Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"As the woman in the Bible who had suffered from hemorrhages during twelve long years, 
I too, longed to touch this Jesus, all the while trembling, 
not from apprehension that He would reject me, 
but that I would find Him as I feared He was. 
As Zacchaeus, I wanted to climb a tree so that I might see Him better, 
but at the same time, I feared He would turn His illuminated face towards me, 
and that He would call me by name. 
Such was the delicious fear that the Person of Jesus awakened in me." 

~Dr. Jamel Attar~

Monday, March 26, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Masterpiece

Well. I've read yet another book that was not on my 2018 book list. But you know what: I finished a presidential biography this month and I'm plugging away pretty steadily at Anna Karenina and I have completed 6 whole books from my original list so who cares? Of course I'm going to ditch my list when one of my favorite authors publishes a brand new book. I'm just proud of myself for even holding out long enough to finish J.Mad while this gem was sitting on my shelf waiting for me. So there. 

That being said, let's talk about Francine Rivers' newest book The Masterpiece which was just published last month. In this novel, we meet Roman Velasco and Grace Moore: two people who couldn't be more different from one another....or so we think. Velasco is a troubled artist, and Grace is a young, single mom trying to get her life together enough to raise her son. Throughout the book, we get glimpses into their childhoods and learn about the events that brought them to where they are today. This story deals with abandonment, loss, anger, redemption, and the power that God has over the darkness. 

I loved it.

Francine Rivers was inducted into the Romance Writers' of America Hall of Fame in 1997 so let's not kid ourselves: I knew where the story was heading. But that didn't make it any less of a pleasure to read. I couldn't put this novel down until I was done with it, and I finished the almost 500 page story in less than 3 days (I mean, I still had to cook dinner and do my job, you guys, I'm not a wizard). I especially appreciated how Rivers dealt with a very difficult and unpopular subject: Hell. She did not shy away from the very real existence of a place of eternal damnation and even included a note in the book making a point to say that although God's love is real, so is His holiness and righteousness. Believing in or talking about Hell is certainly not in vogue in our believe-your-own-truth and everybody-goes-to-Heaven society. But God is just and if you reject Him, you will spend eternity separated from Him. 

I would definitely recommend this book, as I would all Francine Rivers' books. I've yet to read one that didn't suck me in. (Though if we're being completely honest, the Sons of Encouragement series rank last and The Atonement Child and the Mark of the Lion series are my favs.) While these books are certainly Christian and I personally don't think Francine Rivers crosses any lines in her writing, her books deal with some tough subjects and are most definitely written for adults so if you happen to be younger than 18 and reading this post, maybe check with your mom before reading one. I know I started reading Rivers' novels in high school, but I suppose not every parent would want their kids reading this until they reached a certain age. 

Two thumbs up, all the stars, and whatever other positive rating indications I can give to The Masterpiece. Can't wait for your next book, Ms. Francine!

Have you read anything by Francine Rivers? What is your favorite book by her? Least favorite? The only title I haven't read by her is her non-fiction devotional entitled Earth Psalms. Have any of you read that one? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"But, Anne, a broken heart in real life isn't half as dreadful as it is in books. It's a good deal like a bad tooth...though you won't think that a very romantic simile. It takes spells of aching and gives you a sleepless night now and then, but between times it lets you enjoy life and dreams and echoes and peanut candy as if there were nothing the matter with it."

~Miss Lavendar Lewis in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, March 19, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : James Madison

Well, I have completed my first presidential biography of 2018. I have made it to our nation's 4th president, and I'm actually going to read another biography of him this year because I got it for Christmas and we can't just ignore a book, y'all. I'm also hoping to squeeze in a biography on Monroe so that we can keep this train rolling, but I'm having a serious dilemma and I need you to weigh in on this. There are two good biographies (only two?! yes. only two.) of Monroe out there and I can not decide which one I should read (and I don't want to read both). We have Harry Ammon's James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity originally published in 1971 and written to inform (read: boring) or we have Harlow Unger's The Last Founding Father: James Monroe originally published in 2009 and written to captivate (read: biased). Y'all. I'm so torn. I need you to help me out with this. Or if you know of another option, I'd be happy to check that out. 

