Tis the Season: Light Amid Darkness

In past Tis the Seasons, I’ve shared many, many holiday stories: family traditions, interesting historical tidbits, heartfelt sentiments, favorite songs, and so on.  When faced with writing a post this year, though, writers block hit and it hit HARD.  I had lots of ideas, from sharing new memories to fleshing out older stories, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up staring at a blank page.  The words just wouldn’t come.

Then, I got thinking about what my friend Rachel said in her post earlier this week about Christmas being a time of light in the darkness and hope when all feels lost.  The more I thought about it, the more it felt right.  Light in the darkness… what a timely message.

We live in days of darkness, days of sorrow, days of pain, days of disappointment.  It’s been a rough year for so many both here in America and abroad.  We live in days of horrific war, days of the displacement and death of innocents, days of bombs and destruction.  We live in days of intolerance, of cruelty, of fear.  We live in days where people are massacred and ostracized for their beliefs, for their cultural heritage, for their orientation, and for their gender.  We live in days of doubt and days of deep insecurity where truth and trust cease to exist. Continue reading

The Days After the Election

I think it’s safe to say that, no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, this week has been crazy.

On the day after the presidential election, a progressive Christian magazine I enjoy put out a call for readers to share their stories.  Wednesday was pretty turbulent for me emotionally and putting things into words is usually helps me process things, so I took the time to write about how I felt.

Usually, I keep my head down on social media when it comes to divisive current events.  I try to keep away from politics and anything that will cause division, judgement, or criticism.  I broke that rule on Facebook a few times this fall in outrage over our now president-elect’s words about women.  In the days after the election, though, I found that there was just too much going on inside me and found the words pouring out.  If I were to put my piece in a category, I would call it a lament: an outpouring of emotion that captures the pain of a moment in time.

I submitted my piece and, to my surprise, Sojourners published it on their website.  Before you read this post any further, please take a moment to read the piece, which can be found here. Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Couples

It’s a rewind week for Top Ten Tuesday, which is when you can go back and revisit a topic that’s been done before.  Because I’ve only been participating for a short while, there are years of content to chose from.

I’ve selected a topic from 2010 featuring my favorite fictional couples in books.  I’m a sucker for a well-written romance, especially since they don’t come along that often.  It was fun thinking about all these characters again and remembering why I started shipping them in the first place. Continue reading

A City that Demands to be Seen: Thoughts on Vienna

When one travels for an extended period of time, certain aspects of foreign life cease to leave you in wonder.  Cobbled streets, castles, and cathedrals blend together.  It’s just another city, just another place to walk, just another destination.  Your feet become weary and your heart longs for home.

And then… out of nowhere, a city sneaks up on you and gives you a sucker punch to the gut.  You’re absolutely breathless and it’s a little painful because it came when you didn’t expect it.

For me, Vienna was just a place on the map–a grand capital to check off my list, a place to become a little more cultured.  I didn’t expect the city to move me.  I didn’t expect to fall in love. Continue reading

Poetry Friday: When You are Old by W.B. Yeats

When You are Old by W.B. Yeats
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
——————–

What is Poetry Friday?  Years ago, when I was in high school, we did poetry lessons every Friday.  I’ve always loved this idea and will continue the tradition by sharing poems on my blog.

Of Faith and Refugees

My Facebook newsfeed today was filled with opinions this morning.  This isn’t unusual, as I have friends on both sides of the political divide.  I usually don’t like to engage in such things on social media.  I don’t like to associate with a political party.  Such things breed division and strife–so I keep my opinions to myself.

But in lieu of current events and the hate that has risen in their wake, I’m finding it hard to remain silent.

As I’ve been following the debates regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, I have been absolutely appalled by the response from Christians.  My Facebook feed is filled with messages along the lines of “Close the boarders because we don’t want terrorists to get in”.  I saw a comment that said, “I’m all for helping the refugees, I just don’t want to let them in.”

Or, in other words, “I’m all for helping people as long as it doesn’t impact my life.”  “I’m all for taking care of the poor and needy, as long as my comfort isn’t threatened.”

This makes my blood boil.

What, then, is more valuable?  Comfort or human life?  The ease of the rich or the despair of the poor?

To make things clear, I understand the fear.  The refugees are people who are very different from us.  They look different, sound different, and follow a different religion. Differences are unknowns and unknowns are scary.  And yes, there is a risk that the wrong people can get in.  Is this a risk we are willing to take?

