that roam it at night.

When Thomas arrives he doesn't do a very good job of "staying in the rules". He's curious, he's driven, he even breaks the rules and manages to survive a night in the Maze with two fellow runners. Eventually most of the boys recognize that he is different, that he is changing things, and that he may be their only way out. In a sense, he is the only hope they have had for 3 years.

I found several aspects of this movie fascinating, and found some neat parallels between this story and life. The boys live in a self sustaining society. They built their own houses, grow their own food, and every time a new boy is sent up to them in the elevator box they receive supplies. They found a way to coexist, they have almost what some people might call a "Utopia". It certainly is natural and down to earth, literally, you would think that those boys would wash their faces now and then. Men. ;)

Some of the boys, Will Poulter's character, Gally, in particular are fine to leave things the way they are. Life isn't so bad, and if they try to do anything differently usually someone dies, leave things the way they are and we all survive. But Thomas recognizes that there must be something more to this, they don't belong here, there has to be something more. This morning I was rehashing the movie over in my mind and recognizing that's what I loved about Thomas's character. He was willing to go against the popular opinion because he knew that he was made for something better, that this couldn't be all that there was, and he would rather die trying to get out of the Maze then spend the rest of his life living a lie. Thomas almost represents a person in life who recognizes that life here on earth isn't enough, it's not the ultimate goal, and there has to be something more.

Because Thomas is so devoted to seeking answers and an escape, he actually is able to find a way out. Sounds simple huh? Not really, it is so much more complicated, bloodier, and more agonizing than that. And if you think you are going to get some closure at the end of the movie, forget it Buster, you have now signed a contract on your soul that you must return to watch the sequel, because there was no closure, just more secrets, more questions, and a bigger battle to win.

My other favorite aspect of this movie was the characters themselves. There weren't too many changes in the scenery, it was pretty much either the Glade, or the Maze itself. But the characters are what gave this movie color, vigor, and life.

Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) was brilliantly portrayed as being passionate, he felt things deeply, he was curious, he was driven. I could almost see the wheels turning in his brain when I looked into his eyes. He was courageous and handsome, but humble. I haven't enjoyed a character of the teenage group that much in a long time.

Alby (Aml Ameen), the boy who has been there the longest, the leader, almost the father figure of the group. He felt things deeply, because these were his boys. He was instantly warm, likeable and charming.

Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) He reminded me of Skandar Keynes (Edmund Pevensie) and Peter Pan rolled into a very kind, intelligent boy. He was friendly, forgiving, and let's not forget that great accent and super cute nose.

Minho (Ki Hong Lee) The very handsome head of the Maze Runners. At first he seemed incredibly stoic and not very approachable, but once you got to know him you saw him for what he was, a normal kid with a huge weight on his shoulders. He had skills, and he and Thomas really bonded after a night in the Maze together. He is definitely someone I would want by my side if I was in this story.

Chuck (Blake Cooper) Sweet and due to his age, much more of a child than the others, this gave him a trusting innocence that I think really appealed to Thomas. Thomas felt very protective of Chuck, and Chuck responded by a deep admiration of Thomas.

Gally (Will Poulter) I was thrilled to see a familiar face, particularly since its been so long since a new Narnia film was released (not much longer to wait fans!). Poulter did his part very well as Gally, a boy who had been there a long time, seen a lot of boys die, and didn't want to upset the balance of life. He opposed Thomas the most, with some pretty serious consequences. You were angry at Gally's choices, but you didn't hate him, you ached for him, he was clearly a good boy who had lost hope and the will to try to escape. Applause on Poulter's American accent, well done sir, well done.

Theresa (Kaya Scodelario) The girl who gets sent up in the elevator box a few days after Thomas' arrival with a note that says, "She's the last one". Theresa had a depth in her face that meant one look and you knew you could trust her. She jumped right into the situation with vigor, brains, and common sense. She wasn't my favorite character, but she certainly owned her part very well.

This movie definitely took me by surprise, but I am glad that I went to see it. I would recommend it to anyone over 13 (this may vary person to person) who enjoys a good adrenaline rush in a movie. I cannot wait for the next one.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Inspirational Quotes- Tolkien/C.S.Lewis (Glimpses of Eden)

There are some authors out there that we all recognize as being masters of their craft. Quite obviously, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are among the finest.

