Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Liebster Award!


Carissa from Musings of an Introvert tagged me. Thanks Carissa!
 
Here are the rules when nominated for a Liebster:
 a) Answer the eleven questions of the tagger.
 b) Share eleven facts about yourself
 c) Nominate up to eleven other bloggers
 d) Ask those nominees 11 new questions



Carissa's questions:
1. Where do you go to decompress from the world?
The beach is the best... but sometimes traveling into a book world helps. Wow, this made me realize that I really need a better decompression location, since we usually only go to the beach once or twice a year. I would like to be able to decompress once a week at least... actually, going to church works pretty well!

2. If given $10,000, what would you do with it?
Well, I'd love to say something spiritual, like donate it to missions or something, but I would be very tempted to use it for a trip to Ireland for my family... I've always wanted to go, and the idea of going without them just doesn't sound as appealing, but my goodness, is it expensive! I know, I've checked.

3. What is one major renovation you would love to make on your house?
I'm very excited about a sort of major renovation we just did, actually! It wasn't extremely costly, but it made a big difference to me. We replaced the windows in our guest room with doors that open onto the front porch, and turned the guest room into a piano studio! Now my students can come straight in, and we have a nice, quiet, private corner of the house for me to teach in, instead of having lessons in the middle of the open floor plan living room/sunroom/kitchen/dining area. It's fabulous! But if I could do another, I'd like to add a dormer window to my sister's and my bedroom... it's got one small window, that doesn't let in much light, and we've wanted to add dormers every since we moved in, but it's too expensive... even more than the $10,000 I was offered in the last question!

4. What is one movie that you love and didn't expect to love?
Guardians of The Galaxy! My sister and brothers were all super excited about it, I personally thought the trailer looked pretty blah, and even though I liked Chris Pratt and agreed to see the movie because he was in it, I was not expecting to love him and the movie so much! The characters and the great camaraderie they finally have at the end was great. And the music fit surprisingly well, I particularly loved the opening credits sequence. But the whole movie was a great surprise!

 


5. What is the oldest knick-knack you own and what is its sentimental value?
This little blue glass bird is probably the oldest. I remember seeing it an Nana's beach cottage one day, when we were visiting. I was absolutely mesmerized by it's beautiful, rich blue, and how it caught rays of light. I also liked how it felt in my small hands, so heavy and smooth, and exactly the right size to wrap my hand around. I was old enough to know better, but I begged Nana for it anyway, and amidst my parents' embarrassed attempts to silence me, she agreed. I felt a little guilty about it for a few years, but now that spoiled little girl is just a distant memory, and while I laugh at her, I'm also quite grateful to have this knick-knack that reminds me of Nana (now in heaven) and her quaint old beach cottage at Atlantic Beach.

6. Do you own any books you keep out of obligation, but actually hate?
Well, unfortunately, I've come to have a distaste for my Elsie Dinsmore collection. My mom bought them all for me when I was young. I was a voracious reader, and greatly enjoyed reading all 28 of them as speedily as I could. Elsie's extreme goodness always shamed me, since I was a very "naughty" and "willful" young girl (like LuLu, for anyone who's read the books!) but I was also inspired to behave better, and to read my Bible more diligently by Elsie. Then, not too many years ago, I tried to read them again, and was disturbed to discover that Elsie had many flaws, including some that the author didn't seem to intend as flaws (I can only vaguely remember examples, so I won't go into detail) and that I was very saddened to discover. I have an Elsie doll as well, and it's such a fond memory from my childhood, I could never get rid of them. But I don't think I'll ever be able to love them like I did before.

7. How many countries have you visited outside of the one you live in now?
Um, none. Sadly... Did I mention that I would desperately love to go to Ireland? Or anywhere in Europe. Or New Zealand. Or somewhere tropical. But no, I've barely been to 11 states.

8. Have you ever read only part of a book, but claimed you've read the whole thing?
Well, I read this copy of The Count of Monte Cristo that I believed was complete, but I finally discovered was abridged, only after I was almost done! But it was so long, even though it was abridged, that I still claim having read it, and I don't really want to read it again just to read the unabridged version.

9. Dry climate or humidity?
Ugh, right now, dry! But when winter comes and my lips are chapped, I'll wish for humidity. How about a nice, perfect medium?

10. Sherlock Holmes or John Watson and why?
Oh no, I can't pick! I love them both too dearly, for their own reasons. John because his reactions to Sherlock are similar to what I think mine would be, so I relate to him more, and he's what keeps Sherlock from seeming too crazy. Sherlock because I am thrilled by his brilliance, amazed by his casual arrogance, and touched by the caring heart that is hidden very carefully under a thick shell of sharp wit and all the mean things he says sometimes.

11. Why did you decide to start blogging?
Well, when I started my original blog (The Random Digressors, shared with my sister Sarah) it was just because all my real-life friends were blogging, and I didn't want to miss out on the fun! This was before Facebook took over the internet world, and when that happened all our blogs kind of faded... but I really enjoyed writing, so I created this blog. It started out as unfortunate evidence of my pride (look for the label "The dream" over on the right if you want to catch up on my blog's name and web address conflict) and God has used it to grow me in so many ways, including teaching me a lot through the more serious posts that I felt compelled to write. It's amazing how much I discover I didn't really understand until I try to write about something! But after I write it all, I understand my own thoughts and what I believe so much more clearly.