Anyway, we're supposed to be talking about Madison, not Monroe, so let's get back on track. James Madison: A Life Reconsidered was written by Lynne Cheney and was just published in 2014 making it the most recent biography written of our 4th president until Noah Feldman got his work on Madison (The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President—the one I got for Christmas) published last October. Cheney decided a fresh look at Madison was in order because of her puzzlement over the popular portrayal of Madison as weak and shy despite his many accomplishments. (Here's a revolutionary thought, Lynne: all the biographers who came before you were actually correct—Madison was sickly and shy. Intelligence doesn't dictate personality.) This was the first presidential biography I've read that was written by a woman, and let me tell you, I noticed the difference pretty quickly. The prologue reads like a gushing, teen girl's fan letter to her adored celebrity crush and her use of the words "One imagines..." to fill in the gaps got old very quickly. Everything in the book seemed to be spun to cast Madison in the best possible light and any flaws, poor decisions, or incorrect thinking was briefly glossed over and dismissed. The book wasn't terrible (I definitely learned a lot about Madison), but I would assert that reading critically (which, really, we should always do that) is an absolute must for this one. 

Madison lived from 1751 to 1836 through the American Revolution, the founding of our nation, and the War of 1812. He is known as the Father of the Constitution for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the Constitution and Bill of Rights which is very impressive, but the time of his life that impressed me the most was actually his time as president during the War of 1812. He prepared the country to enter the war and led them well through it despite the poor performance by Congress and his Secretary of War John Armstrong, Jr. and even as he and Dolley were driven out of the White House while Washington was burned by the British. He acted decisively and re-entered the Capitol immediately to resume the business of governing the country. He was committed to the Constitution and to the very last day of his presidency, he worked to make sure that the Constitution was interpreted correctly especially as concerned the balance between federal and states rights. 

He was a career politician and part-time farmer. Politics were his life more than any president I've read about up to this point. He left the bulk of the work of running his estate to others while he worked in the state and federal governments. He was modest and moderate in pretty much everything, which I can really appreciate about him, and, unlike other presidents I've read about so far, he could let personal criticism roll off his back and even joke about it. He had impeccable moral integrity (unlike Jefferson, Hamilton, or Burr) and he was wholly devoted to his wife. He was prone to epileptic fits and never traveled overseas. He is widely regarded as a genius and our country and government is the way it is today largely because of him. 

One area of Madison's life that was very vague were his religious beliefs. He was extremely committed to religious freedom, possibly more so than any president that went before him. Because epilepsy was still widely considered to be the result of supernatural causes (such as demon possession) requiring supernatural healing, it makes sense that Madison was particularly sensitive that there be no government mandated religious restrictions or state supported religion. We really don't know much about the extent of Madison's epileptic episodes or health issues because he was careful to conceal that part of his life and when he got sick, he shut himself away from the public eye. Despite all his health issues, he outlived all the other founding fathers. Like Washington and Jefferson, Madison was concerned with what posterity would remember of him and edited his papers and destroyed a lot of his personal communication. He died heavily in debt and Dolley eventually had to sell Montpelier and lived the rest of her life in a sort of genteel poverty with creditors breathing down her neck any time they learned she acquired any money. 

The thing that got to me while reading this particular biography is that politicians and the media have always sucked. There really is nothing new under the sun. We like to complain about the deplorable state of our government today and act shocked when we hear of another politician's latest scandal, but this is the way it's been since the very beginning. It's easy to criticize people in power, but I'd say we've come a pretty long way from the days when congressmen would actually challenge each other to duels and kill each other over insults. I mean, maybe I just haven't been following the news closely enough, but I haven't heard of any state representatives slapping or caning each other during a congressional debate lately. People are just people and they always will be. 

The times in which he lived and his personal genius make Madison a noteworthy man for sure but for all that, he still kindof bored me. Once again, I'm intrigued by Aaron Burr's life and wonder if anyone out there would recommend a good biography on him. As I already mentioned, this biography didn't wow me, but at 458 pages, it was definitely manageable and informative. I'm interested to compare this Madison biography by Lynne Cheney to Feldman's, and I'll definitely let you know which one I think is better. 

Don't forget to tell me what I should do concerning the Monroe biography! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Casual Fridays

Ok, I have a lot of thoughts today, but the first thing we need to talk about is this: I was recently on a day trip to Gatorland with a group of 5th and 6th grade girls from my church as a chaperone (really, this should have been my first clue). I work with these girls in my church's AWANA program. Miss Mary has been running this group since I was in 5th grade and whenever I go on these outings with them, in my mind, I'm still one of Miss Mary's girls. So all these adorable girls show up with their cute little colorful backpacks, and we're all talking and giggling and comparing our accessories fashion when I have this sudden stroke of enlightenment that I've owned the little drawstring backpack on my back—which I got during my college days—longer than these girls have been alive. 
And then I died. The end.

