Thursday, August 28, 2014

pressing on toward the goal

"....but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." 
- Philippians 3:13-14

Saturday, August 23, 2014

the giver

For starters, I *have* read the book. I thought it was fantastically thought-provoking. It's unique - entirely different take on a dystopian, post-apocolyptic society than Hunger Games or Divergent or Fahrenheit 451. It's beautiful writing - a tapestry of thought and color and life.


I've seen the movie. It's different than the book. Not in premise, or even in sequence of events, but there's definitely a different feel.


Regardless of what purists would say it "should've been"....I found it profoundly moving. In fact, I'm going to venture and say it was one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Ever. And I've seen a few.

Here are some ways I've described it to friends:

- "A work of art."

- "Thought-provoking."

- "A celebration of life."

- "A celebration of love."

- "A return to true heroism and masculinity."

- "politically incorrect."

- "powerfully pro-life."

Aaaand....this post could get long very quickly.

I could go into a lot of different things about this movie, but I'm not. Here are three things I took away.

Courage and Heroism
Old movies used to have these smashing, fearless heroes who weren't daunted by anything, and new movies seem to have these passive or reluctant heroes - or "heroes" who really aren't good guys at all. And neither depiction is actually accurate to real life. Jonas, however, while obviously scared, does the right thing without hesitation. No waffling over the cost, no concern for himself, just plunging straight ahead. Yeah, he might be quaking in his boots, but when it comes to life and death, good and evil, he's not hovering in the gray area. That was refreshing.

Selfless Love
When given truth and the solution, Jonas can't hold it in. He cannot keep it to himself. His desire reminded me of what ours should be for evangelism - we have the cure for the deadly disease, why wouldn't we share it?!?! Even though it was breaking the rules, he began to subtly work to open the eyes of his loved ones to what they were missing. He risked everything - even his life - to better his community and bring joy to others, with honestly zero thought for himself.

Gabriel - the Celebration of LIFE.
THE BABY. Oh. My. Word. I'm pro-life, always have been, and this film has one of the clearest pro-life messages of any non-pro-life film I've seen. "They didn't do away with murder, they just call it something else." Also, The Giver shows a *beautiful* side of life in Jonas's love for his little adopted brother Gabe. Honestly, it was beautiful. It didn't make Jonas look weak, it made him look strong - and put fatherhood/brotherhood in an incredibly positive light. In another scene, Jonas gets to witness the birth of a baby into a real family and he cries. More emphasis on the absolute treasure and miracle of new life.

So that's .001 of my two cents. Like I said, I could say more about a lot of things.

Like how I teared up during the "life's happy little moments" color montage (if you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about it).

Or how I felt sick to my stomach (literally nauseous) that politically incorrect pro-life moment when Jonas learns the truth about Elsewhere.

Or how I cracked a huge grin when that picture of Nelson Mandela went up on the screen.

Or the fact that Taylor Swift was in the movie. HAHAHA. When she sat down at the piano, I half 
expected an acoustic rendition of "We-EEE are never, ever, EVER, getting back togetherrrrr..."

All four of us (Mama, Maddie, Ck and I) came away very thoughtful. Pondering. Catherine said she lay awake for a long time after we got home just "processing." And it's a lot to process. Personally, it gave me such an appreciation for the beautiful, stunning world God has created for us to live in, and the way He created each of us different and unique, with likes and dislikes, passions and desires, with style and a capacity to love. Even though it's not technically a Christian movie, it's one of the most Christian movies I've seen.

If you're not going to get holed up about the differences between book and film, I recommend you go see it. Usually I'm one of those "I liked it, but to each his own" about seeing movies - and don't really tell anyone to go see anything - but this time, I'm serious. If you're not a movie theatre person, wait till it comes out on DVD. But watch it. It'll give you a better perspective on everything and everyone you hold dear.

As one of my friends so aptly put it, "it awakens you to something more." This production truly raised the bar in terms of the ART of film. It's got it's moments, but the art and beauty of it moves you swiftly on to see beyond...

Anyway. I'll leave it there.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

picking a top impossible.

I'm biting off a bit more than I can chew in writing this post, but I wanted to give it a shot. I get asked this question a lot, by friends, by classmates, by family members, by parents looking for new reading material for their teenagers, etc. and at this point, I actually do have an answer, but it often takes longer than the person asking expects.

