Weekend at the Mother Land

There aren't too many weekends that I get to spend without any plans, but this was the lucky one. Ryan had made plans with his friends this weekend and I had no plans, so I took it one step further and canceled the Sunday school class that we normally teach and gave myself the gift of a weekend of absolutely no obligations. And let me tell you, it was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Ryan left in the early afternoon on Saturday and upon his departure, I immediately picked up my Jane Austen book and didn't stop until that baby was finished. I don't remember the last time that I sat down and really read for an extended period of time...It's something that I normally only ever get to dream about. And it was the perfect novel too- Northanger Abbey.

I had only read two Austen novels previously to this one- Pride & Prejudice (of course) and Emma. But I think this was the first time that I was able to pick up one of her works and have the understanding to really appreciate her witty nature. She had me smiling the whole way through.

Over the years I have come to adore any piece of literature that has a Gothic tone, and Northanger had just that! Austen made it a little lighter in nature than say, Bronte's Wuthering Heights or Du Maurier's Rebecca. Which I very much enjoyed because she was making fun of women getting caught up in the horrific ghost stories of her day. And I'm all about poking fun at silliness. :p

And Henry Tilney...Don't get me started on him! I totally have a type and it is totally him! ;) Although I do love me some Mr. Darcy and his passionate declaration of love for Lizzy Bennet, I could not take his brooding nature 24/7. I'm quite pessimistic and sarcastic myself so I need someone to keep things light. Tilney was perfectly a gentleman and had wit for amusement to fill every hour. I guess his and Catherine's (the heroine of the story) relationship was a constant reminder of mine and Ryan's so it's only natural that I just loved them being together. Catherine was naive and had an overactive imagination and Tilney was always teasing her for it...Seems rather familiar... :)

I would of given it 5 stars on GoodReads but the ending came up a bit short for me. It was Austen's first novel, but it felt like she was writing this prize winning piece and then ran out of time so she hurried up and concluded the story. It didn't have all of the pomp and circumstance of a P&P ending, so maybe that's clouding my bias a little.

After finishing up the book, I went to my parents' house. Mom baited me with fresh baked cookies and picking any movie from their Austen collection, so I of course chose Northanger Abbey ( I am a glutton for punishment, I suppose). It was a good rendition of the story, and the movie gave me the more "fireworks" ending that I was hoping for. After the movie ended we watched the first episode of Victoria (the newer PBS Masterpiece show) and I became completely hooked!

So hooked that I came home and bought all of the available episodes on iTunes and stayed up until 3 am because when I truly like something, I become obsessed! My nature knows not how to deal otherwise.

I am totally fascinated by Queen Victoria now and hope to get my grubby paws on some books about her. I should have known that I was going to fall this hard because all of the authors of her time (the Bronte sisters, Dickens, etc) are my favorite.

It's safe to say that my body may be in  21st century America, but my heart is all 19th century England.

Bleak Week

"We gladiate but I guess we're really fighting ourselves
Roughing up our minds so we're ready when the kill time comes
Wide awake in bed, words in my brain,
'Secretly you love this, do you even wanna go free?'
Let me in the ring, I'll show you what that big word means."
-Lorde, "Glory and Gore"
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This week has been a total battle of the mind for me. It does this thing where it turns series of thoughts into an existential crisis, and it's been playing on a loop for the past several days.

I noticed last Thursday, as I was finishing up my work week, that I felt incredibly restless the last couple of hours during my shift. This isn't an unusual thing for me, just something I've been working hard to not let overpower a contented attitude towards work. I then had a wonderful weekend full of the loveliest people and a good movie/tv binge and food-My formula for the perfect weekend- But it went far too fast and I found myself facing yet another work week. 

Let me clarify: I know that I am fortunate to have the job that I have. It pays well for a girl with only a Bachelor's degree in one of my town of residence's most useless majors (Chemistry). I work with some pretty awesome people and have a very understanding boss. I even have three day weekends, most weeks. But sometimes I find it hard to make that kind of stuff matter when my job makes me feel like some heartless/mindless robot and-since I have a flair for the dramatics-nothing smothers my soul more.

So here I was at the beginning of my week feeling pretty bleak about it all. I'm used to a tinge of pain come Sunday evenings/Monday mornings, but for the most part, I keep the awful longing for "more" stifled and under control. 

Not this week. Minutes, in work time, feels like hours, even days. I feel like my dog who sits at the window, peering out with her half swallowed cries, wanting nothing more than to run free. Gemma (that's the dog) and I are completely kindred spirits, trapped as prisoners and we can't quite shake the blues. She chews up all of our blankets. I eat all of the world's supply of cookies. 

