Writing Lesson: Angst vs. Agony

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Seal Team 10: Murphy, Dietz, Axe, and Marcus.

Angst and agony are sort of related, but also two very different things. They often remind me of the difference between romance and love. One is a passing feeling and one is an act. Angst is often self-focused, selfish, and fades unless perpetually fed. Agony is something horrible which happens to us. It can be empathized with by others even if they’re not in the situation, even if they’re only an observer. Angst is an emotion. Agony is an act. Twilight is angst. The Time Traveler’s Wife is agony. As much as I love it, the Breakfast Club is angst while 3000 Degrees is agony. Listening to your brother firefighter’s last transmission over the radio knowing it is his last is agony. Agony is Marcus Luttrell’s fellow SEAL, Dietz, shot and killed while Marcus held him. Then, having Murphy scream Marcus’ name, scream for help, when Marcus couldn’t reach him. Agony is looking Axe in the eye as he dies before a grenade blows him apart and flings Marcus off a cliff. That’s agony. Just like love, agony involves an act. Love involves generally gaining something we desire. Agony generally involves the pain of losing something we desire. (This can be used, just like love, to build believable protagonist and antagonists.)

Angst is a sappy, repetitive praise song pleading not for God, but for our emotions to increase. Agony is “it is well with my soul”. Angst is griping because of a mixed up Starbucks order, agony is having your church blown up by a suicide bomber. Angst is feeling misunderstood. Agony is dying on a roman cross. See one isn’t always true. Angst could be just your point of view and a far cry from reality. Agony, real agony, can’t be missed. You’ll know it when you feel it, experience it, hear of it.

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The firefighters who died in a fire on Dec. 3, 1999.

I don’t like angsty things. They tend to annoy me. I do enjoy reading about agony. Agony reminds me to look beyond my relatively easy life and see what’s been sacrificed for me. Agony keeps me thankful, humble, and willing to serve. Agony, either my own, or read about, helps me think about others. It floods me with pity for both the seen and unseen pain of those around me. I have yet to see Angst do that in any way. Angst, from what I’ve seen, shuts people off. It closes them away, trapped by what they think is bad in their life until they can’t see beyond the end of their own nose and their own suffering. Angst makes those who dwell on it more selfish.

It’s not that angst is wrong. It’s no more wrong than romance. What’s wrong is over indulging in them, and making it more important than their far more significant counterparts: Agony and Love.

See, I don’t want Christ to experience angst for my sin any more than I want Him to have a passing romance for me. I want Christ to suffer agony for me, not because I’m a sadist, but because that’s the only way I’m going to be saved. I want Christ to love me, not as a feeling of warm fuzzies, but as an act, a choice.

It may seem like splitting hairs, but as writers it’s very important that we split those hairs and understand the difference. It doesn’t work if you don’t handle the difference between romance and love correctly. It doesn’t work if you mistake angst for agony. Say you have a character who is being belittled, not bullied, just belittled, and another who is tortured. Don’t equate those. Being belittled isn’t the same as being tortured. But, if you know the difference, then you can start having fun. You can have the person who has suffered physical torture overcome that through strength of character and you can have the belittle person cave under the pressure of what he has mistaken for agony. Only when you know the difference can you start having fun mixing things up.

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This can also help you define the difference between heroes and villains. Villains are quite often those who don’t handle agony, angst, love, or romance well. They mistake them, mix them up, give them more weight than they deserve. They never overcome the hurdles thrown at them. Loki has this bit of angst mixed in with him while Thor is more agony based. Loki is the bad-guy and Thor is the good-guy. Loki complains about his adoption, while Thor learns from his mistakes to control his power. In Labyrinth and Legend, the heroines are both wrapped up in angst which leads them to experience some real agony and helps them become the great characters we all love. That’s good storytelling. You can have someone start with love and add in romance. That makes for really powerful stories. Arrange a marriage that turns into true romance. Or maybe have a husband/wife duo that rediscover their romance due to circumstances which have to be faced together. You can have a character suffer agony and then spiral into angst only to suffer a greater agony which pulls them out of the angst and sets them on a path to help others.