In blog post form, this is yours truly's top ten twenty list of favorite books and why. You'll be surprised - there will probably be a few you've never heard of, and some you have. I'm going to elaborate on each one - the description is *not* a synopsis of the book, it's simply *why* it's on the list, and maybe a quote or two. You'll have to read it for yourself to decide whether it'll be on yours.

Important Note: the Bible is not on this list. And that's because it's not just a book. It's the living, breathing, active Word of God and cannot even be compared with any book written by man. It's Other-Than. Take a deep breath, folks, and let's move on.

Another note: I originally started with ten. That's impossible. Here's twenty. And that was still hard. Cut me some slack. 

Still another note: okay, it's twenty-five. Don't judge.

1. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Dickens is *the* classic author, and David Copperfield isn't even his most well-read, well-loved work. I'm actually not the world's greatest Dickens fan, but I love this book like no other. I read it about once a year, straight through over the course of several days. Davy is like an old friend, and I literally get choked up and feel lonesome when he and Agnes leave me at the end of the book, not to return till next time. It's like reading a book about family or close friends - there's nothing quite like it. "My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

2. Little Women by Lousia May Alcott
Similar to Copperfield, this classic feels like the life story of my friends. And, if you've been around here long enough, you'll remember that Jo is my other personality, the "other me", if you will, so naturally I feel a connection. I fell in love with this story all over again listening to the Focus on the Family radio drama, 'cause their Laurie is the best Laurie. And we all know that he married Jo in the end, 'cause that's how it's *supposed* to be.

3. Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge
Elizabeth Goudge. You either love her, or you don't understand a word. Her style is unique, her perspective likewise, and her characters are ethereal. Zachary Moon might be one of my favorite male "heroes" ever to grace the pages of literature, and that's saying a lot. I identify with him more than Stella, which I think is supposed to happen anyway. I love the style of this story - it's almost like it's written from a child's perspective, with a child's insight. Beautiful.

4. Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliot
Changing gears! This book changed my life. Not exaggerating. Mama read Shadow of the Almighty aloud to all of us children at the same time that I was reading it for school in eighth grade. His testimony and devotion awoke a desire in me to know the God that he knew, to get a hold of the faith that he gave up everything for. I knew I wasn't there yet, and didn't want to stop to I got it. Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two of my greatest heroes of the faith, and I love their story and their steadfastness to the advancement of the kingdom.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is my baby. I've worn my copy down to a frazzle, and it goes with me on most trips. It's one of those classics that I re-discover every time I open it up. I still wait with anticipation to see if Elizabeth and Darcy will end up together, relishing every witty encounter and confrontational moment. And then there's Lady Catherine de Bourg - one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. "I take no leave of you, Miss Bennet. I send no compliments to your mother. You deserve no such attention. I am most seriously displeased."

from google

6. After the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski
This book captured me as a fourteen year old and it's consistently stayed on my favorites list since then. It's the unspoken, often unrecognized side of war - the coming home, and the recuperation and readjustment of the wounded veterans. It made me think, as Annie goes through in learning how to love these soldiers and embrace them even if the world and culture have subtly rejected them, about how we are called as the church to love the unlovely - "Man looks at the appearance, but God looks a the heart." In a way, it's sort of a less-creepy Phantom of the Opera. *grin*

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It's a southern classic - and you've probably all had to read it for school, or have seen the movie (depending on your generation and your family). I'm not sure how correct this is to say, but I want my children to be raised like Atticus raised Jem and Scout. Ha. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what."

8. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson
Ooof. Heavy reading. I read in one afternoon, curled up on a couch in the common area of my dorm at Ellerslie last summer, and when I stood up, it took me about an hour to get back reoriented and I've never actually "recovered." Which is a good thing. One of my favorite musicals is West Side Story - I've always felt a strange pull to the story, as if it was true, and once I read Switchblade, my heart went out to those people and I understood the culture in a different light. It's no fun to read, really, but there's a reason it's on this list.

9. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
"BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON'T DROWN" Read-aloud time! Mama read this series aloud to us years ago, and all of us older children would probably name this our favorite hands down. We even sent away via Royal Post to get the movie version from the UK (since that's the only place you can get it) and had to change our DVD region to watch it. John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker and Nancy and Peggy Blackett captured our imaginations and we lived on the Lakes with them in our souls for that whole summer. "Stow it, you goat, don't over do it!"

10. Persuasion by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice might be my baby, but this one is probably my favorite. It's painful, kind of like Emma, but much more mature. Less stupid mistakes made by characters out of immaturity, more stupid mistakes made by smart people in love. Which is the same thing, arguably, but at least it looks more mature. *snort* Anyway. I've heard people say it's too slow for them, but I like it. So there.

11. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
It's a doozy, I'll admit. And I've only read the whole thing cover to cover one time. But other sections I've worn the stuffing out of. I love this book...even with it's quirky hundred-page tangents on French history and jargon or little side note about why drowning in mud is worse than quicksand. In case you were wondering. Victor Hugo has eyes into the human soul, and a power with words to express the depths thereof. His characters each are people you've met before - with humor and pathos and emotions that you've seen or felt in others and yourself. It's a masterpiece of humanity - and everyone should read it all the way through once in their life. It's worth it all the mud and sand, trust me. "The next day, attired in his new suit - new trousers, hat and boots, and even, prodigious luxury, a pair of gloves! - Marius set out as his accustomed hour for the Luxembourg. He met Courfeyrac on the way and pretended not to see them. Courfeyrac said later to his friends, "I've just seen Marius's new hat and suit with Marius inside them. I suppose he was going to sit for an examination. He looked thoroughly silly."

12. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Of course this whole series is one of my favorites. Every single book is special to me for some reason or another. But I picked this one for this list because of Patty's Place and Gog and Magog and Philippa Gordon and Alec and Alonzo and the Reverend Jo and Priscilla and Stella and all the other wonderful characters that make this book such a quilt of color and humor. And of course, there's Gilbert's forget-me-nots and those moments when you want to shake Anne till she comes to her senses....and Diana and roly-poly-Fred Wright and little much love, peoples, so much love.

13. Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace
I love Betsy Warrington Ray. I grew up reading the series as I got older, and often it feels like Betsy and Tacy are just an extension of myself. The reason Betsy's Wedding is the book on my top twenty-one list is because it's my current favorite, since I'm, well, almost twenty and that's basically how old she is and so we're sort of thinking on the same page right now. Actually, it was a toss up between this one and Betsy and Joe - which was sort of my favorite book during high school....*sheepish grin* Betsy is quite possibly one of the most believable heroines I've encountered in my travels - be prepared to make a new best friend!

14. Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
I sat here forever trying to choose between Charlotte's Web and this classic...and chose the bugling cob. Because, because, because, because, becaaaaaaaaaause! I've always liked stories about animals who learned to communicate with people. But my favorite part of this story is when Louis sleeps in the bathtub at the hotel and orders watercress sandwiches but only eats the watercress and leaves the bread. I don't know why. Go figure. (I was one of those children who didn't like crusts on my bread anyway)

15. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher
A story about stories....and hands down one of our favorite history readalouds (right up there with Detectives in Togas and Johnny Tremain) It's a mystery, suspenseful, and left us reeling for hours when we finished it. You know, when your brain is mush and you wander around in a fog trying to return to the real world? It's a gem, folks. And if you're anything like we were as children, you might find yourself playing "Fleshy Khatun" in your make believe. Just saying.

16. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Bronte sisters....under-appreciated, but acquired taste. I'm not really a big Rochester fan - but I'm drawn to Jane's loyalty and singleness of heart. Actually, my friend Kate texted me the other day with this profound thought: "It just occurred to me to wonder what on earth it would have been like to grow up with Jane & Mr. Rochester as parents..." I'd NEVER thought about that before. What do you think?

17. Rifles for Waite by Howard Keith
I can't remember exactly when I first read this book - although it was probably during our study of the War back when I was in middle school. Maddie read it first and really liked it, so I read it too, even though it wasn't assigned. It's such a unique perspective on the War Between the States - fascinating angle on the West. And even though it's written from a Yankee perspective, it's done in such a way that even such a die-hard Johnny Reb as myself was able to see his side of the story without feeling jabbed at. Unbiased - the best kind.

18. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Johnny was the first fictional character I fell in love with. I was ten. He was older than me...even Cilla was older than me...I felt so left behind. I'm glad I grew out of that, but I've never lost that love of this book and the story. When I went to Boston in fall of 2012, I researched and hunted the current location of Fish Street - where the Laphams shop and Hancock's Wharf would've been. It's been developed extensively, but this picture was taken as close to the actual location as we could get...a childhood dream fulfilled! I tried to picture Johnny, Cilla and Isa sitting on the wharf with their feet dangling over the edge, as Johnny told them about his mother's was almost real...

19. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Okay, it HAD to be on this list. Had to. Catherine at one point had the first two chapters of this book memorized from listening to it on tape (yes, tape) so many times. Maddie and I did too, just not as much as her. E.B. White's comforting voice reading this classic of all children's books is the sound of my childhood, and hopefully my own children's as well. "This is a story about the barn...."

20. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzcy
I don't even know what to say....but this book is golden. Pure fluff in the sense that it's romantic and dramatic and you kinda know from the beginning how it's going to turn out, but that doesn't take away from the brilliance of the writing and the suspense of the story. "They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere..."

21. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
It's been a while since I read this, but this is like Boxcar Children for grown ups. In fact, it's sort of the grandfather of all mysteries - Wilkie Collins was the first modern mystery author. So it even pre-dates Sherlock Holmes. It's a "big kid" story, but totally worth the agony and frustration and suspense. You'll find yourself yelling the characters "DON'T YOU SEEEEE!?!?!" - maybe even taking a break and walking around to clear your head before diving in again....but those are the best kind of mysteries anyway.

22. My Sergei by Ekaterina Gordeeva
This is a biography/autobiography of the skating pair Sergei Grinkov and Katia Gordeeva. It's one of my favorites - I love Ekaterina's winsome and genuine writing style, you can tell English isn't her first language and her descriptions are so down-to-earth. There is some...more grown-up content, because of the nature of their lives and lack of spiritual guidance, but it's truly an insightful read. I love true stories, and even though I'm sure there's stuff about them she chose not to share, but you can tell she's being very honest and you can tangibly feel her grief at losing her beloved Sergei so young.

23. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Culture. I am a connoisseur of culture. I study it, I love it, I love being immersed in it. I've traveled quite a bit in my life, been part of a several different unique communities, and each one's oddities and profundities capture my attention and help me understand people better. From conservative Christian denominations, Messianic groups, Mennonites, Muslims, different African tribes, Nicaraguans of every shade, and Jews - I've learned something from all of them, and been intrigued by every life style. The Chosen is an inside look at the Orthodox versus Hasidic Jewish cultures in New York during World War II, covering Zionism and education and community. When Mama assigned it for school, I was skeptical, but ended up reading it twice that semester, trying to squeeze everything I could out of it.

24. Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Yeah, the author's name is Gaston. *Disney moment* Maybe that's why this book is so...odd. It's disturbing, not going to lie, and it's not for everyone. As you know, this musical is my favorite, so one Christmas I asked for the book - you know, just to read it and see if it was as good. Honestly, it's different, hard to compare, but yet it gives you almost a "behind the scenes" look at the show...and gives you a whole new appreciation for Andrew Lloyd Webber and the way he managed to keep the spirit of the story while making it a little more...audience friendly. Warning: you will love Phantom and hate Raoul if you read this book. So if you're a Raoul fan (which I'm not....except if it's Hadley Fraser), avoid this particular piece of literature.

25. Light from Heaven by Jan Karon
Dooley and Lace (my favorite two Mitford characters - aside from Barnabas the Buick) are about twenty/twenty-one in this book, and even though this story really is from Father Tim's perspective, I understand those two so well.... Also, I love Appalachia, and have a huge heart - bordering on an ache - for the poverty and generational bondage in that region. This book really touches on that in a gritty but gentle way. It's currently my favorite Mitford book, even though I miss the Turkey Club and some of the classic moments from the earlier in the series.

