Posted in Life

Vacation!

Last weekend my friend GG and I went on vacation to see Letchworth State Park in New York. It was so beautiful. Waterfalls and trees and bridges and a huge canyon. And it’s very big; we were there for two days and only saw a little bit of the park. Pictures don’t do it justice, but have a smattering anyway.

This is also a good time to be briefly sappy and mention that Thursday will be the tenth anniversary of the day GG and I met in person for the first time. Back then going on entire vacations together was only a dream, and now here we are. I’m so grateful for her.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

In God’s Image

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
So God created man
in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female.
– Genesis 1:26-27

A thought, brought on by a few different things I’ve read recently:

We say being created in God’s image can’t be about how we look, because God is spirit. It must be about mind or emotions or morals or relationships or whatever.

And then when God describes himself as having arms, hands, eyes, a back, etc., we say he doesn’t really have those things, he’s just giving us descriptions we can understand.

And I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I’m sure God being spirit adds aspects physical finite humans can’t grasp. I wouldn’t say other aspects of humanity aren’t involved.

But maybe we do, in fact, look like God. Maybe we’re making it more complicated than it needs to be.

Posted in Life

This Time it Was a Costume Party

Fun fact:

My friend GG and I decided a while ago we should show up to her family’s annual Hobbit party dressed as polar bears and tell people we were Tolkien and Lewis. I made us some polar bear hat/scarves. We found ourselves some professor-ish outfits.

And we looked fabulous.

Some people got the reference.

Posted in Christianity, Life, Thoughts

Grief as Faith

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
– Lamentations 3:20

Among encouraging things and words praising God, this verse is highlighted in my Bible app. Because there are times when life is just sad.

There are Christians who insist trusting God means they’re happy all the time. They never feel discouraged. Every day can be a good day.

But when your child is dying, or your friend has decided you can’t be friends anymore, or a flood has destroyed your home, or you’ve been fired for refusing to lie for your boss, or insurance won’t pay for your anxiety meds, or any other of the uncountable painful things that happen worldwide every day, and you DON’T ever feel crushed by the weight of how utterly awful life can be… I don’t know, that sounds more like unhealthy denial than faith to me.

Because you know what’s part of faith? Believing what God has told us about the world. And he has told us the world isn’t right.

He made the world as a very good place. But now there’s sin, and sin is such a problem the solution involved Jesus himself coming to die. Sin hurts us, and hurts those around us, sometimes in waves that spread out farther than we can see. And sin produced death, and death hurts. And sin inserted pain into our work and our childbearing. I think it’s likely more things than we realize about life that we consider normal weren’t meant to be that way at all.

When we mourn and we ache, we acknowledge to God, consciously or not, “This isn’t right. Life shouldn’t hurt like this. You are right that the world isn’t meant to be this way.”

God offers his children peace beyond understanding among the horrors of life. But there is a difference between plastering on false “this is fine” smiles as your world burns down around you and resting in your trust that God is with you through the fire and he will be with you still at the end of it.

Because there will be an end. He has promised to fix things. Our grief reminds him of that promise, begs him for it.

Sometimes we see pieces of healing in this life. Pain eases. Cancer goes into remission. Relationships are reconciled. In the gospels, we never see someone ask Jesus for healing and not receive it. Never.

But those healed people still eventually died. More hurt comes. We grieve again and we remind God again that this hurt is wrong and that he has promised to fix it. Jesus came back to life, and he is still alive, the firstfruits of that promise. So we wait for the new heaven and new earth, when, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:3-4).

Gone forever. He will make everything new. But he hasn’t yet, and while we wait, sometimes grief is faith.

Posted in Life

Happy Birthday, D! (The Eighth)

Thursday is my friend D’s birthday. In celebration, here are her funny quotes that I have collected over the past year.

I ended up with some boy’s shorts that are my reminder that I do, in fact, have female thighs despite what a stick I am.

I tried to not mention the Nazis, but I couldn’t.

Also, does one tithe lottery winnings? This is something I have never needed to contemplate before.
[I shall mention for the record that these were not her own lottery winnings. XD]

The most unrealistic thing about this book isn’t that the police share their secrets with a crime club of elderly people. Rather, it’s that every time anyone talked about the early 2000s, they knew and believed that it was twenty years ago, didn’t have to stop and do the math to convince themselves, and never marveled over how shocking this was.