Now my 11 facts:
1. I am abnormally delighted by folding fitted sheets.
2. I am bit on the crazy side when it comes to healthy lifestyle.
3. My non-existent college degree only bothers me when it bothers other people.
4. Contra dancing is my favorite social outing.
5. Although I've loved to play classical piano music for many years, I've only recently acquired the taste to listen to it on the radio.
6. I crave the beach (we're going soon! Hooray!) and early morning sunrises.
7. My heritage is only a small part Irish, but I am extremely pleased that it manifests itself through my red hair and green eyes.
8. I drive a Volvo, and I am much too attached to it. Good thing I didn't name it...
9. I'm enjoying learning to tune pianos more than I thought I would! Which is good, because it's also taking much longer than I anticipated.
10. I am addicted to Jane Austen and just finished rereading Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility for the __th time... I've lost count. But it's somewhere between ten and twenty (I can't seem to read one without soon after reading the other... hmm...)
11. I am a redeemed child of the one true King, washed pure in the blood of my Savior and filled with the Holy Spirit, and that's the greatest fact about me there is!

Now this is where I break the rules. (Sorry...) I'm not very good at coming up with questions, and I don't have 11 people to tag anyway, so if you haven't received this award yet, and you read all the way here, congratulations! You're tagged, and you may answer Carissa's great questions!

 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Homosexuality

A dear friend mentioned once that she would like me to write a post on this topic (we have had many long discussions about this, and we disagree quite a bit, so a whole post will hopefully make my stance more clear), but I've taken a long time to get into it. With the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, I'm finally motivated to finish this (extremely long) post. (I promise, I did edit it.)

 First of all, let's address the "why are you picking on homosexuals/LGBTQ?" question. I know this is a bit "same old, same old," but I think this has to be addressed as kind of a disclaimer. I would hope I speak for the majority of true Christians when I say, we're really not. Homosexuality (and other sexual perversions) is so big because we're being forced to take a stand, or join their side. "Tolerance" is no longer enough, they are now trying to force Christians to celebrate and participate. So, we are not trying to "pick on" homosexuality, it's just being instigated by the LGBTQ community.

Now, let's get on to an argument. Possibly the most confusing argument I've struggled with is the claim that Christians aren't supposed to "judge" others. (I do believe we are called judge other Christians in the Church, but that's a different topic.) To understand the confusion, let's look at all the definitions of the word from Merriam-Webster:

judge

transitive verb
1
:  to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises
2
:  to sit in judgment on :  try
3
:  to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation
4
:  govern, rule —used of a Hebrew tribal leader
5
:  to form an estimate or evaluation of; especially :  to form a negative opinion about "shouldn't judge him because of his accent"
6
:  to hold as an opinion :  guess, think "I judge she knew what she was doing"
intransitive verb
1
:  to form an opinion
2
:  to decide as a judge 

The first and sixth transitive and first intransitive verbs obviously, everyone does, you have to eventually come up with and hold an opinion. But if your opinion is not the politically correct one, you will be accused of "judging." This form of judgment is necessary intellectually however, we can't simply be mindless and have no thought on the subject, no matter how nice it would be if there were no disagreement. 

The fifth transitive verb here I think we should all be able to agree Christians should avoid. We should not have a negative opinion of anyone because of their sin, we should remember that we have all sinned, and God loves us all equally; He wants to save every other sinner in the world as much as He wanted to save me. Unfortunately, if you believe that homosexuality is wrong, many people will insist that this kind of judgment necessarily follows, but it doesn't.


The second and third transitive and second intransitive verbs are the meaning I believe occurs in Matthew 7, the sense of judging someone's guilt, and measuring their punishment, which I do not believe we should do either. But progressives want us to say that homosexuality is good, which I can't do without violating my first kind of judgment.

I struggled to understand the distinction for a while, and finally, God gave me this insight. Once He did I was amazed that it had never struck me before: if I tell a homosexual that they're fine the way they are, that is judging. 

 It is a pronouncement of pardon from me that I have no authority to give - saying that they deserve no punishment. I'm not pronouncing anyone guilty of homosexuality either. I'm not asking for evidence, what they have and have not done, I'm not trying to peer into their hearts, minds and lives and decide if they've committed that sin or not. That's God's job. I'm not judging any person innocent or guilty, all I'm doing is reminding everyone what the Bible says: all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and I believe the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin: 

 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. - Romans 1:26-27

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. - 1 Timothy 1:8-11

Now, the guilt comes from claiming the action, so I think that's what makes it so confusing. If I'm going around openly telling people I'm a thief, and someone reminds me that stealing is against the law, it may feel like they're "judging" me, but all they are doing is stating a fact - stealing is wrong. Stating that is not a wrong judgment, simply the truth. I proclaimed myself guilty of stealing by labeling myself a thief.

I hope that all makes sense. Stating that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin is not the wrong kind of judgment; it's my belief, formed by the discerning sort of judgment. As Christians, we can't distort the word of God and excuse or accept homosexuality as not sinful, because it's not the truth. It would certainly be much easier to embrace homosexuality as good than to stand against the flood of this perversion in our society. But we are called to stand on God's word, and I believe it is clear.


Now, the next argument is that calling homosexuality a sin is not loving. This is complicated because non-Christians seem to have a different definition than the Biblical definition, but it's easy to clear up. Their definition appears to go something like this:

Loving
: anything that makes me feel good, anything that induces happiness, exclusively limited to actions/words that I like, or want to hear.

