Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"To be ashamed of what you were about to say, to pretend that something which you had meant seriously was only a joke--this is an ignoble part. But it is better than not to be ashamed at all. And the distinction between pretending you are better than you are and beginning to be better in reality is finer than moral sleuthhounds conceive....When a boor first enters the society of courteous people what can he do, for a while, except imitate the motions? How can he learn except by imitation?"

~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~

Monday, August 21, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : The Hiding Place

Wow. Easily one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. 
Let's talk about The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.
The Hiding Place is Corrie ten Boom's own story of surviving the horrific second World War. In this precious gem of a book, we learn all about Corrie's sweet family and their simple life at her beloved Beje, the invasion and occupation of Holland by Nazi Germany, Corrie's involvement and adventures with the illegal underground network that existed during the war to help those hunted and persecuted by the Germans, her arrest and imprisonment which eventually landed her in a women's concentration camp in Germany, and finally her release and her life-giving work after the war. Throughout the entire book are woven the beautiful truths of God's love, hope, forgiveness, joy, grace given just when it is needed, and, impossibly, His perfect goodness.

I have never before felt such opposite emotions all tangled up together inside me while reading one book. The shining blessing of the hope Christ offers contrasts sharply against the ugly despair of the capacity humans have for cruelty. I wavered between being thrilled by the exciting tales of bravery and adventure and being filled with dread and heartache that these events actually happened and that there is so much wickedness in our world. I was inspired and humbled by Corrie and Betsie ten Boom's unshakeable faith in God. I did not make it through one chapter of this book without crying, many times having to put the book down to find a tissue before I could even see through the tears to keep reading. It is quite possibly the most captivating, heartbreaking book I have ever read, and I would not just recommend it, I would urge you to read it.

Have you read The Hiding Place or any of Corrie ten Boom's books? Did you ever get to meet her or hear her speak? She died a few years before I was born, but I'm so thankful that I got to meet her in the pages of this beautiful book. Have any of you been to the crooked house and watchshop on the Barteljorisstraat in Holland and gotten to peek into the secret room?

"There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still."
- Corrie ten Boom -

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"What I like about experience is that it is such an honest thing. You may take any number of wrong turnings; but keep your eyes open and you will not be allowed to go very far before the warning signs appear. You may have deceived yourself, but experience is not trying to deceive you. The universe rings true wherever you fairly test it."

~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Tuesday Confession

I know this post isn't going to win me any friends, but I am not on board with this whole essential oils craze.
My friends are all, "Don't you want to get rid of all these toxic chemical cleaners you use and be healthy?" and I'm all, "Pass the bleach and excuse me while I spray everything in my house with Lysol."
It hasn't killed me yet.
In fact, I'd argue that thanks to all these wonderfully effective, bacteria-murdering cleaners, our lifespans have lengthened and our quality of living has improved.
But that's just me.
You do you.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : Hamlet

To be, or not to be: that is the question. Time for a recap of Hamlet and fun fact: last year I read my Shakespearean comedy in February and my tragedy in August, and that's what I ended up doing again this year. Not planned. Ha! 

Anyway, if you're not familiar with the drill around here, generally my recaps do not give any major plot points away but when it comes to Shakespeare, I basically give the CliffsNotes version. So what I'm saying is SPOILERS. If you don't want to know how everything ends, scram.

And speaking of how it all ends: everybody dies. Literally. Everybody. But let's back up a little.

At the beginning of the play, we learn that Hamlet's father (the king of Denmark) has recently died and in very little time, his mother (the queen) married his uncle (the new king). Yuck. Hamlet is obviously reeling with all this and grieving his father's death.

Hamlet's BFF Horatio sees Hamlet's father's ghost and takes Hamlet to see him as well. When the ghost appears to Hamlet, they have a little heart-to-heart about how he really died. Hamlet's uncle murdered him and now he's counting on Hamlet to get vengeance. 

Well, Hamlet starts acting crazy and everyone thinks he's plumb lost his mind. The King and Queen commission Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to figure out what's wrong with him, but Hamlet sees through that charade and doesn't give anything up to those two goons. 

Before he goes all Inigo Montoya on his uncle, Hamlet decides to put on a little play for his mom and uncle to see if his ghost daddy is for real or from the Devil. He basically writes a play depicting what supposedly went down in real life (his uncle poisoning his brother the king and marrying the queen and becoming king himself) to see how his uncle will react.