I personally, mentally, and physically have experienced what it is like to be bored to tears. The tedious routine of the mundane can choke me up at times. I know it sounds over the top, but I just crave a little more from my 40 hour weekly sentence.

I try to keep it all in perspective, I am getting better. I know that my job is a means to an end. I realize most people don't have a job that gives them a fulfilling life's purpose-but it doesn't stop this girl from dreaming!

In the end it will all be okay. Really, it's okay right now. I have things in my life that I would not trade for anything (my husband, among other great relationships, for example). It's a constant battle-living a life that is content. But I will always fight for better while trying to keep a grateful state of mind. It's a tough balance, but you can not have one without the other. 






Humility, Humility, and always Humility

"Humility, Humility, and always Humility. Satan fears and trembles before humble souls."
-St. Padre Pio
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They say not to pray for something that you don't actually want. My prayer as of late is to grow in wisdom and humility. I feel like I've been more in the Word, books, articles, and my knowledge base is slowly expanding. But little did I realize what I would bring upon myself by praying for humility (which fyi, will probably be something I'll be praying for the rest of my life).

This weekend, anger abounded. Stemming from things that I've gotten use to ignoring, being brought up in a conversation with Ryan that turned into a full blown exchange of words. Him being the mostly rational one, and me processing emotions that I had yet to utter out loud [not a pretty site]. I am a pretty big self-loather, but nothing makes me more nauseous about myself than letting my emotions get to the point that I uncontrollably spew and manipulate. I'm way better than when we first got married, but I can still become passionate, un-selfaware, and downright stubborn. I took my frustrations out on a team mate and to me, nothing is uglier about myself. Thankfully, he's always had the grace to put up with me when I pull these little numbers ;)

I started a book on Friday called Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible by John McArthur. In the first chapter, McArthur was basically dissecting what kind of attitudes of the heart can lead to such evil acts like the 9/11 attacks. Imagine what a refreshment it is to read the various scriptures about how every single one of us is capable of evil (how fast can I skim over this part? LOLZ) Take for instance, Romans 3:10-18:

"No one is righteous-not even one. 
No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.
All have turned away; all have become useless.
No one does good, not a single one.
Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.
They rush to commit murder. 
Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don't know where to find peace.
They have no fear of God at all."

Welp. I have immense self esteem now, how about you?

I think that's why we all have so many struggles. We let the seemingly small seeds of evil take root, watering them with our pride and stubborn nature. Deep down, I knew I was being utterly ridiculous with Ryan last night, but I couldn't help but clutch on to my anger and frustrations the whole time.

It takes a fair degree of humility to admit that you are wrong and run in the opposite direction. A sort of control most people aren't willing to relinquish.

The good news is, no one has to take the above scripture as a personal offense, we all struggle with our own dark natures. It is something that has caused constant discord within all of humanity, since the beginning of time.

God sent Jesus to die in our place for this very reason. It's almost a relief; at least to me. If we could all just admit that we are selfish, foolish, etc, etc we can recognize it, repent, and just move on. Because when we don't realize the whole salvation story, then that's when the evil can take its stronghold in our hearts.

I think a lot of modern "theology" just glazes over this topic and it's an utter shame. Modern Christians have the tendency to go too far down the "gentleness" route that they completely disregard hard truths and justice. We humanize evil in an attempt to make Christianity more "acceptable" and "kind". Why are we so eager to trade what makes Christianity Christianity for something that looks exactly like every other religion out there?

What I am saying might seem offensive to some, but once someone seeks total truth and applies it to life, all that's left is more freedom. Freedom from attitudes and habits that weigh us down, things that are consuming and destroying our lives.

I realized today that I stood at a crossroads: do I make last night's display a regular event? Do I let it become a barrier between my husband and me?  That's the sort of crap that I don't have the time or energy to deal with right now. No doubt we will have more conversations centering around last night's topic of breakdown, but I can only pray that I have the humility to see the full picture, not just what's coming from my limited, selfish, vantage point.

Choose humility. Choose a fair balance between gentleness and justice (for yourself and others). It's the only place from which we can truly accept God's wisdom and blessings.



Prayer

I've been reading a really good book on Prayer the past several months. So I've thought a lot on the subject lately. For many years, my prayer life had been weak. Almost non existent. I had gotten really skeptical, but mainly because I was really self absorbed. See, prayer requires a humility that acknowledges the fact that you are in need of strength outside of yourself. 

I remember a time in high school when my communion with God and prayer life was at its strongest. Prayer is a discipline and I used it as a means to take my "boy obsessed frustrations" and turn it into to seriously praying for my future husband. Granted, prayer is first and foremost a way to create intimacy with God, but God must have shown me grace even in my misordered motives because my heart was really on fire for Him. 