Whereas the Christian definition of loving behavior is different.

Loving 
: anything that seeks the ultimate good of the recipient. 

We are to speak the truth in love. In the name of "love," homosexuals have convinced some Christians not to speak the truth, and even to compromise on what "truth" is! As Christians, I believe it's vital that we stand firm on the truth of the Bible. It's loving to be clear about sin because it's ultimately for the eternal good of every sinner if they are convicted of their sin, and turn to Jesus in repentance for salvation. I would rather make you feel sad, and say something you might not want to hear right now than stay silent and risk letting you die in your sin without knowing the truth. That may not seem loving to progressives by their definition, but it is truly loving by the Bible's definition.

Let's not get stuck on the merry-go-round anymore. We can go in circles arguing about homosexuality, what's loving, what's judging, but none of that is the really important part. It doesn't matter what your sins are, it only matters that, wherever you are searching for completion, whatever you do to try and satisfy that deep longing of your heart - nothing will fill it but the love of Jesus. He loves you so much that He paid your debt, and made pardon freely available for you. You can do nothing to earn it, you simply must confess and believe. (Romans 10:9-10). 

Stealing, homosexuality, lying, murder, adultery, child molestation, covetousness, alcoholism, hypocrisy, whatever your sins, no matter how dark, it doesn't matter how strong the chains are holding you, Jesus died to break them, and you can be free! I have been forgiven, redeemed, and all the gross sin that polluted my heart has been washed away by the blood of Jesus. I know what this glorious, exhilarating freedom feels like, and I know the wonderful, vast, indescribable love of my risen Savior, and I want everyone in the world to experience this matchless grace.

22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. - Romans 3:22-25

In the end, if I managed to convince anyone that homosexuality was wrong, but didn't show them Jesus, they would just find something else to try and fill the void. Brothers and sisters, we should not be distracted by any topic. The Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn transgender situation was popular recently too, but that should be just another introduction to sharing the gospel, not an argument we need to win. Bruce wants a "new self" and he hopes that living as a woman will give him the chance to live a new life. It won't work; it's still the same heart, and no one can escape the chains of their past sins on their own. The only way we become a new person is by taking Jesus.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17

" I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." - Galatians 2:20

Speak the word of life, and don't let it be hampered and buried by useless arguments. There is power in His name. There is power in the gospel. Whatever the argument, our focal point and conclusion should always be Jesus Christ.

"Yes, _______ is a sin, BUT! Jesus saves!"

Monday, June 8, 2015

10 Favorite Screen Characters Tag

My lovely sister Sarah at How To Watch a Movie tagged me. Be sure to check out her post, because she really knows how to pick characters, and articulate why she likes them!

I'm not so great at explaining why I like characters, and I'm afraid most of my choices will be a bit predictable and cliche, but all the same I'm looking forward to thinking about some of my favorites for my own amusement, and maybe you'll enjoy it too! 

(This is not actually my top 10, just some of my favorite characters off the top of my head, and they are in no particular order, really)



Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Jane Austen wrote what is arguably her best novel, and the main character just happens to share my first name... how could she not be the first that comes to my mind? Of course, as a Pride and Prejudice 1995 fan, this strictly applies to Jennifer Ehle's Lizzy; cultured but playful, enthusiastic and passionate, sparkling eyes, sophistication but no superficiality, honest and sincere, although a little prejudiced and too quick to judge. She laughs off Mr. Darcy's "not handsome enough to tempt me" comment so much more easily than I should be able to do.

Miss Elinor Dashwood
Okay, this whole list won't be Austen characters, I promise, but I have to include Hattie Morahan's Elinor from Sense and Sensibility (2008) as well, because I would wish for myself to be the perfect mix of her and Lizzy, they have many similar characteristics in my opinion (sophistication without superficiality, honesty and sincerity) but Elinor is more calm and serene, more sensible and steady, and has more control over her thoughts and emotions than Lizzy. To keep Lucy's secret so steadfastly, even though the knowledge of it caused her immense pain, and to have such control over herself that not even those closest to her could discover her heartbreak? So inspiring... I don't think I could do it. Especially for someone like Lucy, I don't think I would be able to refrain from telling my sister, especially when the confidence was forced on me like that!

Gilbert Blythe
Everybody is supposed to likes Anne, right? And I'm a redhead, so she should be my favorite from Anne of Green Gables, right? But I have three major qualms with Anne: 1) she doesn't appreciate her red hair, like I do, 2) she berates the spelling of Ann with no 'e,' which is how my middle name is spelled, and 3) she doesn't appreciate Gil nearly enough! He is my favorite character, and as a younger girl, I always wished and dreamed that I could have that kind of growing-up-with-the-man-you-eventually-marry experience. (Unfortunately, I am now 24 and none of the potential candidates from my childhood stuck around to my adult life. Oh well!) He's so sweet, and very determined, even though Anne rebuffs him over and over! I just don't understand why it takes her so long to realize how wonderful he is. (Very sad that the actor died recently, but that did not influence his standing as one of my favorite characters.)

Matt Murdock
Tall, dark and melancholy... hmm, maybe I do agree with Anne a little. Although I think I'd pick Gil first, Matt Murdock certainly has some first rate qualities, and is an extremely interesting character with his nearly conflicting day job and night activities. When he talks about the "devil inside" it's a little frightening, but the mild, quiet and kind lawyer of the day makes up for the dark and dangerous nighttime vigilante. Charlie Cox has some awesome facial expressions, especially since he doesn't really get to use his eyes. A new favorite character, and I'm looking forward to more from Daredevil!