Legend

Legend

So much can be done when you see the difference between agony and angst. It keeps you from giving incorrect weight to one or the other. It keeps you from encouraging something which is totally unhealthy—read between the lines here and interject 90% of YA fiction. It gives you more tools in your tool belt for storytelling. It may keep you from writing the next fad, but it will help you write something which will resonate with audiences far longer. Lord of the Rings sold second only to the Bible in the 20th century. If the book had been angst and romance instead of agony and love, do you think it would have echoed through the masses, crossing cultural and linguistical lines? Do you think we, the elect, would be saved if Christ just felt really bad about our sin, kinda stressed out, and really really liked us? Nope. It took death on a cross. It took bearing the wrath of God. It took real agony driven by real love to save sinners.

Agony and angst are different. This is a good thing.

Can you think of other similar, closely aligned concepts often mistaken for one another? Comment below with your thoughts!

Labyrinth

Labyrinth

Ladies Tea

I recently had the honor of co-hosting our Annual HBC Ladies Tea. My co-host and I went for a whimsical theme, with pretty food, cute hats, and lots of fellowship.  Here are some of the pictures I was able to take. My apologies, I’m not the photographer in the family, so some aren’t that great. 🙂

The Lord blessed us with women from four local Reformed Baptist Churches: Sovereign Joy Community Church, Covenant Community Church, Bethesda Baptist Church, and our own Heritage Baptist Church. The woman from Faith Community Baptist Church were with us in heart.  We had many women who wanted to come, (I think I had forty RSVPs), and ended up with 24 women and four beautiful babies in total!

Getting the muffins made!

Getting the muffins made!

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Muffins on the cooling rack!

Muffins on the cooling rack!

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash.

Yum! Gluten free Pina Colada, and Butternut Squash muffins.

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

Mugs and teapot at the ready!

All the work has been done and now the day arrives!  The Atterholts arrived at 1100 to help set up, decorate, and ready all the food!

Decorations going up!

Decorations going up!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Everything ready for all the special Ladies!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Rachel, on the left, was my co-host! Her sister Arianna sang a lovely song at the tea. Naomi was my right-hand applying all her organizational skills to serve. And Patricia made sandwiches and kept everyone in stitches!

Let the Tea Begin!

(At this point I was so busy meeting, greeting, having fun, and fellowshipping, I kinda forgot to take pictures. Sorry.)

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

Something unique about each of the Ladies who attended!

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Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

Drinking tea, talking about tea, and making new and dear friends!

And to finish us off, here are two pictures of me with my little niece who is wearing my baby dress. I’m just slightly smitten. 🙂

She's not as happy as I am. :-)

She’s not as happy as I am. 🙂

Love my little Imogene!

Love my little Imogene!

Thank you to all everyone who helped by bringing food and chairs. We missed everyone who couldn’t make it but wanted to be there! There are rumors floating around about doing it again in the fall…except with a coffee theme instead. God has given us a wonderful church family, here at Heritage, and a wonderful group of sister churches! We are blessed to be a part of this family of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Ladies! I for one am looking forward to many years of fellowship together!

 

 

Quote of the Weekend

“I bet you, my dear child, if you are doing this aimless, useless work, to stop short at once.  Life is too precious to spend in a tread-mill.” – Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss

(I just couldn’t help but take this quote completely out of context.  It made perfect sense within the chapter, but taken out of the chapter it appears to be a treatise on the ills of exercise.  It just made me smile.)

Texas Cousin Adventure: A Second Cousin

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

The sun warmed Aunt Abby as she lay on a patchwork quilt surrounded by seven squirming nieces and nephews.

“Look at that cloud,” Aunt Abby pointed up at a big fluffy cloud. “It looks like a dragon.”

Jules squinted up at the cloud. “No, it looks like a birthday cake with candles, flowers, and butterflies.”

“I see a plane like Dusty,” Joshua said with a small, serious frown.

“Dusty?” Bruce said. “I see a motorcycle!”

Constance glanced up from the flowers she gathered for Grammie. “They look like sky-mountains to me.”

“Look, a baby flower,” Ellie said holding up a tiny yellow bud.

Imogene didn’t worry about dragons, cakes, planes, motorcycles, or sky-mountains. She blinked her bright blue eyes at Jude and showed him how to blow spit bubbles. He almost did it on the first try causing her to squeal with delight.

“So, I hear you’re having a new cousin,” Aunt Abby said.

“A new cousin?” Constance said.

“Who has a baby in their belly?” Jules asked. “Did you get married?”