But here's the thing that I want to point out- you have to be persistent in your faith and discipline in prayer while being submissive to God and His will for your life. I think most people agree that when praying for the desires of your heart, they don't come near as fast as what you would like for them to (or how you would like them to, or maybe not at all) Prayer life is grueling work, but it's benefits are eternal. 

I made scripture reading and exploring God's word a part of my prayer time for my future husband and I persevered every day for the last two years of high school in that discipline. I'm not saying that the Christian life is about what you do, but simply God rewards those who seek after Him and completely put their trust in Him. 
The funny thing was, when I prayed for what was suppose to be my future husband I would pray in expectation of whatever guy I was crushing on at the time. Even though my heart in prayer was on the wrong person, God used my prayer requests on the right person. I know this just by simply looking at the strong man of God that my husband has become today. And I'd like to even think that God also used those prayers for strengthening the other guys and their eventual marriages, because He is that giving! 

I'd also like to point out that during those two years Ryan was dating someone in which he bought an engagement ring for. Anyone who knows Ryan, knows he is fiercely loyal to any person that he loves to the very end- so I can only guess as to how God's listening to my prayers may have intervened. 
You never know what kind of work God is doing with your prayers, and you may never find out until you reach Heaven. 

Even though Ryan and I are flawed people who often stumble in our marriage, one thing I can say is that we have a love that runs deeper than any act of mere human will could ever account for. And I know that it was God's graceful gift to my obedience in prayer. 
Let me end by making it clear, I am not posting this to dote on what I have done, or what my husband has done, but what God has done by me simply trusting in Him. My hope in posting this is to maybe show just one person, that prayer actually does things. Even if the only thing it results in is the changing of the heart of the one who utters it. 

Be persistent in praying, be bold in making your desires known to God, it will completely change your world. 

True Feminism


Maybe it's the current culture, maybe it's the feeling that I still have some growing to do, or maybe a little bit of both, but today I started thinking about how I would like to be a stronger woman. It struck me on the way home from work that there are many women out there who would proclaim themselves as strong and would have the people around them agree, but most are what I believe to be "faux strong women." Most of the "strong women" out there today are simply just angry women.  The kind that react, instead of humbly, intelligently, compassionately, (while still) justly responding. I'm not saying that we should all be soft spoken (because I have that tendency, and know that I myself, need to be bolder). I'm not saying that a woman can not be vulnerable or make mistakes, but there are just plain too many women that play the victim card these days.

I can say this all from experience. Getting married, sharing every intimate detail with someone for the rest of your life has a way of outing all of the ugliness within a person. I soon realized that I was emotionally volatile, and at times toxic. But Ryan never put up with it, therefore challenging me to gain control of that area while still allowing me to show my vulnerabilities in a healthy way. I can see the same problem in many other women, while their husbands and peers role over, letting them get away with it. And do you realize that anger and bitterness destroys the one beholding it the most? I've seen far too many women with a ticking time bomb strapped to their chests in an attempt to be a martyr. And for what cause or purpose? If a male were to act that way, the same female perpetrator would call him a bully.

Not only has the female sex been weakened by this, but also our male counterpart. It's fine if you are female and want (or even need ) to do "traditional male things" but let a man be a man without getting offended for goodness sakes! What is SO wrong with a man wanting to protect and provide for a woman? Absolutely nothing. In fact, everyone could use more people that surround them in support. It's stupid to try and do it all on your own, all in the name of posterity's sake. And if you think the way women treat men is bad, wait until you see how they can treat each other!

So women- be strong without the pride and without all of the hostility. That is true feminism.

The Girl Who Lived

I have decided that 2017 will be the year that I relish every moment, putting aside all unnecessary, useless means that make me think I have any control over the future. We let those small moments, like grains of sand, slip through our fingers in hope for clutching onto bigger things, and end up missing out on so much.

Looking back, this past week has been one of the best weeks of my life. But only because I've made myself aware of it all. We didn't luck into money or good fortune or anything new, I just finally got my head out of the clouds. I know I've been so unhappy the past few years because I can get so caught up in the ideal and needing control of outcomes. I feel like Harry who keeps coming back to the Mirror of Erised and I think Dumbledore hit the nail on the head when he happens upon Harry and the mirror:

"Now, can you think what the Mirror of Erised shows us all?"
Harry shook his head.
"Let me explain. The happiest man on Earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is. Does that help?"
Harry thought. Then he said slowly, "It shows us what we want...whatever we want..."
"Yes and no," said Dumbledore quietly. "It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts. You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. Ronald Weasley, who has always been overshadowed by his brothers, sees himself standing alone, the best of all of them. However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth. Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible. 
"The Mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again. If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared. It does not do to dwell on dreams and to forget to live, remember that."