Captain America
Yes, I like Captain America best of all the Avengers. Maybe he's a little old-fashioned... I don't care, I like old-fashioned, and he is from the past after all! He's also gentlemanly, chivalrous, kind, courageous and generally awesome. It makes me so sad that he didn't get to have his dance with Peggy, and I want him to find another girl, but at the same time, I don't. I've heard he might die in one of the films coming up in the next couple of years (depending on how closely they mimic the comics) and that is just heart-breaking to me! I hope they don't do it. But shh, I have to keep it a secret that I like him so much, my little brother likes to rant about how much he dislikes Cap... more stabs to my heart. No matter how hard we try, we can't get him to appreciate that Cap's strength of character is what TRULY makes him a superhero, and far outweighs the genetic modification that makes him LOOK like a superhero and gives him physical strength to match his character.

Arthur Clennam
 Little Dorrit is my favorite Dickens story so far, and while I love Amy, Arthur has to be my favorite character from the story. He's so gentle and kind-hearted, and the only thing I don't like about him is how much he likes Pet at first! How he could fall in love with her instead of Amy in the first place, I'll never understand. But at least he comes around finally... but then he won't marry Amy when he's stuck in the Marshalsea! Okay, so there's two things I don't like about him... but at least he refuses to marry Amy for what he thinks is her good. And spoiler, it all works out in the end, you know I can't stand unhappy endings. He's thoughtful, considerate, quiet and so heart-wrenchingly adorable, played amazingly by Matthew MacFadyen (who redeemed himself completely in my opinion through this role). 


Mr. John Thornton
I know, I know, too many leading men, right? Maybe I'll do some favorite annoying characters next. But I couldn't leave out Mr. Thornton, his voice is like rich dark chocolate, and he has a great accent, plus the "Mr. Darcy" effect of being a bit cold and unlikeable at first, but then showing that his heart really is capable of deep, sincere affection. Some of his lines aren't great, but that's not his fault. I love how he keeps Margaret's secret, even after she rejects him, and how his face completely softens when he sees her after visiting Helstone. He's another great example of a tall, dark, melancholy character. Hmm, we need to watch North and South again.

Miss Bates
I know I promised that I wouldn't make the whole list Austen, but if I'm going to do favorite annoying characters, I've got to put at least one of Austen's amazing irritating characters, right? Miss Bates really isn't too bad since, unlike Mrs. Bennet, she has her likeable moments. Miss Bates may be a bit annoying at times, with her prattling on, and dull topics, but she is good-natured and harmless. I always feel very sorry for her when Emma slights her, and appreciate Mr. Knightley's stern "badly done, Emma!" as being exactly as forceful as I would personally like (hehe, yes, I just snuck in a little compliment to an Austen hero... I really feel bad for leaving out all her wonderful men, since they are certainly favorites as well!) She is played particularly well by Sophie Thompson in the 1996 Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Katniss Everdeen
Yep, she's one of my favorite annoying characters. She's a very realistic character, but she gets on my nerves in many ways... her coldness towards everyone but Prim, her wishy-washy indecision between Peeta and Gale, her hesitation at being the Mockingjay, disliking Buttercup, and I could go on. They're all perfectly suited to her character, but they still annoy me, and yet I still really like Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence does a great job making me feel more sympathetic towards her than I did in the book. And besides her flaws, she is loyal (once one breaks into her heart) and pretty smart. I'm both looking forward to and dreading the last installment of the movie franchise!

Captain James T. Kirk
Okay, I don't know if I'd say he's one of my favorite annoying characters, because he really doesn't annoy me as much as he should, considering how arrogant and stupid he is at the beginning! Chris Pine is incredible in the reboot of Star Trek (2009) and even though he's a bit annoying occasionally, he's not nearly as annoying as I found William Shater's character to be! I never cared much for the old Star Trek, but Chris Pine's Kirk (and the other amazing characters, like Spock, Bones and Chekov) all made me love Star Trek! Even though Kirk is a playboy, rebellious, cocky guy, he made me like him. And he does have good think-outside-the-box smarts, courage and some selfless moments. (Those eyebrows, though..)

There you are, 10 of my favorite screen characters! I know I took forever on this, so I'm not going to try and tag anyone, but feel free to participate if you haven't yet! Also, let me know what you think of my choices in the comments!
 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Discipline of Health

What is the purpose of food? Biologically, it's to feed and nourish our bodies, right? Because God is gracious that way, He made eating enjoyable, since it's something we've got to do to survive. I think we've got it a bit switched around now, at least here in America. These junk "food" items are not fulfilling their primary purpose at all, they are almost completely contrary to fueling and maintaining our bodies, but they are fulfilling the secondary purpose of enjoyment, while we slowly kill ourselves with unhealthful choices.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this topic in Discipline: The Glad Surrender  by Elisabeth Elliot. In chapter 7, "Discipline of the Body" she says this regarding food:

"A body needs food. Food is a question of discipline for us who line in very rich, very civilized, very self-indulgent countries. For those who have not the vast array of choices we have, food is a fundamental matter of subsistence and not a major hindrance to holiness."