Aunt Abby chuckled. “Jules, I’ve been married longer than your Mommy and Daddy have been married. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you have a baby in your tummy…but you should not have a baby in your tummy unless you’re married. Understand?”

“Nope,” Ellie said showering Aunt Abby with baby flowers. Aunt Abby sat up spilling the flowers down on Auntie Janet’s quilt.

“Who’s having a baby?” Bruce asked ripping up a handful of grass and throwing it at Ellie. “Is my Mommy? I just got a new brother.”

“Nope, it’s not your Mommy,” Aunt Abby said dusting Ellie off.

“Mine?” said Jules and Ellie.

“Nope.”

Ellie dashed off to gather more flowers to throw at Bruce.

“Mine?” said Constance and Joshua.

“Nope.”

Jude and Imogene blew spit bubbles to great effect.

“What about Aunt Liz?” Jules asked.

“Nope, not yet.” Aunt Abby said with a sparkle in her eye.

“Then who?” All the cousins squealed together except Jude and Imogene who were far to engaged in bubbles formed from excessive saliva to be bothered about extra cousins. Ellie tossed a handful of weeds, flowers, and dirt on Bruce. He growled and chased her around Aunt Abby.

“Your cousins James and Michelle.”

“They’re our cousins?” Jules said screwing up her face as she tried to understand.

“Well, technically, they’re your parents’ cousins and my cousins. But, they’re having a baby and their baby will be your second cousin.”

“Will it be a boy?” Joshua asked before Jules could ask what a second cousin was.

“Why?” Aunt Abby asked tickling him with one hand and catching Bruce with the other. “Are you feeling a bit outnumbered?”

Joshua rolled away giggling. Bruce growled louder.  Aunt Abby growled back.

“Will it be a boy?” Jules asked.

“Yep. They’re having a boy.”

Aunt Abby let go of Bruce. “Hear that?”

Seven little boys and girls sat up or turned around, even bubble blowing stopped.

“What?” hissed Constance.

“Hear the rocks crunching on the driveway?” Aunt Abby whispered dramatically.

The kids stood on their tiptoes and cupped their hands around their ears.

“Someone’s here,” Joshua said.

“It’s cousin Michelle!” Jules said.

“Yes it is,” Aunt Abby climbed to her feet and scooped up Jude covering him in ticklish kisses. “Y’all should all run and give her a hug around her big tummy and welcome Rook into the family.”

“Yes!!!”

All the cousins, Abby’s nieces and nephews, scrambled off to welcome Rook Patrick into the growing family.

The End1458594_10100202326410074_877997311_n10255108_10154002186950442_3524871901037550042_n

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

Frozen and Predators

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Sometimes you just have to own up to your own weirdness. Here’s mine: I watched Frozen for the first time the other day and Predators (the sequel to Predator) for the second time. Guess which one I ultimately enjoyed more? Or which one I wanted to watch again right away? Predators.

Yes. I enjoyed Frozen a lot. It was cute. It was sweet. It made me tear up especially because I watched it with my sister. (And I’m totally Elsa. I took a Facebook quiz and it agreed.) Disney’s tongue-in-cheek perspective of itself and the standard love-at-first-sight story line made the movie particularly funny. The inner message exemplified by Elsa’s character provided a great lesson on selfishness. When Elsa sought what she wanted, when she sang, “Let it go”, she destroyed the world. Only when Anna willingly gave her life for Elsa, was Elsa able to see what she was. A monster and a villain.

It’s odd to me that so many people, especially Christians, treat Elsa’s song as if it is some awesome message when it’s what creates the villain of the story. Do parents want their kids to become villains? Or are they so caught up in the idea of being ‘true to yourself’ that they don’t care if that makes you a monster or not? I doubt that the goal of Frozen was to point out the lie of this concept, but they did it, planned or not. The one person true to themselves was the villain, and then the villain was saved. Plus Olaf was really cute. Fun stuff!

Rated: PG

But . . . I loved Predators. Most people wouldn’t choose it over Frozen. I get that. It wasn’t anything magical or amazing. It wasn’t especially well acted, directed, or even that intriguing of a story. It was a nice shout-out and throwback to the first Predator movie, but not quite as good. The first Predator had great timing and pacing.

My weirdness: I have a well-trained eye for finding the special soft spot in an action flick that makes it worth watching.