A couple of my friends posted links to a short piece on Relevant Magazine titled “What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees“.  I recommend giving it a read, for it is very good. It is a list of verses with little commentary, letting the Bible speak for itself.  These verses speak of loving the poor, caring for the needy, and putting the needs of others before your own.  They talk about setting aside what is comfortable in favor of preserving human life.

I’d like to add a verse to the list.  1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (ESV)

Is allowing refugees into America worth it, despite the risk of letting terrorists in?  Absolutely.  Because perfect love, God’s love, casts out fear.

We, as Christians, are called to love the needy and care for the broken.  It’s not an option.  Loving one’s neighbor as ones self is not only a command, it’s the GREATEST command.  So are we going to obey? Are we going to trust that, even though there are unknowns and even though we are afraid, God is in control?

I realize that I am addressing this from a Christian perspective and you may not share my worldview. This is okay. Biblical rhetoric aside, I think my questions are still valid because this is, ultimately, not only a Christian issue. It is a human issue. These refugees aren’t faceless, soulless drones. They may be different, but they are human beings with just as much right to life as I. They have the same capacity to love, to feel, to dream as you and I do.

Are we, Christians and non Christians alike, going to set aside our comfort, riches, and fears, and care for the refugees?

I honestly don’t know what this looks like in my life.  As an American, I live a life of incredible privilege. There aren’t poor and homeless people lining up at my door. The refugees are on the other side of the world. But with privilege comes responsibility. If and when the time comes to take action, I hope that I am able to do what is RIGHT and not settle for what is EASY.

It’s a complicated issue.  There are a thousand arguments and counterarguments that can be made.  It can be discussed for hours on end.  Your opinion and worldview may be different than mine, and that’s okay. I don’t mind. Differences are not something to be afraid of. They are our greatest strength.

But I’m tired of remaining silent. I’ve been given a voice and am choosing to use it. So this is me, adding my thoughts to the universe.

Thanks for reading.

  

Love is All You Need… Or is It? (Writing 101, Day 3)

I have never been in love.

Some days, this fact about myself makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. In a consumer society where the movies we watch and books we read tell us the most desirable thing a woman can strive for is romance, not having it sometimes makes me feel weak. Open. Insecure.

Singleness is often portrayed as a dreadful thing that women need to get rid of. I love romantic comedies, but how many center on women who are dissatisfied with their relationship status? To be single is to be a failure. If you’re not in a relationship, you’re not desirable enough. You’re not beautiful enough. You’re not smart enough. You are not enough.

What a bunch of crap.

Most days, romantic inexperience doesn’t bother me much. I’ve never felt the desire to date for the sake of dating. When I enter a relationship someday, I want it to be something that lasts. I don’t want to be with someone for the sake of not being alone. I want to be with someone because they fascinate and inspire me.  I want to be with someone who loves me for who I am. In reality, I’ve never actually met anyone I seriously wanted to date. Oh I’ve had crushes.  Lots of them.  But only one person has ever seriously caught my eye and that didn’t even start to go anywhere. That, however, is a story for another day.

When it comes down to it, I love being single. I love making life decisions without needing someone else’s input, worrying about distance, or providing for children. For me, there is a whole world of possibilities. I could move anywhere, do any job, and pursue whatever adventures come my way. Singleness is a unique time in life and I don’t want to spend it moping around.

I do hope to find love eventually, but why detract from the joys of life by buying into lies that I need a man to make me happy? Everyone says it comes when you least expect it. I figure that if I live without expectations of romance, I can enjoy all the wonderful things in my life now. When love comes, it will take me by surprise and will be so much more exciting.

My philosophy on love and dating may not resonate with everyone. Most of my views stream from my deeply rooted faith and security in God. But to go into all the spiritual aspects of my reasoning would be crossing into waters I tend to avoid in the blogosphere. (Maybe I’ll write about why I don’t talk about my faith much someday. I’ll add that to the list of post ideas.) Anyway, if my words don’t fit your perspective or worldview, that is okay. We’re all different. As the phrase goes, “You do you.”

The truth is, though, culture is wrong. You don’t need romance, dates, or sex to live a fulfilling life.

Falling in love? Maybe someday. Until then, I am enough.

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

To Love London

There are days when I long for London.

I grew up (and attended college) in the country, but man… London has wedged its way into my heart.  When I left, its loss was searing.  I couldn’t go a day without longing to be back.  The longer I’ve been away, though, the more life conceals my love of England’s capital.  It’s like a piece of gold buried in my heart that is buried more every day.  Out of sight, out of mind–as they say.