"Christians ought to watch what they eat. I do not refer here only to overeating, which is a bad thing, but to eating the wrong things. Too many sweets, too many rich things, too much junk."

"In ancient Jewish times a stubborn son who was a glutton and a drunkard was stoned to death. Gluttony, one of the more obvious modern sins, is generally tacitly accepted. Little is said about it from the pulpit. It is too embarrassing; it gets down too close to where the people, often including the preacher, live." 

"Hindrance to holiness"? "Gluttony" a modern sin? What is gluttony anyway?

That chapter inspired and motivated me to write on this topic that I've been pondering for a while. Let's start with defining gluttony. What do you think of when you come across that word? I can only recall coming across it in the Bible a couple of times, I've certainly not heard it preached on, as Elisabeth Elliot pointed out, it's rarely mentioned.

In the Bible, gluttony is often referenced with drunkenness, as like in the case of the stubborn Jewish son who would have been stoned for such sins.

20 Be not among drunkards
    or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    and slumber will clothe them with rags.
-Proverbs 23:20-21

"‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’" was wrongfully said of our Lord in Matthew 11:19 and Luke 7:34 by the religious hypocrites. (Of course, we know that was a false accusation because Jesus didn't sin.)
 
So, if a drunkard is someone who drinks excessive alcohol, lacking self-control and contrary to the health of his body, I believe gluttony can actually encompass a lot more than just overeating, which is the vague notion I used to have about gluttony.

My working definition of gluttony is this: any consumption of food that is unnecessary and/or contrary to my health.

That means I might be eating the healthiest meal ever, but if I eat more than my body needs for fuel and sustenance, then I'm eating gluttonously.

It also means that I might want to eat something I know is unhealthy for me, but I want to eat it because it tastes good, that's also gluttonous. 

As Elisabeth Elliot said, gluttony tends to be tacitly accepted. Christians tend to brush aside and ignore the sinfulness gluttony. Many of these same Christians may suffer from diseases like cancer or diabetes, or any other health condition caused by unhealthy food choices, and then they will likely say that God sent them this health trial. I've seen it many times, and it always frustrates and saddens me.

I know it's not a popular position, but I dare to say that the diseases that plague our country are the consequences of our sinful eating choices. If you fill your body with foods that God did not intend for us to eat, and ignore the healthful choices that He created, then you will get sick, and yes, God will allow us to reap the consequences of our sin. I do not believe that He gives people sickness. He gives you the choice of what foods to eat, and if you choose wrongly there are natural results.

Alcoholics suffer from health problems related to alcoholism, smokers suffer from health problems related to smoking, and both of those are generally considered sinful by churches. Whether your church believes moderate alcohol is okay, or that all alcohol is sinful, I think we pretty much all agree that drunkenness is sinful, and it's widely accepted that smoking is bad. Why are we so much more accepting of junk food? 

Even though I had been thinking that wrong eating choices could be sinful, until I read Elisabeth Elliot's words: "a hindrance to holiness" I hadn't even considered that my eating habits could affect my spiritual life. I tend to separate my body from my spirit and soul too much, I guess. I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit:
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
 And of course we're supposed to take care of our bodies, but I never directly related my bad eating choices to my struggling spiritual growth. It really puts eating into perspective, if that junk-food "treat" is not only harming your body, but your spirit! I can tell already I will be pondering this topic for a while!

Fasting is another aspect of bodily discipline that modern Christians often seem to neglect, I know I do. I've been practicing a bit of intermittent fasting to help my body switch from "sugar-burning" to "fat-burning" but I haven't really paid any attention to the spiritual aspect of fasting, or done any full-day fasts recently. I'm so inspired by what I've read so far!

God has used Elisabeth Elliot's book to help me understand so much already, I'm looking forward to what else I will learn about discipline and I'm excited to merge my quest for health with my striving towards God's will for my spiritual growth.

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control..." - 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts on this topic! Please feel share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Word of the Year for 2015

Last year, my word for the year was "genuine." I think it was a successfully genuine year, I felt like I was able to let go of my worry about what people thought of me and just be myself. Now that I'm doing better about not putting up a front and being a fake, I need to work on who I really am.

Naturally, I have a temper to match my hair... or maybe even more fiery than my actually somewhat tame strawberry-blonde head. I let stupid little things, and irritating people get to me much too easily, my temper gets ruffled and I'm a mess. Or I stress out over minor issues, and work myself into a frenzy. Or I get hysterically upset over something. My emotions are like a roller coaster, and I'm getting too old to enjoy the ride.

I need serenity.

Photo cred: Rustic Meets Vintage (found on Pinterest)

Serenity :  the quality or state of being serene
Serene  :  clear and free of storms or unpleasant change
             :  shining bright and steady
             :  marked by or suggestive of utter calm and unruffled repose or quietude  

Peace.

Utter calm. 

Clear and free of storms.

No unpleasant mood changes.

Shining bright and steady.

 Unruffled repose and rest.

The joy of the LORD is my strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)

A beautiful sunrise at the beach, on my 21st birthday weekend...


Serenity encompasses so much to me that I was having difficulty choosing just one Bible verse, and of course, unlike "genuine" I don't think "serenity" is actually in the Bible, or at least it isn't in my edition. But why choose just one verse, anyway?

I think all the fruits of the spirit fall under serenity: "22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23

Many Proverbs, like this one, inspire me: "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." - Proverbs 29:11

Serenity is dripping from Lamentations 3:22-24:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”

 A great many Psalms also, of course - too many to choose just one. I may do more posts this year sharing more of the verses and things that I find to inspire serenity.