When I first heard about this movie, I mouth fell open. Adrien Brody embodies great acting, but casting him to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger shoes seemed like insanity or comedy. It would be the equivalent of casting Justin Bieber to be the lead singer for Metallica. Okay, maybe not that bad, cause Brody can act. As the previews rolled out, I joined in with the ridicule for the casting decision. How could they not cast someone like the Rock, or even Jason Statham? Give us an action hero, not some pretty-boy actor.

NOOOOO! (At least that's how we all felt.)

NOOOOO! (At least that’s how we all felt.)

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Brody did a great job. He played a cold, distant, hardened killer. From the very beginning of the movie when he’s dropped out of a plane on some foreign planet, he pulls everyone together, shows himself to be a competent leader, and in some ways psychopathic. He’s not above using his fellow prey to trap the Predators.

They also have a female sniper. Now if you know me, you probably think I’ve lost it. I typically hate action movies with buff women who fight just like men. There are a few exceptions, like Sarah Conner and Chuck, but generally action flicks have eye-candy (come on, I have a brain) or they have super buff women (yep, it’s believable that without a gun, she took that guy out – not). In Predators, the female sniper nurtures and watches out for everyone else. As Brody leads them and uses them to figure out what’s going on, the woman at his side keeps track of everyone. She keeps them all going. This is a rare realistic pairing of a man and a woman. They stand shoulder to shoulder to face the problem together each supplying what the other lacks. It was amazing to see that kind of real and special relationship in an action flick.

predators-soldiers-rally

(SPOILER ALERT) Two things made this movie. Brody’s character’s unwillingness to give out his name and the woman’s willingness to end the sufferings of herself and her team before the Predators could torture them. The woman asks Brody’s character several times for his name and each time he evades the question. Why? He doesn’t want to attach himself in any way to these other people. He wants to stay distant because he realizes that’s the only way to stay alive. The minute he starts caring about anyone is the minute he dies. Over and over he uses those around him to learn and battle the Predators.

Woman: This isn’t right. He’s one of us!

Brody: He is. That’s what they’re counting on. They want you to feel something for this man. To be human.

Woman: And what are you?

Brody: Alive.

Woman: What’s that worth?

Several other people sacrifice their lives for the group painting a nice contrast between Brody’s character and everyone else. Even the convict two days away from execution gives himself for the others.

At the end of the movie, they’re down to three people: Brody’s character, the woman, and a strange guy who seems to have no purpose. The strange guy gets injured. (See quote above.) Brody wants to leave him behind. The woman refuses. Brody ditches both of them. He’s all about himself. In the end, he has to choose between going back to help them or the chance to leave the planet.

He goes back.

He’s the best fighter, and the only chance they have to survive. At the end, he makes the choice to sacrifice himself for his friends.

While Brody’s character is forced to fight for someone other than himself, the woman is also dealing with her own demons. Before she dropped on the Predator’s planet, she was engaged in a failed sniping mission which left her spotter captured and tortured. She wishes she had put him out of his misery even if it risked her own life. Throughout the movie, she assists with suicide, or offers to. At the end, she is forced to either put Brody’s character out of his misery, or give him a chance to save himself. She knows if she takes the shot, she might miss and he might suffer. But she decides to give him a chance.

Brody saves the day, decides to acts for the good of others, and instead of sacrificing the weak he depends on them. The woman chooses life instead of death.

Royce and Isabelle.

Royce and Isabelle.

His name is Royce and her name is Isabelle.

This movie amazes me because Isabelle finds her strength in nurturing and helping a man. Royce finds his soul in sacrificing himself for others. Wow. That sounds familiar. I think I know of other places this kind of behavior is encouraged. Wink wink. Who would have thought that you could see examples, extreme yes, of Biblical male/female behavior in an action flick?

There were quite a few places in the movie that had huge plausibility gaps. Thankfully, most of them happen at the beginning of the movie. At one point, the misfit gang seeks out high ground. They break free of the jungle and wonder across an open stretch of flat rocks. No one notices anything odd about the sky other than the sun not moving. Then, in a totally different scene, it’s the extra close planets visible on the horizon that clue them in that they’re far from home. How did they miss the planets the first time when they were on high ground? The jungle is filled with pines, fields, and oak type trees. That sounds about right for a jungle. Isabelle’s jacket has a decorative zipper on the back.

Why oh why do these movies not get military consultants? Please.

