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.