I'm also thinking of doing a Pinterest board for my year of serenity, you can find a link to my Pinterest on the sidebar if you're interested! 
  
Do you have a word of the year? Share in the comments! 

 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Health Journey: Part 1

My family has always been health-oriented. When my mom became a Christian, God convicted her about some of her unhealthy eating habits, and when my parents got married, my dad eventually started eating healthy, too. They were on the path to better health before I was born, and for as long as I can remember we've been that weird, healthy family with strange things in our pantry, fridge and medicine cabinet. We've probably eaten more salads than any other one kind of food, except maybe my dad's homemade bread


Although I was perfectly happy to skip out on the horrible doctor's visits that my friends described, I wasn't very happy with most of the other healthy aspects of our life. Why did we have to have rice cakes with almond butter for snacks, instead of a PB&J, which was so much cooler? (Don't worry, we eat peanut butter now, it's just unsweetened, non-homogenized, 100% organic and truly natural.) I was a bit embarrassed by our healthiness, and while I ate the healthy stuff Mom served at home, I'd happily drink a soft drink when I got the chance, or down 2 or 3 slices of white-bread pizza at a party, much to my mom's dismay. How did I go from that child, to crazy health-nut in my own right? This is the story of how my personal health journey began.

Warning: Feminine health is discussed in a way that might be too TMI for some. I'll be as tactful as possible, but I also want to be open and clear about my issues, because I want other ladies who might struggle with the same sorts of problems know that there is hope for natural healing! If you want the short version, here it is: I started researching health because of my suffering with female hormone imbalances. ;)

When I was around 14, I began having severe pain associated with the beginning of my monthly cycle. My cycles had begun at 11 and 1/2, which is considered a little early, a telltale sign of possible issues. After some Google searches (I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents much about it) I discovered that my list of symptoms fit primary dysmenorrhea. The symptoms include: severe cramps affecting the back, stomach and legs, headaches, diarrhea, nausea/vomiting, dizziness and fainting. I experienced all of those.

If I was fortunate, it would happen on a day where I could curl up in bed and just suffer. Sometimes, it would sneak up on me and I would get caught out somewhere, like shopping, at a baseball game, or at the state fair (Yep, those are actual examples that happened to me, the fair was TWICE, two years in a row - while not just with my family, but friends too!!). If I wasn't able to lay down, the symptoms would continue to worsen. If I was laying down, I could usually avoid vomiting and fainting, but when I was stuck in a situation where I tried to pretend I was fine, my body would eventually betray me. I fainted in public twice, but I eventually started to learn that a faint was coming on when my face broke out in a cold sweat and I could feel the blood drain from my face, so I could sit down before I actually blacked out. In the back of my misery-fogged brain, I was always wondering: is this normal? Am I supposed to be suffering like this every month?

Being part of such a health freak family, I didn't think I should have any health issues. My last doctor visit was when I was 2-years-old, and my family hadn't been going to regular medical doctors since. My parents were mostly into the herbal realm of "alternative medicine" and I tried some capsules that my mom gave me one day after she noticed my misery, but they didn't give me much relief, and I wasn't very faithful in taking them. I became so desperate that I considered begging my parents to take me to a doctor. But before I did, I tried to figure out what exactly a doctor would be likely to do and prescribe.

According to everything I could find on the internet, there were only two medical possibilities (besides a hysterectomy, which I didn't consider even for a millisecond). NSAID's (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen, or a contraceptive like the Pill. Since my pain was so severe, I was pretty sure that just an NSAID wouldn't work (and I already knew my parents would say they weren't healthy), so I did more research on contraceptives. Besides the acknowledged possible side effects that sounded almost as bad as my symptoms, I discovered the possibility of struggling with infertility after long-term use of contraceptives. After researching into how contraceptives would actually affect my hormones, and finding that they would basically just be "turning off" my reproductive system, I realized that, just like my parents had always said, medical treatments often only cover up the problem, instead of fixing the real issue.

I was happy to be certain that my pain was NOT a part of normal and healthy menstruation - not just "the way my body works" but a problem. I had discovered that it was a hormone imbalance, and I had a convenient medical label to remind myself that I was actually sick. I decided I wasn't interested in covering up my illness with an unnatural medical solution, so I threw out the idea of requesting that my parents take me to a doctor. I turned back to the herbs my mom suggested with vigor, and determined to look up everything in "the herb book."

"The herb book" is Dr. Christopher's "School of Natural Healing" and it is an incredible resource. I looked up "dysmenorrhea" and there were 37 pages of herbs and formulas just for that, besides plenty of other herbs and formulas for general hormone health. I chose to start with the two main formulas, containing a very large amount of herbs between them, and got up the nerve to ask mom if we could order some bulk herbs specially for the formulas I had chosen. I mixed them myself, with some guidance from my dad who has more experience with herbal remedies than I, then powdered them and added them to my green Superfood drink every day. I began see immediate results in a decrease of symptoms! 
I was thrilled, and I've taken responsibility and control of my own journey to health since then. I'm not going to say that I'll never consult a medical doctor (never say never, you know!) but I will say that a little bit of care and knowledge of your own body goes a long way, and since that day almost 10 years ago when I decided not to beg my parents to put me on birth control, I've grown to feel confident and fearless about what I can do naturally to take care of my health. I believe God has provided everything we need in nature. Herbs aren't really medicine - they're food, with important nutrients that we need to be healthy, and we just need to use them! It's freeing and exciting to feel confident of how to take care of my own body!