But seriously when did I go from being a 5th grade girl to being old enough to have a 5th grade girl?? I can't. Let's move on.
LPL was a few weeks ago, and the dynamic was so different this year. It was right down the road from where the Parkland school shooting happened and there were family members of some of the victims in attendance. As a Floridian, I know I was feeling pretty numb that weekend, and it was hard to enter in to some of the more joyful worship that the LPL crew always bring. They began the weekend with a beautiful tribute to the lives that were lost in the shooting, and it was good to have an outlet for the grief that that heinous crime brought. Ms. Beth gave us a little "Hydrology Theology," speaking on how the Holy Spirit is the spring of Living Water within us. The best part of the weekend though was being able to attend the SSMT Celebration after the official LPL event concluded. 2017 was my third year participating in SSMT, but I haven't made it to any of the celebrations before now because they're usually in Houston. It was so fun meeting some of my Siestas and cheering each other on as we recited our Scriptures to each other. 
February 17th was a day for pink books and teeny tiny broken shells. The waves that pound you somehow have a way of smoothing the rough edges, too. God is good in the midst of it all. 

"I have learned to kiss the wave that drives me against the Rock of Ages." 
-Charles Spurgeon-

And here are just some random photos of life lately....
The crazies got haircuts this week. Yay! for less dog hair flying around! Aren't they sweet?
This happened. 
That's a 523 on the electronic Yahtzee. 
I'm such a winner, you guys. 
And stop judging me for keeping an electronic Yahtzee game in my purse. 
And now I will share with you my Mini-Banana Muffin recipe which is a total homerun. When we get random cold snaps in March (not funny, Florida), I bake. Seriously, this recipe doesn't miss. You're welcome. 

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (I tend to go heavier on the cinnamon than the average human.)

2 ripe bananas (seriously, the browner the better)
1/4 cup + 2T sugar
2T + 2 tsp butter
1/2 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees then mix your dry and wet ingredients separately. Add the dry mixture to your banana mixture and mix till smooth. Spray your muffin tin with non-stick spray and then spoon your mixture into it. Bake for 10 minutes and enjoy. This recipe yields exactly 24 muffins which is one mini-muffin tray. Perfect. 

Link Love
- HiHo Kids : Welcome to my latest youtube obsession. Literally.

International Women's Day : My feelings exactly.

- Family First : And while we're on James Breakwell—I died. This guy is too funny.

- KFC/Taco Bell : This makes me laugh so hard. Maybe my sense of humor is really immature, but I just don't care. 

- Savchenko & Massot : Because just because the Olympics are over doesn't mean I'm ever going to stop watching this flawless routine by the Germans. Wow. Make sure to watch all the way to 6:00. 

- James & Cipres : Bonus figure skating video. It's not from the Olympics, but it's also mesmerizing. Be sure to watch till 5:15.

- I Ain't Doin' It (Easter Edition) : She just keeps gettin' better, y'all. 

And finally, my sister-in-love who is the prettiest pregnant fairy princess ever is due today, and I'm dying to meet my newest little niece or nephew. Let's go, Baby Oz!!
Jennifer Corcoran Photography

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"I think her parents gave her the only right and fitting name that could possibly be given her," said Anne. "If they had been so blind as to name her Elizabeth or Nellie or Muriel she must have been called Lavendar just the same, I think. It's so suggestive of sweetness and old-fashioned graces and 'silk attire.' Now, my name just smacks of bread and butter, patchwork and chores."

"Oh I don't think so," said Diana. "Anne seems to me real stately and like a queen. But I'd like Kerrenhappuch if it happened to be your name. I think people make their names nice or ugly just by what they are themselves. I can't bear Josie or Gertie for names now but before I knew the Pye girls I thought them real pretty."

"That's a lovely idea, Diana," said Anne enthusiastically. "Living so that you beautify your name, even if it wasn't beautiful to begin with...making it stand in people's thoughts for something so lovely and pleasant that they never think of it by itself."

~Anne Shirley & Diana Barry on names in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."

~Anne Shirley in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, March 5, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Twelfth Night

Ok, despite this post coming to you in March, I did manage to squeeze Twelfth Night into the month of February so huzzah! for a new tradition. And if this is your first time reading one of my Shakespearean recaps, you may as well know that I give all the spoilers so if you've lived this long without ever seeing She's the Man (or, I guess, actually reading the play itself) and you'd like to stay in the dark on how this one turns out, by my troth, get out of here already. 