I also remember misreading the Josh Harris title “Sex is Not the Problem: Lust Is” as “Sex is Not the Problem: Us Is.” I thought it was horrendous grammar. It was just shelved up high and had a really narrow font. It’s good theology, but very bad grammar. I eventually figured it out.

Buying used books is like playing the slot machine. It’s so addictive to check my ThriftBooks wish list.

Levels of distress vary, but no one has ever enjoyed wearing pantyhose, at least to my knowledge. It does baffle me, though, that women were so upset by the shortage during WWII when all nylon was used for the war effort. They should have been embracing their freedom. Which reminds me that when I went through one of my dresser drawers a while back, I wished that I’d had a time machine to teleport my unreasonably large, unwanted collection of pantyhose to the 40s, when someone would have appreciated it.

Also, for someone who has no musical ability and extremely limited musical tastes, I feel VERY strongly about the songs I like.

I want to be the lab rat of the year.

According to Goodreads, people who enjoyed this book also liked Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. I must run out and get it at once!

826063

Regarding the book Heaven to Betsy: High school may have been heaven to Betsy, but this book was purgatory to me.

Basically, I was a complete snoop, and then I discovered blogs. Blogs! Where people shared all of the details of their personal lives for random strangers on the Internet to read! I was enthralled. No more did I fall into sin or deception in order to snoop into people’s personal lives. It was all there for the taking. Glorious.

I hit my favorite spots in the Dewey Decimal System, and look what I found!

Deciding which parts of her own stories to share with someone: So, basically, I’m a library school student who is super into censorship! 😃😃

Wow. As deeply weird as I am now, I was weirder in 2015.

After playing a game where one designs odd inventions, which lets you order items featuring your designs if you so desire: If you want to, you can get the murderer’s helper kit on a t-shirt!

I would like to say again that I don’t think Martin Luther would have written so much about his struggles with constipation if he knew we’d still be reading his letters 500 years later.

For more, see:
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Posted in Christianity

Seen

I love the story of Jesus healing the man born blind in John 9. I think the once-blind man’s personality shines through as he defends Jesus’ actions to the angry Pharisees. They claim Jesus is a sinner, since he’s been healing on the Sabbath. The man is amazed and insists Jesus must be from God, since he can do such amazing things. This beggar stands up to powerful people with wisdom and sass, and it’s great.

When they respond by throwing him out of the synagogue, Jesus comes to find the blind man again, asking if he believes in the Son of Man.

“Who is he, Sir, that I may believe in him?”

And Jesus answers: “You have seen him.”

You’ve seen him!

Here this man is, probably going around soaking in everything about this whole sense in awe. Everything is new. People. Sheep. Flowers. Houses. Figs. Clothing. Dirt. Fingernails. Dirt under fingernails. Everything he has smelled and touched and heard and tasted his whole life suddenly has an entirely new dimension. And one of his first sights is the Messiah his people have been waiting for for generations.

What a wonder.

“I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped him.

Posted in Writings

Some Flangst

I’m currently very annoyed at the complete lack of emotion in the book I’m reading. Thankfully I’m almost done and will be able to move on with my life soon. In the meantime, I’m going to share a fluffy/angsty one-shot I managed to write all in one go the other night that I think contains more emotion than that whole book.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, perhaps you recall Blaze, one of the characters in a story I shared a couple years ago. Here he’s all grown up and has a girlfriend. I think they’re pretty cute. (And fairly shippy, don’t be too scandalized. XD)

I don’t have a song to go with this one. Or a title. So… jump right in, I guess.

Jen’s visit had been planned long before all Blaze’s siblings decided they wanted to tag along on Gavin’s week-long business trip to the Hamptons, but that didn’t stop her from feeling guilty as she watched Blaze bury his face in Ash’s shoulder at the airport, trying not to cry.

“We could have rescheduled,” she said when Blaze got back in the car. “Or gone with them.”

He met her gaze with teary eyes and said, “I want to spend time with you. I do.”

She appreciated how much she believed him.

And after the airport, he was good for a while, happy and energetic and himself. But she could see the shift when they hit the fourth day and ticked over into the longest he’d ever been separated from all his siblings. And she didn’t think he’d been sleeping well in his bedroom alone.