Some other protocol that I credit with aiding my complete healing of dysmenorrhea include Oil Pulling, the Maker's Diet and the GAPS Diet. Oil pulling helps detox your entire body, and the Maker's Diet and GAPS Diet both restrict grains and sugar, which helped me a lot as well. I noticed marked improvement from the herbal formulas, but I think following those diets and using oil pulling over the last 2 years is what has helped finish off the process. My monthly experience is now even LESS painful than I imagined "normal" would be! I'm so excited and relieved to be free of that terrible hindrance to my life, and to know that it has been accomplished by healing, rather than covering up the problem! I'm so thankful God used that illness to start me on the path to natural health.

Obviously, I am not a medical doctor, and none of this is medical advice, I'm just sharing what worked for me! If you're suffering with the same issues and interested in taking control over your own health, I'd be happy to talk, and share more of the articles/information I found during my own research, to help you on your journey. Feel free to send me an email, or comment below!

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Books I Read in 2014

Well, I can't believe this year is almost over! It's really flown by, but I did manage to read more this year than I did last year, and I completed half of my resolution from last year! I did actually start a book journal, and kept reviews of what I read. I did NOT read 1 non-fiction for every 5 fiction books, though, but I am pleased that half of my book resolution was successful, and I hope I'll read more non-fiction this year. As usual, I did read the Bible and my two small devotionals every day, and I've been reading in my tuning text book, and selections from the other books required for the course, but I'm not counting those.

Missing 15 and 17 on the list, the flowered book is my journal.

1. Tomorrow by Maria Edgeworth (1823) - Recommend
     I started the year off with a book that shows you the devastation that can occur from procrastination. It was frightening to see what happened to the procrastinating hero due to his bad habit of procrastination about EVERYTHING. Very motivational beginning to the year for me.

2.   Emma by Jane Austen - Recommend
     I've read Emma several times before, of course, this time I was reading it with my younger brother as he was studying British Literature. I'd never noticed before how truly unlikeable and flawed Emma is, I've always forgiven her mistakes and liked her anyway, but this time I was struck by how talented Austen is to create such a realistic and annoying character, and yet make us love her anyway, and even believe that Mr. Knightley could love her. 

3. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis - Recommend
    Sometimes amusing, often sobering, I always enjoy this eye-opening fictional imagination of how demons may try to influence our lives. It's a short book, I read it in one afternoon babysitting while my little charge was napping, and I think it's worth rereading often, as a very useful reminder that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood."

4. Divergent by Veronica Roth - Undecided
    Even though I saw the movie first, and that perhaps gave the movie an unfair advantage in my opinion, I liked the movie better. I couldn't help but compare Roth's style of writing to Suzanne Collins's, and it came up quite inferior. The movie cuts some of the uncomfortable romantic scenes, makes more sense, flows more concisely, has a better characterization of Tris (didn't like book Tris at ALL) and much better personalization of Four/Tobias. Thankfully, I read it so quickly that it wasn't too much of a waste of my time.

5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
    Yes, okay, I disliked Divergent, but I couldn't get the interesting world out of my head, and I wanted to know what happened next without waiting for the movie. It got me through a tedious day in the car. I was disappointed by the lack of character development, and dizzied by the confusing, whirlwind tour of their city. I definitely felt that Roth's already lacking writing abilities took a further decline in this book. 

6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth - Do NOT recommend
   I am ashamed that I caved and read the 3rd book. I had a spoiler for the end, and I didn't enjoy the writing in Insurgent, but I only lasted a week before giving in. I didn't think the writing could get worse, but it did. I didn't think the characters could get worse, but they did. Besides that, she ruined the cool world, threw all kinds of mess in, wrote way too many inappropriate scenes for Tobias and Tris, and did the ending in the absolute worst way possible. It was horrific. I don't think she had a plan for this series past the first book, and I sometimes wondered if she'd even had an editor.

7. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - Recommend
   After all that awfulness, I decided to read a good classic. We watched the lovely miniseries, which is what finally inspired me to plunge into another Dickens. Well, actually, it inspired Sarah, and I had to wait for her to finish before I could read our copy. I've read Dickens before, and had begun to think that I would rather just read Austen. Well, Austen may be easier to digest, but after LD, I fully appreciate Dickens! This was a very good read, and in spite of the daunting length, a good intro book for someone just starting Dickens, I think. Great Expectations is shorter, but I didn't enjoy it nearly as well. Little Amy was a wonderful character. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, even though I expected to like it in the first place!

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Undecided
    I actually took a short break in between book 1 and book 2 of Little Dorrit to read this, because Sarah wanted to see the movie, and she insisted that I read the book first. I wasn't even sure I wanted to read or see a story about two cancer patients who fall in love (I could tell from the trailer it was going to contain death and sadness) and if it weren't for Shailene Woodley, I probably wouldn't have. I went in steeled against any tear-jerking, and not one tear did I shed. I enjoyed the funny parts, but the sad parts didn't touch me, not even a lump in my throat. (The movie was different, that did wrench some emotion from me...) It was well-written, but definitely not very appropriate, and one I won't likely read again.