I have so many C.S. Lewis quotes that I adore, it would be hard to find a favorite. But I do have a favorite Tolkien quote (for now :)

We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it; our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile
 I read this quote and it instantly registered with me, I have felt this way before. Haven't you ever experienced a moment when you felt an aching longing? Where you felt like you caught a glimpse of a rare and beautiful treasure? Or perhaps you had a moment when you felt like you were given a glimpse into a beautiful kingdom where everything is brighter and more beautiful? I have been taken unawares by that feeling so many times, and whenever I feel it, I get a sense of deep longing for the place where I really belong. I don't even always consciously recognize it, all I know is, that for that moment, I truly know I am not of this world and I belong somewhere else.

C.S. Lewis, another master author and Tolkien's dear friend, described having this feeling as a child. He describes a moment in his childhood when he was staring down into a little fairy garden that his brother was showing him. Something about the way the light fell upon the scene touched him, and suddenly he felt that deep, aching longing. You can hear this story firsthand in the amazing documentary made about his life called Beyond Narnia. Warning, tissues are a necessity for this doc.

C.S. Lewis is as we all know, the creator of the beloved world of Narnia. I cannot think of a more vivid example of a land that we all long to visit. The world of Narnia is almost surreal, it is beautiful, mysterious, exciting, but more than anything else, it is where one will find Aslan. Aslan is the clearest picture of Jesus I have ever see. He is frightening, he is magnificent, he is gentle, he is terrible, he is wise, he is silent, he is a roaring lion, he just is. And every time the children from England are away from him, or away from Narnia, they are longing to go back. They feel that is where they belong, they feel that they are not quite right unless they are in the place that feels like home.

In the end, in The Last Battle, all of the main characters die, and they go to a place that feels like Narnia. At first they are confused, what are they all doing here? But later in the book, Aslan explains to them that this is the real Narnia, that the place they were in before was but a shadow of the real land. He tells them that all that they loved best about the other Narnia, and about England, were actually just glimpses of the real Narnia. They are overjoyed, and all together they go further up and further in, meeting old friends and discovering all the things they love the most.

Glimpses of Eden. Whenever I get glimpses of Eden it is usually when I am enjoying something of this world that I love best. My family, beloved friends. Rays of sunshine, a gift of revelation about truth from the Lord. A bar of lovely, haunting music. People worshiping the Lord together. Gazing at a sunset, holding a child close, showing someone love. Watching a person's face light up when they are given hope, or joy.

It is when I experience these moments that I feel right, I feel that I belong, I feel like, if only for a moment, I am home.

And just think, if these wonderful things are just glimpses? Then what is the real thing like? I can't even imagine, and I cannot wait to return to Eden.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Resistance- Book Review

Synopsis- Could God ever love a half-blood all of society looks upon with such fear and disdain? Jace once believed so, but when a tragic loss shatters the only peace he’s ever known, his faith crumbles as the nagging doubts he’s tried to put behind him descend on his grieving heart. With them come the haunting memories of the bloodstained past he longs to forget, but can never escape. Taken from home at a young age and raised to serve the emperor, Kyrin Altair lives every day under a dangerous pretense of loyalty. After her unique observation skills and perfect memory place her into direct service to the emperor, Kyrin finds herself in further jeopardy as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide her belief in Elôm, the one true God. Following the emperor’s declaration to enforce the worship of false gods under the penalty of death, many lives are endangered. But there are those willing to risk everything to take a stand and offer aid to the persecuted. With their lives traveling paths they never could have imagined, Jace and Kyrin must fight to overcome their own fears and conflicts with society as they become part of the resistance.

This is the 8th book I've read written by Jaye L. Knight (a homeschool graduate), her other books being published under the pen name of Molly Evangeline. I have to say, I have enjoyed just about everything this author has put out, but this book blew me away. The beautiful thing about reading all of an author's works, starting with the earliest, is that you get to see the evolution of the author. Every consecutive book I read from Knight just gets better and better in both depth and writing style. 

Resistance is the first of a six-part series, and after reading this book, I cannot WAIT for the others! The foundation Knight is building for this epic saga is phenomenal. I fell deeply in love with all of the characters of this book, Kyrin and Jace particularly, and I have already developed my own hopes and fears as to their futures. I really appreciate how Knight made the two main characters feel so real. I loved them, I got angry with them, I cried with them, and I gave a sigh of relief whenever they escaped from danger. Some authors make it very difficult for me to connect with the main characters, and I end up loving a sideline character more. But not Knight, no this lady knows how to deliver a juicy character.

I cannot recommend this book enough, and I look forward to the next book in the series! Click here if you are interested in purchasing this fantastic novel; also, if you would like to read an interview with this amazing author there is a fantastic one on one of my favorite blogs here!