In all of my striving, I have forgotten to live. My hope for this new year is in finding more of God, ridiculously loving the people He has placed in my life, and pursuing truth and knowledge. If I have all of these things, I count myself a rich woman, for those are all I need!

Current Recommendations 12.03.16

I have a deep love for reading, music, and movies and I was trying to think of a way to incorporate it all into my blog. Some things are worthy of a whole blog post, but I think I just want a quick way to talk about whatever fandom I am currently obsessing over. I have an annoying quality that if I like something, then I really like it, and I want to scream it from the roof tops. This new series just seemed like a good outlet that allowed me to save my voice ;)

Music:It's December, so Christmas music is basically a given. Here are some of the newest albums that I have discovered:

Sleeping At Last's Christmas Collection 2016 album: I fell in love with Sleeping At Last a few years back (embarrassingly enough, I discovered it through the Twilight soundtrack. It was a phase, alright?!). It is made up of just one guy (Ryan, actually-But not to be confused with my Ryan). He has a very mellow sound and poetic lyrics. He is also a Christian, and filters his lyrics through that grander picture of humanity and its relation to God.
for fans of: a soft and sweetly curated collection of Christmas songs

Lauren Daigle's Behold album: I had the good fortune to see Lauren Daigle at last year's Winter Jam (well, at least the back of her because we got there too late and sat in the nosebleed section behind the stage). She has a powerful, soulful voice. Her Christmas album is an absolute DELIGHT! She blended her soulful voice with many jazzy renditions of some of the classics.
for fans of: Christmas music infused with a hearty dose of soul

Ella and Louis Christmas album: It's Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Do I really need to expound upon that?
for fans of: daydreaming about a different time and place

Movies:

The Giver: This isn't a newly watched movie for me. I just had a strong desire to watch it again last night. I watched the movie when it first came out and I loved it/was moved by it so much that I went out and immediately read the book. It's normally taught to middle schoolers in our district so I've always kind of snubbed it. But honestly, I'm not really sure how middle schoolers can exactly get the message pertained in this book. I'm still really processing it myself. Click here for the trailer!
I normally say read the book before watching the movie, but this movie does such a phenomenal job at portraying the story and its full range of emotions, just watch the movie!
for fans of: negative utopia, feeling all of the feels about humanity, a pro-life story

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: In typical Joellen fashion, I could watch anything Harry Potter related on a loop. Seriously, when I am being belligerent in the old folk's home, tell my nurse to turn on any of the Harry Potter movies. So of course, I've already watched this one in theaters twice. Per JK Rowling's usual flair, she created all new characters that you can't help but falling in love with. Including a bunch of the nonhuman type! I do have to warn that it is darker than the original Harry Potter series, so it should probably be screened and carefully considered before letting any really young kids watch. Rowling always includes an inordinate amount of subtext, so I'm super excited to see where this 5-part series will go.
for fans of: the Harry Potter world, giggling over cute magical creatures

Reads:

Tim Keller's book on Prayer: I probably shouldn't recommend a read before finishing it. I've just really learned a lot so far. He does an excellent job of building upon a foundation of scripture and expanding it in its complete historical narrative and context. He is a lot like CS Lewis, but puts things in a very understandable way. Sometimes Lewis jumps from point A to point Z and I have to really think about what he is stating. Keller explains every letter in between. He guides the reader with scripture and logic. If you are tired of emotionally based "theology", Keller's books might just be the biblical sidekick you are looking for.
for fans of: biblically based, God-focused truths and deeper theology

The following articles were something that I really needed to read this week. Sunday evening I posted a video on my Facebook page about a pro-life ad that was banned in France (watch here) and in my comment I made the appeal that this is somehow what our political "correctness" has come to be. I have a Facebook troll that has taken it upon her job to refute everything political that I post. Which is fine. But challenging comments are never really comfortable for anybody. I made a blogpost (here) in an attempt to really help me process my feelings and embolden me to keep professing my faith and beliefs. I've still battled with insecurities, feelings of alienation(I know, I'm super sensitive, but trying!haha), and really thinking about what it means to be a Christian and challenging world views this past week. I came across these two articles today and they were just exactly the affirming words that I needed to read:

Sisters, Jesus is Not Your Cheerleader

If We Aren't Being Attacked for Our Faith as Christians, We're Doing Something Wrong

for fans of: hard truths, encouragement pertaining to living your faith BOLDLY!