9. Death by the Book by Julianna Deering - Recommend
    My fun summer read! I enjoy Deering's vintage-style murder mysteries very much. I was a little disturbed by the motive for the murder, and who the murderer was, but I guess murder should always be disturbing. The Christian additions are nice, not too preachy, and it's pleasant to have a good, Christian character to rely on in one's hero.

10. Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering - Recommend
      Second fun summer read! I enjoyed the mystery better in this one, but the characters got a little stale, and the conflict was mostly irritating, and seemed like nothing more than a silly plot manipulation, because I knew it would work out fine in the end. Looking forward to more!

11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Can't let a year go by without reading P&P at least once! This time I was taking notes on income, numbers and signs of social status (servants, etc.) as research for a post I hope to do soon about why the 2005 P&P makes the Bennets look too poor and the wrong social status. I also noticed more of what was happening with Mr. Collins, and also Elizabeth's interest in Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam. I hadn't really realized before that Wickham and Colonel Fitzwilliam were almost sort of suitors, and that Elizabeth would possibly have entertained the notion of accepting one of them, had they asked her! I still can't choose a favorite Austen, but I do love P&P.

12. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe - Recommend
      Though it has only the dubious recommendation of Harriet Smith, I enjoyed Udolpho last year and decided to read another Radcliffe. I was amazed at some of the scenes that were clearly parodied in Northanger! For some reason I felt that it was mostly Udolpho being parodied, but clearly it was the entire genre, and there is actually a scene in Romance that nearly exactly appears in Northanger - when Catherine discovered the papers and then her candle is extinguished! Except, of course, in Romance is actually a tale of woe and horror, and not just laundry lists. So much fun to read! And it makes Northanger SO much funnier to understand the gothic novel! Anyone who likes Northanger at all should read at least one gothic novel.

13. The Giver by Lois Lowry - Recommend
      Yet another on my list of dystopian fiction this year. This one was written a while ago, and it's a nice, short book. The background, whys and reasoning aren't explained really, but it's an interesting commentary on humanity and feelings. It made an interesting movie, too.

14. The Maze Runner by James Dashner - Undecided
      I guess I could label this year as "the year of dystopian addiction in which no story was quite as satisfactory as the Hunger Games." Maze Runner is basically for guys... a little too sci-fi for my taste, very lacking in character development, the monsters are ridiculous... and that's saying something compared to the HG creatures. Another book where the movie was better, I think, sadly. I liked the main character better in the movie, anyway.

15. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      I am a little ashamed to announce that this was my first Christie. I grew up reading all kinds of mysteries, Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, Boxcar kids, Mandie, Bobbsey twins... and I've watched a lot of Marple and Poirot, but never read it until now. Oh my goodness, what I was missing out on! Christie isn't called the queen of mystery for nothing! It was fabulous, and the characters are amazingly realistic. Must read more!

16. Scorch Trials by James Dashner - Not recommended
      Even with Christie fresh in my mind, somehow my weird addiction to dystopian drew me back to the uncompelling Maze Runner series. This book has a terrible case of middle book syndrome, where the world and plot got more ridiculous and tedious. As if the first book wasn't distasteful enough for me, this one throws in a zombie-like element. I wondered the whole time why I was even reading it.

17. The Death Cure by James Dashner - Not recommended
      You're not surprised. I finished Roth's series, why not find out how this ends? It was a very unsatisfying finale. New levels of gross were reached, one of the characters that I was finally starting to like met a gruesome end when I was hoping he'd be saved, and the plot was tired and uninteresting. I thought there would be a twist, but there wasn't. I may not even watch the movie, thankfully I have a few years to get over my dystopian addiction. 

18. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie -Recommend
      Nothing much to say since I don't want to spoil the mystery, again, a truly enthralling mystery. I really enjoy Christie's writing style, and hope to read every single one, eventually!

19. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie - Recommend
      In an interesting change for me, this book was from Hastings's perspective! Christie's writing talent can handle many switches I imagine, this book was just as delightful as the others. I can't believe I waited so long to start, thinking they would be boring! Oh my!

20. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - Recommend
      Taking a little break from Christie to read some less mind-exercising literature... I can't let a year pass by without reading S&S any more than I could P&P. I can't choose a favorite book, but one thing I have decided, Elinor is my Austen role model. I think I am naturally too much like the negative parts of Lizzy, and I wish to be more like Elinor. Her strength, and effort for serenity through her suffering is inspiring.

21. Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss - Recommend
      I love the growth and alteration in the heroine as she becomes more and more like Christ. Her early days are much like I tend to be, willful, defiant and fiery, and through the grace of God becomes a sweet, faithful, totally surrendered woman of God. It's so inspiring, and I hope that I may grow to be so changed. I intend to read this book more often.

22. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - Recommend
      This was my second time reading N&S, and I enjoyed it so much better! The movie, while very enjoyable, did not give me a good opinion of Margaret, so it took the second read for me to develop my own character for her, and I found that I liked her very much! But Mr. Thornton is still my favorite. Richard Armitage did a great job in the movie, but the script really didn't do his character justice either. The book is so much better!

23. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - Recommend
      I decided to round out the year by another read through of what is definitely the funniest Austen. It was funny enough the first time I read it, some of Mr. Tilney's lines make me laugh out loud, and Catherine is such a funny heroine, but it is even funnier now that I understand the gothic novels it's parodying! Such fun.

How many of these books have you read? What's on your To-Read list for 2015? Happy New Year!