It wasn’t too much work to persuade him she was ready for a quiet evening in. He let her pick the movie, and she chose something slow-paced. Turned off most of the lights in the living room. Sat in the corner of the couch and held out her arms to demand a hug so Blaze would lean on her. Her scheming paid off when Blaze ended up fast asleep with his head in her lap. She buried her fingers in his excellent hair and watched the movie herself, satisfied.

The credits rolled, the menu screen returned, and she muted the TV so the music loop wouldn’t drive her crazy. With one hand she scrolled through Pinterest on her phone, absentmindedly playing with Blaze’s hair with the other.

Blaze stirred restlessly in his sleep, and Jen looked down to find his expression distraught. Before she decided if she should do something about that, he was awake, searching his surroundings with wide scared eyes, then reaching up to hide his face in his hands after he saw her. Colors from the TV flickered over his skin.

“What happened?” Jen asked, putting down her phone so she could move one hand to his shoulder and keep one in his hair. He’d been so relaxed, but his muscles had gone all tense.

“Bad dream,” he mumbled, voice a little choked.

“Does that happen a lot?”

“Not as much as it used to. Mostly when… when none of my siblings are around.”

Jen’s heart hurt as she stroked his shoulder. He chose to stay with her, knowing this might happen. “What do you dream about?” she asked quietly.

She felt him take a deep breath. “Usually it’s Ash getting shot. Sometimes Kai and Star, too. And Dad is standing there doing nothing about it.”

Jen hated hated hated that Blaze had the memories to fuel that. But she loved that he would tell her these things when she asked. “Why don’t you call one of them and remind yourself that they’re okay?”

After a pause, Blaze dug his phone out of the couch cushions. Jen expected him to get up, but he stayed where he was while he dialed Star. “I miss you,” he said when she answered.

The short conversation was only trivial, but Blaze’s voice sounded steadier by the time he and his sister exchanged I love yous and hung up. He tossed his phone onto the coffee table, and they watched it slide almost to the other edge. Then he said, “I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?” Jen asked.

“Because I’m pathetic. I love you this much, and I still can’t spend four days with just you without having nightmares because I miss my family.”

“Do you want to know a secret?”

“Sure,” Blaze said wearily.

“Men who love their families are hot.”

This got the surprised laugh she wanted.

“I don’t think you’re pathetic. I think you’re brave, and I love that you want to be here with me anyway.”

“I do. I just want them here, too.”

“Nothing wrong with that.” Jen kissed the tip of her finger and pressed it against his nose. “Your room has all those bunkbeds, right?”

Blaze looked up at her. “Yeah.”

“Then I’m going to sleep in one so you don’t have to be alone.”

He closed his eyes. “Thank you.”

“We’ll be like kids and have a sleepover. I’m guessing you never did one of those, so I’ll inform you that they consist of staying up way too late giggling about people you think are attractive.”

“Hmm,” he said. “Well, there’s this real cute girl who picks up five movies from the library every other Friday…”

“Great, you’ll have to tell me all about her. But you’ll have to let me up first.”

“Maybe later.” His eyes were still closed, but there was a smile on his face now.

“Fine, I can wait.” Jen picked up her phone. “Gives me time to browse my Pinterest board of attractive actors.”

Posted in Christianity, Life

Let Me Brag on My Student for a Minute…

Last Wednesday, my Bible class student and I reached the story of Abigail intervening to prevent David from killing her husband Nabal and his whole household after Nabal is unnecessarily rude to David (1 Samuel 25). This follows right on the heels of David sparing Saul’s life in the cave, despite Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David (1 Samuel 24). What an interesting contrast, right? It’s something I don’t remember noticing until I was prepping for these lessons, but I intended to point it out.

And when David set out to kill Nabal, before I could say anything about it, my student exclaimed, “But he just saved Saul!”

I was SO PROUD. So proud.

We talked about that and then went on. I could see her squirming discomfort and concern at everything David said. And at last she blurted out, “Does God like this???” When I told her no, she said, “But he has to do what God says! Or he won’t be king anymore and then they won’t have ANY king!” – connecting it all back to God’s choice of David to replace Saul when Saul turned his back on obeying God (1 Samuel 15-16).