A sniper would never have a decorative zipper on the back of her jacket. Also, speaking of military, one of the things which sets our military apart is their ability to control their shooting. Our soldiers don’t just spray bullets everywhere. They choose a target and shoot it. This proved to be a huge advantage to us in the Iraq war. The untrained terrorist just hosed our boys with their AK-47s but missed much of the time. Our soldiers are trained to hit what they aim at. In one scene, Royce fires at this alien dog with no thought to aiming at all even after a head shot proves to drop it. Royce is supposed to be ex-special forces. His useless shooting was way out of character compared to the cool, calculated guy he appeared to be the rest of the time. It wasn’t like the scene in the first movie, Predator, where they used the mass destruction of the jungle to prove how freaked out the men were and yet how powerful. This was just everyone shooting. Royce doesn’t even seem particularly freaked out. It would have been better if they had carried his personality through to his shooting at this one point.

Rated: R (Obviously) (Deanna, you can’t watch this, obviously.)

In the end, I really enjoyed Frozen, but Predators hit home more. Despite its problems, it proved a fun action flick with an awesome heart at its core.

 

Predators

Lessons from the Boutique 6: Fashion from Boutique to Housewife

Prada Fashion Fall 2011

Prada Fashion Fall 2011

This article took an unexpected turn. It was supposed to go up two weeks ago, before the Red Heels article. But, providentially, it has gone from expounding my husband and I’s view of fashion as Christians to a re-examination of that viewpoint, lengthy discussions over meals, and articles written by both of us. So this is not so much a lesson, as it is a story of growth and change. This is a transition article from where I was to where I am. Hence, it’s the last Lesson from the Boutique.

Over the years, I’ve traveled from self-righteous frump, self-focused goth, respectable yet loud fashionista, to a woman who desires Christ’s commands. He stripped away the world’s varnish one layer at a time until I’m more concerned with Christ’s kingdom and my Church family than this fading ball of dust. Christ is thorough. He doesn’t leave any part of our heart and mind uncaptivated by Himself. Nor does He dictatorially force us. He leads us like lambs, sanctifying us.

After a year out of the boutique, I’m still sorting all this fashion stuff out. What liberty do I have in Christ? What influence should my church family play? How much can I pull from my culture? I hope you can be understanding  as I think through fashion via my keyboard and seek to apply what I’m learning.

From the boutique, I learned valuable lessons, which helped me see how selfishly I dressed most of my life. They showed me that I had gone from a holier-than-thou wardrobe to a shock-value wardrobe. (“You can tell I’m holy by how little thought I put into my outfit. See how holy and modest I am. I’m way frumpier than you!” to “If I can get one more home school mom’s mouth to drop open, I’ll have twenty points just this morning.”)

Lesson 1: Image is important because what you wear says something about you. Are you saying what you want to say?

Lesson 2: Image is important because what you wear communicates respect. Are you respecting those around you with your clothing?

Lesson 3: Image is important because it is a form of honesty. Are you sharing yourself honestly, or hiding behind your clothing?

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I lived and breathed these three principles for over 10 years. They were my guiding stars every morning when I got dressed, when I shopped, and when I critiqued wardrobes. But, I’ve come to believe I missed important Biblical principles. Who is my standard for respectability? Did I go to the Bible first, before my culture? Unfortunately not. I moved fashion entirely into Christian Liberty, and then looked to the world for what it considered respectable. God has some very real and important things to say about fashion. I never did the hard work of paying attention to His Word except in the widest application.

We’ve all been told that we should dress up on Sunday morning because we’re going before the King. This is true. But, this King doesn’t want all the pomp and show that our worldly kings desire. He wants a humble and pure heart. This is what He values. We, as Reformed Baptist, preach and believe that you can’t worship God how you want to, but that you must worship Him according to the commands in His Word. Why do we think coming into His Church as His bride is any different? God tells us how we are to dress in a way that honors Him the most. This must be what informs us. What a humble King we have. Look how He commands us, His faithful daughters, to come before Him. He doesn’t set an impossible standard of beauty and wealth that none of us can reach. He doesn’t pit us against one another in a constant game of cutting-edge style. He is far more merciful than we are on ourselves. And yet, at the same time, He is far harder. He is far more concerned with our hearts than with what we’re wearing.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 “Likewise also the women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.”

 

1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

 

So, transitioning out of the boutique and into a housewife, I’m trying to relearn some lessons. Here is where my husband and I are so far.