But then, suddenly, it all comes back.

I remember the feel of my feet on the pavement.  The splatter of rain on my umbrella.  The sound of people of every age and color jostling for a place to stand on the Tube.  The twitters of excitement as the curtain draws at the start of a West End show.  The laughter of kids on field trips in art galleries.  Dogs barking in Hyde Park.  Red double-decker busses lumbering through the city.  Eager shoppers flocking on Oxford Street.  The warm laughter coming from pubs.  The musty scent of books haphazardly stacked floor to ceiling in the stores on Charing Cross Road.  The clang of Big Ben.  The elegant statues of Whitehall.

As the memories flood back, I’m overcome with longing.

Virginia Woolf states it best in Mrs. Dalloway:

“One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”

To love London is to love life.

Will I ever be back?

The Court of Love: An Allegory

I have written an allegory.  No, I’m not yet to the level of Sir Edmund Spencer, John Bunyan, and George Orwell.  Maybe someday.

Anyways, we’ve been reading lots of allegories lately in my Courtly Love class.  So, my professor decided to make us write our own.  In addition, we had to write a formal analysis of one of the texts and discuss our creative choices in our own writing.

Disturbed by the passivity of the Beloved in the medieval text The Romance of the Rose, I chose to explore a more modern take on love in which the beloved possesses voice and agency in abundance.  My story takes place, as all Courtly Love tales do, in the Court of Love.  My court, however, is not royal, but judicial.  Love is not a king, but a judge who decides the fate of lovers.  Partially out of laziness and partially out of the desire to have fun with allegorical figures, I center the story on the jury. By giving the decision of the case to a room of allegorical figures, I explore the way internal emotions and thought processes interact when it comes to the deciding the future of a romantic relationship.

Is my allegory well-written?  I don’t think so.  But I’m definitely proud of it.

(Keep in mind that I know little to nothing about the judicial system and made all of this up.  I’m less interested in getting court procedures right and more focused on the conversations that take place.)

~*~

The jurors file into the room and take their seats around a long table. Commitment takes a seat at the head of the table, taking leadership. On his right and left are sisters Devotion and Patience. At the foot of the table sits a Lust, a dark, menacing figure. Jurors First Impression and Good Looks, who immediately hit it off, chat happily next to the small, quiet figure of Politeness. Next to her sits Modesty, who does not speak, but observes the room with a careful eye. Ambition and Biological Clock glare at each other across the table. The last figures to take their seats are the brother and sister, Fair Welcome and Consent. It’s been a long afternoon in court and it’s time to come to a decision.

Commitment clears his throat and the room silences. Eleven pairs of eyes shift his way as he summarizes the day’s proceedings. “So… we are here to decide Case 276 in the Court of Love. We have Guy Williams suing Rose Bell. He was stuck in a bad relationship when the met, but when that ended, he began pursuing Rose. She refused his first few advances, not sure if a relationship was something she wanted at this point in her life. He persisted and, eventually, she gave in. They began dating and, at first, things went really well. But, one night a month into their relationship, things went a bit too far. Guy made some moves that Rose was uncomfortable with. After telling him off, she fled from his apartment. We’ve heard, at this point, from both parties. Guy, represented by the powerful lawyer Common Sense, claims that Rose is being unreasonable for not letting him go all the way. Rose, represented by the sharp-tongued Independence, insists that she’s not ready. We must now decide the future of their relationship. Is Rose justified in refusing Guy? Should she have given in? Is he at fault for expecting too much of her? Where should they go from here? Let’s hear what you have to say.”

Immediately, the hulking figure of Lust stands. “I think the whole case is ridiculous. The vote is obvious: she should let the guy bang her.”

Politeness lets out a gasp at this base comment.

Commitment gives her a pointed look. “Yes?”

She shifted in her seat, uncertain of what to say. “I don’t think that kind of language is appropriate. I think that Rose has made her side clear and that Guy should show her respect.” Modesty nodded in agreement, but Lust glared at the small woman. Politeness shrunk in her seat, face heated in embarrassment, at all the attention.

Commitment gave her an encouraging smile, “I think Politeness raises a fair point. Personally, I think that Guy demands too much too soon. They’ve only had a few dates.”

Lust rolled his eyes. “I suppose you think they should wait until marriage? What a prude.”