Well, there you have it. Liza's top twenty-five favorite books. And pardon me while I go apologize to the rest of my bookshelf for not including them. I'm already working on Part Two with twenty-five more books - so fifty total. Because I'm the blog author and I can do whatever I want so HA. (and I really don't want to hurt their feelings)

What are some of y'all's favorite books and why? Have you read all the ones on this list? What are the ones you'd never heard of? Which ones were you surprised I included? Or surprised I DIDN'T include? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

belated birthday wishes

One of my best friends had a birthday in June and I completely forgot.

Until today.

Which is surprising, considering how much he means to me. Every morning when I get up, he's there to greet me and warm me up from head to toe. He's gone with me all over the place - to Colorado (his home state, actually), South Carolina and Ohio. He carries my tea for me, and my coffee, and my kombucha, and my water, and on occasion, ice cream or soup. What would I do without him?

He's survived several plane flights, a train ride, and....wait for it....BEING USED BY OTHER PEOPLE. What a patient, long-suffering friend! But he's always so gracious and willing to be of service, even if it makes me jealous to let others benefit from his special talents.

Yes, I know you're shocked now. I missed his birthday.

But now I've remembered, and he's quick to forgive, so I'm not too worried about our friendship. It's not as fragile as it looks, folks.

So Happy Belated 1st Birthday to my beloved Mug!
- affectionately dubbed The Ellerslie Mug by my family, or my Idol by others -

Here's to many more years of friendship! You make my life a happier, cozier one! :)

p.s. I have no idea why my mug is a "he"....he just is. Ask him if you have a problem with it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

three things I've learned this summer

This has been a life-changing summer for your humble authoress. Granted, last summer was pretty epic too.....aaaaand the one before that (what is it about summers for growing up moments!?), but this one was unique because it taught me grown-up lessons that affect other people - not just me. I thought I'd share a few, to encourage you and poke you onward in your quest for Truth.

1. Life is not black and white. It's actually a rainbow splash of color. Just because I'm doing something one way doesn't mean it's the only way - your choices might be are just as valid. Even in seemingly "crystal clear" political and spiritual issues, I have to remember that we're almost always talking about or dealing with real live people, made in the image of God, with eternal souls. They are precious to our Savior, and we cannot allow our own incompetent perceptions get in the way of seeing how God truly views these souls. Every issue has at least two sides - I'm learning how to properly listen and evaluate each one and act in a responsible way out of love and respect and Truth, not personal bias or opinion.

2. If I can't forgive, I've trapped myself. I'll be stuck in a rut that never levels out. I have to know when to take a deep breath, and move on. I have been forgiven much by the One Who created me, loved me in my unloveliness, and died to bring me life - who I am to turn around and withhold fellowship and forgiveness from those who have "wronged" me? There is sweet peace and freedom in letting go. When I'm harboring unforgiveness, it's like I'm clenching my fist inside, tightening up my muscles, holding my breath and praying through my consequent splitting headache and upset stomach that God would somehow convict the other party of their "evil sin". Oh, the simple release and the handing up of the whole kit-n-kaboodle to Jesus and turning my thoughts instead to His love for me, and through that, my love for others.

3. I am loved. So many times I've heard the wrath of God, the judgement of God, the awe-inspiring holiness of God preached, and known in my soul that every word of it is true, and "woe is me for I am a man of unclean lips!" It's right that I should have that view of my King, as it keeps my sin in perspective and shows Christ's cross work for the glorious salvation that it is. However, I cannot miss the fact that Christ's death was not simply because He felt obligated to save my wretched, He loved me. In my unworthiness, He counted ME worthy to die for. His Father is my King, yes, but He's also MY Father too. My Abba. And He loves me more than anyone else on this earth. In fact, His love is otherworldly. I am worthy. I am loved. I am precious in His sight, His cherished daughter. That gives me more courage than any other truth I've ever been taught.

"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:31-32 KJV

"Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything....Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:3-7, 15 ESV

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." - Romans 12:2 KJV

It's been a rich summer.

I'm thankful for a patient Abba that's working with the Spirit to make this daughter of His more like Himself, drawing me closer day by day. Being taught in the "school of Christ" isn't always easy, but it's beautiful - and oh, the joy of learning to recognize His voice far outweighs the discomfort that comes when discipline is required. He wants me to know more of Him! His yoke truly is easy, and His burden truly is light.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

How much more.