1. Respectable apparel: The clothing you wear as a daughter of the Lord, first off on Sunday, but influencing your wardrobe as a whole, should be respectable. It should be clean, in good order, and put together, a bit dressy, but with self-control. Sunday is not a fashion show. Our society does help us define what is respectable in our day and age. It would be inappropriate for a woman to arrive in a respectable Victorian-era gown to church. Nor would it be appropriate to come to church in “denim underwear”. That may be stylish for young women today and the Victorian gown may be modest, but one isn’t self-controlled and the other is distracting. You have to live when and where you live, not defining respectability by a different ages standards. We are called to dress with self-control, not flaunting ourselves, or our clothing.

2. Good Works: God is more concerned with our good-works than our wonderful fashion sense. We spend a fair amount of time thinking about what we’re going to wear when we’re going on a date, or out with girlfriends, or even on Sunday morning. God wants us to spend more time thinking about good works than about wardrobe. The context of these good works in Timothy is the managing of the Church. Men are to put on prayer and women are to put on good works. Does what you wear on Sunday Morning communicate this concept? Are you ready with a helping hand to those in need? Are your children behaved and your husband respected by you? These are far more beautiful to God than what you’re wearing to cover your skin.

3. Submissive: You’re clothing should communicate a submissive heart, a meekness of spirit. Have you ever shopped asking yourself if what you’re wearing communicates submissiveness? It messes with your mind, believe me! The context of the 2 Peter passage is abuse by authority. God tells women that if your husband is abusing you, look to your wardrobe. What? Don’t nag your husband. Don’t belittle him. He should see you not as all the other women in the world who fret and worry over what they will wear and this wrinkle and that wrinkle. He should see you  worried about spiritual matters. He should see you without a fearful heart. Submission is honestly very scary. (I’ve written about that before.) It requires a complete giving up of yourself to the authority of another. Your husband should see that while you submit to him, it’s to Christ that you ultimately submit. Think how our marriages would be transformed, Ladies, if instead of spending so much time in front of the mirror, we spent more time working to lovingly submit to our husbands.

4. Hope: I’m getting older. Every day my skin seems more dry, my hair more gray, my energy sapped. I swore I would age well. I would not hide from my wrinkles or gray hair. But, there are days I’m so tempted to test out the latest serum to see if it will magically remove the aging of my body. Look to the Bible ladies! “Imperishable beauty” is what Peter calls a gentle and quiet spirit. Look at this great hope given us. If we seek first the Kingdom of God, God Himself promises us Imperishable Beauty. This doesn’t mean that we won’t age. It does mean we’ll become more beautiful to Christ, our Husband, as we grow in good works, a gentleness of spirit towards our earthly husband, and poverty of spirit. The world will see old women, but Christ will see great beauty.

This is where I’m at right now. How has it affected me practically? I’m testing out several new systems to cut down on my dressing time. I need to make sure I’m wearing respectable things that are encouraging to others, which takes planning and time. But, good works are to be my main adornment, so I don’t want to spend as much time fretting over my wardrobe.

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As I’ve thought about this, I’ve been convicted about what I wear on Sundays. I tend to be a very loud dresser. I love big jewelry. I love mixing things up that don’t exactly go together. None of those things are sinful in and of themselves, but Christ has said how I’m to come to Him on Sunday. I need to listen and make sure I’m on the same page. I’m going to try to wear more simple outfits on Sunday. Respectable? Yes. Stylish? Yes. Simple? Yes.

I’ve also been convicted about how I view other women who don’t dress “stylishly”. Could it be that after all these years of groaning about horrible home-school-mom-fashion, that I was wrong, at least on a certain level? That what I saw as frumpy might in fact be a woman seeking submission, self-control, and good works instead of fashion as the world sees it? I think so. You won’t catch me in a jean skirt and sneakers anytime soon, but you will catch me—I hope and pray—trying to submit my wild heart to the dictates of my most beloved Husband, and my loved earthly husband.

Now, done with Boutiques and on to Housewife!

Thoughts???

The Housewife and her Man!

The Housewife and her Man!

If you would like to read some very well done articles on Modesty, please check out my fellow 1689’er Queen of Scotch and this Matt Walsh article. Also, I hope to share some of my husbands thoughts soon. Here’s the first one from his blog: Rod of Iron!