“Actually, yes. I do think that.” Commitment’s words were firm, resolute. “But I’m not here to force my views on everyone. I’m here for the same reason as you, to decide the future of Guy and Rose’s relationship. Now, let’s here some more thoughts. First Impression, what do you think?”

First Impression smiled brightly. “I think Guy is great. I’m a bit surprised that he’s asking for sex this soon, but honestly, I think it’s worth the risk.”

“Oh, it’s definitely worth the risk,” Good Looks chimed in. “Have you seen those perfectly sculpted biceps? Good grief, the girl must be mad to turn down such a hunk.”

“Actually,” Ambition interrupted loudly. “I think Rose is perfectly justified. When Guy first asked her out, she turned him down. She clearly has other priorities. There is more to life than romance. What if she wants to focus on her career? She doesn’t need a man to hold her back.”

“Having other priorities is all and well,” chimed Biological Clock. “But Rose isn’t a little girl. She’s fully grown. Yes, having a career is important, but what if she wants to settle down and have a family? She’s only got so much time to do that. Guy can give her children. She shouldn’t pass this opportunity by because she may not have another chance.”

“Did you not see her on the witness stand today?” asked Good Looks. “The girl’s a bombshell. She’ll have no problem finding someone else.”

The room was silent for a minute. Then Devotion spoke, “She has to pick someone sometime. I agree with Commitment in that Guy is too forward. He shouldn’t be making these requests this early into the relationship. But I think he actually cares about her. I mean, he didn’t let her initial refusal hold him back. He continued his pursuit, which I think is extremely admirable.”

Fair Welcome nodded. “His pursuit is definitely impressive. It shows that he genuinely cares about her. I think it’s great that they started dating, but I’m not really sure what to think about the rest…” He glanced at his sister. “Consent, what do you think?”

Consent’s gaze was steely. “I fully support Rose’s actions. If she’s not sure, he needs to respect that. He shouldn’t demand more than she is ready to give.”

“Thank you, Consent,” Commitment noted. “Now that everyone has given their opinions, let’s find a plan of action. We’re pretty divided. First, let’s tackle the issue of sex. Who favors Guy in this regard?” Lust and Good Looks raised their hands. “Those in favor of Rose? All right, sex is off the table (hopefully until marriage). Now to deciding the future of their relationship. Is there anyone who thinks they should break up?”

“Absolutely,” Ambition answered. “She has so much potential. It kills me to think of it being wasted on a man.”

“Thank you, Ambition, for your thoughts. Any others?” Commitment paused. No one moved. “All right, it sounds like we want Guy and Rose to stay together. Lets hear suggestions for what they need to do from here.”

“Well,” Devotion began. “Guy was pretty forward, but I think the relationship is totally salvageable. They will just have to take it slow. It will take a while for Rose to trust him again.”

“I agree,” piped Fair Welcome. “She definitely likes him.”

“This is one of the few instances that I say it’s okay to take time,” added Biological Clock. “That is, as long as it leads to marriage and children.”

Lust looked indignant. “Time? Taking it slow? That’s the biggest piece of—“

“—Above all else,” Consent cut him off, “in the statement describing our decision, we need to stress that he is to never, and I mean NEVER pull a move like that again. Whether in marriage or not, he should not push her to have sex. He needs to wait until she has made it clear that she is ready.”

Lust tried to respond, but Commitment spoke first. “Absolutely. That will help prevent further mishaps like this one. Does anyone else have anything to add? No? Okay, so our final statement… We do not permit Guy Williams and Rose Bell to end their relationship. However, from this point forward, they must take things slow. Guy needs, to put it crudely, keep it in his pants. They have to continue seeing each other for… let’s say… a month. If things are not going well after that point, they can return here and terminate the relationship. Does this sound fair?”

Everyone in the room except Lust nodded.

“All right then, lets return to the courtroom and give Judge Love our verdict.”

~*~

Lord of the Rings Valentines

Around this time every year, a plethora of strange and witty Valentines begin showing up in my dashboard on Tumblr.  Every year, I’m drawn to the Lord of the Rings ones.  All week, I’ve been looking them up on Google and giggling at them.  I was originally to scatter several throughout my actual Valentines Day post (which is coming in the next few days).  But then I realized their presence detract from what I’m trying to do in the post.

They’re too good not to share, so I decided to give them a post of their own.  Consider this a Valentine from me to you!

Which is your favorite?  Are there any quirky Internet Valentines you love?  Let me know in the comments!