His uncle is GUILTY

The Queen calls her son into her closet to ask what this is all about while the King monologues about how he's being eaten alive with the guilt and what is he going to do about Hamlet who is obviously on to him and blah blah blah

While Hamlet is closeted with his mother, he inadvertently kills Polonius who is eavesdropping on their conversation. (That's what you get for meddling, Polonius.) The King and Queen ultimately decide to send Hamlet away to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern "for his own good". The king, however, also sends a missive with R&G basically ordering Hamlet's execution. Hamlet's no dope though so he switches out the king's orders with a message of his own that the letter bearers should be executed. (The letter bearers are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern for anyone who's starting to get a little lost.) Hamlet doesn't even feel bad about it because R&G are totally #TeamKing instead of #TeamHamlet. 

In the meantime, Laertes has come back to avenge his father Polonius' death. He finds that his sister Ophelia (Hamlet's one true love) has gone insane which adds more fuel to his fire. He concocts a plot with the King to invite Hamlet to a friendly duel in which Laertes will poison his sword so that when he strikes Hamlet, Hamlet will definitely die. And the King will poison Hamlet's drink, just for good measure. 

We have a whole little scene with Hamlet, Horatio, and two grave-digging clowns in which Hamlet talks to a bunch of skulls. Whatever.

Then we have Ophelia's funeral. Did I mention Ophelia committed suicide? Laertes, in his grief-stricken state,  actually jumps in the grave with her at which point, Hamlet can't take it and jumps in too because the love of 40,000 brothers can't even come close to the love he had for Ophelia. Hamlet and Laertes go at each other, but the King pulls Laertes off Hamlet and is all, "Stick to the plan, bro." Everybody makes nice and goes their separate ways.

Next we have Osric coming to get Hamlet to participate in the duel with Laertes. The duel is presented to Hamlet as a friendly wager, no big deal. Hamlet goes to the duel (against his better judgment) and what do you think happens? 

The Queen accidentally drinks the poison meant for Hamlet and dies.
Laertes stabs Hamlet with his poison sword, but they scuffle, Hamlet ends up with the poison sword and stabs Laertes back. Laertes feels bad about the whole thing and confesses all to Hamlet with his dying breath. Laertes dies.
Hamlet uses the last of his strength to stab the King with the poison sword, the King dies.
Hamlet says a few last words to Horatio about how he'll be remembered and dies. 

To sum up:
Polonius dies.
Ophelia dies.
The Queen dies.
Laertes dies.
The King dies.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die.
Hamlet dies.

Everybody dies. 

Oh and then Fortinbras shows up with his army, but that's a whole different story that was going on throughout the entire play and I just didn't really care about it that much.

Hamlet is the longest play I've read so far and the second tragedy. Of the two tragedies, I personally liked Macbeth better, but Hamlet was also very good. Even though everyone dies, Hamlet seemed lighter and more comical than Macbeth. 

Read it, it's Shakespeare. 

I'm leaning towards Othello for my 2018 tragedy, but I'm open to suggestions. What do you think? Have you read Hamlet? What's your favorite Shakespearean tragedy?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"County Down in the holidays and Surrey in the term--it was an excellent contrast. 
Perhaps, since their beauties were such that even a fool could not force them into comparison, 
this cured me once and for all of the pernicious tendency to compare and to prefer--an operation that does little good even when we are dealing with works of art 
and endless harm when we are dealing with nature. 
Total surrender is the first step toward the fruition of either. 
Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. 
Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all."

~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy~

Monday, August 7, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : The Three Musketeers

I did it. I made it to the end of this never-ending book. And in all fairness, the second half went much faster than the first, and the last 20 chapters or so were downright spellbinding. But for all that, I'm still not sure I can forgive Dumas for that tedious build. I mean, technically, I started this monster in March, and hey-o, it's August. Oy. 

Let's start by talking a bit about the author, Alexandre Dumas. He lived from 1802 to 1870, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. His works have been translated into nearly 100 languages, and his novels have been adapted since the early 20th century into something like 200 films. Although Dumas was wildly successful during his lifetime and came from an aristocratic background, he did deal with discrimination due to his ancestry although that didn't slow him down with the ladies. Despite being married, he had at least 40 mistresses and 7 illegitimate children. 