Twelfth Night opens on the completely lovesick Duke of Illyria (named Orsino) lamenting the fact that Olivia will not give him the time of day because she's sworn off men since her brother died (don't even get me started on the potential implications of that crazy—all things considered, Shakespeare's humor has always been a bit on the twisted side). 

After we've established the fact that this Orsino guy has it bad for this Olivia chick, we meet Viola who has washed up on the shore of Illyria after surviving some type of gnarly storm at sea and has enlisted her friend the sea captain to help her disguise herself as a man for reasons that will forever remain a mystery to me. She promptly offers her services to Orsino whom she even more promptly falls in love with. 

Orsino sends Viola off to talk Olivia into loving him. But Viola is apparently one very attractive dude (which makes me seriously question her potential for beauty as a female, I'm just sayin') and Olivia falls in love with her. 

In the meantime, we have several minor characters who are up to all sorts of ridiculous shenanigans including Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch (what a name), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (who is also interested in Olivia and is being prodded on by Sir Toby to go for it even though he keeps talking about leaving since he obviously doesn't have a chance with her), and Malvolio (that guy everyone hates because he's so full of his own goodness—you know the one) and Maria (maybe the weirdest character in the entire play) who are servants of Olivia. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria conspire to make Malvolio believe that Olivia is actually in love with him so that he'll make a total fool of himself and they can make his life miserable. (I mean, you get what you get when you make yourself despicable, am I right?)

By the way, their scheme totally works and they lock Malvolio up in a dungeon.

While Malvolio is stuck in the dungeon talking to a clown pretending to be a priest (yeah...), Sir Toby is playing mind games with Sir Andrew trying to get him to duel with Cesario aka Viola. At this point, Antonio shows up to rescue Viola because he thinks she's her twin brother Sebastian.

Oh did I forget to mention Viola has a twin brother named Sebastian who she thought had died in the gnarly sea-storm? Well, she does and they both thought the other died. Sebastian was rescued by some guy named Antonio and they showed up in Illyria sometime in the middle of all this. And apparently, Antonio's got bad blood with people in Illyria.

So when Antonio comes to Viola's rescue by drawing his sword on Sir Andrew, he gets arrested. And he's all, "Yo Sebastian man, can I get my money, bruh?" And Viola's all, "Look, I really appreciate you saving my life and all but I have no idea what you're talking about."

While all that's going down, the real Sebastian is busy running into Olivia and marrying her upon request because even though he has no idea what's going on and thinks he must be dreaming, Olivia is supa' fly and can get any guy she wants. And in Shakespeare's world, marrying a perfect stranger is entirely acceptable behavior.

Meanwhile, Orsino has decided he is not taking no for an answer, and he and poor, tormented, lovesick Viola go to find Olivia so he can sweep her off her feet. When they find her, Olivia's all, "Oh hey husband!" to Viola and Orsino's all, "How could you betray me like that, man?!" and Viola's all, "What in the actual is going on here?!?!" and things are about to go south in a major way when Sebastian shows up, he and Viola realize they're both still alive, Sebastian admits to marrying Olivia, Orsino figures out Viola's a girl and totally in love with him, and all the goons confess what they did to Malvolio.

So naturally, Orsino tells Viola to go dress like a girl and he'll marry her and they'll all be one big happy family. Because playing second fiddle to Olivia is evidently no problem for Viola as long as she gets Orsino. Whatever, sister.

And Sir Toby Belch and Olivia's maid Maria get married. Because apparently plaguing Malvolio's life out together constitutes a courtship. Good luck with that relationship.

And everyone lives happily ever after. Sure, pal.

Except Malvolio. You had it coming, bro.

Definitely entertaining and definitely just as outrageous (if not more so) as the rest of Shakespeare's comedies. I flew through this one. It was a little easier to get into because I was pretty familiar with the plot already. Much Ado About Nothing is still tops for me (with the possible exception of The Taming of the Shrew), but I would rank Twelfth Night higher than A Midsummer-Night's Dream. I think this would be a pretty fun one to start with if you're thinking about breaking into Shakespeare for the first time.

Have you read this one? What's your favorite Shakespearean comedy? And which one should go on next year's list? I'm leaning towards As You Like It or All's Well That Ends Well. Feel free to cast your vote below or suggest something entirely different.

For now, I'll just go watch She's the Man for about the millionth time.