At last Abigail put her oar in and got things straightened out and there was relief for a while… Until Nabal died and David and Abigail got married. “But he’s already married!” Yuuuuuuuuuup, it’s not what God wanted, but sometimes people married multiple wives anyway. “Like Hannah.” Yes, Hannah’s husband had another wife, good job remembering. “But David is a GOOD guy!” He is, but that doesn’t mean he got everything right. That’s why Jesus came and died for us, isn’t it, even the best people don’t get everything right?

It was all fantastic. I love seeing her learn and think and remember and make connections and begin to process hard things. It’s so cool and fascinating and I’m so thankful I get to be involved in it.

Posted in Life

Great Books I’ve Read in 2021 – Part 2

55277853. sx318 Napoleon vs. the Bunnies by Jenny Fox, illustrated by Anna Kwan
This adorable picture book tells the apparently true story of Napoleon facing a bunch of bunnies. They had been rounded up for a hunt, but they were domesticated instead of wild and ran toward the hunting party instead of away. It seems the tough commander wasn’t so fond of bunnies.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s a great story by itself, and the text is clever and humorous with fun illustrations that suit it well.

53399305A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
Set in England during WWII, A Place to Hang the Moon follows three orphaned children sent away from London into the countryside in hopes of them finding a new for-keeps family while they’re there. Though I found this setup a tad ridiculous, it works okay for the middle grade book this is, and it was quite enjoyable otherwise. The children have very cute but realistic sibling relationships. (They reminded me of some of my own characters.) They bounce around between a few different families who are problematic in their different ways before ending up with the lonely town librarian, who is very happy to keep them forever. It’s sweet.

55566969A Brief Theology of Periods (Yes, Really) by Rachel Jones
Yes, really.
I saw it and was curious, and I was pleased to find it an excellent book. It’s not fluff written just for the sake of an attention-grabbing title. Rachel Jones discusses her topic with thoughtful compassion and depth. She does her utmost to make it relevant to all kinds of women: different ages, different situations, different experiences with periods. She also strikes a good balance of understanding and accepting the physical causes of emotional struggles that can accompany periods without excusing sin, but also without endlessly beating yourself up when you have been forgiven.
I appreciated her points about how Christian men can be compassionate and helpful to their sisters in Christ, though I don’t expect many men will read them. (If you are a man and don’t want to read an entire book, Rachel Jones’ article Seven Things Every Christian Man Should Know about Periods summaries some of it.)
Overall, a unique and interesting book.

192686The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker
I remembered reading this when I was younger and wanted to pick it up again. It’s a collection of shorter books, mostly published in the early 1900s. They feature beautiful illustrations of fairies and flowers, each with a short accompanying poem. Cicely Barker based the paintings on real children, and they are lifelike and expressive and all unique. The flowers are very realistic as well; I suspect you could identify flowers by comparing them to the illustrations. Between all the eight shorter books, only a few flowers are repeated, and always with a new illustration and poem.
The Mallow Fairy is my favorite painting:

49247292Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
This is an enjoyable middle grade book about two ordinary children who stumble into a magical and odd world; there are The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland vibes. It’s the first in a series, The Up-and-Under; the next book comes out in October. Although this isn’t quite my jam (I’m not big on not knowing stuff, so mysterious characters who only ever give confusing answers to questions and never explain what’s going on can annoy me), I still found it pretty fun, and I think you could read it just by itself and like it.
But I want to talk about its backstory.
35965482. sx318 This book is basically a character in another book. Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is one of the coolest books I’ve read in a long time. I loved the setup. Didn’t love the second half quite as much, but that’s because it’s not what I would done with the plot, not because it was bad. XD (Though also, annoyingly, the characters swore a lot more once they became adults, and I could have done without that.) To attempt to sum up, the villain is an alchemist trying to control the world. His mentor, Asphodel Baker (she’s dead now (but is she???)), had figured out a way to do this, but people would not take her seriously so she was never able to do as much with her knowledge as she wanted. But one thing she DID do, in a classic “if the adults won’t listen to you, indoctrinate the children” move, was publish a children’s book series. The Up-and-Under. By A. Deborah Baker.
Those books are referenced and quoted all through Middlegame. You pick up enough about them that they wouldn’t need to actually exist. But now the author is writing and publishing this fictional book series. Under the relevant pen name. Even Over the Woodward Wall‘s dedication is in character for Asphodel Baker.
I think it’s so cool. Such an excellent level of extra.

For more book recommendations, click here.