Lesson 1: First Things First

Lesson 2: Opening and Closing

Lesson 3: Have a System

Lesson 4: Dealing with People

Lesson 5: Red Heels

Quote of the Weekend

“People say strange things, the boy thought.  Sometimes it’s better to be with the sheep, who don’t say anything.  And better still to be alone with one’s books. They tell their incredible stories at the time when you want to hear them. But when you’re talking to people, they say some things that are so strange that you don’t know how to continue the conversation. – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

(This quote made me smile because it reminded me of myself as a child.)

Rachel and Lauren: Twins, Homeschooled, Special Agents

SpecialAgents

“Are they asleep?” Lauren asked.

She peeked her head out her bedroom door and craned her neck trying to see into the dark living room. Neither the Christmas tree’s lights nor the TV glowed. Everything seemed dark, quiet, and still. But she never could tell with parents. They appeared suddenly when she least expected it and usually when she least wanted it. With parents, it was always better to double-check.

“We better check,” Rachel said from across the hall, reading her mind.

Rachel ducked back in her room. Coyotes yipped and barked outside beyond the confines of their little fenced in yard. Lauren shivered. Rachel’s blonde head reappeared in her doorway. She tiptoed out into the hall, waving at Lauren to follow her. In bare feet, their toes silent on the cold tile but decidedly not in their pjs, they made their way across the living room and to their parent’s bedroom door. Rachel handed the remote to Lauren and tugged the long antenna of the Sleep Detector free. Lauren flipped the red switch on the remote up. A tiny green light lit her face and touched her dark brown curls. Rachel pointed the antenna at herself.

“Testing, testing,” she whispered.

A red light blinked on the remote.

“Glad to know you’re not asleep,” Lauren laughed.

Rachel hushed her, bent down, and poked the antenna under the door. They waited, counting silently, breathing softly. A blue light blinked three times.

“They’re asleep,” Lauren reported.

“Let’s go,” Rachel said.

She pressed the antenna back into the Sleep Detector. Lauren handed her the remote as they padded back to their rooms. First, they stopped in Lauren’s room decorated in pops of bright, cheerful yellow, which warmed in the small circle of light from her desk lamp. Lauren rushed to her closet and felt along the inside wall. There! A tiny nail-head caught under her long fingers. She pushed it. The back of the closet flipped from right to left hiding her drawers of tee shirts and shorts. It replaced them with a small wall of gears and strange gadgets.

“Did the message say what we needed?” she asked Rachel.

“No, so just standard issue I guess.”

They both strapped matching wristwatches on their left hands and buckled on tan utility belts. In her big pocket, Lauren stuck a yellow tablet. Rachel packed her turquoise one. Lauren pulled on a bright green hat with a pom-pom and earflaps. It stiffened as it wrapped around her head. Rachel slipped a pair of pearl earrings in her ears and fastened the backs on. Wires sprang from the pearls to wrap her ears.

“Can you read me?” Rachel said.

“Loud and clear,” Lauren said. “But I’m also standing right beside you.”

Rachel tapped the wire cage on her right ear. It buzzed to life.

“Say again,” she said.

“I’m standing right beside you.”

“Okay, now it’s working.”

Odds and ends filled the other pockets: bits of string, glue, a pair of tiny binoculars, several different colored marbles, matching flashlights, and of course, duct tape.

Last, Lauren lifted a small gun off the wall that didn’t hold her tee shirts and shorts. She pulled back the slide, checked the load, and satisfied, stuck it in the holster at her side and tied it down. Rachel shadowed her movements exactly.

“Ready?” Rachel asked.

Lauren found the nail-head on the opposite wall and pressed it. The rack of gadgets flipped back around to a shelf of tee shirts and shorts.

“Ready.”

Still tiptoeing, in bare feet, the girls hurried across the hall to Rachel’s room shutting off the lamp on Lauren’s desk as they left. They didn’t turn any lights on in Rachel’s room. They didn’t need lights now. From the side of Lauren’s cap a small screen appeared over her eye. She could see the room like the sun shown in on a hot summer day. A wire shot out of Rachel’s earring and held the same small screen over her eye. They hurried over to Rachel’s closet without bumping into anything or tripping over the carpet.

Rachel opened the closet door, stood out of the way to let Lauren in, and closed the door behind them. They stood in the pitch-black closet, easily seeing the clothes and stuffed animals lining the shelves. Rachel tugged on a simple silver wire hanger stuck between a Sunday dress and her winter coat. Lauren took her hand and they moved closer.

The soft sound of gears and steam invaded the dark closet, which they could see clear as daytime. The twins smiled at each other. Beneath them, the floor lowered. Down. Down. Down they went. Rachel’s closet disappeared above their heads.

To be Continued…

Gadgets

(Rachel and Lauren are my two nieces on my husband’s side of the family. I will probably alternate the Texas Cousins stories and the Special Agent stories. The Special Agent stories are going to be geared towards 10 – 12 year olds. Your thoughts and comments are welcome.)

Writing Journal: Fairy Tale Clichés

15d36b45535aae5f4059390444a98b26I have recently found myself returning to some fairy tale clichés such as the Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, the white stag, and such. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if I found a hidden King, Prince, or Princess in my wanderings through my new world. This return to childhood has brought to mind some of the more cliché things in the Christian world. There are some passages of the Bible and some hymns that everyone uses. Not just Christians memorize these passages, but nominal Christians, and just everyday Americans. Sometimes this devalues them in our eyes. We hear them applied incorrectly, or taken out of context, or just used over and over and over until we become dulled to their beauty. The two that come to mind most often are the 23 Psalm and Amazing Grace. How often do we hear these two beautiful and wonderful things used by people who don’t understand them at all? And yet, does that mean we should stop using them just because they are overused?

Let me tell you about why I’m in love with these two clichés:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;

-Psalm 23:4

I love the imagery of this verse. I love the idea of walking through the valley. Not flying over the mountain tops, kissed by the sun. No, the image is of walking, which is slow, through a valley of shadows. This is a deep dark valley with high mountain walls on either side. Mountains so high the valley is always dark. And notice the name of the valley. It’s not the valley of the shadow of lack of comfort, or the valley of frustration, or the valley of the shadow of poverty, but the valley of the shadow of Death.

Death, dear beloved, is the darkest water we must pass through and very little in this world makes death light. We fear it and, as believers, we understand it is the ultimate price for our sin. But, we also know Christ paid that ultimate price. One of the speakers at the ARBCA-GA conference I recently attended, Pastor Michael Kelly, pointed out that death is proof that God keeps His promises. Have you ever considered that? Death was the promised curse for sin and we die. Death is proof that God keeps His promises.

36e454014f10fe9978e95ded4f546d47So, I walk—not run, not fly—walk through—not over or around—but through. I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death. We all must walk this valley at one time or another. I will fear no evil for you are with me. I won’t be afraid because Christ is with me. This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is rich in truth, reminds us of God’s promise keeping and is a great encouragement because life is often dark and fearful. Don’t let over use and misuse steal the beauty of this verse from you.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Many people get tired of this song. It’s applied to the worst of sinners who have no sign of grace in their lives. It’s used sentimentally to garner particular emotions. But, if it’s one of the hymns you love, you can use these situations to feed on truth. You can enjoy its doctrine no matter how poorly the user might intend it.

Ponder the words. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”

Have more beautiful words ever been penned by man? The older I get the more obvious and multi-layered my sin becomes. I was unaware as a young child, saved at an early age, of just how indoctrinated, insidious, and putrid sin is. I was unaware of how sinful I could be. I had no idea. But, amazing grace that saved a wretch like me. I love this song for all its lack of luster. I love it despite the abuse it suffers at the hands of emotionalism.

My plan is to work both of these clichés into my new Fairy Tale. I have a character who is a good man fighting on the wrong side of the war. Meaning he’s on the side of evil. He loves to read and quote old and forgotten phrases. He will quote both these at some point before his death. Yes, I already know he’s going to die. They won’t be worked in just as quotes by this character I love so much, they will  be themes throughout the story. One of the biggest influences for this particular character is a song that I treasure called the Soldier and the Oak by Elliot Park. The line that is driving me is:

But one day a rebel with a bullet in his chest
Hung his rifle on my limbs and laid to rest
And there beside me as the blood soaked to my roots
The soldier sang
A song of grace

I love the line: The soldier sang a song of grace. The beauty of this song is that the very familiar tune of Amazing Grace is worked into the main tune of the song. It is perfectly done. And my poor soldier will sing a song of grace at the end of his time.

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Sometimes the clichés are clichés because they are so beautiful, and so rich, we have to keep going over them. And because I’m a fairy tale writer, I get to indulge my love of them a little more.