Which brings me to one of my biggest hangups with The Three Musketeers. Even though it's historically the tradition of upperclass Frenchmen to go around having as many affairs as they want (as the author himself clearly had plenty of experience with), it certainly doesn't make it morally acceptable and, for me, it was downright repugnant. I could not get into any of the "romance" of The Three Musketeers because it was all extramarital. Ugh. It was very hard to have any sympathy for Madame Bonacieux's predicament, and I absolutely couldn't care less about any of D'Artagnan's heartbreaks throughout the novel. Same goes for the poor little Queen and her unfortunate lover Buckingham. About the only characters I could get into were Athos (what a rockstar despite his propensity for alcohol) and Monsieur de Tréville (not exactly a major character, but maybe that's why I liked him--I didn't know enough to give me a reason not to like him). 

But getting back to some more facts about the novel itself, The Three Musketeers was first published serially between March and July of 1844, and, from what I understand, Dumas got paid by the line (hence that tedious build I mentioned earlier). The Three Musketeers was actually a collaboration between Dumas and Auguste Maquet who worked with Dumas on many of his novels. Although Maquet took Dumas to court in order to get authorial credit and more money, he never received a by-line (but he did succeed in getting more money). 

The Three Musketeers follows our young Gascon gentleman D'Artagnan in his quest to become a Musketeer in the King's Guards. He secures the friendship of the three most famous and popular Musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and (although we have to endure a lot of buildup to figure it out) they ultimately work together against the diabolical Milady which is the main conflict and storyline of the novel.

Like I've said (several times now), the first half is long, wearisome, and (in my opinion) boring. It was very hard to stay awake anytime I sat down with it. The second half was much more entertaining, and at the end I couldn't put it down and even stayed up till midnight one night last week reading page after page until I just couldn't keep my eyes open another second. All in all, I could take it or leave it. As far as recommendations go, meh. If you are going to read it, stick it out because the end is very good. If you aren't going to read it, I really don't think you're missing much and you could spend your time on much better literary pursuits. If I had to rate this one, I'd give it a 3 out of 5 stars. Not phenomenal, not terrible. 

Have you ever read The Three Musketeers or anything else by Dumas? What did you think? The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo are both on my shelf and my Life List, but now I'm not looking forward to them quite as much. I'll probably take a break from Dumas next year and maybe try him again in 2019. Has anyone read both The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo and, if so, is The Count of Monte Cristo better, worse, or about the same? 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Happy Birthday to My Loves!

Happy Birthday, my honey! I love you forever!
And Happy Birthday, Najati! You are so special to us!
I'd also like to take today to direct your attention to the right side of your screen (if you are viewing my blog on your phone, you're going to need to scroll down to the bottom and change to the web view). Have you noticed that Compassion box? As you can see, Cody shares a birthday with our oldest girl Najati. She lives in Tanzania, and today, she turns 14 years old. We love her dearly and pray for her consistently. We write her letters, and she writes us back. I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a child in need. You will change his or her life for the better and fall in love in the process. We hope to be able to visit Najati one day, but we may never get to hug her this side of Heaven. If you have questions about how this all works, I would love to talk to you more about this amazing ministry. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Casual Fridays

First of all, I finished The Three Musketeers this week. I was not expecting this book to be as challenging to get through as it was, and I'm pretty proud of myself for sticking it out to page 700. 700 pages, y'all! 67 chapters. It was so long. There will be a recap up Monday and then it's good riddance to D'Artagnan & Co. 

But moving on, last weekend Cody and I drove up to Alabama to spend some time with my brother and sister and niece. It is so nice to have them within driving distance again. Japan is just too far away. 
We had a blast together (like we always do), and y'all. I rolled a TRIPLE YAHTZEE in ONE GAME. I don't know if you've ever played Yahtzee or not, but that's a big deal. As you can clearly see, my niece just keeps getting cuter and cuter and check out those diva shades she's rocking. I mean, really. I just can't. 

I'm planning to knock out Hamlet this week and then get started on The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. I've already met my official goal of reading 12 books this year, but I still have 5 more from my original list to go. I'm attempting to finish all the books from my 2017 list in October (which is when the new RJG book comes out) so that I can read whatever I want in November and December. It's possible, right? 

What have you been up to lately? Reading any good books right now? Don't forget to stop by Monday for my recap of The Three Musketeers! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"Conceal your wounds when you have any; 
silence is the last joy of the unhappy. 
Beware of giving anyone the clue to your griefs; 
the curious suck our tears as flies suck the blood of a wounded heart."

~from The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas~